Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Religious Visits

While in Italy, in the town of Assisi, C pointed out that it was interesting, given that she was as Atheistic as they came, and that I fell under the "Other" category in terms of spiritual beliefs, we always ended up in the holy places of monotheistic, patriarchal religions.

For example, we were in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve; Rome during Good Friday and Easter Sunday; Fatima in Portugal; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem; the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; Kairoun in Tunisia; The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem; The Mount of Olives; the Sight of the Loaves and Fishes miracle; the Place of Beatitudes where the Sermon on the Mount was alleged to have been given and now Assisi at Saint Francis' grave.

I didn't bother to mention to her the irony of my lengthy bathe in the Ganges in 1987 nor that I was personally blessed by the Pope in 1972.

I enjoy checking out various religious beliefs and customs and the curiosities of them all.

But taking C to religious areas is a bit like taking an feral cat to a dog pen and suggesting that everyone just get along.

In Tennessee, instead of a pleasant day at "Dollywood" where we could have humour and jocularity with impunity (hey who can't in the end like Dolly Parton and Pigeon Forge?) she insisted we go to some homegrown baptist religious roller coaster theme park so she could fall over laughing. C was really looking forward to the hourly actors' recreations of important times during Christ's life, including his Sermon on the Mount, Ride into Jerusalem and Last Supper, after which one could purchase cotton candy and then go on more rides.

When I insisted this would probably result in us being lynched she was miffed.

Instead we ended up in some steak house that refused to sell wine, I think because it reeked of "Popishness" but gladly sold American hard liquor bourbon coolers. They were ok in a "dry" county because, I can only assume, they are considered a Protestant beverage.

I had first really caughten'd on to C's religious "intolerance" when we had visited Fatima in Portugal. This is the site where three young children apparently were visited by the Virgin Mary, one of whom was given a secret message and visions.

The official version that is wltimately a miracle happened involving some weird experience with the sun and it is considered a very, very holy site in Christendom.

As it was the 'down season' for pilgrims when we went, I had no issue going to see the "Sound and Light Show" of the Visitations to the Three Children by the Virgin Mary, just for fun.

Unfortunately the robotics were somewhat moth eaten and whenever Holy Jacinta (one of the representations of the children) raised her creaking robotic arms to the heavens to praise the Holy Virgin, her metal knees gave out leaving the puppetess to crash to the ground like the Tin Man in a car accident, and causing me to jump out of my skin.

By the time we got to the part with the Blessed Jacinta's Vision of Hell, complete with tacky paper mache demons being blown around by a big fan (which you could see behind a piece of "mache" hell wall which was pathetically crumblingn from water damage) I was ready to walk out.

C of course was falling over laughing and demanding I take a photo.

I had already bypassed the Lady of Fatima toenail clippers and wasn't about to further risk a lightning strike by taking photos of the Fatimic version of the "Barrel Ride" at Niagara Falls.

Fatima however was sweet in some respects.

There were countless dogs who ran around the town though "officially" banned near the church. In the large square before the huge Cathedral people would crawl on their knees for about a kilometre or so in an act of Penance.

A very sweet Nun from Africa with bad legs was laboriously performing the ritual, kneeing her way along very slowly and would stop every few metres at which point a friendly town dog would wander up to her and wag his tail and ask for attention. She would then scratch his ears and pet him, rest with him for a minute, catch her breathe and continue on her Penance. This happened on the entire route. Another dog would come by again for a pet and perhaps a message to help her continue her struggle.

In Assisi, I had hoped that the presence of Franciscan monks and the Nuns of the Poor Clares, not known for being worldly and also being generally friendly to animals, might make C a bit more positive on the whole religious thing.

However it wasn't helping that she was reading some intense Canadian novel that takes place in a Catholic girl's school with long held secrets of abuse, guilt and hypocrisy. As soon as we walked into town all she could do was loudly proclaim (as the nuns passed us by) "How could anyone become a Nun? How stupid! They cover themselves up? Why would anyone become a Nun?"

I began the usual platitudes that perhaps some people felt a spiritual connection or need to serve; then my usual speech about the Catholic church's role in the Third World; then lack of choices for women, and again C's snort.

Religion. What is there to believe in? And then why?

Perhaps it is to walk on one's knees, thinking of something other than yourself.

Perhaps it is being kind to the dog that is walking along beside you and giving it a pet.


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