Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bolgatanga - Congo - Bolgatanga (all in Northern Ghana)

August 2, 2015 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I finished preaching my first week of retreats to the priests of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese in northern Ghana. The bishop of the diocese and about 15 of his priests were on retreat this week. The topic was the Gospel of John and how we are all called to become the Beloved Disciple (who is a major character in this Gospel). I enjoy preaching to priests for we can apply many of the insights both to ourselves and our ministry. I was very impressed by the goodness and the challenges of the priests. We began Monday morning and finished at lunch on Friday. The weather here has been much more pleasant than the last time I was up here in northern Ghana. I remember it being near 100 each day when I preached a retreat in the seminary not far from here (St. Victor's at Tamale). It is now rainy season and the temperature, while a bit hot and humid, is really not all that bad. They badly need rain for the crops, and we have had a couple of good rains this week which is very, very good. The people in many of the villages do not really have all that much, and some could face very difficult times if the crop were to fail. I will be preaching another week of retreats to the priests of this diocese at the retreat house in Congo (not the country, it is a village not all that far from Bolgatanga). The retreat house is run by three Capuchin Franciscan friars from India, and it was good to share some time with Franciscan brothers. Yesterday we visited the original cathedral and now a Minor Basilica in Navrongo. (The seat of the diocese was moved from there to Bolgatanga some time ago). This is an internationally recognized landmark for the church is built with mud brick. I had seen it in 2008 the last time I was here, and it is quite an impressive structure. I finished some books: America the Marvelous by A.A. Gill This is a funny essay which defends America from efite Europeans who look down their nose at anything American. The author argues that most of what is in America came originally from Europe, but it was free to develop in its own way. He rightly notes that while Europeans put down America, they buy American clothes, electronics, etc. At the end he speaks of how only 35% of Americans even have a passport and this supposedly something bad. His answer is that it is incredible that so many have a passport when there is so much to see and do in America itself, and besides, the European youth who all get passports are only getting them so they can travel to New York themselves. The author is quite witty. The Countss of Lowndes Square by E.F. Benson The countess has an alter ego, she is a blackmailer. This is the way that she survived for her husband and father both left her pennyless. She carefully chooses only those who can afford to pay her requests, and she only asks what she knows that they can afford. But the day comes when she, herself, if blackmailed. She must discover who is doing this to her and respond appropriately. Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney by James F. Simon This book describes the debate and the sometimes nasty relationship between Abraham Lincoln before and after he became president and Chief Justice Taney, the author of the Dred Scott case in which he declared not only that slavery was legal, but also that black people could never aspire to citizenship in this country. Taney’s decision gave rise to the political movement which gave Lincoln the presidency. Once he was president and he fought to preserve the union, Taney threw roadblocks in his way. Some of what he decided as chief justice was to uphold the rule of law, but some of it was obviously because he had Southern sympathies. The author treats the strengths and weaknesses of both of these famous characters, not ignoring who each succeeded and failed in what he was attempting to do. The book continues to carry weight because it deals with the question of how far a president can go during war The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin This is the story of a woman who prays for anyone who asks her, and her prayers seem to be answered with miracles. She is unusual in that she weighs somewhere between 600 and 700 pounds and is homebound. Her sister who is part time librarian for their small town in the Pochinoes takes care of her. Their town is filled with small town figures with all the blessings and curses of everyone knowing everyone. The story is not all positive, for a mysterious figure comes to town and a horrible thing occurs. This raises small town prejudices and angers that threaten to destroy the idealic situation. Furthermore, there is a secret from the past that poisons the prayerful spirit of Agnes. This is a good book. The Hitler Book by Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl This is an account of the Hitler years written by agents of the KGB specifically for Stalin so that he might better understand his arch-enemy. The material comes from the eye-witness accounts of German officers who had been captured by the Soviets (and tortured). It is interesting because it mirrors the Soviet account of the war in which the Germans were never really afraid of and possibly were accomplices of the Anglo-American alliance. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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