Sunday, January 6, 2013

Buffalo - Toronto - Rome

January 7, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I spent the last week in Buffalo with my brother and sister-in-law. I had a good restful time, even if we all came down with the flu. (It seems as if it is going around Buffalo and many, many people have come down with it.) I had my flu shot earlier in the fall, but this seems to have been a variety that was not covered. My sister-in-law's dad also came down with it, and his heart was very compromised by earlier problems. He ended up in the hospital and passed away on the 2nd of January. Please keep Cassey and his family in your prayers. I headed back to Rome the evening of the 3rd, arriving late in the evening of the 4th. I had a very long layover at Heathrow in London due to a mix up in my tickets (my fault). By the time I got back to Rome, I was starting to get a relapse of the flu. I laid low the last couple of days, and this morning feel as if all is right again. This morning we begin our last definitory for the term. It is scheduled for the whole week, but I don't think it will last that long. Then two weeks from this past Saturday we meet in Rome. There will be over 100 of us from all around the world. We will be there for four weeks, reviewing the past six years, deciding who will lead the order for the next six years, and also deciding the major projects we should undertake to be more faithful to what we say we are. I have finished a few books: The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, her pirate adventurers and the dawn of empire by Susan Ronald This particular part of history has always bothered me. Why would Queen Elizabeth sponsor state terrorism. She purposely and secretly sent out pirate ships to prey upon the ships of the Spanish empire. This was especially true of the attempt to capture the treasure fleets that were bringing gold, silver and jewels from the New World. Spain was highly dependent upon these shipments in order to wage its wars against the Muslim world as well as many of their various enemies. Among the pirates there were John Hawkins, Martin Frobusher, Sir Walter Raleigh and Steven Dawson. These were not the ferocious pirates of a latter era, but they nevertheless did steal and ravage and destroy those in their way. Complicating the situation was the British attitude toward Ireland and how Elizabeth (like her predecessors) tried to control the wild tribes and practices of the island while they tried to destroy the Catholic presence there. Elizabeth comes across as brilliant but also capricious (changing her mind again and again at the last minute). She played up to her favorites, but she also sponsored the beginning of the British navy and the British empire. The book is well written and good history. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold This is a very odd story about a woman (49 years old) who has recently been caring for her mother who has developed dementia. It turns out that the mother was mentally ill (including agoraphobia) and has been cared for by her husband (who committed suicide some years before) and her daughter for many, many years. The mother was never really a nice person, and the daughter had often daydreamed on how to murder her. As the book opens, the mother has soiled herself. As the daughter tries to clean her, she snaps and suffocates her mother. The rest of the book is what happens over the next day as first she and then her ex-husband and her daughter come to grips with what she has done and the eventual consequences of it. Most of the book is flashbacks to the woman’s life growing up in this very dysfunctional household. The book is in its own way both good and disturbing at the same time. Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith Smith is the author of Gorky Park. His hero, Arkady Renko, falls foul of the system toward the end of communism in that book. This story is about the period that follows communism. Stalin’s ghost is sited in a subway station. There is a question of whether something is really happening or whether his appearance is tied to a political campaign of a rightist candidate who was probably involved in war crimes during the war in Chechnya. Even though communism is over, many of the forms of behavior that were learned during that period still continue to control the government and the justice system. As with Gorky Park, the hero is very human with serious flaws, but he is a basically honest and decent person. This is a very good book. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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