Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Messages from Our Lady of Akita—a follow-up

On Saturday, I was looking through various news reports, still trying to make sense of what had happened in Japan on Friday, when I came across an item of interest about the Shrine of Our Lady of Akita.

In 1970, the Bishop of Niigata, Most Rev. John Shojiro Ito, erected a second-order religious institute, the Seitai Hoshikai (Institute of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist), with their motherhouse to be set in the northeastern hills near the Soegawa district of Akita. Among the postulants of this new order was an older lady, Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa, who had recently lost her hearing.

(By the way, I don’t know whether Japanese Catholics take on Western Christian names at the baptismal font or only when pursuing a consecrated vocation; I would be grateful for enlightenment on this point.)

In 1973, Sr. Agnes began to have a series of visions, culminating in three apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, who gave her some apocalyptic warnings and injunctions to pass on to her superiors. She also received a stigmata in her left palm, in the shape of a cross. Two years later, the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the chapel began to shed tears, as well as blood from a similar stigmata. Scientific analysis showed that the tears and blood were human. This recurred over one hundred times between 1975 and 1981; at least once, the phenomenon was viewed on national television.

In doing the research on this matter, I came across one claim that Sr. Agnes was a “known alcoholic” who’d had several visions of demons trying to eat her soul, and that “Later on, all the NUNS admitted to cutting themselves and applying the blood to the Idol in hopes of inspiring locals to attend church.” Amazingly, I couldn’t find any further documentation of these “well-known facts”. Given the misuse of “nuns” (the Handmaids aren’t cloistered), the capitalization of “idol” and the respondent’s crack about “chrisatans’” attention to detail, I suspect these “well-known” facts have the same source as the papal miter with “VICARIVS FILII DEI” written in gemstones on it—the fertile imagination of some anti-Catholic fundamentalist bigot “lying for Jesus”.

In fact, the late Bp. Ito investigated the matter for several years prior to formally authorizing the veneration of Our Lady of Akita on April 22, 1984, and was one of the witnesses to Sr. Agnes’ stigmata. In doing his due diligence, he obtained the official records from the doctor who diagnosed Sr. Agnes’ deafness, which was miraculously cured on May 30, 1982, on the Feast of Pentecost at the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In his letter authorizing the veneration, +Ito wrote:

I have known Sr. Agnes Sasagawa for more than ten years. She is a woman sound in spirit, frank and without problems; she has always impressed me as a balanced person. Consequently the messages she says that she has received did not appear to me to be in any way the result of imagination or hallucination.

There is a difference, my friends, between an institute and an institution. One of those minor details we Catholics pay attention to that various anti-Catholics and anti-Christians tend to skip over.

In the context of the years from 1973 to 1984, it was easy to read a prophecy of nuclear war and nuclear winter into the text. And even now, such a possibility hasn’t disappeared; we get an ugly reminder of that fact every time Kim Jong-Il decides to rattle his atomic sabers.

In that same period, though, the abandonment of the priesthood and consecrated religious orders wasn’t a prediction but an ongoing fact. Knowing this kind of fact tends to impose a reserve even with a formally approved private revelation.

Nevertheless, it would be foolish to completely discount Sr. Agnes’ revelation. For one thing, like Fatima (and unlike Medjugorje), the apparition was limited in time and scope, and offered nothing offensive to Catholic dogma. Second, at least two healings—that of Sr. Agnes and that of a Korean woman who was dying of an inoperable brain tumor—have been verified and attributed to Our Lady of Akita, and +Ito’s letter alludes to more. (The cure of Teresa Chun-sun Ho was particularly dramatic, as she woke up from a vegetative state into complete health.)

But mostly, besides the nuclear power that resides just to the east of Japan and which is in the control of a total nutjob, the reactor explosions and core melting at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remind us that we humans are perfectly capable of setting our own Ragnarök into motion. Too often, we attempt to utilize a technological advance before we fully understand the implications and the possible consequences; we constantly fool ourselves into thinking that we know just about everything, when the ground truth is we don’t know how much we don’t know.

I’d not heard of Our Lady of Akita before, and I knew very little about the Fatima prophecies, when I first wrote my fears about the fall of the West. Nor did I know last Monday, when I wrote about the possible Dystopias hidden inside the technological advances projected for the future. So I guess you could say reading about Akita while looking at the photos of Friday’s calamity didn’t make me feel any more optimistic … especially if you read my post on Impractical Catholic.

But as Mark Shea has pointed out, most prophecies aren’t visions of what must be but of what may be. The difference between a Jonah and a Cassandra is whether the prophet is heard and believed in time or not. And the Scriptural evidence shows that God can be haggled down by a saint, that it doesn’t take a lot to stay His hand.

If there’s anything we should be skeptical of, it’s not apparitions and personal revelations. We should be skeptical of Technological Man, who despite his self-description Homo sapiens isn’t very wise at all.

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I have a new stand-alone page that features a litany for Our Lady of Akita and the holy saints of Japan. Please join me for the remainder of Lent in offering this prayer, plus the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, once a day for the earthquake and tsunami victims.


  1. I would broaden the scope of that skepticism to include the hysterical hyperventilating currently spouted as regards nuclear power and it's possible problems.

    A reactor is to a nuclear bomb as Vaseline is to napalm. Thats as close as the two come. The use of the term "explosion" to describe the events in Japan is inaccurate. A better description would be a rupture of the containment vessel caused by overheated coolant within it. But thats a more cumbersome terminology so "explosion" is used.

    There is no China Syndrome, there is no chance of nuclear reactors blowing massive holes in the Earth and wiping out entire cities. What happens when cooling water flow is lost to an operating reactor (the basic problem in Japan right now) is that the core will overheat the noncirculating liquid coolant and the containment vessel will rupture. You see the same thing in hot water heaters at home where the pressure relief has become inoperative and the elements overheat. As a matter of fact thats exactly what a nuke reactor running a power plant is, a boiler that produces steam to run the turbines of the plant. Just like a coal fired plant.

    I know this from having been stationed aboard nuclear powered subs for 22 years. I wasn't trained in the operation/maintenance of the power plant, but a basic understanding of it's operation was required of all hands. That basic knowledge is far and away more than the average man on the street knows. This isn't meant to denigrate anybody, I'm only explaining the source and extent of my knowledge.

    So take all the news stories with a grain of salt, they're designed to play on the fears of the public. It's a way to sell a product, would everyone be paying as much attention to the problem if we were all assured there was no long term problem coming from this tragedy?

    As for the long term effects of any radiation released, the legacy of Chernobyl is useful here. A much worse disaster, it has resulted in two, only two, deaths that could be directly attributed to radiation exposure.

    Again, I'm not trying to play "know-it-all" about this. I only have the benefit of my knowledge solely because of a military career spent on nuke subs.

  2. That's good to know. At the same time, though, I don't think it detracts from my conclusion. We could just as easily spell our own doom by removing something from our genetic code that was supposed to be there but some wiseacre technocrat decided was a bug that needed fixing ... or any other number of advances that get put into play simply because they appear to solve a problem. Hiroshima and Nagasaki to me represent our tendency to explore some technology into existence and rationalize its use without taking the time to understand the moral and political implications.

    (BTW, were you on attack subs or boomers? Not part of the argument ... I'm just interested as a military brat, amateur historian and failed Marine.)

  3. The caution you voice is exactly whats needed before we cheerfully insure our species' demise. I'd guess a better way to present my argument would have been to point out that most folks don't know OR need to know the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. Thats a pretty basic piece of knowledge if we're talking about nuke power. But as with many other esoteric fields, we rely upon the objectivity and honesty of those more knowledgable. In the case of nuke power there are quite a few folks with an axe to grind. That goes for both sides of the debate.

    I was on two boomers, three fast attacks. If you asked which was "better" I'd say neither one. The advantages/disadvantages all depended on a crewmember's life situation at the time.


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