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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Friday, 20 October 2017

PRESENTATION BY METROPOLITAN HILARION OF VOLOKOLAMSK AT THE CHRISTIAN FUTURE OF EUROPE CONFERENCE

my source: The Department of External Relations R.O.C.
On 22 September 2017, an international symposium on the Christian Future of Europe took place at the residence of Russia’s Ambassador to Great Britain. The keynote address was delivered by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
Image result for 22 September 2017, an international symposium on the Christian Future of Europe  in the russian embassy in the uk.



Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers, and participants,



I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not losing any of its relevance but is also resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples’ lives, their faith, and their values.



Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe. Among the reasons for this is the greatest migration crisis on the continent since the end of the Second World War, caused by armed conflicts and economic problems in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. According to figures by the European Union agency Frontex, more than 1.8 million migrants entered the EU in 2015 alone.[1] Figures from the UN International Migration Report show that the number of migrants in Europe has increased from 49.3 million people in 2000 to 76.1 million people in 2015.[2] According to research by the UN International Organization for Migration, throughout the world, about 1.3 percent of the adult population, which comprises some 66 million people, in the forthcoming year intend to leave for another country in order to live permanently there. Approximately a third of this group of people – 23 million – are already making plans to move. 16.5 percent of potential migrants who were questioned responded that the countries at the top of their list are Great Britain, Germany, and France.[3]



The other reason for the transformation of the religious map of Europe is the secularization of European society. Figures in a British opinion poll indicate that more than half of the country’s inhabitants – for the first time in history – do not affiliate themselves with any particular religion. 2942 people took part in an opinion poll conducted in 2016 by Britain’s National Centre for Social Research: 53 percent of those who responded to the question on religious allegiance said that they do not belong to any religious confession. Among those aged from eighteen to twenty-five, the number of non-religious is higher – 71 percent. When similar research was carried out in 1983, only 31 percent of those questioned stated that they did not belong to any confession.[4]



We can see an opposite trend in the Eastern European countries, in particular in Russia. A July opinion poll conducted in Russia by the Levada-Center showed a sharp decline in the number of atheists and non-believers from 26 percent in December 2015 to 13 percent in July 2017.[5] This, of course, does not mean that all the remaining 83 percent are practicing believers. Many defined themselves as “religious to some degree” or “not too religious”, but nevertheless affiliated themselves with one of the traditional religions. However, the number of people who define themselves as being “very religious” is growing steadily.



The contemporary state of religious life in Russian society is directly linked to the tragic events of one hundred years ago. The historical catastrophe of 1917 embroiled Russia in a fratricidal civil war, terror, exile of the nation’s best representatives beyond the confines of their homeland, and the deliberate annihilation of whole layers of society – the nobility, the Cossacks, the clergy and affluent peasants. They were declared to be “enemies of the people,” and their relatives were subjected to discrimination and became the “disenfranchised,” which forced them to the edge of survival. All of this terror took place under the banner of a communist ideology that fought ferociously against religion. Millions of believers were subjected to the cruelest of persecution, harassment, discrimination and repression – from mockery and dismissal in the workplace to imprisonment and execution by firing squad. The Church in those years produced a great multitude of martyrs and confessors for the faith who, as St. Paul said, “were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment” (Heb 11.35-36).



Discussion on the future of Christianity in Europe is impossible without understanding the prospects for the survival of religiosity among its inhabitants.  Research carried out by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Cornwell Theological College, USA, indicates that the number of Christians in Europe will be consistently falling: from 560 million people in 2015 to 501 million by 2050.[6] The calculations of the Pew Research Center are more pessimistic and foretell a reduction in Christians in Europe from 553 million people in 2015 to 454 million people by 2050.[7]



These are alarming prognoses, but they reflect the current trends in the transformation of the religious picture of Europe, and they cannot be ignored. Some are suggesting that, unless special force is applied, Europe cannot simply cease to be Christian on the grounds that Europe has for many centuries been Christian. I would like to remind you all that in Russia before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen and that it would be replaced by an atheistic totalitarian regime. And even when that did happen, few believed that it was serious and for long.



The modern-day decline of Christianity in the western world may be compared to the situation in the Russian Empire before 1917. The revolution and the dramatic events which followed it have deep spiritual, as well as social and political, reasons. Over many years the aristocracy and intelligentsia had abandoned the faith, and were then followed by common people. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia spoke of this in January 2017: “The fundamental rupture in the traditional way of life – and I am now speaking… of the spiritual and cultural self-consciousness of the people – was possible only for the reason that something very important had disappeared from peoples’ lives, in the first instance those people who belonged to the elite. In spite of an outward prosperity and appearance, the scientific and cultural achievements, less and less place was left in peoples’ lives for a living and sincere belief in God, an understanding of the exceptional importance of values belonging to a spiritual and moral tradition.”[8]



In the immediate post-war years, Christianity played a huge role in the process of European integration, which was viewed in the context of the Cold War as one of the means of containing the expansion of atheist propaganda and communist ideology. The Vatican relied in its anti-communist propaganda upon European unity, upon the Christian democratic parties of Western Europe. The latter firmly believed that Western civilization is closely tied to Christian values, and had to be defended from the communist threat. Pope Pius XII supported the creation of a European community as “Christian Europe’s historical mission.”



The first president of the Federal Republic of Germany Theodor Heuss said that Europe was built on three hills: the Acropolis, which gave her the values of freedom, philosophy and democracy; the Capitol, which represented Roman legal concepts and social order; and Golgotha, i.e. Christianity.[9] It must be noted too that the founding fathers of the European Union were deeply religious men – for example, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman, the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Konrad Adenauer and the Italian foreign minister Alcide De Gasperi.



And when half a century after the creation of the European Union its constitution was being written, it would have been natural for the Christian Churches to expect that the role of Christianity as one of the European values to have been included in this document, without encroaching upon the secular nature of the authorities in a unified Europe. But, as we know, this did not happen. The European Union, when writing its constitution, declined to mention its Christian heritage even in the preamble of the document.



I firmly believe that a Europe which has renounced Christ will not be able to preserve its cultural and spiritual identity. For many centuries Europe was the home where various religious traditions lived side by side, but at the same time in which Christianity played a dominant role. This role is reflected, particularly, in the architecture of European cities which are hard to imagine without their magnificent cathedrals and numerous, though more modest in size, churches.



A monopoly of the secular idea has taken hold in Europe. Its manifestation is the expulsion of the religious worldview from the public expanse. Article 4 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion and Belief, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1981, affirms that “All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.”[10]



The architects of the secular society have seen to the legal aspect of the issue: formally one can confess any religion, but if one attempts to motivate one’s actions through religious belief and freedom of conscience and encourage others to act in accordance with their faith, then at best one will be subjected to censure, or at worst to criminal prosecution.



For example, if one is a doctor and refuses to perform an abortion,[11] or euthanasia,[12] by referring to one’s religious principles, then one is breaking the law. If you are a Protestant pastor and live in a country in which same sex unions are legal, then you have little chance of refusing this couple the right to a church wedding while remaining unpunished by the state. Thus, for example, the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven recently stated that all pastors of the Church of Sweden ought to be obliged to perform church weddings for same-sex couples, adding that “I see parallels to the midwife who refuses to perform abortions. If you work as a midwife you must be able to perform abortions, otherwise you have to do something else… It is the same for priests.”[13]



         Such political figures are the complete opposite to those who were at the foundations of the European Union, and this type of rhetoric, in my view, is suicidal for the continent of Europe. The legalization of abortion, the encouragement of sexual promiscuity, and the systematic attempts to undermine family values have led to a profound demographic crisis in many European countries. This crisis, accompanied by an identity crisis, will lead to a situation whereby in time other peoples will inhabit Europe with a different religion, a different culture and different paradigms of values.



         Often the language of hatred in relation to Christians is used when Christians insist on their right to participate in public affairs. They enjoy the same right as much as it is enjoyed by adherents of any other religion or by atheists. However, in practice, it is not like this: dozens of instances of discrimination against Christians on the grounds of their beliefs are registered every year. These instances are highlighted by the media and become a topic of public discussion, but the situation as a whole does not change as a result.



In modern-day Europe militant secularism has been transformed into an autonomous power that does not tolerate dissent. It allows well-organized minority groups to successfully impose their will on the majority under the pretext of observing human rights. Today human rights have in essence been transformed into an instrument for manipulating the majority, and the struggle for human rights into the dictatorship of the minority in relation to the majority.



Unfortunately, we should note that these are not isolated incidents, but an already formed system of values supported by the state and supra-national institutions of the EU.



In a situation where we have aggressive pressure of the groups which propagate ideas unacceptable from the perspective of traditional Christian morality, it is essential to unite the Churches’ efforts in opposing these processes, to act jointly in the media, in the sphere of legal support, as well as in propagating common Christian values at all possible levels. It is important that the Churches share their experience in this sphere, and develop cooperation between church human rights organizations and monitoring centers.



I believe it important that Christians of Europe should stand shoulder to shoulder to defend those values upon which the life of the continent has been built for centuries, and that they should view the afflictions and dismay of Christians throughout the world as their own.

[1]          Frontex Risk Analysis Network Quarterly Report. Q4 2015. http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/FRAN_Q4_2015.pdf

[2]          International Migration Report 2015. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/PopulationDivision.

                http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/migrationreport/docs/MigrationReport2015.pdf

[3]          Measuring Global Migration Potential, 2010–2015. Issue No. 9, July 2017. http://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/gmdac_data_briefing_series_issue_9.pdf

[4]          Число неверующих в Великобритании впервые превысило 50%. http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-41154931

[5]          https://www.levada.ru/2017/07/18/religioznost

[6]          http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/research/documents/StatusofGlobalChristianity2017.pdf

[7]          http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/

[8]          Presentation by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill at the opening of the XXV Nativity Educational Readings http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4789256.html

[9]          Христианские церкви и европейская интеграция: параметры взаимодействия. http://orthodoxru.eu/ru/index.php?content=article&category=publications&id=2012-09-17-1&lang=ru

[10]        http://www.un.org/ru/documents/decl_conv/declarations/relintol.shtml

[11]        http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/case/medical-directors-dismissal-reversed.html

[12]        Catholic care home in Belgium fined for refusing euthanasia. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/07/04/catholic-care-home-in-belgium-fined-for refusing-euthanasia/

[13]        http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/case/swedish-prime-minister-priests-should-perform-same-sex-marriages.html


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

THE SPIRITUALITY OF CHARLES DE FOUCAULD by Brother Ian Latham, Little Brother of Jesus


Charles de Foucauld is one of the reasons I was so keen to come to Peru.  He had inspired me as a young monk to wish to rub shoulders with the poor.  He had pushed me to help in the "Samaritans" in Hereford in my spare time, and gave me the impulse to go to Peru.   This is just a small "thankyou" as my time in Peru comes to an end, even though I had to pinch Brother Ian Latham's work to make the gesture.
In every age, there are saints whom God uses to show the Church the path it should take. St Benedict inaugurated the Benedictine centuries; St Francis illuminated the Middle Ages; St Ignatius and St Charles Borromeo were signposts in the Counter Reformation.
 
 We must be approaching a time in our history of immense importance because we have been given a number of great saints as well as Vatican II to help us on our way. Perhaps the two greatest saintswere those who lived hidden lives. One died in the obscurity of a Carmelite convent, while the other was killed by a bunch of drunken Touaregs in his Saharan hermitage, having achieved nothing he had set out to do. The messages they gave the Church by their lives were very simple.

 As the Church takes on the world in the New Evangelisation, St Therese can teach us that great things can be achieved if we put ourselves completely at God’s disposition by humble obedience in little things, moment by moment;
 and Charles de Foucauld sows us by his example that we should identify with the poor and the outcast and become brothers and sisters to all. This is based, not on a wishy-washy liberalism but has the Incarnation as a foundation. In becoming man, Christ was united to all and each human being by the Holy Spirit, making all of us brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a reality to which we Christians must bear witness by our lives, and even by our deaths.
  When the Coptic woman addressed her nation on television after her whole family had been killed by an ISIS bomb in a church on Palm Sunday this year and told those watching that she forgave the terrorists, did not want anything bad to happen to them and prayed for them, she impressed public opinion in Egypt and truly bore witness to Christ: the New Evangelization has already started!

my source: The Vision of the Gospel For Brother Charles, Jesus is the One who is present: this, I think, is something that strikes us immediately. It’s something we feel in Charles, himself, and which, in his company, influences our own approach to Jesus.

Presence is the answer to isolation. Two people, each one separate and alone, are walking through a park. One, tired, sits on a bench. Later, the other feels inclined to do the same and finds a space on the bench. After a while, they swap a few routine phrases (‘What a summer!’ -’Yes, isn’t it?...).Then one confides ‘I’m feeling so sad: my wife, you know ... died last month!..’ And the other replies ‘I’m so sorry, I know what you are feeling....’ And the next day they meet again... Physical proximity opens out into personal presence. In fact, there is no real presence except that of persons; and this presence of persons to one another is only realized through a recognition of the other and a giving of oneself to that other, leading to the shared recognition and self-giving of friendship, provided that the movement is brought to fulfillment.

God’s presence

Of course, God’s presence is something quite unique: an apparent absence that is really total presence. For with God, simply being and being preHe’s closer to us than we are to ourselves, as Augustine says. But, paradoxically, we aren’t, and in the main can’t be, aware of this, at least directly. The marvelous signs and the prophetic word, coupled with thesages’ reflections, are a first move towards closing this gap. But it’s only, I think, with the Incarnation that God becomes present for us. And it’s only through the gift of the Spirit that we can recognize this presence of God-with-us and respond to it, so that the all-present God becomes effectively present to us. For an unrecognized presence is not properly a presence: there needs to be mutuality. John’s gospel, in particular, reveals this presence in the full sense, and the wonders of it.

Presence of the Beloved

Charles, it is I think clear, was struck by this ‘presence’ of the Beloved. In fact, he was seized by it, and it becomes the dominant note of his spiritual path. At first, he finds this presence above all in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus is ‘there’, in front of him; and so he can ‘talk’ with Jesus – speaking, listening, resting in silence... So he feels the urge to spend long moments simply ‘there’, present to ‘the presence’, present with love to the presence of Love.

A developing relationship
His first hermitage

For Charles, this is the expression of an intensely personal relationship. And because personal it develops. If Jesus is present in the Sacrament, he’s also present in the word of the Gospels: there, and there alone, we can see him acting, hear his words, follow his journey... and so are stimulated to join him and walk with him. Most of his meditations are gospel meditations; and some of his texts, such as ‘Le modele unique’ are nothing but strings of gospel quotes, largely of Jesus’ words. For, as he says, to love is to imitate...


This personal relationship with Jesus’ presence in word and Sacramento grows, at Beni-Abbes in particular, into the recognition of Jesus’ presence in the person who comes, whoever that may be, and especially in ‘the least’. In fact, the Eucharistic presence and the Neighbour presence are explicitly connected: ‘the one who said ‘this is my body’ said ‘whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to Me’ – no word of the gospel has more impressed me’... A decision at Tamanrasset Later, when in Tamanrasset, Charles is faced with the question: should he stay with the people, with the few local Touareg families, without the possibility of celebrating or reserving the Eucharist; or, on the contrary, should he return to Beni-Abbes, or somewhere further north, to have again the opportunity of the Mass with a server as then required, but leaving, perhaps permanently, the Touareg people whose lives he had come to share and which he alone could do? ‘It’s hard to spend Christmas without Mass’ (1907). How does he reason? ‘Formerly I tended to see on one side the Infinite, the holy Sacrifice, and on the other the finite, everything apart from God, and was always ready to sacrifice, anything to celebrate. Holy Mass. But there must have been a mistake in my reasoning here, for from the time of the apostles, the greatest saints have sometimes sacrificed the possibility of celebrating to works of spiritual charity, to make journeys and so on... It is good to live alone in the land [the Hoggar]; one can do things there, even though they are of no great importance, for one becomes ‘at home’ there – easily available to people and quite ‘ordinary’. (July 1907 to Mgr Guerin).


Praying as relationship with God

Simplicity, absolute simplicity – that is what marks Charles’ way of praying. As breathing for the body, so is praying for the soul. In fact, he makes this
comparison himself: breathing in is like receiving God, breathing out like giving back what he has given.

His basic approach can be summed up in the ‘formula’: loving attention to Jesus. We could add... to Jesus present, and supposing always, Jesus as Love incarnate. This, surely, is in the pure gospel tradition:
 ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, listen to Him’, ‘Remain in me.. in my Word... in my Love’
(John 15 and the whole of 1 John).

 It is also in line with the way of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, whom Charles constantly read and recommended. Of course, Charles personalizes this gospel and Carmelite way of praying in his own fashion. It follows that we may wish to express it differently, in a manner personal to each of us. Charles explicitly allows for this (remember he was always expecting others to arrive and join him), saying ‘let each be guided by the Spirit’. But contact with Charles, through his writings, may well give us a new insight into the real meaning of praying. Each time I reread him, I feel this renewal in myself.

Simple means

As Charles’ approach to prayer is simple, so are the means that he employs. Firstly the gospel
‘Find the time to read a few lines of the holy gospel each day.. for a certain time (it should not be too long)..meditate for a few moments on what you find... Youshould try to soak yourself in the spirit of Jesus by reading and rereading, meditating and remeditating the words and examples of Jesus. It should be like the drop of water falling steadily on the same, stone in the same place..’ (to Massignon, 1914).
Secondly the Eucharist: ‘The Eucharist is Jesus’, Jesus present, Jesus our food, Jesus our sacrifice. An outward ‘bodily’ sign which Charles found to be ‘an extreme delight, a great support, and strength’... (to Marie de Bondy 1914), but which he was ready to give up, if need be, in favour of the reality signified, Jesus himself as always present (he had just received permission to reserve the Sacrament after a long interval).

Thirdly, daily life and events:

 ‘Be sure that God will give you what is best for his glory, best for your soul, best for the souls of others... (to Massignon 1916 1st December).
Events, and especially people, are occasions for receiving the coming of Jesus, and for responding in living faith and the Spirit’s love.

These great ‘means’ or ‘moments’ are basically unchanging and always valid. But the little methods of praying are, for Charles, purely relative, and vary as needed, to suit the variety of situations and the changing spiritual psychology. Always simple, they become as Charles goes forward, simpler still. Always, too, there is a combination of vocal prayers – psalms, rosary, exclamations – with meditation, mainly on the gospel, and with contemplation
– simple loving attention to Jesus present. This last, contemplation, is for Charles, prayer in the full sense, the ‘end’ to which we are aiming. But he readily acknowledges that vocal prayer and gospel meditation are the normal supports of contemplation and the preparation for it. This approach is at once practical, starting from where we are, and goes to the heart of real prayer in all its depths.

Guided by the Holy Spirit

‘We should let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit’ (on John 14, 28-33; see OS 159). How to pray? How to act? In both cases the Holy Spirit is our one guide (on Mark 13,2; see OS 155-157).

Not only does he ‘inspire’ our praying, giving it life and aim, but he guides us to pray in this or thatway, at this or that moment of our lives. Charles is convinced of this and constantly returns to this theme. ‘To hear well the voice of the divine Spirit, the help of a wise director is good’. Notice the role attributed to the ‘director’: simply to help a person listen better to the Spirit’s voice. For as Charles adds, ‘It is for God himself to form for each our interior life, and not for us nor for other creatures: Father into your hands I commend my spirit’. This understanding makes Charles totally free: free in adapting and changing his own concrete way of praying, free also in envisaging whatever form of praying is most appropriate to this or that person at this or that moment.  Free finally to have or not to have the help of a director according to availability. Charles had the ‘good fortune’ to have the Abbé Henri Huvelin as his spiritual guide, a priest supremely conscious of the unique ‘work’ of the Holy Spirit.

The Mission of Brother Charles


Charles’ early life is, clearly, that of a person searching for, and finding faith And his life continues to be, up till the end, a journey in faith (cf Lumen Gentium 56: Mary, precisely as model of the Church and her members, ‘advanced in her pilgrimage of faith’..). Having found the Truth in the person of the one Lover, to become his ‘Beloved’, he continues to search for the way ahead, but now in the light of faith, a ‘light’ that for him – as for us – often appears as ‘darkness’ (cf the ‘dark nights’ of faith’s journey according to John of the Cross, whom Charles constantly read, and advised others to read).
‘Does Jesus love me?.. I feel nothing.. I have to grip hard to pure faith.’

Vocation: not chosen but found.

Converted at the age of 28, Charles, in willing acceptance of the Abbé Huvelin’s ‘direction’( so ‘gentle and firm’, so open to the Spirit), spends three full – and to him long – years in search of his personal vocation. As he later says, a vocation is ‘not chosen but found’, and ‘once found to be embraced wholeheartedly.

And his vocation-search is in line with his faith-discovery: total. He wants, and needs to give his ‘all’ for the ‘All’ that he has received:
‘As soon as I knew that God existed, I knew that I could only live for Him’
(we can recognize, again, his affinity with the ‘all and nothing’ of John of the Cross).

Who is this God that Charles comes to know
...and wishes to live for? It is not the all-powerful Creator and just Judge (the popular image of God at the time), but the God who is Presence, the God who is Love: the God whom Charles encountered in his conversion experience, whom he later names as ‘Jesus-Caritas’, and whose mercies he sings in his ‘retreat of Nazareth’ of 1897. Charles is far from denying the
total Transcendence (he had found a pointer to this among the Muslims), but this transcendent God meets him and embraces him in the heart of human experience.
‘By his incarnation, the Son of God has... united himself with each and every human person’(Gaudium et Spes).
It’s these words of the Council that are spelled out in Pope John Paul’s first, programmatic, encyclical, and are continued in all the others: Jesus’ redemption, God the Father’s mercy, the Spirit’s uplifting and healing power are present at the root of all human experience, be it personal history, family life, work, social relations and institutions. We only need faith (of which we have so little) – faith like that of Mary – to become aware of this ‘presence’ and to correspond to it in our actions.

Where is God present?

In Nazareth... This is Charles’ great discovery. Visiting the Holy Land (at Huvelin’s suggestion), Charles is attracted irresistibly by Jesus’ life in Nazareth, but he will only discover little by little all its meaning for himself and his followers. He chooses to enter a Trappist monastery precisely because it is, for him, a ‘Nazareth’: a place of poverty and manual work in ‘imitation of Jesus’, a place of ‘sacrifice’ for Jesus. As we know, Charles left the monastery. While clearly expressing what he felt God’s will to be for himself at this critical moment, he entrusted the decision totally – as was his way – into the hands of the Abbot General and his Council.

A mistaken vocation?

Was Charles’ seven-year stay with the Trappists a case of mistaken vocation? No it was not a mistake; but it was incomplete, though only the experience itself made Charles and his community aware of this. For Charles learnt much as a Trappist: self-discipline, community life, the ways of prayer... But he failed to find the ‘abjection of Jesus’: hadn’t Jesus chosen ‘the last place’ (as he had heard the Abbe Huvelin say)?

God the worker of Nazareth

Charles had seen something of this ‘last place’ when asked to visit a sick man, a poor Armenian, who lived with his family in the hills near the monastery of Akbés.

It was this that drew him to go and live in Nazareth itself and to be a ‘workman’. For wasn’t Jesus ‘God the worker of Nazareth’? In fact, Charles lived and worked as a handyman for the local convent of Poor Clares, and while doing odd jobs for the community (his manual skills, as it turned out, were limited!), he spent the greater part of his time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, in meditation on the Gospels, and in writing copy-book after copy-book of gospel-based reflections (the majority of his writings are from this three-year period).

It was like a long retreat (his contact with the village people was limited), in which he explored the meaning of Nazareth: the meaning for Jesus, for
himself, and for the future ‘fraternity’ of Nazarene ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.

From the first Charles, surprisingly, envisaged founding communities. Surprisingly, for he felt called to the ‘hiddenness’ of Jesus’ Nazareth life; and he had absolutely no means of realizing his desires. But it was only after an internal struggle that he accepted an invitation from the Mother Abbess of the Poor Clares at Jerusalem, to ask for priestly ordination, once assured that it was compatible with the ‘humility’ of Jesus.

For the salvation of all.

Ordination, at the age of 42, is for Charles a turning point. Before, he had put all his energies into his personal relationship with Jesus. Now he thinks in terms of being Jesus for others: as his ordination notes affirm,
he now wishes to ‘join Jesus in his immolation for the salvation of all’

Being a brother or sister to one and all

‘You have one Father and you are all brothers and sisters.’

Charles quotes this text time and time again, and tries constantly to conform his actions to it. We can say, I think, that for Charles ‘brotherhood’ derives
from Jesus and extends to every person, covering all their needs at every level. Let us then look at this more closely.

With Charles, all begins, always, with Jesus

Jesus is ‘our beloved Brother and Lord’. The one who loves us and whom we love is – astonishingly –our Brother: astonishingly, for Charles first discovered him as God-with-us and as the Lord who gives and asks all. Our Brother because he is ‘one of us’ and because he ‘shares our human condition’ (cf Hebrews chapters 2 and 5 and Gaudium et Spes 22).

As we know, Charles is particularly struck by the fact that Jesus shares our Nazareth situation: our simple ordinariness, with its daily routine of work, monotony, and anonymity, as also the poverty and abjection of so many.

And it is as our Brother that Jesus is ‘obedient’ to the Father and ‘journeys’ towards the Father. An obedience in trust, a journey through suffering... that he calls us to ‘follow’. ‘I am ascending to my Father and to your Father’ (John 20:17): this movement
covers the whole of Jesus’ life, from his boyhood to his death and glorification (cf Luke 1:50, 9:51, 23:46). And it is precisely as our Brother that Jesus, ‘the firstborn among many brothers’ (Rm 8:30), draws us along with him, to share his life in our here-and-now and, in the end, his destiny. That is, as our Brother that he shares our life, in all its humanness, and, by so doing, invites us to share his life of sonship with the Father, so that we are with him ‘sons in the Son’ (St Augustine).

For Charles, Jesus as our Brother applies not only to Christians but also – and equally – to every person, whatever their religion or lack of it. Charles sees Jesus primarily in his Nazareth situation: he is among us as our brother. A brother first to those who are of his family, to those who recognize and accept him; but a brother equally to all those around, to each and every person in the ‘village’ and, risen from the dead, to each and everyone, everywhere, in each and every generation. A brother, moreover, who is present, walking with each person in their life journey. This truth, that Charles instinctively came to see, is, I think, a new discovery of our time. In fact, to my mind, it only comes to clear expression in the first encyclical of John Paul, his programme/encyclical Redemptor Hominis. Commenting on Gaudium et Spes 22, he declares:
‘with man – with each man without any exception whatever – Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it’;
and again,
‘each one of the four thousand million human beings living on our planet has become a sharer in Jesus from the moment he is conceived’.

Let’s analyze ‘being a brother or sister’ It is, surely, based on a recognition of equality: of being equally human, of being of equal worth and so of having an equal dignity. This leads to an attitude of respect and to its practical corollary, an attitude of concern. The whole of Charles’ experience
in the Hoggar is a witness to his growth in this recognition of others, so different in appearance, in culture and in religion, as being his equals, and hence as being worthy of respect. ‘We are all brothers and sisters, and we hope one day to share the same heaven’ (1904).
Notice the two levels of being brothers and sisters: as humans, and as having the same destiny. Charles’ approach is
always to begin with the practical and obvious human needs, and to work ‘upwards’ to the cultural and the religious.

A young Touareg girl, as she then was, recalled long after, how she would enjoy visiting the Marabout, ‘He always smiled, and he never kept us waiting’.
Fr Charles among the Touareg

A simple enough remark, but full of meaning. For Charles was working long hours on his Touareg dictionary, and he was a man of intense concentration and strict routine, never willing to waste a minute. Yet he was able to spare time to serve others.




Tuesday, 17 October 2017

"HIDDEN CHRISTIANS" IN JAPAN. THE HISTORY OF AN ORIENTAL MIRACLE by Shinzo Kawamura, S.J.



Some Thoughts on Silence
Shusaku Endo, like Graham Greene, lived in an age when sin was sin and rules were rules; apostasy was a terrible sin, and Catholics expected their priests to keep their priestly commitments.  If "Silence" is interpreted to say that apostasy doesn't really matter, or if the whisky priest's lack of repentance at having had a lover was a matter of small consequence in "The Power and the Glory" then the stories would be robbed of much of their drama.  Likewise, if it is thought that Pope Francis was trying to change the traditional moral law of the Church when he said, "How am I to judge?" when talking of homosexuals, or when he has suggested that there are cases when divorced people should be allowed to confess and go to communion, then the full force of the drama of how Christ won our salvation on the Cross would be missing.

Two thousand years ago, all the evil that human beings have committed from the beginning of history till the end of time was united in an organic whole and was summed up in the single most terrible sin of all, the sin of killing God, and God came into direct contact with all that sin as its victim in Christ; and Christ said, "Forgive them because they don't know what they are doing."  As the 2nd Eucharistic Prayer says, He is the hand that God holds out to sinners.  Since then, the laws and rules remain in place because they reflect the will of God; but no one who has sinned remains so trapped by his sin that God's mercy cannot reach him.  God will seek out any crack in the defences that sin builds up, any way through any barrier between the soul and God so that he can act in it with his grace.   
When, in "The Diary of a Country Priest", the priest wakes up in the bed of a prostitute who has brought him in after he has fainted because she has pity on him, after talking to her, he realizes that "Grace is everywhere", even in the most improbable places.  Catholic novelists realized this before many Catholic moralists.  We cannot judge people as though God's grace is not at work, even with apostates, even with priests who are untrue to their promises.  Moreover, when we see evidence of grace in irregular situations, we must do all we can to foster it, working in synergy with God and not against him.  Sin is just as evil as before, and Canon Law reflects the will of God as much as before, but mercy, not law, has the last word. 

 "HIDDEN CHRISTIANS" IN JAPAN. THE HISTORY OF AN ORIENTAL MIRACLE"



by Shinzo Kawamura, S.J.

my source: Sandro Magister L'Espresso

Foreword

On January 8, 1867, His Holiness Pope Pius IX dispatched a special message to Fr. Bernard Petitjean of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, who at the time was involved in missionary work in the city of Nagasaki. The purpose of His Holiness was to personally bless an event, which he exuberantly described as a “Miracle of the Orient.”

What he referred to as a “Miracle of the Orient,” was the fact that three years before this message was dispatched, that is, on March 17, 1865, an incident had occurred within one of Japan’s oldest churches, namely the “Oura Tenshudo of Nagasaki,” which is also known as the Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan. This was the discovery of the so-called Hidden Christians, and to Catholics all over the world, this incident was indeed a miracle.

That is to say, a community of Christians whose ancestors could be traced back to the seventeenth century, and who had experienced excessive persecution due to the ban on Christianity imposed in Japan, had yet managed to survive for a period transcending 250 years, even though they had no priests who could minister to them.

These Hidden Christians did not consist solely of those who had been discovered. We have verified the fact that the Christians whom people like Fr. Petitjean had encountered, were of the same faith as the Christians who had populated the nation of Japan four hundred years earlier. Accordingly, they are people who after being discovered, returned to the Roman Catholic Church.

In other words, this incident was a twofold miracle, namely a miracle of discovery, and a miracle of resurrection.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Japan began to follow the path taken by the advanced nations of the West, and it attempted to rebuild itself as a modern state. The Tokugawa government in the city of Edo, which at that time constituted the central authority, had for an extended period of nearly 250 years, reduced all contact with foreign powers to a bare minimum.

However, in 1854, on the basis of the Kanagawa Convention that had been framed between the USA and the Tokugawa government, Japan eventually realized that there was a need to terminate this sort of an exclusive policy, and so the country was once again declared open to foreigners.

Even so, however, regardless of this new orientation on their part, the Tokugawa government decided to continue enforcing upon the common man the prohibitions they had hitherto imposed upon Christianity.

On the other hand though, as western settlements began to make their appearance in steady succession within the major port cities of Japan, such as Yokohama and Nagasaki, the people also started to make demands for freedom of worship, and consequently, Catholic churches also in course of time began to be built, within the nation’s townships and settlements.

Despite such limitations, however, a revival seemed to occur within the Catholic Church of Japan, and this, in turn, evoked feelings of hope within the heart of His Holiness Pope Pius IX. Hence, he decided to canonize the twenty-six martyrs of Nagasaki. These twenty-six individuals had suffered martyrdom approximately 400 years ago, and they were later beatified in the early seventeenth century.

Japan thereupon was transformed immediately into the spotlight of the world, and people worldwide started to evince an interest in the nation’s new Catholic Church, a Church whose history had, so to say, just begun.

It was in such an ambiance of serenity and composure that the renaissance of the Catholic Church commenced in Japan, but in 1865 this renaissance received an added boost, due to the sudden discovery of the Hidden Christians. This discovery of the Hidden Christians was an event that captivated Christians worldwide, and it is this that I referred to earlier as a “Miracle of the Orient.”

These Hidden Christians constituted a group of approximately 15 people, and they happened to be descendants of the Hidden Christians of Nagasaki Urakami. They visited the Oura Tenshudo that had just been built, and engaged in a dialogue with Fr. Petitjean.

They spoke to Fr. Petitjean saying: “We are of the same faith as you. Where can we find the image of Saint Mary?”

Fr. Petitjean was profoundly moved, and his heart filled with joy on hearing their words.

No sooner had these Hidden Christians ascertained the fact that Catholic priests had entered Japan, more and more of them began to come out of hiding in places such as Nagasaki and its surrounding vicinity, and also in areas such as Goto, and their numbers in course of time exceeded ten thousand.

After having duly confirmed the fact that the faith of these priests was the same as that which had been adhered to by their ancestors 400 years ago, these Hidden Christians returned to the Catholic Church.

Certain Fundamental Issues and three Keywords

On the occasion of this symposium, I wish to speak about this Miracle of the Orient. I intend to present certain fundamental issues concerning this topic, and I shall attempt also to answer them.

First, these Hidden Christians had endured about 250 years of persecution, due to the prohibitions imposed upon them by the Tokugawa government. Even so, they faithfully continued to preserve their faith, and when they eventually felt that the time was appropriate to do so, they rejoined the Catholic Church. This was indeed a miracle, but my question is, what was it that made this miracle possible?

What was it that made possible the “hidden” life that these Christian communities had followed, for so many years?

Why was it that they never rejected their Catholic Faith?

Concretely speaking, what was it that enabled them to protect and preserve their faith?

I now wish to present three keywords that I consider most vital, with regard to the possibility of this Oriental Miracle.

The first keyword is ‘confraternity’ or ‘confraria.’ It was this that enabled them to discover a systematic means of preserving their faith during this lengthy period.

The second keyword comprises the expression, ‘Catechist Bastian’s Prophecies.’

Bastian was the name of a catechist who suffered martyrdom during the period of persecution around 200 years ago, and we have a work of his entitled “Future Resurrection Prophecies of the Church of Christ.” This work served as a source of hope for the Hidden Christians, and hence it was accepted and transmitted by them to the later generations.

For the Hidden Christians, it was a message for the future.

The third keyword refers to a booklet entitled, ‘Book of Contrition and Prayer.’

This booklet consisted of the memories or recollections of their ancestors. These memories were lovingly cherished by those Hidden Christians, and it served as a motive force for them.

The booklet also served to authenticate their knowledge, regarding the sacraments that were used during the Christian period.

I shall hereafter provide in turn a simple explanation for each of these keywords, and by this means I hope to gain a glimpse of the genesis of this drama, a drama concerning miracles of discovery and resurgence.

The Structure of their Steady Faith: The Way of Thought revealed in the 'Confraria' that enabled the Members to lead Christian lives, despite an absence of Priests

The first issue we need to deal with concerns the Confraria or Lay Communities.

Despite the fact that they had neither priests nor missionaries, yet the communities of Hidden Christians managed to survive for a period surpassing 250 years. During this period, their communities were managed by the laity alone.

This is a point of crucial value.

This was due to the fact that since the time of St. Francis Xavier, communities that were governed and supervised by the laity alone existed as territorial organizations, in diverse regions of the country.

These communities of Hidden Christians were not groups that were formed in a hurry. They were not formed because of any abrupt negative reaction, such as feelings of panic that might have suddenly arisen among the Christians, because of the prohibitions and persecution initiated by the Tokugawa government.

Rather, we need to bear in mind the fact that these communities had pre-existed earlier, and that they had originated half a century prior to the onset of the persecution.

They were formed in imitation of the Confraria system in Europe, where, in every region, there existed communities constituted of lay people alone. These were autonomous organizations, and hence when the persecution began in real earnest and the missionaries began to disappear, they were able to continue on their own, because of the links that existed between the lay leaders and community members.

In 1550, that is, just after the missionary activity of St. Francis Xavier, there were many regions that were served by just four missionaries.

These were mission stations, and they could not be ranked either as parishes or church organizations.

It was half a century later that Episcopates or Bishoprics appeared in Japan, and during that period, it was only the Jesuits who had missions that included churches or parishes.

Here, the Jesuits even began to operate hospitals, and they did this on the basis of western concepts of medical science.

The Christian communities that helped in the administration of these hospitals are ranked among Japan’s earliest church communities.

Japan’s earliest church community was constituted of lay Christians, who adopted as their model the Confraria da Misericordia of Portugal.

This confraria began in the 13th century in Italy, and in the 16th century, a period when vast numbers of lay Catholic groups pervaded diverse sections of Europe, the Confraria da Misericordia, which tended to concentrate almost exclusively on charitable works, developed largely in Portugal. When Europe began to spread out during the period of the great navigations, this confraria too expanded to diverse sections of the globe, and in course of time, it even entered Japan, where among other activities it focused chiefly on the running of hospitals.

It was a widely known fact that the confraria was administered solely by the laity.

On principle, priests and individuals associated with the clergy were not directly concerned with the management.

Even at a later period when regional communities were formed in different areas, they were modeled upon the same organizational system.

In every area, aside from periodic visits made by missionaries, the maintenance and government of the community was carried out by the lay leaders and the group members.

The leaders were elected, and they had fixed terms of office, and we have reason to believe also that the communities had rules and regulations to abide by.

According to statistics of the 1590s, the total number of Christian believers was 220,000, and the priests constituted merely forty Jesuit missionaries.

Even on occasions when the two hundred and odd Christian communities scattered nationwide had no priests, they had administrative organizations comprised solely of lay people, who were able to carry out the tasks of government and supervision.

The reason for this was the fact, that these communities were in essence based on the concept of the confraria.

In 1587, Hideyoshi promulgated the ‘Bateren tsuihō-rei,’ which was an ordinance expelling the missionaries. This initiated the first persecution.

It was a measure intended to banish all the Jesuits missionaries from the country.

Obviously, the Japanese Christians too were greatly disturbed by this situation.

Yet, as far as the structure of their society was concerned, in every region, it was taken for granted that even if priests were absent, the lay leaders could function on their own and carry out the tasks of supervision and governance. Hence, the impact of this expulsion ordinance upon their community was not all that severe.

The reason for this weakening of the impact of the ordinance was the fact that in each region these community leaders aptly fulfilled their responsibilities towards their people, by duly carrying out the tasks assigned to them.

An outcome of this expulsion ordinance was the fact that these lay communities, which hitherto had been bound together through to their involvement in charitable activities in diverse regions, now began active preparations to face this persecution, and their structure consequently underwent a change. They were now transformed into communities of mutual support and aid.

This in due course gave rise to confrarias that were unique to the nation of Japan.

In other words, they were reborn as communities of Hidden Christians, who were prepared to face the ongoing persecution.

Starting from Nagasaki, in manifold areas of the nation, such germinal confraria communities began to be formed, and they continued to survive.

Also, these lay leaders continued with their hidden lives, all the while carrying out the tasks assigned to them. They conducted baptismal ceremonies and conveyed the teachings of Christ to the members of their communities, using water, booklets, and so on.

That is to say, these communities of Hidden Christians, which were totally devoid of priests, constituted a secret that remained unrevealed to the authorities, a secret that persisted for a period of 250 years. The primary reason for this is the fact that throughout the Christian period, these communities, whose structure was modeled upon the confraria, were groups that were deeply rooted within the soil of Japan.

A Transmission of Hope: The Prophecy of Catechist Bastian

A second factor related to the endurance of these Christian communities was the fact that the lay Catholics who were linked to them, were able to obtain the spirit of perseverance and hope that they needed for their continued survival.

There existed an oral tradition entitled the ‘Prophecy of Catechist Bastian,’ and this tradition provided these Christian communities with hope, regarding a future resurrection.

In certain areas, these Hidden Christians received and transmitted this tradition for 250 years.

The individual referred to as Bastian, was a catechist. He suffered martyrdom at Omura in the vicinity of Nagasaki around the middle of the seventeenth century, during the closing days of the persecution.

He is said to have served as the disciple of a certain Joāo. In 1657, he was captured by agents of the Nagasaki Magistrate’s Office and was beheaded after three years and three months of incarceration.

On that occasion, he was believed to have left behind a prophecy, which served as a source of encouragement for the members of the Christian communities.

The most crucial component of that prophecy was the following: “After seven generations have passed a black ship will arrive, in which there will be some confessors. People then would be able to make their confessions, even on a weekly basis.”

In other words, if the people were able to wait in patience for seven generations, the current religious prohibitions would without fail to be lifted, and the persecutions also would cease. This would usher in an era of peace. By means of this prophecy, Bastian sought to console the members of the Christian communities, who found themselves plunged into a state of utter despair.

This prophecy eventually attained fulfillment, after the passage of 250 years.

On examining the Bible carefully, we notice that it was customary to consider a single generation as comprising 30 years.

Hence, seven generations would work out to 210 years. In other words, what the prophecy intended to reveal was the fact, that 210 years after the death of Bastian who was martyred in 1657, the persecutions would cease.

When we compute the whole thing mathematically, we find that this works out to the year 1865, which incidentally, happens to be the very year in which the Hidden Christians were first discovered.

In Nagasaki and its neighboring villages alongside the open sea, as well as in Goto, that prophecy of Bastian was found to have existed as an oral transmission. This is a truth that was verified by Historians of the Meiji period when they carried out field research in those areas.

The fact that Bastian prophesied that the confessors would return, is also an issue of critical value.

On examining the wording of the oral transmission, we find that it did not merely state that missionaries would return, or that priests would return. Rather, it stated that ‘confessors’ would return.

I personally am of the view that this constitutes the most vital point in this Miracle of the Orient.

Those Hidden Christians were not just Christian clerics or church workers. Rather, they were people who were obsessed with the idea of having the authority to forgive sins.

We notice here that the wisdom of Bastian is both revealed and concealed.

In other words, for those Hidden Christians, it was absolutely crucial that those people who returned to Japan at a future time should be Catholic clerics or church workers.

In order to ascertain whether those confessors who returned were really priests, Bastian told the members of the Christian community to ask them three questions, and to see if they could provide answers for them. The questions are as follows:

The first question was: “Are you single?”

The second question was: What is the name of your leader in Rome?”

The third question was: Do you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary?”

These were the very questions that Bastian recommended that they ask.

On the occasion when the Hidden Christians were first discovered, the question they posed to Fr. Petitjean was, “Where is the statue of Saint Mary?” This question, which was addressed to Fr. Petitjean within the Oura Tenshudo, has now become virtually a legend, and thanks to the oral transmission, this is the first time in the history of Japanese Christianity, that we have been able to grasp its meaning.

Initially the Hidden Christians of Urakami entered a Protestant church in Nagasaki.

On doing so however, when the wife of the Pastor received them and offered them some English tea, they promptly withdrew from the place.

They had been taught to ascertain clearly whether or not the faith was the same as their own, for this was an issue that was included within the prophecy of Bastian.

Why did those Hidden Christians wait for the arrival of the confessors?

What sort of a mystery lies behind all this?

It has been speculated that the key to resolving this enigma, was published in 1608. Yet, what remains of that publication now are merely certain manuscripts, namely a pamphlet entitled ‘Konchirisanoriyaku,’ and a summary of this very same work entitled ‘Orasho.’ The key to this mystery perhaps may be found in them.

Memories of Love Signs: The Role of the ‘Konchirisanoriyaku,’ which transmitted the Memories of the Sacraments

On speaking with groups of Hidden Christians, I found that the principal question that dominated my mind was the following: In the course of these 250 years of their history, how did they deal with issues such as the celebration of Holy Mass and the conferring of the Sacraments, when they had no priests?

This same question may perhaps be posed as follows: Holy Mass and Penance are two Sacraments that needed to be conferred by an ordained priest. Aside from this issue, how did these Hidden Christians manage to continue the conveyance of their Catholic faith over a period extending to 250 years?

Assuming that the memories of the Sacraments had indeed vanished entirely from the minds of those Hidden Christians, then, 250 years later, even if they were to once again meet missionaries who had by now returned to Japan, those Christians would never have been able to verify whether those missionaries and themselves had both been once rooted in the same Catholic faith. This is certainly a possibility.

Yet, the fact is that Historical research reveals the exact opposite. That is to say, those Hidden Christians were clearly able to verify the fact that sometime in the past, they and the missionaries were undeniably rooted in the same Catholic faith.

This points to a historical truth that has close links to the ‘Konchirisanoriyaku.’

In 1590, the year when the persecution of the Catholic faith began in Japan, Catholic priests were either expelled from Japan or refused entry into the country, and the community of believers, who by then numbered around 300,000, found themselves suddenly faced with a crisis of massive proportions.

What proved particularly problematic was the fact that the number of priests who could administer the Sacraments to the believers, had dwindled greatly.

The Council of Trent, which concluded in 1563, declared that at least once a year all believers should receive the Sacrament of Penance, (that is, Confession), for to die in the state of mortal sin would mean that the individual would go to hell.

In particular, people who were bed-ridden and on the verge of death were in great fear of dying without having received forgiveness for their sins.

In response to this crisis faced by the Christian believers, the Jesuit missionaries of that time began to contemplate measures aimed at alleviating their woes.

In cases where priests were not available, they permitted the following exceptional procedures for the Christian community: If the sinner experienced true contrition, that is to say, if he or she had genuinely repented of their sin, then the actual confession of the sin could be deferred until the time when a priest was available.

This was something that groups such as the ‘contritionists’ had stressed since the middle ages, and besides, it was also a broad interpretation of the following words that are found in a decree promulgated during the Council of Trent, namely, “reconciliation between the individual and God can be attained by true contrition.”

In other words, it meant that if a person on his deathbed experienced true contrition of the heart, that contrition could serve as a substitute for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession. However, this was only an exceptional measure, which was resorted to because of the persecution that had broken out.

The Jesuit missionaries were perhaps aware of the fact that this ‘true contrition of the heart’ and ‘postponement of confession,’ were means that would not be widely welcomed by the Roman Catholic Church. Hence, they were resorted to merely as exceptional measures.

Accordingly, they even experienced a little anxiety over their implementation.

Eventually, in 1593, on the occasion of a meeting of Jesuit Representatives in Rome, the Jesuit missionary who was dispatched to Rome as the representative of Japan was provided with a list of exceptions to the general rule, in view of the unnatural circumstances that pervaded the country.

When this Jesuit missionary who served as representative of Japan reached Europe, he addressed certain questions to Gabriel Vasquez, who at that time happened to be a highly respected and qualified expert in Ethical Theology. His questions dealt with these same issues, that is, the postponement of confession, and the vital need to adopt special measures in the case of Japan. Vazquez on hearing him responded by affirming that if the contrition on the part of the penitent was sufficient, then his confession could indeed be temporarily postponed.

On receiving this information, the Konchirisanoriyaku was published and printed out as a booklet in Japan. The word ‘Konchirisan’ is the same as the Portuguese word contrição, when pronounced in the Japanese language.

The Konchirisanoriyaku describes the critical significance of ‘true contrition.’ It also states that when embarking upon lengthy voyages, or when we find ourselves in situations of war, conflict and so on, if there happens to be no priest available, then we should reconcile ourselves to the fact that we shall have to make our confession at a later date.

For use on such occasions, the members of the Christian communities composed a prayer known as the Orasho, and arrangements were also made for the Christian believers to recite this prayer on a daily basis.

This prayer known as Orasho served to greatly console the members of the Christian communities, who due to the persecution were unable to get into contact with the Catholic priests.

For instance, on occasions when officials of the Tokugawa government compelled the Christians to step on the Fumie, there were certain believers who stepped on it with no qualms whatsoever. Yet, these same believers, on returning to their place of residence, recited the Orasho over and over again, and by this means they tried to atone for what they had done. They did this with the awareness that sometime in the future a priest would appear, to whom they could confess their sin.

It is said that this Orasho was perhaps recited by the Christians hundreds or even thousands of times.

This rule, which enabled the Hidden Christians to make their confessions at some later period in the future when priests were available, also served to instill within their hearts the firm conviction, that the Church at some future time would revive again. It was a hope that arose within their hearts, owing to the memories they had carefully sustained regarding the Sacraments.

The statement of Bastian that I mentioned earlier, namely his prophecy regarding the return of the confessors after seven generations, is something we would not have been able to understand without this Konchirisanoriyaku transmission.

For a period of 210 years, those Christians had been repeatedly and clandestinely chanting the Orasho of Konchirisan, but their hopes eventually attained fulfillment, when they were finally able to meet a priest.

I am of the opinion that the reason why the faith of those Christians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was so meticulously transmitted over these many years, was because the memory of the Sacraments had been carefully preserved within their hearts. It was for this very same reason that this faith of theirs was also promptly resurrected after the lapse of 250 years, and once it was resurrected, they lost no time at all in rejoining the Catholic Church.

The Sacraments are visible signs of the salvific work of Jesus Christ. They are signs that have been, so to say, seared within the core of our hearts, and hence those Hidden Christians yearned for the day when the Catholic Church, the agency that conferred those Sacraments upon the believers, would rise again.

In other words, we may perhaps assert that it was largely due to the memories they had preserved of the Sacraments, that those Hidden Christians were able to survive so long as a community of Faith.

Alternately, we may also perhaps say, that the ‘miracle’ of the Hidden Christians attained fruition, due to those memories they had vigilantly preserved regarding the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

One must admit that this entire episode is exceedingly ‘Catholic,’ for if Protestant Churches had existed in Japan during the Christian period 400 years ago, one wonders whether such a miracle could have really occurred.

Conclusion

The Prophecy of Bastian and the Orasho of Konchirisanoriyaku, were transmitted within the vicinity of Nagasaki, in areas facing the open sea, and in the Goto region.

They functioned as a means to awaken within us a clear awareness, of the links that we possess with the Catholic faith of those Hidden Christians.

Hence, it is said that after the Meiji Restoration, the fact that the Catholic Church in that section of the country revived again with no resistance whatever, was due to these two transmissions that were widespread in those areas, namely the Prophecy of Bastian and the Orasho of Konchirisanoriyaku.

Another point to note is that in Hirado and the Ikitsuki region, both of which were known for the existence of Hidden Christians, these transmissions did not survive. Hence, even though the people in those areas came across priests of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, they found no reason to return to the Catholic Church.

This is due to the fact that although their faith had been rooted in the Catholicism of 400 years ago, yet, during the Edo Period it became progressively indigenized, and it was eventually transformed into a folk religion.

It was thus that the ‘Miracle of the Orient’ came to be realized, and this realization was brought about through the orderly transmission of the faith, hope, and love of those Hidden Christians.

More than anything else, what brought about the realization of this miracle are certain objects that are of supreme importance to the Catholic Church, namely the memories of those Hidden Christians. They are memories relating to the Church’s Sacraments that those Hidden Christians had meticulously preserved, and with this endorsement, I wish to conclude my address today.


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