Friday, July 3, 2015

Assisi - Rome - Valletta (Malta) - Rabat (Malta) - Bumarrat (Malta)

July 4, 2015 Happy Independence Day, As you can see from the cities mentioned above, I am in Malta. This is a small island south of Sicily, an independent country. It is a limestone island with a little vegetation, 30 by 40 miles. There are around 400,000 people on the island, with the vast majority Catholic. I am doing the visitation of the province here, which is relatively small, around 40 friars. Even though it is a small province, they have a tremendous history of mission work. They worked in England, Australia, Zambia and they founded the province of India Right now they have recently opened a new friary in Calcutta as a joint venture with the Indian Province. They have their chapter in September, and I am producing the report on how things are going in the province. Many of the structures on the island date back to the 1500's. The island suffered from three serious sieges during its history: the Turks, the French under Napoleon, and the Nazi's. During World War II, they suffered terribly from bombardment. Churchill called it the unsinkable aircraft carrier. It played a significant role in intercepting the supplies that were being shipped to Rommel, and thus insured his defeat. The weather is very hot right now. I am finally over my cold/bronchitis, but the heat is getting to me a bit. Oh well, as Rosanna Danna said, it's always something. The cathedral in Valletta is magnificent. It was built by the Knights of Malta which is divided into national groups. Each group took a part of the cathedral and tried to outdo its rivals. It also has two Caravaggio paintings for he spent the last two years of his life here. I am travelling from one friary to another. The internet contact is a bit tenuous, so I am writing this while I have good internet coverage. Hope you have a good celebration today and a good week. I have finished the following 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. Shalom fr. Jude


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