Saint of the Day – 12 September – Blessed Apolinaris Franco Garcia OFM (1575-1622) Priest, Martyr, Franciscan Friar (Observant), Missionary to Japan. Additional Memorials – 10 September as one of the 205 Martyrs of Japan, 22 May as one of the Franciscan Martyrs of Japan. Also known as – Apollinar, Apolinar Garcia.
Soon after the glorious Martyrdom of St Peter Baptist and his twenty-five companions at Nagasaki in 1597, numerous missionaries were able to return to Japan and for a time their work was crowned with extraordinary success. However, in 1613 a new persecution commenced, far worse than the first and it lasted until 1638, when Japan adopted a policy of complete isolation. During this persecution some missionaries were able to hide themselves in the mountains and to continue their work in secret, at least for a time and some, including our Blessed Franciscan, even managed to enter the country. Many of them, together with a large number of their converts, won the Martyr’s Crown.
Blessed Apollinaris was born in Old Castile, Spain where he joined the Franciscan Order. In 1614, he was sent to Japan to head the Japanese Franciscan mission, the year after that the new Japanese Shogun had instituted a nationwide ban on Christianity and declared that being a Christian, would be viewed as a capital offence.
Friar Apollinaris Franco evangelised covertly until he was arrested in 1617 and thrown into prison in Nagasaki along with other Priests and laymen. There, they spent five years awaiting execution. The conditions in the prison were exceedingly harsh and inhuman – which was intentional, hoping by this means to force the prisoners to reject the Faith.
Apollinaris ministered to the other prisoners and converted some of the jailers through his example and teaching. On 12 September 1622, he was burned at the stake along with other Franciscans and Jesuits.
Blessed Apollinaris and his companions, were declared Blessed by Pope Pius IX on 27 July 1867. On the same occasion, one hundred and sixty other Japanese martyrs who died between 1617 and 1632 were Beatified.