Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Los Angeles - New York

May 27, 2014 Peace and Good, I finished off the last of the provincial chapters in Los Angeles with the chapter for the Province of St. Joseph of Cupertino, California. I did a visitation of the friars and friaries of the province during the winter, and that was presented at the chapter this past week. We met at Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra, California (just outside of Los Angeles). There were 25 of us there, and the chapter went from Monday evening to Friday morning. I had to leave very early Friday to get to New York because I had another meeting on Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. (Fortunately, we finished Sunday evening and were off on Monday.) This meeting was for Franciscans International, an advocacy group for the Franciscans at the United Nations in Geneva and New York. I am on the board of trustees of this group. When I first joined the board, it was in a sad state, but things have improved greatly over the last couple of years (especially through the efforts of the president of the board, Doug Clory, a Secular Franciscan from Canada). One of the projects that Franciscans International is universal birth registration. It doesn't sound all that important, but when you consider that kidnapping people for slavery would be more difficult if people had an official record, the planning of health care and schooling would be easier if the governments knew how many people there were, etc. Another area of concern is access to good water which is a disasterous situation in a lot of the world. Furthermore, young girls often miss school because they must travel miles and miles to obtain water for their families, women are often raped at isolated sources of water, etc, then one understands the implications of access to water that go beyond the obvious need for a good supply. After our meeting yesterday, a sister on the board invited all of us on the board to an Italian meal. Their convent is very close to the Brooklyn Bridge, and we were able to walk around in Brooklyn Bridge park. It is a beautiful site, and the weather has been great the last couple of days. Today one of our friars showed me around the parish where I have been staying: Most Holy Trinity in Brooklyn. They have remodeled a number of spaces for their office space, religious education center and social outreach offices. They are doing tremendous work. This afternoon I will fly out to Rome. I have a few days off, and then a series of meetings running for two weeks in Rome and Assisi. I have finished some reading: Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam by Lawrence Freedman This book explores the foreign diplomacy and confusion concerning communist expansion during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. There was the problem with the Berlin Wall and all that this involved, the communist insurgency in Laos which threatened to overthrow the non-communist government, and the problem of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese intervention in South Vietnam during the presidency of Diem, a difficult man who made the problems all that much worse. The book is a bit heavy because it involves so much detail, but it is well done. Who Murdered Garson Talmadge by David Bishop This is a detective novel, not too heavy. The main character is a police officer who spent time in prison for shooting a released criminal. He is now a private investigator and the author of detective novels. His next door neighbor, a rich woman married to a former arms dealer, is accused of her husband’s murder. The detective must investigate this situation which puts his own life in danger due to the arms connection. Six Wives by David Starkey This is the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. It is extensively researched, and it tries to give a fair portrait of all of the wives and their actions. Henry VIII does come across all that well, but neither do some of the wives such as Anne Boylyn. The book is well written, but it is quite a long presentation on the topic. One can see the surges and counter-surges on the question of religion all throughout the period. Anathem by Neal Stephenson This is an epic that tells the story of a monastic community whose purpose is to reflect upon epistemological truths. Fra Erasmus is called out of the community to deal with a crisis when a spaceship from an alternate reality arrives in the atmosphere and threatens the planet. There is a long journey to join a meeting of experts from monastic communities all throughout the planet. There is even a space adventure in which he and his friends travel to the space craft either to destroy it or better, to force it into negotiation. The narrative is quite good, but it is a long, long story. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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