Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seoul - Ganghwa - Tongjin - Incheon - Yahgpyeong - Seoul - Rome

January 16, 2012

Peace and Good,

Well, I completed my visitation of the Korean Province and returned to Rome for a week of meetings.

On Monday, I visited Ganghwa, our house of formation, and Tongjin, a center where the friars live with mentally challenged adults. The friars have a tremendous commitment to work with the poor and broken of any form. I have been very impressed with their generosity of spirit.

These two houses are not all that far from the border with North Korea. There are army bases all over the place in this area, and along the highway one starts to notice the barbed wire which is to keep spies from crossing the border at night. Likewise, there is anti-submarine netting hanging from the bridges. In most of South Korea it is easy to forget how close one is to a very treatening country, but in these towns it is very clear.

The next day we went to Incheon. This is a large parish with a ministry to poor elderly people who live at one of their centers. There is also a kitchen there to prepare what amounts to meals on wheels. Finally, one of the friars serves as an undertaker. In Korea, they used to hold wakes in the homes. Now that most people live in appartments in the city, the wakes were held in the hospitals where the people died. They have set up a funeral parlor under the parish church so that people can hold their wakes in an atmosphere of faith. This friar is even called to help out when there are accidents or mass deaths, and he wears his habit to those events.

The last friary to visit was Yahgpyeong. This is a beautiful area around one hour outside of Seoul. It is at confluence of two rivers, and our friary is in the hills. There is a retreat house, a large friary and chapel, and a center where they manifacture a non-alcoholic herbal drink that is very popular in Korea.

Friday I flew back to Rome. With the stop over in Milan on the way, the trip took 15hours. Some of these trips seem as if they will never end, but it makes the transatlantic trip seem short in comparison.

I finished some books.

Gone by Jonathan Kellerman

This is part of a series of detective novels in which a forensic psychologists teams up with a detective (Milo) to solve crimes in California. This novel involves a series of disappearances of actors (and others) over a several year period. The action is well described, at times amusing. The books are well written and a good read.

Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen

I listened to this abridged autobiography of the author Franzen. It deals especially with his teen age years and then with his fascination with bird watching when he was an adult. I have to admit I was thrilled that it was an abridged edition, because I don’t know how much of the author selfish sniveling I could have taken. It is not a book I would ever recommend, and I am not sure that I want to read any of his other books either.

Ralph Waldo Emerson by Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is a biography of the founder of the transcendentalist movement in America (1803-1882). The author is an obvious fan, and he is almost breathless in his description of Emerson’s thought and writings. He posits any mistakes to disciples who misunderstood his teaching. He commends every attack on organized religion as a hallmark of freedom and defense of the rights of the individual. While I agree that Emerson had much to offer, Holmes is not objective enough to help one evaluate Emerson’s worth and contributions to thought.

Please keep one of our ex-friars in your prayers: Mark Thomas Booth. He passed away last week. I studied with him in Rome.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude


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