The SSPX, a branch of the Catholic Church which broke from full communion with Rome after the reforms of Vatican II, has elected a new Superior General. They are a highly traditional group, often accused of being overly traditional, “ultra-conservative” and anachronistic. However, in an interview with the new superior general there is some sense that they are attempting to reach a more open and doctrinal view of the documents of Vatican II, rather than simply dismissing it out of hand.

Regardless, one passage struck me as exceptionally beautiful and true, regardless of the source.

At Mass, the faithful discover the echo of ephatha, “be opened”, pronounced by the priest at Baptism. Their soul is opened once more to the grace of the Holy Sacrifice. Even when they are very little, children who attend Mass are sensitive to the sacred meaning that the Traditional liturgy expresses. Above all, attending Mass makes fruitful the life of married couples, with all its trials, and gives it a profoundly supernatural meaning, for the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony flow from Our Lord’s sacrifice. Attending Mass is what reminds them that God wants to make use of them as cooperators in the most beautiful of His works: sanctifying and protecting the souls of their children.

This is so very true, especially of a traditional (dare I say, “more traditional”) liturgy, by which I include the Tridentine and also the Novus Ordo when done right.

May all couples rediscover the joy of attending Mass together.

 

Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the ChurchPromise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Feminism, Complementarity, and the Church by Editor Mary Rice Hasson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most balanced and intellectually stimulating collection of thoughts on the topic of feminism in the Church I have ever read. The women who penned these essays provide deep insights and cogent explanations of the issues surrounding the place of women in the Church and of the Church in the world. Some points that were especially thought provoking to me:

– The concept of integral complementarity, contrasted with fractional complementarity. Fractional complementarity is the notion that men and women are made for each other, and that each is half of a whole that is the image and likeness of God (1/2 + 1/2 = 1). The implication of this is that each is only half of their true potential without the other. Integral complementarity is the idea that both men and women are true and complete images of God, and that when they come together the result is greater than the sum of both alone (1 + 1 = 3).

– The “richer Theology of Woman” presupposes and necessitates a “Theology of Man.”

– The inequality between the genders in society has its basis in the biological fact of inherent sexual asymmetry. That is, women are more intimately and deeply implicated in the process of procreation. This is the vulnerability that the second wave feminists fought against (i.e. with contraception and abortion) rather than the masculine abuse of that vulnerability targeted by the early feminists.

– The presence of any particular woman in any particular avocation should not have to be a conflict with her deeper and more critical vocation to her husband and children. Indeed, the great failure of feminism today is that it has not lived up to the hope that it would bring about a greater empathy, personalism and other orientedness (in a word, a level of feminization) to the world of business. Rather, the effect of drawing women out of the home and into business has largely been the greater and almost pathological masculinization of the home. Women have not made business more caring. Business has made women less caring.

– The Catholic Church has not, by and large, led the charge in making its workplaces more friendly to working mothers. (The authors did not speculate on why this is the case, but having seen something of the inner working of parish finances in our area, I suspect in most cases parishes and dioceses are hampered by a lack of funds, and that the responsibility for that lack can be traced directly to the lack of generosity of the lay people in the pew every Sunday).

I do not necessarily agree unqualifiedly with all of the authors’ ideas, but they were all thought provoking and have broadened my understanding of the debates surrounding the place of women in the Church and in the World.

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We have been trying to keep it real and as laid back as possible this week, since the ordeal of last week. We were all pretty exhausted, especially Mommy. She had gotten less sleep than anyone and had been holding super strong throughout the whole business. On Saturday afternoon she had to take a nap.

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Fortunately Daddy was home and Evie took a really good nap herself, so Mommy had a few good hours of sleep.

We were able to go to our usual 8:00 A.M. Sunday Mass, and everyone was happy to see Evie being herself again. In fact, she tried to join the altar server training after Mass.

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I am big enough, Miss Ellen, see?

On Sunday Mommy had a migraine. Small wonder, given all the stress she had been under. We had been planning on going to the hardware store to see the baby chicks and buy a composter, but Daddy and Evie had to go by theirselves.

We got to meet a show rooster named Paul.

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Evie thought his hairdo was funny.

Then Daddy was sick for a few days with an upset tummy, and then Mommy had an upset tummy as well.

Sigh.

But we managed to get through the week with no more than our share of vomiting, diarrhea and exhaustion. And Evie had no seizures. She is back to her self!

 

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I Flying!

She is training on the rings…

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And singing in the rain!

I hope you are too.

God Bless. Have a good weekend, see you next time.

 

 

Heaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by DayHeaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by Day by Fr John C Riccardo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book by Fr. John Riccardo of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Archdiocese of Detroit, is a printing of a series of 8 lectures that he gave at a 10-week course in his parish. The subject of this series is becoming a saint in day-to-day life, a topic which he approaches with cheerfulness and optimism, but above all with total seriousness. He really intends to convince people to undertake the task of becoming Saints.
There is, of course, nothing really groundbreaking or revolutionary in that call. That is a good thing. Revolutionary and groundbreaking spiritual writing is usually heresy. This book is a distillation and rephrasing of the perennial message of Christ through His Church, and in keeping with the call of Vatican II to a “new evangelization” and the “universal call to holiness.” Where it seems revolutionary that is only because it is re-presenting the essentially revolutionary nature of Christianity.
He begins by exhorting the reader to sit down and make a detailed plan of how you intend to achieve sainthood, (you can check mine out on this site if you like). He then takes the reader through a few of the fundamental obstacles to holiness that the beginner can expect to run into and those with more experience will readily recognize. These include “Forgiveness,” “Fear and Anxiety” and “Suffering.” He concludes with a chapter on the Primacy of Love.
It was this final chapter that I thought most relevant and necessary (it stands on the other chapters, however, so don’t just skip to the end). In it Fr. Riccardo sums up his foregoing advice under the title of “accumulation of virtues.” I especially love that phrase because it so perfectly illustrates my default (and problematic) approach to holiness. That is, I habitually pursue the accumulation of virtue in a check-the-list fashion. (“Now for a limited time only, pursuit of virtue! Collect all seven!”)
Fr. Riccardo provides the necessary corrective to that attitude by pointing out that the end goal is not perfection. That is an impossible goal. Instead the goal is intimacy with Jesus, perfection being the inevitable but utterly gratuitous result of that intimacy. That is, we are trying to open ourselves to the love of Jesus, and letting that love be manifest in our obedience to Him and in our treatment of our neighbors. Virtue is a means of exercising that love, and also the result of being possessed by that love.
Again, there is nothing new in this book (or under the heavens either, accord to Ecclesiastes). If you have done any catholic spiritual reading at all, or have ever read the Bible you have heard it all before in much greater depth. It is, however, a great reminder, easy to read but challenging to live up to. As long as we live I don’t think we shall ever grow out of our need for repeated exhortation, and this is what Fr. Riccardo provides admirably.

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Well folks, we’re back. It was a heck of a trip. Evie picked up a few new phrases. Unfortunately, none of them were in Italian. Her top favorite new ones are:

“I chase birds!”

 

Another favorite is, “I ride train!”

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This lady was tickled pink to have Evie jump up next to her.

And a third one we heard a lot was, “I tired.”

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Traveling will do that to you, Baby Girl.

Well, to pick up where we left off with a quick trip to the Coliseum.

family-friday-84-29Unfortunately, due to the exigencies of toddlerhood (a.k.a. naptime) we were not able to get there until 4 PM, and by that time it was closed and the sun was starting to set. family-friday-84-28

So we took some beautiful pictures of the Coliseum in the sunset.

And Evie in the Sunset.

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She is very contemplative, sometimes.

And this weird arch thingy with an ancient pygmy sculpture.

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By which I mean it is an ancient statue of a pygmy, which we would later learn was a popular theme during a certain period in Roman decorative art. I am not sure whether this statue comes from the same decorative theme or not. In fact, I know almost nothing about it.

Then we hopped on the bus for another ride around Rome in the dark until Evie started insisting that we eat. “I eat dinner!”

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The next day we took the fast train south to Napoli, and from there we jumped on a regional train and ended up in Pompei, in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius.

You know, that volcano that erupted and buried an entire city alive.

We felt right at home immediately.

 

Our first sight on stepping off the train was this gorgeous church, The Church of the Blessed Mary of the Holy Rosary. family-friday-84-37

We have been inside so many gorgeous churches in Italy, but I think this one was Ryan’s favorite.

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We arrived just as Morning Mass was letting out.

Evie liked it too.

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From there we moved on into town looking for the old city. It was not hard to find.

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It was amazing how much of it was preserved, and how much had been restored.

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Ryan the Dad-iator emerges from the amphitheater, victorious, thanks to his trusty mini-combat-minion. Never underestimate the min-combat-minion.

 

Much of the decorative artwork, frescoes and marbles and such, had all been looted in the early 18th century. What remained, however, was gorgeous.

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In some places gardens had been replanted to show what they might have looked like in the city’s heyday.

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The city’s streets, empty, and with huge, rough cobblestones.

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Evie bit the dust on one of those stones. She bit her lip as well. Tears followed, but she got over them pretty quickly.

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This was where one of the city’s bigwigs lived. This house would cost a fortune even by today’s standards.
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Vesuvius sleeping in the background.

It was a long day, but well worth it, and even with a couple of hours in the old city we didn’t even see a quarter of it.

The Vatican Museums would turn out to be a similar experience.

Glimpses of the Mediterranean from the train.family-friday-84-38

family-friday-84-15Sunday morning we went to Sancte Spiritu in Sassia, a Church about a quarter mile from St. Peter’s square that featured an English Sunday Mass.family-friday-84-40That was the day we joined Pope Francis for his Sunday Address and the Angelus. family-friday-84-16

The White Dot is Papa Francisco.

We went to the Trevi fountain that night, and took some pictures, but the area was swarming with tourists so we decided to take some pictures from a distance and then go back to the hotel to go to bed.family-friday-84-42

We didn’t even stop at the Cocktail-to-go stand!family-friday-84-41

But we did introduce Evie to gelato (berry flavored, of course).

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Gelato for everyone!

The berry gelato was so berry-ish, the thing was chock full of seeds! Real fresh fruit. I tell you, the Italians do not skimp on the ingredients.

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Evie’s comment was: “Ummmmmmm, Nummy nummy nummy!

Of course we didn’t let her eat the whole thing by herself. That would have been a very foolish tactical error on our part as bed time was a few short hours away.

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Baby wipes to the rescue. Poor Baby Girl has a fat lip from kissing the cobbles, but she didn’t let it slow her down.

The next day we took a three hour guided small group tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica of St. Peter. I won’t even attempt to describe all of that.

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Our last stop that night was the Spanish Steps.

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Evie’s favorite thing was the Christmas tree, or as she says, “The Miss-miss tree.”

family-friday-84-53Her least favorite was the selfies. She doesn’t like selfies, or holding still for pictures at all.

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And in all fairness, we do kind of suck at selfies.

Then finally it was time to go home.

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Evie stole Daddy’s return trip reading, but she actually did sleep four or five hours on the flight.family-friday-84-54

And here we are back home, recovering from Europe and getting ready to get crushed by Christmas (Mommy works four twelve-hour night shifts over Christmas weekend. Yuck!)

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But at least we have a very helpful baby girl.

What did we ever do without her?

Have a good weekend, Merry Christmas to all, and A Bah Humbug for those so inclined.

God Bless you all!

 

For this week’s Family thing to do, we decided to go on a trip.

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So we all piled in the car and drove to the airport, where we jumped on the first flight out.

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This turned out to be a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and then Rome.

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Lufthansa flights are cool because they come with little baby beds for Evie. This was a good thing since it turned out to be a 10 hour flight.

family-friday-83-22So Evie caught a three hour nap.

And then slept again when we arrived. She even slept while riding the metro, which is not usual for Evie.family-friday-83-24

The next morning we stepped out to explore what was around our hotel.

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Steps. Steps were around there. And early morning streets with the sun on them. family-friday-83-26

And then what do you know, there we were!

family-friday-83-1Right at St. Peter’s Square!

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Mommy and Evie really liked the Nativity scene. It was very Pope Francis-esque, with the images of the tired, poor, hungry and lame coming to visit.

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It was a “cold” winter weekday, so there were no lines for the Vatican. We walked right in (after the metal detectors) and Evie tripped on the cobblestones and smacked her forehead pretty hard. She has been sporting a bruise ever since, but she still looks cute. Tough, but cute.

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Inside the dome.
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The original brass elevator room.
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The Pieta. I could sit and look at it for hours.
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Apparently St. Andrew was about 14 feet tall… and ripped.

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St. Peter’s Square seen from the Basilica steps.
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Mommy and Evie checking out the Swiss Guards.
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Mommy outside the Vatican  post office.
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🙂

We decided to check out one of the Restaurants listed in our favorite Swiss Guard cookbook, La Vittoria, which is a few hundred yards outside the south side of St. Peter’s square.

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As soon as we walked in we knew that the Swiss Guard come here pretty often.

Let me just say, if you are ever in Rome, eat there. You will not regret it, and the prices are quite reasonable.

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Mommy had the pasta carbonara, Daddy had the house pasta, and Evie had patate frittas (a.k.a. French fries). Such a freakin’ toddler!
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Guess who also lives right next door to the Vatican!

And some pictures from slumming around the city…

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Our next major stop (hee hee hee, get it? “Major?”) was the Pope’s parish church,family-friday-83-51

St. Mary Major.

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Undoubtedly this was one of the most beautiful churches we saw on our trip. family-friday-83-12

 

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Mommy took a picture of Daddy and Evie taking a picture of St. Mary Major.

We even paid for a tour of the gallery and mosaics, despite the fact that it was getting on towards noon, and Evie was turning into a very tired baby. The tourguide assured us would only be about 25 minutes long. It would have been, except that he had to give the whole thing twice, once in Italian and once in English, since it was a mixed group.

 

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family-friday-83-15The view from inside the nave.

 

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It was impossible to get a picture of the whole mosaic from the balcony. The balcony didn’t go out far enough.

We learned that the mosaic façade was done in two separate pieces, the first being the upper band in the Byzantine style, and the second being the lower series of panels in a renaissance style. The marble arches and the balcony and gallery that they support were added some centuries later in an effort to protect the mosaic from the elements and extend its life. Unfortunately, the arches had to be attached directly to the wall in several places, so in those areas they had to cover up the mosaic. Still, I think it was done rather carefully and quite tastefully.

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Evie was a very good girl through the tour and only started getting cranky when it was past her nap time and we went inside to see the gallery of popes and Bernini’s staircase.

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The staircase is a bit of an engineering feat because Bernini built it without any central support pillar. The blocks of marble that form the stair sit one on top of the other so that each transfers its weight down into the one below it, and so on into the foundation. The surrounding walls keep them from sliding outward, and the downward weight holds the structure together.

 

Pretty cool stairway, Bernini, but we saw one made out of wood, without a central support, and with no surrounding wall. St. Joseph wins!

Through the whole tour, Evie was a very good girl. She is quite a good traveler, except she likes to steal Daddy’s sun glasses.

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But traveling is tiring work, so, Baby Girl has to take naps.

 

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Rest and recuperation are essential for the traveling toddler.

Then up and at it again! See you next time.

God Bless you all!

 

 

Last sunday but one, now, (I meant to finish this last week but haven’t had time) was a great sightseeing day. I did some searching on the interwebs and found a sight that looked promising, read some reviews, got directions and basically sketched out a basic plan for the day.

Funny how that can make all the difference.

But before sightseeing, I went to Mass with another Catholic soldier. Lopburi Sight Seeing18

I have written before that when I speak of “Home” I rarely mean a physical place. I am generally referring either to family or of a Catholic Church. That is the case whenever I arrive at a Catholic Church, I am instantly at home.

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The congregation is small, but wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He has promised to be their in the middle of them. It didn’t even matter that the Mass was in Thai (although the priest was kind enough to recap his homily in English for our benefit). The Sacrament is the same. It is still Jesus.

Fortified by the Sacrament, sightseeing is much more fruitful because it is easier to see things the way Jesus sees them. And there is a lot in Thailand worth seeing. He has made this country marvelously beautiful (as He has this whole world, by the way). Lopburi Sight Seeing42

We set out for Ban Mi, which is a little outside Lopburi city but still in Lop Buri province. On the way we stopped at a tea stand, and the owner was so thrilled to see three white guys come in and buy Thai tea (I love Thai tea so much!) that he had to take about half a dozen pictures of us.

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Ban Mi is home to a Buddhist temple complex known as Wat Khao Wonkghot. The temple is a beautiful active temple complex, still under construction even though it was founded in the early 20th century. Work on it has been proceeding steadily since the 1930’s and continues to this day, still done by hand, with all the materials carried up the mountain by volunteers from the local village.

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Wat Khao Wongkhot is home to about a bazillion monkeys.

Do not go to Wat Khao Wongkhot if you are afraid of hiking or stairs.

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The temple sits in a valley formed between three small, steep “mountains” (Thai mountains of a thousand feet or so, not like Himalayas, or even Pacific Northwest mountains).

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You’re not getting anywhere without climbing steps.

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Some heads God made perfect. The rest he covered with hair.

At the top of the central and smallest hill is a statue of a seated Buddha, still under construction. It is pretty cool to see how a rough silhouette of the body is formed from bricks and then covered with cement, all of which are hauled up all those steps by hand.

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Those are the legs of a Buddha sitting cross-legged, while the torso and shoulders are not finished.

The temple is also home to one of the largest bat caves in Thailand.

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That’s all the advertisement it gets except for a short blurb in the Thailand tourism website.

To get to the bat cave… you guessed it! More steps!

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These steps are pretty tall.

However there is no hurry. (It’s a Buddhist temple. Hurry is kind of against the whole inner logic of the place.)

Lopburi Sight Seeing29Stop and rest as often as you like under the trees, or among the tombs and monuments to benefactors that dot the hillside.

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When you get close to the cave it’s pretty unmistakable. The smell of guano hits you about two hundred meters down the slope.

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Our interpreter, Jib, not digging the smell.

It’s a strongly ammonia smell, but according to the literature at the temple, the harvesting and sale of guano is a major source of income for the monks.

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Meh. I’ve smelled worse. I’ll take guano over wet gangrene any day.

From the mouth of the cave you can hear the rustling and squeaking of millions of bats as loud as the wind through the forest leaves. Of course they don’t come out during the day, but they make a mighty noise unto the Lord, even in their sleep.

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A view from the mouth of the bat cave, showing the temple complex and the unfinished Buddha on the far small hill.

We wanted to get to the tallest peak but could not find a way up from the main temple area. So we hiked down around the mountain and into town to ask the locals. They directed us down a dark alley (okay, so it wasn’t very dark, but it was definitely an alley) where we found a bunch of dragon tails.

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We estimated each one at 80-100 pounds. The bamboo apparatus is a little for carrying them to the top of the mountain on a human being’s shoulders. I am in the best shape among that group and it took me the better part of 30 minutes to make the half mile or so trail to the top, where I found what the dragon tails were being used for.

I also found more monkeys.

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A local village was working on the shrines at the top of the mountain and he showed us into the space below the one that he is building.

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Apparently during excavations in the area someone discovered a “footprint of the Buddha” and the temple decided to build a shrine over the spot.

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It was somewhat Indiana Jones-esque under there.

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This depression in the rock is the “footprint.” It somewhat resembles the shape of a human foot, and they claim it was not carved out in anyway. Lopburi Sight Seeing39Now, I know what hard-headed American skepticism has to say at this point. I myself do not personally believe there is anything supernatural in the shape of that hollow in the rock. Rather like the lady who spilled shampoo in the shower that happened to land in a vaguely humanoid shape, and immediately claimed a supernatural revelation by the Blessed Virgin, I think that it is merely a naturally occurring shape in the rock that is given significance by the people who look at it.

I do not for a moment think that this makes it valueless.

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This man has been hauling stone up the mountain, two or three trips a day, for almost ten years. He has helped to build a beautiful work of art in honor of the greatest and holiest thing that he knows.

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This old monk showed us the shrine housing an even larger (and more obscure) “footprint of the Buddha.”

The same is true of the old monk who has been meditating at that temple for 35 years, and who showed us the older and larger shrine over another “footprint” sight. For years ago when I visited the two major temples in Bangkok it was the same. I was impressed, not so much with the force of the tenets of Buddhism (that is topic for a much different and longer post) as the dedication of its adherents.

They are wiser than we are, because they understand that the fundamental relationship of the human person is worship, by which I mean surrender and self-sacrifice. They consider it a joy and an honor to subject themselves to the honor of the Buddha (which is not pure Buddhism, by the way. It is highly significant to me that pure Buddhism as the Buddha preached it hardly ever exists anywhere.)

Imagine if a parish priest asked his parishioners in America to build a chapel at the top of a mountain by first building a set of stairs to the top, and then hauling 80 Lbs blocks of stone up there one at a time on their shoulders, and carefully mortaring each one into place with cement which had to be carried up one sack at a time, in a cement mixer that was carried up on a shoulder litter.

That would never happen, because we have forgotten what it is to worship. As the great cathedrals in Europe bear witness, Christendom had that kind of faith once, which allowed a man to dig a foundation for a building he would never see, to honor a God he could not see, but believed in with all his heart.

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This cage is to keep the monkeys from stealing your shoes and backpacks when you go in the shrine.

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This shrine was dedicated to the former abbots of the monastery. One of them is interred there in a glass coffin, supposedly having been miraculously non-decomposed since his death in the late 1960’s.

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I am slightly familiar with the corresponding Catholic examples of the “incorruptibles” and I couldn’t help but think this must be some different sort of thing. The Catholic saints that do not decompose are usually preserved in a very life-like state, often looking as if they had merely fallen asleep.

This fellow, on the other hand, appeared to me to be more in a state of petrification or mummification.

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Mind, I have no way of knowing what really is the case. I will not limit holiness strictly to Catholics, or even Christians. How am I to know that this ancient monk did not have an encounter with the living God in one form or another in the course of his meditations? It would certainly not be the ordinary path to sanctity, but God is not limited to one path (we may be, but He is not.) Only God can say. I only say that from the evidence of my sense, the preservation of the corpse seemed to resemble petrification rather than the sort of life-like preservation of the body that Catholics might be familiar with.

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At this point the sky was getting dark and rain was coming on so we decided to head down the mountain. We tried to take a different path that would open up into the main temple complex, but it didn’t.

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It simply led us around below the pink dome to another, smaller bat cave, with a small bench in it that the monks sometimes use for meditating. So we had to run back down the way we came through pretty heavy downpour. For whatever reason, going down was a lot faster than coming up had been.

We stopped at a local “restaurant” in town. I put restaurant in quotations because it was not a restaurant in the western sense, but rather just a house where local people were happy to cook food for anyone who stopped by. They did not serve drinks. To get drinks you had to walk out and buy them from the little shop across the street.

They made their own decorations out of old soda bottles.

Lopburi Sight Seeing53Yeah, that’s probably not kosher in an American restaurants, and the tatoos made him look like a convict (rather incongruous with the green gingham apron), but the man can cook! Within moments of firing up his propane tank the open air room was filled with the taste of Thai peppers sizzling in vegetable oil.

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And this was the result, khao man gai khai (oily rice with chicken and egg). It was delicious and only 20 baht (roughly $0.60 US).

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We felt bad about accepting the food that cheaply, but the lady who owned the house refused to take more money. That was what she always charged, basically what the food was worth and maybe a couple of baht more. We tipped her as well as we dared without insulting her. That is something I found out last time I was in Thailand. Tipping outside Western influenced areas can be construed as insulting, as if you were “buying” their hospitality. It doesn’t always hold true, especially in areas that cater to westerners. You kind of have to feel it out. When in doubt, ask a good interpreter.

We headed back to the temple as the sun was setting, running into this fine fellow sitting atop a statue of his ancestor. Monkeys are dirty, rascally creatures, but they are fun to watch.

We hiked up to the promontory above the bat cave, and stood there to wait for the bats.

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They started coming out around 6:30 PM but with the dark of the ground below them we couldn’t see them very well, so we hiked back down to the mouth of the bat cave.

Let me just say, totally worth waiting the whole day.

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Literally millions of bats.

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They came in wave after wave, shrieking and screeching, and flowing like a furry winged river through the air across the valley and over the forest on the opposite side, before dispersing to begin the night’s hunting.

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I can’t upload video right now, though I wish I could.

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I climbed down into the bat cave to take pictures of them from below as they flew past. Probably not the the wisest move, but it worked well.

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The streams of bats continued past sunset, through twilight, and well into the dark.

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But there was a gorgeous three-quarter waxing moon to provide perfect back-lighting.

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And they continued.

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Until finally we had to call it quits and go. We needed to get some food and get the van back in case anyone else wanted to go out.

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We were watched out of the temple by a retinue of creepy monkeys.

A magnificent day. God is good. May all people come to know Him.

 

 

 

 

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When work takes you to Thailand, and you have a free weekend, you should definitely use that weekend to get out and see the country a bit. This is my second trip to Thailand. Of all countries I have been to, Thailand is one of my favorites, right up their with Nepal. They are very different countries, but I like them both in different ways.

Lopburi Sight Seeing2Thailand is great for street meat. Little out of the way shops and vending trucks are the way to eat. A lot of westerners don’t like them because they are afraid of getting food poisoning, but my experience has always been the exact opposite. The street stands are the safest places to eat because everything is roasted on charcoal, boiled or deep-fried right before your eyes. In fact the only time I’ve ever gotten food poisoning was in Nepal at a Five Star Hotel. I have never gotten sick at a street food stand.

We set out for a waterfall that our interpreter found on a list of attractions in the Lop Buri area. Lopburi Sight Seeing3We saw pictures of it on the internet that looked pretty good, but we had a hard time finding it, and spent a lot of time driving around the middle of nowhere. Directions in the boondocks in Thailand are not always very precise. We asked for directions but a lot of the locals had never heard of the place. When we did finally find the spot the sign didn’t look very promising.

The bathrooms along the “trail” looked even less so.

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Which did not stop us from using them, by the way…Lopburi Sight Seeing5

When we got to the river the water looked as if it was carrying the run-off from those toilets. We had a pleasant chat with the gang of local boys who were sporting around in it and learned that the “waterfall” was actually a series of cement cascades and pools that the town had built into the river to create a tourist attraction, but that some years ago a flood had come through and wiped it all out. We saw the chunks of concrete lying in the water throughout the river.

So instead of glittering waterfalls leaping merrily over the precipices and plunging into crystal pools below, as the internet photos showed, instead there was a dirty brown river slowly sliding through a small, rural Thai town whose citizens were utterly unconcerned by its lack of tourist appeal. Indeed, they seemed more amused than otherwise by us.

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We did buy some excellent corn on the cob and chicken-on-a-stick.

So then our driver (who doesn’t speak English) chimed in with an “I told you so” expression on his face, and volunteered to take us to the real waterfall. Apparently his sister had told him about the “waterfall” some time before and he had told our interpreter, Jib, that it was not going to be worth seeing. She, however, can be very stubborn and she didn’t listen.

So then we drove to the Pa Sak Cholasit reservoir to find a swimming area, but it has been a very dry year and the rainy season hasn’t really kicked in full bore yet, so the lake was low, the beach was a mud flat, and the tents were deserted.

Lopburi Sight Seeing7At that point we were going to call it a day. Fortunately, we decided to take the long way back, and on the north end of the lake we drove past a Buddhist temple with a giant statue of the Buddha still under construction. Inside the courtyard of the temple complex there was a decent sized street market of the kind I love best. It was the night market (so called to distinguish it from the morning market) with tons of local produce and food carts.

Of course I had to stop and patronize some of the stands. I got a lot of surprised and Lopburi Sight Seeing9pleased looks because I said “Sawadee-Kahp” (hello) and “Kahp Kum Krahp” (thank-you) and greeted people with the traditional Thai bow, although I messed up the protocol a bit by initiating the bow towards people younger than myself. The younger are supposed to bow first. Still, Jib said they thought I was a “cute” foreigner because I was so polite. (I wonder if they were surprised by comparison with other foreigners?)

I bought some Dhwoi Khai which are tiny little bananas smaller than my thumb (the name means “egg banana.”) I think the egg bananas are the sweetest and most flavorful of bananas, as if they cram all the flavor of a big banana in a tiny package.

I also bought a little baggie of sweet rice cakes in coconut milk. Jib said you don’t see them around much anymore because they are very time consuming to make. I thought they were a little too sweet, but I love the chewy rice cake texture.

And I donated some change towards the completion of the Buddha statue.

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I’ve always thought that if I wasn’t a Catholic I would be a Buddhist. It’s the second most badass religion.

BLopburi Sight Seeing10ut I am a Catholic. By God’s grace we were able to find a Catholic Church not too far from where we were staying (one of the guys is also Catholic). No matter where I go in the world, as soon as I find a Catholic Church, I am home.

We ascertained what time Mass would be the next day, and then went sightseeing in downtown Lop Buri.

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Lop Buri city is an interesting place. It was the capital of the kingdom over a thousand years ago, long before the King of Siam unified the country and transferred his capital to Bangkok. At that time the area was under the control of the Khmer empire, and traces of their architecture can be seen randomly dotted all over the city in the temple and palace ruins. As the city grew the ancient sites were allowed to fall into disrepair, but still held in enough reverence that they were not torn down. The city simply grew up around them. Lopburi Sight Seeing12A good example is this Brahman temple (circa. 1500’s A.D.) in the middle of a busy intersection.

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The old town is chock full of temples and palaces, such as this Chinese influenced Buddhist temple built by King Narai the Great (1633-1688).

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A view through the wall of the Royal Palace complex.

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And then there was this magnificent view right in the heart of downtown Lop Buri, between the biker bar and Moon’s Guest House (a local Hippie boarding house).Lopburi Sight Seeing16

A perfect view with the moon in the background.

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It may seem that the day started out as kind of a bust in the sightseeing department, and turned out pretty spectacular, but the truth is no day lived with an open heart can ever be a bust, even if you never see anything new in it the whole day long.