May 2021 Print

Culture Shock

An Interview with Fr. Thomas Marie Onoda, SSPX

Could you say a few words about your vocation and “falling into the SSPX net”?

Yes. As the Catechism of Saint Pius X says at the very beginning: I am a Christian, a true Christian and even a Catholic priest in the SSPX, by the grace of God. Through perfectly gratuitous gift of God, I was born near a most conservative Catholic parish and was placed in its Catholic kindergarten where I learned the Hail Mary when little. I was very much interested to know, as a junior high school student, about existence of God. I became aware of the crisis in the Church as a high school student, noticing the differences between priests.

I was led to attend the Traditional Mass as a university student and had occasion to meet SSPX priests in Japan. My former parish priest, Fr. Joseph Marie Jacq, M.E.P. encouraged me to go to Archbishop Lefebvre when I revealed to him my desire to serve God. And Fr. Franz Schmidberger was kind enough to allow me to enter the SSPX Seminary in France.

Would you tell us about your meetings with Western culture?

The actual Japanese Society likes to receive the Western culture. This movement started in 1880s as catchphrase of “Wakon Yōsai” (Japanese spirit and Western technique/culture), through learning modern Science, literatures, arts, music, ideologies, even military systems. This movement is still going on through internet, movies, and international politics in general.

With regards to my personal encounter with the Western culture, however, I think, it started seriously when I attended Mass, as a young lad, to become catechumen on Christmas of 1979. This meeting was accomplished when I was forgiven by God, through the sacrament of Baptism on Christmas in 1980—because the true Western culture worthy of its name is rooted in the Catholic faith.

The European nations, together with their customs and culture, laws and entire literatures, arts and music, were the creation or products of the Catholic faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. The more the nations depart from “the true Vine” (Jesus Christ) whose Father is the husbandman, the less they can bear fruit. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me,” says Our Lord.

Saint Pius X declares in his Notre Charge Apostolique in 1910 that “the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be set up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. Omnia instaurare in Christo.”

I come back to my story: when I entered the seminary in France in 1987, I did not have cultural shock. No. I felt rather at home because I could attend the Traditional Latin Mass daily. I keep only good memories, joy, and happiness from my seminary life in Europe. I was a part of big family. I felt loved and respected. All the true “Western” culture is in truth Catholic culture, and, therefore, it is our common culture which transcends time and place.

It was a French missionary priest who baptized me. He worked so hard for the salvation of souls in Japan. When he was replaced by a Japanese parish priest, our parishioners suffered greatly because he wanted to impose us, in the name of inculturation, what was not incultured by Faith in our parish: communion standing by hand. In the name of tolerance and pluralism, I was alienated. This was about 40 years ago.

Now in our SSPX Mass center in Tokyo, we have so many kinds of nationalities and people living Japan. They attend Latin Traditional Mass happily and feel at home. In Novus Ordo institutions, they were divided by their languages, and their priests, because each priest is different from one another in terms of how they celebrate the Mass.

Few years ago, I met a Chinese Catholic from Nanjin. He attended the Latin Mass for the first time but he knew how to serve Mass perfectly well. He was waiting for it so ardently. When we had to say goodbye, he embraced me in tears with gratitude. Wheresoever I go, I celebrate the Mass of all times and that’s enough. That’s what the people want and they feel at home in our common Catholic worship and culture.

Frs. Onoda and Demornex in front of the new priory in Tokyo.

Finally, could you explain to us the history of the Japanese/Korean mission—and your expectations for it?

The SSPX missions to Japan and Korea have different histories, in time, persons and circumstances. However, both are the same in the sincere request of Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from the faithful. In Japan, Fr. Nanasaki, the parish priest in Nagoya, who was always offering the Traditional Mass, asked his faithful to contact Archbishop Lefebvre and request him to send his priests to Japan. Thus, then Fr. Williamson came to Japan in 1978 for the first time. We then started to go to Korea upon request from a group of faithful. As a seminarian, I was fortunate to have a privilege to accompany Fr. Laroche for one of his first missions in 1988.

On the feast of Saint Joseph, this year, we want to consecrate to Saint Joseph our priory with its priests and missions to Japan and to Korea. Especially we want to ask special help from the glorious Patron of the Holy Family and of the Universal Church, because we are not able to do missions to Korea for a year because of COVID travel restrictions.

We are praying also for priestly vocations from these countries.