Sunday, October 26, 2014

London - Oxford - London - Pretoria

October 26, 2014 Peace and Good, Last week I spent some time visiting our new house of studies in Oxford, England. The friars are renting a large mother house of a group of Anglican Sisters. It is an old, castle like building. The friars there are living a simple life, filled with a rich prayer life. They study with the Dominican friars not too far away. Many of their courses are in the British style of education where they are more tutorials than classes as we have them. There is a good number of vocations, and they exude a very positive spirit. Diocesan priests and sisters have been suggesting vocations to visit us because they have experienced the good spirit of the community. From Oxford, I took a train down to London (it is only an hour away). I got to visit my favorite book store in the world: Foyles. You can think of the most obscure topic in the world, and there will be at least five books on that topic. It is not that I buy the books, though, but rather I get titles for books that I later will buy on the Kindle. I also stopped at my favorite Chinese restaurant in London. It is not much more than a hole in the wall, but the majority of people who eat there are of East Asian origin, and that is always a good sign for a Chinese restaurant. I got my tripe with noodles. It is difficult to find tripe on a menu anywhere, so I enjoy this as an out of the ordinary treat. On Monday evening I flew down to South Africa with another friar from the States, Michael Lasky. We were going to a conference of peace activists organized by the Capuchin Franciscan Friars. They have developed what they call the Damietta Peace Initiative. This movement organizes discussion groups of people throughout Africa of different backgrounds, e.g. Christian and Muslim, of different tribes, etc. The first step is for them to develop a spirit of trust among themselves. They discern what their common values are, and then they talk about their differences. These groups are organized in areas where there is a real danger of an outbreak of violence. This continent, even beyond the Ebola disaster, faces constant violence due to ethnic, religious and economic factors. This has been a very good week of listening and learning. I hope to be able to share some ideas first with the General Definitory in Rome and then with friars throughout the world in my various visits. Tomorrow I will head back to London and then on to the States. My latest reading includes: The One-Penny Black: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is a short story about the theft of a very valuable penny stamp from the days of Queen Victoria. The two owners, stamp traders, have been robbed, and the thief ran into a book store where he seems to have hidden his catch in a particular book. The next day, those who bought that book are being attacked and robbed, but only of their copy of that particular book. Ellery Queen is able to sort out the mystery with a surprise ending. Pope Francis, Pastor of Mercy by Michael Ruszala This is a short biography of Pope Francis. I read it because my publisher, Catholic Book, has asked me to write a children’s book on this beloved pope. This book was free, and yet it has an enormous amount of good information in a very short format. I was glad that I stumbled upon it as I looked for more information about the pope. The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler This is a really interesting book about how Pope Pius XI called upon an American Jesuit to help him to write an encyclical against anti-Semitism in the late 1930’s. The Jesuit was Fr. John LaFarge. He had worked with many blacks in southern Maryland and had witnessed the prejudice and violence often visited upon them. He had written a book to fight those tendencies, especially in the Catholic Church. When the Holy Father read this book, he asked Fr. John to write an encyclical in secret against the racist policies of the Nazi government in Germany and the Fascist government in Italy. There were many Church officials who did not want to see this type of challenge, afraid that it would only make things worse. One of them, the Jesuit General, conspired to hide the completed document from the pope who died a short time later. Pope Pius XII, Pius XI’s successor, agreed with the more cautious churchmen and refused to openly condemn Hitler and Mussolini, although he secretly assisted in hiding and saving thousands of Jewish people. Yet, one has to wonder what would have happened if the encyclical against racism had ever been published. 18 ½ Minutes: Nixon’s Darkest Secrets Revealed by Ronald Meyer The title of the book comes from the 18 ½ minute gap in the Nixon tapes. The proposal is that a group of Neocons (neo-conservatives) who have secretly been running the world’s economy wanted that portion erased because it contained information that would be deadly to their plot if released. It has to do with the genius inventor Nicolas Tesla who supposedly found a way to harness the electrical energy of the world’s atmosphere to produce free electricity. The book starts out well, but gets a bit into psychological themes and drags on after a while. Hope you have a good week. Happy Haloween! Shalom fr. Jude


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