Tag Archives: Nagasaki

Standing with the Crucified

Do you want to be totally united to the Crucified?
If you are serious about this,
you will be present, by the power of His Cross,
at every front, at every place of sorrow,
bringing to those who suffer, healing and salvation.
St. Teresa Benedicta a Cruce

Today is a day filled with challenges for me.

Nagasaki crucifix

Nagasaki crucifix

On August 9, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki and used the Catholic Cathedral as a point to help them determine the spot to drop the bomb.

Nagasaki was one of the great center of Catholicism in Japan, even preserving the faith after all the priests had left. On the day of the bombing, Catholics were gathered in the cathedral at Mass. There and throughout the city many innocent people were killed.

On August 9, 1943, Franz Jägerstätter, a Austrian peasant, was beheaded in Germany as “an enemy of the state.” Blessed Franz refused to serve in Hitler’s army because of his faith – despite the advice of priests, and bishop, and many others. He saw Nazism as a “train headed for hell” and refused to have part in it. For that decision of conscience he was executed by the state.

On August 9, 1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, Teresa blessed by the Cross, was killed in the gas chamber at Auschwitz. Born Edith Stein, a German Jew and philosopher, she became a Catholic after reading St. Teresa of Avila and later joined the Carmelites. She was sent from her Cologne to a Dutch convent for her safety. But after the Dutch bishops and other religious leaders spoke up against Nazi racial policies, she and her sister were deported to Auschwitz. Though she had a chance to escape to Switzerland, she refused to flee but sought to be with her people.

On August 9, 1991, two Polish Conventual Franciscan Friars Michał Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzałkowski were killed by the Sendero Luminoso in the Andean parish where they ministered to and with the poor. As Father Michal (Miguel), wrote to a friend a few months before his killing: “You are not where you are now to understand the world, but to understand what the will of God is for you. It is a matter of being where you are supposed to be.”

Recalling these persons and these events, I feel a renewed calling to be a witness to the Crucified Christ and the crucified peoples of the world – by being here in their midst. May God give me the courage and gentleness to persevere.


The quotation from St. Edith Stein comes from Robert Ellsberg’s  All Saints.

Nagasaki martyrs and a bishop of Cuernavaca

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1993 of Don Sergio Mendez Arceo, the bishop of Cuernevaca, Mexico.

Don Sergio was a major promoter of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and an advocate of base communities and liberation theology.

Commonly known as the red bishop because of his strong commitment to justice and the liberation of the poor, he also was responsible for the renovation of the cathedral in the late 1950s.

My first visit to Latin America in 1985 began in the city of Cuernavaca. The cathedral has a large baptismal font to emphasize the role that baptism has in the life of the People of God.


But the renovation revealed a series of frescos on the walls detailing the life and death of Saint Felipe de Jesús, a Franciscan martyr, whose feast is celebrated today (though it is celebrated on February 5 in Mexico).


With 25 others – 3 Japanese Jesuits, 5 other Franciscans, and 17 lay Japanese Christians, Felipe de Jesús was crucified on a hill in Nagasaki. The reasons for their martyrdom are varied. Some believe that fear of becoming a Spanish colony was part of the emperor’s persecution of Christians.

The martyrs had their left ears cut off and were forced to march several days until they were killed at Nagasaki.

From the cross, Japanese Jesuit Paul Miki preached the love and forgiveness of Christ:

“The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you become happy, I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow humans as a fruitful rain.”

Perhaps this memory was in Don Sergio mind when he spoke of the contemporary persecution of Christians in Latin America for their commitment to the poor:

“Blessed are those who suffer persecution, those who for justice suffer persecution. . . . Thus we can call blessed all our people, beaten down and oppressed: when they take consciousness of oppression and struggle to be liberated, when they really long for justice; thus, in those moments, those who have already passed the ultimate test of giving their live for their desire [for justice], would be the ones who give us joy, the joy of so many brothers [and sisters] who form, with Jesus, heaven, the heaven we seek, the fullness of the Kingdom.”

But I also remember that Nagasaki was one of the two Japanese cities that suffered the atomic bombing by the US in 1945. The bomb was dropped only 500 meters from the Urukami Cathedral, where people were gathered in prayer. Of the 79,000 killed by the bomb ten thousand were Catholics, which constituted half of the Catholic population of this major center of Catholicism in Japan.

Remembering the martyrs of Nagasaki, the witness of Don Sergio, and the atomic bombing of a city calls me to ponder today: how I am called to live and witness to the love of Christ, the commitment to the poor, and the challenge of peace where I am?

At the foot of the Cross

Shall he, then, keep on brandishing his sword
to slay peoples without mercy?
Habakkuk 1, 17

 Habakkuk is complaining about human beings whom God has made, who make gods for themselves out of the works of their hands, even out of the fishermen’s net. Worse, they “slay peoples without mercy.”

Today that complaint seems to ring true.

On August 9, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Nagasaki was a center of Catholicism in Japan, with its shrine of the Japanese martyrs. The bomb killed tens of thousands of innocent people, including those who had gathered in the Nagasaki cathedral to pray.

Two years before, on August 9, 1943, Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant was beheaded for refusing to serve in the Nazi army. He was one of only a few Catholics who saw the reality of Hitler and decided that he could have no part of it.

In one of his letters to his wife from prison he recalled a dream he had in 1938 of a training speeding down a hill, with people running to get on board. He identified the train as Nazism and saw it as a train going to hell.

A year before Franz’s martyrdom, Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, born Edith Stein, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz onAugust 9, 1942. A philosopher, a convert from Judaism, a Carmelite nun, she did not see herself as separated from the pain of her day, especially the suffering of the Jewish people. In fact, she has written to Pope Pius XI seeking an audience to talk with him about the persecution of Jews. Her letter was unanswered.

But St. Teresa Benedicta saw her role as being with Christ crucified.

Do you want to be totally united to the Crucified? If you are serious about this, you will be present, by the power of His Cross, at every front, at every place of sorrow, bringing to those who suffer healing and salvation.

On August 9, 1991, two Conventual Franciscan priests, Miguel Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, missionaries in Perú, were killed by the Sendero Luminoso. They had stood with the poor.

How can I be present at the Cross, at the suffering of peoples? If I truly want to follow the Crucified God, how can I be silent in the face of suffering, death, bombing, persecution?