Edge of Faith March 2017 - Page 7

called Fumi-e, or stepping blocks of seventeenth century. The magistrates created bronze-cast plates with pictures of Jesus, or Virgin Mary and the Child on it, and they would line up everybody by the beach, and ask every citizen to step on these plates. The Japanese, being so highly visual and honest, they could actually tell who would be holding faith to Jesus. They would be arrested and sometimes tortured. This went on for two hundred and fifty years. So, what I remember about looking at these plates in person was that they were so smooth. You know, worn smooth that you could not tell what the image was about any more. And in the comments that accompany the exhibit, they mentioned Endo’s book,“Silence” and I recalled this book and went back home and read “Silence” in both Japanese and in English. Even though I was baptized in the Church, I call this my “True Baptism.” It was as if God was revealing to me what I was being baptized into — this history of persecution and trauma that, still, to this day, I believe, has had tremendous impact in the Japanese culture.

Right, absolutely. When you talk about them being truthful; you mean, they would notice even if they momentarily hesitated, then they would get arrested?

Correct, yeah.

That is just so sad. So, Endo has a different take on identifying with the culture. But some Catholics found Endo’s book to be offensive, due to the way that he handled apostasy. How did you initially receive that message, and did it change with you over time?

Well, this is a book that offends everyone, right? It offends the Japanese for reminding them of the past — the true past that the Japanese nationalism and isolationist tendencies have caused a lot of wars and aggression. We have to remember he is writing this in 1950, it is believed, to 1965, so we are fresh out of wars and the Japanese are still torn apart by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, it is not very comfortable reading about your country’s past aggressions. And yet, Endo found a connection there and if you are Catholic then you would think,“Why is he talking about priests who apostatized? Why not the heroes of the faith”? That is true when you read about it. You end up in the corner of those who’ve failed in the faith and yet, as I write in the “Silence and Beauty” book, I believe Endo has written a masterpiece of literature of grace. And he was beyond these objections and what Endo does is to set up the reader in such a way that we end up judging people. Then he turns that at the viewer — to us, and we realize that no matter how heroic we may be, we would think that we have stepped on our own Fumi-es.

If not the face of Christ, but perhaps faces of those who we love — the things we find beautiful or we cherish, in accommodating the culture or accommodating to trauma or pressures that are all about us. So, Endo carefully describes that psychology and that is why the Japanese, in general, Nagasaki diocese wanted to — and I think they did — ban the book. Nevertheless, in fact, Endo