Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ellicott City - Dublin - London - Rome

December 1, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been in Dublin this past week for a meeting of the custody of Great Britain and Ireland. The first session was held a couple of months ago, and this one was to finish up making plans for the next four years and to confirm the assignments for the guardians of the communities and the others who will lead them during this mandate. We held the chapter in All Hallows Seminary. This used to be the seminary for priests in Ireland who were going on mission, which often meant to southern states in the United States. Most of the foreign born Irish priests in Florida and California studied here. It is now used for continuing education and for meetings like ours. The meeting went quite well. There was a good spirit among the friars. There will be a few difficult years coming, but there certainly is a light on the horizon. They have a good number of new vocations, but it will take some time for them to be trained and ready for the ministry. In the meantime, the older friars are trying to hold out and the foreign friars brought in from the US, Canada, India, Malta, Poland and Romania keep the custody going. There are about 30 friars in solemn vows in all. Friday I flew in to London and overnighted at our friary and yesterday flew out to Rome. The trip was uneventful and I will be in Rome for the next couple of weeks (with the exception of flying out next Sunday to Staten Island for a celebration and flying back the next evening to come back to Rome). We have one of our big definitories, the one in which we meet with all of the men who are entrusted with the various offices of the Order. This week is also the Novena for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Our Basilica of the Holy Apostles is the center point for the celebration of the novena and the feast. There is a cardinal each night to be the celebrant at the Mass. The music is quite well done, and we get a good crowd for each of the evening Masses (which is not the case for most of the year). I finished some books: The Thirty-Nine Stairs by John Buchan This is a short story about a British man who has just come back from working in Africa. He encounters a harried American who tells him a fantastic tale of spy craft. The spy ends up murdered in the Brit’s apartment, and he must now flee both the murderers and the authorities. He runs far and wide on a series of adventures, and eventually through his brilliance is able to save the day (keeping the Germans from acquiring the plans for the deployment of the British fleet just before the beginning of World War I). It is written in the style of the spy story from the 20’s, and thus is a bit dated, but nevertheless is well written and enjoyable. The Last Tsar: Emperor Michael II by Donald Crawford This is the story of Grand Duke Michael, the brother of Czar Nicholas II. When Nicholas abdicated, he also gave up the throne in the name of his son Alexis because of his illness (he was a hemophiliac). Michael thus because the Czar of Russia. Michael had been disgraced in previous years by marrying a commoner who was also twice divorced. Yet, during World War I, he turned out to be a great hero, winning two of the most prestigious medals given in Russia (and not just because he was a Romanov). He was arrested by the provisional government and put to death by the communists shortly before the execution of his brother Nicholas and his entire family. The book is well written, painting Michael to be a very decent person (something that was recognized even by his captors). Islamic Mysticism by Luke Timothy Johnson This is the third section in a long study of mysticism by the Teaching Company. This was the shortest of the three. It dealt especially with the various forms of Islam (Sunni vs Shiite), with the various school of interpretation of the law, and with the Sufi movement of mysticism which dates back to the beginning of Islam (if not before) and extends to the present day. The most famous Sufi’s are Rumi the poet and the school of dervishes which he founded, the whirling dervishes. Like the schools of mysticism in Christianity and Judaism, there are some mystics who were more intellectual and some who spoke more from the heart. There were some who were more ascetical and some more worldly. Some stayed in one place and others travelled extensively. I liked Johnson’s conclusion that the mystics serve as a challenge to us today when we think that what we see and measure and control are all of reality. They remind us that there is a whole other level of reality which might even be more important than the everyday. Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy Queen Victoria, the 19th century monarch of Great Britain, was the second longest reigning king or queen in that country’s history (just beating out George III by a short amount of time). During her reign, there were numerous attempts on her life (almost all with a pistol). Most of those who attacked her were mentally ill or desperate in some other way. None of them were put to death (which angered Victoria who thought that the criminals were getting off too easily and therefore serving as possible examples to other potential assassins). Ironically, every time that someone attacked her, she ended up being more popular. This was especially important at the start of her reign when she was disliked for mixing in politics and for the bad reputation of most of her extended family. The book is very well researched, but also gives a compassionate read of what happened. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

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