Monday, October 15, 2012

Ellicott City - Wappingers Falls - Chicopee

October 15, 2012 The Memorial of St. Theresa of Avila Peace and Good, This past week I was preaching a retreat to a group of our friars at a retreat house near Brewster, NY. It is run by the OFM friars and they were most welcoming. There were 40 friars on the retreat and it went very well. This is the fourth in a series of five retreats for the two eastern provinces to help them prepare for their union in 2014. I chose a number of instances in the Bible where people faced moments of transition. A lot of the older friars are especially grateful because they did not have a great preparation in Sacred Scripture when they were in theology school. By the time that I did my studies, they had changed the program extensively and I had a very good preparation. I am also talking about what is going on in the order throughout the world. Every few months there is a magazine that is mailed to all the friars about these things, but most of the friars feel overwhelmed by all the documents they are now receiving and which they are expected to read. It is a whole different thing for someone who is on the inside to explain what is happening. When the retreat ended on Friday, I drove down to Chicopee, MA where we have a rather large friary. I stayed in the house for the older friars, so it was nice and quiet. On Saturday morning I visited the Missionary Franciscan Sisters at their convent in Holyoke. I celebrated Mass for them and had breakfast with them. It was great catching up with them. There are sisters from Italy, Korea, Zambia and Romania - a true international community. I then went out and visited a few of our friars who are now in nursing homes. There is fr. Marion who used to be our provincial. He cannot walk any more due to neuropathy and he is suffering from a bit of dimentia. I visited fr. Pascal who is very ill with cancer (although you would never know it given his joyous temperament and his crushing handshake). Then I drove down to Enfield, CT to visit fr. Joseph Grzybowski. He was one of two brothers in the order. His brother Robert passed away a few years ago. (In fact, fr. Joe was anointing him, and Robert took his last breath as they reached the Amen of the ritual.) He, too, is suffering from neuropathy. Today I head down to Doylestown, Pa for the last of this series of retreats. These are some books that I have finished: Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is another of the Agent Pendergast novels by this pair of authors. He is a clever, sophisticated FBI special agent from New Orleans with an interesting pedigree (mental illness runs in his family) who must battle against black forces which are difficult to first of all come to know and then defeat. Yet, he seems to have a limitless source of innovation. The novels in this series that I have read so far all have him on leave from his job. I am beginning to wonder whether he ever actually shows up at the office. Yet, once one gets into the mind set of these novels, they are quite entertaining. In this one he must battle a plot launched by ex-Nazi’s and their successors. There is also a quest for Pendergast’s wife whom he had presumed dead after a lion attack many years before in Africa. I like the style, it is very eccentric to say the least. God is an Englishman by R. Delderfield The book is about the founder of a carriage company during the middle of the 19th century. It is very English in tone, and actually an enjoyable read. A soldier who comes across a fortune while fighting Britain’s wars in the Crimea and India uses it to set up a business. He marries the feisty daughter of a ruthless industrialist. She only gradually comes to appreciate the value of her husband’s work (her judgment earlier being clouded by her experience at home growing up). Furthermore, her husband only slowly learns how to treat her with responsibility and not as a mindless play thing to respond to his sexual needs. A number of incidents occur which cause the husband to trust and respect his wife more and more, until when he is sidelined by a terrible accident, she takes over his complicated business. There is a sub-theme throughout the book upon the treatment of women in 19th century England. This is almost a paean to capitalism which made England great. Yet, there is another sub-theme of treating one’s employees justly, as the hero of this story does. Not a bad book, but it is a bit wordy here and there. St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton This is an outline of the life and times of St. Francis of Assisi, but seen through the optics of Chesterton. The style is very British from the beginning of the 20th century. It is flowery and polemic. While all the basic details are there, I found that I just did not enjoy the presentation. One just has to remember that much of it is polemics addressed at the 19th century tendency toward secularism in England.


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