Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) - Castro Valley (San Francisco)

10/7/2014 Peace and Good, I attended the celebration of the opening of the new house of studies in Saigon for our growing mission there. We arrived on the 2nd, and on the 3rd and the morning of the 4th there were a series of meetings with various parties. These events gather friars from all over, and they are great opportunities to meet face to face to take care of some of the business that is better handled in that way. The celebration itself was well organized. The evening of the 3rd we also went over to the seminary of the OFM's where many of our students study to celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis. The word Transitus refers to his passing (his transit) from life to death. He actually died on October 3rd but after evening prayer, so his feast is celebrated on the 4th. On the 5th, fr. John Heinz (the provincial of the California Province) and I flew out of Saigon at 5:30 AM (which meant leaving the house at 2:30). We first flew to Hong Kong ( 2 and 1/2 hours) for a two hour layover, and theen to San Francisco (a 12 hour flight). This morning we begin a gathering of all of the major superiors of the English speaking conference here in Castro Valley. We will have 3 days of meetings to plan some things for the next year and the next few years. I am fighting massive jet lag, but fortunately most of the other participants are also fighting one form or another (either coming from the east coast or from Australia). I just hope that we don't all fall asleep at the table at once. I have finished some books: Robert Browning by G.K. Chesterton This is a short biography on the poet Robert Browning (the husband of Elizabeth Barrett Browning). He comes across as a good man who wrote all but unintelligible poetry. His marriage to his wife is most interesting. She was all but an invalid, watched over incessantly by an over protective father. Browning courted her and eventually they eloped and went off to Italy to live. He helped her enjoy life and be fully alive. Chesterton portrays Browning as an incessant optimist who sees the good in all, even in people whom most of us would avoid. This is part of the series of short biographies on authors that I have been reading. The Great Triumvirate by Merrill Peterson This is a masterful biography of three of the greatest politicians of the 19th century: Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. These men were major figures for about thirty years, approximately from 1820 until 1850, give or take. They were first in the House of Representatives, then the Senate. Two served as Secretary of State. All three desired the presidency, but never achieved it. They were responsible for the various compromises that held the Union together until the Civil War. But Calhoun was more than the others responsible for the disunion that led to the Civil War and the destruction of his beloved South. Each had his flaws, and some of those flaws were almost crippling, but their greatness was also impressive. The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning by Hallgrimur Helggason This is a strange story about a Croatian hitman living in New York who has done something wrong (he never finds out what) and ends up being hunted for by the FBI and his old Croatian gang. He kills a Televangelist at the airport and steals his identity, flying to Iceland with his ticket. There he ends up impersonating the televangelist until he is discovered. His preacher friends in Iceland cover up for him as long as he converts, which he more or less does. The book is gory, but funny in a crude sort of way. Journeys on the Silk Road by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters This is the story of a British explorer (of Hungarian Jewish origins) who travelled to India where he became a famous explorer of Central Asia. His name was Aurel Stein, and he was eventually knighted for his exploits. He was especially interested in how Buddhist teachings reached China from India where the Buddha lived. He found a site where thousands of scrolls were kept, many dating back more than a millennium. He managed to barter for a large load of them which he took back to England where they were studied by scholars. One of the scrolls was a printed copy of the Diamond Sutra, the oldest printed book in existence. He eventually died in Afganistan at the beginning of the Second World War, still exploring in his early 80’s. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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