Kazuhiro Sasahara met the priest suggested by his Catholic wife, a member of Kitami Church on Japan's island of Hokkaido
Kazuhiro Sasahara was born into a family of the Buddhist Jodo Shinshu sect but considered himself an atheist. Because his wife, whom he met as a student, was baptized as an infant, their wedding was held in a Catholic church and their three children were baptized as infants.
“I went to church once a year at Christmas and I didn't say anything about the faith of my wife or children, leaving that to my wife. Besides going to church on Sundays, my wife doesn't say much about her faith. However, compared to the beginning of our marriage, statues of Mary and crosses have multiplied all over the house," said the 63-year-old Japanese man.
After his retirement from years as a principal of elementary and junior high schools, Sasahara engaged in after-school children's classroom activities with the board of education until April of last year.
At that time, “I thought it might be better to have the same faith as my wife.” He did not believe in God's existence, but as his remaining years "shortened" he wanted to go into the future "with the same attitude as my wife with whom I’ve shared life for so many years."
His wife, a member of Kitami Church on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, suggested that he meet the parish priest, Father Masahiro Uesugi of Sapporo Diocese. Since July 2020, they have met once a month.
"At the time, I didn't have any strong desire for baptism or to attend any study sessions,” said Sasahara. “I just wanted to talk with the priest. I talked about books I had read, movies I had seen, TV dramas, and the state of the world today, and the priest talked about his interests."
“Thinking about the desire to go for the good began to convince me of the existence of the Holy Spirit who leads the heart to the good, and that I could believe”
Based on the Bible, they also discussed whether or not God exists. At one point, Sasahara introduced a book that explained the low probability of life on the many planets in space.
He said that, according to the book, the odds are “similar to throwing the parts of a watch into a 25-meter pool, stirring the water and drawing out the original watch."
Sasahara continued: “As we talked about the miracle of life, I came to think that the miracles of Christ in the Bible could be real.”
When Sasahara first heard about the Holy Spirit, he thought there was no such thing. But he realized that there are times when he desires the good and other times when he goes in the wrong direction.
“Thinking about the desire to go for the good began to convince me of the existence of the Holy Spirit who leads the heart to the good, and that I could believe,” he said.
"The Church can be a place to welcome those who are troubled and seeking peace of mind. As a member of the Church, I want to be a person who can listen to them"
Describing his desire to be baptized, Sasahara said: "I heard that even Father Uesugi’s faith can be shaken, but above all I think it's a big thing that I was able to talk with him one on one about issues that I wouldn't normally talk about with anyone else."
According to Sasahara, we "live behind a façade with others." However, when he shared his heart with Father Uesugi, "I didn't have to try to protect myself, I was able to look into my heart as I was."
Sasahara said that when he decided to receive baptism, “I asked Father Uesugi, ‘If I start a new life with baptism, how about doing it on my birthday?"
"It so happens that my birthday is April 16, this year’s Easter Vigil," he added.
From his involvement with children and families with various problems during his years as an educator, Sasahara feels that "the Church can be a place to welcome those who are troubled and seeking peace of mind. As a member of the Church, I want to be a person who can listen to them."
Kazuhiro Sasahara will be baptized at Kitami Church during the Easter Vigil on April 16.
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