Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jonesboro, GA - Jacksonville, FL - Ellicott City, MD - Dublin, Ireland

February 12, 2012

Peace and Good,

This has been a good week. I began it in Atlanta. From there I drove down to Jacksonville on Monday along with two other friars to a retreat house where I would be preaching a retreat for the friars of the two eastern provinces (Immaculate Conception and St. Anthony). The theme of the retreat was that God was making all things new. This retreat and four others I will be preaching this year were part of a spiritual preparation for the joining of the provinces in 2014. The main purpose of the retreat was to make sure that the union was not simply a superficial joining of two groups of friars, but was rather an opportunity to take a look at our lives and see what needs to be changed. I compared it to moving to a new friary. One has two choices: one can simply pack everything in a moving van (thus needing a bigger one each time someone moves) or one can get rid of what wasn’t really necessary and pack light.

The talks were based on transitional moments in Sacred Scripture: Abraham; Moses; The exile in Babylon; After the Exile; the call to be disciples; the early Church; and the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation.

It is never easy to preach to the friars of one’s own community. They know you a little too well. But the friars could not have been more gracious. They entered into the spirit of the retreat wonderfully, and we had some really good conversations.

On a hunch, I also spent ten minutes or so before each of the conferences to talk about things that are going on in the order. Being the Assistant General, I get to see the order at a much wider level than most of the friars, and it is part of my job to let them know what is happening. A number of friars told me how much they appreciated that.

On Friday I flew back to Ellicott City, and then on Saturday night I headed out to Dublin. I will be participating in a series of assemblies (here, in Liverpool, and in London) over this next week. Then I will be heading back to Rome.

I finished a few books.

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

This book tells of a young working man from London who is falsely accused and convicted of killing his best friend when a band of four rich professionals (one of whom committed the murder) testify against him. He is befriended by a man in prison who belongs to the Scottish nobility who becomes his tutor in school and also in how to comport himself in the world. When the noble is murdered in prison, the young man takes the identity of the noble (for he looks remarkably like him – e.g. The Pauper and the Prince) in order to be released so that he might prove his innocence. This particular detail is a bit unlikely, but the book is quite good overall. I wouldn’t mind reading some more of Archer’s writing.

Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

In this novella, Conrad tells of a captain transporting a group of Chinese coolies to their home city. His ship runs into a terrible typhoon, and they just barely survive. The great thing in the story is that the captain is remarkable dull witted. He never seems to be able to understand the nuances of anything that is said or done. Yet, it is his very slowness that ends up saving the ship from destruction both from the storm and from a rebellion of the Chinese. Once again, Conrad is a great author, and I could easily read anything that he has written. I just cannot believe that English was not his mother tongue. French was, and Polish was his second language. English was his third language, and yet his writing is remarkably good.

Imperium by Robert Harris

This is a historic novel about the rise of the famous orator Cicero to the imperium, the office of Council in the Roman Republic in the early days of Julius Caesar. It is written from the point of view of his private secretary, a slave. (Remember, in Roman times, many of the slaves were educated and quite respected for their expertise.) We hear about the plots and counterplots, the corruption of the later republican era of Rome, etc. Harris has done an incredibly good job in this book. I listened to the abridged version of it, and some day I would love to listen to the longer version of it, something that I could only rarely say for the books that I listen to on my MP3.

Have a good week.

fr. Jude


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