I just received this beautiful comment from a good former priest friend of mine in Thailand, responding to the previous posting of July 25th, on The Virgin and the Rent Boy. It made me realize I have to overcome my hesitations and complete these reflections on this very holy Marian site in Northern Slovakia. I've been holding back because so much of the experience was very personal to me, but I intend to focus on the village and shrine itself and what it seems to mean for the people of Slovakia and for the Church as a whole.
This entry stirs up so much!It takes me back to my first visit to Slovakia in 1974, not that long after the stifling of the Prague Spring. Dubcek's attempt to create "Socialism with a human face" had failed, but that didn't stop ordinary Slovaks of all ages from pouring into the churches on all days of the week. Joining them in an afternoon weekday Mass in Bratislava, I could feel their unabashed faith as palpably alive and unquenchable. Like that of Michel's grandmother. Like that of so many devotees in Thailand's Buddhist temples.
I have also felt Montmartre's Sacre Coeur as a holy place but was never fully aware of the triumphalistic reasons behind its creation. That makes your own experience there all the more meaningful, and you put it so well: "...triumphalism on the outside, a sacred mystery within ... which in fact far transcends its powers of control." The cri de coeur which you heard there as well as in your Jesuit novitiate and at Litmanova is certainly being sent into the hearts of thousands of Christians across the world. The more we respond with efforts like yours to open ourselves to the Spirit's healing power for ourselves and the Church, the more the "sacred mystery within" will shine forth upon the whole world instead of being hidden under the bushel basket of institutional triumphalism.
Thanks for reminding us of God's living presence in every human heart through sharing your friendship with former rent boy Michel and how it led you to Litmanova. Thanks for witnessing so vividly to how God's radiance upholds, permeates,and shines upon this broken world through the simplest of our actions.
Ed Vargo in Thailand
to be continued