- Abandoned -
Table of Contents
a religious thriller written by
Ronald E. Boutelle
Chapter 37: Father Mark
Again the weather was cooperating as everyone settled down in the beautiful glen to listen to Rama. For Maria, Blake, Sutton and Judy the evening promised to be a welcome opportunity to change gears. Besides learning more about Nick’s closest friend they were also looking forward to thinking about something else besides all the things that had been consuming them for the past several months—especially the last six weeks.
The Gift of Light
photo by: Kevin
Sitting to Nick’s right sat Maria and Blake—Major Sutton and Judy to their right. Nick and Rama were also sitting together, Rama immediately to Nick’s left—their eyes bright and both men smiling as they looked out upon everyone gathered around.
Nick began to speak. “Normally when we sit down together we like to say a few words thanking God for His kindness—and naturally we always remember Surya and thank God for the many years that we were blessed by his presence.” Nick then turned and looked at Maria, taking her hand. “Obviously,” he continued, “we have so much to be thankful for.” As everyone sat looking at Maria, her smile became infectious and happiness stirred within everyone like little butterflies flirting with a bed of beautiful flowers.
Looking very happy, Nick continued. “Not only do we have Rama back safely, by now you have all met my daughter and Major Sutton, as well as Judy and Blake. It seems that God is intent on making our small family just a little bit bigger.”
Hearing this everyone became even happier and their laughter a delight to their ears. Maria squeezed Blake’s hand. Nick continued. “As we all know it was just a few days ago that Rama was sitting on this very spot telling us about his adventures in India. Of course, with the unexpected arrival of our guests there was no way he could continue. Because of this I have asked Rama to begin this evening where he left off. He has already told us about meeting his American friend, Radhanath Swami.” Reaching out and taking Rama’s hand, Nick then said, “we are all so happy that you made it back safely.
Rama reached down and took a sip from a small cup fashioned from a coconut shell that sat in front of him. “Thank you, Nick. Yes, there is so much to be thankful for and like you just said, it has especially warmed my heart getting to know Maria and her friends.”
All the monks nodded their heartfelt approval.
“About my trip to India—yes, there is much to tell. I have already mentioned that once I reached Vrindavan I stayed with my uncle Sripada and his family. Because he is somewhat famous, my uncle meets many musicians and loves inviting them for dinner.
Rama continued, “For me, this is what I enjoyed most about the time I spent in India. Not only did I get to meet people from all over the world, those who make the journey to Vrindavan are naturally very religious. This not only brought me in contact with a wide variety of people, it also exposed me to spiritual topics that I had no idea even existed.”
Rama then turned toward Nick. “But first let me say this. Before we found you on that fateful day so many years ago, those of us that you met—we were only a small group of monks from Cambodia.
“Of course we knew about America and we all spoke a few words of English, but none of us except Surya knew how to really speak it. Perhaps I spoke a few more words than the others but as you know, Nick, my English was very poor. Everything about us was Cambodian—except that we still worshiped the old way. As I was telling Blake and Maria last night, today Cambodia is a Buddhist country, but Surya taught us that you only have to examine the roots of our country to see that Cambodia actually owes its greatness to India. For example, I am named after the greatest king that ever lived in India, Lord Ramachandra. He and His fierce army of monkey soldiers are famous in both India and Cambodia.”
Lord Ramachandra & Hanuman
“This is why I wanted to go to India—to see all of this with my own eyes. Nick, do our guests know that my ancestors had come from India?”
Nick nodded, as well as Maria, Blake and Judy, all expressing their gratitude.
“Nick, I know that I am not the only one who feels like this. Before you taught us, our understanding of the world outside our little monastery was very limited. For example, yes, we had heard of Jesus, but His teachings were mostly unknown to us—except for Surya. But after you arrived this all changed. I remember how Surya spent hours with us explaining all the things that the two of you had talked about.
Rama began to tear up as he continued to speak. “As I think back on everything that has happened, Nick, it is actually we who have benefited the most. God is much greater than what any of us had ever imagined and so many times, both you and Surya showed this to us. Thank you.”
Nick blushed as Rama continued. “Yes I had a wonderful trip to India, but it’s also true that before that fateful day when we discovered you, I was clueless that knowing how to speak English and understanding Christianity would later have such a profound influence upon me during the time I lived in Vrindavan. I’m afraid that if Cambodian had been my only language—who knows? Perhaps going to India might have simply remained a dream that I would have never fulfilled. Or, if I had gone, I think I would have missed out on so much. Even my uncle—and his wife and children didn’t speak Cambodian, except for a few words.
“So yes, Nick, each of us has plenty to thank God for and now there are new friends among us to share in the things we are about to discuss.
Shifting his weight, Rama continued his story. “Father Mark is another American I had the privilege to meet. One evening my uncle had invited him for dinner. Mark told us that his home was in a place called, San Angelo, Texas.”
Rama paused for a moment. The pleasant aroma of incense slowly drifted through the beautiful glen. “Father Mark told me that he was a Catholic priest. With great fondness he also mentioned his own father. He said that he was a very religious man and had made all the arrangement so that Mark could go to India. Mark said that his dad had always tried to teach him that there is more to God than what most Christians like to admit.
“His father had been an airline pilot and was given a book at an airport. Over the years, other books about ‘Hinduism’ were given to him. What’s interesting is that all the books he received were written by the same person, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.”
“That’s the spiritual master of Radhanatha Swami, the American you met at the hospital in Vrindavan!”
“Yes he is, Nick. Radhanatha Swami told me that Prabhupada’s mission was to present the real religion of India and had ordered his disciples to print and distribute his books all over the world. Airports were the perfect place to meet people from all walks of life—many travelers with hours of waiting on their hands and a good book not out of the question.
Shrila Prabhupada’s Translations of Ancient Vedic
Texts are World Famous
(1896 – 1977)
“Over time Mark also found his way to God, following the tradition of his Catholic roots—while at home his father quietly studied Prabhupada’s books and discovered many similarities between the religion of India and his Catholic faith.
“Since Mark’s father felt that he was not well enough to travel to India, he instead paid for his son to go. He only asked that Mark to go to Vrindavan first—a very sacred place that Prabhupada had mentioned time and time again in his books.
“Of course, as Mark told me, such an extended trip at this point in his career meant that a significant sabbatical would be required—but he wanted to go. After all, how long would his father live? If Mark was ever going to go to India and be sure to come back to see his father again, he knew it was either then or perhaps never.”
Father Mark's Church
Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Angelo, Texas
photo by: Ronald E. Boutelle
“So yes, Father Mark impressed me as a person firmly grounded in his Catholic faith, and while it is true that most Catholics seldom look at anything beyond their faith, like I said, Mark’s father had often said that he found God much too big to belong exclusively to any one group of people.
“Respecting his father dearly, if Mark’s dad told him that something was extremely worthwhile in those books, and was willing to spend thousands of dollars sending him to India to find out about them—then he was going to give his father an honest report. But he also told me that he was concerned how he was going to balance what he found in Vrindavan with his deep faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Consciously resisting the temptation to pre-judge India, its religion and the people he was about to meet—from the very moment he landed in India, Father Mark decided to not make that challenge more difficult by arriving with a head full of preconceived ideas. Out of respect for the ancient traditions that he discovered and doing his best to fit into the mood of Vrindavan, eventually Mark even painted his forehead and nose with the auspicious clay that many of those living in Vrindavan decorate themselves with.”
Father Mark at the end
of his 3rd Month in Vrindavan
The evening was growing more beautiful by the moment, the sun wanting to drop below the peaks of Elephant Mountain. A gentle breeze felt good and the chirping of birds and the nearby waterfall made a pleasant sound.