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IN MEMORIAM - Fr. Paul Matsumoto, CP

HE'S GONE

He was only 43 years upon this earth, 11 as a priest, but he won the love and esteem of those he served and directed. Fr Paul Kazuhiro Matsumoto left us in the middle of the night, feeling apparently that he had some important work to do elsewhere. As we around his sickbed looked on we heard someone say: "He's gone!". And so it was. With eyes wide open he had gone to answer the beckoning of his Lord Jesus.

"I am going, but I will come back to take you with me." That was a promise that his Lord had made and intended to honor this very night, coming to call Paul to the fulfilment of his life and vocation. After ordination he had volunteered to work with the Ikeda St. Mary's Kindergarten staff as he helped with the pastoral care of the Ikeda and Nissei Chuo parishes. He was still in his 30’s when his brothers here in the Japan vice-Province chose him as their superior. And 4 years later he was re-elected. Fr Matsumoto was trusted by his fellows, a good and faithful servant.

He had asked only that when he sought entrance to the Passionists: to be accepted and allowed to serve in this way of life It kept reminding its members of the God who revealed his undying love for us precisely by dying on the Cross, to promote in his own heart and in others' hearts the grateful memory of the Passion. That was the aim of the vows he would take as a Passionist.

Young Kazuhiro had been baptized in Ikeda when he was 7 years of age, along with his father and elder sister his mother having earlier led the way. He received the baptismal name of "Paul of the Cross" the saint who had founded the Passionist religious order, which had charge of the Ikeda parish. Young Matsumoto Kun seemed to appreciate having that name, which would prove prophetic some years later when he was confronted with the cross of cancer.

After high school Paul entered Rikkyo University in the Tokyo area. But university life did not attract him. His mother directed him to the House of the Word of the Passionists in Tokyo. There Paul took up reading the Gospels, where he appeared to have encountered Jesus. He became interested in young peoples' retreats, so much so as to become a team member for running them. He was not impetuous about deciding his future. So he applied and entered a company, as most other young men were doing.

Not long afterward he made a decision that would resonate throughout the rest of his life. He heard about and decided to enter the residency program of the Passionists in Iidabashi, Shinjuku. For some years now the Order had opened their spacious residence to young men who felt an interest in religious life. For 1 year they could follow the monastic life of the community, while commuting to their jobs or classes at school. The day began with the chanting of the Divine office and Mass before breakfast, followed in the late afternoon by Vespers and evening meditation. Evenings were given over to whatever their work or studies required. Night prayer together in the tatami chapel rounded out a day offered to God as a prayer for their future. Paul Matsumoto was looking for just such a regime to help him discern the road ahead.

Better perhaps to say God was directing his heart for the future, and Paul was open to God's Holy Spirit. The 20's of his life were decisive for him. One could find him leading retreatants up the outdoor way of the cross at Mefu, or sharing his personal reflections on the Passion in a small circle of retreatants. He felt he had found the treasure hidden in the Gospel field. And he wanted to share it. He wanted to show others the way to the Heart of Jesus. It was evident that the young man was taking to the prayer schedule with a verve and a balance that augured well for a right decision. Among the residents who were inspiring each other were two in particular who seemed to have their eyes on the Passionist novitiate Kyushu. Who was inspiring whom? And was it all the inspiring of the Holy Spirit of God? As we view it now we see the provident hand of God guiding these three young men in their twenties. These three went on to novitiate together, and up through theology studies to their much-coveted day of ordination in the Tokyo cathedral.

During his residency in the House of the Word Paul had many opportunities to see what is called the Passionist "sign." It is printed here, a badge showing the words Jesu Xpi Passio, the three languages used for the wooden plaque that Pilate had fixed above the crucified Jesus. It was shown to St. Paul of the cross e founded his order. It is revered by Passionists worldwide and worn on the religious habits, it is a perpetual reminder of the undying love of the Redeemer for mankind. As Paul Matsumoto drew near to making his first vows as a Passionist the "sign" came to express for him the sentiments of gratitude for and love of God that were coming to draw him to his Lord e had made his decision to join the Order Paul was eager to share his insights Jesus' passion-love. He worked hard at whatever he did.


OTHER POSTS

When Fr. Matsumoto's cancer was discovered it was too far advanced to give him time to bid farewell as he would have liked to do. His father and sister joined his Passionist brothers watching and waiting by his bedside until he was gone to eternal life. The young priest's remains were laid to rest next to his mother in our little Mefu cemetery. Her priest-son had presided at funeral some years before. Now it was his turn to be prayed for. He had left the earth on July 12th so early in the morning that it was possible to have two wakes for the so many who had been served by him.

The first wake was held in the large hall of the Mefu Retreat House. There the Passionist cloistered nuns in the adjusting property could attend and show their gratitude for the countless times he had offered their daily Mass. A second wake the following night was at the lkeda parish church overflowing with people of all walks of life and the many pupils and graduates of the kindergarten. We praise God for the beautiful life and ministry of this son of the Passion. Alleluia! Fr Paul will be missed for a long time to come.

Sincerely,
Fr. Ward Biddle C. P


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