Study Guide

Silence Spirituality

By Shusaku Endo


I am always fascinated by the face of Christ just like a man fascinated by the face of his beloved. (1.50)

Father Rodrigues frequently thinks of Jesus as if he was a friend or romantic partner—a person he has an intimate relationship with. In addition, he often gives Jesus feminine characteristics, as he does here.

No, Kichijiro was trying to express something different, something even more sickening. The silence of God. (4.47)

This is something that Rodrigues will understand well after spending time in Japan. This devout priest will endure things—and watch others endure even worse things—that will make him question his faith for the first time in his life.

This was the sea that relentlessly washed the dead bodies of Mokichi and Ichizo [...] And like the sea God was silent. (4.132)

This is what Rodrigues means when he talks about "God's silence." Rodrigues's personal sense of spirituality has always been rooted in the idea that God helps the faithful, no matter how bleak things look. That belief is being tested.

From the deepest core of my being yet another voice made itself heard in a whisper. Supposing God does not exist […]. (4.132)

All of this silence is getting to Rodrigues's head. To be honest, this is a pretty bad time to start questioning his faith: the poor dude is stuck in a jail cell, presumably waiting for his own execution. He sure could use a little bit of faith right now.

Just as the water dribbles back down from the mouth of the man whose lips are locked by sickness, the prayer remained empty and hollow on his lips. (5.54)

Sorry, bud, that can of worms is open, and there's no closing it now. Although it's clear that Rodrigues still believes, he's having trouble forgiving himself for his doubts. This is a big deal: it would be like Lil' Wayne trying to perform "A Milli" at a concert after realizing that his true musical love is polka.

Did God really exist? If not, how ludicrous was half of his life spent traversing the limitless sea to come and plant the tiny seed in this barren island! (7.137)

Quite ludicrous, old pal. It's important to remember that Rodrigues only visited Japan in the first place to learn the truth about Ferreira, to satisfy his doubts about his former teacher. Rodrigues's sense of spirituality has been shaken from the moment we've met him—in many ways, this fall from grace has been a long time coming.

The reason why darkness is terrifying for us, he reflected, is that there remains in us the instinctive fear the primitive man had when there was as yet no light. (8.46)

In the same way, Rodrigues's fear is rooted in his memory of what it's like to have no faith. The poor guy expected to make a quick jaunt to Japan and return home inspired by the glorious lives of the Japanese martyrs. Instead, all he's received for his troubles are a few bumps and bruises, some basic conversational Japanese, and a whole heap of newfound doubts.

And then the Christ in bronze speaks to the priest: "Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample!" (8.112)

Amazingly, God breaks his silence by telling Rodrigues to betray his faith. This is a huge revelation: for the first time, Rodrigues realizes that love is the only thing that matters. It's more important than dogma. It's more important than the Church. It's even more important than faith. If he's not acting out of love, then he's not being a truly spiritual person.

I bear no grudge against you! I am only laughing at man's fate. My faith in you is different from what it was, but I love you still. (10.59)

Despite renouncing his faith publicly, Rodrigues never abandons his relationship with God. Though he's not the idealistic youngster he once was—the honeymoon period has definitely worn off—he's still dedicated to make this relationship work, even if no one else can understand it.

"Even now I am the last priest in this land. But Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him." (10.84)

This is Rodrigues's new spiritual belief system. Though Rodrigues didn't realize it at the time, God was never silent—he just wasn't talking in a language that the priest recognized. The truth is that the big guy spoke volumes through people like Rodrigues himself: people willing to sacrifice themselves in the name of love.