From the beginning of man’s existence we have struggled to communicate with God. God’s voice, which seems to be non-attendent, has caused man to contemplate God’s very existence. Does God hear me? Does God care? Why does God let bad things happen? Man will never stop searching for the answers to these questions. That is why faith is the core piece of Christianity. We are not meant to know God’s divine plan, we are only to know that he will always be with us. Through his grace we receive our salvation. Throughout Endo’s, Silence, I struggled with the main character Rodrigues in his selfish and prideful idea of salvation and his conception of faith to God. Keeping to his priestly duties, through the traditional sacraments, performed rituals, and even the wish of his “glorious martyrdom”, in effect, were not allowing him to receive salvation as a gift of grace and mercy, but rather using them as fulfillment for his deep seeded desire to glorify himself and earn his place in Paradise. In my opinion, the moment Rodrigues apostatized, was the humbling symbol of his true acceptance of God’s grace and his realization that nothing he could do alone, even his “glorious martyrdom”, could redeem himself of being a sinful man. This transformation does not necessarily break “the silence,” but rather breaks down Rodrigues’ pride to finally hear the voice of God, and trust in Him.
Before Rodrigues apostatized, he was prideful to be a Priest and his religious works consumed him. He believed that works were faith, and that these things alone were going to earn his place in paradise and bring him glory. Several times along the rocky road, leading up to the apostasy, I found Rodrigues’ expectations for God falling short, and began to wonder where his faith really laid and whom he was truly living his life for- God or himself. The first instance I saw this is after the first martyrdom Rodrigues witnesses, of Mokichi and Ichizo: “They were martyred. But what a martyrdom! I had long read about martyrdom in the lives of the saints- how the souls of the martyrs had gone home to Heaven, how they had been filled with glory in Paradise, how the angels had blown trumpets. This was the splendid martyrdom I had often seen in my dreams. But the martyrdom of the Japanese Christians I now describe to you was no such glorious thing. What a miserable and painful business it was.” (Silence 91-92) In this quote by Rodrigues, what really struck me was, in his explanation of his “dream martyrdom,” he was talking about the personal gain that would become of a martyr- that “THEY would be filled with glory.” Also, the fact that he felt that the martyrdom that he had witnessed was “a miserable and painful business,” makes me wonder what his understanding of martyrdom even was. Another example in the text where I questioned where Rodrigues’ faith lay, was when he had been captured and he was reflecting on what he was expecting to feel in this moment:
“Could it really be a day of peace and calm? Yet somehow or other he also felt an inexpressible dissatisfaction- a kind of disillusion that he was not privileged to be a tragic hero like so many martyrs and like Christ himself.” (Silence 123) In this excerpt, Rodrigues’ expectations for the moment of his capture are not being met. Rodrigues’ self pride is apparent in his description of martyrdom, as being the privilege of a “tragic hero.” Although martyrs are heroic, and while it is a privilege to die for your faith, it seems that Rodrigues does not place enough emphasis on the privilege of living for your faith, and he focuses highly on the personal gain in being a hero. However, it is after he is captured and kept in this prison, that Rodrigues begins to slowly fall away from his religious practices, and finds loss of meaning in the doctrines and recited prayers. During this time his feelings become more raw and real. He sees the value in human life and starts to realize that the most important things are not...
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