Saturday, August 15, 2009

August 15

August 15 is a significant date for many reasons.

In my blog post for August 6, I wrote about the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Six days later the Pacific War came to an end -- so since then in this country August 15 has been known as V-J (victory over Japan) Day. Accordingly, August 15 is celebrated as Liberation Day in Korea and some other nations. Here is an image if the front page of the New York Times for August 15, 1945:
Every year in Japan, August 15 is referred to as shusen kinenbi, which literally means "memorial day for the end of the war." The official name for this day is Senbotsusha o Tsuito Shi, Heiwa o Kinen Suru Hi (the day for mourning those who died in war and for praying for peace). I hope that all of us can take some time today to pray that there will be peace in our world, that there will be no more use of atomic weapons and that wars of all kinds will cease.

August 15 has long been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, and some other Churches, as the Assumption of Mary (the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken bodily into heaven). In many places it is a "holy day of obligation," meaning that attendance at Mass is mandatory.

On August 15, 1534, Ignatius of Loyola and his followers made a commitment that led to the formation the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), which I wrote about in my blog post on August 11. (August 15 was chosen as the date for that event since it was an auspicious feast day.)

One of those who made that commitment was Francis Xavier, and on August 15, 1549, he was the first Christian missionary to set foot on Japanese soil, arriving in Kagoshima on that date. Here is a painting of Xavier's landing in Japan:

August 15 also has a very personal meaning for me: it is the day on which I was born. And it is also the day on which my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our first child, our son Keith.


  1. Happy Birthday!

    It can never be said to often to hope and pray for peace in this world. Interestingly or ironically enough, I learned this morning that Tucson is one of the number one targets to be bombed in the event of any nuclear war due to its stock piles of weapons and aircraft.

  2. Sorry to have missed wishing you happy birthday on the actual day. So, please accept my belated well-wishes. To be celebrating a birth on the day that commemorates such death makes me recall Robert Penn Warren's poem, "Acquaintance with Time in Early Autumn," a reflection upon the paradoxes attending to life in the face of death. The inevitability of death and life's joyous denial of it provokes this final stanza:

    "How shall we know the astrolabe of joy?
    Shall gratitude run forward as well as back?
    Who once would have thought that the heart,
    Still ravening on the world's provocation and beauty, might,
    After time long lost
    In the tangled briars of youth,
    Have picked today as payday, the payment

    In life's dime-thin, thumb-worn, two-sided, two-faced coin?"

    Happy birthday!

  3. PS. I should also have said that August 15th is my father's birthday, too. He's 94 this year. In previous years, when he could think more clearly, we used to debate the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of course, as a veteran of South Pacific WWII battles, he was all for it. I always suggested that an argument from that narrow perspective (e.g., anything to get this damned war over!) was necessarily too shortsighted and could never have thought carefully through the possible unintended consequences of such an action. Never persuaded him.