Transfigured by the Bomb

Nagasaki, Peace Park

Every year on this date I am bewildered (I admit, saddened) that we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration and recall the day the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Japan at Hiroshima. The bombing of Nagasaki followed three days later.

This year I have a little more insight into the logic of this co-incidence having recently finished Fr. Paul Glynn’s A Song For Nagasaki, biography of University of Nagasaki radiology professor and convert Dr. Takashi Nagai, and his companion book on the life of Satoko Kitahara, The Smile of the Ragpicker.

Dr. Nagai lost his wife in the attack and eventually died from his exposure, but not before making sure we could find something truly beautiful in the rubble. His spiritual explanation for why the bomb was dropped–by a last minute change in the weather–atop the Catholic cathedral and the homes of Japan’s long-hidden, long-suffering Catholic community is highly provocative.

Satoko’s story, too, is a testament to life and not death. Not to the poverty and disease which killed her and so many in post-war Tokyo, but to the joy of conversion and abandoning a wealthy station to suffer in solidarity with the poorest of the poor.


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