Monday, April 23, 2012

Rome - Geneva - Rome

April 23, 2012 Peace and Good, This has been a week for meetings. From Monday to Wednesday, we had a meeting of the General Definitory in Rome. Actually, it continued on through Friday evening, but I had to miss the last couple of days to fly up to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend another meeting, this one of Franciscans International. A couple of months ago I was named to the International Board of Directors of this group. It is jointly sponsored by all the Franciscan families. Its purpose is to be a voice for those who are poor and oppressed at the United Nations. Every four year, every nation in the United Nations must produce a report on human rights in their country. As an NGO (non-governmental organization) which is fully accredited by the United Nations, Franciscans International can make comments and suggestions to these reports. We must often work through friendly ambassadors of other countries, but at times we can make these comments ourselves in a series of meetings. We produce our comments by checking with the Franciscans who live in those particular countries. Remember, we have the male Franciscans religious, the female Franciscan religious, and all of the secular (lay) Franciscans. I have seen figures that, if you take all of them into account, you arrive at between a quarter and a half of a million people all throughout the world. That is a loud voice for justice. We have seen some success stories from out lobbying, but often you don't succeed in an open manner. (Countries are like people, no one likes to admit that they are doing something wrong.) But, by lobbying this year, they might take something said into account in the future, if only to avoid criticism. Furthermore, much of the work being done by FI (Franciscans International) is not done with a spirit of "let's work together on this," rather than in a more adversarial manner. So Thursday through Saturday we had our semi-annual meeting in Geneva. FI has three offices: New York, Geneva and Bangkok. While New York is the official center of the UN, most of the important preliminary work is done in Geneva. I got to meet the staff there and see the office. (Believe me, it is not extravagant - 16 people working in a space that most of us say would be a work place for 5 or 6). But the people are very dedicated to the cause. Sunday I flew back to Rome and I have a few meetings this week here. For example, this afternoon there is a meeting with the exxecutive committee of the conference of men's and women's religious superiors. Then Saturday it is off to Romania for another couple of retreats. Here is a bit of my reading: Mary, Queen of the Scots by Jacob Abbott This is a short biography of Mary, a Catholic monarch of Scotland, during the days of Queen Elizabeth. She became caught up in forces beyond her ability to handle (religion, factions among the nobles, love affairs). Some of it was her fault, some that of others, and some just the difficult times in which she lived. She ended up being executed for having plotted for the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth (for she was next in line for the throne). This is one of Abbott’s biographies, not very deep but nevertheless informative. Eleven O’Clock Fright: A Novel by Joshua Scribner This is an odd novella which involves a professor of mathematics and his dabbling into profound meditation which leaves him able to transport out of his body. There is a love affair with a science fiction writer, a ghost, ghouls, etc. I have read a few short stories by this same author, and he is a good writer who helps one enter into the minds of the characters involved, even when those minds or the situations in which they find themselves are definitely twisted. Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville This is a strange little story about a scrivener (a copyist for legal documents during the 19th century) who comes to work at a legal office. Unlike the other scriveners, he sets certain limits and refuses to do certain tasks, which infuriate his boss. His response is “I would prefer not to…” Yet, there is a gentleness and efficiency to him, so that for quite some time the boss lets things go on as they are. Eventually, he lets him go, but Bartleby refuses to move, even when the office is moved to another site. He is arrested and dies because he simply prefers not to move from the site where he had found his peace. Facino Cane by Honore de Balzac It is only a short story, but I have never seen so much action and emotion packed into a short space. It deals with a blind clarinet player who turns out to be a disgraced Venetian gentleman of noble heritage who experiences lust, heroics, foolishness, good fortune, imprisonment, exile, etc. The man listening to the story of his life and travails is at first skeptical, then turns into a believer. Yet, it does him no good, for his dreams for wealth vanish before his eyes. Balzac is really a masterful story teller. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


Post a Comment