|Memorial to the Japanese martyrs of Unzen. (Photo by Connie Rossini.)
This is the week for keeping watch with Jesus in a special way. Although God calls us to spend time with Him in prayer daily, we rightly feel that we should spend extra time with Him during Holy Week. But how should we go about it?
When I was a teenager, my family started a tradition of an all-night prayer vigil on Holy Thursday. Beginning at 10 p.m., my parents, siblings, and I took turns praying in one or two one-hour slots for the next eight hours. I loved offering this extra sacrifice to Jesus, this extra sign of love. Jesus would not be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane if I could help it.
After I graduated from college, I spent two years as a lay missionary in Japan, teaching English to support the evangelization work of an American priest. During spring break of the first year, my roommate Mary Beth and I traveled to the island of Kyushu. We planned to be in Nagasaki for Easter.
On Holy Thursday we were in the resort town of Unzen. Known for its hot springs, in which the Japanese bathe for health, Unzen is also the site of mass martyrdoms in the 17th century. In one of the most heinous instances of torture in history, Japanese officials hung Catholics upside-down to slowly roast over the hot springs. They punctured holes in the martyrs’ foreheads, so that the rush of blood to their heads would not kill them prematurely.
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