Sunday, December 13, 2015

St. Paul's Bay, Malta - Rome

December 14, 2015 Peace and Good, I spent this past week in Malta staying in one of our friaries on the north part of the island. It is in a place called St. Paul's Bay, and according to tradition, it is the place where St. Paul was shipwrecked while he was on his way to Rome. This past week was intended for a bit a rest, and I wrote a bit, took very long walks, read a lot, and just laid low. Friday I flew back to Rome and this morning, Monday, we begin our meetings again. We will meet all this week and up to and including Tuesday of next week. Our December meeting are always scheduled so that we can receive reports from the various secretaries of the offices which help us run the Order. When I got to Malta, one of the first things that I noticed was that they had passport checks. In the past, when you arrived from another European Community, there were no checks. Now they are checking everyone, coming and going. It is obvious that between the refugee situation and what happened in Paris last month, they are tightening up on security. Then, when I got to Rome, I was shocked at the number of troops on the trains, buses, etc. With the Holy Years just getting off to a start, there is an incredible amount of security. We all feel that something is going to happen in Rome sooner or later. I finished some books: Excuse Us While We Kiss the Sky by Matthew Power This is the story of a new urban movement which seeks to explore areas of the city environment which are normally cut off from the public. They go into sewers to explore them, climb towers and other high buildings, etc. It is an attempt to go beyond what cultured society allows and to feel the freedom of their bold reach. They are often arrested by the police who view that they do as a disruption of polite society, but this tends not to stop them. One part of me sees what they do as foolish and even dangerous for themselves and others, but the other part wants to aplaude them for their freedom of vision and verve. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon This book is part comedy, part detective novel. What is the Jewish people had lost the Israeli war of independence and the US had set up a refuge for Jews in Sitka, Alaska. This novel takes place in the last days of the refuge before the land is reabsorbed by the US. A detective is trying to find out who killed a man in his own hotel and who caused the plane crash of his sister. He finds that the two stories are interconnected. They have to do with a much larger plot that involves radical Jewish groups and the US government. The book is funny, but probably drags on a bit longer than it really had to. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo by Michela Wrong This is an account of the corruption of the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko who was the dictator in Congo (Zaire) for many, many years. The depths of the corruption are mind boggling. Experts talk of billions of dollars, much of it aid money, being wasted. Two major industries, mining for precious minerals and for diamonds, were wrecked by this. Nothing could be done without paying bribes, even bringing ones produce into the city for the farmers were continuously stopped by soldiers at road blocks who demanded their bribe. This is a good book to understand how some of the worst dictatorships can devolve into a kleptocracy. A Promissory Note by Rodrigues Ottolengui A coyboy finds a small baby lying in the grass of the pastures and brings it home to be raised. He falls in love with that child become woman and marries her. A man then allures her away and leaves him an IOU for one wife. He follows them and finds out where they are living. When she dies, he decides to collect on the IOU by promising to take the man’s life within a month. The rest of the story is about the man’s attempt to escape his pronounced fate. Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle This is the story of three sisters who were cousins to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I of England during the Tudor era. The first, Jane, was executed by Mary because she was the hope of a Protestant rebellion during the days when Mary was trying to restore the kingdom to Catholicism. The second, who was in line for the throne, was imprisoned and died in custody because she married without permission of Elizabeth which was required for anyone who could inherit the throne. The third was a wise but physically malformed young woman who was also arrested for the same reason but survived the three. It is a good story, and well demonstrates the terror of much of the Tudor reign. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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