Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Conversion Story Like No Other From Japan

Ito Miyuki, 38, and her daughter, Kotone, 5, will be baptized into the Catholic faith tomorrow — Shinto Priest's Wife, Daughter Becoming Catholic. On a trip to Mother India, Mrs. Ito had been given a rosary by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whose visage later appeared to her after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, which later disappeared.

So much for the glorious part; now for the possibly scandalous part:
    With only a few days left before her baptism, Miyuki continues to play sacred music during her husband's ceremonies. After her baptism, she plans to continue to do so.... For some time Miyuki considered the possibility of abandoning her functions in the shrine, but she was dissuaded by a priest of the parish and the team of laymen that support her.
Her husband's words, however, lessen the scandal a bit, at least in this blogger's mind:
    Considering my position, I can’t be baptized myself... But for my own part, I do wish I could. This area has a shrinking population, but despite this, all the residents continue to support Shinto festivals with monetary offerings. I feel I must do what I can to meet the needs of those who do so much to protect this shrine.
The country has been notoriously impenetrable to the Gospel, at least after Japan's "Christian Century" (1549-1639). Her rural areas, like Korea's, are dying from depopulation. Only elderly farmers are left, probably not the most fertile ground for evangelization. Could this Shintō priest be delaying his own baptism that he might offer his elderly "parishioners" the only opportunity some contact, however imperfect, with the divine?

UPDATE: Peter Kim of Totus Tuus has a post that, while not related to the story above, sheds some light on it, reminding us that the "Shinto worship of Japan was... allowed as a cultural event rather than as a religion by the Holy See" — Catholic Church and Shinto Worphip.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Andrew Cusack said...

An old Vatican hand I know avows that appointing natives to the Japanese hierarchy was the worst decision ever for the Church in Japan. They are allegedly far too subservient to the culture at large.

5:01 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

From what I know, I tend to agree. It is said that Japan's episcopacy is the worst (most liberal), maybe after Austria's.

The update to this post, made after your comment, however, suggests there might be less scandal here that first meets the eye.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Procopius said...

Pray for Newly-consecrated Fr. Ueda of the FSSP

12:23 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I do see why this would be scandalous to some, but what I like about it is that conversion is not seen in that ruggedly individualist sense of making one's own destiny. If becoming a Catholic doesn't give one the freedom to abandon a non-Catholic spouse, then it doesn't give one license to dump one's obligations to the community. If anything, it strengthens them.

Sed contra: All the smashing and burning of idols--and the chopping down of trees and groves sacred to pagans--in Catholic history . . . as if that sort of thing will ever happen in Japan

Anyway, I guess I'm just biased. If a Protestant pastor who wanted to be Catholic and whose family converted said he would decline official entry into the Church in order to serve a shrinking but staunch Protestant population, I'd admire him. That would be a hard cross to carry out of love for people who might never understand.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Alphonsus said...

Here's another article about that family (with a photo):
http://www.ucanews.com/2010/03/12/wife-and-daughter-of-shinto-priest-prepare-for-baptism/

10:32 PM  
Blogger Peter Kim said...

Procopius,

Isn't Fr. Ueda ICKSP? I google searched about Fr. Ueda and I found "Canon Raphaël Ueda from the ICKSP". Do you know how to contact with him? I may let TLM-interested Korean Catholics in Korea know about him.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Alphonsus said...

It looks like teh Japanese Church today isn't so hot about participating in Shinto:
http://www.cbcj.catholic.jp/eng/jcn/nov2006.htm#11

3:09 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thanks, Alphonsus, for the clarifications.

5:42 AM  

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