Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ellicott City - Mariottsville - Mt. St. Francis

July 8, 2012 Peace and Good, This past Friday we had the storm that wiped out electricity in a number of states in the East. The friary in Ellicott City did not get power back for an entire week. I was there the first couple of days after the storm, and then the last day of the outage. It was incredibly hot. It reminded me of Ghana and the Philippines, but without fans. From Monday to Friday I was preaching a retreat at Mariottsville which was just down the street from Ellicott City. This was the second retreat in a row. This was a larger group than the first retreat I preached in Malvern, PA. There were over 30 friars on retreat. It went very, very well. We had a great discussion one evening on different dimensions of our life. Wednesday we had a ceremony to receive the new postulants for our order. There are four new young men who have entered the program. Although the number is down from previous years, we can certainly be very, very thankful for this great blessing. This morning I flew out from Baltimore to Louisville. I am here to attend an assembly of Our Lady of Consolation Province at St. Meinerad Monastery in Indiana. We will be discussing the multi-cultural dimension of our order. My reading includes: A Mist of Prophecies: A Mystery of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor This is the third of Saylor’s books that I have read. They are all set in ancient Rome, during the period of time of the death of the republic and the beginning of the reign of Julius Caesar. This one takes place while Caesar and Pompey are off in Greece to fight the battle that will end in Caesar’s complete ascendency. Gordianus who is called the seeker, a type of detective, seeks the murderer of a woman who seems to have a gift for prophecy. This woman also turned out to be his adulterous lover. The book really centers on the women who held power in Rome behind the thrones of the so-called leaders. Once again, Saylor’s historic accuracy is great, and his descriptions held me from the first page of the book. He has a gift. The Lotus Eaters by Tatiana Soli This story begins with the evacuation of Americans from Saigon just before the Vietcong and North Vietnamese take the city. A photographer who has been in the city for years decides to send her lover along but to remain for the “big moment” of the takeover. The book then passes into a retrospective of how Helen, the photographer, arrived at this moment. She came to Vietnam an inexperienced photographer and innocent of the world. She was taken in by a Hemmingway type photographer with whom she lives for a few years before he is killed in the war. She both hates the violence of Vietnam but craves its life energy, almost as if she is addicted to the adrenaline of the danger. She comes to understand the people and the country and identify with them more than her own countrymen. Her married lover eventually dies, and she marries Lin, a Vietnamese assistant who becomes a staff photographer for Life. Helen, the photographer, is torn between the work and her quiet, gentle love of Lin. This is a very good book to gain insight into a woman working in what is considered to be a man’s occupation, into a person trying to understand an alien culture, and into the havoc that a war can have upon both those living within the country at war and those who are sent into that country to fight. Nobody escapes undamaged. It is a very good book. Dunkirk by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore Whenever I hear about Dunkirk, I think of the miraculous evacuation of so many British soldiers who were trapped on the coast of France at the beginning of World War II. Montefiore brilliantly speaks of the situation that led up to that moment in time and how the British troops (and to a lesser extent the French and Belgians) fought to keep open an evacuation route to the beaches. He centers on the defenses that helps men evacuate and not so much on the evacuation itself. In fact, he seems more interested in telling the story of the ships that were destroyed than the ones that made it home safe. As history, it is very complete, especially using the accounts of eye-witnesses. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude


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