The interests of the Church in Japan, as has been seen, were for a long time entrusted to the Societe des Missions Etrangeres of Paris and thus, nearly all of missionaries were French. After the Spanish -American war many of the Dominicans removed from the Philippine Islands, and in 1904, the Propaganda having caused the Islands of Shikoku, which then had three hundred Roman Catholic Christians and four chapels, to be given into the care of their order, six of these Spanish friars went to this field. A company of Franciscans have settled in Sapporo, where considerable of their time is given to the teachings of English, German, and French, probably with the hope suggested a report of the Societe des Missions-Etrangeres, which says:
“If the teaching of languages has a result a students’ hostel and later a real college, it may be believed that the elite of the next generation will be led to our holy religion”.
The desire of the Jesuits to reenter Japan has at length been granted, and in 1908, members of the Society went thither, entrusted with the task of founding an educational institution of high grade. Thus three of the orders that long ago labored in Japan have returned to the scenes of their former triumphs and sufferings.
A company of Trappists that had come to Japan in 1896 and established a monastery near Hakodate, began, about,1901, to attract considerable attention because of accounts that were published by journalists who had visited them and been impressed by their austere method of life At first the community had experienced great difficulties from the severity of the northern winter, from sickness and even death, from the hostility of the people among whom they settled, from unfriendly articles in the newspapers, from the interference of officials, from the destruction of one of their buildings in a typhoon, and from insufficient funds.
M。Ferrand has taken much interest in the establishment of hostels for students attending higher institutions of learning. This work he began in 1899, when a small building for the purpose was obtained in Tokyo. Soon afterward another was opened in Kanazawa (Kaga). In these hostels the students paid for their lodgings, but , in addition to begin under helper influences ,they received from the missionaries gratuitous instruction in foreign languages.
In 1906, M.Ferrand, in writing of what had been accomplished, said of the boarders in these hostels:
“Under a gentle paternal surveillance, a rule easy to accept ,they live in an atmosphere really Christian, where they receive instruction adapted to their needs from a religious philosophical, historical ,and scientific point of view . Little by little ,thanks to the lectures they follow and to private conversations ,the errors and prejudices imbibed at school are disappearing; ignorance and doubts are vanishing ;the true religion and its ministers are better understood and appreciated. Many souls who have remained upright come nearer to us and make the decisive step for which they are prepared; the light shines for them and it is thus that more then a hundred students have been converted and baptized.
“We have also established a club of Catholic students to group together all those who are in Tokyo and through them attract the non-Catholic young men. This little society counts in all about eighty members; they meet once a month for conferences given by the missionaries and the older students….For more then a year the members of the Catholic students club have published little monthly review of about seventy pages, called the Shin Riso (New Ideal),which treats from a catholic point of view all serious questions which may interest the student”*
The Japanese are very fond of theatrical representations, and in some places the missionaries have taken advantage of this fact for reaching the people by means of what bear some resemblance to the mystery plays of the Middle Ages. At one of the first exhibitions of the Twenty six Japanese Martyrs. A report of it says :
“ The actors preformed their parts with faith and true piety.
From the fifteen or sixteen pagans that the building could contain not a single unpleasant word was heard. On the contrary, the pagan women wept with emotion ,while the men waxed indignant over the cruelty with which the executioners treated the martyrs .The effect that was produced has exceeded our hopes .
Many pagans who for some years have been inclined toward Catholicism were converted.”
Many publications have been issued in recent years. M. Ligneul has been specially active in preparing a number of books on subjects more or less directly connected with religion. These have established for him a reputation as a scholar, and probably led to his being invited to give a series of lectures at Tokyo ,before the Imperial Educational Society.
Little had been done to develop self-support in Japanese Churches. Father Steichen writing in 1904 of the self-sacrificing spirit of the missionaries, said:
“Instead of requiring the faithful to come to their aid, whether for the maintenance of churches or for other running expenses, as it is done in all other parishes throughout the word, they deprived themselves of necessaries in order to defray the expenses themselves . So the 58,086 Catholics of Japan contribute hardly 2,000 yen for the maintenance of the Mission.”*
M. Sauret wrote, in 1905,that the cost of living had so increased that most of the missionaries had dispensed with their catechists, and he went on to say :
“This means an absolute standstill in our missionary labors, properly speaking, as it is impossible for us Europeans to do any direct work among the pagan element of the population. To reach it we need the catechist as an intermediary ; the very fact that we are foreigners is an insuperable obstacle to our being admitted in a pagan family, much less gaining its confidence”.
The same letter says:
“The diocese of Nagasaki is rather behind in regard to the evangelization of the pagans ;this is due to the fact that the old Christians of St. Francis Xavier, discovered by Bishop Petitjean in 1865,are all in this part of the country. For many years the missionaries had all they could do to minister to those Christians, who numbered several thousands. Although they had kept the faith, they were very ignorant and had to be instructed and trained in practices of religion. I was the first one to attack the pagans and not without some success. I formed a catechist to clear up the ground for me, and that man has brought to the faith a number of pagans”.
After speaking of the need for a dispensary, the letter continues:
“But if we want dispensary to do some good to the soul, we must also employ Catholic Japanese nurses. They are indispensable and would alone be able to make conversations. Sisters might have direction of the institution, but they could do no effective work for the evangelization of the pagans. Their habit and their nationality would always stand in their way. The Japanese keep strangers at a distance. In their heart of hearts they despise them more or less, though externally they preserve a respectful silence. There is no possible intimate association under such conditions and consequently the heart is not won over and it is difficult to effect a sincere conversion. In dispensaries and in hospitals a Japanese woman could do a great deal of good. A sick man or woman would speak with sincerity and would not hesitate to ask her about the character, life, and religion of the foreigners at the head of the dispensary. From admiration it will be easy for them to pass to imitation. The patents would not dare to ask similar questions of the Sisters; and even if they did, they would not pay much heed to the answers; in their opinion all foreigners must have a motive of human interest for coming to Japan and it must be for there advantage to keep it concealed. With such a feeling of distrust, no mutual confidence can be established. After they are once converted, the men will speak frankly to me of their disposition before baptism. Nurses, therefore, will not only do good at the dispensaries, but they will dispose men to study the Christian doctrines by visiting them in there homes. …… Moreover, if a child is dying in the neighborhood, it can be baptized unknown to the parents.
My woman catechist baptizes a number of pagan children every year in this way .Everyone knows that she is my employ, and as I have a reputation of being a good medical doctor, the people imagine that, by being associated with me, she has learned to take care of the sick. She can present herself anywhere where there are sick children. She has a weakness for finding fever and always discovers microbes in a dirty skin, she of course, needs water to lower the temperature or bath the parts affected by the microbes.
Imperial recognition of Christian philanthropy was shown, about this time, by the conferring of the Blue Ribbon on M. Bertrand and Sister Marie Colombe, for what they have done among lepers, and on M. Corre for his works of charity. This honor is bestowed on persons that have performed noteworthy deeds of public utility. On M. Vernier, who has been engaged in education was conferred the decoration of the order of the Order of the Sacred Treasure.
Perhaps the most successful enterprise under Roman Catholic auspices has been the schools of the Marianites.
That it was reaching the upper classes of society is shown by its having thirty pupils from families belonging to either the old or new nobility of Japan. There were twenty-eight sons of generals or admirals; while others were sons of ambassadors, ministers of state, consuls, judges, members of the diet, etc. Two of the Marianites were professors in the Imperial University, one taught in the Nobles’ School, and two in military schools. The order also had a school at Nagasaki with 388 pupils another (begun in 1906) at Kumamoto and a commercial school at Osaka with about 600 students.
Paris Foreign Missions Society: