|St. Ignatius Church, Sophia University Tokyo|
A couple of weeks ago, I met a German Jesuit priest at a meeting in Malaysia. Fr Gunther has spent more than 40 years in Japan as a missionary. In one of my conversations with him, I was enlightened about quite a few things about Catholicism in the Land of the Rising Sun. Only about 0.5% of the population there are Catholics, which bring the number to slightly above the half million mark. Apparently, there are Japanese who have absolutely no notion that Christmas has links to the Church, let alone anything to do with Christ! As is evident in many countries, hotels and department stores in Japan do brisk business at that time of the year. Hotels tout it as a season of love (somewhat akin to Valentine’s Day) and promote hotel room packages for couples to ‘shack up’ for Christmas Eve. Department stores have sales that slash prices to pack in the shoppers. Certainly, this is not a phenomenon unique to Japan, but his following comment floored me. He once invited some Japanese to his Jesuit church in the heart of Tokyo to experience Christmas Mass, and they sniggered at him and said (with hands covering a smile, in a typical Japanese fashion) “What? Christmas has even come to the Church now? What can you possibly be selling there?” This may seem bizarre, and I found it highly amusing. However, I couldn’t help but see that we too have shades of this kind of ignorance on our own shores. Maybe not regarding Christmas, but many other areas of life.