Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ellicott City, MD - Jonesboro, GA

February 5, 2012

Peace and Good,

This has not been all that busy a week. I came down here to Jonesboro this past Sunday for a series of meetings with the provincials of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain/Ireland. We have a rather large parish in Jonesboro, and we were hosted by the friars living and working there. The parish has an interesting mix of Hispanic, Anglo, African American and African.

We met Monday and Tuesday and discussed a number of important issues, including our assistance in Assisi.

In Assisi, our friars take care of the Basilica of St. Francis where St. Francis is buried and also the Sacro Convento, the very large friary for the friars working in the Basilica. We try to have friars from all over the world stationed there to host the pilgrims and tourists who come to Assisi. It is easy to help them enter into the spirit of Assisi because of the beautiful artwork in the Basilica, including a series of frescoes on the walls of the upper basilica which recount the life of St. Francis by Giotto. These frescoes are really the beginning of western art as we know it. Before that, most art, even in the west, was a Byzantine style in which the figures are represented without any movement or emotion. The basilica marks the beginning of landscape in the paintings and emotion and what is called plasticity (movement). The reason for this is obvious - St. Francis saw this world as a revelation of God's love, so it was a fitting subject for the artist.

Wednesday we took a field trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. center and to the Jimmy Carter Center. I had previously seen the former, but this was the first time that I saw the Jimmy Carter Center. It has the presidential library, a presentation center, and a center for dialogue and negotiation. He has worked hard for free and fair elections and for peace negotiations in trouble spots of the world. Rosylyn, his wife, has worked hard for treatment for the mentally ill. They are both exemplary in the way they have dedicated their time to service of their fellow human beings.

Tomorrow I head out to Jacksonville to preach a retreat to members of two provinces. This is the first of five retreats that I will preach for them this year as they prepare to unite in the year 2014.

I have finished a few books:

The Reign of Henry the Eighth by James Anthony Froude

This is the story of Henry the Eighth from the beginning to the end of his decision to divorce Catherine of Aragon and to marry Anne Boleyn. It goes into some of the economic and social realities of the era. Froude is a bigoted Protestant apologist for what Henry the Eighth did. Anything that destroyed the Catholic Church is seen as positive. While he at times admits that Henry had his faults, his greatest attacks are aimed at the Pope and the venality of the English Church (which did deserve some condemnation in those days). I would not recommend this book to anyone other than to exemplify how history should not be written.

King Alfred of England by Jacob Abbott

You might remember that I have been reading a series of biographies of historic figures that were written by Jacob Abbott for young Englishmen around the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. This is not one of his better books. He has so little information for this early Anglo Saxon king that he must pad his book with tons of apologia for the Anglo Saxon race. The book really has a racist overtone, which is to be expected given when it was written (during the reign of Queen Victoria).

Auschwitz by Miklos Nyiszli

This is an eyewitness account of some of the horrors of Auschwitz. Nyiszli is a Jewish doctor who was recruited by Mengele when he arrived at Auschwitz to do autopsies on those killed in the camp (either to find out of some disease had killed them or for some twisted motive on the part of Mengele). It is the kind of book that anyone who might deny the horrors of the extermination camps should read.


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