Remembering Nagasaki: 9 August 1945
Takashi Nagai (1908 – 1951) was a physician and Catholic convert who worked tirelessly to help survivors in the aftermath of the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan, three days after the bombing of Hiroshima. Ill with leukemia before the bombing, the effects of radiation rendered him an invalid, barely able to leave his bed. He lived a contemplative life in a small hut near the ruins of the the Urakami Catholic Cathedral in Nagasaki, writing books and receiving visitors until he died in 1951.
Struggling to find meaning in this calamity, Nagai found a suggestion of God’s mysterious providence in the chain of events that led to Urakami Cathedral being at ground zero in the attack. Nagasaki was only the secondary target on 9 August 1945, which bombers approached only after finding the primary target, the city of Kokura, shrouded in thick clouds; once at Nagasaki, clouds over the Mitsubishi Iron Works, the intended target, compelled the pilot to fix his target over the visible dome of the Urakami Catholic Cathedral. Moreover, Nagai thought it significant that the war ended on 15 August — the feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Nagai concluded that Nagasaki had been chosen to atone for the sins of Japan in disobeying the law of love, and to bear witness to the cause of international peace:
“Men and women of the world, never again plan war!…From this atomic waste the people of Nagasaki confront the world and cry out: No more war! Let us follow the commandment of love and work together. The people of Nagasaki prostrate themselves before God and pray: Grant that Nagasaki may be the last atomic wilderness in the history of the world. — Takashi Nagai, Mystic of Nagasaki.
Source: Robert Ellsberg, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for our Time. Crossroad, 1997.