Monday, February 22, 2010

Back to the Cold Weather

February 15, 2010

Peace and Good,

I am writing this in Southern Maryland where there is still snow on the ground (although it is melting fast).

Last week I was in El Cajon, California. The area has a remarkable number of appartments and trailor parks, so there is quite a high population density. The parish's name is Holy Trinity. It has a mix of Anglo, Hispanic, and Chaldean (Eastern Rite Catholics from Iraq).

I had worked with Chaldeans while I was in Rome. There were 2,000 of them there and they had fled persecution under Saddam Hussein. The United Nations High Commisioner for refugees in Rome was an Iraqi Muslim, so they were not categorized as refugees. They could not work, and at that particular moment, the United States had made it difficult for them to enter (because we were backing Iraq in their war against Iran). I worked with the Caritas International and the World Council of Churches to get them assistance and resettled. They were people who had suffered for the faith over centuries. There is a large population of them in California now, and more a coming in as they fear what will happen when the Americans pull out of Iraq.

Something comical happened to me on Ash Wednesday evening. I was doing my daily walk in the parking lot around 9 P.M. A car pulls up and a lady asks for ashes. I told her that everything was locked up. She signaled to me to give her some of the ashes on my forehead. I bent down, and she took some and put them on her own forehead. First time that has ever happened to me. I am sure that there is a homily in it somewhere (e.g. sharing what you have, doing penance along with others?).

My mission went until Thursday and then I flew back to Baltimore. Talk about a quick turnover. I arrived in my room around 9 P.M. and was getting in the car to drive 2 hours to the next site by 6:30 A.M.

I finished one book: Mornings in Florence by John Ruskin. He is a 19th century art critic. He has very strong opinions, but some incredibly beautiful insights. I really appreciate people who can look at a piece of a sculpture or a frescoe and speak of this and that so that they allow you to go beyond what is in front of your eyes. Florence is such a beautiful city, and this relatively short book presents itself as a walking tour of some of the sites for a six day period.

I forgot to tell you a story from the parish I visited the week before last. There is a Vietnamese priest there named Fr. Joe and he spoke to me of how he fled Vietnam when the Communists were taking over. He was walking a beach near his home with another priest (not dressed as a priest). The communists were only a short distance away. He did not have the money to seek a passage on one of the fishing boats that were going to take refugees out to the American boats. He starting speaking with the owner of a boat, and the owner just happened to say that when his father had fled from the Communists in North Vietnam in 54, he had a priest on board and everything had gone well. (He, himself, was not a Catholic.) He said he wished he had a priest to take on his boat now. Fr. Joe identified himself as a priest, showing him the official card identifying him as such. The man then asked Fr. Joe if he knew another priest because his brother was also taking out a boat. Fr. Joe said that the man he was walking with was another priest. Remember, there is no such thing as coincidence. Coincidence is God's way of acting anonymously.

Here is my coming schedule:

02/27/10 - 03/04/10 - St. Thomas More, Oceanside, CA 92056 p.o.c. Kathleen Bell (Parish Mission)

03/06/10 - 03/10/10 - Our Lady of Mercy, Harborcreek, PA 16421 p.o.c. Rev. Gerald Ritchie/Donna Clark (Parish Mission)

03/13/10 - 03/17/10 - St. Joseph, Pomfret, MD 20675 p.o.c. Fr. Mark Smith/Ron Weaver (Parish Mission)

03/19/10 - 03/25/10 - St. Lucie, Port St. Lucie, FL 34983 p.o.c. Fr. Mark Szanyi (Parish Mission)

03/29/10 - Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C. p.o.c. Kathleen Noel (Talk)

03/30/10 - St. Louis Catholic Church, Clarksville, MD p.o.c. Mike Leumas (Knights of Columbus Talk)

04/01/10 - 04/04/10 - Bon Secours Retreat Center, Marriottsville, MD p.o.c. Lynn Lieberman (Triduum Retreat)

04/05/10 - 04/10/10 - Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, Hamburg, NY 14075 p.o.c. Sr. Joyce Kubiniec (Retreat)

04/11/10 - 04/16/10 - Hyatt Regency Hotel, Hamburg, NY (Provincial Retreat)

04/17/10 - 06/12/10 - International House of Franciscan Studies, Canterbury, England, U.K.

06/13/10 - 06/18/10 - Hyatt Regency Hotel, Hamburg, NY (Provincial Retreat)

06/19/10 - 07/01/10 - St. Victor's Major Seminary, Tamale, Ghana, West Africa p.o.c. Fr. David Azambawu(Seminarian Retreat)

God bless and

fr. Jude


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