Sunday, November 29, 2015

Geneva, Switzerland - Gdansk, Poland - Rome, Italy

November 29, 2015 Peace and Good, I began the week in Switzerland finishing up the meeting with Franciscans International, an NGO which lobbies at the United Nations. We had to register as officers of the local association (sort of like a corporation board) at the canton government office. They were very nice, but there was also a lot of official things to go through. Tuesday I flew up to Gdansk, Poland, to visit with one of the Polish provincials. Gdansk was previously known as Danzig, and it was part of the Hanse League (a group of trading cities in the Renaissance period). It is a beautiful small city. They have completely rebuilt the center city which is a large piazza with interesting buildings. One of the days the friars took me to see two sites. One of them was the place where the German invasion of Poland began with a bombardment of coastal defenses outside of Danzig. It was a very moving site. The other is a site that the city government has given us to set up a peace and reconciliation center to find peace between the German and Polish people. On this property was the summer building of Gautleiter Foster, the head of the German government in northern Poland during the war. I happened to mention that my family would eat Keishka and Charnina (duck's blood soup). The next day, guess what was on the menu. The Poles show an incredible hospitality. Friday I flew back to Rome and tomorrow we begin one of our definitory meetings. I finished some books: Love in the Time of Coca by Stephanie Pearson This short story is about a trip to Columbia, an area which was formerly a drug lord’s center, to stay at a spa resort and go mountain biking through the rough landscape around Medillin. It speaks of how even the drug lords in that territory want to protect tourists, and how everything on the main route is safe (although it counseled against taking some of the off routes). The descriptions are quite good, although I would still avoid the areas where the author travelled. Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy This is the second biography that Goldsworthy produced which I have listened to in these months. The first one was about Augustus Caesar, and this one about Julius Caesar. This is a very thorough treatment, very fair and based upon the best scholarly research. The author does not present Julius Caesar as a tyrant nor as a great unmitigated hero. The civil war that followed the crossing of the Rubicon is presented as an attempt for Caesar to protect his reputation. Caesar is shown to be much more merciful than many of the generals of his era. He is also shown as a great organizer, one of the best leaders of Rome for over a century. His greatest sin to the members of the Senate who killed him is that he shut them out of power. I highly recommend these two works for anyone interested in this period. The Duplicate Harlequin by Rodrigues Ottolengui In a previous story, Ottolengui speaks of how a rich collector comes to possess a very valuable opal. In this story we find out that it is one of two identical opals that served as the eyes of a pagan god. A thief wishes to obtain them so that he might barter them for control over the opal mine from the priests who control the shrine from which the opals were stolen. Ottolengui is not the best of authors, but it is worth reading nevertheless. The Valhalla Exchange by Jack Higgins Higgins is one of my favorite spy authors. This story deals with the end of World War II and the attempt by some Nazi leaders to flee and continue the battle. This is centered on Martin Bormann, one of Hitler’s close assistants. It involves a complicated plot to trade his safety for some very important allied prisoners. The plot gets foiled by a small number of American soldiers who arrive at the castle where the VIP’s are being held. They and the Germans in the castle must battle against a contingent of SS troops. Although the characters are great and talented, they are most of all believable. This Must be Paris by Michael Paterniti This is a quite enjoyable travel short story. A man finds a small town in the plateau of Spain. There he discovers the manufacturer of a special cheese which he had encountered in the deli where he had worked. The place, which is normal enough, becomes magical to him. It reminds him of the beach his family went to when he was young. It is a place where one forgets schedules and unwinds. One listens to long stories of many things that are not all that important, but which help one enter into another reality. This is one of the best travel stories I have ever read. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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