Jesuit rediscovers himself amongst rubble of Japanese Tsunami

Jesuit Jody Magtoto was in Japan this past May, helping in the relief effort for victims of the tsunami. He reflects on how he rediscovered his Jesuit identity in the midst of the rubble:

I had been in Kamaishi for two days by then. Because I had taken some courses in Japanese, I could sort of understand what was going on. But I came to realize that because my words and thoughts were in English, I could not articulate what I wanted to say. I decided then to keep my words to a minimum lest I offend or be misunderstood.

That night, after a long day spent in the tiring clean-up operations and after supping in self-imposed silence, I decided to have some time by myself. I sat on a bench and fixed my gaze on the bittersweet horizon where the melancholy of the ruin caused by the tsunami met the magnificence of the stars.

“Jody-san,” the quiet was broken by one of the volunteers. We had worked together that morning clearing up the debris from one of the houses. He sat beside me, and like me, looked towards the horizon. “I’m not a Christian, so forgive me for asking—what exactly does a Shingakusei do?”

“Well …” I began as I grasped for words, trying to explain in the simplest terms what being a seminarian is all about. He listened intently as I grappled to explain without theological jargon, in a mixture of Japanese and English, what theology is.

“So how many years does it take before Shingakusei becomes a shinpu?” he asked.

I explained the number of years it takes to become a priest, and as briefly as I could, explained the formation in the Society of Jesus. When he found out that I had been a software engineer prior to joining the Jesuits, he paused for a long time, then looked at me and asked, “But why? I mean, why leave all of that? That sounds like a well-paying and stable job.”

I was at a loss for words. How does one talk about vocation to a non-Christian? [more]


National Jesuit News