Sunday, April 26, 2009

Catholicism in the Land of the Rising Sun

Apologies for no posts....I mentioned the loss of my internet, and had only had it back for about a day before I was scheduled to leave on an overseas trip. My trip was to Japan, and I'm going to post a little about it here.

Christianity is a minority faith in Japan- Roman Catholicism in particular only makes up 0.5% of the population, according to statistics from (among this small minority is Japan's current PM, Taro Aso). The majority of Japanese practice Buddhism (specifically Mahayana or 'Greater Vehicle' Buddhism) and the animist Shinto faith. If you stay in a Japanese hotel, not only will you find a copy of the Gideons New Testament (with side-by-side Japanese and English translation) in your bedside table drawer, but also a copy of the Teachings of Buddha next to it. The Buddha of Compassion (Kanzeon in Japanese) is often closely identified with Mary. Though I did see traditional statuary of Mary (St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo has a copy of Michaelangelo's Pieta), she is also depicted as a Japanese woman with long flowing hair and wearing traditional kimono.

It was Francis Xavier who brought the Gospel to the Japanese in the late 16th century, and the churches I visited all featured some statue or image in his likeness. The bust in the photo below is displayed in St. Mary's Cathedral- it once belonged to the Medici family and was donated to St. Mary's by Cardinal Josef Frings, the former Archbishop of Cologne. Catholic Christians in Japan have encountered some hostility; the story of the twenty-six missionaries and converts being crucified during the Edo period is well-documented, and Christianity was banned until the 19th century Meiji Restoration, which allowed for freedom of religion.

The church here is a parish in Ashiya, a suburb outside of Osaka and was built in the 1930s. It is looked after at present by three priests- two Japanese and a Frenchman (there was an Italian there during my stay, but he was due to leave for another parish within a few weeks). My friend and her mother, who I attended mass with there, related that Japan also suffers from a shortage of clergy, which may explain the presence of the expat priests. A few parishes in Tokyo offer masses in English, but most services will be in Japanese and in some cases Tagalog and Spanish.

During World War II, some churches were destroyed when the Americans bombed the country; the most notable example being Nagasaki's Urakami Cathedral, which was destroyed when the second atomic bomb hit a short distance from the building. As a consequence, some churches rebuilt after the war were constructed with a modern appearance. The pictures below are of St. Mary's Cathedral, which was one such parish that was bombed during the war. I attended Palm Sunday mass there, and while I felt initially staggered by the size of the place, I found the interior to my liking. It appears quite cave-like in the photos below, but the simplicity of it is quite pleasing to the eye in person.
Kawaramachi Church is the seat of the Bishop of Kyoto. I was surprised to find it a short distance away from my hotel. The layout of the church bears some similarity to that of the Stuartholme School chapel in Brisbane with its large triangular stained glass window behind the altar. This church too was fairly simple in layout, with only the right wall decorated with stained glass windows. The third photos shows a section of this wall depicting the Stations of the Cross.

I have taken no photos of the services I went to (something I wouldn't feel comfortable doing, since they're not my parishes and I don't know the parishioners), but will comment on what might be considered a particular quirk to Japanese worship. Standing during the entire Liturgy of the Eucharist is practiced by most, with kneeling for prayer after communion. The parish in Ashiya also employs a system where a plateful of unconsecrated hosts is placed at the church entrance alongside the ciborium, and before you take your seat you take a host from the plate and place it in the ciborium with tongs. This is done to ensure exact numbers for communion. Altar serving practices are not too different from ours here; most of the servers I saw were young children around the ages of 8-10 (with an adult supervisor), and were very disciplined and committed.

If readers would still like to learn more about the Japanese Catholic experience, I can highly recommend the works of the author Endo Shusoku, in particular 'Silence' and 'Scandal'.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Only in America!!

A biretta tip o{] :-) goes to Hypatia for discovering the commercial that the Archdiocese of New York is using to get people to come to confession.

I am amazed the the Cooees people did not pick this one up.

But as they say - only in America!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You can never have too many candles

Here is a pic from a recent mass celebrated in Sevilla in Spain. Very ornate and very Spanish of course.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter Everyone

A happy Easter to all our visitors.

Other commitments and holidays have not permitted us to blog very often through Lent. We are hoping to get more political and liturgical commentary up soon.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The vernacular in the Usus Antiquor

There is an interesting quiz posted on the New Liturgical Movement website about what language the readings should be in if using the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Roman and I were in agreement on one aspect - use one language or another for the readings, not both.

Unfortunately, you cannot see my result on the quiz. But this is of the essence of it. I believe that in a Low Mass the readings should be in the vernacular. In a High Mass they need to be sung in Latin. I hadnt really thought about a Missa Canata, so one may use either/or but preferably in Latin. Where the readings are in Latin the congregation needs to have Mass sheets to follow.

One of the things that I found very awkward is the priest then re-reading the readings from the pulpit. Given that the purpose of the Homily is to break open the Word of God, there does not need to be a re-reading but the Homily needs to be centred upon the readings.

Its interesting that with Henry VIII's reforms of the Sarum Usage after his break with Rome, the Mass was maintained in Latin, but the readings and the recitation of the Our Father (with the people) were to be in the vernacular. This was as "protestant" as Henry wanted to go liturgically. Later on Elizabeth I insisted that the Anglican services in the Chapel Royal be in Latin, although apart from Oxford, they were in English in the rest of the country*.

As for my limited personal experience:

St Lukes Brisbane
Readings are always in Latin and then read from the lecturn in the vernacular.

St Aloysius Melbourne
Readings in Latin only. I think Missals and mass sheets are made available

San Gregorio in Muritorio Rome
Readings in Latin only. Hand-outs in Italian (I found the Latin easier to follow)

San Pietro Rome (Solemn Novus Ordo Mass)
First and second readings in vernacular (one in Italian), Gospel in Latin. Nice glossy booklets for the ordinary, but no hand outs for the readings.


*Elizabeth wanted to unify the country under one "Book of Common Prayer". However, in some parts of the country such as Cornwall, people would have been more familiar with Latin as a second language, than English.

The Language of the Liturgical Readings in the Usus Antiquior

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