Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Religious Harmony in Tamil Nadu

Although the sad news concerning India today is the religious violence in Orissa, where 12 churches were vandalized), there is also this bit of encouraging and consoling news of an event in South India. Under the title "A festival of religious harmony," reporter M. Balaganessin writes in The Hindu newspaper that in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, "People of various walks of life and different faiths, who are members of the Pudukottai branch of the Tiruvarul Peravai [a branch of the unit founded by the late Hindu guru Kundrakudi Adigalar, to promote religious harmony through mutual trust and cordial relationship for the past two decades], visited a couple of churches and greeted Christians on the occasion of Christmas on Tuesday. They went to the R.C. Church and the TELC Church here and greeted the people at the end of a special mass."

The President of the Peravai is quoted as saying, “It has been customary for the members belonging to other faiths to greet Muslims or Hindus on occasions such as Ramzan or Deepavai.” Read the full article here.

Isn't great to know that there are such dedicated religious leaders in India striving for religious harmony and mutual understanding? Worth noting is also the fact that those who vandalized the Churches in Orissa are Hindus (or those claiming to be Hindus), and the leading Peravai leaders who extended their arms enthusiastically to greet Christians and Moslems are also Hindus--the magnanimous and remarkable Hindus of whom M.K.Gandhi was a representative.

It's a pity that such news of religious harmony rarely gets noticed or reported as much as news of religious violence. The Hindu deserves congratulations for reporting on such efforts to live in harmony.

Professor Roger Downey, S.J.

There has been another death in the Jesuit family of Sophia University. This time it is Fr. Roger Downey, S.J. He has been in the hospital for the past four months, and this morning around 5:00 was placed under critical observation. Two Jesuits then rushed to be by his side, and he passed away quietly around 7:00 AM. Yesterday, Christmas Day, several of his colleagues in the Economics Department greeted him, and several Jesuits sang Christmas Carols for him in the hospital. He seems to have been conscious and grateful for the concern shown to him. Fr. Downey retired from the university last year, when his disease was diagnosed to be serious, and he was given the status of Professor Emeritus for his services to the university. He was still in his early 60's. R.I.P.

Roger was fluent in Japanese and Indonesian, besides his mother tongue, English, and was capable of communicating in Chinese. In fact, it was while he was in China, about three years ago, that he realized that his health was deteriorating and decided to return to Japan for treatment. He was the Chaplain for a large group of Indonesians around Tokyo, having inherited this apostolate from another eminent Jesuit Fr. Bob Webber. Roger was also a great PC explorer, as he set up intranet servers and computers in different places. He also developed some software plugins for Excel, facilitating various calculations required of his students. Perhaps most striking was his athletic appearance, as he exercised regularly, pumping iron and doing push-ups. Almost everyone is impressed by his courageous and non-complaining attitude during his prolonged illness. He was a model patient. Coincidentally, just this month an article he had written for the Japan Missionary Bulletin was published.

An official funeral Mass will be celebrated on January 15, 2008, at St. Ignatius Church, Tokyo. St. Ignatius Church is about a minute walk from Yotsuya Station (Marunouchi Subway, Namboku Subway, or JR), and the Mass will begin at 13:30.

If you can recall any episode or experience related to Fr. Downey, please feel free to share it by adding it as a "Comment." Just click the "Comments" button, write your comments, simply identify yourself (even if you have no account or password), and then post the message.

According to Donal Doyle, a close friend of Roger, the following picture was Roger's favorite photo of himself, taken in Colorado when he and his siblings climbed a nearby mountain on the day after their father's funeral.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sophia News 20071225

Chirstmas in Japan is much like in so-called Christian countries, with lots of decorations all over. People engage in shopping and gift-giving, are familiar with Santa Clauses and sacred cribs, and many, even though they are not Christians, attend Mass on December 24th, usually with their dating partner. St. Ignatius Church, close to Sophia, is usually full at every Mass on 24th. Some even wait for several hours to get in, since there is a limit to the number of people who can get into the Church. One of the priests at St. Ignatius tells me that the 16:30 Mass was attended by 1300 persons, the maximum capacity of the Church. Formerly, they used to have a midnight Mass, but nowadays, due to problems related to transportation, the last Mass is at 11:00 and usually in English. Last night, the 'midnight' Mass was celebrated at 11:00 in English by Gerard Barry, S.J. (founder and long-time President of Sophia Junior College) and Fr. Scott Howell, S.J. (Sophia University Chemistry Professor, Englsh Debates coach, and frequent adviser to Sophia students from overseas).

Within Sophia itself, there was a Mass in the Kodo, a hall that can accommodate about 800 persons. The chief celebrant and homilist was Fr. Mitsunobu, a Jesuit theologian, and the Sophia University Choir, with Catholic and non-Catholic members, sang during Mass. After Mass, the more than 700 attendees had light refreshments. In former times, they used to have many baptisms during the Mass--which often prolonged the Mass to two or more hours--but nowadays they don't have baptisms during Christmas Masses. Looks like they moved the baptisms to the Paschal season. Individuals like Fr. Alfons Deeken, S.J. usually baptise more than ten persons; these days they hold Christmas baptismal masses somewhere in private. It's a pity, since public baptisms might be more meaningful and inspirational in a country like Japan where Catholics are not even one percent.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sophia News 20071222

Polish Countryside

Polish Countryside: This photo was taken in Poland from a train running from Warsaw to Krakow, in mid-September, 2007.

A few days ago, the incumbent President, Prof. Ishizawa, was re-relected as President of Sophia University for another term. Professor Ishizawa is a leading scholar in matters related to Cambodia, and he has excavated rare Buddhist statues over there. Recently he authored the book "Angkor Buddhist Treasures from Banteay Kdei", containing many photos of Buddha statues rarely seen before. The book is in English and contains the article "The History of the Angkor Buddhas". The book (96 pp., PB)is published by NHK Publishing (Nov 5, 2007), but has no ISBN!

On December 20th, Prof. Kasuya, a Jesuit Priest and Professor of Law, passed away after a brief illness. He was 68 years old, and was still listed as teaching. He was an influential figure within Sophia for 20 years or so, until he left office three years ago, serving in different official capacities. On 22nd, a brief farewell ceremnony was held for him at St. Ignatius Church, with his family members, colleagues, and Jesuits attending.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thelogian Peter Phan's Inter-religious views

Recently Fr. Peter Phan's theological position was addressed by the "Committee on Doctrine, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops." The relevant document can be downloaded here:

Who is Peter Phan? Here is an elaborate, perhaps unfriendly, presentation of the theologian at the Razinger Fan Club:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vocation S.J.: Companions of Jesus (3 clips)

This is a series of three video clips introducing the Jesuits and their work. Three Jesuits, Brother Jim Boynton, Father Eduardo Fernandez, and Father Greg Boyle appear.

Vocation S.J.: Companions of Jesus Clip 1 of 3 (7'29"):
In this segment several Jesuits appear, including John English, SJ, speaking of Jesuit life, their mission, and their educational philosophy. Finally, a young Jesuit says how he finds his priesthood.

Vocation S.J.: Companions of Jesus Clip 2 of 3 (7'10"):
BEWARE: When the video goes past 20" of playtime, it enters an infinite loop, probably due to some bug. When this happens, just click the play-line at about 25" point or so, and the white-circle-with-red-center skips a few seconds and starts playing from where you clicked without any subsequent problem.

This video presents the work of a Jesuit with troubled kids.

Vocation S.J.: Companions of Jesus Clip 3 of 3 (6'26"):

This final segment deals with Jesuits reflecting on their own Jesuit life, finding it challenging, energizing, and at times difficult.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Documental Pedro Arrupe 2001 (5/5)

November 14, 2007, marked the 100th anniversary of Pedro Arrupe's birth. Pedro Arrupe, born in Spain, worked in Japan as a Jesuit, making significant contributions. He was later elected the General of the Society of Jesus. Jesuits and their institutions around the world celebrated the event in various ways.

Here is a series of powerpoint slideshows, prepared by Jayaraj, an Indian Jesuit, on the life of Arrupe.

Pedro Arrupe - I
Pedro Arrupe - II
Pedro Arrupe - III
Pedro Arrupe - IV

Here is a 2001 Spanish production on Pedro Arrupe, in five parts. Looks like the presentation was televised by TVE 2 in Spain.

Note the program is in Spanish, and the video is occasionally less than ideal, though watchable. As a professional production, this moves quickly touching upon only the major events in Arrupe's life.

Documental Pedro Arrupe 2001 (1/5) 9'20"
Arrupe's birth, education, and entry into Japan

Documental Pedro Arrupe 2001 (2/5) 8'40"
Arrupe's life in Japan, election as the General of the Society of Jesus, and the 32nd General Congregation of Jesuits.

Documental Pedro Arrupe 2001 (3/5) 8'42"
Arrupe's activities as the General, problems with Liberation Theology, and comments by Ignacio Iglesias and Garcia Gutierrez.

Documental Pedro Arrupe 2001 (4/5) 7'32"
Arrupe's stroke and the troubles in Rome to get the Society back in order. The roles of Vince O'Keefe, Paulo Dezza, and Joseph Pittau

Documental Pedro Arrupe 2001 (5/5) 4'7"
The last days of Arrupe, his death, and the tomb alongside Ignatius and Xavier.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ignatius Loyola, the founder of Jesuits 3'02"

This is another short video from Loyola Productions on Ignatius Loyola, the founder of Jesuits. An unidentified person with a Roman collar (we may assume to be a Jesuit) narrates the beginnings of Ignatius' conversion, starting from Ignatius marching against the French and ending with his confrontation with a moor. Various Ignatius-related slides form the animated background. An appetizer for those who may like to know about Ignatius.

The Jesuits - ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam 3'20"

Here is another video related to the promotion of Jesuits. Essentially a slide show with micro-video clips and a script of a few sentences. Quite interesting and captivating, both the images and the somewhat self-deprecating, but perhaps realistic, description of Jesuits... Made by Loyola Productions.

"A Holy Boldness" video about Jesuits 4'20

Here's a Jesuit Promotion Video made by USA Jesuits. Mostly testimonials of individuals (who are not identified) saying why they chose to be Jesuits. It would have been more credible and appealing perhaps if the persons had been identified.

The Japan Jesuits don't seem to have anything similar although they have a homepage at (Looks like someone is cybersquatting has nothing to do with the Jesuits!)

Here follows the video of Boston College Jesuits! (4'12")
Here are five Jesuits from Boston College performing "Living on Prayer" of Bon Jovi.

Thevocals: Fr. Donald MacMillan
Bass Fr. James Erps
Keyboard Fr. Richard
Lead Guitar Fr. Bienvenu
Drums Fr. WIlliam Neenan

An interesting way of promoting a College/University. Probably some universities in Japan may have started something similar. Will the Sophia University Jesuits be able to perform something similar, perhaps for an enka????

Dinesh debates

Here's Dinesh D'Souza, an interesting speaker of Indian origin and one of the few articulate, informed, and quick-witted defenders of Religion, against the opponents of religion and of belief in God. This is an excerpt from the long debate he had with Daniel Dennett, an atheist and professor at Tufts.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Opal Dreams

As I was writing about Whale Driver, I was reminded of Opal Dreams, an Australian movie that I saw a few weeks ago. Opal Dreams too is a story involving children, but much more credilbe than Whale Driver. The subtitle of Opal Dreams is Pobby and Dingan.
The story revolves around a little girl who has two imaginary friends, called Pobby and Dingan. She is about 8, and she has an elder brother, slightly older. The father is a freelance opal hunter in some outpost in South Australia. He is not too pleased with the girl's attachment to her imaginary friends, which goes to such extremes as setting seats and plates for them at table, conversing with them in front of others, consulting their wishes, putting their seatbelts on, and so on. In fact, the family tries to bring her to her senses now that she is getting to be an adolescent, but she is adamant about her friends.
It so happens that on a certain occasion the dad and brother take Pobby and Dingan on a ride and fail to bring them back. The girl is convinced that they have lost her friends somewhere and want them brought back. The dad even gets into trouble because of her insistence on finding Pobby and Dingan, but everybody tries to please the girl and find her friends. She is feeling lonely every day and gets quite sick. Perhaps the most touching part of the movie starts from there when her little brother takes upon himself to do all he can to please his sister. The end of the story is in what he does to make his sister happy and in whether the people who were laughing at her over he imaginary friends had any change of opinion.
Although this story too has a few incredible elements, overall it's quite credible. The movie really brings to focus the good will of many people and the family bond. The brother-sister bond, the father-son bond, the family-neighbors' bond, etc., etc., are quite moving.
It's not clear whether the author wrote the story with any 'spiritual' or 'philsophical' aspirations, but there are interesting questions posed in the movie, like: What is real and what is imaginary? Isn't imaginary real for the little girl and for many of us? Does real have to be touched and seen? Or, are only things touched and seen real? As a capion in the movie poster suggests, Are there things that can be seen and experienced only when they are believed? The girl in the story can draw accurate pictures of her friends, with proper dresses and make up, almost like most Hindus can tell you where each of the Major Hindu gods lives, how s/he is dressed, what his or her vehicle is, and so on. Actually most religious people can identify a figure as Mary or Joseph or Krishna or Rama simply by looking at it... even though none of them has seen Mary or Joseph or Krishna or Rama.

An Indian song to a Hindu god goes like this: "I don't care whether you are simply a figment of my imagination or an inanimate stone, I just cannot forget you or discontinue worshipping you." The statement looks a bit irrational, but most of our actions are quite along those lines. Much of what we claim to know and stake our reputation by, we only believe--perhaps on the authority of X or Y (who may be authorities or scientists)--but there could be several deceptions along the route, and what we are ready to die for can only be a figment of our imagination or unfounded belief.

I'm also reminded of the story in the Maccabees in the Old Testament (2 Maccabees 7,1-42), where a Jewish mother with seven children are ready to be burned alive rather than 'disobey God.' The only anticlimax of the story is what they believed disobedience to God was simply eating pork! Are the Maccabees to be admired because they preferred to die rather than eat pork? Or are they to be admired because they believed they were trying to please God? Or are they to be looked upon critically because they 'believed' eating pork is forbidden by God--so severely as to even risk their lives?

Whale Driver

Tonight I saw a New Zealand movie called Whale Driver, mostly with New Zealnd actors and actresses, most of them little known in this part of the world. The story is by Niki Caro. The acting of everyone is quite moving--especially of the young 11-year-old girl, who is the heroine, and of the ones who act as her grandparents. The story is about a Maori leader who expects a male offspring for his first son so that the grandson may continue the tribe's leadership and traditions. Unfortunately, the son's wife dies while giving birth and what's more the child born is a female. The grandpa is quite disappointed and is not too nuanced about showing it. The movie centers around the little girl's relationship with the grandfather, who has a love-hate relationship with the girl. Although he seems to love her by showing some signs of affection, he is bitter that the girl has destroyed his dream and that she has brought bad luck on the tribe. Of course, the girl goes through the pains of realizing that she is unwanted without entirely giving up her hope of winning the grandfather. Of course, the climax is, Does she succeed in winning her grandpa back?

The story is quite moving in many parts, especially in the scene when the little girl delivers a speach at school as she sheds profuse tears. Unfortunately, the story has quite a bit of unbelievable or, shall we say, supernatural or reason-defying elements, which make it a bit of tear-jerking fantasy, not entirely credible. There is the Deus-ex-machina to redeem the situation even in hopeless cases. But for that, it's a moving story overall. I'm not all that a fan of fictions with such convenient supernatural interventions. Either a movie should go entirely into fantasy like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings; or it must tackle raw reality as is--at least to a believalbe extant. Whereas stories like Whale Driver or Emily Rose, however, move between rational and irrational realms making them somewhat shallow or hollow.

The photography and music are great. Beautiful scenes of the sea and sky and the green pastures. Green and blue remain with you even after the movie. The young girl was apparently nominated for numerous awards, perhaps including Oscar, and surely she does a great job.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Four Women in War [Hitler and four Women]

I watched tonight with some of my friends a little known documentary movie called "ヒトラーと4人の女たち" [Hitora- no 4nin no Onnatachi] or Quatre femmes dans la guerre or FOUR WOMEN IN WAR, directed by Patrick Jeudi. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing about this movie on the Internet. Even a search of 'Patrick Jeudi' reveals only one or two documentaries he had made before this, but not this one. I have no idea how this movie was made or what for or where it was shown first. No such information seems available. So here let me briefly write about this great documentary.
First, I watched this movie with a few Germans, Japanese, USA-ians, Irishmen, Indians, a Hungarian, and a Spaniard. In general all of them liked it as much as I did.
This is not a movie for entertainment, but a movie for a study of history, more like a documentary on the History channel. The whole movie seems to consist of movie clips and photos of the period; there are no actors playing any role. From beginning to end, there are various shots and movie clips, some quite moving and perhaps targeted to mature audience--especially some shots showing the war-wounded and naked bodies being disposed of like autumn leaves and twigs.
The movie seems to have been originally in French, but the one we watched was in English. As a documentary, the characters don't speak themselves except through a female narrator. So there is no perceptible mis-synchronization problem. The movie tries to tell the events in the life of four women at the time of Hitler, connected with Hitler's rise and fall. The four women are: Margaret (B.White), the American photo-journalist; Nancy Mitford, a British novelist and biographer known also for her relationship with Colonel Gaston Palewski, Charles de Gaulle's Chief of Staff; "Madeline," a French freedom fighter; and Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. The narrator introduces each of the characters and what they did during the time of war. Perhaps the longest time is given to Margaret, focusing on her pioneering activities as a woman photo-journalist during the time of war.
A few details about the movie: It's a "Roche Productions" production, made in 2005. It's about 98 minutes long. The opening note says: "Based on real characters. However, our narration has taken a few liberties." The narration seems to have been adapted from many sources related to the characters. Music is by Laurent Lesourd. The archive footage comes from many sources like Absolutely Archives and Natural Archives Washington. The International Sales seems to be handled by France Television Distribution.
The movie is worth watching mainly for historical education since it consits almost entirely of the movie clips of the period. There are numerous shots of Hitler himself in his private moments--segments that seem rare. The narration is quite gentle or objective (cool?)--without any sermonizing or revolutionary reflections.
Highly recommended for history buffs, historians of women's struggles in men's world, World War II historians, and those wishing to recall the painful experiences of the early 1940s.

First Entry

Hello World,
This is my first entry in this blog... just exploring what can be done. The real action will begin later on, I hope.
Here let me insert a photo I took of the Nakaura Julian Memorial building in the little village of Nakaura, near Nagasaki, Japan. More about this Julian later on!