Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Castro Valley - San Pablo - Reno - Castro Valley

February 4, 2014 Peace and Good, This has been the last week of my visitation of the California Province. On Monday of last week I travelled to San Pablo where the friars have been in the parish of St. Paul for many years. This is not all that big of a parish, but it is incredibly complicated for its ethnic diversity. They have Masses in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Hmong (a dialect of Laos), Tagolog (the original language of the Philippines) with occasional Masses in other languages. The various groups get along rather well, which is a complement to the work of the friars. When I finished there, I flew to Reno where the friars are the ministers in the Cathedral. It was a nice visit with the friars there. We are located half way between the last casino and the bus station, so there are people at the door constantly asking for assistance to get home. (There is a ministry to help people with this run by the city). Reno is hurting a lot. Its main industry is gambling, but California now has many Native American gambling halls, so the number of people travelling there is way down. Furthermore, the drought has hurt agriculture and tourism at the ski resorts in the mountains. On Saturday I flew back to Castro Valley where I will be staying until I return to the Mid-West on Friday. Yesterday I had a meeting with the definitory of this province to give them a preliminary report on the visitation. Nothing major wrong - just a lot a small reminders about things that can fall by the wayside if we are not careful. I have finished reading the following: Morning Spy, Evening Spy by Colin MacKinnon This is the story of a spy from the CIA in the period running up to 9/11. It is not a James Bond thriller, but rather a very realistic view of the man’s work (often more office work than field work), his relationships (getting a divorce, breaking up with a girlfriend many years his junior), colleagues (who tend to drink too much), the politics he has to deal with (congressional investigations which are aggressively contrary to the agency and the work it is doing, sometimes with good reason) and the agency (which has its plusses and its flaws). It is very well written, and leaves one with a sense of understanding why things happened the way they did, and of the difficulty in doing anything that would have made a difference (along with the missed opportunities all along the way). The Life of Madame Mao by Ross Terrill This is a biography of the fourth wife of Mao, who was married to him from the 1940’s until his death. She came from a very poor family and worked for some time as an actress. She married Mao while he was in hiding in northern China, but the leaders of the communists decreed that she was to stick to being his wife and not try to get involved in politics. She kept that pact for a long time, but eventually she tried to influence the arts. Her whim was read as absolute law, and she made many people who did not agree with her suffer. But that was nothing as compared to what happened once the Cultural Revolution began in China. She used that period to get even with anyone who had done anything that she judged to have been an attack on her. She sent many to prison and their death. At the end of Mao’s life, it seemed as if she and the other ultra-leftists wanted to take power, but she was quickly arrested and imprisoned as one of the Gang of Four. She was in prison for the next ten years until she committed suicide. The book is a good overview of her life and especially of her motivations for the many evil things that she did. The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read This is the story of an officer in the French Army who was accused of engaging in espionage with the Germans in the latter part of the 19th century. The evidence against him was not all that conclusive, but he was convicted. It is possible that his conviction carried a bit of anti-Jewish feeling, which certainly became stronger and stronger as the affair went on. It is also possible that his conviction was caused by Dreyfus’ difficult personality and his messy love life. He was sent to Devil’s Island off the coast of South America as his punishment. Over the next several years, those who were responsible for his conviction began to invent false evidence to prove that their conviction was just. Yet, the true spy was discovered and not tried because the army was afraid of embarrassing itself by admitting that it was wrong. Only after a long and difficult process was the truth discovered and Dreyfus was declared innocent. This whole trial also marked a battle going on in France between those who were Catholics and those who were not (socialists, Free Masons, Jews, Protestants, etc.). By 1905, they had won and they outlawed religious orders and schools in France. The book is well written and balanced. The Two Koreas: Revised by Don Oberdorfer This is a history of North and South Korea and their relationship from the end of the war in the early 50’s until the present. It covers the gradual democratization of the south with the increasingly personality cult of the dictator in the north. It deals with questions concerning the development of nuclear capability in the north, and also the incredibly difficult time negotiators had dealing with the north which marches to its own drummer. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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