Monday, August 26, 2013

Castro Valley - Mammoth Lakes - Castro Valley

August 26, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been in Castro Valley, just outside of San Francisco for most of the week. We had a meeting of the five provincials of the United States, the Custos of Canada, and the Delegates of Great Britain/Ireland and of Australia. These are the jurisdictions that make up the conference of friars called the CFC. We work together on joint projects (such as the common novitiate that is located just outside of South Bend, Indiana. The conference also serves as a middle stage to bring ideas from the general level down to the grass roots level and ideas from the friars at the grass roots level up to the general level. The men in this group are very easy to work with, and the meeting went quite well. After the meeting, we travelled out to Mammoth Valley so that we might visit Yosemite National Park. There was a little glitch in this for there are tremendous wild fires just outside of the park. On the way up we saw mountains of smoke rising from the fires and there was smoke in the air, but once we travelled to the eastern side of the park, the air was clear. We went into the park on Friday, and there was one point where we could see the flames rising up over the mountains, but that was from a distance of about thirty miles. The park is immense. I heard that it was the size of Connecticut. The ride to the park is not for those who easily get car sick. There was tons of curves and the road was relatively narrow (although it is very well paved). We drove up to the 9600 feet level crossing the Sonoma Pass. The scenery is at times breathtaking. We took this trip as sort of a last fling. A number of the provincials will be changing next year during the elections in the various provinces and so, after working together for the past four years, they wanted to spend a few days together not having to talk about business. It was a good time. On the way back, we encountered a lot more smoke than on the way up. We had taken a detour around the north side of the park, and the winds were blowing in that direction. There were voluntary evacuations along some of the road that we were taking, but no actual danger at that point. Tomorrow I head out to Chicago for a few days and then off to Misshawaka (the novitiate). I finished some books: The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terrorism by Beverly Gage This is the story of an explosion which killed a number of people outside of the Morgan Bank in Manhattan shortly after the end of World War I. There were many theories as to what caused the explosion. There were some who thought that it was a dynamite wagon that was illegally being driven through Manhattan to get to a construction project. Others thought that it was tied in with Italian anarchists. Still others thought it was caused by Russian communists. We hear about the attempts of the Federals, the local authorities and private detectives to get to the bottom of it. All of their attempts failed, and we are still not completely sure of who caused the explosion. It was used as an excuse to crack down on anarchists and communists in the country. No one comes out of this looking all that innocent, and we are just not sure who is the most guilty. There are obvious warnings in our time of terrorism, especially that we not allow our fears blind us to our basic values. The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer This is the epic story of a woman who is the daughter of immigrants from Poland who aspires to the highest office in the country: the presidency. Her father makes a fortune with his chain of hotels. She marries a man who owns a major bank, and together they multiply their wealth. Yet, they are socially conscious. The woman runs for various elective offices. The story is a feel good story, but the characters are a bit too one dimensional. This woman’s character is always honest, always good and generous. His opponents are sneaky and underhanded. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable (but quite long) read. Russka: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd This reminds me of a James Michener novel in which there are a series of stories around a single location to tell the history of the place. Rutherford, in fact, is the author of the series on Sarum which has been quite popular. In this particular case, it is a village in the south of what is today Russia. We start out with a story in the first centuries of AD period, and then we go to a series of stories in the Middle Ages, especially involving the Mongols who conquered most of Russia and the boyars who collaborated with them. There is a story of what is happening in the village every few centuries (with a number of stories during critical periods such as the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, and the time of the Russian Revolution. It is a good book and gives one a good idea of what was happening throughout the centuries. Ancestor: A Novel by Scott Sigler This is a science fiction book about genetic engineering. It speak of the danger of trying to create new forms of life. There is an experiment to create animals that can grow human organs for transplantation. Unfortunately, the genius who is working on the genetic code is mentally ill. The doctor in charge purposely shortchanges her medicine so that he might tap into her manic energy while she is working on this project. This backfires terribly when she unconsciously engineers creatures that turn out to be more monsters than animals. (It seems that she wanted to commit suicide and this was her way of doing this.) The rest of the book is the battle between a few good people and the others who are so interested in fame or money that they are willing to let the project go on even though there are clear signs of danger. The book is really kind of a good read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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