Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ellicott City - Rome

March 10, 2013 Peace and Good, I arrived back in Rome on Thursday. I was not sure that the plane would get off the ground on Wednesday due to the snow storm that was coming in from Chicago, but by the time it reached Baltimore it was not all that serious. It was an uneventful trip back, except that on the London to Rome flight a man became very aggressive and had to be quieted by the stewardess who warned him that he would be arrested when they landed if he didn’t calm down. She handled the situation very well and should be commended for defusing a messy situation. Rome is abuzz with papal fever. The conclave begins on Tuesday, and there are actually people going around with figures of how many cardinals are for one candidate or another. I think a lot of it is pure speculation. Cardinal Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, who is the prime Italian candidate had Mass this morning in our Church of Santi Apostoli (this is his titular Church). The place was packed with people from the newspapers and TV networks. We start a definitory tomorrow which will go through Friday. This is very much a follow through with some of the decisions we made right after our General Chapter. We have to see how many of the friars we proposed for various responsibilities are available and willing. Then we will have to go back to the drawing board for certain assignments. I suspect that some positions will not be filled for at least a few months. My frozen shoulder has been unfreezing. I had a cortisone shot and did three sessions of physical therapy in the States. They taught me a series of stretching exercises to loosen up the muscles. It seems to be working. I can now move my arm much farther than I could for the past few months. I will probably have to keep up the exercise for at least another month, but things are looking up. I have finished a few books: The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux It is not often that I read a book with a major figure who I so dislike. This was the case with the cautionary tale of a man who takes his wife and four children down from Hatfield where he was working as a handy man on a farm to Honduras, the Mosquito Coast, to start anew. He believes that everything in the States is falling apart and he wants to set up his own Eden without government or God, etc. He is a very clever inventor, but not a very nice person. He is highly opinionated, a bully, a liar, a narcissist. His older two sons only slowly discover how twisted his ideas are. He even lies to the family telling them that America had been in a war and destroyed just so that he could control them. He does build a settlement with all sorts of clever inventions, but then accidentally destroys it when three armed men come and intend to stay. He moves the family to a mud flats during dry season, and they are flooded out during the first rainy season (something the locals had warned him of but he was too stubborn to believe). He ends up badly, after almost destroying everyone in his family. The Best American Short Stories of 2011 by Geraldine Brooks This is an interesting collection of short stories about any number of topics. It includes the story of a Nigerian businessman who is thinking of getting in contact with an old lover, a married couple that are trying to adjust to each other and her pregnancy while on a honeymoon in Rome, a young man who tried to commit suicide and his relationship with his friends and his eventual foolish death, there is the story of a Holocaust survivor. There is the story of a Russian √©migr√© who has just gone through treatment for cancer and his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. There is one of a teacher who becomes a nanny and her relationship with the family and boy who have entered her life. There is a story of the appearance of phantasms is a town and the confusion they cause. There is one in which a young woman buys an odd book and how the book and the woman change over the years. There is the story of how prisoners are part of an experiment to see how various chemicals would affect their feelings and knowledge and conduct. There is a story about a group of children who play video games and their relationships. One of my favorites was of how an entire town in Minnesota goes to sleep during the snowy season, a type of a hibernation. It is a good cross section of themes, and some of the stories were very enjoyable. Mission to Paris by Alan Furst I have listened to a few of Furst’s books already. They all deal with the period just before the Second World War and at the beginning of the war. The previous books I have read dealt with the situation in the Balkans, that in Poland, and that of the captain of a ship trying to avoid the Nazi navy. This volume deals with an American actor who had born in Vienna and who was now in Paris for the shooting of a film about a Slavic soldier who was trying to find his way back home from Turkey after the First World War. The Nazis were trying to use him for propaganda purposes, but the actor decides to offer his services to the Americans to perform some spying activities for them instead. Furst in incredibly talented in bringing this period of history to life. One can hear about the various political parties secretly fighting and seeking ascendency. One can see how difficult it was to figure out who was telling the truth, and what the truth meant in such charged times. It is a very, very good book. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

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