Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ellicott City - Mt. St. Francis (Louisville) - Rome - Assisi

June 27, 2015 Peace and Good, I finished off my many appointments at Ellicott City. I came out of them pretty well. I just have a touch of carpal tunnel in my left hand (I am right handed) so I am wearing a wrist brace for the next couple of weeks. It is not all that big a deal, but had drawn tons of comments from the Europeans who ask whether it is a type of boxing glove or whether I am trying to be a Ninja Friar. From Ellicott City I flew out to Louisville. There I conducted a day of recollection for the definitory of the Midwest province on the topic of Franciscan leadership. It was a nice relaxed day. The day after we had the jubilee celebrations for profession of vows and priesthood. Counting up all the years in religious life and the priesthood, there was more than 1,000 years of service in the room. The day after the celebration it was off to Rome. I had come down with a heavy cold and bronchitis, so the flight back was not all that much fun. I am just now recovering from it. We had a one day definitory meeting on last Saturday. We were not able to finish all the business, so that meeting has continued all throughout this week. We also had our annual meeting of the presidents of the various federations of the Order. We divide the Order up into seven geographic regions, and each one is called a federation. Each federation has a provincial or custos who is the president to organize the federation along with the Assistant General. The president of our federation is fr. Jim Kent from the Midwest province. So all day long we have been meeting with them, and in the breaks meeting as a definitory to finish our business. It had been very busy. Today we finish and we head back to Rome. I have finished some books: The Moghul by Thomas Hoover This is a saga about an English sea captain who travels to India during the 17th century to try to establish trading relations with that country. He encounters many strange and exotic situations. He falls in love with a beautiful Persian woman who had been the wife to the moghul. He is part of a battle of one of the Moghul’s sons to take over the empire. There is a lot of reflection on the sharing of cultures and learning from one another. Overall, the book is quite good. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid This is a very interesting book. The action takes place at a restaurant in Pakistan, and it consists of a dialog (although we never hear one side of it) between an American and a Pakistani professor. The Pakistani had been educated in the States and worked there for a major company, but he lost heart over a love interest who drifted away from him into a psychological breakdown and also through the fact that he was collaborating in the oppression of people for profit. (His company evaluated the success of companies and recommended ways to save money which often led to the loss of jobs for employees.) Furthermore, he saw his homeland drifting into an almost inevitable war with India that would probably have resulted in disaster. While the professor is always extravagantly polite, there is a current of tension just below the surface. One is never quite clear whether the American is there to assassinate him, or he is plotting to have the American killed. April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How it Changed America by Michael Eric Dyson Dyson presents the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and also of the aftermath in the civil rights movement. He speaks of two dangers in speaking of King. There are those who would like to demonize him for bigoted reasons, and there are his followers who have a tendency to canonize him, ignoring his very real humanity. He speaks of his successors, especially Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He deals with the question of how much has really been accomplished in the battle for equality, stating that the upper and middle class blacks have benefited most from the civil rights movement, but the poor have been left behind in many ways. The presentation is a bit polemic, but it is good to hear certain things from a different point of view. Conspirata by Robert Harris A couple of years ago I read a book by Harris called Imperium. That was the story of how Cicero rose to power in Rome. This is the book of his rule and his difficulties both during his year long reign and especially in the period immediately afterward. The book is very, very well written. The presenter is Tiro, who was a slave and secretary to Cicero. One gets a very good picture of the terrible machinations and very flawed people at the end of the Republic period, just before everything fell apart and Julius Caesar ended up as dictator of Rome. Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson This is the story of the period of time right before the entrance of the United States into World War II. Great Britain was lobbying for the US to assist it, whether by arms or possibly even by joining the battle. There was a huge movement of isolationists in the States who wanted nothing to do with the war. Charles Lindbergh was one of the main proponents of this point of view. The book covers the personality and actions of Lindbergh and his wife Anne. It deals with Franklin Roosevelt’s tendency to equivocate and procrastinate as much as he could. The book gives a good portrait of this very vocal, very contentious debate. I hope you have a good week and a great July 4th. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rome - Bacau (Romania) - Rome - Ellicott City (Mayland)

June 15, 2015 Hope you are all well. This blog covers a couple of weeks. The first week started out in Rome. I had just arrived in from Canada and the United States. The first couple of days, as always, were spent getting over jet lag. I was also able to catch up on a few things. When I have jet lag, it is very difficult for me to do anything that requires a lot of thinking, but I am able to do some mindless projects (and there are always plenty of them). On Tuesday I flew out to Romania with the Minister General and one of the other Assistants. The friars there were celebrating the 120th anniversary of the founding of the province and the 25h anniversary of the re-founding after the fall of communism. They had a great celebration without over-doing it. Sometimes at these celebrations it goes on forever and the meals are a real waste of food. This was well done and it was great to visit some of the sites in Roman (the town where the seminary is located). We especially went to a social service center for the Gypsies run by the friars. They offer tutorial programs for the children (and adults) and they help to find regular jobs for the adults. It is very well run. Thursday we flew back to Rome. We went through Fiumacino Airport in Rome. You can still smell the smoke from the fire they had there at the beginning of May. Saturday I was back at the airport to fly out to Baltimore. This week has been a series of doctor and dentist appointments. These are just normal check ups with the inevitable referrals. Everything went well, and the only result is another visit to the dentist in August for a tooth extraction and a brace on my wrist (due to some swelling of one of the muscles). Given my age, I came out of this quite well. Yesterday I concelebrated up at the big house at Ellicott City for the feast of St. Anthony. There were a ton of people. What impressed me most was how ethnically diverse the crowd was. There were East Asians, Indians, Philippinos, Hispanics, African Americans, Africans, Whites, etc. It just goes to show you how popular St. Anthony is all over the world. Tomorrow I fly out to Louisville for a day long meeting and a celebration. Hope you have a good week. Here are some of the books I have finished: Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King Ross King has done a series of books on famous artists and the works that made them famous. This one is about how Leonardo da Vinci painted the Last Supper on the refectory wall of a friary in Milan. It deals with Leonardo and his life and the fact that the Last Supper is one of relatively few works that Leonardo actually finished. It deals with the complicated politics of the time involving Milan, papal Rome, Venice, Naples, France and the Holy Roman Empire. It covers the history of the painting and its gradual degradation from humidity, mold, inept restoration, bombing, etc. King’s books are always quite enjoyable and informative. A Country of Vast Desights: James K Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent by Robert Merry This book is about President Polk, a one term president, who oversaw the negotiations with Britain over the border between the State of Washington and that of British Columbia, and who engaged the United States in a mixmatched battle with Mexico. It goes through the very messy politics around the war, charges of imperialism, hidden agendas such as slavery expansion, etc. It also deals with the corrupt and inept Mexican government which, although beaten, found it difficult to surrender for no one seemed to be in charge. This is a very good account of a bit of history that is often overlooked in our history classes because the U.S. doesn’t really come out looking all that good. The Constant Gardener: A Novel by John le Carre As he has grown older, the spy novelist John le Carre has become more and more conspiratorial, not trusting in any institution whatsoever. This book is about a pharmaceutic company that has coopted the British government as they use Africans as human guinea pigs for their new medications. An activist and doctor are murdered to hide all of this, and the woman’s husband, a type of Harvey Milktoast, turns out to be more courageous and enterprising than anyone expected in sorting out the plot. The Pentateuch edited by John Barton and John Muddiman This is a well written, very long commentary on the first five books of the Bible. It is not for the casual reader, but I always find these types of books interesting because I always pick up a detail or two in each chapter that I had never heard before. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill This is a long saga about a man who harvests children and takes them to a place in his mind called Christmasland. He envisions it as a place of delight, but it is all fun without any responsibility or even conscience. The children become vampire like and prey on others. There is a girl who stumbles across this man named Manx and escapes from him. Later, as a mother, she must try to save her son who has been kidnapped by him and his evil counterpart, Bing. Shalom fr. Jude