Because Takashi Nagai Could Give Such A Speech

The other day, I posted about a film being made about the life of Dr. Takashi Nagai. Today, I want to share with you a speech he gave after the war.

Keep in mind that he had lost his wife, almost all of his students, and many of his colleagues, when “the Bomb” was dropped on Nagasaki.

And his lesson to us all was to share Our Lord’s new commandment: love one another.

As you read this, remember every tragedy that has befallen you, and every disaster, and try to grasp that it comes nowhere close to the depths of death and destruction that Takashi witnessed and endured. Look at the photographs. And yet he responds in a way that is contrary to what the world would consider justified.

Warning! You might need some tissues. This is from his book The Bells of Nagasaki,

Funeral Address for the Victims of the Atomic Bomb

On August 9, 1945, at 10:30 A.M. a meeting of the Supreme Council of War was held at the Imperial Headquarters to decide whether Japan should capitulate or continue to wage war. At that moment the world was at a crossroads. A decision was being made that would either bring about a new and lasting peace or throw the human family into further cruel bloodshed and carnage.

And just at that same time, at two minutes past eleven in the morning, an atomic bomb exploded over our district of Urakami in Nagasaki. In an instant, eight thousand Christians were called into the hands of God, while in a few hours the fierce flames reduced to ashes this sacred territory of the East. At midnight of that same night the cathedral suddenly burst into flames and was burned to the ground. And exactly at that time in the Imperial Palace, His Majesty the Emperor made known his sacred decision to bring the war to an end.

The Urakami Cathedral and surroundings.
The church was 500 meters from Ground Zero.

On August 15, the Imperial Rescript which put an end to the fighting was formally promulgated, and the whole world welcomed a day of peace. This day was also the great feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It is significant to reflect that Urakami Cathedral was dedicated to her. And we must ask if this convergence of events—the ending of the war and the celebration of her feast—was merely coincidental or if there was here some mysterious providence of God.

I have heard that the second atomic bomb, calculated to deal a deadly blow to the war potential of Japan, was originally destined for another city. But since the sky over that city was covered with clouds, the American pilots found it impossible to aim at their target. Consequently, they suddenly changed their plans and decided to drop the bomb on Nagasaki, the secondary target. However, yet another hitch occurred. As the bomb fell, cloud and wind carried it slightly north of the munitions factories over which it was supposed to explode and it exploded above the cathedral.

The gathering for this address

This is what I have heard. If it is true, the American pilots did not aim at Urakami. It was the providence of God that carried the bomb to that destination.

Is there not a profound relationship between the destruction of Nagasaki and the end of the war? Nagasaki, the only holy place in all Japan—was it not chosen as a victim, a pure lamb, to be slaughtered and burned on the altar of sacrifice to expiate the sins committed by humanity in the Second World War?

The human family has inherited the sin of Adam who ate the fruit of the forbidden tree; we have inherited the sin of Cain who killed his younger brother; we have forgotten that we are children of God; we have believed in idols; we have disobeyed the law of love. Joyfully we have hated one another; joyfully we have killed one another. And now at last we have brought this great and evil war to an end. But in order to restore peace to the world it was not sufficient to repent. We had to obtain God’s pardon through the offering of a great sacrifice.

Before this moment there were many opportunities to end the war. Not a few cities were totally destroyed. But these were not suitable sacrifices; nor did God accept them. Only when Nagasaki was destroyed did God accept the sacrifice. Hearing the cry of the human family, He inspired the emperor to issue the sacred decree by which the war was brought to an end.

Our church of Nagasaki kept the faith during four hundred years of persecution when religion was proscribed and the blood of martyrs flowed freely. During the war this same church never ceased to pray day and night for a lasting peace. Was it not, then, the one unblemished lamb that had to be offered on the altar of God? Thanks to the sacrifice of this lamb many millions who would otherwise have fallen victim to the ravages of war have been saved.

How noble, how splendid was that holocaust of August 9, when flames soared up from the cathedral, dispelling the darkness of war and bringing the light of peace! In the very depth of our grief we reverently saw here something beautiful, something pure, something sublime. Eight thousand people, together with their priests, burning with pure smoke, entered into eternal life. All without exception were good people whom we deeply mourn.

How happy are those people who left this world without knowing the defeat of their country! How happy are the pure lambs who rest in the bosom of God! Compared with them how miserable is the fate of us who have survived! Japan is conquered. Urakami is totally destroyed. A waste of ash and rubble lies before our eyes. We have no houses, no food, no clothes. Our fields are devastated. Only a remnant has survived. In the midst of the ruins we stand in groups of two or three looking blankly at the sky.

Dr. Nagai, confined to his bed, with his children

Why did we not die with them on that day, at that time, in this house of God? Why must we alone continue this miserable existence?

It is because we are sinners. Ah! Now indeed we are forced to see the enormity of our sins! It is because I have not made expiation for my sins that I am left behind. Those are left who were so deeply rooted in sin that they were not worthy to be offered to God.

We Japanese, a vanquished people, must now walk along a path that is full of pain and suffering. The reparations imposed by the Potsdam Declaration are a heavy burden. But this painful path along which we walk carrying our burden, is it not also the path of hope, which gives to us sinners an opportunity to expiate our sins?

“Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted.” We must walk this way of expiation faithfully and sincerely. And as we walk in hunger and thirst, ridiculed, penalized, scourged, pouring with sweat and covered with blood, let us remember how Jesus Christ carried His cross to the hill of Calvary. He will give us courage

“The Lord has given: the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Let us give thanks that Nagasaki was chosen for the sacrifice. Let us give thanks that through this sacrifice peace was given to the world and freedom of religion to Japan.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The Urakami Cathedral today

 

If you would like to help bring Dr. Nagai’s story to life, please visit the fundraising page for the film All That Remains. Every little bit helps, and we need all the help you can muster.

  • http://christianpacifismblog.wordpress.com/ Michael Snow

    Beautiful story. I need to link this in my blog.

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Dr. Nagai’s speech was indeed noble and faith-filled, as far as I can see. But I recall also what Raïssa Maritain wrote in her essay “The True Face of God, or Love and the Law” (quoted by her husband, the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, in his book Peasant of the Garonne): “… [God] takes no pleasure in the spectacle of pain and death.” (The French: “… il ne se plaît pas au spectacle de la peine et de la mort.”)

    • Frank Weathers

      So she did. However, a higher author than she advises us of the following,

      The LORD puts to death and gives life,
      casts down to Sheol and brings up again.

      See now that I, I alone, am he,
      and there is no god besides me.
      It is I who bring both death and life,
      I who inflict wounds and heal them,
      and from my hand no one can deliver.

      At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper. For no other nation possesses good counsel, but it is the Lord who gives all good things. Whomever the Lord chooses to raise is raised; and whomever the Lord chooses to cast down is cast down to the recesses of Hades. So now, son, keep in mind these my commandments, and never let them be erased from your heart.

      He sets up the lowly on high,
      and those who mourn are raised to safety.

      He frustrates the plans of the cunning,
      so that their hands achieve no success;

      He catches the wise in their own ruses,
      and the designs of the crafty are routed.

      They meet with darkness in the daytime,
      at noonday they grope as though it were night.

      But he saves the poor from the sword of their mouth,
      from the hand of the mighty.

      Thus the needy have hope,
      and iniquity closes its mouth.

      Happy the one whom God reproves!

      I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up
      and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.

      O LORD, my God,
      I cried out to you for help and you healed me.

      LORD, you brought my soul up from Sheol;
      you let me live, from going down to the pit.

      Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful;
      give thanks to his holy memory.

      For his anger lasts but a moment;
      his favor a lifetime.
      At dusk weeping comes for the night;
      but at dawn there is rejoicing.

      For you have dominion over life and death;
      you lead down to the gates of Hades and lead back.

      Human beings, however, may kill another with malice,
      but they cannot bring back the departed spirit,
      or release the soul that death has confined.

      Your hand no one can escape.

      And Our Mother reminds us,

      “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

      my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

      For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
      behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

      The Mighty One has done great things for me,
      and holy is his name.

      His mercy is from age to age
      to those who fear him.

      He has shown might with his arm,
      dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

      He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
      but lifted up the lowly.

      The hungry he has filled with good things;
      the rich he has sent away empty.

      He has helped Israel his servant,
      remembering his mercy,

      according to his promise to our fathers,
      to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

      I think Dr. Nagai understood all of this very well.


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