Catholicism has a long, storied history in the Land of the Rising Sun. For two hundred years, most Westerners were banned from Japan in order to prevent the spread of the Faith. Japanese converts and the Occidental priests who ministered to them were put to death when caught practicing the Faith.
Shut out for so long, by the time priests returned to the country after it was opened up to the West again, they didn’t expect to find any Catholics. I remember reading a story about a priest who opened a new church in a Japanese city one morning to find several women standing out front. Surprised when they asked to come in, he allowed them to enter the sanctuary.
At the sight of the altar and a nearby statue of Our Lady, many of the women burst into tears. They managed to explain to the priest that they were descendants of the original Catholic converts who had gone underground two hundred years earlier when the persecutions began. Over the course of two centuries the Japanese Catholics had transmitted the catechism, the Bible, knowledge of the Sacraments (although the only one they could perform was Baptism), and other understandings of the Faith largely through memorization. They did it so well that the new priests had to correct them on very, very little – which made tending to the unexpectedly large flock easier than they had anticipated.
The scroll described in the article below points to one method used by the underground Church in Japan to help following generations remember the Faith. Religious books and sacramentals were destroyed or kept as a means of discovering who was and was not a Christian. With few resources, Japanese converts would have had to safeguard very carefully whatever material they had been given by the priests or that they had written down themselves.
Unearthing this scroll, even from the back rooms of a museum, is a momentous achievement – not least because it brings Japan’s Christian history back into the international spotlight. A testament to the Faith of Japanese Catholics and the truth of the Faith, you can learn more about the discovery in the article linked herein. This is one archaeological find everyone should know a little something about.
St. Paul Miki and Companions, pray for us!
Tokyo, Japan, Nov 28, 2018
A Christian scroll found in a Japanese museum is believed to be from the earliest days of Christianity in the country, researchers have said.
The scroll measures about 10.5 feet long and about nine inches high, and depicts 15 scenes from the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The pictures include religious figures wearing traditional Japanese garments, and Latin prayers are spelled out in Japanese phonetic letters throughout the scroll.
The scroll was discovered at Sawada Miki Kinenkan museum in the town of Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, which collects historical Christian items.
According to Japanese newspaper The Mainichi, an inscription on the scroll reads “1592 years since His Birth,” leading historians to believe that this was the year the scroll was created. Carbon dating has dated the scroll as having been created prior to the year 1633, the museum said in a press conference.