Ignatius Press

The Smile of a Ragpicker: The Life of Satoko Kitahara Convert and Servant of the Slums of Tokyo

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Following his acclaimed work, A Song for Nagasaki, in which Fr. Paul Glynn told the powerful story of Dr. Nagai, a Christian convert of remarkable courage and compassion who ministered to the many victims of the atomic bomb attack, The Smile of a Ragpicker brings us the heroic and moving story of Satoko Kitahara, a young, beautiful woman of wealth who gave up her riches and comfort to became one with the ragpickers. She plunged into the life of the poor, regardless of the consequences.

In nine remarkable years at Sumida Park in Tokyo, Satoko showed through her Christian commitment and serenity how the lives of so many people could be changed by one person. Importantly, she helped the poor recover their self respect and dignity.

In finding Christ, Satoko found herself. The journey was not easy but her strong new Christian faith assured her that Christ would be with her. Like many of the saints, Satoko experienced the "dark night of the soul." A restless young rich woman, she was led by the Holy Spirit to forget her reservations and pride and live with the poorest of the poor. The Lord heard the cry of the poor, and He sent them Satoko. She became known as "Ari no Machi no Maria"--Mary of Ants Town. She inspired all those she touched.

Every day Satoko encountered Christ in some new and challenging way. She was calling the Church back to identification with the poor. She showed the strength of her internal faith. Like Dr. Nagai, she expressed her faith through the sensitivity and beauty of her own culture. Satoko died a young woman, in dire poverty in a Tokyo slum. Yet her death, mourned by many thousands, reflected her triumphant life of deep Christian faith and charity.
This book is a powerful story of reconciliation, not between countries, but between people of different social, economic and religious backgrounds, inspired by a frail young woman of luminous faith. Illustrated with photos.

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