Monday, January 23, 2012

Rome - Ellicott City

January 23, 2012

Peace and Good,

I have been in Rome all of this week for our monthly definitory (gathering of the minister general and his council). As usual, we discussed the situation of friars and friaries all throughout the world.

During the week, we also took a field trip to a community called the Community of St. Egidio (Giles). This community was founded by Catholic young lay people as a reaction to the upheavals of 1968 (which tended to be very violent in Europe - remember, they brought down the presidency of Charles de Galle). These young people decided that there had to be a way that they could live their lives in a more authentic manner, but remaining lay people. This community had long been dedicated to the service of the poor and emarginated in society. They have spread all throughout the world. There are now around 70,000 to 80,000 of them. They have even been involved in diplomacy. Their most famous intervention was in Mozambique, Africa, when they helped to broker a cease fire and peace treaty to end a civil war raging there.

Since 1986, they have been committed to inter-religious dialog under the title of the Spirit of Assisi. This was the name given to a gathering sponsored by Pope John Paul II of religious figures all throughout the world in Assisi. This community has continued this initiative with gatherings of various religious figures each year to commemorate and continue the work.

We met with them to see where we could work together, and what we could learn from each other.

I continued my visitation of Korea in Italy, meeting with a number of Korean friars who are in Rome for their studies. I will be able to finish up the visitation when I get back to Rome in February.

I flew to the States yesterday and will be here for the next three weeks. These week I am getting caught up on medical tests (the normal ones). Next week I have a meeting with the American provincials, and then the week after I will be giving a retreat to our friars at a retreat house in Jacksonville, FL.

These are some books that I have finished.

Lectures on Russian Literature by Ivan Panin

I have really taken a liking to Russian literature, and this is a long lecture on four different authors who represent various tendencies in authorship: Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenef and Tolstoy. Pushkin is seen as someone who can only sing the glories of what he sees. Gogol can see and describe the negative. Turgenef attack that which he understands to be unjust. Tolstoy sees the good and bad and transcends them. The lecture certainly shows certain prejudices on how Panin reads these authors, but his evaluation is a good read.

The Mountains of California by John Muir

John Muir is largely responsible for the movement to protect the beauties of nature in the US. I have already read a couple of his books describing the Grand Canon and the glaciers of Alaska. This book covers the mountain ranges in California. His writing is pure poetry, but this one gets a bit too bogged down in description. Sometimes one feels as if one is ready a botany textbook. It is still worth reading, but it is not Muir’s best attempt.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Nemirovsky was a Catholic French author (of Russian Jewish heritage) who wrote just before and during World War II. She was eventually arrested and died in Auschwitz. This book was written at the begging of the war (up to the first anniversary of the conquest of Paris by the Nazi’s, which coincided with the German invasion of the Soviet Union). It describes first the panicked response of people as the Nazi’s were arriving, and then their attempt to live under the control of the Nazi’s. There is also a good amount of polemic about the attitude of the various factions in French politics that had torn the country apart before the war and how those divisions continued well into the occupation. There are not a lot of heroes in the story, even as that period was terribly messy in actuality.


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