I'm currently in Thailand visiting my in-laws in the northern suburbs of Bangkok. While I'm here, I'll try to file a few reports on the Catholic Church in Thailand. In a country that's 96% Buddhist and less than 1% Christian of any kind, the Church here is hidden, yet is doing powerful work, one soul at a time.
We visited the shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, the first Thai priest to be beatified. He died a martyr during a persecution of the Church in 1944. During World War II, Thailand, while officially neutral, was dominated by an anti-Western government that was suspicious of any foreign influences. The Catholic Church was seen as a puppet of the imperialist French government, who had colonized the neighborning nations of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Blessed Nicholas was arrested in 1941, along with many other Thai Catholics, and spent three years in prison, where he continued to courageously preach the Gospel. Finally he died as a result of his harsh treatment, after having baptized over fifty of his fellow prisoners. Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Nicholas in 2000.
His shrine in Nakhom Pathom, a small city about one hour from Bangkok, was dedicated just a few years ago, and contains the Blessed Nicholas' relics, along with a museum commemorating his heroic life. We visited on a weekday afternoon and the place was deserted. Perhaps on Sundays or feast days it's busier, but now the shrine waits silently for a future harvest from the seed sown by Thailand's holy martyrs.
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