Newsletter of the District of Asia

 May - September 2007

A Pilgrim’s Diary
Of A Memorable Japanese Pilgrimage

May 3 to 10, 2007

A.M. + D.G. Thursday, May 3, 2007

On this day of the Invention of the Holy Cross, pilgrims from various countries are making their way to the northern tip of the island of Honshu, the central island of Japan. Fr. Onoda and a Korean Professor are flying from Seoul, many Japanese are coming by train, Fr. Couture (from Singapore) with Fr. Wailliez (from Australia) and Rose Hu (from USA), having met in Osaka the previous day, are journeying by the famous Shinkansen, Japan’s fast train.

The first and main goal of our pilgrimage is the shrine of Akita, where the Blessed Mother manifested herself between 1973 and 1981. Not everyone of us is very knowledgeable about Akita, but we all want to pray for the SSPX in Japan and we have been told that there was many very positive points about it, even some very close to the SSPX’s actual role in the Church.

Late afternoon, we all gathered in a small hotel, about 2 miles from the convent of the Handmaids of the Eucharist where the events took place.

Fr. Couture offered the Holy Mass in the evening for the 12 pilgrims who had arrived.

Friday, May 4

The pilgrims in front of the statue
Our Lady of Akita

First Friday. Early Low Mass, by Fr. Wailliez, followed by a Sung Mass of Our Lady of Sorrows, with a bilingual sermon by Fr. Onoda on the reasons of our pilgrimage. After breakfast, as we were about to leave for the convent, more pilgrims arrived, who had traveled all night. One of them was fairly sick and had to rest all day. Fr. Couture stayed back to say Mass for them.

Then, the latecomers who were fit enough made their way to the convent to regroup with the first ones. We said a fervent Rosary and Fr. Wailliez gave, in the lovely Japanese Garden of the convent, a conference on the message of Akita itself, which was quite enlightening and much appreciated by all the pilgrims. In brief, here are the main facts of the short but powerful message of Our Lady of Akita:

Background - The Facts

In 1973, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, of the Handmaids of the Eucharists, in Akita, Japan three messages through a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her Guardian Angel also appeared and taught her to pray. Later, between 1975 and 1981, the wooden statue from which the voice came wept 101 times. It also perspired abundantly and the perspiration sent out a sweet perfume. Its right palm bled from a wound having the form of a cross. Hundreds of people witnessed many of these events. Scientific analysis of blood and tears from the statue provided by Professor Sagisaka of the faculty of Legal Medicine of the University of Akita confirmed that the blood, tears, and perspiration are real human tears, sweat, and blood. They come from three blood groups: O, B, and AB. Sister Agnes also has the stigmata on the right palm. A Korean woman with terminal brain cancer received immediate healing while praying before the statute in 1981. The miracle was confirmed by Dr. Tong-Woo-Kim of St. Paul Hospital in Seoul and Fr. Theisen, President of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Seoul. The second miracle was the complete cure of total deafness of Sister Agnes.

April, 1984 - Most Rev. John Shojiro Ito, Bishop of Niigata, Japan, after years of extensive investigation, declared the events of Akita, Japan, to be of supernatural origin, and authorized throughout the entire diocese the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita. He said: “The message of Akita is the message of Fatima.”

June, 1988 - Vatican City - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave a definitive judgment on the Akita events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief.

Fr. Wailliez giving his conference in the Convent Gardens

The Messages

First message, July 6, 1973

“My daughter, my novice, you have obeyed Me well in abandoning all to follow Me. Is the infirmity of your ears painful? Your deafness will be healed, be sure. Be patient. It is the last trial. Does the wound of your hand cause you to suffer? Pray in reparation for the sins of men. Each person in this community is my irreplaceable daughter.

Do you say well the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist? Then, let us pray it together:

‘Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, I consecrate my body and soul to be entirely one with Your Heart being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world and giving praise to the Father, pleading for the coming of His Kingdom. Please receive this humble offering of myself. Use me as You will for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls. Most Holy Mother of God. Never let me be separated from your Divine Son. Please defend and protect me as Your special child. Amen.’

Pray very much for the Pope, Bishops, and Priests. Since your Baptism you have always prayed faithfully for them. Continue to pray very much...very much. Tell your superior all that happened today and obey him in everything that he will tell you. He has asked that you pray with fervor.”

Second Message on August 3, 1973

“My daughter, my novice, do you love the Lord? If you love the Lord listen to what I have to say to you. It is very important. You will convey it to your superior.

Many men in this world afflict the Lord. I seek souls to console Him. In order to appease the anger of the Heavenly Father, I am looking, with my Son, for souls who will repair by their suffering and their poverty for the sinners and ungrateful. In order that the world might know His anger, the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind. With my Son, I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Heavenly Father. I have prevented the coming of the chastisement by offering Him the sufferings of His Son on the Cross, His Precious Blood, and the compassionate souls who console Him, and form a cohort of victim souls.

Prayer, penance, honest poverty, and courageous sacrifices can soften the Heavenly Father’s anger. I desire this also from your community: please value greatly poverty, deepen repentance, and pray amidst your poverty in reparation for the ingratitude and outrages of so many men. Recite the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist with awareness of its meaning: put it into practice: offer your life to God in reparation for sins. Let each one endeavor, according to her capacity and position, to offer herself entirely to the Lord.

Even in a secular institute prayer is necessary. Already souls who wish to pray are on the way to being gathered in this community. Without attaching too much attention to the form, be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master.

Is what you think in your heart true? Are you truly prepared to become the rejected stone? My novice, you who wish to belong without reserve to the Lord, to become the pure bride of the Lord, make your vows knowing that you must be fastened to the Cross with three nails. These three nails are poverty, chastity, and obedience. Of the three, obedience is the foundation. In total obedience, let yourself be led by your superior. He will know how to understand you and to direct you.”

Third and the Last message on October 13, 1973:

“My dear daughter, listen well to what I have to say to you. You will inform your superior.

As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Heavenly Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will definitely be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one has never been seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son (Holy Eucharist). Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the bishops and priests.

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals… and bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres; churches and altars will be sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

The demon is trying hard to influence souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them.

With courage, convey these messages to your superior. He will know how to encourage each one of you to pray steadfastly and to accomplish acts of reparation for sins. Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamites which approach. Those who place their total confidence in me will be given necessary help.”

After Fr. Wailliez’s conference, we went back to the hotel for a late lunch and rest. In the afternoon, we made the outdoor Stations of the Cross at the convent. The evening dinner turned out, both days, to be a wonderful experience with a very elaborate Japanese dinner.

Saturday, May 5

First Saturday. Two early Masses followed by a sung Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, again by Fr. Onoda, with a sermon on the reasons why Our Lady is truly our Mother.

After breakfast, we returned to the convent for another rosary and more personal prayers, and, as the weather was threatening, it was decided that Fr. Couture’s talk would be given back at the hotel. The talk was on the doctrine of Our Lady Mediatrix of all graces, as she manifested herself in Akita, and the common points between Akita and the SSPX.

After lunch, we had to part already, as Akita is more than 1000 km from Tokyo, and the next day was a Sunday.

Sunday, May 6

To have the privilege of having three priests on a Sunday morning in the Tokyo Japanese Martyrs’ Mass Center is an extremely rare circumstance! Fr. Onoda and Fr. Wailliez offered their masses privately before the 10.30 am Sung Mass by Fr. Couture. There was about 25 people in attendance, which is a bit low as it was not a regular Sunday.

Mrs Rose Hu's moving testimony on her imprisonment in China and on her love of the SSPX

Lunch is always an interesting moment when you go to Mass in Tokyo. It gives the occasion to meet the people, quite varied in their profession: journalists, doctors, bank officers, etc. And with the good will of all, even language cease to be a barrier for communication.

In the afternoon, we returned to the Mass Center to hear the fascinating story of Mrs. Rose Hu. Fr. Couture was interviewing her, and Fr. Onoda translating it all. The conference can be heard on the Asian website at: index.htm

Then, Vespers followed, attended by close to twenty people.

Monday, May 7

Early start with three masses at the Mass Center, before taking off for Nagasaki by air.

Nagasaki! The word is full of history, history of the A-Bomb, yes, but for Catholics, history of Catholicism, history of the passage of St Francis Xavier, of so many Martyrs… We couldn’t wait to venerate these sacred places.

We landed after a two hour flight. Our tour guide – most useful when visiting such a place – brought us first to Dr. Takashi Nagai’s and his lovely wife Midori’s tombs. Dr. Nagai, radiologist, survivor of the Nagasaki bombing of August 9, 1945 (but not his wife who perished therein), is famous not only for that but especially for his heroic Catholic view of the event. His discourse on the following November to the people of Nagasaki (see p.33) was shockingly Catholic. A true man of God, filled with the spirit of the Beatitudes. The case of his canonization has been opened.

Then we went to his little hut ‘Nyoko’ and visited the little Museum in his honor. And what a joy to be able to meet also his grand-son!

In the afternoon, we went to the Cathedral of Urakami. Its present location isn’t what it was in 1945, for the simple reason that the bomb practically fell over it then, and it was completely destroyed. Nevertheless, it is barely 500m from the epicenter of the explosion. Our guide having been a classmate of the Rector, the latter very kindly gave our priests permission to offer their masses the following morning in the Cathedral itself.

Then we retired, exhausted…

Tuesday, May 8

Fr. Onoda celebrating the Holy
in Urakami Cathedral   Sacrifice
The only remains of the statue of the
Assumption of Urakami Cathedral

5.45 am Our three priests celebrated their masses, one after the other, in this historical building, on a side chapel, in front of an awesome relic of the 1945 bombing: the partly burnt head of the statue of Our Lady of the Assumption, the only remnant of the statue. As Dr. Nagai pointed out in his writings, the mystery of the Assumption is deeply rooted in the history of Japan: St Francis Xavier arrived in Kagoshima on August 15, 1549; the first church built in Kyoto, in 1576, was named after that title; the bomb in Nagasaki fell above the Cathedral of the Assumption, on August 9th, 1945; and, six days later, without knowing which Catholic Feast day it was, the Emperor announced the surrender of Japan.

At about 10 am our guide and another friend (as we needed two cars) brought us to visit the places of the Hidden Christians in Sotome, one hour west of Nagasaki. A few villages there along the coast, kept the faith during the 220 years without priests (1640 – 1860). However, unfortunately, many times, pagan practices crept in the Catholic homes, and when the missionaries discovered these Hidden Christians in 1865, not all accepted the priests. Some remained in their hybrid religion, a mixture of Catholicism and of Buddhism. There are still, to this very day, some 50 families in the area who continue these customs and are known as Crypto-Christians. There are more on the island of Goto, some distance away.

It was great also to see the work of the missionaries from 1865 onwards in these areas especially the work of Fr. Marc de Roth MEP (+1914), who spent 35 years evangelizing the area.

Birthplace of one of the Four Japanese Envoys - The statue points to Rome

The last stop of the day was the birth place of one of the Four Japanese Envoys, sent by Fr. Valignano, the Jesuit Provincial in the 1580s, to Rome and some of the main European places. Their journey last 11 years! A moving moment was when pope Clement VIII received the Four Envoys. One of them, bedridden with a high fever the morning of the audience, forced himself to meet the Vicar of Christ, in spite of his condition.

Wednesday, May 9

The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki

Early masses, in the priests’ hotel room this time, before heading off for The Martyrs’ Hill of Nishizaka, a few hundred yards only from the main Nagasaki train station. It is on this spot that, not only the 26 Martyrs of 1597 died, but that more than 600 other martyrs gave their blood to plant the True Faith in these islands.

A very friendly elderly Jesuit served as our guide in the tour of the adjacent museum. Here is a very interesting detail he gave as he was showing us the ‘fumié ’ — these bronze images of Our Lady which the Hidden Christians were forced to step on during the 220 years of persecution: when the missionaries saw that they were heading for extermination, being hunted like wild beast, arrested one after the other and exiled or martyred, they taught their faithful the absolutely vital value of the act of contrition. They left little catechetical instructions on the act of contrition on 3-4 pages. The families that managed to keep the leaflet and A ‘Fumie’ - Medal upon which the especially the practice of the act of contrition kept Christians were forced to trample the faith for 220 years, those who lost the practice, lost the faith. What a lesson on the power of that simple prayer!

Then, as a final pilgrimage for the day, we went to O-ura church, built by Fr. Petitjean MEP, in 1864, and place of the discovery of the Hidden Christians, on March 17, 1865.

Unfortunately, we were pressed by time and had to leave. After a quick lunch, we climbed in the Shinkansen for our return trip to Osaka….

Thursday, May 10

We left Rose with her relatives as she had to fly later in the day, and we went to Kyoto, the former Imperial city. Again, to make a real pilgrimage in such a place, a guide is necessary. Thank God, Fr. Onoda found one, the father of our Br. Nishi, Dominican, in France. He lead our steps, in the rain, to the house where the 24 Nagasaki Martyrs’ had been arrested (two others joined them on the way to Nagasaki).

There we saw the famous silver plate hiding mysteriously the whole scene of Calvary. It is mysterious because in order to see the Cross and the two figures next to it, one must project a strong beam of light on it! Ah, these clever Japanese!


A 'Fumie' - Medal upon which the Christians were forced to trample

Br. Nishi, a Japanese Dominican brother in Avrille, France, with his mother on the far left.

Then, after an intense walk in a light rain, while reciting the Rosary for Asian and especially Japanese vocations, we arrived on the bank of the Kamo river which crosses Kyoto, and were shown, inserted in the hedge on the side of the road, a simple stone-monument, with some Japanese inscription on it. This monument which was put up in spite of much opposition only a few ten years ago, recalls the martyrdom of 55 Catholics, on October 6, 1619. That day is called “The Great Kyoto Martyrdom”.

(When I came home I found the following details on that event:)

There were more than 300,000 Catholics in Japan at that time. That is why the Shogun (highest military commander), fearing his authority was seriously in danger, decided, under the influence of his Buddhists advisers, to eliminate the Christians.

In The Christian century in Japan (1951), one can read of an Englishman who was there, on that very day of October 6, 1619, and who describes how he saw ‘fifty-five persons of all ages and both sexes burnt alive on the dry bed of the Kamo River, and among them little children of five or six years old in their mothers’ arms, crying out, ‘Jesus, receive their souls!’ ” Here is the description of one of these executions:

“The ordeal was witnessed by 150,000, according to some writers, or 30,000 according to other and in all probability more reliable chroniclers. When the fagots were kindled, the martyrs said sayonara (farewell) to the onlookers who then began to entone the Magnificat, followed by the psalms Laudate pueri Dominum and Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, while the Japanese judges sat on one side ‘in affected majesty and gravity, as in their favorite posture’. Since it had rained heavily the night before, the faggots were wet and the wood burnt slowly; but as long as the martyrdom lasted, the spectators continued to sing hymns and canticles. When death put an end to the victims’ suffering, the crowd intoned the Te Deum.” (C.R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, University of California Press, 1951, pp.342,343, 349)

These 55 Martyrs are among the 188 Martyrs that were declared Venerable last June 1, 2007, and should be beatified in the very near future. And among them is this heroic family of John Hashimoto Tahyôe, his wife Thecla and their five children, Catharina 13, Thomas 12, Franciscus 8, Petrus 6 and Ludovica 3. During the execution, the fire actually freed Catharina who was tied to a separate cross at a short distance from the cross where her mother and the 3 youngest children were tied together. She ran to her mother saying, ‘Mother, I can’t see!’ Her mother replied, ‘pray to Jesus and Mary’. The last thing bystanders saw of the mother was that she was drying tears from her 3 year old baby who was in her arms. After the flames and the smoke abided, the mother was still seen holding her youngest, tight in her arms, both dead.

The image of them offering their lives along with those of their children became a symbol of the martyrdom of the Japanese Church. (cf. The Great Kyoto Martyrdom: October 6, 1619, Yūki Ryōgo, 1987)

Kyoto - the monument of the 55 Martyrs of October 6, 1619

After this we went to see Kyoto Castle where St Francis Xavier had tried to see the Emperor, and where providentially he discovered by talking to a castle guard that the Japanese were actually following, in a certain way, the more powerful Chinese. This gave St Francis the inspiration to conquer China!

Thus our pilgrimage came to an end.

So much to think about, to meditate on, after these few days. The best news that came to us a few days later was that Fr. Couture and Fr. Onoda plan to repeat the pilgrimage next year, at least to Akita and Kyoto! Deo gratias! Let’s start saving! It’s worth redoing it all over!

Francis, a truly blessed pilgrim

Kyoto Martyrdom


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