Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ho Chi Mihn City - Hanoi - Van Mon - Hanoi - Melbourne

April 14, 2013 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. This has been quite some week. I travelled from Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) to Hanoi and from there to our leprosy clinic in Van Mon. The north is quite a bit cooler than the south. While it was hovering around 100 degrees in Saigon, it was probably in the 70's in Hanoi. Yet, it is very, very humid up there. There was mold on all the buildings. Our leprosy clinic is about three hours from Hanoi by taxi. The friars knew a taxi driver (a brother of one of the friars) who arranged the trip. We have one friar there right now. This is not ideal for Franciscans. We live in community. But the mission is very young, and we are just getting things set up. In Hanoi, we met fr. Benedict Baek, the Assistant General for Asia. Together we travelled to the clinic. Right now, there are a few activities already going on. The sisters and friar working there bring food to the poor, older lepers. The friar, James, teaches English to the children of the lepers (so that they can find better jobs in the future). And there is Eastern medicine, especially acupuncture practiced there. Because the leprosy causes great pain in the joints, the acupuncture relieves a lot of the symptoms. We met with the director and the assistant director of the leprosy village and charted plans for the future. We hope to accept some handicapped children shortly to care for them. The families are too poor to do this, and they do not have the skills needed to help the children progress. From Hanoi, I flew to Bangkok, then Sydney, Australia, and finally to Melcbourne. I have been there since visiting the friars of the Australian delegation. There are around 15 of them, and we are trying to plan for the future. They have had some rought times in the recent past, but we are trying to figure out how to turn things around. I have already talked with the friars in the Melbourne area (two friaries) and I will be flying up to the Sydney area on Tuesday to meet with the friars there (another two friaries). There are no magic plans, but maybe we can make small adjustments that could help. I have finished a few books: Marius’ Mules: The Invasion of Gaul by S.J.A. Turney From the title of this book, I thought it was going to be a cute story of some Roman army officer. It turned out to be much better than that. It is the story of the beginning of the invasion of Gaul (France) under Julius Caesar. It is told from the point of the view of the army. One often hears about Caesar’s conquests, but a book like this makes the whole story much more real. It is filled with tons of good information on how wars were fought in those days, including a full description of much of the savagery of war fought man to man. It gives a good indication of the strategy and deviousness of Caesar. I really enjoyed reading this book, although it is probably too graphic for many readers. The Vikings by Robert Ferguson This is an overview of the history of the Vikings. It speaks of where they came from, where they went, how they developed their reputation for ferocity, etc. It is interesting to at times see the other side of the story. Ferguson claims that much of the destruction done to Christian shrines and churches was due to a type of revenge for the destruction that had already been done to pagan shrines throughout Germany and southern Scandinavia. He speaks about where information comes from (for it is not abundant). An interesting fact is that the division of time into the stone age, the bronze age and the iron age comes from a museum director who had boxes filled with artifacts of the Vikings and he did not have an idea of their antiquity or use. He first divided this material into three portions: stone, bronze and iron. Only after he had divided these materials did he realize that these divisions more or less represented the ages at which the materials were produced. This is a good book, but filled with too much detail for a casual reader. Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway by Walter Lord In June of 1942, The US was still reeling from the loses it had suffered at Pearl Harbor and in the first months of 1942. We had one advantage, however, in that we had broken the codes for the Japanese navy and we knew that a big attack was coming at Midway Island. The odds were against us. The Japanese had a much larger force and their fliers had much more practice than our fliers did. Yet, by the end of the battle we had sunk four of the Japanese aircraft carriers while we had lost only one. This was the turning point in the war. After this defeat, the Japanese were never able to attack in order to expand their empire again. This was actually the beginning of the end. The book is well written with enough detail to know what is going on, and enough personal material about those involved to humanize what was going on. Lord does not tell the story only from one side. He tells what both the Americans and Japanese were doing and thinking. It is really a well written book. Hope you have a good week. I will be in Australia all this week, and then next week head up to Manila to give some conferences to the men in formation. God bless and Shalom fr. Jude


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