João Batista Machado (1581-1617) was the first of 34 Jesuits to die during the
Great Persecution under the shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu, his son and grandson.
When all foreign missionaries were banned in 1614, Father Maciado chose to
remain behind, placing himself at great risk.
Maciado was born at Angra on an island in the Azores. He was influenced by the
letters of Francis Xavier and desired to follow in that missionaries
footsteps. He studied with the Jesuits in Coimbra, Portugal, and then entered
the Jesuits in 1601. He went to Goa, India, for his philosophy studies, and to
Macao for theology. After his ordination he arrived in Nagasaki, Japan, and
enjoyed five peaceful years of ministry to Christians in the capital Miyako
For three years he hid during the day and traveled only at night. This
precarious existence changed when he decided to visit the Catholics at the
leper colony on one of the Goto Islands. The harbors were full of spies so
travel was dangerous, but Maciado would not be deterred. He landed on the
island one day and was arrested the next. He was transferred to the town of
Kori where he joined a Franciscan priest being held prisoner. Both were housed
in the home of Tomonaga, an apostate Christian whose brother was a Jesuit.
Tomonaga permitted the two priests to celebrate Mass and joined them in
religious conversation. Finally, on Trinity Sunday, April 22, news came after
three weeks of this house arrest that they were to die that very afternoon.
The two priests were led to a wooded hill outside the town. Each one heard the
other's confession, then the Franciscan put his head on the chopping block
followed by Maciado. The example of these martyrs led Tomonaga to return to
the faith. Eventually he also became a martyr.
Martyrs in Japan
Originally Collected and edited by: Tom Rochford, SJ