Saint of the Day – 22 February – Blessed Diego Carvalho SJ (1578-1624) Jesuit Priest and Martyr, Missionary to Japan. Born in 1578 in Coimbra, Portugal and died by exposure on 22 February 1624 at Sendai, Miyagi, Japan. Patronage Japanese miners.
Diego was born in Coimbra, Portugal, in 1578. After entering the Society of Jesus in his hometown in 1594, late in 1600 he arrived, after a long voyage with sixteen other Jesuits, in Goa, India.
The following year, 1608, he set out for Macau, where he was Ordained as Priest. In 1609, he arrived in Japan, where, after learning Japanese, he was a Missionary in the Amakusa Islands, before relocating to Kyōto around 1612. After the edict of proscription of 1614, in November that year, with seventy-two other Jesuits on three Chinese junks, he was deported to Macau.
Diogo’s heart remained in Japan, however and he secretly returned in 1616. Later he relocated in the north to serve refugees fleeing persecution in the south.
Carvalho’s ministry centred on the silver miners in the districts of Oshu and Dewa. Living conditions were difficult but conversions were abundant. In December 1623 he was working in Miwake when the local prince began to persecute the Christians and ordered soldiers to kill all who refused to apostatise. When the governor of Sendai learned of Father Carvalho, he went searching for him but the Jesuit and about 60 Christians fled into a deep valley seeking to escape. Unfortunately, their tracks in the snow led the soldiers to them and Carvalho gave himself up, in an attempt to allow his people to get away. He was able to save all but 12 of his companions. Then the Christians had to march for seven days through the cold to Sendai. Two who could not keep up, were killed on the spot and the rest were barely given enough food to eat to survive their month-long imprisonment once they reached the City.
Martyrdom came for Carvalho and his companions through the cold. The Hirose River flowed near the fortress where they had been imprisoned; on its bank the soldiers dug a hole and filled it with icy water from the river. The prisoners were forced first to sit naked in the freezing water and then stand up to let the wind hit them. Their captors promised to end the torture if they would renounce Christianity. None did and the cold slowly took away their life. Carvalho was the last to die, enduring the torture long into the night before he also finally perished. The names of his companions are sadly unknown, so they could not be Beatified with him but with God they are Blessed in His Heavenly Kingdom.
The decree of Martyrdom and Beatificztion, was confirmed on 7 May 1867 by Pope Blessed Pius IX.