Monday, April 2, 2012

Rome - Bacau, Romania

April 2, 2012

Peace and Good,

I have travelled to Romania to give a retreat to the seminarians in our seminary in Roman, a city in the northeast of the country.

Over the years I have taught a number of courses at that seminary. The present rector and much of the staff, in fact, are my former students. All told, I took 21 trips over here, usually for a month at a time. I would teach one class in the morning for four hours, and then another in the afternoon for three hours. By the end of a few weeks, I had finished two full courses. All the teaching (as with the retreat I am now giving) was in Italian.

The theme of the retreat is the Gospel of John. This is a country where the majority of the population is Orthodox. We Catholics are only about 10%. Even the friars who are ordained are automatically bi-ritual (Western and Eastern rite). John is filled with symbolism about the marriage of Jesus with the Church, and the liturgy of the East calls this week, Holy Week, the liturgy of the bridegroom.

There are about 50 friars on the retreat. While the numbers are down quite a bit from when I first taught here, they are still significant.

I head back to Rome on Thursday to celebrate the Triduum at home at Santi Apostoli, the basilica where I live.

My reading has been:

The Cat of Bubastes

This is another of the GA Henty historic novels. They were all written for young people in England during the 19th century. I have read a few of them. This is the story of a Mid-Eastern prince who is captured by the Egyptians during a war and his adventures in Egypt. Fortunately, he is adopted (a slave of) a wise priest who also adopts a Hebrew slave girl to be a companion of his daughter. The rhetoric is even more contrived than his other books, and I would have to admit that the only reason I finished was to be able to say that I finished it. (It is hard for me not to finish a book once I have started it.)

A Horse’s Tale

This is an odd little story written by the master story teller of a young girl who is adopted by her uncle, an army officer stationed on the high plains. She is also adopted by everyone around (the soldiers, the inhabitants of the fort, the native Americans living nearby, and even Buffalo Bill and his horse, soldier boy). Each chapter is presented in a different voice (including the horse’s). As always, Twain’s writing is entertaining, even with the sad ending to this book.

Falling Man by Don Delillo
This is the story of a man who goes home to estranged wife in the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster. He was close enough to the blast to be wounded, but the wounds he suffers seem to be more those of the spirit than of the body. Meanwhile, his wife’s elderly mother (a literature scholar) and her lover (a European art dealer) debate on the meaning of it all. This seems to be a story of diminishment and loss (the man and his poker buddies, the wife and her mother who is aging quickly, the group the wife works with, a group of dementia patients, etc. It is also the story of how much one really knows the other. There is a dreamy quality to it, not unlike the nightmarish unreality of 9/11 and the days following that disaster. By the end, the characters seem to be investigating their lives again, asking what the meaning of them might be (or running away from life itself).

Hope you have a good Holy Week.

fr. Jude


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