Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sydney - Manila - Tagaytay

Peace and Good, This past Monday I finished my trip to Australia and headed off to the Philippines. We have an international novitiate here, and this is my second time offering to give workshops on Sacred Scripture to the novices. There are three Philippino novices and two Vietnamese. This is a way for our General Curia in Rome to show its support for this project. The topic of the workshop ono Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings was figures of faith in the Bible (given that this is the year of Faith). We had the five of our novices and a good 30 or so postulants and novices from communities in the area. There are over 60 houses of formation in the area. We are located on the side of an active vulcano (yes, I wrote active and not dormant, but it has not erupted in 150 years). In the afternoons I had another set of conferences on the Letters of St. Paul. Tomorrow I will have a class on the Book of Revelation with our novices. Then Tuesday will be a day of recollection. Wednesday I head down to Manila to fly out Thursday morning for England. It has been hot here (and we are not as bad as down in Manila). It approaches 100. The friars have been very solicitous to meet my needs. Yet, it is a little primitive at times. The area is really only one step away from jungle. There is a constant file of ants passing through my room. I don't bother them, and they don't bother me. We have water 4 hours a day, so most of our needs are met with barrels in each room. It really isn't too bad, and it certainly helps me appreciate what I have been gifted with. I have been doing a little editing work for my publisher in the off time, but it has been difficult to concentrate with the heat and humidity. I finished a few books: Crazy Horse and Custer: the Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Stephen E. Ambrose Stephen Ambrose has written mostly books about World War II. His is a very good history author. He takes on the question of the battle between white American and native Americans during the 1860’s and the 1870’s. He is remarkably balanced in his approach to the question. While one can see that he admires many of the virtues of the Sioux, he nevertheless sees their limitations. Furthermore, he asks a very politically incorrect question that must be asked: could America really cede the development of such large tracts of land that provide much of our grain and meat for the sake of what amounted to some tens of thousands of aboriginal inhabitants. Yet, he also point out the double dealing of the government in Washington (making treaty after treaty, all of which they broke without just cause). He also deals with the fact that no matter how many treaties were signed, the Sioux had no intention of ceasing their raiding upon wagon trains and forts. He also gives good biographies of both Custer and Crazy Horse. This, as is true of all of Ambrose’s books, is well worth reading. Finland’s War of Choice: The Untidy Coalition of a Democracy and a Dictatorship in World War II by Henrik Lunde During World War II, the country of Finland allied itself with Nazi Germany in an attack upon the Soviet Union. That was odd, for Finland was a vibrant democracy and Germany was a totalitarian regime (as was the Soviet Union). This book addresses the question of why Finland would have allied itself to such an evil entity. Finland had been attacked and defeated by the Soviet Union the year before. They had initially been able to defeat the soviet invasion (which was astounding given that the total population of Finland was only 4 million). Yet, eventually the weight of the soviet army overcame their opposition. The Soviet Union stole a large amount of territory from Finland (admittedly, to be better able to defend itself if it were attacked). The Finns attacked the Soviets to regain their lost territory. The Germans were attacking to defeat the Soviet Union and exterminate communism. These different goals eventually led to misunderstandings and difficulties throughout the war. Lunde has written that type of history book that includes way too much detail. One easily becomes lost in the names and numbers of various divisions, in the references to small villages spread all throughout the Arctic, in the movements here and there, etc. Furthermore, while the book is supposed to answer the why of the war, it spends much, much more time in chronicling what happened during the war. I would not recommend this book unless one really, really, really wanted to read about Finland and World War II. The Borgias and Their Enemies 1431-1519 by Christopher Hibbert This is a book that speaks about the Borgia family that produced two popes: Sixtus IV and Alexander VI, as well as a brood of powerful, grasping, and often decadent young people, including Caesare Borgia and Lucrezia Borgia. They were from a Spanish background. Sixtus IV gave rise to the dynasty by making his young nephew a cardinal. That man was eventually elected to be pope. He was a very bad man, living a life of grasping sensuality. He had several children by his courtesan lover. He and his son Caesare were accused of having committed incest with his daughter Lucrezia. He made his son a duke and allowed him to conquer much of what was then the papal states. Caesare was known for his cunning and cruelty (in fact, he was Machiavelli’s model in his famous book, The Prince). Alexander VI was so evil that even Catholics spoke of him being the anti-Christ, an accusation that was readily picked up by early Protestants and later applied to all popes. Of the whole family, Lucrezia turns out to be the best of the brood (although even she had various lovers while she was married to her last husband). She was a loving, caring mother to her children and seems to have gradually converted to a more and more religious life style. Hibbert is a good historian and a good author. The book is very interesting, filled with detail, without being overwhelming. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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