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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Going to Mass in Japan


If you are Catholic, it is likely that you attend Mass on a weekly basis, either Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The Christian population in Japan is around 1%, but incredibly, I have always found a Catholic Church in every locality I have visited. I really like going to Mass in a different country. When I was in Tsuwano I was delighted to discover the local church had no rows of pews but a floor made of tatami mats.

My daughter and I have attended Mass in various cities across the country. In Kochi, it was a Filipino service said in English, whereas in Kyoto's Cathedral it was in Japanese. It doesn't matter what language is spoken, because you already know what is going on, and worship aids are usually available in different languages. The only time you may be at a loss is during the homily. When we were in Kanazawa, the priest gave a homily in Japanese and then in English. We know he did it especially for us due to an earlier conversation my daughter had with him.

Recently in Shizuoka City, we attended a Saturday evening Mass at 6:30 pm. It was conducted in Japanese, and all was well until the homily. I was dead tired from the 11-hour flight and having traversed the city for hours, and the homily seemed to go on, and on... Twice I fell asleep, twice I jerked awake. I was wishing the priest would finish up because I was in real danger of falling asleep again, but instead he pulled out a book and began reading from it. Then he laughed.

Later I asked my daughter if she thought the homily was long or if it had been my imagination due to the language barrier. "Oh, it was long," she confirmed. Then I inquired, "And why was he laughing?" She responded, "He was making a joke about how he could cut the homily short, but he wasn't going to." Sometimes Mass is exactly the same in Japan as it is at home.

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