Here’s how this week’s arts and column begins:

Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 mark the 78th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of, respectively, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed on those days in 1945. Both cities, within the limits of the bomb sites, were reduced to rubble.

Takashi Nagai (1908-1951), a Catholic convert, Japanese doctor, radiologist, and survivor of the bomb, wrote the popular post-World War II book, “The Bells of Nagasaki.” 

In “A Song for Nagasaki,” biographer Paul Glynn, SM, charts Nagai’s spiritual evolution from atheist to ardent Catholic: a follower of Christ who came to believe that peace requires a radical turning of the other cheek.



  1. Phillip Aller says: Reply

    Another great article Heather! Thank you!
    Where there is evil there is always great love and faith that endure, never to be extinguished despite the evil that we do.

  2. Ruth Ann Pilney says: Reply

    Recently I fortuitously discovered Takashi Paul Nagai when I found this quotation online:
    “Just imagine if one fine day an invitation arrived that you have been waiting for for a very long time, from someone you have been waiting to meet. A person with whom you have longed to stay, to spend a long time talking together. On the day that invitation arrived, how great would be your joy?

    Death is God’s invitation, and it is with this joy in my heart that I await it. I know well how good and beautiful God is and how tenderly He takes care of me. For this reason, when I finally receive His invitation, I will be very happy to accept it.” Takashi Nagai, Thoughts from Nyokodo ~ via Julie Davis

    I am almost finished reading A Song for Nagasaki. It’s riveting. I recommend it and Thoughts from Nyokodo to everyone.

  3. I loved this book!
    I’m praying prayers of reparation for my country for using weapons of mass destruction on innocent civilians.
    We used a Catholic Church for the target in Nagasaki which had the highest population of Catholics.
    Japan had started negotiations with Russia when we dropped the bombs.
    Bishop Sheen had said that America lost her soul that day.

  4. Anonymous says: Reply

    Thank you so much for this piece on Dr. Nagai. I am glad to learn there is an English-language biography of him. I read and was deeply moved by his book “We of Nagasaki,” a compilation of survivor testimonials that he edited. It’s difficult to read but extremely powerful.

  5. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Yes, thank you all. Thanks for sharing the further reading suggestions, “We of Nagasaki” and Nagai’s “Thoughts from Nyokodo” which I had come across in my reading and earmarked for purchase when I return home.

    I’ve been thinking about the people who justified the civilian carnage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by maintaining that those deaths saved thousands or hundreds of thousands of other lives. I think that is the kind of calculation that simply doesn’t enter in for a follower of Christ. “Better that one man die than so many others,” said those who tortured Christ to death. Better that the child die than that the mother, the father, the child suffer, say those who lobby for the “right” to abortion. Better the elderly, diminished person die than…really what we are thinking is than be a “burden” on society. Better to kill someone else rather than suffer ourselves, all these arguments boil down to.

    Christ doesn’t enter into such calculations. He willingly offers up his own life. And he gives us the martyrs and saints. St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast is coming up later in August. Takashi Nagai, and so many others. Servant of God Adele Dirsyte, Fr. Willie Doyle,

    The calculators, those who to me play God with human lives, seem to me to have avoided considering the martyrs and saints. There is no explanation if that’s the word for them. They just are. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” They’re not an argument or a response or proof or evidence of anything. They just are. But if you don’t consider them, you’re not being fully honest. You’re not being thorough. You haven’t risked going deep enough into the mystery and the call of existence.

    So let us bow down before those like Nagai who shine like tiny lights in the darkness, and lead us toward the altar.