Kagayama Hayato was the head samurai retainer for the daimyo Hosokawa Tadaoki. He was one of Sen no Rikyu’s seven favored disciples in the tea ceremony (the Rikyu Shichitetsu). He was also Catholic, like many other Hosokawa vassals, and like Hosokawa’s own wife (the famous Gracia) and mother.
Originally, Tadaoki was generally favorable toward Catholicism and missionaries, and even funded requiem and thanksgiving Masses. But after a while, he changed his mind. Even before Christianity was outlawed in the rest of Japan, he commanded all his vassals and retainers to drop Christianity like a hot rock. Some did; some went elsewhere on the sly.
But the problem with having a loyal, smart, prudent, wise retainer is that he might not agree with you, and you might be the one who’s wrong.
At first, Tadaoki just ignored Kagayama’s continuing Catholicism, by sending him to the capital to do work for him there. But after a few years of continuing stubbornness, Tadaoki began to turn up the heat by sending him more and more stiffly worded letters. Kagayama politely refused to stop being Catholic. He said he would obey his earthly lord in everything else, including danger and death, but that he had to obey his eternal lord in matters of eternal salvation.
Tadaoki told him he’d have to give up his estates and money. Kagayama gave them back quickly and politely, because it had all come from Tadaoki in the first place and he was grateful for the time he’d had them by his grace.
Tadaoki told him he’d have to lose his head. Kagayama thanked him for giving him the thing he longed for most – a chance to die for his lord Jesus.
Kagayama comforted his grieving family, dressed himself in all his New Year’s finery, and took ship to the place where he’d been ordered to report for beheading. On the ship, he let all the other passengers know the superiority of Christ’s way of salvation, and did his best to spend his last few hours converting others. Then he got off the ship, reported for beheading, and found himself faced with a less-than-competent swordsman.
So he spent his last moments on earth giving his executioner tips on how to behead a person in one stroke.
Kagayama Hayato no Kami, baptised Diego, died on October 15, 1619. He was 54 years old. In October of 2010, he was beatified as one of the 187 Japanese martyr companions of Fr. Peter Kibe Kasui.
This has special relevance this week, because of the news of the martyrdom of Fr. Francois Murad, a Franciscan monk, by the most clumsy, awkward beheading you don’t want to imagine, done by men who claim to be warriors. They aren’t worthy to shine the shoes of a man of peace like Murad, or a man of war like Kagayama. They are foolish, cowardly little men who need our prayers (not to mention an injection of common sense and compassion).
Blessed Diego Kagayama Hayato, pray for us! Fr. Francois Murad, martyr, pray for us.