Next to the Pope my authority on all things Catholic is my devout 89-year-old father-in-law, a long retired “government worker” from an agency that shall go unnamed. He possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of physics, history, politics and religion with a special interest in “supernatural” miracles of the Bible and Divine miracles in general.
So recently, after my husband and I had watched an interesting documentary on the making of the atomic bomb known as “The Manhattan Project,” we both agreed that Dad would also enjoy the program and the next time he came over we would replay it for him.
Today was that day.
So after he watched it, I asked my father-in-law if he had enjoyed the documentary. He said he did, but already knew much of the story. (Of course!)
However, he expressed disappointment that the documentary did not mention a group of Jesuit priests who survived the Hiroshima bomb blast without any major injuries at ground zero.
I told him this oversight was not surprising since it was, after all, a History Channel documentary but I still doubted the truth of this miraculous Hiroshima tale.
As Dad began to describe what he said was surely a Divine miracle, I hopped on Google and entered “Jesuit priests survived Hiroshima”. To my surprise, instantly there appeared numerous links to this amazing, true story now almost lost in the sands of time.
Here are the basic facts of this historical occurrence.
In Hiroshima, a group of eight Jesuit priests lived in a presbytery near the parish church less than a mile away from where the first atomic bomb ever dropped on a city exploded well within the total death and devastation radius. Keep in mind this was a blast that killed 80,000 people almost instantly and up to a total of 140,000 eventually.
At Hiroshima “Little Boy” destroyed over two-thirds of the buildings.
All eight priests in their home building sat in the direct kill zone while for miles around nothing but ashes remained. They were not only “virtually unscathed from the effects of the bomb” but none of the group suffered either the ill-effects of radiation or major injuries from the bomb blast. Furthermore, while their building received some damaged, unlike others it still stood.
While it is true that small numbers of other civilians in the blast area survived, all presumably suffered, and most if not all eventually died from radiation sickness.
What is truly miraculous is that radiation sickness did not affect ANY of the Jesuits at that time or decades later.
Why were these eight priests spared in an area of total death and destruction?
In 1976, when all the eight Jesuit priests still lived, one of the survivors, a German named Father Hubert Schiffer, represented the group with this answer:
We survived because we were living the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that home.
What is the message of Fatima, you ask?
If my father-in-law happens not to be around to address that question, here is the answer from a 2010 Catholic Herald article that goes into much detail about this event.
The essence of the Fatima message concerns conversion from sin and a return to God, and involves reparation for one’s own sins and the sins of others, as well as the offering up of one’s daily sufferings and trials.
There is much theology wrapped up in that answer and even more in the Catholic Herald article offering layers of theological explanations as to why those eight priests miraculously survived and even lived into advanced age.
But here is the quickie 30 second version.
August 6th, the day the bomb fell on Hiroshima, also happens to be when the Catholic Church annually celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration.
The New Testament tells how Jesus went up to a high mountain and was “transfigured” before his apostles Peter, James and John. The Book of Matthew reads in 17:2 “his face shone like the sun, and his garments became a white as light”. (First hint, similar to what the residents of Hiroshima would have seen seconds after the bomb was dropped.)
Now, fast forward ahead to the 1917 Miracle of Fatima in Portugal, commonly known as the Miracle of the Sun.
Here, the Virgin Mary appeared to three children on six different occasions and gave them prophetic messages. To then confirm that her messages were from God, in front of 70,000 people the sun appeared to spin in the sky, change colors and begin to fall to earth, but then stabilized.
(Second hint, the atomic bomb blast was as bright as the sun and fell to earth.)
Finally, there are the eight priests, who by their own account “survived because we were living the message of Fatima.”
These priests prayed the daily Rosary in the name of Jesus and Mary and while the man-made explosion of bright white sun light devastated the world around them they were somehow “transfigured” on the anniversary of that Feast Day, protected and shielded by God from the horrific white blast less than a mile away.
Now, you don’t have to be Catholic to acknowledge something of a miraculous and powerful nature kept those eight priests and their building from being reduced to ashes and shielded them from the effects of deadly radiation.
The good news, I believe, is that this awesome power is still available to you today.
If you want to learn more about this miracle just Google like I initially did, “Jesuit priests survive Hiroshima” and you will discover unlimited historical and religious material.
To get you started here is an eyewitness account from one of the priests as reported in a historical document on Hiroshima produced by Yale Law School.
For me, the real moral of this story is to never doubt my father-in-law who is almost 90 years of age, in good mental and physical health, and engages in daily praying of the Rosary. And just like those Hiroshima priests, he experienced what he believes were Divine miracles that spared his own life while he was serving his country in war zones and other dangerous circumstances throughout the world.