A reflection from Dorothy Day on the Transfiguration and the opening of the atomic age 65 years ago

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, Japan, talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the history of the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki Aug. 5. The original cathedral was built in 1914, but was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Ban visited Nagasaki ahead of the 65th anniversary of the Aug. 9 atomic bombing of the city. (CNS photo/Junko Ito, Catholic Weekly of Japan)

Sixty-five years ago two bombs opened the nuclear era, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) and sending humanity on a new course.

Aug. 6 is also the feast of the Transfiguration, the time when Christ, joined by Peter, John and James, went up what traditionally has been identified as Mount Tabor in Galilee and was transfigured before their eyes. Matthew tells us that Christ’s face “shone like the sun and his garments became as white as light.”

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and who at times has been promoted as a candidate for sainthood, offered her thoughts on the bombings shortly after they occurred in the Sept. 1, 1945 issue of The Catholic Worker newspaper. Her reflection connects the bombings with the Transfiguration event and, not mincing words, leads the reader to ponder the words of Christ in relation to how our brothers and sisters in the world are treated in relationship. She contrasts the U.S. sense of triumphalism that followed the bombings and the dangerous road on which the world had embarked.

You can read the readings from Mass today here.

5 Responses

  1. While it is desirable to reduce the number of innocent casualties, it is not always possible. Like surgery, some of the healthy tissue must also go with the bad.

    It is strange that some of the most criticism about using a a-bomb comes supposedly intelligent people. They seem to forget, that there is a finite number of choices, there is a time limit to make decisions, and we have to go one what one knows at the time. It is easy to judge the past, it will be more interesting how the future will judge the present.

    Having lived through WW II, and talking to many relative who had combat duty in the Pacific, the estimated casualties from an invasion of Japan would have been in the millions. Remember the Japanese Army officers had a much different way of thinking. They even killed one of their own generals to keep the surrender broadcast from happening. Nor did it bother them if millions of their own people died, just as it didn’t bother them at the millions of Asians they killed (remember the germ warfare experiments in Manchuria, or “rape” of Nan king).

    Somehow one seems to think one can due surgery by removing only the “bad” tissue. Good luck on that one. We are finite humans, we can only do the best on what we are given at the given time.

    For those who say let God decide, seems you are doing God’s thinking. Maybe just maybe, he might be working through people He gave responsibility to make those decisions. One should be very careful about what we think God wants, as Peter found out when told by Jesus, you thinking in human terms, not God’s.

  2. 2314
    “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.”
    –Catechism of the Catholic Church

  3. D, was that in the Catechism in 1945?

    Remember that the Catechism has changed from then, and will most likely change in the future. So what is written in it today, may not be written in it tomorrow.

    So if Jesus said “anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death”, and the Catechism says otherwise, which directive will you go with?

  4. Dear Sir

    Your article on Cardinal O’Brien and the release of Mr Al Megrahi was balanced and fair – unlike the covereage here in the British / Scottish media.

    Many of your readers may be interested in finding out more detail of the case.

    “Newsnet Scotland” provides such detail.

    I would be interested to here other posters thoughts?

  5. On the cardinal’s comment “”culture of compassion,” whereas many parts of the United States had adopted a “culture of vengeance” in their approach to justice”.

    Maybe it’s more a “culture of justice” in the U.S., that peoples’ actions do have effects and consequences. A “culture of compassion” might exist for those cultures who have the material resources to pay for a “culture of compassion”. A culture that allows the guilty to go free, an incite others to kill again. But at the same time have no problem killing the unborn innocent.

    Something in the Bible about the “blood of the innocent” cries to heaven.

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