Monday, November 18, 2013

Peoria - Chicago - Detroit - Chicago - Milwaukee - Louisville

November 18, 2013 Peace and Good, This week I finished off the main part of my visitation to St. Bonaventure Province in the Mid-West. I interviewed the friars who live at the house of studies a couple of blocks away from Loyola University on the north side of the city. I then flew out to Detroit to meet with the friars there. The friary in Detroit is a bit unusual. It is in the middle of the cemetery. Originally it was built to house the friars who took care of the cemetery. Now the cemetery (about 80 acres) is run by a staff of lay people. The friars living there are involved in a number of different apostolates. There is a nurse teacher, a coordinator of activities at a geriatric unit, a chaplain of ministry at two colleges, and a part time chaplain at a hospice for people who are dying. This last friar amazes me. He has had a major stroke and his right side is paralyzed. He suffers from aphasia, finding great difficulty in pronouncing words (although he fully understands the concepts). Yet, he offers his services at the hospice. He is an inspiration. I flew back to Chicago to meet with the definitory to share with them the initial findings of the visit. I still have a number of friars who live here and there to interview, and a couple of things to check out, but most of the visitation is complete. Saturday I returned to the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee for the ordination to the diaconate of one of our friars, fr. Paul Langevin. I have known him since when he was in novitiate. He is a fine man. He had worked in social work before he joined the Order. Yesterday I flew from Chicago to Louisville. There was a lot of weather in both cities, and it was one of the bumpiest flights that I have been on for quite some time. The pilot did a great job of bringing us in safely. I always enjoy flying Southwest because of the friendliness of the staff. Today we will drive out to St. Meinrad Abbey where we will have a province assembly of the friars of Our Lady of Consolation Province in preparation for their provincial chapter this coming Spring. This province does a very good job of preparing for chapter as for continuing formation. I have finished some books: Longshanks: The Life of Edward I by Edward Jenks This is the story of King Edward of England, also known as Longshanks (because he was tall). The style of the book is a bit archaic, and it is actually difficult to read. I was interested in this particular king because he was the English king who invaded Scotland under Robert Bruce and William Wallace (who was portrayed by Mel Gibson as Braveheart). Edward turned out to be quite a good king, much better than both his father and his son (who proved to be such a disaster that he was eventually overthrown and assassinated). The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and Yoko Tanaka This is a type of fairy tale about a young boy who is orphaned because of a war and who is cared for by an elderly ex-soldier. He dreams about finding a sister whom the soldier claims died at birth. He finds out through a fortune teller that she is alive and he would find her by following the elephant. This is a difficult thing to do since there are no elephants anywhere near where he is living. A magician, however, almost accidentally calls an elephant into the city and the story proceeds from there. It is about loss and recovery, loneliness and love, family and devotion, etc. It is really very well written, a joy to read. Five Little Pigs (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) by Agatha Christie This is quite a good detective story. I have not read all that many Agatha Cristie books (I think this is only the second one), but I have truly enjoyed both of them. This one is about how Hercule Poirot, a Belgian investigator, investigates a murder that occurred many years before. Supposedly a woman poisoned her husband, but as the investigation goes on, Poirot develops doubts (even though almost all the evidence points toward her guilt). He undertakes the investigation just so that the woman’s daughter who was only an infant when this occurred might know the truth about her mother. The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs. One Doctor’s Heroic Search for the World’s First Miracle Drug by Thomas Hager This is a fascinating story of the invention of the world’s first sulfa drugs. The first effective antibiotics were invented during the 1930’s. The sulfa drugs were first found in Germany, by the Bayer company, the same people who produced aspirin. Originally, they were by-products of the dyes that the German chemical companies had produced, until French investigators found that the dye company was not the active agent in the attack on bacteria. Before its invention, many diseases were a virtual death sentence. The author tells the story of the death of Calvin Coolidge who developed a blister on his foot which became infected and led to blood poisoning and death. This is contrasted with the rescue of Franklin Roosevelt Jr. from an infection of his sinuses which threatened his life (in fact, when the sulfa was administered, he was facing death). The book gives a tremendous amount of information without being boring. He gives a good picture of the scientists who worked on these miracle drugs. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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