Homily at the Memorial Mass for Ms Izumi Masako (Braille Library)
21st June, 2011
Held at Yotsuya Blessed Nicholas Barre Church
Bible Reading: First Epistle to Timothy 2:4-7
Gospel Reading: The Gospel according to John 3:16-21
I would like to dedicate our mass today to the memory of Izumi Masako (Maria Monica) and pray that perpetual peace be granted to her.
Izumi Masako was born in 1924 and graduated Showa Women’s Pharmaceutical Junior College to become a pharmacist in 1945, as the Second World War drew to a close. (She found a position upon graduation but it remains unknown whether she was employed as a pharmacist.)
It was Father Tsukamoto Shouji who bestowed baptism upon her at Senzoku Church in 1949. In 1958 she was requested by Father Tsukamoto to help him compile Braille materials, and from that day she worked steadfastly for the Braille Library, to which she dedicated her life-long career of 58 years. I would like us once again to offer our respects to Ms Izumi, who gave her life wholly to helping the visually impaired.
The Catholic Braille Library founded by Ms Izumi and Father Tsukamoto has since become the Logos Braille Library. It is lodged in the Catholic Center, which stands next to Shiomi Catholic Church. This is the church that is associated with Kitahara Satoko (Elizabeth Maria), often known as Ari no Machi no Maria, or Mary of Ant Town.
This brought to my attention the fact that Ms Kitahara also studied at Showa Women’s Pharmaceutical Junior College, where Ms Izumi studied, to qualify as a pharmacist. She did not choose to work as a pharmacist, however, and instead lived among the garbage collectors of Ant Town, until her demise at the age of 28. These are several ways in which the lives of Ms Izumi and Ms Kitahara are similar: studying at the same institute to qualify as pharmacists, yet choosing not to pursue their careers in the field, and devoting their lives instead to supporting the poor and the handicapped.
Incidentally, Ms Izumi was born in 1924, five years before the birth of Ms Kitahara Satoko.
Naturally there are also points on which they were dissimilar. Ms Kitahara lived a short life and was well recognised in her lifetime. Ms Izumi’s 86-year life in contrast was a quieter one; she never came into fame and fervently devoted her daily service to God. It is this life of hers that I would like to cherish today.
As it happens, Ms Kitahara also learned the Braille system in her short lifetime. According to “Tenji to Ari no Machi no Maria” (“Braille and Mary of Ant Town”) by Matsui Toru, there was a woman working at an eating place in Ant Town, whose daughter was without sight. She wrote to her mother in Braille which the mother could not read. Ms Kitahara learned the Braille system so that she could read these letters to her. Here again is that curious connection.
Earlier in the Gospel according to John, we heard the following:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, King James Version)
Ms Izumi believed in our Lord Jesus, and her testimony of faith was to follow the call to devote her life to the Braille Library.
There is a Buddhist saying “to shed light upon one corner”, which I think applies to Ms Izumi’s life. Through her work at the Braille Library, she was able to shine light upon those around her, keeping the light that is the Resurrection of Christ alive. In this way, she quietly proclaimed her belief in the Lord God, who wishes that all people may be saved and so enter into everlasting life.
Let us pray for her that as she is released from life’s labors, she will be granted perpetual peace in the presence of our Lord Christ, and enjoy the blessing of beholding God.