09 October 2013

Universal Faith, Individual Call

From the interview of Canon Raphael Ueda, ICRSS, in Regina Magazine, I was struck by this reflection:

Q. What are some of the greatest challenges you encounter as a priest? How have they affected your priesthood?

A. I was baptized as a Catholic but that does not mean I cease to be Japanese. I left Japan in 1995. Since then I have had several occasions to return. Living previously in Quebec, Italy, and now the U.S., it is always a challenge for me to grow as Catholic in a harmonious way without losing my identity as Japanese. Jesus was called as Jesus of Nazareth.

Even though the Catholic faith is universal, when we live our faith in a concrete way, we need to take flesh in the place where we are put by Divine Providence. This is really a challenge for me. Preserving identity while remaining open is a process that will continue to entail much pain and confusion. It is a process likely to be carried along on the tide of risk taking and withdrawal, expansion and contraction, exhilaration and disappointment, consolation and desolation, integration and disintegration.


Rory said...

I found Canon Raphael's comments interesting but I am not sure I understand. Do you think he is saying that retaining identity as a Catholic with European roots is easier than for someone of Asian heritage? Would he have the same experience if he were living in Japan? Perhaps Western missionaries to Asia have similar experiences, identifying closely with the native peoples?

Anyway, I kind of don't like the sound of it if it means that being entirely Catholic is incompatible with anyone's ethnic heritage. Maybe you could clarify a bit Tim from the rest of the interview?



thetimman said...

Well, Rory, you might have to ask him, as the interview doesn't go much further in-depth on that point.

I don't think he means that Catholicism is incompatible with his heritage.

I do think it might be more "alien" in feel for an Easterner to come to Catholicism due to a lack of the Western theological and philosophical tradition that is a part of us-- whether or not we know it. Aristotle, Aquinas and countless others would be part of the 'conversion' process along with the faith.

No, I took these words to be a variant of Monsignor Wach's theme of the tapestry of God's creation, that we are to do God's will in the place in which we are set. As you look at the back of a tapestry, you see tangles, knots, threads and faint, reverse imagery, but on the front of the tapestry you see the beauty of the faith. A Salesian, duties of state of life bit.

We are all called to be saints, but each of us is called to be the saint we are. God does not have a mold, or form of saint apart from which we can't be saints. Note I am not saying that the call to holiness is only for some-- it is for all. But there is no procrustean saint bed over which God lops off parts, or stretches us to fit.

For instance, I have a sarcastic sense of humor? Then that tendency must have a purpose which if I turn to good, leaving out sarcasm and using joy to lead souls (especially mine) to God, then that is the "type" of saint I will be.

Have you ever read "Silence", by the Japanese writer Endo? It is a sort of Japanese version of Greene's "The Power and the Glory". The collision of faith with Japanese culture is a big deal in it.

Canon Ueda does not mean that Catholicism is incompatible with anyone's heritage. But I suspect he wants very much to know what God's plan for him is, like you or me. And he is from Japan, where God put him and called him. For you or me, embracing the faith can put us at odds with our family's view of religion or morality. For him, add to that the complete break with every assumption by which his family and friends live.

It had to be tough. But, as I know him and you do not, you are at a disadvantage.

Phil said...

I also was struck (in a good way) by this. I think this opening paragraph about his background helps me to better understand where he was coming from:

"I was not born a Catholic. Divine Providence guided me to an encounter with the Catholic faith. For those who are in the Catholic Church the veracity of the Church is very evident, but for me who is not Catholic by birth, especially born in Japan (in the far east where Catholicism is in its entirety not known) it was not so easy. But as always Divine Providence
guides those who are sincerely looking for the truth in a very mysterious way."

So, looking at it from that point of view, I do see that it could be more difficult for someone from the East to come to Catholicism than a Westerner with the "theological and philosophical tradition that is a part of us-- whether or not we know it."

Furthermore, I can appreciate his honesty in this interview. I would think it could be difficult. In my opinion having pride in one's birthplace is an honorable trait. Sometimes I think the American priests tend to forget that they are American and not European. Of course we are all Catholics first, but also have heritage in the place God placed us. We're not part of a new world order yet.