Monday, July 18, 2011

Rome - Nairobi

July 18, 2011

Peace and Good,

As you can see in the title, I am now in Kenya. I was supposed to travel here on Saturday morning, but at the last minute the flight was rescheduled to the evening. With flights to Africa, you always have to watch out because this often happens.

I am going to be here for two weeks. The first week we had a congress to speak about the fact that our order is changing rapidly. We are about the same size we were at the Second Vatican Council, but now many more vocations are coming from the southern hemisphere (Latin America, Africa and Asia). We talked about interculturality. How different cultures can learn to live with each other and respect their gifts. We also talked about the sharing of finances. The jurisdictions that are older tend to have more finances but fewer vocations, while those that are young have many vocations but little money to finance their education. As friars, we always have to remember that what we have was given to us by God, and if we have in excess, it is to be shared with those who don’t have enough.

I was asked to give a homily each morning to explain the readings and apply them to the themes of each day. This was in Italian and English. Each was only a few minutes long, but preaching in front of one’s confreres is challenging. The response, though, was very affirming.

We ended up with a nice document that is very practical (which isn’t always the case with international meetings). We had about 57 friars from 25 countries. What an incredible mix of ideas. The official languages of the congress were Italian and English. Because I know both, I found myself going back and forth to help with translations and by the end of the week I was not quite sure what language I was using at any particular time.

We spent one afternoon visiting two animal centers. One was a giraffe center. They are incredibly beautiful animals. Then we visited a conservancy center where animal orphans are displayed to help the various conservation projects in the land.

We finished the congress with a Mass at one of our local parishes with the cardinal of Nairobi. It was a truly intercultural experience. Mass lasted a little over three hours. Part of it was that there were 25 young people being confirmed, but also the cardinal more or less preached seven different homilies during the course of the Mass. He was an incredibly engaging speaker, though, and he had the people in the palm of his hand. We were very impressed.

This morning we moved from the retreat center where we held the congress to our seminary which was just down the road. We have another series of meetings this week to program activities for the next few years.

I finished a couple of books. The first is EM Forster's book A Room with a View. It was an excellent story of different understandings of the meaning of life and how they collide. One of my favorite sayings in it is "Life is like playing a violen in front of an audience and learning how to play it as one goes along." People make choices, mistakes, and yet they seem to muddle on.

A second book was A Sicilian Romance. This was by Ann Radcliffe. She was a novelist from the 18th century, and this was the beginning of actual novel writing in English literature. The chacterizations were not all that good, and the novel was packed with very improbably coincidences, but it was worth reading to see what was written in the generation before Charles Dickens.

fr. Jude


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