NY Times article – On Japan’s Catholic Outposts…

7 04 2008

On Japan’s Catholic Outposts, Faith Abides Even as the Churches Dwindle


My two yen.

“…are Roman Catholic, an extraordinary percentage in a country where Christianity failed to take root.”

Did it fail or were the believers killed and religious freedom unheard of until recently?  People have barely had a chance to hear about Catholicism here so it really annoys me when people write that Catholicism has failed to take root here as if everyone, all fully educated in world religion, unanimously decided not to be Catholic!  Yes the Meiji reformation was 130 years ago but WW2 really stopped outside thinking again for a while then post war everyone was so focused on rebuilding, recovering, and actually having some money no one had time to do serious religious thinking.  If people wanted religion the easiest way would be to seek out the familiarity of Shinto or Buddhist practices, or they didn’t have to seek them out since it was already a part of their culture such as the family butsudan.  With some good evangelization by Japanese speaking versions of Cardinal Arinze or Fr Botros things might change.

I also question the number of Catholics stated in the article as the number only includes Japanese people not the number of foreign, registered Catholics.  The latter number I read on the Bishops of Japan website as being around 500 000 foreigners.

“Away from the archipelago’s Catholic villages, more and more of the young now live in cities with few churches and believers.”

Few churches?  There are actually lots of Catholic churches if one actually looks for them on the internet or asks around.  Saying there aren’t that many churches is a lame excuse for people who don’t want to go to church!

“The bishop of Nagasaki once said that when Catholic kids go out into a city, it’s a religion’s graveyard,” said Kyushiro Urakoshi, 77, a member of Komeyama Church.”

Wow what a pessimist!  I wonder what kind of work that bishop has done to change the situation?   My impression is that many of the older priests and bishops here are kind of miserable and have no fire, no energy to change things.  Fortunately the young priests and religious from other countries may change that.

” The growing ties with non-Catholics have already changed some practices at Ohso Church, nearer the center of town.  Parishioners now say prayers for the dead during the Buddhist festival for ancestors in mid-August, one of Japan’s biggest holidays. Catholics also gather and, following Buddhist custom, pay tribute to a relative one year or three years after a death.

“In this age,” said Mitsunori Ikuta, 60, Ohso’s lay leader, “we have come to accept these things.”

No wonder people aren’t converting when even the so called Catholics are willing to let things slide and treat Buddhist customs as equal, even if it is their spouse`s family custom and doing so keeps peace in the family.  Jesus said he didn’t come to bring peace, He came to set son against father etc. 

I think what Catholics in Japan and the world need to worry about is not quantity but rather quality.  At my parish this past Easter vigil eight people were baptized and ten total brought into full communion with the church.  Two were protestants who already had valid baptisms.  If these ten people are now knowledgeable, faithful, practicing Catholics I think it is better then having 100 lazy uniformed Christmas and Easter Catholics.  I was one of the latter group for a while and I know I wasn’t doing much good at that time for anyone, least of all inspiring others to consider Catholicism.   




2 responses

8 04 2008

The problem with Japan, as elsewhere, is one of materialism. But the comments of the women surprise me; my mother and the ladies of my parish are constantly praying for those who’ve left the Church. In many cases, the young leave the faith and then “revert” as they find the world is empty.

IOne of my friends is a Japanese Catholic (now living in Canada), and she said that she prays, prays, prays to the Martyrs to intercede on the behalf of Japan. Also, this May is the anniversary of Our Lady’s visits in Lourdes. Perhaps you and I and like-minded ladies could begin saying a weekly Rosary beginning this May and ending the next, for the conversion of Japan. What do you think?

13 04 2008

Hmm a rosary a week for a year? Ok I`ll do it 😀

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