Monday, September 9, 2013

South Bend - Chicago - London

September 9, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, I am on the other side of the Atlantic. I flew from South Bend (our novitiate is just outside of that city) to Chicago and then on to London on Saturday. It was a good flight, although as always it was long and tedious. I am here for a chapter of the new custody of Great Britain and Ireland which will take place about a three hour ride from here in a town called Crew, just outside of Manchester. We will be meeting to plan the future for the 25 friars who are part of this jurisdiction. The jurisdiction here was doing poorly for many years and it was demoted from being a province to being a delegation, but now they are moving up a notch to become a custody. This means that they have much more autonomy, making most of their decisions locally. I found out Saturday that one of the former provincials of St. Anthony Province passed away, so instead of lying back to Rome from here, on Thursday I have to fly back to the States for the funeral, and then back to Rome on Saturday night. To say the least, this is not ideal, given that jet lag really does a job on me. The good thing is that I will be flying back to go on retreat, so I will be able to rest up a bit. This past week my kindle book reader died. I bought a new one, a kindle fire which is the next level up. It is great, much easier to read than the old one. Furthermore, I was able to retrieve most of the books I had bought on the old kindle for a record of them was in the cloud. I am not really sure what that is, but it seems to be some type of super computer that stores all of these details. (Talk about Big Brother from Orwell.) I finished some books: Wild Blue: the men and boys who flew the B 24’s over Germany by Stephen Ambrose This is the story of the training and missions of the young men who joined the Army Air Corp (there was no Air Force until later) to fly the bombers over Germany. Specifically, Ambrose, who writes tons of books about the armed forces, speaks of George McGovern and his crew. This is the same McGovern who later ran for the presidency in opposition to the Vietnam War. Ambrose presents McGovern as a genuinely good young man who leads his crew into danger but watches out for them and proves to be a natural leader. His particular air wing flew out of Italy, and hit targets in Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. McGovern’s favorite missions were just after the war when he flew some of the surplus food that the army had to starving civilians. War can often brutalize people, but McGovern proved to be too decent to allow that to happen to himself and his crew. Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation by Professor Thomas F.X. Noble This is a Teaching Company course (36 lectures) on the period of history in Europe and Western Asia that ran from the time of Diocletian (the end of the 3rd century AD) up to the period after the reign of Charlemagne (c. 800 AD). While many history books judge this period to be the beginning of the Dark Ages, Noble shows it as a time of transition. It is a period that leads to the beginning of the formation of countries in Western Europe and the rise of three empires (that of Charlemagne, that of the Byzantine Empire, and that of the Islamic Caliphate). Many scholars discount anything written during this period as being a poor copy of classical literature, Noble again speaks of the greatness of some of the authors, especially figures such as St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. He covers economic, social, demographic, political, etc. considerations. It was really worth listening to this course. The Road by Cormac McCarthy This is easily one of the saddest books that I have ever read. It is about a father and a son who are wandering along on a road after a nuclear disaster which has left the land under perpetual nuclear winter (the dust from the explosions and fires have blocked out the sun). Many of the people they meet along the way are ready to murder one for some food or clothes. The man’s wife and boy’s mother had committed suicide because she just couldn’t go on to see their deaths. The boy has an innocence and goodness that has been worn out of the heart of the man. Although this book is very good, I would not recommend it to anyone unless that person is ready for a very depressing read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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