Sunday, February 10, 2013

Assisi - Vatican City - Assisi

February 10, 2013 Peace and Good, I am sorry that I did not write a blog this past week, but the General Chapter had me hopping. In these past two weeks, we have had meeting after meeting. There are the general sessions at which all are present, there are the discussions in language groups, and then there are all the other meetings that I have because I am an Assistant General (I am on one of the committees that works on documents for the chapter, we have had a few General Definitory meetings to get some things ready for the next few years, and I have had a whole series of meetings with provincials alone and then with provincials and the General). The big event last week was the elections of the Minister General and his Definitory. The General was re-elected, which was a very good thing. We have had two Ministers General in a row who had only one term, and that leads to instability. The term is six years long, so fr. Marco is the Minister General now until 2019. I was re-elected to be the Assistant General for the English speaking part of the Order. I had a bit of a scare because my name had been mentioned as being a possible candidate for Vicar of the Order, the number two spot. I didn't really think I had the talents necessary for that job. It is an administrative position, and my gifts are more charismatic - preaching, giving retreats, etc. Fortunately, enough friars recognized that, and I was saved from it. The spirit of the Chapter is quite good. The friars are honestly trying to shape the future to be more faithful to what we say we are and what we truly want to be. It is not always easy, because we always fall back on what is familiar and comfortable, but as fr. Marco says, it is time to take a risk. On Wednesday we went down to Rome to be part of an audience with the Holy Father. He looks good, but he is getting very old. (I think he is 85 right now.) We were part of a general audience, so there were thousands of people, but we were given a place right up front. I was probably not more than 50 feet from the Pope. I sat next to one of our former Ministers General, fr. Lanfranco Serini. He is 89 years old, and not in the best of health, but he is making the effort to be present at all of the meetings. We so appreciate his heroic effort. I am starting to calendar my year right now. I can foresee trips to the US, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, Vietnam, India and the Philippines. Then there will be all the other things that get put into the schedule. I am trying to give myself a little more leeway on each of the trips so that the travel will not be quite so grueling. We have one more week here in Assisi. Then, the 19th I head back to the States. I am going to visit one of the provincials who is in California who is ill, and I am going to take care of some visits to various doctors (a 50,000 mile check up). I have finished some books: The Battle for Leyte Gulf by C. Vann Woodward This is an account of the greatest naval battle between American and Japanese forces during the Second World War. The Japanese realized that if America conquered back the Philippines, then they would be cut off from their supply of oil which they obtained in Indonesia. They would be forces to surrender. They therefore gathered all their naval forces in three groups and attacked the American ships. The Americans, on the other hand, had enormous forces. Far from the days after Pearl Harbor, they had dozens of aircraft carriers (some of them full size and many abbreviated versions). The Americans successfully countered two of the attacks, destroying most of the Japanese ships. But one of those attacks was actually a decoy to draw most of the American forces north so that another group of ships could attack the forces left and then bombard the landing ships of the invading troops. They perfectly read the personality of Admiral Halsey who was impetuous and very aggressive. Somehow the few forces left to defend the beaches were able to hold off the enemy until, for some reason which to this day remains a bit mysterious, the Japanese pulled back, not pursuing their advantage. The book is well written, giving a good perspective of what each of the groups was attempting to do and what they actually accomplished. Short Stories by Joshua Scribner This is another set of short stories by Scribner. He is what could be called a science fiction/horror writer. Among the stories I read were Hell and Back about a man who is given the opportunity to see his punishment in hell if he joins a criminal organization as an enforcer. There was Within, a story about a woman who is haunted by an evil spirit contained in a doll which causes her to murder. There was the Safest Place, a story about a man who is fleeing others who want to kill him and how he must choose the abilities of a particular ocean animal to save him. Oklahoma Dust and Nothing Happened tell of ghosts, one of which entices someone to join it and the other seeks revenge for a perceived wrong. All of the stories are well written and are filled with suspense, even if they are a bit strange at times. Xerses by Jacob Abbott This is the story of the Persian emperor who tried to invade Greece with millions of his slave troops. He even has his engineers build a massive pontoon bridge over the Hellespont (the waterway that divides Asia from Europe). He then has the engineers dig a canal through a peninsula to aid the transport of this huge fleet. The army is first slowed at the pass of Thermopile by the famous Spartan 300. The fleet is then defeated at Salamis. The totally unexpected occurs: the Greeks are able to defeat the Persians and chase them back into Asia. The story ends with Xerses assassinated by a member of his own family, a deserved fate considering all the pain and suffering he brought to the Greeks and even the members of his own army and navy. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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