Page 3, 15th September 1950

15th September 1950
Page 3
Page 3, 15th September 1950 — of the SPIRIT

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of the SPIRIT


Specially written for "The Catholic Herald" by


A Student at the Catholic University of Tokyo

THE sudden flashes of the atom bomb over two of our largest cities, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, were for us the prelude to liberation. Horrible though those gleams were, they were perhaps the necessary price of our freedom.

But these five years in post-war Japan have shown us that the liberation was not necessarily synonymous with real freedom and that the freedom we received did not at once mean true security to Japanese society.

Of course it may safely be said that the whole picture of p051-war Japan has been flooded with the light of freedom, freedom at least from the nightmare of war; hut the variety and nuance of shades in the picture does not allow us any simple generalization.

Certainly, however, the Church has grown and progressed remarkably in Japan since the end of the war.

During the two years from 1947 to 1949 the Catholic population showed an increase of 19.3 per cent.

We had only 414 foreign priests at the end of the war. Now we have 174 more who have arrived since then.

Besides the 30-year-old Jesuit University in Tokyo, there arc at present four Catholic colleges and universities, three for girls, one being coeducational, all of which have been established since the war.

Every Sunday morning there is a half-hour Catholic broadcast.

The nation is blessed with about 100 institutions for social work, including hospitals, dispensaries, orphanages, houses for old people or repatriates, and the like. We have processions of the Blessed Sacrament through the highways of our great cities. The success of the Xavier quadricentennial celebrations may also be included as a mark of the developments.

Catholics in this country number rather more than 130,000. They can roughly be divided into three categories; about 60,000 of the working class, farmers and fishermen included, living in a " ghetto " of Nagasaki, who are regarded as the direct descendants of the 26 Jarenese martyr-saints; secondly, about 50,000 petit-bourgeois in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima. Sapporo and other big cities; thirdly, widelyscattered small groups throughout the country, mostly peasants.

With the inevitable exceptions, they have a common spiritual trait of escapism and of polemical heresyhunting, which has naturally been shaped during the long period of persecution and perhaps fostered by the post-Reformation European individualism and 19th century Catholic idealism introduced from the West.

" What, then, do you regard as the greatest need of the Catholic Church in Japan ? "

In reply to this question by Fr. John O'Connor, S.C., last winter, the dignitaries of our Church gave a variety of answers, each reflecting his particular background -more churches, more personnel, more charitable works, more foreign mis

sionaries, more priests, truly apostolic laity, priests capable of giving a lead in social and labour relations, and a greater consciousness in our laity.

The present situation makes us believe that the last answer is the most timely and radical one.

In January this year, a leading Japanese literary magazine. Tembo, (The Prospect) published an article entitled "The Post-War Catholicism," by a pagan writer, who referred to the " Mission de Paris," " Personalisme " of E. Mounier, and to the "Union des Chretiens Progressistes," all of which were quite new to most of the Japanese Catholics. Calling these movements the efforts towards the building up of Catholicism on a solution of the contradictions of a capitalist system of society, the writer wished to find similar movements among the Catholics in this country.

To repeat, the most urgent and unfilled need for us must be a greater social consciousness based not on a mere humanitarian feeling but on the notion of the Mystical Body of Christ. Can we find any indications of such developments ?

How can the social catastrophe leave our Church without any stirring of waters within her members ? The stirring can, I think, be noticed, Perhaps not in the news

headlines of " Mass conversions of Japanese towards Christianity," but in the growing movement of postwar Catholics, in the ate of the rising generation.

They may be criticised as being a little soft in contrast with the hard and convincing hut rigid Catholics of former days. Nevertheless, they have brought with them a warmer and more humane air into our Church.

From the conversation of these young men and women, one may sense their will towards an escape from escapism, towards realising a more positive and dynamic religious life, and towards grasping the concrete realities around them in order to get a firm foothold.

Of course it may he a long time before their efforts bear fruit. However, the increase in the number of candidates for the priesthood from the university graduates' ranks is already an impressive and hopeful sign.

So far in the history of the Catholic Church in Japan the number of so-called prominent figures among the laity has been small. Lay leaders like Dr. Kotaro Tanaka, the present Chief Justice, are, alas, exceptionally few. But we may hope now that new leaders may be found among the rising generation of Catholics.

Certainly the problems and difficulties they must face and overcome are many.

They have to replace the impersonal and rather formalistic family ethics that form the basis of Japanese society by Christian codes of conduct.

Then they have to raise the status of women on the basis of the Christian principle of the equality of the sexes before God.

They have to find a new synthesis between the centuries-old traditional Japanese culture and the Christian Western civilisation, by engrafting the real spirit of Christian civilisation upon the stock of the Japanese.

And, in order to give as much Christian stimulus as possible to this nation. they have to become more virile in the sense of showing themselves stronger in the fight for the promotion of Christian truths.

The seed of faith brought to Japan by St. Francis and preserved for a considerable time by our forefathers, often at the sacrifice of their lives, was not sown in vain.

We are convinced that this overwhelming task of ours-a Catholic Renaissance-can finally be accomplished by the help and through the intercession of our martyred Christian ancestors.

We young Christians of Japan, supported by the spiritual, intellectual and material help of the more favoured Christian countries. must do our best towards the spiritual growth of our land.

Our Church. now in a spiritual infancy, will then be able to keep pace with the growth of other children of the Good Shepherd and to take an irreplaceable part in the modern mission of the Church Universal.

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