Tag Archives: atomic bombs

Folk song about George


“My Name is George Zabelka” by Peter Kearney


Now I am an old man, soon to meet my God 
My journey here is almost at an end. 
But before the journey’s over there’s one place I must go 
Can’t get into heaven till I face up to my hell. 
My name is George Zabelka, an ordinary man 
And in answer to your questions, my story I will tell. 

I was raised to be a Christian in the fashion of the day 
Seemed all I had to do was follow rules. 
So it seemed right to join the army on that island in the sea 
Where I was chaplain to the 509th bomb crews 
And I gave the boys a blessing as they flew that August day … 
Hiroshima still sleeping and no word did I say. 

So I go to light a candle that can shine in the night 
For my brother I have wronged, my sister I have killed. 
Come light a million candles in the tomb of the night 
And we’ll see the light of morning rise again. 

Well something deep inside me knew the truth of what I’d done 
And my nightmares brought the terror home to me. 
I knew the dark and loveless spirit, the cold and clever lie 
That held the power and condemned those towns to die 
And I know I was no better than the men on Calvary 
Who had their orders and followed thoughtlessly. CHORUS. 

I know that war has always been, it’s a habit deeply formed 
And every land thinks God is on its side 
And the Church has offered blessings and talked about ‘just wars’ 
Inside with Caesar, leaving Christ outside the door 
But I say this stage is over, the bomb has changed it all … 
Together we will rise up or together we must fall. CHORUS. 

And now I am an old man, soon to meet my God 
My journey here is almost at an end. 
But before the journey’s over I’m going to Japan 
As a pilgrim, a small and sorry man 
To kneel and beg forgiveness in the hope to reconcile… 
One step begins the journey along the homeward mile. CHORUS. 

Words and music by Peter Kearney

Fr. George Zabelka

Don’t miss the latest CAM podcast: Episode 50!

I know, I know — it’s almost three hours long! But it is the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this episode provides a great “behind the scenes” oral history that you won’t hear elsewhere; not to mention it acts as a great testimony to the way God works in human lives and human history, carrying out his plans in ways we can’t even see or could ever possibly plan.

God had a plan for George’s life. Find out more about:

  • What he did as a Catholic chaplain in 1945 at Tinian Island
  • Why he “blessed the bombs” of the 509th composite group, the group that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan
  • How belligerent Fr. Zabelka was when he first showed up at Fr. McCarthy’s retreats in the mid-70s. (“Are you telling me Jesus wouldn’t enjoy a good boxing match?!”)
  • His eventual conversion.
  • How his story came to be known around the world, despite Catholic media having no interest in it whatsoever.
  • How his story helped to spark the movement on the part of the U.S. bishops that eventually led to the writing and publishing of their 1983 pastoral “The Challenge of Peace” (which was a really big deal back in its day)
  • Why Zabelka is “considered a saint” in some circles of Japanese Christianity

To me, the story of George is unimaginably important. The story of why there are hardly any Catholics who know about George is equally important. It’s a great story, one about conversation, repentance, peace. Why were so few media outlets in the United States, both American and Catholic, so disinterested in telling it?

Don’t forget to watch the documentary about George as well, “The Reluctant Prophet”:

Fr George Zabelka, The Reluctant Prophet from GNV Team on Vimeo.