10. St. Paul Miki, Marquette University

St. Paul Miki
Marquette University, 1848

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Saint Paul Miki (1564-1597) was born near Osaka into a family of the Samurai caste. The family’s Christianity was directly attributable to the Jesuit missionary efforts of St. Francis Xavier. Paul was baptized when he was about four. When he was twenty, he felt called to become a priest, and left home to enter the Jesuit-run seminary in Azuchi. After two years of study, he decided that he wanted to become a Jesuit, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1586.

Even though he was still a student, Paul became well-known for his preaching. Like Francis Xavier before him, he made many converts to Christianity. However, some of the Japanese leaders convinced the emperor that the “foreign” religion was a threat to their nation. When the saint was only two months from being ordained as the first Jesuit priest in Japan, he was arrested, together with two companions who were living with him in the Jesuit residence in Osaka. They were led on a forced march for weeks, then held in prison near Nagasaki, and finally condemned to death by crucifixion.

Paul had continued preaching even while passing through the towns through which the prisoners were led. He gave his last sermon while he was on the cross, encouraging Christians to persevere, and forgiving his executioner. He was the first of many Japanese Jesuits, religious and laypersons to be martyred by crucifixion for their beliefs.

The saint is shown wearing a purple coat with green sleeves and blue trousers that signify his birth into the Samurai caste. There is a Christian cross in his left hand and an eight-spoked wheel near his right hand which represents the cart by which he was taken to his death. His feet are clad in Japanese sandals, just above a high Japanese-style gate that serves as a frame for viewing several crosses. The scroll over the cross-bar bears “SJ,” the initials of the Society of Jesus.

The upper right part of the Marquette University shield shows the wolves and cauldron of the Loyola family together with the red and gold stripes found on the coat of arms of the Oñaz family, Ignatius’ mother. The lower left part of the shield represents Father Marquette pointing to the upper Mississippi River that he had discovered. Below him sits an Indian holding a paddle. The whole image is meant to show that Marquette made God known to the Indians and introduced the river to the white man and that this spirit of exploration is still the spirit of the university: a spirit of research and of opening new fields of knowledge. The inscription reads: Marquette University, Milwaukee; the foundation date is 1848. The school colors are blue and gold.


Paul Miki - Marquette University