Monday, August 31, 2015

Accra - Rome - London - Newark - Brooklyn - Ellicott City - Brooklyn - Newark - Rome

August 31, 2015 I finished my journey to Accra on a peaceful note. I visited the mission church of our parish there and preached for the Mass which was quite enjoyable. The flight out of Accra and into London and then the flight from there to Rome were uneventful. As soon as I landed, I washed two weeks of Africa out of my dirty clothes. Wherever I stayed was quite comfortable, but there was always dust and sweat and bugs. I wanted to freshen all of the clothes that I had carried over there as soon as I could. I flew out from Rome to Newark that Wednesday. This trip was a bit more eventful. The flight out of Rome was postponed because of thunder storms that morning. When we finally got out, there was a loud noise on the right side of the plane. An hour into the flight, the pilot informed us that we might have sucked some birds into the engine and that it would not be prudent to fly over the ocean without a check up. We landed in London (where United has a maintenance site) and the engineer informed us that birds had gone through the engine. They put all of us up at a hotel near the airport and rebooked us for the continuance of the journey. Some did not get out til Friday, although most of us flew out on Thursday. I tried to help some of the Italians on board who did not speak English with their rebookings. I landed in Newark and the next day one of the friars drove me to our parish in Brooklyn. I can't believe how much the tolls for tunnels and bridges cost in the New York area. I was in Brooklyn to go through some 20 boxes of archives and sort them out. The office of Franciscans International, the lobbying group for Franciscans at the UN and on whose Board of Directors I am a member, had closed its office in New York and I had to decide which materials to ship over to the main office in Geneva. After a lot of work, I ended up with 2/3's of one box of things to keep. They had slips that dated to 1988 for a donation of $10. They had never sorted through any of it when the office closes - they only boxed up the materials. During the week, I drove down to Baltimore to visit an oral surgeon to have a tooth extracted. The process went well, but a week after I still feel the pain in my jaw. It always takes me a long time to heal from dental work, so it is not problem. While in Brooklyn, I visited a mission that our friars have toward the Hipsters of New York (a type of modern beatnik). Br. Nick who is the director of the mission did a great job of fixing up the previously closed church building and creating an invited atmosphere to welcome this community. I arrived back in Rome yesterday and will be here for the week. This coming Sunday I head back down to Malta for the provincial chapter at which I must give my report on my visitation. These are some of the things I have finished reading: The Men who United the States by Simon Winchester Simon Winchester has written a number of memorable books, including A Crack at the End of the World about the San Francisco Earthquake and Krakatoa about the volcano which exploded with incredible force in Indonesia. This book is an overview of a number of men who made the United States what it is today. He did not center the story on politicians as much as explorers and inventors and innovators. The stories are well told, and the overall effect of a collage of individuals who built this nation. Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal This is an account of the Mossad’s (Israeli Secret Service) most ingenious successes and even failures. This includes the arrest of Adolph Eichmann, the raid at Entebbe in Uganda to liberate hostages, the project to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel, etc. There are also a number of stories about assassinations conducted against terrorist targets and also against scientists who were working on weapons of mass destruction in Sudan and Iran. Some of the stories left me very unsettled, as if Israel decided that it was the arbiter of morality and could do anything that it saw fit to protect itself. The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe This is the story of an important, incriminating letter which is stolen by someone visiting an famous grand dame. A detective searches every nook and cranny of the thief’s house (for his identity is well known). He finds nothing. Another man then accepts the challenge and finds it in the most unlikely of places, right in the open. The story is good, but like a number of 19th century American works that I have read, the dialog goes on and on. Dambusters: A Landmark Oral History by Max Arthur This is the story of the plan to bomb three major German dams in the Ruhr Valley. It is a series of first hand eye witness accounts and it is an interesting way to present history. A new bomb had to be invented in order allow the bombers to destroy the very powerful structure that was these dams. These dams were essential as a water source for the people in that area and also for the hydropower produced there. The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva This is another of the stories of Gabriel Alon, an agent of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. In this one he fights an Islamist group from Egypt which has kidnapped the daughter of the US ambassador to Great Britain, a millionaire friend of the president. Typically, there are twists and turns which are well written. Silva has a tendency to bring the action to a point of crisis and then has the hero miraculously survive. He also has a tendency to end the main line of the plot, tell some personal details of the life of Gabriel and his wife Chiara, and then end a secondary plot. Yet, in spite of this predictability, there are always surprises. These volumes contain a considerable amount of violence (due to the terrorism and the counter-terrorism). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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