12 September 2013

Convent in Japan invites outsiders to try a prayerful life

When Akiko and Fumiko, aged 28 and 23 respectively, arrived at the Trappistine convent of Our Lady of Imari, they were not initiates to the order, but they weren’t casual visitors either. They had set aside the following three months for a program in which they would labor and live with the sisters as temporary members of the community. The convent started this program as a way to give young people a chance to make prayer the center of their lives, not only during their stay but in their lives afterward. Prayer is like the pulse of this convent, which sits on a mountain overlooking Imari Bay in Saga Prefecture, some 940km west of Tokyo. The first prayers begin promptly at 3:50 am, and the day ends with a Marian hymn at 7:40 in the evening. The traditional form of Christian devotion at Our Lady of Imari focuses on the Mass and the daily “office”, or schedule of seven prayer sessions. Akiko and Fumiko joined in this experience and devoted more than four hours to prayer each day, in addition to three and a half hours set aside for study and about three hours for manual labor.