Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ellicott City - Rome - Nairobi

July 10, 2011

Peace and Good,

I returned to Rome on Wednesday, arriving on Thursday. That gave me a day to rest before I set out on the next trip. Saturday, I and a number of the friars flew to Nairobi, Kenya, for an international congress on interculturality and solidarity.

My order is about the same size as it was 30 years ago. What has changed is where you find the friars. Whereas the majority of the friars used to be in the northern hemisphere (Europe and North America), now, by far, the most of the vocations are coming from the southern hemisphere (South America, Africa and Asia). What does mean for how we live our Franciscan life?

Furthermore, the friars of the northern hemisphere have quite a bit of resources that have accumulated over the centuries, but they have very few vocations. The friars of the southern hemisphere have many, many vocations, but not enough money to feed and train them. How can we share the resources.

We will be here a week for the congress. Next week we have another series of meetings: with the presidents of the conferences (the groupings of provinces arranged geographically), the friars serving in Africa, and then our own general definitory.

I finished a few books. The first was a long podcast on the Religious Roots of America: The Politics of Faith in America by Ray Suarez. It points out that far from being greatly religious men, most of the founding fathers, and especially Jefferson, were at best deists (believing that there was a God who had little to do with out everyday lives).

The second book was a biography of King Richard III by Jacob Abbott. Shakespeare portrays this king as some kind of monster. He was not the nicest man, probably having killed his two young nephews in the Tower of London so that he could become king. But this presentation is more balanced, showing that, given the rough politics of the day, he wasn't the worst person who ever lived.

Finally, there was A Life of General Robert E Lee by John Esten Cooke. Unfortunately, this biography was written by a southener shortly after the civil war, so Lee is presented as a secular saint. Cooke loves General McClellan, a disaster of a general, but one whom the southerners liked because he wasn't concerning with the freedom of the slaves and didn't want to fight the south. At the very least, it's good once in a while to read an unbalanced biography to see how it should not be done.

Hope you have a good week.
Fr. Jude


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