Monday, December 17, 2012


December 17, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope that all is well with you. This has been a quiet week at home working over a laptop. I had about 130 pages (single spaced, for the most part) of documents to translate from Italian for our General Chapter. The work went better than I had expected. It is all done, and another friar, Peter Damian, our guardian, had the job of putting all the material in the right format. That has all been done as well. So now it looks as we are ready for the Chapter, at least in terms of documents. This week we will be meeting in our usual Definitory. We will certainly take care of last minute details for our meeting in mid-January in Assisi. There are some other details to take care of for various provinces, but not all that much on the agenda. However, all week has been scheduled, and it remarkable that material tends to expand to fill in the time available. I will be here in Rome for Christmas Day and then am flying back to Toronto on Boxing Day (December 26th). It is called boxing day because in Victorian Britain, the servants had to take care of the needs of their Lords on Christmas Day. They were given the next day, the 26th off, to open their Christmas boxes. I will spend the next week or so in Buffalo (with a quick two day trip down to Baltimore to visit friends and take care of some business). I am shocked and hurt like all of us over what happened in Connecticut. We just have to something about out gun laws. I understand hunting and even some weapons for defense, but our laws are way too lax. You don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a deer. I feel so bad for the families affected. Let’s keep them all in our prayers. I finished a few books: Typee by Herman Melville The story begins with the escape of two sailors from their whaling vessel while on a visit to the Marchese Islands. Their captain had been a tyrant, and they were not willing to continue to serve under him. The difficulty is that the Marchese chain was not entirely civilized. It had only recently been claimed by the French, who in the style of most colonizing groups proved almost if not more savage than the natives. Furthermore, there was a group of natives on the island who were famed as cannibals. The author finds himself among the Typee, that cannibal group, along with a companion who runs away with him, but then also abandons him in the Typee village. One hears about their customs (e.g. making of cloth from the fiber in plants, the making of their foods, etc.) One hears an honest account of their daily life and their religion. One has to remember that this is being written in the early 19th century, and it probably served as a travel adventure for readers of that time. He is quite negative to the way that some missionaries had destroyed the cultures of certain islands, especially attacking the hypocrisy of some of the missionaries in the Hawaiian Islands. He finally escapes his captors who turn out truly to have been cannibals. It is quite entertaining. Ultimate Punishment by Scott Turrow Scott Turrow, in addition to being an author, is also a lawyer. He served both as a federal assistant attorney and a defense attorney. In the 1990’s, he was asked to serve on a commission formed by Governor Ryan of Illinois to make sure that the death penalty of that state was more accurate and fair. In recent years, 17 of those who had been convicted and sentenced to the death penalty were later found to be innocent. By this, I do not mean that their sentences were reduced or there was some doubt. They were irrevocably found innocent because someone else was found guilty of the same crime. How could someone be put to death when there was the possibility that he or she was innocent? Turrow was not against the death penalty when he entered into the dialog. He recognizes the arguments for and against. Could the process be fine-tuned so that the death penalty could be fairer? He asks whether it is a deterrent (studies show that it is not). Is it cheaper than holding someone for life imprisonment (because of the court costs in a death penalty case, it is not). Does it help society to recognize the horrific nature of murder (it does as long as everyone executed is fully guilty). The commission eventually developed a whole series of recommendations but the legislature was afraid the enact them. Eventually Governor Ryan put a moratorium upon capital punishment in the state, pardoned a few prisoners who were clearly innocent, and commuted the rest of the capital cases to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The book is a good reflection on the subject. Turrow doesn’t argue one side or another. He just outlines the problems and some possible (but often politically impossible) solutions. Thirteen Diamonds (Lillian Morgan) by Alan Cook This is the second of the Lillian Morgan books that I have read. She is a retired math professor living in a complex for the elderly in North Carolina. One of the people with whom she is playing bridge drops dead after getting a perfect hand, thirteen diamonds. She investigates the death with the idea that she believes that it was a murder. The man who died was allergic to shell fish, and it was someone included in a tuna casserole that was served just before that hand was dealt. The dialog is good and the action is both believable and funny. I am not sure that the author has the thoughts and actions of older folk down perfectly, but he does a creditable job. This was just a fun read. I hope your last week before Christmas is peaceful. Shalom Fr. Jude


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