Roman Catholic Missions — November 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Dress Code


Increased acquaintance with the Japanese had shown Xavier that both the rich and poor were inclined to despise a person that was not well dressed. He therefore abandoned the garb of poverty and procured from Portuguese merchants richer garments than he had hitherto worn. He took with him the letters and presents that had been furnished by the viceroy of India and the Bishop of Goa. these would have gone either to the Mikado or Shogun if circumstances would have been more favorable in Kyoto. As it was, they were given to the Lord of Yamaguchi, who in return send a large sum of money.


Detail showing both rubrication and illumination

The latter at once returned this, saying that a more acceptable gift would be permission to preach the Gospel. Xavier also gave the daimyo a large and beautifully bound copy of the Bible, telling him that in this book was written the whole of the sacred Law. verbal permission for teaching was at once granted, and four months later public notices were posted throughout the city proclaiming that the missionaries were at liberty to preach Christianity and the people to believe it. Moreover, the Daimyo presented the missionaries with a piece of land that belonged to a Buddhist monastery.


A Daimyo paying a state visit, illustration from ca. 1860

At the Daimyo’s residence Xavier met several Buddhist priests belonging to the Shingon sect. As they listened to his explanation of the attributes of God, they professed to find a great resemblance between his views  and what they themselves taught concerning Dainichi, that one so-called Buddhist Trinity who is the personification of wisdom and purity. They said to him: “we differ in language and customs, but in reality the law taught by you and by us is one and the same.” They invited him to their temples and in other ways showed themselves very friendly, apparently hoping to profit by the favor which he enjoyed with the Daimyo.

Xavier set himself to learn what he could about this Dainichi. Froez says: ” he asked about the three persons and the relations that existed between them, about the incarnation and the second Person, and about the mystery of redemption through the cross. The priests had no knowledge of these doctrines and ridiculed them as fables. Xavier recognized that their specious doctrines and the words in which these were disguised were the work of the Devil. he ordered Juan Fernandez to preach through the streets that men ought not to adore Dainichi nor to consider him as a God and that it was an invention of devils and a tissue of falsehood.”

It is not strange that Xavier soon ceased to be a welcome guest at the temples and the priests did their best to counteract his influence.

Daigoji Bentendo Temple

This photo shows the Bentendo (of the Shingon Sect), a pavilion devoted to the goddess of eloquence Benzaiten, at Daigoji, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan.

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