Today, 12 Jul 2012, is the feast day of an outstanding woman martyr, Blessed Susanna Cabioie (a.k.a. Kobioje, Cobioje, Coboio), who gave her life in witness to Jesus Christ in 1628 according to some accounts and in 1625 according to St Alphonsus Ligouri’s account. She is one of the Japanese martyrs beatified in 1867.
The tortures this young wife and mother went through are extraordinary. She was fully aware that life is short and that eternity is very long, and she gladly exchanged this life for the eternal one.
Susanna, her husband Peter and their three year old daughter lived in the city of Facata, (Hakata, a trade city NE of Nagasaki). Deep and strong was their faith in Jesus, because they willingly took the risk of giving hospitality to the missionaries. Seeing it as a privilege to be able to assist the priests and catechists to spread the Gospel by providing food, shelter, up-to-date news and other essential personal services.
Since Susanna was so full of joy in her Catholic faith, she was one of the first people to be arrested for habouring missionaries. As she was led away she told her husband, “I believe that they are going to torture us. I am going away first, and I hope with the help of God to remain faithful; I expect of you a like firmness. Remember that this life is short, and that eternity is very long.”
Thinking that a woman was an easy target to break, the authorities first tried threats to get Susanna to spill information about the missionaries and others faithful to Christ. Threats did not move her. Next, in bitterly cold weather they stripped off all of her clothing and used her hair to suspend her from a tree. Can you imagine the pain of the hair pulling your scalp out of position? Still unmoved by this horrible torture, the judges racked it up a notch and ordered that her young daughter also be stripped and tied to the feet of her mother – thus adding extra weight for the hair to carry and increasing the anxiety of the mother for her little one. Listening to her daughter whimper and being unable to console her must have been dreadful. Praying all the time, Susanna endured 8 hours of this agony.
Surprisingly not dead at the end of the eight hour ordeal, Susanna was taken down from the tree and forced into slavery. An iron collar was placed about her neck and she worked under hard conditions in the kitchen for six months. So she added long-term patient endurance to her Christian witness under torture.
At the end of this time, Susanna together with her husband and other companions were sent on horseback to the city of Nagasaki for public execution. On the way, to her great distress, Susanna’s daughter was taken from her. Ardently Susanna had desired that her little one would join her in martyrdom so as to win an eternity of happiness for the whole family.
When the condemned group reached the place of execution at Nagasaki the men were separated from the women. Susanna, together with the other women and a young child were beheaded first. For the men was reserved the death of being burnt at the stake. Susanna and her valiant companions gave this brave witness to Jesus on 12 July 1625 (or 1628)
You will agree with me that the life of Susanna needs to be better known and honoured among Catholics. In the torture of her modesty she is the equal of St Agnes of Rome. In her survival of one attempt at martyrdom and fulfillment in the second Susanna is the equal of St Thecla. In her young motherhood and concern for her little girl she is the equal of St Perpetua. As Susanna gets better known it would be surprising if she didn’t become a patron of Christian modesty and the ‘go-to’ Saint for all parents wanting to pray their children out of inappropriate and immodest attire.
For St Alphonsus’ version of Blessed Susanna’s life look for pages 398 to 401 at http://www.catholickingdom.com/s_Library/Books/V/Victories_of_the_Martyrs_LIGUORI_OCR_CK.pdf , those page numbers are on the actual book : the PDF page numbers are similar.
Blessed Susanna Cabioie, pray for us