“The friend who is a helpmate, the friend in happiness and woe, the friend who gives good counsel, the friend who sympathises too — these four as friends the wise behold and cherish them devotedly as does a mother her own child.” —Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31) translated by Narada Thera.
Recently, my daughter and I1 took the train down to Portland, OR to see an old friend of mine. I’ve known this friend since high-school and we keep in touch regularly. He is an ordained Catholic priest and since we were young, we enjoyed discussing religion and Asian culture with each other. We also watched a lot of Star Trek, Simpsons and Kung Fu on TV together which was a lot of fun. However, after college, he moved to different states training, so we rarely get to see each other in person anymore. This was a good opportunity to see him again, and see Portland.
Portland is a very nice city, similar, but maybe a little smaller and more relaxed. My friend told me that he thinks Portland people are more polite than Seattlites, which I tend to agree with. Also, unlike Washington State, Oregon has no sales tax (shōhizei in Japanese, 消費税), so I was surprised how cheap everything was: food, souvenirs, etc.
We took the Amtrak train down to Union Station in Portland, and after that we visited the Chinatown there. Here is a quick photo (sorry for the glare) of the Columbia River that seperates Washington State and Oregon:
After we met my friend, we visited the Lan Su Garden nearby, which was very pretty:
The garden has many buildings, including this one, which looks like the study room for a Confucian scholar:
Or these stone tiles:
Later, we went to the famous Powell’s Bookstore. The bookstore was massive, and had a large selection of new and used books. We found books for my daughter, my son and myself. Here’s my daughter reading a book:
And here’s some of the Roger Zelazny books I found (I purchased a few):
My friend let us stay at the priory behind his church overnight, but we also took some photos too:
And here was a lovely statue of the Virgin Mary:
He also showed a few relics. This is a tiny, tiny piece of the cloth that Mother Theresa wore:
…notice that the caption is written in Latin too. 😉
My friend the priest also showed us his office, which had a lot of traditional Latin liturgy books (like okyō お経 in Buddhism):
My friend explained that the Catholic Church isn’t one church, but actually a group of churches around the world that all have certain things in common, plus follow the Pope as their leader. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest group but there other churches such as the Byzantine Church, the Armenian Church, Chaldean Church, etc. So, because there are many churches there are many ways to do mass. These different rites require training but my friend is certified by the Vatican to do 8 different rites, which is somewhat unusual for priests.
That night, while my daughter slept next door, my friend and I had a long, interesting discussion about religion. It’s always nice to have a good, trusted friend you can talk with about such things, and can share deeper insights into life and such. One good friend is worth more than 10 “buddies”, I think. We shared experiences with Catholic mysticism and Zen/Pure Land teachings as well. I hope to share some of these insights in upcoming posts. 🙂
Anyhow, the next day (Sunday) my daughter and I attended an 800-year old, traditional Latin mass called the Dominican Rite. Most Catholic Mass are in the local language, but many churches will still have a few traditional masses for people who are interested. The Dominican Rite was a bit too long for my daughter (90 minutes) but it was interesting because it was different than the regular Mass I’ve seen before.2 Seeing the mass reminded me of the Middle Ages somehow. Also, since I grew up Mormon, I have never heard a Church service in Latin. As a language nerd it was interesting.
After Mass, my daughter was a little anxious (she is only 7 years old, afterall 😉 ), so we went to Washington Park, which is a very beautiful park on the west-side of Portland. It had a very large playground, and a lovely rose-garden too:
After this, we had to take the train back to Seattle. My daughter had a lot of fun, and slept on a train a little bit. I was happy to see an old friend, share a deep discussion, and to spend some “Daddy-Daughter Time” too. Plus I came back with a lot of old Roger Zelazny books. 😉
Portland is a lovely city, and well worth visiting for a couple days/nights.
1 Little Guy is still a bit too young to travel, and my wife wanted some quiet time. When we came back, she was happy and glowing. Husbands, if you want happy wives, make sure to give them enough personal time! 🙂
2 In my early twenties, when I was first dating my wife, I was seriously interested in becoming Catholic for a few years, but something my wife once said ignited my interest in Buddhism more. Plus our first trip to Japan in 2005 really convinced me that Buddhism was the right path for me.