08 April 2008

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Japanese Parishes

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (Jn 6:35).

These words are used in today's gospel. Here's a story by Columban priest in Japan that is appropriate. You can find it in its original format here from the May 2005 issue of Columban Mission, the magazine of the Columbans in the USA.

The Power Of Adoration

A conversation leads to a decade-long adoration of the Holy Eucharist in five Japanese parishes.

By Fr Harry O'Carroll

It was autumn of 1983 when I had a chat outside our little church with one of the prominent ladies in the parish of Koshi in Kumamoto City. She was worried about her teen-age daughter, who suffered from some mild physical handicaps. I asked her if she ever went before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and shared her worries with Him. “What?” she said in a shocked voice. “Surely you don’t believe that!”

That was the end of our chat! I was stunned. Here was one of the leading members of the parish community, and she did not believe in the real presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. How many more were like her?

As a means of deepening faith in the Blessed Sacrament, and as an act of reparation, we decided to hold a quiet hour of adoration every Thursday evening for those who were interested.
The next Thursday, a few people in the softly lit, silent church adored the Sacred Host exposed on the altar.

Within a year, Koshi joined with two other parishes to form the new Musashigaoka Parish. We moved to a big, new church and presbytery. The adoration moved with us.
After awhile, we started a study group that began each evening in a room just off the chapel where the adoration was winding down. An interesting thing happened: people who came to the study group a bit early would sit in the soft silence until the meeting started. They then began to come earlier and earlier until eventually they were there at the start of the adoration.
Sitting quietly every week before our Lord gave them the gift of deep faith. All were baptized and became powerful Christians. Soon, the adoration attracted Christians from the other parishes in the city. It was obvious that Our Lord was pouring wonderful gifts on those who came to spend time in His presence.

Inspired Foolishness

While vacationing in my native Ireland, I spent a lot of time with family members in Letterkenny, which was one of the first places in Ireland to hold perpetual adoration in the parish. The adoration goes on day and night, except for weekends.
Soldiers, farmers, policemen, nurses, shopkeepers, doctors, housewives, students and retired folks take responsibility for every hour. I often would drop in and started thinking how we could do this in Japan. Most of our parishes are too small to contemplate around-the-clock adoration, but I thought we could do it if the Kumamoto City’s five parishes cooperated.

The five churches have a great history of cooperation and are blessed with wonderful lay leaders who thought the perpetual adoration was a great idea. The plan was developing smoothly until they realized that we weren’t talking about one week, but about an adoration that lasted for years.

Once they got over that shock, however, they were twice as enthusiastic. Perhaps it was the apparent foolishness of the whole thing. Imagine asking people to get out of their beds on a winter’s night to spend an hour in some church week after week. Only God could inspire such foolishness!

‘An Indispensable Part’

On August 15, 1995, Japan was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. We decided that instead of giving a halfhearted tip of the hat to the occasion with yet another “event,” why not begin the perpetual adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament day and night for peace in our lives, families, country and world? That was how the idea was sold. One of the five parishes, the Kengun Parish of St. Columban, already had a small Blessed Sacrament chapel, which was easy to heat and cool.

The public transportation trams and buses stopped right outside, so it became the center for the adoration.

We had to get permission from the bishop, who could hardly refuse. He came to me quietly and asked me to do my best to keep it going for six months. I guess he was afraid it would be a flop, and that, of course, would be a big loss of face.

However, with the powerful grassroots work of the lay leaders and the generous cooperation of other Christians, Sisters from local convents and many priests, the adoration was launched on August 15 nearly ten years ago—ten years of prayer for peace and all the other things people pray about.

“How is the adoration going?” I asked Takagi Hiroshi-san, a retired businessman who began the practice with some misgivings.

“To tell you the truth,” he said, “it has become an indispensable part of my week.”

Kobayashi-san, an elderly lady, quite crippled by arthritis, faithfully kept her weekly appointment with our Lord.

On ordinary days, even walking to the bus stop was out of the question for her.
“Every week when the day for adoration comes, I am always blessed with a strange strength to walk to and from the bus,” she wrote.

Both parishioners now continue their perpetual adoration of Our Lord in Heaven.

As parishioners have aged and died, the adoration is now only a 24-hour session each Thursday. Some churches outside Kumamoto City also began the practice of having a few hours of perpetual adoration one day a week.

In the small mountain parish of Hitoyoshi, where I am now, the adoration takes place from 1 to 5 every Saturday afternoon.

Our Source Of Energy

One of the sad facts of our world today is the apparent loss of faith in the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and the great decline in Mass attendance. St. John Vianney said, “to sustain the soul in the pilgrimage of life, God looked over creation, and found nothing that was worthy of it. He then turned to Himself, and resolved to give Himself. O my soul, how great thou art, since nothing less than God can satisfy thee!”

This is surely the faith and perception of those who participate in the growing phenomenon of Eucharistic adoration worldwide.

Why go to Mass on Sunday? You could say that for those with faith, no answer is necessary, while for those without faith, no answer is possible. You also could say that if we believe, then the question might well be why we aren’t at Mass every day. A Protestant gentleman once told me, “If I could believe what Catholics believe, I would never leave the chapel.”

The Eucharist is the food and source of energy for our Christian life. Mother Teresa’s Sisters begin their day with Mass and an hour’s adoration. She said, “We go to meet Christ in the Eucharist before we go out to meet Him on the streets.”

I don’t know where that lady with the handicapped daughter is now on her journey of faith, but I believe what she set in motion that day has turned into a magnificent gift of prayer and praise throughout our neck of the woods. Yes, God is great!

Columban Father Harry O’Carroll of Ireland was ordained in 1969 and first went to Japan on mission the following year.

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