“HIBAKU NO MARIA” Inspires the Culture of Life, Solidarity & Peace
Feast of the Assumption of Mary &
In Commemoration of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Two months after Nagasaki’s atomic bombing, a Trappist monk, Fr. Noguchi, a native of Urakami、Nagasaki and who was living in a monastery in Hakodate, Hokkaidō, returned to his completely destroyed hometown. Sitting above the rubble of the formerly known Cathedral of Urakami and praying to the Holy Mother to whom he was devoted since childhood, he saw under his feet the head of the statue of Mary Immaculate, once placed above the altar of the Cathedral. Deeply moved, the monk brought it to his monastery of Hakodate. In 1975, thirty years after the explosion of the bomb, Fr. Noguchi decided to return the statue to the parish of Urakami. In Nagasaki, the statue began to be called Hibaku no Maria.
The contrast between the atomic bomb and the bombed statue of the Virgin is impressive: they represent, we can say, two cultures about which the Pope John Paul II talked - the "culture of death" and the "culture of life" (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 21-24). The atomic bomb, a symbol of the culture of death, destroyed, in an instant and in an indiscriminate way, numerous lives. In the museum of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, we can see several photographs that testify to that tragic day. In front of these photographs, we cannot escape from the eternal question: What is life? What does it mean? Can it be justified that anyone, for any reason, would destroy the life of someone? From the culture of death which is against our human nature which was created to live, no life can be born. We need the "logic of gift," as Pope Benedict XVI tells in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009). Only through the category of the "gift," we can see the true relationship with God, with ourselves, with other people and with all creation: the relationship based on the sincere and patient way of dialogue. We need, then, a disinterested love, the love that, offers oneself totally for others, does not claim anything but love. Looking only on the Crucified, can we recognize such love? The Son of God was really incarnated in the womb of the Virgin to make visible God's love- the love that pushed him to walk the path to his death on the cross, in order to help us enter in his life, freed from death. And the Virgin Mary, his mother, was the first and complete witness of it.
The people who visit the statue of Hibaku no Maria, Christians or non-Christians, are often struck by the sense of motherly compassion and forgiveness, which somehow, permeates this church. Strangely enough, in her burned face and "empty" eyes (the heat of the bomb had melted her eyes of glass) that saw the tragedy, one does not see any trace of hate or malice. Kneeling in front of the Hibaku no Maria, one begins to know how deep is the motherly heart of Mary, which, united closely to the heart of her son, shares his same sentiments ... forgiveness, solidarity, passion for every life created by the life-giving breath of God. The heart of the mother knows only to give life, and never to destroy it. In that "poor" statue without any exterior "beauty," we meet with the great "miracle": the Hibaku no Maria testifies that even in the midst of indiscriminate and exasperating destruction, the Mother has never abandoned her children, especially those in suffering, and has never taken back her appeal for the respect of every life, unique in this world.
To encourage people, to cooperate for the "culture of life," we are invited to contemplate the figure of the Virgin Mary as the "icon" that inspires and leads us to work for this purpose, in the concrete situation where we are now. May the Virgin Mary, help us to accept every life for itself, not for its utility, but as the "gift" of the Creator for all human beings. Starting only from this conviction, we are made capable to cooperate in building the Kingdom of Jesus among us, the Kingdom of God's blessings ... of peace and of reconciliation.
Excerpts from: “Nagasaki’s Devotion to Seibo (Holy Mother)”: Sr. Luca Maria Ritsuko Oka