PMGenesis: Chapter 11

Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)


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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
Pre-conscious World
Local Patriotism
Wimbledon in Wartime 
Pastoral Peace
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
Student Revolt  
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
A Scholar's Paradise  
To and Fro in Japan  
Words, Words, Words  
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
Lost Years  
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
Two International Conferences  
Catholic Shakespeare  
Last Words  
Bibliographical Afterword  



St. Ignatius in cherry blossom






Our Lady of Susono











  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward









     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward










Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 









 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism








 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.








All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 












Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier









11. Pastoral Theology


  Tokyo I found such a large city, comparable to the great city of Nineveh in the time of the prophet Jonah.  Sophia University was located in the very centre of the city, even within the outer moat of the imperial palace, where the samurai warriors of old who attended on the emperor once had their dwellings in the bad old days of Japanese feudalism.  Well beyond this moat in the Western environs of Tokyo stood our new house of theology, dedicated to St Mary in the ward of Nerima and the town of Kami-Shakujii.  During my time there it was still countrified, surrounded by paddy-fields and other fields for various kinds of farm produce.  In our walks I felt no less in the countryside than I had felt at Heythrop in the wilds of Oxfordshire.  Here from April Fools’ Day 1957 I could look forward to four more years of rural peace in the study of Catholic theology, as it were in continuance of that study of scholastic philosophy in which I had immersed myself at Heythrop.  Now, in order to immerse myself even more thoroughly in my new studies, I discontinued my weekly lectures at Sophia.  From my viewpoint they no longer fulfilled the function they had served during my teaching of English and my learning of Japanese at Taura.  Indeed, such now became my addiction to theology that I was even ready to break my commitment to Sophia and Shakespeare, so as to devote my life to the study and exposition of Holy Scripture.  But that was not to be.  My stars must have been moving all this time in their courses to bring me and Shakespeare inevitably together.


   What then did I study in Catholic theology during those four years at Kami-Shakujii?  As with philosophy, so with theology, I have to confess I have forgotten almost everything I learnt during our lectures.  They were for the most part no less boring that those I had to endure at Heythrop, not to mention Oxford.  There was, however, a Hungarian lecturer, who had only just returned from his doctorate in theology at Rome, who now injected a certain measure of life and enthusiasm into his lectures.  All the same, as I had done in philosophy, so now I took detailed notes of all I heard in the lectures on theology and rewrote them afterwards in my own words, so as to make them my own.  I was also fond of going on walks with kindred spirits among my new companions, who now formed for the first time a complete theologate of four years with some fifteen students in each year.  With them, as I had done at Heythrop, I would discuss the inner meaning of all we had been studying, and it provided me with an invaluable form of repetition, according to the scholastic axiom, “Repetitio mater studiorum” – “Repetition is the mother of studies.”  Only, at Kami-Shakujii I didn’t go out of my way, as I had done at Heythrop, to learn the names of all the flowers we passed on our walks.  Many of them I already knew in English, but when I was told their names in Japanese, I couldn’t remember them.  My memory even then was growing old.


   Thanks to the many essays I had had to write for my tutors at Oxford, I kept up my habit of writing in Japan.  Already during my years at Taura I had written articles for two journals published at Sophia, one with the title of Sophia and the other entitled Seiki – or “The Age”.  Those journals, however, were only published in Japanese, and so I had to get what I had written in English translated into Japanese, usually by one of the Japanese teachers in the department of English Literature.  Here, too, at Kami-Shakujii we had our own theological magazine, Shingaku Kenkyu – or “Theological Studies” – to which I soon became a regular contributor with not just one but even two articles in each issue.  When it came to writing, I was irrepressible, consumed with what an older father punningly described as libido scribendi – “a lust for writing” – or the disease of what he called “logorrhea”.  For me, however, it was a precious means not only of communicating my theological ideas to others but also of educating myself in theology.  As is often said of education, the best way of learning is the way of teaching.  It isn’t enough to receive without also giving.  The love of receiving, or what the Greeks called eros, has to be balanced with the love of giving, or what the early Christians called agape.  So it was natural for me, on entering into my second year of theology, to be appointed editor of this magazine.  As such, I could write the anonymous editorial in addition to my customary contributions.  Once I even went on to contribute three signed articles, but then the professor who was responsible for vetting the contributions advised me to limit my enthusiasm.  Otherwise, it would look too much like a one-man production.


   As for the content of our theological lectures, I soon came to the conclusion that I was learning nothing that wasn’t already familiar to me from our annual retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  This wasn’t so surprising, seeing that not a few Jesuit directors of retreats had made a point of preparing their talks on the basis of their theological studies, and I may have been subconsciously doing the same.  Only there was a great difference between the lectures and the retreats.  The former somehow managed to reduce the whole of Catholic belief and spirituality to a mere dry-as-dust ghost of itself, or what Newman in his Grammar of Assent calls “omnibus umbra locis” – “everywhere a mere shadow of itself”.  So over and above the lectures which I had to follow out of necessity, I made a point of reading widely in the writings of the great doctors of the Church, especially Newman’s favourite Greek Father St Athanasius and the favourite of the mediaeval theologians St Augustine, whose name I had taken to myself in the sacrament of confirmation.  Newman’s writings I also began to read more widely, and among modern authors my favourite was the great French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin.  But during those four years of theology I left the plays of Shakespeare lying unread, unused and seemingly unproductive.


   A climax came when I had completed the first three years of theology and faced the prospect of ordination to the priesthood.  This was a privilege – to be ordained at the end of our third year instead of waiting till we had finished the prescribed four-year course – accorded only to Jesuits, no doubt because our period of formation was too long in any case.  In my case it was almost seventeen years since I had entered into the noviciate at St Beuno’s in 1943, and now I might claim ordination, as is often ironically said of Jesuits, as “the reward of a well-spent life”.  So in the March of 1960 those of us who were to be ordained, the ordinandi, had a special ordination retreat of eight days, before receiving the three major orders of sub-deacon, deacon and priest, in rapid succession.  The first two orders were administered by an old Jesuit bishop.  He had come to Japan from India and was only too happy to preside at this ceremony in our theologate chapel.  The third and culminating order of priesthood was administered by the cardinal-elect Archbishop of Tokyo in the church of St. Ignatius on March 18, a date chosen in view of our first Masses as newly ordained priests on the feast of St. Joseph the following day.  This was the ideal and the ambition for which I had longed even from the time before my memory had started to function, and now it was upon me.  Of my other ideals, including that of becoming Pope, the only one I have been able to fulfil, in any effective manner, has been that of becoming an absent-minded professor.  But that still awaited me in the future, when I at last attained the title of “professor”, which isn’t so hard to attain in Japan as it is in England.


   On this occasion a special happiness for me was the presence of my father and mother at the ordination ceremony.  They had come out by the English Comet, which still followed the long Southern route with stops at many an airport on the way, and they stayed at the house of a Japanese friend of mine from Oxford days.  It wasn’t till the day of my ordination that I was allowed to speak with them, though I had been able to go to Haneda airport to meet them on their arrival.  Before they arrived, a Canadian friend of mine had remarked that my father, being an English gentleman, would surely be carrying an umbrella even in fair weather.  In the event, when he appeared at the exit from the plane, he was carrying not one but two umbrellas, one for my mother and the other for himself, despite the fine weather outside.  He was a real gentleman!  When the ceremony was over, I went out of the church still fully vested and gave my priestly blessing to them both and to any others who came up for it.  Then I was free to take them to various places in and around Tokyo, to Kamakura and Nikko – where we failed to notice the famous relief of the Sleeping Cat – and above all to Mount Fuji.  Of course, I didn’t take my parents up the mountain, as it wasn’t yet the climbing season, but we made our way to a place called Susono, which was close enough – though the fairy mountain remained invisible throughout their sojourn.  Mount Fuji is notoriously shy with strangers!  Another special event remains in my mind.  At that time there happened to be one other English priest in Japan, a Dominican father in Fukushima.  I had invited him to attend my ordination ceremony and meet my parents, but he was unfortunately unable to come.  Instead, shortly afterwards, as I was taking my parents to a restaurant near Hibiya in the heart of Tokyo, there he was!  He had to come in to town to obtain an air ticket to Canada, and the ticket office happened to be next to our restaurant.  It couldn’t have been arranged better, since it was the work of divine providence.


   After that, I still had one more year of theology before I could go on to the next stage in our long Jesuit formation.  Now I was a priest, everything seemed to be different.  I could now say Mass in various churches and convent chapels in the Tokyo area and hear confessions.  Yet nothing I did during this year, or was done to me, remains in my sieve-like memory.  At last I came to take my final examination “de universa theologia” – or “universa”, for short – when I would be requested to prove any thesis out of a long list of theological theses (or propositions) by word of mouth.  For this exam I had, of course, been preparing for the past four years, but when it came, it was formidable.  Yet to this day I have no idea of how I fared, apart from the fact that I passed.  I suppose I could have asked my examiner all my detailed marks, but I was afraid to do so.  In any case, it made no practical difference to my life, except for the important fact that it was my last serious exam.  Even now I keep the anniversary every February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Since then I have never been on the receiving end of exams, but always on the giving (or tormenting) side.  Yet it wasn’t long after I began teaching at Sophia University in 1962 that I came to the conclusion, which has remained my principle of education ever since – that examinations are useless, and that for the purpose of giving grades it is much more profitable for students to write regular but free essays during the year than to sit for exams at the end.


   Then I went on to my last stage of Jesuit formation, which is called “tertianship”, the “tertius annus” or third year of noviceship.  The idea is that two years of noviceship aren’t enough for the formation of a Jesuit, but to round it off the young Jesuit has to return to the life of a novice for one more year.  As St Paul puts it, human knowledge tends to puff up the knower with pride.  So he needs to be taken down a peg or two in a third year, by the performance of such humble duties as serving in the refectory, washing up, sweeping floors, cleaning lavatories, pulling up weeds in the garden, and listening to whatever words of advice or admonition may be given him by the tertian instructor.  He also has to make The Spiritual Exercises once more in the full form lasting a whole month under the instructor’s direction.  He has to study the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, also under the instructor’s direction.  He may even have to undergo one or two “experiments” at the instructor’s discretion.  The place appointed to us for that year’s formation was the Jesuit noviciate at Nagatsuka, near Hiroshima, where the novices were in the older building and the tertians in another that had been recently constructed for the purpose.  Both buildings were on the side of a hill surrounded with bamboo and pine trees.  It was a lovely rural location, so that at night (during the appropriate season) we could hear the croaking of frogs in the paddy-fields – with the fearful implication that wherever there were frogs, there would also be snakes.  I was even informed that snakes sometimes ventured into the old Japanese building, where they could be heard attacking rats above the ceilings.  Our instructor was a kindly old man from Texas, who had been brought to Japan for this purpose, and so he didn’t know a word of Japanese.  But that made him all the more acceptable to those of us, like myself, who were less than expert in the language.  His talks both on the Exercises and on the Constitutions were interesting enough, but he had a Texan habit of drawling, which I found off-putting.  The way he would sniff between sentences reminded me of my father – which prejudiced me in his favour.


   I have more to say about the two “experiments” on which we were sent during that year, one by one or two by two.  The first was a begging experiment, which is unusual, even shocking to the Japanese mind.  We justified it by the fact that we were begging for a children’s Christmas party at the Peace Memorial Church.  So one morning in December I went with a pious American tertian along the main street of Hiroshima where there were many banks we expected to help us.  Alas, we forgot that the function of banks in Japan is not to give but to receive, and so all morning we laboured in vain.  In the afternoon, however, the case was altered, when I was given another companion, a Spanish brother, and this time we went along a street of small shops soliciting alms.  This time we were given something by everyone.  Those shop-keepers were so generous!  Then I remembered that it is the poor who are free with their money and the rich who are tight-fisted.  But what happened to the money, or how the children’s party prospered, I had no idea.  All we had to do was to make it financially feasible.


   The second experiment took place the following summer, when the priests at different churches in the diocese were in need of a holiday, and we were sent to take their places.  The church to which I was appointed was at Fukuyama on the Inland Sea.  The time was summer, and a very hot one, too.  Two things I specially remember about the church.  One was the amount of perspiration that came from my body and wet all my clothes.  The other was the next-door kindergarten, where the children would say their morning prayers in charming unison at the top of their voices.  Needless to say, the kindergarten belonged to the church, since every church in Japan needs one to attract parents as well as children and to make the church a centre of local activity.  Few people in those days would go to a church just to hear about Christianity.  Few of the children indeed were Christians, and yet they recited their prayers with such enthusiasm and fervour that one might well think they were all good little Christians.  Children are like that!  A little further on from the church one came to a cinema, which happened to be showing Walt Disney’s “Cinderella”.  I was happy to go and see it, if only to show my solidarity with the children.  Then a little further still, one came to a girls’ school run by nuns, among whom I met an English sister.  So I could meet her from time to time to exchange memories of England and experiences in Japan.


   When the tertianship came to an end, much to my relief without any examination, I myself almost met my end.  A group of departing tertians, myself included, were being driven to the station in a dense fog.  I was sitting beside the driver, when a bus loomed out of the fog and hit us.  I could even feel the impact through the door beside me.  Thanks to the fog, however, cars and buses were all proceeding at a snail’s pace, and I suffered little more harm than a mild shock.  From then onwards I traveled to Tokyo with two Chinese companions, and we planned to make a stop at Kyoto to see some of the temples.  One of the most famous temple gardens in all Japan is that of Ryoanji, near the other famous temple of the Gold Pavilion or Kinkakuji.  This garden is famous not for any trees or flowers or even ponds, but for its rocks and sand.  So it is called the Rock Garden, or Sekitei.  You are supposed to sit on the verandah and look at the rocks and maybe count them.  It is said that as often as you change your position, the number of the rocks you count changes with you.  It is weird.  We arrived early in the morning amid a drizzle.  It was January, and we were the only people there.  At other times, especially in summer, there are so many visitors and so many distractions to any kind of meditation, let alone that of zazen.  But this morning we could concentrate to our hearts’ content, reflecting on the good success of our tertianship and what now awaited us at the end of our Jesuit formation.


   What was awaiting me, on February 2 1962, was another ceremony, that of my final solemn vows as a Jesuit in the above-mentioned chapel of the Kulturheim.  There were only two of us on that occasion, but my companion, alas, didn’t remain a Jesuit for long, despite the solemnity of his vows.  The surprising thing is rather that I am still a Jesuit in spite of everything!  Anyhow, the important thing, as I have come to realize after all these years, is to be patient and not to take things too seriously.  Or rather, as Jesus told Martha on a certain occasion, only one thing is really necessary, and then everything else may be regarded as relatively trivial.

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