Believing in God is easy when life is going smoothly. But what about when communication is only one way. We ask, beg, plead for help. We hear nothing. The God we are devoted to feels absent.
That is the fictional story of Silence by Shusaku Endo. The tale begins with Father Sebastian Rodrigues, a Portuguese missionary priest, who plans to journey to Japan in the mid-1600s. Since childhood, Father Rodrigues loved Jesus and meditated upon his face and the reassurance of how Jesus suffered for our souls. His dream was to bring this love to Japanese Christians and encourage them through the sacraments and Scripture.
Rodrigues was aware of the physical risks in which this venture into volatile Japan could result.What he had not anticipated was how deeply his faith would be tested.
Silence is based on an actual time in Japan’s history when there were nearly 300,000 Christians in a population of 20 million. For reasons not well-understood, one of the country’s unifiers, a samurai named Hideyoshi, suddenly ordered all missionaries to leave the country. This law was not enforced until ten years later when Hideyoshi’s anger brewed again and executed a group of Christian missionaries.From then on, Christians were hunted down and persecuted.
A desperate underground missionary effort ensued as well as a reign of terror. Christians were to apostatize by trampling on fumie, crude carvings of Christ. If they did not, they were brutalized until they submitted or were killed.
The captivating novel of Silence is one you won’t want to put down. It’s well-written and suspenseful with multi-layered points to consider. For those of us who know little of this time in history, we are introduced to the poverty, deprivations, and suffering of the Japanese Christians. We can’t help but ponder the question of ,under such circumstances, how long could we defend our faith or trust our God who seemingly abandoned us?
Silence is available from ACTA Publications. Paperback, 240 pages, $16.
The motion picture, Silence, based on Shusaku Endo’s classic novel is in production and expected to be completed later this year. Directed by Martin Scorsese, stars include Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver.