Sunday Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. The choir will be directed by Sebastian Modarelli, the music director at the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Rochester, Minn.
Among the final events is a Sunday evening presentation on Dr. Takashi Nagai and his wife Midori Mirayama, who lived in mid-twentieth century Japan.
Nagai was a convinced atheist but his reading of the French thinker Blaise Pascal led him to seek out Catholic Christianity. His experience of the Mass and his encounter with Midori’s example of faith and purity of heart led to his conversion to Catholicism, despite opposition from his father and other social pressures, according to their biography on the website of the association Friends of Takashi and Midori Nagai.
In the late 1930s he showed surprising bravery and charity as a medical doctor for the Japanese army in Manchuria, even though he was shocked by the brutality his fellow soldiers sometimes committed. He put his life at risk to secure medical supplies for his patients and even rescued wounded Chinese soldiers and secured supplies for them.
“Nagai’s story is the story of a man found by Christ through the encounter with a girl: Midori, who eventually became his wife,” Maniscalco told CNA. “It’s the story of his dedication to Christ through his work as a medical doctor in a bleeding Japan, his tireless work and testimony of faith, hope and love.”
Midori was a teacher and community leader, descended from the “hidden Christians” who preserved Catholic Christianity in Nagasaki. She wrote to Takashi and sent him a catechism during his service in the military. She married him knowing the health risks of his career as a radiologist, and indeed he developed cancer in early 1945. They had four children together, two of whom died in infancy.
Takashi survived the atomic blast from the Americans’ Aug. 9, 1945 attack on Nagasaki, and labored for two days to take care of survivors. Midori was not among them. Her husband returned to home to find their house devastated. He found only a few charred bones of his wife, next to her twisted, broken metal rosary.
He continued to help survivors and survived a serious wound after praying to St. Maximilian Kolbe, whom he had known from the Polish priest’s time in Japan. The doctor sought to live in hope and faith, encouraging survivors to “to walk the path of the beatitudes.” Despite his continuing cancer, he labored to rebuild Nagasaki and planted 1,000 cherry trees. He lived a life of poverty and prayer, writing books and letters when his declining health prevented other work.
Takashi Nagai died on May 1, 1951, admired by the people of Nagasaki and by many personalities around the world as “the saint of Urakami.”
For Maniscalco, the lives of this married couple help people know “that holy people exist, that the gift of faith brings hope and love even when an atomic bomb brings unbelievable devastation.”
Their lives will be presented at the New York Encounter by Gabriele di Comite, president of the Friends of Takahishi and Midori Nagai association; Chad Diehl, a historian at the University of Virginia; and movie director Dominic Higgins.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“We always try to conclude the Encounter with a powerful testimony of sanctity,” said Maniscalco. The 2019 event included testimony from both the husband and medical doctor of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, whose cause for canonization is under investigation. She was an Italian wife and mother of three who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 28, after living a life known for joy, faith, and love.
“A testimony of sanctity is an invitation to our own conversion and also to a more attentive gaze at those around us,” Maniscalco continued. “We’re all limited human beings, but a testimony of a changed life is stronger than all weaknesses and limitations.”
The pandemic has prompted “radical questions” about suffering, death, meaning, and how people should respond to these questions, Encounter organizers said in a statement.
Efforts to respond to the pandemic also prompted politically polarized answers that invited people “to follow a party line rather than a search for truth.” This situation added to other polarizations over political questions and encouraged the temptation to twist reality to fit our interpretations.
“It seems we live in different worlds, each with its own ‘truths’ that often spare us the hard work of seeking the truth. But at what price?” organizers asked.