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Hosokawa Gracia

From: Japan
Fields: Religion
Hosokawa Gracia was Japan's first saint. She was born about 1563, during the Period of Warring States. This was also part of the Christian century in Japan. She was born Matsuhide Tama, (Jewel), a daughter of Matsuhide Akechi, a famous general. Her servant, Maria, was a baptized Christian and Tama was greatly impressed with her devotion to the Christian Jesus. During this time there was no problem about anyone accepting the doctrine of the Jesuits and becoming Christian. Tama married Hosokawa Tadaoki, a rich daimyo (manor lord), and had several children.

General Oda, the strong man who was fast becoming the most powerful man in Japan and was expected to take over the Shogunate, was assassinated by Tama's father, Akechi. This placed the entire family, including the Hosokawa, in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Tama had become Christian and changed her name to Gracia. In order to save her husband and children she begged her husband to divorce her. He loved her, but for the present it was best to be divorced. As a result, even her children were denied her. Henceforth she was exiled.

When the next strongman, Hideyoshi, grabbed power, he outlawed Christianity. By this time Gracia was reconciled with her husband, but no one could convince her to give up her faith. The castle was destroyed. It was burned by Hideyoshi henchmen. Gracia, alone, remained. Since the Church decried suicide, she begged her husband's retainer to kill her. Fearing she would be taken prisoner and tortured, he did so.

In Nagasaki, there is a portrait of Gracia in the Peace Museum. her life of sacrifice and endurance in maintaining her faith was rewarded when the Vatican made her a saint in 1862.

Contributed by Florence Prusmack, author of Khan: a romantic historical novel based on the early life of Ghenghis Khan, in 1998.


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