The Search for Catholic Churches in the Ancient Kingdoms of Southeast Asia

December 20, 2015 by darren

The Search for Catholic Churches in the Ancient Kingdoms of Southeast Asia

November 22, Bangkok, Thailand.  I was able to go to 5:00 pm Mass at the Church of the Redeemer.  The Mass was in English. To get to the church, I rode a motorcycle taxi!  The driver dropped me off then came back for me at the end of Mass.  I gave 10 rosaries to the priest who celebrated Mass.

Church of the Redeemer

Church of the Redeemer

On the way to the Church of the Redeemer

On the way to the Church of the Redeemer

November 24, Luang Prabang, Laos. Today was the Feast of the Vietnamese Martyrs.  I was wishing I was in Vietnam to celebrate it!  Our guide took me to a “Catholic” Church but when he introduced me to the priest’s wife, I figured out it was Christian, not Catholic.  There was a cross but no crucifix and no altar.  The wife said they had had a large celebration on Sunday with many westerners.

November 27, Vientiane, Laos.  I visited the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. I had to look quite a while to find an open door.  No one was in the church.  I said a few prayers and then found a statue of the Blessed Virgin with a plastic rosary in her hands (similar to the ones I brought.)  I left 20 rosaries on the shelf at her feet.

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Mary with rosaries

Mary with rosaries

November 29, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I took a remok (similar to a tuk tuk) to St. Joseph Church for the 4:00 pm Mass.  Going to Mass here was special as my father’s name was Joseph and today was his birthday.  Mass was in a large chapel on the second floor. The floor was covered with woven mats; we removed our shoes before entering, then sat on the floor.  The priest, a young man, sat on a chair all during Mass except for the Consecration.  The choir was very nice with an electronic keyboard accompaniment.  This Mass was in Khmer (the official language of Cambodia).  When I first entered the chapel, there were few people there. I gave 10 rosaries to a little lady who was saying the rosary and tried to indicate that she was to give them away. Later three Missionary of Charity sisters (Mother Teresa’s community) came in and another sister whose habit I did not recognize.  Many people came to the Mass.

St. Joseph Church

St. Joseph Church

December 6, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  I walked to the Cathedral of Notre Dame for the 9:30 am Mass.  I arrived early and witnessed the baptism of about 10 babies and small children.  Mass was concelebrated in English by three priests, one of whom was from Orange County, California.  The other two were Vietnamese. I gave 10 rosaries to the celebrant, a Vietnamese priest. In our drives through the city and out into the country side, we saw many large churches.

Cathedral of Notre Dame

Cathedral of Notre Dame

Priest with rosaries

Priest with rosaries

 

 

What was interesting to me was that these were countries where 80% or more of the population are Buddhist, and maybe 1-2% are Christian.  And Cambodia and Vietnam are Communist countries!  In all the Masses I attended, the churches were full, and the people ranged from babies and young people to middle-aged and elderly.  Another thing I found interesting was that the churches contained statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Therése, the Little Flower, probably reflecting the French influence in those countries.  Catholicism seems to be alive and well.

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