Christ calls, Asians respond

Lent series 2023


Growing up and growing into faith

By Asami Ohmoto, Tokyo

March 01, 2023 03:26 AM

As the only one in her family who had not been baptized, Maki felt 'guilty' and 'felt something stuck' in her heart

Horseback riding is among Maki Shinozaki’s many interests

Horseback riding is among Maki Shinozaki’s many interests. (Photo supplied)

For many years, Maki Shinozaki hated the Church and refused to be baptized, but when she realized that without community she could not live with Christ at the center of her life she decided to be baptized.

In believing families, parents are taught by the Church that they have an obligation to transmit their faith to their children. In addition, parents have a strong desire to convey what they believe to be the most important thing. Sometimes that desire leads to unexpected results.

When she was in kindergarten Maki Shinozaki began to dislike going to church. But since her father was a Catholic, Sunday was a "family go to church day."

"Even when I didn't want to go, I was dragged to church on Sundays, so for me, a church meant a place I didn't want to go.”

"Her dislike of the Church grew into a dislike of Christianity"

She continued, “When I was in elementary school, I went to Mass even though I didn't want to, but I refused to go to Sunday school and quit."

For Maki, her dislike of the Church grew into a dislike of Christianity, and after she became a junior high school student, she stopped going to church completely.

"My mother and two younger sisters were eventually baptized, so everyone in my family except me was Catholic, and I was the only one who didn't go to church."

It happened that Maki’s high school and college were Protestant schools, so she had the opportunity for contact with the Bible. However, even after she finished school and got a job, her image of the Church did not change, and since she did not meet any believers she could "look up to" she did not draw any closer to the Church and Christianity.

However, she says she didn't hate God or Christ.

"I had God in the back of my mind, so when I did something, I thought, 'What would God do?' and I think I kept the teachings of Jesus in my heart for a long time.”

"It's hard to keep faith on your own"

Maki added, “As I got older, I wanted to be a better person, but I also thought that so long as I believed in Jesus, I didn't have to be baptized. However, in my late 30s, my state of mind gradually changed.”

As the only one in her family who had not been baptized, Maki felt "guilty" and "felt something stuck” in her heart.

“What I realized most keenly was that even if I tried to live the teachings of Jesus in my own way, my motivation would be blurred if I tried by myself.”

After thinking about it many times, Maki Shinozaki made a decision.

Last Christmas she visited the local Ube church and attended Mass for the first time in a long time.

While she was at Mass she realized, "It's hard to keep faith on your own, and if you go wrong, you need someone to correct you. If I become a member of the Church, I will be able to interact with various people and receive advice on a life of faith.”

And so, she decided to prepare properly and be baptized.

"I'm a weak person, so not everything I do is a good deed"

After the Mass, Maki gathered the courage to confide her thoughts to the pastor, Jesuit Father Hiroshi Katayanagi. The priest introduced her to Shinichi Takai who was in the first class of the Hiroshima diocesan catechist training program.

Like Maki Shinozaki, Takai himself had been away from the Church for a long time, so he understood her experience. He did not pressure her on her religious life.

Describing her current state of mind Maki said, "In the past, I tried to keep the teachings of Christ in mind, but it was often not accompanied by action. Of course, I'm a weak person, so not everything I do is a good deed, but I try to do as much as possible."

Maki likes the scene where the crucified Jesus prays, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34).

Remembering that "Jesus prays for us even when we deviate from his teachings," Maki is about to take a new step forward.

Maki Shinozaki will receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) at the Ube Church's Easter Vigil on April 8.

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