A tete-a-tete with a priest leads a Japanese atheist to baptism
Kazuhiro Sasahara met the priest suggested by his Catholic wife, a member of the Kitami Church on the Japanese island of Hokkaido
Kazuhiro Sasahara was born into a family of the Buddhist sect Jodo Shinshu but considered himself an atheist. Because his wife, whom he met while a student, was baptized as an infant, their marriage took place in a Catholic church and their three children were baptized as infants.
“I went to church once a year at Christmas and said nothing about my wife’s or my children’s faith, leaving that to my wife. Besides going to church on Sundays, my wife doesn’t talk much about her faith. However, compared to the beginning of our marriage, the statues of Mary and the crosses have multiplied throughout the house,” said the 63-year-old Japanese.
After retiring from years as a principal of primary and secondary schools, Sasahara engaged in extracurricular activities in the children’s classroom with the school board until April last year.
At that time, “I thought it might be better to have the same faith as my wife.” He did not believe in the existence of God, but as his remaining years were “shortening”, he wanted to go into the future “with the same attitude as my wife with whom I shared life for so many years”.
His wife, a member of the Kitami Church on the island of Hokkaido, in northern Japan, suggested that he meet the parish priest, Father Masahiro Uesugi of the Diocese of Sapporo. Since July last year, they meet once a month.
“At the time, I didn’t have a strong desire for baptism or to attend study sessions,” Sasahara said. “I just wanted to talk with the priest. I talked about the books I’d read, the movies I’d seen, the TV dramas, and the state of the world today, and the priest talked of his interests.”
“Thinking about the desire to go to good began to convince me of the existence of the Holy Spirit who leads the heart to good, and which I could believe”
Based on the Bible, they also discussed whether or not God exists. At one point, Sasahara presented a book that explained the low probability of life on the many planets in space.
He said that, according to the book, the odds are “similar to throwing the parts of a watch into a 25-meter pool, stirring up the water and pulling out the original watch.”
Sasahara continued, “As we were talking about the miracle of life, I came to think that the miracles of Christ in the Bible could be real.
When Sasahara first heard of the Holy Spirit, he thought it didn’t exist. But he realized that there are times when he desires the good and other times when he goes in the wrong direction.
“Thinking about the desire to go to good began to convince me of the existence of the Holy Spirit who leads the heart to good, and which I could believe,” he said.
“The Church can be a place of welcome for those who are in difficulty and who are looking for peace of mind. As a member of the Church, I want to be a person who can listen to them”
Describing his desire to be baptized, Sasahara said: “I have heard that even Father Uesugi’s faith can be shaken, but above all I think it is a great thing that I have been able to speak with him in mind. one-on-one on matters that I normally wouldn’t talk with anyone else.”
According to Sasahara, we “live behind a facade with others”. However, when he shared his heart with Father Uesugi, “I didn’t have to try to protect myself, I was able to look into my heart as I was.”
Sasahara said that when he decided to be baptized, “I asked Father Uesugi, ‘If I start a new life through baptism, how about doing it on my birthday?’
“My birthday happens to be April 16, this year’s Easter Vigil,” he added.
From her involvement with children and families struggling with various issues during her years as an educator, Sasahara feels that “the Church can be a place of welcome for those who are troubled and seek peace. of mind. As a member of the Church, I want to be a person who can listen to them.”
Kazuhiro Sasahara will be baptized at the Kitami Church during the Easter Vigil on April 16.
Support UCA News…
….As we enter the early months of 2022, we ask readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the past 40 years, UCA News has remained Asia’s most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service. Each week, we publish nearly 100 exclusive, in-depth reports, reports, commentaries, podcasts and video shows, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through discerning Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as those of the quality press; we are particularly focused on a rapidly growing part of the world – Asia – where in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can meet – South Korea, Vietnam and India for n to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having local reporters in its ranks who cover 23 countries in South, Southeast and East Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in ways that Western media simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the budding life of new Churches in ancient lands where being Catholic can sometimes be very dangerous.
With diminishing support from funding partners in Europe and the United States, we need to enlist the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out how you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5…