Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rome - Leceto - Rome - Padua - Rome

September 30, 2014 Peace and Good, I have been in Italy these past couple of weeks. Last week the definitory was at a retreat house in a town called Leceto, near Siena. Even though it is relatively close to a settled area, the grounds of the retreat property are quite wild. They have wild boars roaming around as well as some type of antelope. I was out of touch all this past week because there was no wifi on the property. The retreat is run by the Augustinian sisters. It is a cloistered order. There are 17 of them at this place. We decided not to have a formal preacher for the retreat. The definitory asked me to give a short reflection each morning, and I spoke about some lessons from the letters of St. Paul. I was pleased with the way that it turned out. We returned to Rome, and the next day I had to take a train up to Padua in northern Italy for a meeting. The friars there print a magazine at the Basilica of St. Anthony, one of the biggest magazines in Italy. They also have various other language versions. I have been writing for the English version for over 30 years. There are some organizational questions with the magazine in America and they asked for my advice. Today I spent getting ready for the next big trip. It starts in Saigon, and then will hit the US, Canada, England and South Africa. I will not be back in Rome for two months. I am sorry I will be out of town for the beatification of Pope Paul VI. He was a great man. I was present for his last public event before he passed away. It was a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on the feast of Ss. Peter Paul. Later in this long trip I will be travelling to South Africa. Please don't be worried about me. I know you have heard a lot about Ebola, but that is on the other end of the continent. I have finished some books: The Adventures of Ellery Queen: The African Traveler by Ellery Queen I have always heard about Ellery Queen. This is a collection of his short stories. They are certainly dated. They would be considered to be sexist and even a bit racist today. In their days, they were a good detective story. This one is about Ellery starting a class for investigators. He takes three students to the scene of the crime and lets them try to figure out who killed the man found dead in a hotel room. As would be expected, all three have theories which they defend, only to be proven wrong by Ellery who has his own correct theory. Earthquake: The Destruction of San Francisco by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts This is the story of the great earthquake that hit San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th century and the fire and tsunami that completed much of its destruction. All of the water lines broke during the earthquake, and this made fighting the great fires that erupted impossible. The army and the fire fighters had to resort to using dynamite and canons to try to blow up buildings so that they might establish a fire line. The General in charge of the Presidium, the fort at the edge of San Francisco, took over without any permission from above, and his troops both fought the fire and got involved in looting and killings. The mayor of the city was a scandalous figure who was not all that effectual during the crisis. He ended up arrested for his crimes shortly after the earthquake. This book is also written as a warning for the possible great quake that could hit California any time in the future. Expositor’s Bible: The Song of Solomon and the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Walter Adeney This is a long but interesting description of the Song of Solomon (also called the Song of Songs and the Canticle of Canticles) and the Book of Lamentations. It was written a while ago, and some of the scholarship is definitely dated. Yet, it offers some original interpretations that made me think. I am fascinated by the Song of Songs. It was probably a series of poems written to celebrate a wedding which were intended to be chanted back and forth between the bride’s and the groom’s friends, but it eventually came to be interpreted as a song expressing the love that God has for Israel (the Church). Being Hebrew poety and having been written a few thousand years ago, its symbolism needs to be carefully interpreted, but it has some very beautiful images and reflections upon love. The Lamentations are a series of poems to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem. Reading about it made me think of how important it is to ritualize our mourning. So often we try to hold in our grief instead of expressing it in a healthy way. Even Jesus cried when his friend Lazarus died. Mighty Fitz: the Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Michael Schumacher When I was a kid, I remember the ballad by Gordon Lightfoot, the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This book tells the story of a huge lake ore carrier which went down with all hands aboard in Lake Superior during a November storm that grew much stronger than the weathermen expected. The book explores the various theories about what caused the disaster, and it deals with life aboard a lake ship. It is well written. Vegas and the Mob: Forty Years of Frenzy by Al Moe This is the story of the Mob’s involvement with the gambling casino in Las Vegas. The tone of the story is as if it is being told by a Mob snitch. The author really has it in for the FBI which he claims should have known all about the Mob involvement due to the constant phone taps, but they did nothing significant about it. It also tells a bit of the story of Marilyn Monroe and her involvement with the Kennedy brothers. The book reads like a grocery story tabloid, but it is informative. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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