Today is the feast day of St Paul Miki パウロ三木 and twenty five other Catholics who were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597.
26 Martyrs memorial official site
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Thank you for your website.
I was a Morman missionary back in 1982 in Shikoku and Hiroshima. I have been a Catholic for over 20 yrs now and married for 25 to a wonderful Japanese lady. I miss Japan tremendously and long to return to live.
I often visit some of the gaijin sites and I am very much troubled by the rather self-centered and selfish actions of many that live there. I read your comments on the Italian priest that died in Japan after over 50 yrs of service and what you wrote about leaving Japan a better place is spot on.
Japan will not be converted until foreigners begin to realize that Japan is not a playground (admittedly, many years ago I thought the same) and to provide an example. What an even greater country Japan would be if it became Catholic and they remember the examples of St. Paul Miki and Peter Kibe, et al.
Thank you for your wonderful site which is very refreshing.
Thank you for the nice comment. I live in Tokyo and havent been further south than Kyoto. Of course Ive thought about going to Nagasaki however it seems like such a somber trip so I keep putting it off.
What you mention is why I started this blog actually. I found lots of blogs about Japan, and lots of blogs by Catholics but not one written by a Catholic gaijin so I thought well theres my niche. I wanted others to know they arent the only Catholic in the country, and in a way to encourage the lapsed Catholics to reconsider.
Its interesting that you were a Mormon missionary because just recently I was wondering about them here and had a couple of question I hope you can answer if you dont mind. First how did people treat or react to you when you went door to door? And secondly how successful were not just you but those around you at gaining converts? My guess at the first one would be people were less likely to slam the door in your face than back home, and the second Q I have no idea!
Good Morning and thank you for your e-mail.
I am very grateful for my missionary experience even though, I didn’t stay for the entire two years. It is the best way to learn Japanese and to be with the people. One spends 2 months at the Missionary Training Center in Utah and then you are off to Japan and paired with an experienced companion and off you go. You are completely immersed into the language and culture.
I never had a bad experience and only once did I have someone wave in the Japanese way saying “Kekko desu”. In the door to door work we did often call the doorbell boxes, “Kekko boxes” because you mostly heard “Kekko”. I hated door to door selling when I was a kid with the little league candy and I really hated going door to door to be honest. I loved being with the Japanese people though.
I was only in Japan four months as a missionary because I honestly didn’t feel that I could put my heart in the work (and thank God because I didn’t convert anyone). I was in the Okayama Mission which stretched from Okayama to Shimonaseki and Shikoku. I was on Shikoku, Hiroshima and Tokuyama. During the time I was there and before, conversions had dropped significantly. Previously, it had been very high in numbers but in actual conversions that “stuck” very low. The missionaries had often gone out to where the young teenagers, college students were and thru eikaiwa and other means baptized them but really without teaching them and the vast majority never went to the Mormon church. However, the numbers looked good! I have no idea how the Mormons are doing now, I hope not well though.
After returning home for a few months, I went back to Japan to Shikoku and eventually met and married my wife there. Most people there when they think of Christians they think of Catholics. There was a presence of Catholics in my wife’s city with a Catholic hospital, convent and two churches near by.
I just pray that thru the prayers and graces of the martyrs of Japan, the Japanese people will once again embrace the Faith.
Thanks again for your website and e-mail. I look forward to reading your entries.
“Japan will not be converted until foreigners begin to realize that Japan is not a playground… and to provide an example.”
^This is really insightful.
If you are still keeping track of these comments, Michael, you weren’t in Ehime Prefecture by any chance? I believe Matsuyama has two Catholic churches, although I’m too far out in the sticks to go there more than once in a blue moon.
I had to go up a couple Sundays ago, though, and I was stunned at the size of the church and the number of attendees, including quite a few sisters. The little church closest to where I live usually has only 8-15 lay-people in attendance.
vee8, thank you for this blog!! I think there are a lot of lapsed Catholics in the foreign population here, and it’s all too easy to feel sometimes like the only Catholic in Japan!
I never got very far into Ehime and never into Matsuyama. I was not Catholic when I was in Japan but it is amazing though to see where God was leading me and I was too blind to see it at that time. When I went back to Sakaide my sponsor’s mother was Catholic and when she died I helped my sponsor when she went to the Catholic Church in Marugame and I had some other contacts with Catholics too there, but never once thought of converting. The Catholic Church was that “strange place”.
Are you living in Shikoku? If it be God’s will I hope in a few years that we can return to my wife’s hometown Sakaide.
I don’t say that foreigners should provide a better example because they are superior to the Japanese, but because Catholics have an obligation and they have the Faith and out of charity they should want to share what they have with the people they are living with, not out of any superiority but out of humility and love. The people that could produce such saints and blesseds as Peter Kibe or Paul Miki or any of the countless unknowns that were martyred are a people that can and will be great in the Faith.
Keep up the good work, vee8, I check back all the time to keep up on any new entries.
At my parish I usually attend an evening mass and there are maybe thirty people there I guess. Well one Sunday I was up early and went to the 9am mass and it was packed! I was amazed. Then another Sunday I went to the 7am mass and while not packed it was very busy and I couldnt believe it once again. So maybe if you switch mas times you might find more people there.
I don’t say that foreigners should provide a better example because they are superior to the Japanese, but because Catholics have an obligation and they have the Faith and out of charity they should want to share what they have with the people they are living with, not out of any superiority but out of humility and love…
Really well said. My idea is that if someone converts it is between them and God and Im supposed to do my best to point them in the right direction. I certainly dont want to be a bad example that would help convince someone not to join! All I can do now is to pray for those I may have been a bad example to or at least could have been a better example.
Thanks for answering my questions as well. Your story sounds like it would make a very god episode of EWTN`s the Journey Home.
Rightly said, Vee8, we certainly can’t force a person to convert but what if, by our bad example, someone does not convert? We will have to answer for that on Judgment day. I don’t want to give the impression that we have to walk on eggshells or in constant fear, but that we know how our Lord loves us, what He has done for us so it should be out of love for Him that we act rightly.
Now saying that I have mostly acted the other way and I repent in my heart for the bad example I might have given. People certainly do notice and I think about my son, who has Down’s Syndrome and serves as an altar boy in the Latin Mass, people that I rarely talk to mention him when he serves. People do see and in Japan it would be more so though the Japanese might just say he or she is just a hen na gaijin (sorry no kana or kanji capabilities on my computer).
Yes, I’m living in Ehime. It’s a beautiful place. Lots of mikans.
Actually, vee8, the Matsuyama church that surprised me with its numbers is too far away for me to get to usually. The one I do go to, mercifully a reasonable car drive away in a city called Yawatahama, can only offer one Mass on Sundays/holy days. There has been some talk of it being closed down by the archdiocese (Takamatsu), since it’s so very small, but we hope and pray that won’t happen.
Re foreigners and their behavior, I completely agree; superciliousness is worse than a turn-off. What I really connected with in the original comment was the idea of Japan as a playground. There are so many ways for English speakers to come in and find fairly lucrative jobs teaching for schools or companies, that many people seem to think of life here as a vacation.
Still, it’s hard to know how to do more than be dedicated at work and kind to people, since one’s Japanese, non-Christian coworkers do exactly the same. Along the lines of “loving those who love you– even the Gentiles do the same. But I tell you, love those who hate you…” Except that there doesn’t seem to be anyone who hates me, yet. (I could just be oblivious, though.)
It’s wonderful that your son serves, Michael. I have a sister with 5P- syndrome, and it’s kind of amazing how scary or ‘weird’ special needs seem to some folks.
Closing churches that is all that seems to be happening nowadays. I hope they don’t do that in Yawatahama.
I remember Bishop Sheen reading a poem in a talk I heard on a set of tapes that talked about Christ going to Birmingham, England in modern times. It was about the type of reception he would receive there compared to Calvary. It was how he was not harmed, he was not insulted but just ignored. In the poem He wondered if it were better to be crucified but listened to. I am not doing justice to the poem, but I think it shows that when we are saturated with materialism one cannot hear the still small voice. You know, the parable of the sower and all that.
I am reading a book called “The Hermitage Within” by a Cistercian monk, it has a comment which struck me:
“Your life is true to the teaching, to the example of Jesus Christ, and the ardour of your faith seen in your actions brings others to reflect on the transcendence of the One who inspires that ardour…”
You never know who sees you, you never know who will be touched. This book also says that our job is to be the heart as we do not give the sacraments like priests. I reject Endo’s conclusions in Silence because our ways and our thinking are not God’s. Remember in Mexico before the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe they had very few conversions. Catholicism was the invader’s religion, a foreign religion, Mexico was a swamp using Endo’s words.
I was watching some of Bishop Sheen`s old shows on youtube and heard him recite the poem you are talking about Michael unfortunately I dont remember which video it was or the name or author of the poem.
Speaking of people with special needs reminds me of this video which you guys may or may not have seen. The song is Protestant however and doesnt take into account the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament but still a great video
and a bio of the team
Thanks, vee8, I appreciate the link.
For those curious about the poem, the title is “Indifference” and was penned by G.A. Studdert-Kennedy. Here it is in its entirety:
When Jesus came to Golgatha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham
They simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die;
For men have grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them,
For they know not what they do!
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowd went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.
Nagasaki is a beautiful place and one, given the history, of great cosmological import. It was the only port open to foreigners at the time, it was and still is a seat of Christianity in Japan, Saint Paul Miki and many others met their martyrdom there and it was the place of Dr. Takashi Nagai’s great works.
My wife, son and I will finally be able to return to Japan after 22 years in May or June of this year. Hopefully, our priest will be accompanying us as he wants to go to visit Our Lady of Akita as I do.
If we have the time and the money, I would like to go to Otome Toge in Tsuwano and see the site of some of the martyrdoms and then go to Nagasaki. I finally read about Takashi Nagai in a good book by a priest, Fr. Paul Glynn, called ‘A Song for Nagasaki’. A few parts had a little too much of the modernist claptrap for me but when the Father stayed on target and talked about Takashi Nagai it was utterly fascinating. I now keep a picture of Nagai-san on my desk and I do hope his cause is advancing in Rome.
First off, my apologies for a somewhat scholarly intrusion on the personal current of this thread. Please keep the usual comments coming – I’ve found many of your stories and experiences very moving.
Just a question on the feast day: The Holy Martyrs of Japan are not included on the universal version of the 1962 (traditional) calendar, but I have a set of mass propers for them in my Baronius missal under 13th February, within the section for feasts celebrated in particular orders/places. I’ve seen no other reference to a pre-reform feast day for the Holy Martyrs, so I’m not certain if 13th February was indeed the day on which they were normally commemorated in Japan prior to the introduction of the Novus Ordo. Any idea if this was the case?
Something that might be worth sharing – the traditional propers for the Holy Martyrs of Japan include a very beautiful Collect:
“Domine Jesu Christe, qui ad tui imitationem per crucis supplicium primitas fidei apud Japoniae gentes in sanctorum Martyrum Petri Baptistae, Pauli et Sociorum sanguine dedicasti: concede quaesumus; ut quorum hodie solemnia colimus, excitemur exemplis.”
(O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst consecrate the first fruits of the faith in Japan with the blood of the holy martyrs Peter Baptist, Paul, and their Companions who died on the cross in imitation of Thee; grant that while celebrating their feast today, we may be spurred on by their example.) – as translated in the Baronius missal
Thank you for sharing that. I had only thought that it was in the Novus Ordo propers. After you provided the traditional Collect I went to look in my Missal which is the 1945 St. Andrew’s Missal but it wasn’t there. However, I did find it in my son’s Angelus 1962 Daily Missal.
It surely is a beautiful prayer but I can’t help in regards to when the Holy Day is celebrated in Japan. My recollection is that here in the US it is February 6 with the new Mass.
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