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.