Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Manila - Tagaytay - Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon)

August 21, 2014 Peace and Good, This past week I have been giving conferences to the friars in the Philippines. On the 14th I gave a talk on St. Maximilian Kolbe. It was his feast day, the anniversary of the day 73 years ago when he died is Auschwitz. There were well over 100 friars, Secular Franciscans and members of the Militia of Mary Immaculate. Then, on Saturday, the 16th, the day after the Solemnity of the Assumption, I gave a talk to the friars and members of the Militia about the scriptural background of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into heaven body and soul. There is not really a lot of direct proof for this dogma other than tradition, but I went over ideas of the afterlife, Mary's particular choice by God, and other topics that surround this mystery. On Sunday I went up to the novitiate building in Tagaytay. I have been there a few times before, and it is always pleasant. It is on a mountainside - actually the side of an active volcano. I gave a two day workshop to the ten guardians and members of the custodial definitory on Franciscan leadership. It was a good experience. At the end, I asked each friar to tell me a good story about the custody. We are so close to our realities that sometimes we only see the flaws. The sharing, which went almost two hours, was great. On Wednesday, yesterday morning, I flew out to Saigon. The city is growing incredibly fast. There is a vibrancy here, like things are taking off. The friars built a new house of studies, and they did an incredible job. Right now they are putting the finishing touches on it. The only thing that limited the number of vocations was space, and now there is room for over 40 friars in this one building. The young vocations have a wonderful, joyful spirit. They all know a bit of English, and they are so curious as to what is going on with friars in the other parts of the world. I finished some books: The Spy by Nathanael Hawthorne This is the second Hawthorne book I have read in the past couple of years. I fully understand his importance in the history of English literature, but I find his plot plodding and his dialog unnatural. This is the story of a spy used by Washington during the Revolutionary War. One is never quite sure of who the spy is and for whom he is spying until rather late in the narrative. There is a love story thrown in to round out the story. It is just tedious to read all the speeches each character seems to have to make. Persona non Grata by Ruth Downie This is the story of a Roman doctor in the army occupying England who is also called upon to solve a crime involving his family back in Gaul and their debts. He has a British woman whose life he saved who is his companion and soon to be wife. His family is a mess of selfishness and neediness, and they are in debt up to their eyeballs. The dialog is quite good and the text enjoyable. The Song Before it is Sung by Justin Cartwright This is a haunting account of a researcher from Oxford who has inherited the life paper’s of one of his mentors. He tries to make sense of the man’s story, especially in regards to one of his close friends, a German who was killed by Hitler for his involvement in the attempt to assassinate Hitler. In the meantime, the researcher’s marriage is falling apart. The title of the book comes from a question asked by Alexander Herzen, “Where is the song before it is sung.” The books answer is that it does not exist. It exists only inasmuch as it is sung. This becomes a symbol for life: is exists in its living. That is not the utopian ideal, but the messy reality of living life as best as one can given one’s own limitations and the constraints of the outer world. Benedict Arnold (Patriot and Traitor) by Willard Sterne Randall The man’s very name is a synonym for traitor, and yet he began the Revolutionary War as a great hero. How did it happen. As usual, a lot of it involves personal issues. He felt that he was poorly treated by the politicians of his day, especially those who were more radical in tone. (Some of them sound almost like the leaders of the French Revolution which led to such great slaughter.) He also suffered financially in the war as the Revolutionary script suffered from tremendous inflation. Much of his property was lost and never recompensed. He had his grievances. Add to it the fact that he married a woman whose family were loyalists (faithful to the king), and you had an explosive situation. He offered to sell out the most important military base, King’s Point, which would have divided the states in two and probably would have suffocated the revolution. He even made plans to betray Washington and his staff into the hands of the British. He ended his days in England after failing to make a go of it in Canada. He and his wife did not have the happiest existence for the rest of their days. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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