“Let us strengthen our devotion to St. Peter Baptist who, with his missionary work and holy life, serves as a strong inspiration for genuine witnessing to the Gospel in our present time,” said Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, who will be the Mass’ main celebrant and homilist.
In a circular dated Jan. 24, Tirona explained that the chosen date is the Sunday closest to saint’s feast date, Feb. 6.
The prelate also reminded the Caceres clergy, deacons, religious and lay faithful to use the “Liturgy proper to St. Peter Baptist”, not only for the Eucharistic celebration but also for the Liturgy of the Hours and the Office of the Readings.
Baptist, whose full name is Peter Baptist Blasquez, was the companion of St. Paul Miki at a time when Christianity was still prohibited in Japan. Born in Avila, Spain, he was ordained a Franciscan in 1567.
On his 17th year as a missionary, after his volunteer work in Mexico, Baptist was assigned to the Philippines. Here he established many towns such as Baao, Quipayo, Buhi, and Libmanan in Camarines Sur; Cagsawa, Oas and Ligao in Albay.
Having been deeply involved in the development of certain areas of what is now the Archdiocese of Caceres, Baptist was chosen to be its principal patron.
On Feb. 5, 1597, along with three Jesuits, six European Franciscan missionaries and sixteen other Christians, Baptist was crucified near Nagasaki, Japan.
Executed on the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a feudal lord and general during the Sengoku period, the group, more popularly known as the 26 Martyrs of Japan, included three boys who were members of the Third Order of St. Francis.
Hideyoshi noticed that Christians were growing in number since Baptist arrived in 1593. Philip II sent him to discuss peace negotiations with the said leader. Baptist succeeded in attaining peace but after the group’s execution, Christians were persecuted intermittently. Today, in commemoration of their sacrifice, a “26 Martyrs Museum and Monument” stands on Nishizaka Hill.
Baptist was canonized by Pope Pius IX on June 8, 1862. Before he died, he was quoted as saying, “For the love of God, let your charity commend us to God that the sacrifice of our lives may be acceptable in his sight. From what I have heard here, I think we will be crucified this coming Friday because it was on a Friday that they cut off a part of each one’s ear at Miyako, an event we accept as a gift from God. We all ask you then with great fervor to pray for us for the love of God.” (Natalie Hazel Quimlat/CBCPNews)