Monday, February 18, 2013

Assisi - Rome

February 18, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, our General Chapter has come to an end. We had the closing Mass yesterday and travelled back to Rome. Today we have a definitory meeting to try to set up the full team for the next six years. Then tomorrow I head off to Baltimore. I will be there and in California for a few weeks. In Baltimore, I will be taking care of annual check ups with various doctors. Furthermore, I must visit the doctor for a problem with my rotator cuff. In California, I will be visiting a minister provincial who was ill and could not attend the General Chapter. I will be coming back to Rome on the 7th of March, so I should be back in town when the conclave begins, unless they move it forward. The first two weeks of the General Chapter involved an evaluation of where the order is now and what we have done the past six years. Then we had the elections for the Minister General and his definitory. After that, we began to look at proposals for the next six year mandate. There are not a lot of changes. Some provinces are joining together such as five provinces in central Italy and two provinces on the east coast of the US. There is a new province: Mexico. There is an old province that will be downgraded: Holland. The liturgical celebrations in Assisi were magnificent, but it will also be good to get a few celebrations in these days that are not huge musical presentations. The basicila choir was incredible. They must have practiced for months and months. Here are some books I have finished: He Who Hesitates by Ed McBain This is another of the detective novels written by Evan Hunter under the pseudonym Ed McBain. It is quite different from the other volumes that I have read so far. While those center on the action of a group of detectives in a police station in a big city, this volume deals with one individual and the people he meets. He feels that he should report something which he did (probably a crime), but he continues to hesitate all throughout the story. It is well done, leaving one wondering exactly what happened right up to the very end. Sacred Clowns by Tony Hillerman This is another of Hillerman’s books on two Navaho policeman, Lt. Joseph Leaphorn and Jim Chee, and their investigations on and near their reservation. The title comes from a native American custom to have a group of clowns perform during sacred ceremonies. These clowns mimic certain activities and serve as a kind of examination of conscience for the tribe as to whether they are maintaining or abandoning tribal customs. There is a major theme in this book about the difficulty of understanding other’s cultures. This is applied both to a question of tribal laws concerning marriage and how Chee’s girlfriend who is half Navaho but was raised off reservation cannot fully understand Chee’s difficulties, and also how one tribe finds it difficult to understand all the nuances of certain activities within another tribe. The whole series is well done. The characters are well developed, and they provide a good insight to another world of thought and custom. Devil and the White City by Erik Larson This is actually a double story. On the one side, it is the story of a mass murderer who killed many, many people in Chicago at the end of the 19th century. Chicago was growing rapidly, and any number of young women travelled there from their small villages to find a new life. They were often lonely and naive. This murderer played upon this and murdered them, at times even using their bones to form medical skeletons. He was not caught until much later when he was convicted for insurance fraud for murdering his partner and then collecting his insurance policy. The other part of the book is the story of the 1892 world’s fair in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Christopher Columbus. It was called the “white city.” It was a magnificent presentation that marked the moment when Chicago, then the second largest city in the country, came to central stage. The architect and landscape designer, famous even in those days, created a masterpiece. The architect was Daniel Burnham who designed some of the most famous buildings in Chicago. The landscape designer was Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park. This was where a number of new inventions were first presented: cracker jacks, cream of wheat, juicy fruit gum, Pabst Blue Ribbon, shredded wheat, Quaker Oats, and electricity with alternating current, etc. There was a tremendous challenge to be more beautiful, larger, etc. than the Paris exposition. The Ferris, in fact, was the attempt to make something more grand than the Eiffel Tower. The book is very good. The only critique is that the author has the tendency to tell one what people were thinking when he in fact has no way of knowing it. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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