Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Castro Valley (San Fraancisco) - Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) - London

October 16, 2014 Peace and Good, We had a good meeting of the leadership of the English speaking conference in Castro Valley this past week. I had to organize the meeting a bit, but we quickly elected the president who now takes over with that task. The most important decision made was to consolidate the houses of formation in the conference. This is a painful decision, but necessary. We have a few students here and a few there. It makes more sense to have them living and studying all together with more friars assigned to take care of their formation. It took about two years of pushing and nudging to get to this point. Now that the basic decision has been made, the commissions have to work on the specifics. Friday a group of us headed down to Los Angeles for a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the mission in Vietnam and a fund raiser for the mission. As always, the Vietnamese are experts at this sort of thing. They are also very, very generous. Monday I preached a day of recollection for the definitory of the California province. They have been doing an incredibly good job at addressing the observations I made after my visitation. Things had drifted a bit in the province for a number of reasons, and now it is back on track. My contribution was to help them remember to keep the spiritual as the primary value in all that they do, lest they become more and more efficient but less of a fraternity. Tuesday evening I flew out to London and arrived last night. It is a long, long flight. I was in one of those Airbus 380's, the very big new plane. You really don't feel how big it is because there are two completely separate levels and the two groups really don't meet during the flight. I thought it would be a mess getting on and off, but it really is not since there are two exits at the two different levels. This morning I will take the train out to Oxford (only about an hour away) to visit our house of studies there. The Hanging Acrobat: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is a detective story of the murder of the wife of an acrobat. They worked in a Vaudeville show, and everyone involved in the show is a suspect. Ellery is able to solve the case through forensic evidence that he obtains from the medical examiner. These stories, part of a collection of Ellery Queen adventures, are not all that heavy or complicated. The dialog is a bit old fashioned and comes across like the dialog in many of the radio adventure programs during the 30’s. Yet, they are worth reading. Spiritual Direction for Priestly Celibacy by David Songy This book comes across as being a doctoral thesis that was lightly reworked so that it might be marketed as a book. It has that academic and at times overly pedantic tone that a lot of theses have, but it also is filled with very good information and insights. Part of my job is to give my thoughts on formation programs and the general concept of how we form young men so that they might embrace the spiritual values of our Franciscan calling. So reading this book was a sort of homework for me, but it was worthwhile. Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China by Pearl S. Buck This is the story of the dowager empress of China who ruled the great empire for decades during the 19th century. Her country was facing ever greater threats first from a Chinese rebellion (for the emperors were Manchu, not Chinese) and later from foreign powers who fought to gain entry into her markets. She ruled as regent when her husband died, and then again when her son died, and finally again when she overthrew a nephew. She was a powerfully conservative force, not wanting her empire to be corrupted by foreign values. In the process, she all but condemned China to helplessness in its battles with the technologically more advanced western powers. Pearl Buck gives a sympathetic (but not overly so) portrait of this ruler and her reign. It is well written. In Perpetuity by Tim Lebbon This is a haunting novella about a man and his son who enter a curiosity shop. The owner, known as the keeper, is an evil figure who captures the son and will not release him until the father returns with something particular. The keeper has a type of museum of very odd objects. He tells to the father to return with a proof for love, but something physical. We hear of the father’s desperate search, thwarted by a mysterious figure known as the green man. The question asked is whether someone would do anything for love, even possibly going over a boundary never intended to be crossed. It is a good story, but the type that leaves one wondering. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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