Silence, by Shusaku Endu - A MUST READ

As a life rule, I don't read books with movie covers, but this one was a gift from a former student who likes to challenge the status quo (thanks Graceann!) so I thought I'd make an exception.

Praise the Lord for broken rules.

Silencelike an anchor plunging into a raging ocean, has pierced my frustrated mind and calmed my torrential heart. For a generation seeking honestly and authenticity, this book holds under the lamp the struggles and blemishes and hope of Faith. Endo offers an open portrayal of mankind, our beauty and our tattered rags, and invites us all into the awkward and terrible silence of life that has no clear answers or discernible purpose . And he does so without fear or shame. 

With all my bruised and tattered heart I recommend this book to all.

Here is hint (and perhaps spoiler) of what Silence will bring:

God did not grant our poor companion the joy of being restored to health. But everything that God does is for the best. No doubt God is secretly preparing the mission that some day will be his (pg 21).

Written in the early stages of the novel, this simple statement becomes the backbone for the journey through silence, and the struggles of God's secret plan. The story is beautifully written but horrific in honesty as it allows doubt the freedom to roam and scream and cry - and to beat down the certainty of a just God. 


But Christ did not die for the good and the beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt (pg 38).

One of Sebastian's first lessons, that God does not think nor act in the way of man, nor is He limited to "this or that" thinking. Because God didn't die for the miserable and corrupt alone, he died for all - because all are good and beautiful, and miserable and corrupt. Like Sebastian.


What do I want to say? I myself do not quite understand. Only that today, when for the glory of God Mokichi and Ichizo moaned, suffered and died, I cannot bear the monotonous sound of the dark sea gnawing at the shore. Behind the depressing silence of this sea, the silence of God . . . the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent" (pg 64).

Neither do I, myself, quite understand. 


Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind (pg 92).

This is one of the most powerful quotes on sin I've ever read. Nestled just about midway through the story, it seems, perhaps, a turning point - even if Sebastian isn't aware of it yet. Because, ultimately, although God appears silent, with arms crossed, he is not "oblivious of the wounds he has left behind." He is aware. Very aware. But He is also Just, and Good, with a larger plan in mind.


If it is true that God is really loving and merciful, how do you explain the fact that he gives so many trials and sufferings of all kinds to man on his way to Heaven? (pg 96).

Answer: Because He is kind and merciful and is not limited to "this or that" thinking. 


No, no. Our Lord had searched out the ragged and the dirty. Thus he reflected as he lay in bed. Among the people who appeared in the pages of the Scripture, those whom Christ had searched after in love were the woman of Capharnaum with the issue of blood, the woman take in adultery whom men had wanted to stone - people with no attraction, no beauty. Anyone could be attracted by the beautiful and charming. But could such attraction be called love? True love was to accept humanity when wasted like rags and tatters. Theoretically the priest knew all this; but still he could not forgive Kichijiro. Once again near his face came the face of Christ, wet with tears. When the gentle eyes looked straight into his, the priest was filled with shame (pg 124).

In the margins of my book I wrote, "holy shit." This is one of the toughest yet greatest passages of the book because not only did it deeply reveal my heart, it deeply revealed my heart. "True love was to accept humanity WHEN wasted like rags and tatters." When I first read these lines, I thought of those who have abandoned me, who have walked away and said, "Your rags and tatters are too much." Then, along with the priest, I was filled with shame. Because I have done the same. Because I am the same.


I'm not telling you to trample out of conviction. If you just go through with formality, it won't hurt your beliefs (pg 127).

These words are provocative because, on both ends, it challenges the connection of actions to the heart. I think most, if not all, would agree that apostatizing in action does in fact hurt one's beliefs - just ask Peter. But then, could the reverse also be said? That the formality of religion won't promote one's faith, right? Why is one true and not the other? This is not so easy to swallow and I need more time to consider it.


'But in the churches we built throughout this country the Japanese were not praying to they Christian God. They twisted God to their own way of thinking in a way we can never imagine. If you call that God . . .' Ferreira lowered his eyes and moved his lips as though something had occurred to him. 'No. That is not God. It is like a butterfly caught in a spider's web. At first it is certainly a butterfly, but the next day only the externals, the wings and the trunk, are those of a butterfly; it has lost its true reality and has become a skeleton. In Japan our God is just like that butterfly caught in the spider's web: only the exterior form of God remains, but it has already become a skeleton' (pg 160).

And not just in Japan . . . could it be because of formality? Maybe, but also, many other things. Because we, like are motives, are simply "this or that."


: (possible) Answer :

"There is something more important than the Church, more important than missionary work . . . and then Christ . . . speaks to the priest: 'Trample! Trample! It was to be trampled by men that I was born into this world It was to share men's pain that I carried my cross' (pg 182, 183).

It isn't enough, but it is sufficient. Because if I knew it all, if I could explain and understand all that He has planned and how He thinks, than He wouldn't be worth calling God. He wouldn't be worth trusting. 

Because things I can explain are simple things, and simple things don't deserve worship.



Silence is now a major motion picture, starring Liam Neeson, and directed by Martin Scorsese.