Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rome - Nazareth - Jerusalem - Rome

September 4, 2012 Peace and Good, I just got back from my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was incredible. This is the third time that I have been there. Our guide was one of our friars from Padua whom I know from when I was studying in Rome many years ago: fr. Gianni Cappoletto. He is now the provincial of the Paduan province, and he took time off to give us this pilgrimage/retreat as we get ready for our general chapter. We first went north to Nazareth. There we stayed with the OFM friars at the basilica of the Annunciation. We visited Bethlehem, Capernaum, the site of the Beatitudes, the site of the multiplication of bread and loaves and of Peter’s mandate to be the chief shepherd of the Church, etc. The weather was very hot, and I would not recommend having a tour at the end of August. Yet, it meant that there were not quite as many tourists as there often are. The second part of the pilgrimage was based in Jerusalem. We went to Qumran, Jericho, Bethlehem, Ein Karin, Emmaus, etc. We even had Mass both on the hill of Calvary within the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and within the tomb in which Jesus was buried and from which he rose from the dead. . As a writer, I was both listening for myself and for what I could share in my articles in the Messenger of St. Anthony. I found some dozen topics upon which I can write over these next months. This is not the St. Anthony’s Messenger magazine which comes from Cincinnati. It is the English language version of our magazine printed in Padua. If anyone is ever interested in subscribing, you could write to the Anthonian Association, 101 St. Anthony Drive, Mount St. Francis, IN 47146. In the States, a year’s subscription costs $31. It is a good international magazine (11 issues a year). My most positive moment during the pilgrimage was on the mount where the Beatitudes were proclaimed. To be honest, we are not sure exactly where they were proclaimed, but this is the spot where that event is commemorated. There was something about the site and the day that deeply moved me. My worst moment was in the Holy Sepulchre, as it has been the last two times I was in the Holy Land. The tomb is jointly administered by the Orthodox, the Armenians, the Copts and the Roman Catholics. It is a four ring circus. It is noisy and not very prayerful. We did have a wonderful moment of prayer when we had a vigil in the Church of the Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane after hours. The church is very somber and one sees the rock of the garden right under the altar. The trees in the garden are very, very old. (Probably not dating to the time of Jesus, but their antiquity gives that sense nevertheless). The OFM Franciscans who take of the sites in the Holy Land are real heroes. They do a wonderful job and are friendly and helpful. I cannot say enough about them and their often difficult service. A troubling aspect of the visit is the wall that Israel is constructing to keep out terrorists. They have extended the wall all throughout the Arab zones to confiscate their land. They make daily life for the inhabitants very, very difficult. If one is working on the other side of the wall, it can take hours to get through it each day. I don’t know what the solution to terrorism is, but this one is not working. It is only creating more and more hatred which will have a bad effect in the long run. I finished a few books these days: The Jesuits in North America by Francis Parkman This 19th century book (by the same author of the book, The Oregon Trail) speaks of the Jesuit mission in North America. It outlines some of the different cultural backgrounds of the tribes among whom the Jesuits served. It then goes on to speak about the mission of some of the early Jesuit missionaries first in Montreal and then among the Hurons. While the author clearly admires the Jesuits, he also speaks of how they so controlled the life of the early settlers that it was unhealthy. We hear about the establishment of Montreal. We then hear about the sufferings and martyrdom of the missionaries by the Iroquois. We also hear about the eventual success of the mission, especially among the Huron. Even though Parkman is not Catholic (and in the 19th century there was a lot of prejudice against Catholics), one can see the respect and at times the awe that Parkman feels toward the heroism of the early Jesuit missionaries. The missionaries were unfortunate in that their mission to the Huron and Algonquin was damaged by the attacks of the Iroquois confederacy. They also suffered through disease which ironically might have been brought into the villages by the missionaries themselves. By the end of their mission, most of those whom they had served had been conquered or died. The book is not an easy read for it was written during the 19th century, but it is well worth reading. Everyman by Philip Roth The story begins at the funeral of a Jewish man who has died in old age during a serious operation. His daughter misses him, his sons much less so for they were estranged. We then hear memories of his life, starting with how he was raised by a father who owned a jewelry shop. Then we hear about his relationships. He had been married three times. The first time he divorced after having two sons. His second marriage was ideal but he cheated on his loving, trusting wife. His third marriage to a woman many years his junior was a disaster. We hear of how he retires and slowly loses his health, having to undergo a major operation every year in his last years. He finds himself lonely and diminished. He begins to think of death without any perspective of the afterlife. The book is good, if not a bit depressing (which is sometimes the logical response to what is happening in some people’s lives). Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith This is the story of Arkady Renkin, a detective in the Soviet Union during the days of Brezhnev. He is assigned to investigate a triple murder. All he hopes is that the investigation will go away and be taken over by the KGB. Instead, he discovers more and more of the truth, blindly driven to do his work well even when it puts him in danger. In the meantime, his marriage is falling apart for his wife has fallen in love with a communist official with good connections. He falls in love with a dissident who is involved. He runs afoul of a group of renegade KGB agents. The story ends up in the US when he has to confront the businessman who is behind the whole thing. This whole genre of literature is fascinating. There is a disjoint between what is happening and what the characters know. There is constant suspicion. A commitment to honesty can prove deadly in the Soviet system. This is definitely a good read. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude


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