During my seventh trip to Japan this year (and at the time of this writing, my most recent trip), I went to Mass on a Saturday evening on my last weekend for this trip. I elected to go Saturday evening knowing that I had to go to work the following day, Sunday. This particular Catholic church has a fairly strong Filipino presence, most likely because one of their priests is Filipino (the other is Australian!). It’s pretty small, but then again my home parish is huge.
Because I’m in the middle of renewing my Total Consecration to Jesus (through Mary), I brought my book with me to Mass with the intent of going through the day’s prayers and reflections after Mass. So I did.
I was trying to focus, but I didn’t realize some of the congregation stays to pray Vespers (Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours) after Mass. I figured I that I would join them and do my Total Consecration’s readings afterwards. So I did. As I was trying to focus on my book, Father came up to me because he saw me with it and invited me to hang out with him and some of the congregants because they usually do this after Mass for a little while. I accepted because I had nothing else going on that evening. On the way out, Father introduced me to some of the members of the church. Sometime in that process, Father got invited to go out to dinner because someone was celebrating their birthday, and by extension, I got invited too. Father drove me to the restaurant where we all enjoyed a celebration, Japanese food, and great conversations.
At dinner, I got to get to know one of the volunteers, the Filipino priest who invited me, as well as the fresh priest from India who has only been in Japan for two weeks. We talked about Catholic history in Japan, how I’m not a seminarian because I’m carrying around a Total Consecration book, the other Catholic religious communities present in the area, Filipino Father’s story, Indian Father’s story, my story, and the volunteer’s story. I think I also asked where a Catholic book store is located, and I had no idea that the other parish I go to in Japan has one! Also, because I talked about the ministries I’m involved with at my own parish, I even got invited to help in a similar capacity in the future at this church! Crazy! I mean, they once asked me to read at Mass during my sixth trip to Japan. So perhaps that’s not too surprising.
After dinner, Father drove me back to my hotel.
I say all these things because at the end of the night I reflected on how crazy of an opportunity this was to be able to just jump into a community and fit right in. I wouldn’t have jumped in at my own initiative because I just wanted to be that quiet gaijin (Japanese for “outsider” or “foreigner”) who keeps to himself. Therefore, it was quite wonderful to feel so welcomed by Father and his Filipino flock even though I don’t even go here.
Really, I think this entire experience is just an extension of Filipino hospitality because it has been my experience that Filipinos like to take care of each other, especially when not in the motherland. And then that invitation to be part of the community through the initiative of Father and for him to offer his time in hanging out with his flock and build community is definitely Catholic hospitality, as well.
This is awesome. I’m glad I stuck around after Mass, even if I’m mistaken to be a seminarian for it with my book. Because Catholic churches and the Mass always feel like home to me no matter where I am, it’s nice to know that here at this particular church in Japan, I feel even more at home now that I’ve connected with this community.