Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bolgatanga - Congo - Bolgatanga - Navrongo - Accra

August 9, 2015 Peace and Good, I have now finished the second retreat for the priests of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese in the north of Ghana. It was a good experience. Coming from Rome and the States, I found I had to be constantly listening carefully to see if I could understand the culture of the priests up here. I want to share an experience that happened at the end of last week. I didn't want to write it until I had left the region so that you would not worry about my safety. A week ago I was a witness to an attack of killer bees. The bees had become agitated because someone had sprayed his car to kill mosquitoes. The smell attracted the bees and they attacked everyone who was in the area. A poor man was on crutches and he could not run away. He was stung into unconsciousness. Some people from the kitchen were able to scare the bees away with fire and smoke, but the man had to be taken to the hospital and he was unconscious for quite a while. The priests and bishop of the diocese where I preached was great. I always find that hospitality is even greater in areas where the people are poor, and the north is quite poor. There had been a lack of rain, but these past two weeks there has been a great amount of rain which should really help the crops. I am now down in Accra, the capital, with the friars. I am not yet sure of what the week holds, but I will be with the friars for the next week and head back to Rome this coming Sunday. I finished the following: Churchill and America by Martin Gilbert Gilbert is a famous British historian and this book speaks of the relationship between Winston Churchill and the U.S. This was an especially close relationship from the start for Churchill’s mother was American, something which he spoke about until the day of his death. He was also especially close to Franklin D. Roosevelt, sometimes sending each other cables more than once a day. He came to the States several times to visit or for lecture tours, and then during the War met with Roosevelt quite frequently (especially considering that the means of travel were not as developed as they are today). He was eventually named a citizen of the US by the Congress (while remaining a British citizen), an honor for which he was very grateful. Cannato, Vincent American Passage: The History of Ellis Island This is the very long and very well written history of Ellis Island as a center for the incoming immigrants from Europe from the 1890’s until the 1950’s. The book tells the stories of the immigrants and also of the people who ran the center and those who were their supervisors in Washington. It covers the ups and downs of immigration policy, including the nativist arguments which favored closing off immigration to those who wanted an almost open policy of immigration. Cannato doesn’t look for villains, and he explains why one or another of the characters took this or that position on immigration. This is both a story of incredible generosity by this country and of occasional tragedy when an immigrant was ordered deported after he or she has sold everything and pulled up roots head over here. I strongly recommend this volume. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz I believe that this is the sixth volume in this series that I have read. It is one of the few series in which I am never disappointed. Odd is a young fry cook who has been given the gift of communicating with spirits who linger here on earth because they are not ready to pass on. In previous volumes, much of what he did was help them to leave this existence for their future life. Yet, each one also involved some sort of battle with evil. The second dimension is emphasized in this volume which is the next to the last of this series. He must battle for the lives of 17 young children who have been kidnapped by a Satanist cult. He is helped by and elderly and wise and supernaturally in the older woman. As always the book leaves one wanting for more. Revolutionaries: A New History by Jack Rokove This is a very good account of the people who participated in the American Revolution from its first tenuous moments until the ratification of the Constitution and the beginning of political parties in the country (in the rancorous debate between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson). The characters involved do not always come out looking all that good. We see their strength and their weaknesses. We see how they interacted with each other to produce a movement that went far beyond the individual strengths of any of them. The Dawn’s Early Light by Walter Lord Walter Lord has made a cottage industry of writing short, readable history books. This one is about the War of 1812, and especially the burning of Washington and the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore. The title obviously comes from the Star Spangled Banner which was written during the siege of that city by Francis Scott Key. Lord has the ability to give a great amount of detail without overwhelming one with needless facts. It is a good read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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