Thursday, August 6, 2009

The bombing of Hiroshima and the Feast of the Transfiguration

Points for meditation to be scratched on the walls of a cave.

I went to Mass this morning and the priest talked about the great feast of the Transfiguration, which is today. He did not mention the bombing of Hiroshima, which took place 64 years ago today. They go together for me. I cannot think of one without thinking of the other.

Poet-monk, Thomas Merton, wrote a poem, “Original Child Bomb,” the title being an exact translation of the Japanese word for the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

The poem is a short history written in numbered, laconic sentences about the development and first use of nuclear weapons, despite the appeal of some of the bomb’s makers that it not be used without prior warning. Nonetheless, the bomb was dropped on a city considered of minor military importance.

“The people who were near the center became nothing. The whole city was blown to bits and the ruins caught fire instantly everywhere, burning briskly. 70,000 people were killed right away or died within a few hours. Those who did not die at once suffered great pain. Few of them were soldiers.”

Merton noted the odd way that religious terms had been used by those associated with the bomb. Its first test was called Trinity. The mission to drop the Hiroshima bomb returned to Papacy, the code name for Tinian.

Dorothy Day’s response to the bombing was published in the Catholic Worker in September, 1945: “We Go on Record: the Catholic Worker Response to Hiroshima”:

Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; "jubilant" the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.

That is, we hope we have killed them, the Associated Press, on page one, column one of the Herald Tribune, says. The effect is hoped for, not known. It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers -- scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills of Easton.

Jubilate Deo. President Truman was jubilant.. ...

This text is not copyrighted. However, if you use or cite this text please indicate the original publication source and this website (Dorothy Day Library on the Web at Thank you.


  1. My late mentor, Father Richard osb, often said the community Mass on the Transfiguration. He would always tie the feast to the bombing of Hiroshima and to the death of Pope Paul VI. I lived 1.8 km from the site pictured in your blog, the Genbaku Dome.

  2. It is a beautiful photo, I think.

    I have a friend who lived in Japan for 2 years and who says that they are the happiest of his life. I asked why - he said "the people", that they are the most beautiful people in the world.

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  4. 2Cents

    The Hindu concept – nata dance and raja lord,
    lord of the dance an attribute of the Divine Mystery !
    The dancer is ever in the state of process, creation
    and destruction We step into this body and become life then step out of the body and become death is not all
    transfiguration ________

    blessing blessings _____________________boK



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