Book Review: The Smile of a Ragpicker

Book Review: The Smile of a Ragpicker

November 22, 2014

Satako Elizabeth Maria Kitahara in the little chapel in Ants Town

Satako Elizabeth Maria Kitahara in the contemptible chapel in Ants Town

Father Paul Glynn, S.M. has vouchsafed it again, bringing us a record of saintliness in post war Japan. He introduced us to the signal Dr. Takachi Nagai in A Song according to Nagasaki, and now to Maria of Ants Town in The Smile of a Ragpicker.

One of the huge charms of the lives of saints is erudition about how they overcame self to exist Christ for others. Satoko Kitahara was a young woman of prerogative and nobility, college educated in pharmacology, and regular to the best life has to be at hand. In this book we learn by what mode God prepared her heart to accept His call to conversion and religiousness, and the enormous effect she had up~ post war Japan through her life amid the poor.

In 1990 the prestigious Japanese monthly, Bungei Shunju, named Satoko being of the cl~s who one of the fifty Japanese women who “moved the nation the most” during the sixty-brace year reign of Emperor Hirohito. Numerous plays, movies, and books on the point her life have been produced athwart the years, such was the afflatus she gave to others. She, herself, would not at any time have thought of such honors nor glory as she lived and died in want in a Tokyo slum where mob displaced and impoverished by the fighting found a way to survive and the route to Christ.

We should never rate below the true value the power of grace nor the efficiency of simple religious objects to stir the centre of one who unknowingly longs on the side of the good, the true, and the handsome. Satoko wrote of her awakening to that nameless “something” upon beholding a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Church of the Sacred Heart forward a visit to Yokohama. This descendant of Shinto priests going back well superior a thousand years wrote:

This was the surpassingly first time I had seen a statue of the Blessed Mother. Drawn, I comprehend not why, to enter that temple, I gazed on the statue, sensing the port of a very attractive force that I could not explain. I had always experienced a unsettled but strong yearning for the Pure. It was not event I could describe in words but that it was definitely with me from minority. The very first time I remember glimpsing the sort of seemed a worthy object of this not high longing was in Meiji Shrine when I was about seven years ~en. My parents had taken me at the same time for the religious festival called Shichi-Go-San, and I had my in the beginning glimpse of miko, the shrine maidens who attend in Shinto sanctuaries. I was barely a child but those miko in their beaming red skirts and white cotton blouses are vividly etched in my renown to this day. I suppose my essence was conditioned for that experience through a long line of Shinto parson ancestors.

Satoko, to the discomfort of her parents, threw herself into the study of Catholicism and was baptized Elizabeth without interrupti~ Sunday, October 30, 1949. Her guardian saint, Elizabeth of Hungary, well known in the place of her care of the poor, was to obtain great significance in the vocation Satoko readily followed. On November 1, 1949, she was confirmed through the name, Mary after the Mother of Jesus.

From her teen years Satoko suffered with tuberculosis, a disease without a strong cure in the early 1950s. I myself remember life tested for TB every year at the Catholic gradient school I attended, and dreading the ordeal coming up positive, so Satoko’s misery was a real possibility for ~ persons of us in those days. However, she gave herself entirely to the poor of Ants Town, and in in the way that doing brought hope and joy to the lank she picked rags and trash by every day until she became too weak to do more than importune in her small room near the chapel in that dark retreat. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Maximilian Kolbe from one side Brother Zeno played a big interest in her transformation from a young woman of deliver with numerous opportunities to make a agreeable marriage into a leader and nurturer of the lean children and families she pushed carts by.

Reading this book will help westerners have knowledge of a bit about Japan and to what extent extraordinary Satoko’s life and toil were for her times and civilization. It also shows how Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism were edifice blocks for her conversion, illustrating St. Thomas Aquinas’ relation that “grace builds on sum total of sensible objects.” By the time of her dissolution at age 29 in 1958, God had burnished all her rough edges of self-interest into His likeness. People flocked to her deep, Christian and non-Christian alike, reporting numerous cures due to her intercession. In 1975 Archbishop Shirayagi of Tokyo began inquiries into her reputed piety. Newspapers described her as an “desperate witness against the selfishness and materialism” distress hold in post war Japan.

Upon lection this book I am once afresh amazed at how God raises up amongst us in our times those who will show His semblance to the sick and suffering, completely reckoner to the so-called wisdom of the world.

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Tags: Japan, Saints, Satako Kitahara

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 Book Review

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