Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Silence by Shusaku Endo. Translated from the Japanese by William Johnston --- 294 pages

Why is God silent when believers are cruelly persecuted for their faith? This is the cry from the heart at the center of Shusaku Endo’s spare and searing novel, Silence.  Written in 1966 and appearing in English tranlation in 1969, the classic is receiving new attention since a long promised film adaptation directed by Martin Scorsese is finally scheduled to debut in 2016.

The scene of Endo’s story is 17th-century Japan where two idealistic young Portuguese Jesuits have been smuggled ashore to keep the light of Christianity burning in a country which, after initially embracing Christianity through the efforts of Saint Francis Xavier, has outlawed it, and savagely persecutes Japanese Christians and the priests who minister to them.

The narrator, Father Sebastian Rodrigues, has also come to Japan to search for his one time teacher and mentor, Father Ferreira. The Church in Europe has been shaken by news that Ferreira, one of its greatest missionaries, has apostatized and renounced his faith. Not only this, but Ferreira now stands accused of aiding and abetting the Japanese authorities in their efforts to eradicate Christianity in Japan. Father Rodrigues is convinced the stories must be lies.

At first sustained by his dream of glorious martyrdom for the Faith, when Rodrigues witnesses the tortures inflicted upon the Japanese Christians, and realizes his presence caused their discovery by the authorities, all his deepest convictions are shaken to their roots.   Then Rodrigues in a moment of anguish finds himself facing the same choice as his mentor: to trample on an image of Christ, and thus renounce his own faith, or witness the excruciating torture and death of more Japanese Christians who have befriended and sheltered him.

Click HERE for a discussion of Silence on the blog Slow Church at Patheos.com.  

Click HERE for information on the Martin Scorsese film Silence from Wikipedia.

Andrew Garfield as Father Rodrigues and Shinya Tsukamoto as
the Japanese Christian, Mokichi, who gives refuge to the missionaries
in Martin Scorsese's forthcoming film, Silence, based on the novel by Shusaku Endo.

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