ASIA/JAPAN - Touching the Mass”: in the Year of the Eucharist seminar helps blind Catholics participate more fully at Mass.

Friday, 21 January 2005

Tokyo (Fides Service) - “What is happening now? What is the priest doing now?” Blind Catholics found out some of the answers thanks to programme developed by a Catholic-run welfare organisation.
“Touching the Mass” was the name of a three-part programme organised by Logos Braille Library to aid the blind in their appreciation and participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The workshop held at the Japan Catholic Centre in Tokyo gave 18 blind Catholics and their caregivers a chance to touch the sacred vessels used during Mass and imitate the celebrant’s movements. Father Shimosako Eichi director of the publications department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, introduced the rubrics of the Mass, explained the prayers and movements of the celebrant and the significance of each.
During the “hands on” part of the workshop participants followed Fr Shimosako’s instructions to stretch out their arms and hold up the altar bread and chalice. With his guidance they also made the sign of the cross with which the priest bless the congregation at the end of Mass. After explaining how the sacred vessels are used, Fr Shimosako handed them around. After holding a chalice, paten and host in their hands for the first time, some participants remarked that the chalice was “surprisingly heavy” and the hoist “so big”.
The event concluded with an actual Mass celebrated in the Centre’s chapel. Afterwards Ozawa Yasuko of Koenji church in Tokyo said, “it was so moving to touch a paten and chalice, which I could not imagine by just listening. We asked what we did not understand and we got answers”. Oku Yoshi aged 71 of Chinadera church in Chiba, said the workshop gave her a deeper understanding of the significance of the Mass and of what the priest was actually doing. Prior to the workshop she could only attempt to follow the descriptions and explanations of others. “I have a terminal glaucoma and do not know it I can come to the workshop again, but now after this experience I feel I know Jesus more intimately”.
Participants from the Nagoya and Sendai dioceses also attended the workshop. Fr Shimosako said that the “invisible God’s blessing is the same for blind and sighted persons. He hopes to hold other activities to deepen people’s experience and understanding of the Mass.
Logos Braille Library opened in 1953 as Catholic Braille Library which specialised in lending books on philosophy and religion that it transcribed into Braille or recorded on audio tapes. The library was renamed after becoming a government subsidised corporation. It organises cultural activities, mainly seminars, for disabled people regardless of their religion PS (Fides Service 21/1/2005 words 468 lines 34)