Monday, October 14, 2013

Oceanside - San Francisco - Hermosa Beach

October 14, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, it has been a relatively stable couple of weeks since I last wrote the blog. The first week I was giving a retreat to the friars of the California province at a Benedictine Monastery in Oceanside, California. That is just above San Diego. The topic of the retreat was themes from the Sacred Scriptures that deal with Franciscan Spirituality. It was a very good week, and we had some good discussions. This is all in preparation for the Provincial Chapter that the friars will be celebrating this coming May. On Friday of the first week, I flew up to San Francisco to try to get a visa for my trip to India. I was to give a retreat to the friars of the province there. It is relatively complicated to get a visa for India. I could not get it in Rome because I do not have a residence visa there. In the States, they have divided up the country to zones and you can only apply for a visa from the zone where you are living, which would be in Washington DC for me. The problem was that it takes 5 to 6 days plus shipped days, and I did not have that time. There was an urgent request desk in San Francisco, and I arranged an appointment to request a visa there. When I got there, they told me that I could not get a visa there because it was not my zone. This meant I could not fly out to India on Monday of this past week as I had planned. They do not issue visas at the airport when you arrive, and they would just have shipped me back to the States. So I got in contact with my travel agent and with the friars in India to cancel that part of the trip. I will fly out this Thursday to go to Australia to pick up the trip where I would have gone after my India part. I have been staying in our friary in Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) and have been resting and working on some writing projects. I didn’t realize how much I needed this time off. You run and run, and you don’t realize how run down you are getting. This has been a very good time to recharge the batteries. Furthermore, the writing juices have been flowing, so I have been able to finish a whole bunch of articles for the Messenger Magazine and I am way ahead. I finished some books these weeks: Short Stories by Joshua Scribner This is a series of short stories. Fright Reaction is about a man camping in the woods who is saved from an invasion of space aliens. All that Remains is about a young woman who remembers what a professor told his class about the brain and how the back of the brain is the most primitive part. This saves her life when she must kill her zombie boyfriend. Coryanna is the story of a nurse in a unit which cares for new born children. She sees a ghost which inhabits her. She finds out the ghost is of a child who died many years before and this ghost becomes the child to which she then gives birth. The last of the stories is called the Conductor. It is about two men who are put to the test (by whom is never revealed). They must figure out how to escape from an electrified stockade which is surrounded by carnivorous cows within a certain amount of time. Scribner has a way of providing a very clear setting within a very short format. His writings are always entertaining (if you appreciate the science fiction genre). The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien This is a very odd, very Irish story about a young man who lost a leg during the World War and returns to Ireland. He and an accomplice kill a man for his money. From there, the story becomes very complicated. It involves a police sergeant who has a theory that bicycles can become part person and the person part bicycle because they rub off on each other. The man in question is led to a room underground where one does not grow any older. One of the policemen invents various machines to change sound waves into light and heat waves. The man is accused of murder, and an army of one legged men come to rescue him. None of it makes any sense, but yet there was something enjoyable about listening to the account. Augustus: Son of Rome by Richard Foreman This is a fictional account of the end of the reign of Julius Caesar and the very beginning of that of Augustus Caesar. We hear of those who influenced and protected the young man who would come to rule over the Roman Empire (and in fact, invented the Roman Empire). We hear of the plot against Julius, and how some of the same plotters tried to kill Augustus before he arrived in Rome. The account is rather well written, giving one a sense of the personalities of those involved. A spy at the heart of the third Reich: the extraordinary story of Fritz Kolbe, America’s most import spy in world war II by Lucas Delattre This is the story of a man who worked in the Foreign Ministry in Nazi Germany during the war. He hated the Nazi’s, never joining the party even when it would have helped his career. He smuggled numerous secret documents to Bern, Switzerland where he handed them over to Avery Dulles, the head of the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) office there. At first they thought he was a plant, for he seemed to be too good to be true. Dulles slowly came to trust him implicitly, and his information proved to be most valuable in the war effort. He suffered after the war for the work he did for the Americans, but he seems to have been a good spirited man even when things did not go that well. His failure was to the son whom he left in South Africa with a German family and whom he very rarely contacted as he was growing up. Mystical Tradition: Judaism by Luke Timothy Johnson This is the first of three sets of lectures from the Teaching Company about the mystical tradition in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This one deals with mystical texts in the Old Testament and the development of a mystical tradition among Jews throughout the centuries. We see a devotion to the study of the Torah and the Talmud (the Jewish legal tradition). We see the development of the more esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah tradition (which has recently become very popular again). We also see the development of the Hasidic tradition in Eastern Europe. Dr. Johnson gives a good overview of the different movements in Judaism, including various figures who claimed to be Messiahs and who caused great pain among Jews of their days. Like all of the lecture series of the Teaching Company, this series is informative and quite well planned. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude


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