Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sydney - Rome - Geneva - Mesilla PArk (El Paso)

April 22, 2015 Peace and Good, I hope you are well. This blog starts out in Australia. I recovered from my food poisoning in plenty of time to fly back to Rome The trip to Rome was a bit eventful. I flew out Sunday afternoon to go from Sydney to Melbourne to catch my flight to Rome. The flight from Sydney to Melbourne was cancelled because of mechanical difficulties and they could not book me in time to get the connection to Rome. I slept in a hotel they provided, and then at 10 the next morning headed out to the airport. In the meantime, I tried to change the date of my ticket to Rome, but could not because it was made by my travel agent. I had to e mail the agent in Rome and wait until 5 PM (all the time in the airport) before I knew for sure I could fly out that evening. I made it back to Rome on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we had a special Mass for fr. Lanfranco Serini, an ex minister general, who passed away a month ago. Then on Thursday I flew to Geneva for a meeting of Franciscans International, a lobbying group at the UN for peace and justice issues. I am on their board of directors. Sunday I flew from Geneva to Frankfort to Denver and on to El Paso. All of the connections worked out fine, but my bag never arrived in Denver. I think it travelled in another direction. I arrived in the retreat center in Mesilla Park, New Mexico (not far from El Paso) for a meeting of the provincials of the US. My bag should arrive this morning (Wednesday). Thank God there is a dollar general just down the street where I could pick up some necessities to hold me over until now. The meeting of the provincials is going very well. They are a fine group of men to work with. We finish today, and I will fly out on Friday morning going back to Rome for a definitory meeting. I finished some books: Jewish Outlaws by Alan Furst This is the first volume of the story of the Millen-Faber gang, a group of young Jewish men who followed the pattern of Bonny and Clyde. They lived in the Boston area, and were not really from impoverished families. They nevertheless raided armories for weapons, robbed banks and movie theaters, and murdered a number of people. This all occurred during the great Depression. Rock a Bye Baby by Willow Rose A woman becomes a bit paranoid in caring for her family and especially for her new born baby. She sees threats everywhere and begins to kill all of those whom she considers to be a danger. At the end of the story, one finds out why this happened: her baby had died in its crib a couple of weeks ago. The only problem is that it would appear that her hallucinations were not just that. It seems as if she has been killed people left and right, even grinding some of them up to make her homemade sausage. The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Flannery O’Connor This is another of those strange stories from Flannery O’Connor. A man missing a hand shows up at the home of a widow and her handicapped daughter. He serves as their handyman for a time, and eventually marries the daughter (but only to get a bit of money and their car). He leaves her at a roadside diner and passes on. Whenever I read her stories, it leave me wondering what she was trying to say. The Insiders by Craig Hickman This is a conspiratorial book in which a group of businessmen have developed a system to control economics. They manipulate the system both legally and illegally in order to win, even at the cost of destroying goods and people who are only trying to survive. A man whose father seems to have tried to commit suicide must uncover the plot and find a way to destroy the powerful forces that want to continue the evil that they have been doing. While overall the book is good, once in a while it does get too involved in detail that can make one lose track of the point the author is trying to make. The Vanished Man by Jeffrey Deever Lincoln Rhyme must investigate a series of murders being performed by an illusionist. The basic principle of illusionists is that nothing is as it seems to be. That makes the investigation all the more difficult. Rymes comes to depend upon Kara, a budding illusionist, to help him see through the false messages that are being communicated in order to stop the murders and find the murderer. The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum This is a very long and very thorough outline of what happened in Eastern Europe after the defeat of the Nazi’s and during the ascent of the communist regimes in that part of the world. Applebaum shows conclusively that the development of the Iron Curtain was not a reaction to anything done by the Western powers, but rather was a plot developed during the war by Stalin and his cohorts. We see how every vestige of freedom is wiped out, every possible rival to communism is systematically imprisoned or murdered. This is a depressing account, but it is all true. Having worked in Romania after the fall of communism, this story brings back so many of the stories the friars shared with me about what it was like under communism. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Rome - Melbourne - Sydney

April 12, 2015 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I spend Holy Week at home in Rome. Holy Monday we had a quick meeting of our definitory to take care of pending business. Then the rest of the week I spent participating in the services in the Basilica and also working on some taping and writing projects. I headed out on Easter Sunday afternoon to fly to Australia to visit our friars there. This was not an official trip, simply a visit to see how things are going. There has been an influx of new blood of friars from the US (which has taken forever because their visa applications dragged on and on). They will be meeting in assembly in June to talk about the present and the future. I, unfortunately, will not be able to be there, so this was a good time to stop and see and listen. I started out in Melbourne where we have two friaries. Then I moved on to Sydney. Unfortunately, I came down with food poisoning (most probably from a restaurant where we had lunch before I left Melbourne). Fortunately, I carry a supply of antibiotics with me because I end up with food poisoning at least once a year with all the travel that I do. This time it really laid me low for a couple of days, but today I feel well enough to continue on my journey back to Rome. I finished some books: The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor This is the title for a painting that was produced by Gustav Klimt and which became the symbol for the cosmopolitan, avant guarde culture of pre-war Vienna. The woman painted, Adele Bloch Bauer, was a Jewish society woman with very liberal attitudes. The book covers first the society in which she and Kilmt lived. I then deals with what happened to Adele Bloch Bauer’s family and friends after the takeover by the Nazi’s. Finally, it deals with the attempt of the family of Bloch Bauer to recover the painting from a museum in Vienna, an attempt that dragged on for years. I Claudius by Robert Graves This is a fictional account of the emperor Claudius, the successor of the mad emperor Caligula, and the predecessor of the equally mad emperor Nero. Claudius was considered to be a nobody in the family of the Caesars. He had a speech impediment and was somewhat crippled. Caligula used him as a court fool, which probably saved his life for many of the other royal family members were killed when Caligula thought of them as rivals. We hear of how Claudius’ own mother hated him, and we hear of the machinations of the widow of Augustus Caesar, Livia. The book is well written, and was the source of a PBS series a number of years ago. Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman This is the story of a series of murders in Munich, Germany right before Hitler takes power in Germany The police officer who must investigate the murders is caught up in the craziness of the times. Jewish people are murdered without any compunction, and Jewish people are blamed even when it is clear that they had nothing to do with it. The officer tries to keep out of this, but it is impossible and he has to make choices that leave him and his entire family in danger. It is a well written account of a very confusing time. Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic by Steven Berlin Johnson This tells the story of an outbreak of cholera in one part of the city of London during the 19th century. Many people supposed that it was vapors coming from burial grounds so some other airborne contagion that was causing the disease. A doctor and a clergyman were able to disprove this theory and show that it was actually contaminated water that caused the disease, tracing this particular outbreak to the water in one well (which, ironically, was considered to be one of the best water wells in the city). Johnson then speaks of how this discovery allowed for the continued growth of cities, and he deals with the dangers that face large cities today from disease, terrorism, etc. The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt This is the masterful treatment of how the city of Rome, a small insignificant hill town in the 8th century BC, went on to become the greatest empire that the world has ever seen. One sees the growth of the republic, which was really an oligarchy. One sees how Rome conquered its enemies first near and then far. One also sees how the organization of the republic eventually led to its downfall in civil war due to the outsized personalities of a number of its politicians. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude