Our Lady of Nagasaki

Haunting … that’s the only word I can find to describe it …

Last week I welcomed the Archbishop of Nagasaki, the Most Reverend Joseph Mitsuaki.  He pleaded at the United Nations for an end to all nuclear weapons.  Lord knows he has immense credibility: he is now the pastor of the tiny Catholic flock of a Japanese city where 75,000 people were reduced to ash by a single atomic blast on August 9, 1945.  On that day, Joseph was still a baby in his mother’s womb, and only survived because she was far enough away from ground-zero.

And something else survived: the head of the statue of Mary Immaculate in the parish church in Urakami, a village right aside Nagasaki.  It was this skull of Mary that the archbishop brought with him to the U.N. and to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

And it is this head that is haunting: she is scarred, singed badly, and her crystal eyes were melted by the hellish blast.  So, all that remains are two empty, blackened sockets.

I’ve knelt before many images of the Mother of Jesus before: our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Pieta, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, just to name a few.

But I’ve never experienced the dread and revulsion I did when the archbishop showed us the head of Our Lady of Nagasaki …

Our Lady of Nagasaki

It’s May, the month we traditionally devote to her, our blessed Mother.

She absorbs our sorrows, our worries, our sickness, our fears, like any good mother would.  She brings them — and us — to the only one who can do anything about them: Jesus.

At Nagasaki, she absorbed the radiation, incinerating heat, the suffering of her children.

“To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale’ of tears.”

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7 Responses to “Our Lady of Nagasaki”

  1. Larry says:

    Did Mary perhaps say to Jesus: “Son, I cannot bear to see this horror.”

  2. Anne Bender says:

    I keep coming back to this post again and again. Haunting is right! I don’t think anything is more painful than realizing how much we humans are capable of hurting each other, and the black holes where our Lady’s eyes used to be show the depth of her pain and sorrow over our sinfulness.

    Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners.

  3. Henry Schwalbenberg says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,

    Thank you for posting the image of Our Lady of Nagasaki. It brought back dear memories of my Dad and a trip I made to Hiroshima many years ago. When I was in Hiroshima I visited a Catholic High School there and one of the students asked me if the US Atomic Bombing was justified. In answering the question, I just told them about my Dad. At the time of the Atomic Bombings my Dad had just survived the Battle of Iwo Jima. He had witnessed Japanese atrocities and he believed that he and his unit would be part of the first wave of the American invasion of Hiroshima. Given his experience as a Seabee on Iwo Jima, he and his buddies were convinced that they would not live through the impending invasion of the Japanese home islands. With the Atomic Bombings and the ending of the war, however, my Dad got to come home, get married and raise a family instead of dying on some beach in Japan. My Dad was never a fan of the Japanese. He never brought a Japanese car and he never ate Japanese food. Given his experience and his attitude you might think he would be in favor of the Atomic Bombings. He was not. He spoke very little about the war, but he was always clear in his opposition to the Atomic Bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We do not kill innocent non-combatants. When my Dad passed away I was very proud that the American Legion and the US Navy were there to honor him “on behalf of a grateful nation.” I was also very proud that several of my Japanese students also came to pay their respects to someone who strongly opposed the indiscriminate killing of innocent Japanese non-combatants, even if it may have saved his own life. Perhaps Paul VI put it best, “No more war!”

  4. KathyM says:

    As I studied the picture of the statue, the first thing that popped into my mind was the famous quote by Mother Teresa: “The fruit of abortion is nuclear war.”

  5. The use of atomic weapons to end WWII has been debated by many over these years.
    However, history does show that the Emperor of Japan was finally persuaded by the atomic destruction that surrender was the only reasonable course left … this saved many lives on both sides of the conflict. I am proud that my Dad served this country and he was in the hard fought battle for Okinawa. He was well aware of the results of war and welcomed the end when it came. I have vivid memories of my 3rd grade nun being called out of the classroom to be told her brother was killed … as was my Uncle Joe. I knew my Dad might not make it home. I do now pray for our men and women now in combat and would welcome the day when there is peace in the world. A strong US may deter those who wish us harm.

  6. Sue Widemark says:

    Wow I love your blog. But then, you are my hero! So I guess you would have an awesome blog! Thank you for all you give to us, all you do for us and just being you!

  7. Andy Piacente says:

    A truly magnificent story.

    AndyP/Doria2 Yonkers, NY HOSEA 4:6