Monday, October 29, 2012

Mishawaka, IN - Ellicott City, MD

October 29, 2012 Peace and Good, This past week I spend in Mishawaka, IN. This is where our novitiate is located. Novitiate is a year of prayer and discernment before a man takes his vows to become a friar. We have one central novitiate in Mishawaka, which is just down the road from South Bend, IN. There are two novices from St. Anthony Province, three from St. Joseph Cupertino Province in California, one from Our Lady of Consolation Province in the midwest, two from Our Lady, Help of Christians Delegation in Australia, and one from Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Delegation in Great Britain/Ireland. There were also a number of novices and postulants from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist whose mother house is across the street from our novitiate. I gave a workshop on the Gospels and the Psalms. I had about two and a half hours of class each morning from Monday to Friday. The afternoons gave me the opportunity to catch up on a couple of projects which were overdue. I drove back to Ellicott City on Friday and Saturday. Today I was supposed to fly back to Rome, but my flight was cancelled because of the hurricane. I am rebooked for Thursday evening. This gives me a couple of days to rest up a bit and to write some articles for the two magazines for which I write. These are a few of the books that I have finished: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam This is a good history both of the Korean War and of the events which led up to the war. It presents many of the characters involved in the important decisions just before the war (e.g. those involved in the fall of China, in the decision to allow the army to wither to almost nothing right after the end of World War II, the character of Truman, McArthur, Mao, Chiang, etc.). The response to the war is clouded by the China lobby, a group of conservative politicians who back Taiwan, no matter what that would cost to the nation. We hear about MacArthur’s successes (especially the landing at Incheon which turned the war around in an instant) and his failures (his incredible blind pride, his arrogance, his disobedience to civil authorities including the President). We hear about the tendency of the Americans to misjudge the Chinese once they enter the country, and how it was only General Ridgeway that the Americans learned to use their strengths (especially modern military hardware) against the enormous numbers of Chinese who were there. We hear of how Truman fires McCarthy and what the political consequences were, and how Truman realized that while he would be misjudged at first, history would judge him having done the right thing (which is exactly what happened). The war ended in a terrible stalemate that was able to be resolved only when Stalin died (for Stalin was quite happy to have the Chinese and Americans killing each other, thus leaving him to do what he wanted). This is an excellent book, well researched both at a political/military level and at a human level. Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas This is an interesting book about a writer who decides to tell the story of a Felange author who was almost killed during the Spanish Civil War. He was part of a group of rightest prisoners who were shot. He somehow avoided being shot and escaped. He eventually became part of the Franco government. As the writer investigates the story and the man’s history, he begins writing his book. He is dissatisfied with the final product, until he meets a man who was part of the leftist forces who were in that village when the execution took place. The book investigates questions of heroism and duty. It asks for the sense of all the killing. It bemoans the fact that those who gave so much for their cause would later be forgotten and sent out to pasture. It is a really fine book, a translation from Spanish. Lisbon: War in the shadows of the city of light: 1939-1945 by Niel Lockery During World War II, the dictator Salazar ruled Portugal with an iron fist but managed to keep it out of the war. This was quite a deed, for Spain, which all but surrounded Portugal, was very favorable to the forces of Germany and Italy and in fact had organized plans to invade Portugal. England had had a mutual defense treaty that dated back to the 1300’s, and she called upon that bond to keep dragging Portugal back to the middle. This is not to say that Portugal had nothing to do with either side. She was one of the world’s greatest sources for wolfram, which we call tungsten. This mineral was essential for the production of hardened steel which was used in armor and armor piercing shells. Portugal made a fortune selling this mineral both to Germany and England. Much of the money paid for the wolfram obtained by Germany was paid for in gold, much of which had been pillaged from invaded countries and from individuals (including the melted down gold teeth of Jewish victims of the holocaust). There is also the question of the allied use of the Azores Islands. They lie one third of the way across the Atlantic, and produced an excellent base for defense against submarine warfare. England was able to call upon its treaty to gain access to a base on the islands, remarkably without having Portugal break relations with Germany. There is quite a bit of information about the allies attempt to limit Portugal’s commerce with the axis powers. There is also quite a bit of information about the spies and counter-spies who lived and worked in Lisbon during the war. There is also quite a bit of information about all of the refugees who were seeking to flee from Europe through Portugal. This book is an excellent treatment of the topic. Keep safe. Shalom fr. Jude


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