Monday, October 22, 2012

Doylestown, PA - Ellicott City, MD - Mishawaka, IN

October 22, 2012 Peace and Good, This past week I finished my series of five retreats to the friars of Immaculate Conception and St. Anthony Province in the east of the United States. All of the retreats went very well and I was very pleased with them. The last retreat was in a retreat house in Doylestown, PA. This is a shrine in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The monks who run the shrine are the Paulist Order from Poland. The food all week was definitely Polish (pierogi, pigs in the blanket, cabbage, etc.). The welcome from the staff was also typically Polish, very warm are sincere. I traveled out to our novitiate in Mishawaka this past Saturday and Sunday (breaking up the trip a bit so that I would not overdo it). I have begun a workshop for our novices and for the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist novices and postulants (whose motherhouse is next door). I have given a retreat to those sisters, and I have found them wonderful women of prayer and joy. The workshop is upon the Gospels and the Psalms. St. Francis felt that the Franciscan life was one simply of living the Gospel in our own days. Furthermore, we friars and sisters pray the psalms every day in our Divine Office, and yet at times we do not understand the symbolism because they were written over two thousand years ago in a very different language. I have finished a few books: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner This is the story of an NPR reporter who travels around the world looking for the secret of happiness, especially in certain countries which traditionally (and measurably) have a high quota of happiness. His travels take him to Netherland, Switzerland, Bhutan (which instead of measuring income in a gross national product, they measure happiness is a gross national happiness), Quatar, Iceland, etc. It is interesting that the happiest people are not necessarily in the richest countries, or the most democratic. The happiness of the people in these various countries varies, and one has to ask how much true happiness in a country like Qatar where there is an extravagant luxury bought by an incredible treasure of natural gas. He also travels to the unhappiest country on the list: Moldova. I had to have a laugh reading that section, because that country is less than 10 miles from where I taught when I was offering courses in Romania. It used to be part of Romania until Stalin cut it off and incorporated it into the Soviet Union during the War. So much of his description reminds me of the early days of my work there, in the early 90’s. The only problem is that Romania has moved on, and Moldova is caught in a time trap. The author then goes to England to visit the town of Slough which has a reputation for being depressed. The BBC had an experiment there to see if 5 happiness experts could work with 50 members of the community to create a critical mass of happiness. The people involved in the experiment turned out to be happier, but it didn’t really affect the town all that much. He also travelled to India which one can love and hate at the very same time. He speaks of how happiness does not depend on how much one has or more external things. It largely depends upon relationships, upon having enough but not too much, upon tolerance, upon trust. He also asks the question proposed by a wise easterner: is happiness the most important thing or is love the most important thing. Shaken by J.A. Konrath This is a story told at three time levels, over 20 years ago, three years ago and the present. The present is especially important because the investigator who is the hero of the story is tied up and about to be tortured by the mass murderer whom she has been pursuing since the earliest period in the story. The technique of telling the story at all three levels at the same time is not all that difficult to follow. On kindle, in fact, they have an alternate version of the story told in the proper order in case the former is too difficult or confusing for one. It is a messy story with a lot of physical violence. It is, after all, the story of a mass murderer who tortures his victims. I would not recommend this book for everyone, but it was worth reading. Six Days of War by Michael Oren This is the story of the war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967. The Russians are seen to have instigated this particular war by spreading untrue rumors that Israel was about the attack Syria. The reason seems to have been to isolate the US as the ally of Israel. The war ended with a tremendous defeat of Russia’s allies, the Arab states. Israel pre-empted the war and attacked on the morning of June 5th, destroying almost all of the Egyptian air force. She then invaded the Sinai. When Jordan cooperated with Egypt, even though it had been warned not to by Israel, it was the next target. Finally, when the northern Israelites could no longer stand the constant bombardment from Syria upon their settlements, Israel attacked the Golan Heights. The war only lasted six days, but it was an incredible victory for Israel. The victory was almost too great, for Russia threatened to attack Israel if it did not accept a cease fire. God bless and Shalom fr. Jude


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