Friday, May 7, 2010

Case of Christovao Ferreira, Hero of Endo Shusaku's "Silence," now Online

Nagasaki 26 Martyrs Museum
Nagasaki Jesuit Museum of 26 Martyrs

I remember reading the novel Silence of Endo Shusaku many years ago and being touched, like everybody else, perhaps, by the hard decision faced by the main character. The book, written in Japanese under the title of Chinmoku, was translated by the Jesuit Fr. William Johnston (who, by the way, was a friend of the late Endo Shusaku and is now unfortunately bed-ridden) and published first by Sophia University, in cooperation with Charles E. Tuttle Co., in 1969. As it gained popularity around the world, mainly among Christians, it was published by others and established itself as a great Christian classic.

Silence is essentially the story of a Jesuit priest of the 17th century by the name of Christovoa Ferreira, who, under torture, gave up his faith while even many of his Jesuit confreres, lay men, women, and children underwent torture and stood firm in their faith. In the novel, Ferreira encounters Rodrigues, another daring Jesuit who tries to set the wrong done by Ferreira right; the novel touches on the question of commitment, loyalty, fidelity, faith, etc. Ferreira, of course, was not the only one who gave up his faith, but the fact he was a Jesuit and acting as the 'Provincial' or local superior when he succombed made him a special person of interest. The novel, of course, takes literary liberties with the true events, and it is easy to get confused as to which parts are true and which are not--much like in the case of Da Vinci Code.

It is this confusion that Fr. Hubert Cieslik wanted to remove by writing a detailed account of the historical events that led to Ferreira's apostasy and the events that followed. Cieslik's account was published in 1973 in the Sophia University journal Monumenta Nipponica, and, to my knowledge, no free copy was available on the Web. Now, at last, a freely downloadable version of Cieslik's article is available for everyone to read, print, and 'enjoy'--if enjoying is possible while reading such an event.

The case of Ferreira and the seriousness with which people took Faith those days are sure to be startling to modern readers--especially at present, when so many scandals plague the Church and other Authorities. Some may even see a parallel between the priests of those days and the priests of these days... and the current social climate that makes 'apostasy' invisible or casual.

You can access Cieslik's article by clicking the picture below and selecting the appropriate (first, for some time at least!) entry.

1 comment:

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I haven`t read this novel yet, but after reading your post i will have to fetch and read that..
Thanks for this great post.