Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New York - Rome

June 4, 2014 Peace and Good, I finished off my meeting in New York at Franciscans International. We actually finished early, which is a first for the organization. There has been a lot of reconfiguring these past couple of years, and I think it is really paying off. There is a smaller organization, but it is running smoother than it has ever run before. Tuesday evening I flew out of JFK in New York and flew into Rome, arriving the next morning. I don't exactly know why, but the worst jet lag I have ever had hit me these past week. I think it was just that I had been running all around the country the previous month, and it caught up with me. Good thing that the only tasks I had to complete were to catch up on my daily reflections and prepare for the meeting of our definitory this week. Monday was a national holiday here in Italy, the anniversary of the founding of the republic right after World War II. We didn't meet, but we had more homework to look over to get ready for the meeting which began on Tuesday morning. We will continue here until noon on Saturday, and then Sunday afternoon move up to Assisi for another week of meetings, this time with the heads of the various conferences in the Order. Worldwide, we are divided into seven groups of friars, sometimes geographic and at other times linguistic divisions. I am the assistant for the English speaking group of the First World (there is a separate African and Asian group). We meet with the presidents of the seven groups each year in June to coordinate what is happening in Rome with what is happening at the grass roots. Even more than the big meetings, a lot is done in the one on one meetings with the General and each of the presidents. The weather has changed in the past couple of days. Summer has arrived, and it will be quite hot by the end of the week. This week is the 70th anniversary of D Day. Our provincial, fr. James McCurry, will be in France to deliver a short speech at one of the commemorations. One of our friars, fr. Ignatius, died during the invasion. He was an army chaplain and was killed on D Day itself. I finished some reading: Conspirator: Lenin in Exile by Helen Rappaport Most of Lenin’s adult life, he spent in exile outside of Russia. He was in London (where he did a tremendous amount of research at the British Library), France, Switzerland, Austria, etc. He lived poorly, and spent almost all of his time on research and writing articles and books. He was faithfully served by his wife and her mother, even though he maltreated them by ignoring them and by cheating on his wife with a female colleague. The only important thing for him was revolution, and he was willing to betray anyone or anything to get his way. He was an incredibly arrogant party member, frequently creating divisions among the socialists in order to win an argument. He was eventually called back to Russia by the Germans who were then at war with the Russians. They sent him back in the hope that he would create division and pull Russia out of the war, something he actually did. Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva This is the second book by Daniel Silva I have read. It is about a Israeli secret agent, Gabriel Allon, and how he combats the forces of Islamist terrorism. This is almost a sequel to the first book I read which involved the assassination of a rich trader who was financing terrorism. In this book, Allon works with the assassinated man’s daughter who wants to further the cause of women in the Arab world and destroy the terrorist hold on Islam. The hero is also a world famous art restorer, which adds a whole different dimension to the whole story. His plot is well written and exciting. The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Ecco Umberto Ecco is the author of the Name of the Rose. This particular book is the story of a man from northern Italy who becomes a scribe, a copier of letters. His specialty, however, is forging letters and wills and documents to incriminate others. He participates in the battles that lead to the unification of Italy, and then he travels to Paris where he spends the rest of his life. He hates the Jesuits and the Jews and the Masons, and writes pamphlets and creates documents to incriminate each of those groups. In the course of his career, he becomes two people, the forger and a fake priest, and it seems as if he begins to lose a sense of which of these characters he really is. This is the premise for the book, it is an attempt to find out the truth about his own life so that he knows which of the two, the forger Simonini or the priest della Piccola, he is. The title of the book is from one of his forgeries in which he writes of a meeting of famous rabbis from all over the world who plot the destruction of the Gentile world by accumulating the control of the press, industry, transport, etc. Almayer’s Folly: A Story of an Eastern River by Joseph Conrad Once again, Conrad is the master story teller. This book tells of a British subject who is the only white man in a town on the coast of an island in Indonesia. He has married a native woman who has a daughter, but who despises the anti-hero, Almayer. Almayer has made one bad business deal after another, and he is trapped in a half existence. His daughter falls in love with a native chief’s son and must flee with him when he runs afoul of the Dutch authorities. This breaks Almayer’s heart, and he dies a slow, pathetic death, abandoned by everyone around him except for a opium smoker. The descriptions both of the world in which the characters live and the emotional relationships of the characters is masterful. Conrad is able to break out of his European world and enter into the exotic world and thinking of Africa, Asia and other distant parts of the globe. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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