Catholic priests mixing meditation, music of Bach to find inner peace

by Takeshi Nishide

Kyodo

A unique weekend session combining meditation and the music of Bach was held last month at a Catholic church in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture.

As some 20 participants listened to the German composer’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor during the first session of the two-day program, the Rev. Takehiro Kunii said, “Bach’s music gives expression to movements in our soul we cannot describe.”

Later the participants took in lectures about the teachings of Jesus Christ, read the Bible and listened to more Bach music, such as St. Matthew’s Passion.

“Please try to be silent as much as possible,” Kunii told the group before sending them off to meditate. “If you control your external side and become silent internally, you may be able to hear God talking.”

With these instructions, the participants dispersed to a place of their choice, such as the chapel or garden. The practice differs from Zen meditation, which has strict rules of behavior.

In the evening, each participant retreated to an individual room to read the Bible and meditate.

The second day involved a walk, led by the Rev. Katsunori Nakamura, through a forest within the grounds of the church to ponder the footsteps of Jesus Christ carrying the cross.

The participants, mostly Catholics of various ages, came from across Japan.

“I could deepen my faith” through the session, one later said, while another said, “I now understand Bach’s music better.”

“Bach’s music leads to the soul of people,” said Kunii, the Catholic priest who hosted the event. He said he wants to continue holding such programs.

Meditation lessons are offered to both Catholics and non-Catholics at a monastery in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, by the Rev. Ryuichiro Hanafusa.

His program is based on the “Spiritual Exercises,” a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises written by Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in the 16th century.

Meditation helps people “know that they are loved by God,” Hanafusa said. By meditating, people “quietly review themselves and dialogue with God.”

“If people become more aware of what they need by recognizing the movements of their mind and sort them out through meditation, they can make a decision from various options,” Hanafusa said.

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