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Sunday, July 5, 2015

An Instance When the Christian Cross Isn't Practical

This was back in April and written as such.

As I'm currently typing this out, I'm 6000+ miles away from home eating breakfast at a really nice hotel in the middle of Japan. I'll be going to Mass here in a few hours.

I've already been here for two weeks!

In my own desires and pursuit of Catholic nerdiness, I've sought Catholic churches nearby. The cathedral of this diocese is a solid 35 minute walk from my hotel, and I just recently found a mission church by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart that is only 25 minutes walk away.

In my brief Googling about Japan, I learned that Japan is only about 1% Christian.

First of all, I find it remarkable then that I was able to find two Catholic churches nearby! I would think that because the percentage of Christianity is so minuscule here that I would find difficulty in finding any Christian church much less a Catholic one.

However, in my excursions around the city in search of foods and Pokemon or on my commute to work, I see a surprisingly frequent sight: the cross. Not just any kind of cross but the Christian cross.

Totally a wedding venue...with reception viewed from my 20+ story hotel room.
It turns out that most of these establishments that display a Christian cross are actually not Christian churches, but rather wedding chapels. Apparently "Western-style" weddings are a popular thing here, but "Western-style" also seems to be synonymous with "Christian-style". With the population being 1% Christian, I begin to wonder how sincere to the Christian tradition these Western weddings are.

Now, I don't know the reasons for this and why Japanese couples are into Western-style weddings that are similar to a typical Christian wedding. I'm sure that would be a fascinating anthropological and historical pursuit that I'll probably pick up some other time.

But here in Japan, seeing the cross around town like that doesn't necessarily mean Christianity. Most likely it's a wedding venue that does Western-style weddings. Any hint of Christianity beyond that based on symbols is probably merely for the look and the feels, but doesn't necessarily get to the heart of Christian tradition and worship. In other words, it's superficial and nothing more beyond the symbol itself. Which stinks when I'm trying to find somewhere to pray without having to buy a wedding package, haha.

So I take comfort in the Catholic churches that I've found nearby. Within is not only the Christian cross, but the crucifix. Behold, the man--the man on the cross. And that's what makes the crucifix a practical symbol of what is indeed Christian. Particularly...Catholic. Here in Japan, I can know with reasonable confidence that the place I'm at can trace its tradition and motivations to something truly Christian. I mean, come on, the crucifix has Jesus on it. It cannot be argued that it would be for anything else. It is not as easily hijacked for other purposes.

I have a thing for Benedictine crucifixes (distinguished by the Benedictine medal). This is the one I wear.
In today's world, I'm caring more and more that Christianity not be hijacked for other intentions than what Christ Himself, and the authority He Himself gave to His apostles, intends.

St. Francis Xavier, one of the first missionaries to Japan, pray for us!
- JD

PS Of course, there's also the bonus of the Blessed Sacrament being truly present in a Catholic church. ^_^v