March 2, 2013

The Brilliant Light in Akita, Japan

Sister Agnes Sasagawa was born on May 28, 1931. At age 19, she was paralyzed during an appendectomy, when an administration of spinal anesthesia was made improperly. After ten years of going to various hospitals, she was put under the care of a Catholic nurse. He restoration to health led her to become Catholic herself, and then to become a Catholic nun.

Then, another suffering befell her. Sounds started to become muffled in both her ears and, within three months, she was totally deaf.

On May 12, 1973, Sister Agnes arrived at a convent located in a hilltop suburb of Akita, Japan. It had been recently founded by an order called the Handmaids of the Eucharist, who were devoted, in particular, to Eucharistic Adoration.

On June 12, 1973, Sister Agnes entered the chapel in the convent for Eucharistic Adoration. As she opened the door of the tabernacle, a brilliant light shone forth, much whiter and brighter than the sun. She immediately fell to the floor and prayed. After this was over and she left the chapel, she doubted the experience and wondered if she had been hallucinating. The experience with the dazzling white light, however, occurred again on June 13, June 14 and June 28.

On October 2, 1973, she was at Mass. At the moment of consecration, a dazzling light again shone forth. At that same moment, she saw an outline of eight angels, kneeling around the altar, in prayer before the shining Host. Not believing her eyes, she closed them, opened them and rubbed them, but the image remained. The angels stayed before her, paying homage to the Lord, present in the Holy Eucharist.

As Sister Agnes doubted these sights herself, it is normal for us to ask whether they should be believed as well. Should we wish to look deeper, there are other circumstances to aid our inquiry. Sister Agnes received the stigmata in her left hand, a wooden statue of Mary in the chapel bled from the right hand and shed tears and sweat on many occasions over more than six and a half years, Sister Agnes was told in advance of when the pain and bleeding in her left hand would stop, Sister Agnes was cured of her deafness, and she was told in advance of when that would occur.

Some of these occurrences were also subjected to scientific scrutiny. Sister Agnes had been examined at a Red Cross hospital when she was deaf and her condition was pronounced incurable. After she recovered her hearing, she was examined again at the hospital and her cure was confirmed. The blood, sweat and tears from the wooden statue of Mary were analyzed by a non-Christian forensic specialist. He was not told anything about their origin. The test results showed them to be of human substance.

Events such as those above are certainly wondrous, but to what purpose? They may inspire some sense of awe, but this Lent, let them also inspire some sense of the great Love that is behind the Eucharist, the Love that is the reason for the sacrifice of His human body and the same Love that is the reason why He offers His Physical Presence to us still today.

(Based on an account in My Daily Eucharist by Joan Carter McHugh, containing an excerpt from Akita, The Tears and Message of Mary by John M. Haffert, on Those Who Saw Her, by Catherine M. Odell, and on information found at


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