2cornucopias

Pascal sowed, Oznam watered, God gave the increase, and Nagai and Japan reaped.

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/06/09 at 8:40 AM

The thoughts of Blaise Pascal had a tremendous impact on the spiritual life of Takashi Nagai, the Japanese radiology pioneer,  nuclear scientist, convert and survivor of the atom bomb, who is venerated in Japan as a saint. Nagai was introduced to Pascal by a fellow academic, the Sorbonne Professor,  Frenchman Frederick Ozanam.

Nagai was impressed by Ozanam told him of his encounter with Andrè Ampère , the mathematician/physicist  discovered of electomagnetism.  praying on his knees in a church in the slums of Paris. Ozanam  had said to him: “Professor, I see you believe in prayer.”  Ampère replied: “Everyone has to pray.” Now Nagai understood Pascal’s words: “Don’t just study the Scriptures, pray them. . . . Only in Christ can the paradox of man’s wretchedness and his greatness be solved . . . living for the glory of God.”  Nagai came to see that it is prayer that gives vision, and that the mystery that is God, cannot be grasped like mathematics and science.  Takashi would become Japan’s Pascal.

From then on Nagai lived what he wrote with his brush: “The Son of God has graciously brought me to Nagasaki so that I can work for the Father’s glory.”  And, indeed, he did just that amidst the horrors of the atomic devastation in which he saw God’s Providence at work.

At the Requiem Mass for the eight thousand Catholics who died at Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, Nagai used hansai, the Japanese word for “holocaust”:  “The Christian flock of Nagaski was true to the Faith through  three centuries of persecution. . . . It prayed ceaselessly for a lasting peace.  Here was the one pure lamb that had to be sacrificed as hansai on His altar . . . so that many millions of lives might be saved. . . . Was not Nagasaki the chosen victim, the lamb without blemish, slain as a whole burnt offering on an altar of sacrifice, atoning for the sins of all the nations”  during the  war?  Nagai quoting Jobe said: “The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”, adding  Let us be thankful that Nagasaki was chosen for the whole burnt sacrifice!”

In a split second thousands had been killed, but even more had been injured and poisoned.  A victim of over-exposure to radiation through research, Nagai suffered from leukemkia.  However, this did not deter him from working and writing books that consoled  and healed his devastated people. He would say: “Our lives are of great worth if we accept with good grace the situation Providence places us in and go on living lovingly. . . . If all of us accept ourselves as we are, it is absolutely certain that a day will come when we can see how God’s plans have been accomplished, and precisely through our weakness. . . . If you make the vital decision to live humbly and lovingly, you will live fruitful lives and be happy.”

Takashi Nagai’s heroic and selfless sacrifices made him revered by his nation and his Emperor who came to visit him in his hut.  Famous people from the entire world came to visit the dying saint. His visit with Helen Keller confirmed his belief that suffering accepted gracefully purifies the human heart, and the experience of physical blindness sharpens spiritual vision.

If these culled thoughts and citations about Takashi Nagai have inspired you in light of Japan’s recent tragedy, please read A SONG FOR NAGASAKI by Paul Glynn, S.M. Ignatius Press.

http://www.ignatius.com/Products/SNAG-P/a-song-for-nagasaki.aspx

(See also post by that title in Book Corner.)

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