"Pray for those who persecute and calumniate you."
St. Matthew 5:44
Philip de Las Casas was born in the city of Mexico. Brought up piously, Philip at first showed little care for the pious teaching of his parents, but at last resolved to enter the Reformed Franciscan Convent of Santa Barbara at Pueblo. He was not yet weaned from the world and soon left the novitiate. Grieved at the inconstancy of his son, de las Casas sent him to the Philippine Islands on a business errand. In vain did Philip seek to satisfy his heart with pleasure.
He could not but feel that God called him to a religious life. Gaining courage by prayer, he entered the Franciscan Convent of Our Lady of the Angels at Manila, and persevered, taking his vows in 1594. The richest cargo that he could have sent to Mexico would not have gratified his pious father as much as the tidings that Philip was a professed friar.
Alonso de las Casas obtained from the Commissary of the Order directions that Philip should be sent to Mexico. He embarked on the St. Philip in July, 1596, with other religious. Storms drove the vessel to the coast of Japan, and it was wrecked while endeavoring to enter a port. Amid the storm Philip saw over Japan a white cross, in the shape used in that country, which after a time became blood-red, and remained so for some time. It was an omen of his coming victory. The commander of the vessel sent our Saint and two other religious to the emperor to solicit permission to continue their voyage, but they could not obtain an audience.
He then proceeded to Macao, to a house of his Order, to seek the influence of the Fathers there; but the pilot of the vessel by idle boasts had excited the emperor's fears of the Christians, and the heathen ruler resolved to exterminate the Catholic missionaries. In December, officers seized a number of the Franciscan Fathers, three Jesuits, and several of their young pupils. St. Philip was one of those arrested and heard with holy joy that sentence of death had been passed on them all. His left ear was cut off, and he offered this first-fruit of his blood to God for the salvation of that heathen land.
The martyrs were taken to Nagasaki, where crosses had been erected on a high hill. When St. Philip was led to that on which he was to die, he knelt down and clasped it, exclaiming: "O happy ship! O happy galleon for Philip, lost for my gain! Loss — no loss for me, but the greatest of all gain!" He was bound to the cross, but the rest under him gave way, so that he was strangled by the cords. While repeating the holy name of Jesus he was the first of the happy band to receive the death-stroke. Saint Philip was only twenty-five years old.
Miracles attested the power before God of these first martyrs of Japan. Pope Urban VIII. granted permission to say an Office and Mass in their honor, and Pope Pius IX. formally canonized them. His feast is celebrated February 5th.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894)