2017-08-06 REFLECTIONS ON THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION AND THE 72nd REMEMBRANCE OF THE BOMBINGS OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI

REFLECTIONS ON THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

AND

THE 72nd REMEMBRANCE OF THE BOMBINGS

OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI

August 6, 2017

At 5:29 in the morning of July 16, 1945, Manhattan Project scientists, government officials, and soldiers witness the successful atomic bomb test, code-named “Trinity” at Alamogordo, NM. The bomb yielded about 20 tons of force…

At 8:15 in the morning of August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy”, was dropped from a US B-29 bomber, The Enola Gay, on Hiroshima, Japan. More than 140 thousand people died instantly or within hours.

Few were soldiers.

At 11:02 in the morning of August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb, nicknamed “Fat Boy,” was dropped from a US B-29 bomber, Bockscar, on Nagasaki, Japan.

More than 50 thousand people died instantly or within hours; some were survivors of the Hirosima bombing who had traveled to Nagasaki for safety. Just 3% of the population were soldiers.

Ringing the Shell Bell

A reading from the book of the prophet Daniel.                                                           [Daniel 7:9-10]

As I watched: Thrones were set up and one that was Ancient of Days sat down, whose clothing was snow bright, and whose hair was white as wool; whose throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.  A surging stream of fire flowed out from before the Ancient of Days, who was served by thousands upon thousands and before whom stood ten thousand times ten thousand; in front of this One, the court was convened, and the books were opened.    

From the memories of Sakue Shimohira, survivor, now 82-years old.

Early in the morning on August 9, my father departed for work and my older brother for classes at Nagasaki Medical College, leaving my mother and older sister at home. When the air-raid alarm sounded, we children all fled at once to the air-raid shelter. While I ran along with my infant nephew strapped to my back and my little sister by the hand, airplanes flew low over the city several times and sprayed the ground with machine-gun fire. Approximately 12 boys and girls were already hiding in the shelter. After a while the air-raid alarm was lifted and the boys went outside, saying that they wanted to go home.

I do not know where those boys died.

I wanted to go home, too, but just then my sister arrived with our lunch boxes. She reminded me of our brother’s words to stay in the shelter for a time after the alarm was lifted because of the new type of bomb dropped in Hiroshima just three days earlier. Then she hurried home to mother.

I stayed with the little ones and just when I began to eat my lunch, the flash of the atomic bomb explosion lit up the shelter and the blast knocked me unconscious.

When I came to my senses, I found the shelter filled with burned people. Some had horrible injuries and gaping wounds from the force of the blast. The students who had been mobilized to work outdoors had suffered terrible burns. They cried out for their mothers, their eyes and noses hidden in their faces swollen like pumpkins.

My younger sister was uninjured, but I could not find my baby cousin anywhere. After a frantic search, I finally found him pinned under a mat upon which injured people were sitting. Before I managed to pull him out, I thought he had already been crushed to death… The sights, sounds, and smells of the dead and injured was almost too much

to bear.

In the evening, I heard my father’s voice calling and moved slowly toward the entrance of the shelter, stepping among the injured, apologizing again and again. The first thing I noticed outside was the fire consuming the commercial school just 800 meters from the shelter. The bright flames illuminated the people in the shadows, inviting attacks from the enemy planes that came flying low over the city. We fled into the shelter again and hid breathlessly under a pile of corpses. We repeated this several times before dawn, looking outside when the sound of airplane engines receded and then diving back into the shelter with the arrival of still another airplane.

Ms. Shimohira was born in China in 1935 and moved to the Komaba-machi (present-day Matsuyama-machi) neighborhood of Nagasaki at the age of five. She entered Shiroyama Primary School in 1941, the same year that war broke out between Japan and the United States. Ten years old at the time of the atomic bombing, she was exposed to the explosion in an air-raid shelter in Aburagi-machi only 800 meters from the hypocenter. She serves today as chairperson of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Bereaved Families Association.

God of Mercy, hold us in love. (2 x’s)

From the writings of Fr. George Zabelka, Catholic priest chaplain in the Air Force during World War II.

 

“As a Catholic priest, my task was to keep my people, wherever they were, close to the heart and mind of Christ.  As a military chaplain, I was to try to see that the boys conducted themselves according to the teachings of the Catholic Church on war.  The destruction of civilians was always forbidden by the church, and if a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child’s head, I would have told him absolutely not. That would be morally sinful.  I and most chaplains were quite clear and outspoken on such matters as killing and torturing prisoners.”

Before they took off on their bombing flights, the airmen would join with their Catholic chaplain and recite the Our Father.  “We said the Our Father as though God was the father of the American troops, of the Americans. 

There was no thought that God was the father of the Japanese, of all the human race.”

     

Fr. George Zapelka’s job was to shepherd and keep up the morale of airmen who risked their lives in bombing missions over enemy territory including the airmen who dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. During the 1970’s, on retreat with Tich Naht Han, he suddenly realized that violence is a total distortion and rejection of Christ’s teaching.  He became a preacher of nonviolence and wrote the words above after his change of heart.

God of Mercy, hold us in love. (2 x’s)

As I watched: Thrones were set up and one that was Ancient of Days sat down, whose clothing was snow bright, and whose hair was white as wool; whose throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.  A surging stream of fire flowed out from before the Ancient of Days…

From the memories of Chiyoko Egashira (1910 - 2003), Nagasaki bombing survivor

…When I looked out the window, I couldn't see anything because of all the yellow smoke. When I went into the hall, I saw that the school building had been completely destroyed. In the front, the cement posts of the school entrance gate had been ripped up and blown toward the school building with the dirt still clinging to their bases--both of them. It was as if someone had taken out a set of false teeth. All the chinaberry and cherry trees had been flattened…. "I became frightened… and looked out of the window in the direction of my house. All I could see was a sheet of flame. The town of Shiroyama, which a little while ago had been enveloped in yellow dust, was now a mass of bright red blazing fire…Outside, the sound of the flames from the burning trees was horrifying. I couldn't tell whether the sky was bright red from the reflection of the burning flames, from the setting sun, or from the sun at midday.


"After dawn came, my husband repeatedly started out for our home, but the fire was so strong he couldn't get close, so he came back and then tried again. He did this several times. Finally, that evening, he brought back a bent pot misshapen by the heat rays, and in it were the bones of his mother and our children."

Chiyoko Egashira (1910 – Feb. 2003 Age 92). Chiyoko Egashira taught at the Shiroyama Primary School, which was 500 meters from ground zero. She and her youngest daughter were injured in the bombing. Her husband, four of her children, and her mother-in-law died in the bombing. After retiring as the principal of Tategami Primary School in 1969, she related her experience in the bombing to children on behalf of her dead colleagues and students. She is the author of "Genbaku Sensei: Nagasaki ni Ikiru (Teacher during the Atomic Bombing: Living in Nagasaki)"published by Ashi Shob

From: The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response 

                    US Conference of Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter

Throughout its history humanity has been confronted with war, but since 1945 the nature of warfare has changed so profoundly that the future of the human race, of generations yet unborn, is imperiled… For the first time it is possible to cause damage on such a catastrophic scale as to wipe out a large part of civilization and to endanger its very survival. The large-scale use of such weapons could trigger major and irreversible ecological and genetic changes whose limits cannot be predicted.

                 

God of Mercy, hold us in love. (2 x’s)

From the Second Letter of Peter:                                                                                [2 Peter 1:16-19]

 Beloved:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of Christ’s majesty…

We ourselves heard the voice come from heaven while we were with Christ on the holy mountain. 

Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it,

as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.       

Sakue Shimohira

The atomic bomb survivors have suffered more than those who died. There are many who lost all their relatives and who, utterly alone in the world, die a slow death with no one upon whom to depend. These people cannot find work in society, nor can they function physically like other people. They are suffering far more than the dead. This is why I have resolved to stand up and appeal - as long as there is life in my body - for peace, and to insist that nuclear weapons must never be used again.                                                         

ALL: We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. 

You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

From the writings of Daniel Berrigan, S.J. as published in The Catholic Worker

The fate of humanity itself stands on a fail-safe basis, nicely calibrated, weapon for weapon, our side and theirs, a worldwide tension and terror. The question of “who can win” is wiped away by the paw of Mars; who now can survive?

            The threat of existence is by no means idly issued.  It is, but for an act of God, all but assured of execution, backed by the nicest proof imaginable—weapons apt to consummate the deed.  So we live on—on borrowed time.  Plain good luck, here and there a sane act of one or another leader drawing back from the verge……terrorism controlled, barely, by the greater terror of nation-states; for some thirty-five years these have given us an illusion of safety, cowering under the umbrella of ‘deterrence”.

            Deterrence did not deter; it eventually died, to be replaced by the apter gunslinging macho of “first strike”.  Today we are hostages to leaders who themselves are hostages—to past follies, to new weapons, to bunkers and stockpiles, to national frenzies, to stalking myths, dusted off and set in wilder motion, security, free world, Salt II…….

            We are indeed ……… stepping into the mine field of the end of things.  …..We must deterrorize the terror by an act of God, our act.

            Let us tell our heart,; we will swear our covenant anew…..The covenant says to all:  Stand in our circle.  We declare that humanity itself is a nuclear-free zone. 

God does not walk away from such an oath.  Neither would we.   

ALL: We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. 

You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Peace Declaration 2003 byTadatoshi Akiba,Mayor  The City of Hiroshima  

Now is the time for us to focus once again on the truth that "Darkness can never be dispelled by darkness, only by light." … In the darkness of retaliation, the proper path for human civilization is illumined by the spirit of reconciliation born of the hibakusha's (survivors) determination that "no one else should ever suffer as we did."

Lifting up that light, the aging hibakusha are calling for U.S. President George Bush to visit Hiroshima. We all support that call and hereby demand that President Bush, Chairman Kim Jong Il of North Korea, and the leaders of all nuclear-weapon states come to Hiroshima and confront the reality of nuclear war. We must somehow convey to them that nuclear weapons are utterly evil, inhumane and illegal under international law….

We must establish a climate that immediately confronts even casual comments that appear to approve of nuclear weapons or war. To prevent war and to abolish the absolute evil of nuclear weapons, we must pray, speak, and act to that effect in our daily lives.

The Japanese government, which publicly asserts its status as "the only A-bombed nation," must fulfill the responsibilities that accompany that status, both at home and abroad. Specifically, it must adopt as national precepts the three new non-nuclear principles - allow no production, allow no possession, and allow no use of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world - and work conscientiously toward an Asian nuclear-free zone. 

On this 58th August 6, we offer our heartfelt condolences to the souls of all atomic bomb victims, and we renew our pledge to do everything in our power to abolish nuclear weapons and eliminate war altogether by the time we turn this world over to our children.

ALL: We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. 

You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

                                                                                                    

From the writings of Eileen Egan in Peace Be with You

The mainline Christian churches still teach something that Christ never taught or hinted at, namely the just war theory, a theory that has been completely discredited theologically, historically, and psychologically. 

Until the various churches within Christianity repent and begin to proclaim by word and deed what Jesus proclaimed in relation to violence and enemies, there is no hope for anything other than ever-escalating violence and destruction…Communion with Christ cannot be established on disobedience to his clearest teaching.”                    

ALL: We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. 

You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

In the words of our Holy Father, we need a "moral about face". The whole world must summon the moral courage and technical means to say "no" to nuclear conflict; "no" to weapons of mass destruction; "no" to an arms race which robs the poor and the vulnerable; and "no" to the moral danger of a nuclear age which places before humankind indefensible choices of constant terror or surrender. Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but by Jesus Christ.     The Challenge of Peace, US Catholic Bishops  1983

ALL: We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. 

You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.                                   

From the gospel according to Matthew:                                                                      Matthew 17:1-8

Six days later, Jesus took Peter, along with James and his brother John,

and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 

Jesus was transfigured before their very eyes.

His face became as dazzling as the sun, his clothes as radiant as light. 

Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and were conversing with Jesus…

Suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them and 

out of the cloud came a voice that said,

   “This is my Beloved, my Own, on whom my favor rests.  Listen.”

When they heard this, the disciples fell forward on the ground,

overcome with fear. 

Jesus came toward them, laid his hand on them and said,

“Get up, friends.  Do not be afraid.”

 

When they looked up, they did not see anyone but Jesus.       

            It is our belief in the risen Christ which sustains us in confronting the awesome challenge of the nuclear arms race. Present in the beginning as the word of the Father, present in history as the word incarnate, and with us today in his word, sacraments, and spirit, he is the reason for our hope and faith. Respecting our freedom, he does not solve our problems but sustains us as we take responsibility for his work of creation and try to shape it in the ways of the kingdom. We believe his grace will never fail us.   “The Challenge of Peace”

Be the change you want to see in the world.

John Dear writes:

I confess it: I envision a world where the United States is not killing anyone, threatening anyone, or preparing to destroy the planet. I want to live in a world without war, poverty and nuclear weapons. Yes, I know, such a world means the demise of the state. No more empire, no more Pentagon, no more nuclear weapons, no more unlimited money for Exxon and Cheney’s friends, no more military bases around the world, no more torture, no more F15s and F16s, no more Trident subs, no more bombs and guns and bullets.

In my criminal vision, everyone will become nonviolent. We will be a nation of Martin Luther Kings, Coretta Scott Kings, Dorothy Days and Thomas Mertons. We will love everyone, welcome everyone, care for everyone, and serve everyone, even spend our resources to eliminate hunger, end disease, and promote peace with justice around the entire planet. Yes, I admire those unAmerican, unpatriotic abolitionists who worked for the end of slavery. I consider myself a new abolitionist, working for the end of war, poverty and nuclear weapons.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

From the writings of Alexandra Levy:

..The Anglo-American Manhattan Project launched the Atomic Age in July of 1945.

Since then the world’s nuclear arsenal has grown to about 15, 000weapons, many with power exceeding the atomic bombs of World War II. North Korea’s controversial nuclear tests and the debate over the 2015 Iran deal reveal that the nuclear genie unleashed by the Manhattan Project will not go back into the lamp.

…Today, eight countries have successfully detonated nuclear weapons: The U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Israel is also believed to have nuclear weapons but has not openly conducted a test.

…Other countries, however, have determined that the political and economic price of building a bomb are too high. Argentina, South Korea, Sweden and Brazil abandoned their nuclear weapons program for various reasons. Iran, after seeing its economy suffer under sanctions, decided to bow to international pressure and delay its nuclear weapons program—for now.

Many nuclear experts celebrated the 2015 Iran deal that the Obama administration signed because it limited Iran’s ability to produce weapons grade nuclear material—a proven necessity for atomic success.

But nuclear weapons remain one of the most powerful tools in a country’s military and diplomatic arsenal. So it will be a long time—if ever—before humanity can successfully reach Global Zero, an effort recently endorsed by the United Nations.  After all, the idea of international control of nuclear weapons was a goal that some Manhattan Project scientists were pushing since 1945. But as long as they can follow the blueprint set out by the Manhattan project, nations will continue to enter the nuclear club, and there’s little the international community can do to prevent it.

 

Alexandra Levy is the program director at the Atomic Heritage Foundation, a non-profit in Washington D.C., dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Age and its legacy. She wrote this article for the Washington Post; it appeared in the Star Tribune on July 19 2017.

National Catholic Reporter Vatican correspondent Joshua J. McElwee writes:

Pope Francis has told the United States and North Korea to deescalate their nuclear tensions, saying their ongoing dispute over weapons testing has become "too hot" and suggesting they might ask a third country to intervene and act as a mediator.

In a half-hour press conference aboard the papal flight from Egypt…, the pope also warned U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that a nuclear war would destroy "a big part of humanity."

"I call on them ... as I have called on leaders of various places, to work towards resolving problems through the path of diplomacy," he said.

"There are many facilitators in the world," Francis said, offering the country Norway as an example. "There are mediators that offer themselves. There are countries ... ready to help."

"A prolonged war would destroy ... a big part of humanity," he warned. "Let us stop ourselves. Let us search for a diplomatic solution."                                              April 29, 2017 Aboard the Papal flight from Cairo

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Remembering Hiroshima: A Poem by Daniel Berrigan,S.J. 

           In Environment, Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Peace, Poetry

Shadow on the Rock

At Hiroshima there’s a museum

and outside that museum there’s a rock,

and on that rock there’s a shadow.

That shadow is all that remains

of the human being who stood there on

August 6, 1945

when the nuclear age began.

In the most real sense of the word,

that is the choice before us.

We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race in this generation,

or we will become Shadows on the rock.

Be the change you want to see in the world.


Let us pray together in the words of Joan Chittister:

Great God, who has told us

"Vengeance is mine,"

save us from ourselves,

save us from the vengeance in our hearts

and the acid in our souls.

Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt,

to punish as we have been punished,

to terrorize as we have been terrorized.

Give us the strength it takes

to listen rather than to judge,

to trust rather than to fear,

to try again and again

to make peace even when peace eludes us.

We ask, O God, for the grace

to be our best selves.

We ask for the vision

to be builders of the human community

rather than its destroyers.

We ask for the humility as a people

to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples.

We ask for the love it takes

to bequeath to the children of the world to come

more than the failures of our own making.

We ask for the heart it takes

to care for all the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq,

of Palestine and Israel as well as for ourselves.

Give us the depth of soul, O God,

to constrain our might,

to resist the temptations of power,

to refuse to attack the attackable,

to understand

that vengeance begets violence

and to bring peace - not war - wherever we go.

For You, O God, have been merciful to us.

For You, O God, have been patient with us.

For You, O God, have been gracious to us.

And so may we be merciful

and patient

and gracious

 and trusting

with these others whom you also love.

ALL: This we ask through Jesus

the one without vengeance in his heart.

This we ask forever and ever, Amen.

By Joan D. Chittister, OSB;

reprinted with permission from Pax Christi USA


           


The Good News of our Salvation spoken through survivors and seekers,

poets and prophets, peacemakers one and all.

Ringing the Shell Bell

Silence

Log in with email and password.