Friday, February 13, 2015

Atlanta - San Salvador - South Bend

February 13, 2015 Peace and Good, I have been on the road the past couple of weeks. After my visit to our parishes in Atlanta, I took a flight down to El Salvador. We were having a meeting down there with the friars from Honduras and those from Costa Rica as part of a process to unite these two jurisdictions. In the past these meetings have been a bit difficult, but this time the meeting was well planned and it went off very, very well. When we arrived in San Salvador, they took us to see the place with Msgr. Romero was killed while he was celebrating Mass. He fought for the rights of the poor, and a rightist death squad killed him, shooting him while he lifted up the chalice after the consecration. The very next day the Pope declared him to be a martyr, opening up the process to have him beatified, probably within the next year. (He also declared the martyrdom of two of our Polish friars who were murdered some 25 years ago in Peru - killed by a communist rebel group called the Sendero Luminoso. We met all week in a retreat house and then last Friday I flew to Los Angeles, then Chicago and finally South Bend. It is a round about journey, but it was all on frequent flyer tickets so you have to take the route they offer. In South Bend, I went to our novitiate in Mishawaka (the next town over). There I have been presenting a workshop on the Gospels and the Psalms to our seven novices (six from the US and one from Australia) and seven sisters from a Franciscan community that lives next door. They were both great groups of young religious, and I enjoyed the experience. Tonight I fly back to Rome for two weeks of definitory, our bi-monthly meeting. I finished some books: Fever Season: the Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People who saved a City by Jeanette Keith This is the story of a horrible epidemic of Yellow Fever which hit Memphis in the 1870’s. Yellow Fever is caused by a virus that incubates in a mosquito, something the people of that times did not know. There was no way to cure the disease once it hit, and many, many people died quickly and painfully. The fever started in New Orleans and took hold of the city and did not let go until after the first hard frost. We hear both of the sadness and of the heroes of this battle (which is the exact image many of the people in Memphis used for their trial). Catholic priests and nuns come out looking very good (as do the Episcopalians). Many of the Baptist clergy abandoned the city with their families, raising question of what the duty of a married clergyman during a disaster like this might be. The Man on the Bench by Robert Swartwood This is a story set in a small town where young children are able to see an elderly man sitting on a bench near a pond, but no one else can see him. It turns out that he is sitting watch for the return of Lilith who takes the lives of young girls in order to renew her youth. The boys in the story are asked to lead some adults to her house (which only they can see) so that they might kill her and destroy the evil she has brought them all. The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman This is the story of Che, a Navaho policeman, who is trying to solve several mysteries that involve a drug deal and the tension between the Navaho and the Hopi who have been traditional enemies. There is a lot of information about Navaho traditions which helps the policeman solve the various questions that surround a plane crash and a damaged wind mill. The writing is very well done and it is one of those books that makes me want to read on. I highly recommend all of Hillerman’s books. Where there’s Smoke by Jodi Picoult This is the thing that I have read by this author, even though I have seen her name many, many times. This is called a short story, but it could also be called a novella. In a short time, she establishes a very creditable character. The main character is a psychic who is real. She has two gate keepers, ghosts who help her contact the underworld. Two of her on screen interviews end in disaster, leading one of her gatekeepers to state, “Be careful what you ask for….” The story is well done, and one feels a real empathy toward this unusual character. Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron This is a very interesting book, especially for a Franciscan. It is a novel that reads like a personal memoir. It tells the story of an evangelical preacher who has built up a large church but who then has a crisis of faith/ He visits his uncle, a Franciscan who lives in Assisi, who gives him refuge and teaches him about St. Francis. From Francis he learns how to challenge that which is not right in his own religion with gentleness and compassion. He most of all finds peace in his heart by accepting that God is a mystery and not a set of equations to be solved and memorized. Some of the premises are a bit unlikely in terms of religious life, but the friars are presented very positively in the story. I quite enjoyed it, and it provided some insights to me about who were are called to be. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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