The Chain that Leads to Heaven
A thousand uprooted people lived in former military barracks at the “Wooden Bridge,” a suburb of Tokyo. These people for the most part had no family ties. One night, about 2:00 A.M., a phone rang: a dying old woman was asking for a priest.
In her youth, this woman had attended a Catholic school. There, a nun instructed her for three years and at the age of 17 she became a Christian. “I received the Holy Water and the Bread of God,” she told me. But later she got married, following her family’s wishes, to a Buddhist monk who owned a temple far away in the mountains. So she went to live there, and was in charge of keeping up the temple; one of her chores was to take care of the many tombs and burn incense during the funeral feasts. Her husband would have allowed her to go to church but there wasn’t one in sight. She gave birth to eight children. 70 years later, her husband and all her children had died, among them five sons killed during the war. Then, another Buddhist priest came and she had to leave the temple.
I asked her if during all these years she had been thinking of God. She looked at me in surprise and painstakingly removed her right hand from under the covers. She was holding a rosary, and the answer I heard was: “Every day, several times a day, without ever missing a day, I have been praying all these years. While going about my work, I always had Mary’s chain in my hands or my pocket, and I asked her every day to help me find a Catholic priest who might give me the Bread of God once more before I died.”