Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I recently came across an interesting story- not well known in our country - of a very courageous young Japanese woman. Her story deserves to be told and maybe one day we will see her numbered among the saints- tho knowing her story we can say she has already achieved that status.
SATOKO KITAHARA grew up with ancient Japanese religious and cultural traditions. She could trace her ancestry back one thousand years to Bushido Warrior and Shinto Priesthood.
Like most Japanese at outbreak of WWII, Satoko believed that her Nation’s military forces were honorable and acted with integrity, and understandably she wanted to fight for her country.
However, in the immediate aftermath of the War, the Japanese people learned the extent of their nation's War crimes. The ideals of their cultured society had been betrayed and many thought life was pointless.
Satoko was looking for a greater meaning in life. During the War she was employed in the Nakajima plane factory. In that unhealthy atmosphere where many had contracted tuberculosis, Satoko also became ill, but after recovery went to the university to study as a Pharmacist.
After a mysterious experience at a church in Yokohama City, Satoko contemplated more deeply the meaning of life. She had encountered an irresistible force drawing her to something she could not understand. In her search for answers, she visited some Spanish nuns and there came to understand the soul. Not long after this she converted to Christianity.
“Ant Town,” located in the damp, dirty harbor front area of Tokyo, where the poorest of Japan’s poor, mainly women and children, struggled to eke out an existence. The more comfortable of Japanese society dubbed it “Ant Town” because they said its inhabitants were even less significant than insects.
Shaken to the core by this challenge Satoko wrote in her Diary, “I had thought I was a great Christian because I condescended to dole out some free time, helping Ant children with their homework! … “To save us, God sent His only Son to be one of us... He really became one of us! It hit me now. There was only one way to help those ragpicker children: become a ragpicker like them!" So Satoko gave up her life of wealth and privilege to really live the Gospel of Jesus with the wretchedly poor. Instead of visiting the township, she went to live in Ants' Town.
By now her health was in serious decline. She forced herself to work for the benefit of others, assisting in administration and generating income. Because her influence on town leaders was great, a Center with a classroom, bathroom and meeting hall was built. There, on special occasions, she would also attend Mass with the children and teach them the value of prayer.
Since visiting the ragpickers, Satoko wrote, "I lay down in bed but could not get to sleep. Br. Zeno, a man without formal education, unable to read Japanese, had bridged a chasm separating two nations and two cultures. He had discovered a part of Japan I did not know existed, where thousands lived in unbelievable destitution. Many of them lived less than a kilometre from my home! I had lived in the pampered, educated ignorance of an over-sophisticated world while this unlettered foreigner worked without thought of self in the world of painful reality... I lived surrounded by carpets and gas stoves while he went without even an umbrella into the terrible twilight world of destitution."
During the many challenges, difficulties and hardships the community faced, Satoko never lost faith in the power of the Rosary. She inspired town leaders to pray it with her; she encouraged despairing parents to have faith in it and demonstrated her sincere devotion to it along with her love for the people.
Finally, her spirituality became so widely known throughout Japan that she received countless letters appealing for her prayers. With her Rosary in hand, she was able to claim victory over all official attempts to evict the townsfolk before securing a dignified outcome.
On 22 January 1958 that final equitable outcome was realized when her friend Tooru Matsui announced, “We’ve done it, Satoko, we’ve done it, and it’s thanks to your prayers! Now all you have to do is ask God to get you well so we can plan the new Ants Town and move into it. We’ll get someone to drive you to see the new place as soon as you’re a little better”. With her Rosary in hand, Satoko replied: “No, that will not be necessary. God has granted us everything we’ve asked of Him. That is enough”.
The next day Satoko slipped into eternal life. She had fulfilled her stated vocation, “I want to move to Ant Town and live as the people do. I want to share the life of the Ant people, to work and suffer with them, to rejoice with them as one of them… and to die for them.”
PRAYER for HEALING
Almighty God, we come before you with our heart-felt
request for the well-being of another person.
Through the intercession of Satoko Kitahara who led a life
of loving sacrifice for others, we pray for (intention)
We simply ask his out of love and having confidence in the
support of Satoko, we await your reply, through Jesus Christ
Our Lord, Amen.