One of the most striking photographs of the week was that showing the young Thai boys – so courageously rescued from that perilous cave – attired as novice Buddhist monks, with shaved heads and in saffron robes.
They are spending a period of time in the monastery attached to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple as an act of gratitude towards their deliverance; and to honour the soul of Saman Kunan, the former Thai navy Seal who died in the first attempt to reach the young lads.
If this dramatic rescue had happened in the Western world, the boys would be immediate celebrities, appearing on television programmes, perhaps invited to endorse Coca-Cola or a pizza brand, and their family stories published in the tabloid newspapers.
Perhaps the Thai youths will eventually emerge as individual celebrities when the film of the rescue at Tham Luang Nang Non cave is released.
Yet it was admirable that Eastern tradition dictated that their first response should be a duty of gratitude – and humility, too. In the boys’ monastic sojourn, they are expected to do menial tasks and apply themselves to cleaning jobs – cleansing having a special symbolism.
I heard a Buddhist priest explain that gratitude is the primary virtue for Buddhists. It also, of course, stands high in Christianity: GK Chesterton wrote frequently about our need to practise gratitude, not just for the extraordinary, but for the everyday and the ordinary.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection