Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tagaytay - Manila - London - Canterbury - London

April 6, 2013 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I made it safe and sound from the Philippines. It was an incredibly long trip from Manila to London. The first stretch to Dubai was about nine hours, and then the second stretch to London was another six and a half. There are eight hours of time difference, so I am suffering from some world class jet lag. When I got to London, I overnighted at our friary near Waterloo station. Then the next morning I took the train down to Canterbury to give a day of recollection to our men in formation. We went out to a place near the sea called Whitstable. It was on figures of faith in the Bible, much like the conferences that I gave in the Philippines. I had some good talks with the young friars here on how they see their future. The older friars here are quite old, many in their 70's. For many years they did not have vocations. Now God is blessing them with one, two or three vocations a year. The younger men have a bit of a different outlook on religious life. They would like to return to many of the traditional values. The older friars are used to living a certain way, and it will be a challenge to bring these two outlooks together. I will be returning to Great Britain and Ireland for a series of meetings with the friars to discuss this with them in a couple of weeks. Today I head back to Rome for a week. I don't have too much on my agenda. I have to do a series of daily reflections and work on some articles. I will also be meeting with one of our provincials from the States who will be in town for a meeting. I finished a few books: The Ghost Way by Tony Hillerman This is another of Hillerman’s books about a Navaho policeman and his crime fighting but also his stuggle to remain truly Navaho. The woman he loves seems to want him to move to the big city and to adopt white ways. He wants to be a medicine man for the tribe. This particular novel also involves the customs that the Navaho use when they bury someone. A person is buried in what the person thought was the Navaho way, but something was off. Furthermore, it involves the idea of ghosts (which are sort of an accumulation of all the evil that a person has done in his life). Once again, this was a great book. Hillerman has a way of writing that you enter right into the culture of the Navaho’s. He does it without being preachy, and you tend to develop a deep respect for what is truly good in the traditional ways. I thoroughly enjoy all of his books and would recommend them to anyone who asked me. Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer This is the story of George Washington’s attack upon the Hessian forces fighting for the British on Christmas Day, 1776. This has both a good year for the rebellion and a bad year. In the early part of the year, Washington was able to force the British to evacuate from Boston. But then later in the year, a large army had landed in New York and had defeated Washington’s forces in a series of battles that left New York City and most of New Jersey in the hands of the British. In December certain decisions were made that saved the rebellion. First of all, the Continental Congress agreed to back off a bit. They had been trying to micro-manage the war and that was causing a disastrous confusion. They put the military matters into the hands of Washington. Secondly, Thomas Paine released a pamphlet which spoke of these being the times that tried men’s hearts, and how it was a time for true patriotism. This helped staunch the melting away of Washington’s army. A third factor was that, given that most of the army’s terms were ending on New Year’s Day and they were getting ready to go home, Washington and the Continental Congress were able to find the money to bribe most of them to sign on for a few more week. Finally, by attacking the Hessians and defeating them, and then fighting the British the next few months in a series of small but effective skirmishes, Washington was able to raise the morale of the army to the point where it could survive the coming difficulties. The book is well written. It gives both good information and a balanced analysis without overwhelming one with details. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this period of history. Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell This is the second book that I have read by Cornwell in the past few months. The first one was about the beginning of the Civil War, and I was a bit disappointed in it. It was really not a very good production. This one is about the days of King Alfred and a period in English history when England was divided among the Danes (Vikings), the Saxons and the Britains. It was a very rough time when life was very cheap. The hero of the story is a Saxon who is still a pagan but who is a vassal of King Alfred (who is very Christian). The book is very, very well written. One can get a good sense of the times. The characters, including the women (who were all but ignored in that Civil War book) are portrayed as people with real emotions. I very much enjoyed this particular production. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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