Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki


Celebration / Commemoration: September 28; October 20 (in the Augustinian family)

Magdalena was born about the year 1611 in Nagasaki Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan, the city where most of the new Christians in Japan lived or sought refuge when persecution broke out.

Her parents, described by historians as "most virtuous and noble Christians," died about AD 1620, when their daughter was still young. The first Augustinians to arrive in Japan in 1623 were members of the observant movement of the Augustinian Order: Fathers Francis of Jesus and Vincent of Saint Anthony. As an active and enthusiastic Christian, Magdalena made contact with them and although communication was difficult, she worked with them as an interpreter and later as a catechist. From the beginning she felt well disposed towards Augustinian spirituality, characterized by the search for God, the inner self and the life of faith in communion with others.

In their evangelistic work, the missionaries emphasized the promotion of religious associations and paid special attention to the Augustinian Third Order. However, it was quite difficult for Christians to live out their faith in public. Approaching the missionaries for doctrinal and religious nourishment was risky, both for themselves and for the brothers. Following the example of many other Christians in similar difficulties, Magdalene took refuge in the hills and devoted herself to baptizing converts and supporting those who have become weak in their faith. She knew what she wanted and did not flinch despite the dangers: she applied to be formally admitted to the Augustinian Order. Her mind and heart were already Augustinian; in 1625, Father Francis admitted her to the Third Order of Saint Augustine.

In 1632 the Augustinian friars, who had been her spiritual counselors, were burned alive. This holocaust was recognized and solemnly proclaimed in 1876 by Pope Pius IX. Magdalena kept the memory of these brothers alive and with it grew her own desire for martyrdom. Magdalena's concern for her vocation and her desire to fully love the life of the evangelical councils led to her decision to enter a novitiate with a community of Dominican sisters. But before she could make her confession, religious persecution broke out again. It was no time for the faint of heart. A strong faith burned in her soul, and the gospel allowed no half measures. There were threats, torture, promises of exposure to public contempt, taunts, all the usual procedures in such cases. But Magdalena had a clear knowledge of her faith and of the obligation she had voluntarily assumed. Dressed in her Augustinian habit, she reached the end of her martyrdom on October 16, 1634, after thirteen days of torture, hung upside down in a pit of offal. After her death, her body was burned and her ashes scattered in Nagasaki Bay.

Three hundred and forty-seven years later, on February 18, 1981, Pope John Paul II honored Magdalena with the title of Blessed in the city of Manila. On October 18, 1987, World Mission Day, she was solemnly canonized in Rome by the same Holy Father.

Patron Saint: of the Third Order of Remembrance Augustinians