Monday, January 6, 2014

Montreal - Rome

January 6, 2014 The Solemnity of the Epiphany Hope you are all well. Here in Rome we celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th and not on the Sunday which falls around that date. There are more national holidays in this country than anywhere else I have ever been. Christmas and New Year's fell on Wednesdays, so there was some massive bridge building. If a holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, Italians normally don't go to work on the intervening day, or what they call "they build a bridge." Well, with the two holidays this year on Wednesday, they tended to build bridges in both directions. The Vatican offices have been more or less closes for the past two weeks. Montreal was very nice, but very cold. The temperature hovered around 0 most of the week that I was there. It was like living in little Poland for those days because our friars there serve the Polish immigrants. Lots of ham and sausage, etc. I have been in Rome since the 3rd. I have a meeting tomorrow at which I will make a scriptural presentation for the new provincials of the Order. I am going to be speaking about the role of St. Peter in the New Testament and what that has to teach us about our role of authority in the community. Most of the men already get it, but some need to be reminded now and then that it is a role of service and not of power. That is a temptation that it is easy to fall into. Wednesday I head back to Chicago for a couple of meetings. Then on the 12th, off to California to begin a province visitation. That will keep me in that area for most of a month. We heard recently that one of our friars is being ordained a bishop in Costa Rica on March 1st. I will be going to that along with the General and another Assistant. fr. Enrique has worked in many different positions of responsibility for the Order for a long, long time. I finished some books: Lone Star Rising, Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 by Robert Dallek This is a biography of Johnson from his birth until the time that he assumed the office of Vice-President under John Kennedy. He was a powerful man and a brilliant, if not always honest, politician. He used the system to make himself rich and to acquire huge donations from Texas oilmen and construction firms, especially Brown and Root. Yet, he proved to be one of the most successful majority leaders in the Senate during the presidency of Eisenhower. Instead of opposing everything as some politicians do today, he tried to find constructive ways of building upon the president’s agenda, often supporting more than members of the president’s own Republican Party. He fought for the poor while he helped the rich with tax subsidies, etc. He is a very complex man. The book is well written and not judgmental. Alarms and Discursions by G.K. Chesterton This is an essay that disguises itself as a tale. It is basically Chesterton’s critique of the modern world and its values. He speaks of how previous eras were based upon something, whereas the modern world has many different ideas and symbols, none of which amount to very much. It gives a good sense of where he stands: firmly in the line of tradition. “A” is for Alibi (The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries) by Sue Grafton This is the first of a whole series of detective books about a character named Kinsey Millhone. She is a rough, tough investigator. The story is well written and believable. It is about a woman who hires Kinsey to investigate the murder of her husband, a murder for which she has already served a jail term. It is interesting to see how the author lets the story unfold slowly and sometimes even chaotically. She gives enough clues to be able to follow the narrative, without giving away the end of the story too early. I bought a whole series of these novels on sale from Kindle, and now I am glad I did so. Ghandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman This is a biography of two of the most influential men of the 20th century, and certainly men of heroic proportion for their respective countries. Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister who saved Great Britain during World War II. He suffered from the prejudices of his era and his class. He never, ever wanted to consider the possibility that India would not be part of the British Empire. Ghandi, a contemporary, was the spiritual leader of his nation who led his people to independence. Both men were flawed. I read about things that Ghandi said and did which showed how short he fell of his own idealism. Yet, both were critical for their nations and their time. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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