Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mishawaka - Boynton Beach - Rome

February 23, 2016 Peace and Good, When I finished the workshop with the novices in Mishawaka, Indiana, I headed south to Boynton Beach, Florida (about 40 miles north of Miami) for a meeting with the provincials of our conference. That meeting lasted from Tuesday to Thursday. We got quite a bit done in those days, especially in terms of preparing all the details for the joining of houses of formation in June. On Saturday, there was another meeting with myself, the provincial of OLA province, the custos of our Montreal custody, and the vicar of the mother province of that custody, Gdansk. We were discussing the presence of our friars in Canada. The custody serves Polish immigrants, but fewer and fewer Poles are coming to Canada and the US. Now, if they want to leave Poland for work, they tend to end up in Germany or Great Britain. They can go there for higher wages, and yet fly back home to visit their families whenever they want. As the number of new immigrants diminishes, the need for Polish speaking parish also diminishes. The question is whether this presence in Montreal could be combined in some way with the English and French speaking friars in Canada to form a new reality. This is a long term project, but we have been taking the first tentative steps in that direction. Sunday I flew back to Rome. The weather here is still a bit cool and overcast. We have a definitory meeting next week, so I have a chance this week to get over my jet lag and take care of a couple of writing and taping projects. I have finished some books and stories: Loving Las Vegas by Colson Whitehead This is the story of a young man travelling throughout the west US just after his college graduation. He is helping to write a series of quick tip travel books. He falls in love with Las Vegas. He describes it as an adult Disneyland, and as a place where one can worship decadence. He really seems to have enjoyed his time there, seeing it as a place where one can put off one’s own persona and live a dream self for the days one stays there. In the Abode of the Gods by Jeffrey Tayler This is the story of a man who undergoes a Buddhist pilgrimage in Tibet and other mountainous parts of China to visit holy sites there. It is not an easy trip. Parts of the journey are high in mountain passes, while other parts descend to jungles along the Mekong river. He is led by a husband a wife team. The man on pilgrimage realizes that suffering is part of every pilgrimage and he does not resent his difficulties. Yet, he is disillusioned by the fact that the Buddhism that he studied was not being lived in the part of the world in which he found himself. The religion had been corrupted by many superstitious beliefs that were vestiges of the original religion of the area. Death Angel by Linda Howard The girlfriend of a drug lord plays dumb so that she can enjoy his riches. One day the drug lord hires an assassin who, instead of the standard payment, asks to have sex with the drug lord’s girlfriend. He allows this, which she sees as the lowest form of betrayal. She runs away with 2 million dollars of his money, and he send the assassin after her to kill her. She dies in a way, but is sent back by her heavenly court to try to clean up her life. She does this and eventually she and her assassin meet again and fall in love with each other. Laudato Si, an Encyclical by Pope Francis This is the pope’s recent encyclical on the environment. Right after it was released, one heard so many different versions of what it contained. It really is not all that radical. It does not try to solve scientific problems. Rather, it calls us all back to Gospel values, especially as applied to caring for the gift of the creation that God has placed into our care. As always, the pope speaks of our special obligation to care for the poor who are often those most hurt when there is an environmental degradation in whatever form. Roosevelt’s Centurions by Joseph Persico This is the story of the military men who collaborated with Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. We hear both a story of what they did and some of the inside information about who they were. We hear of their strengths and weaknesses. In spite of this highly qualified team of military experts, Roosevelt is shown to make the final decisions on so many points during the war. We see how Roosevelt knew who to choose and how to use them to allow them to use their own talents (e.g. Marshall as an organizer, Admiral King as a fighter, Eisenhower as a politician in the best sense of the word, etc.). This is a good treatment of the topic. Born on the 9th of July by Patrick Symmes This is the story of a trip to South Sudan, the newest independent nation on the earth. South Sudan was cut off from the north in recent years for they are very different. The north is mainly Muslin while the south is Christian and animist. While the south is now independent, it is not very organized. In spite of the vast distances, there are hardly any roads between towns. There are many different bands of tribesmen who want nothing to do with a national government. There are many, many problems, and too few people trained to deal with them. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 15, 2016

San Antonio - Mishawaka, IN - Boynton Beach, FL

February 15, 2016 Peace and Good This past week I have been giving a workshop on the Gospel and Psalms to the novices in our federation. They are located in Mishawaka, which is next door to South Bend, IN. There are seven of them, and they are a very diverse group: one from Netherlands, one born in Haiti, one born in Togo, one who is British, two Latino, and one Anglo. Yet, they are a very supportive group. I was very impressed with them. I have been giving this workshop to the novices for a number of years. It is a good time to get to know the men in formation. There are two of them from our custody in Great Britain, two from Our Lady of Consolation Province, two from Our Lady of Angels Province and one from St. Joseph Cupertino Province. The weather in South Bend was very, very cold. It was good flying down to Florida yesterday where the weather is much more moderate. I am here for a meeting with the provincials. We will be staying at the local diocesan seminary, and then we will be meeting at St. Mark's Parish in the area. I have been here before, having preached a parish mission here. I have finished some books: Deep Storm by Lincoln Child I have read a number of books which Child wrote in partnership with Prescott (the series about the detective Aloysius Pendergast). This is the first that I have read by him alone. It deals with a drilling platform which has detected a mysterious signal coming from below the outer crust of the earth. The government arranges to drill for it, but many of the people on the underwater drilling platform are becoming mysteriously ill. A doctor is called in to discover the cause of the difficulties. The plot becomes more complicated by the fact that someone is trying to sabatoge the project, and also that whoever placed the source of the signal underground left several forms of warnings to frighten the curious away. Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel This is the book behind the TV series about Thomas Cromwell, an official in the court of Henry VIII. Cromwell is presented as having very clear views about various things, but he is also a basically decent man. One sees all the intrigue of the court and the capricious behavior of the king. One also sees a very negative picture of Anne Boylyn, Henry’s second wife. The book is very good, but one must be attentive because the scene changes quite a bit. This volume ends with the death of Thomas More. Oscar the Detective by Harlan Page Halsey This is a silly story which is very dated about a detective who, although he is small of stature and seems weak and ineffective, is actually stronger and more clever than any of his opponents. He must battle against thieves, both domestic and foreign. The Poinsonby Diamonds by L.T. Meade and Clifford Halifax A doctor assigns a nurse to care for a deeply disturbed young woman (who is very rich and well connected). She slowly recovers, but then her parents arrange a marriage for her. Her future husband shows her a diamond necklace which will soon be hers. She loves the necklace, but it soon disappears. All the evidence point to the nurse who is highly virtuous. The doctor must solve the mystery to absolve the nurse of responsibility. A Moving Experience by Thomas Swick This article is written by a travel writer. He speaks of his experiences during travel. He often finds himself almost as a spectator, bored at what is passing by and not even registering it. I know what he fells like, for I have seen so many things that I really don’t want to see new things any more. He only finds his travels interesting when he enters into the lives of those whom he finds in the various sites he visits. He especially appreciates those places which are not on the “A” list of tourist sites. He prefers to visit those places which receive fewer visitors but which treat those visitors as guests and not tourists. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rome - Atlanta - Jacksonville - Ellicott City - San Antonio

February 4, 2016 Peace and Good, As you can see in the post above, I have been travelling quite a bit lately. After our visit to Assisi, I headed out to Atlanta. I was there for an overnight with our friars at St. Philip Benizi Parish so that I could fly on to a retreat center in Jacksonville. Our US provinces have been celebrating a series of five continuing formation get-togethers (ten days each) on the topic of creating communion. I was able to be present for the last few days of this particular gathering. It was good to see all the friars and sit in on the talks given by fr. David Coutourier, the director of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University. On the 29th I flew up to Ellicott City. I had a couple of dentist appointments, and this trip gave me a chance to visit with some friends. I am also trying to get over a cold that I caught a few weeks ago that has been dragging on and on. Ellicott City is still digging out of the snow if received a couple of weeks ago. This week is supposed to be a bit warmer, so they hope that much of it melts. Yesterday I flew down to San Antonio, Texas. I am visiting the house of formation here (pre and post novitiate). It is nice the see the house fairly full this year. The postulancy will be moving up to Chicago in July of this year, and this will become one of two official post-novitiate houses in the country. The theology students go to Oblate College which is run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, while the other students go to any number of Catholic Colleges in the area (e.g. Incarnate Word). The house is quite multi-cultural, with a number of students of Mexican-American background, a Vietnamese American, a Korean, and a group of Anglos. Sunday I will head out to Mishawaka (South Bend) to give a workshop to our novices. This is an annual project, one that I enjoy because it lets me get to know the friars in formation. I finished some books and stories: The Bunch of Violets by Ernest Bramah This is another of the stories that involves the blind amateur detective Mr. Carrados. This time he is asked to protect a man who will serve as a courier to bring battle plans to Paris. The courier is invited over to meet a judo expert whom he has tried to meet for weeks. It is all a set up to steal the plans, and Carrados is able to foil the plan. The Last Exploit of Harry the Actor by Ernest Bramah This is another of the stories in which Carrados, a blind amateur detective, is able to help his professional detective friend Carlyle, to solve a crime. This is a theft in what appears to be an unbreakable safe deposit center. Several men has lost great sums of money or treasure. It turns out that the criminal is an actor/thief from the States. This man ends up returning all the pillaged goods when he has a conversion experience. Maximum Bombay by Gary Shteyngart This is the story of an author’s ten day trip to Bombay (presently called Mumbai) so that he can experience what one of his friends, Suketi Mehta wrote in his book: Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. This short account is by no means in depth. He marvels at some of the foods that he eats there. He is fascinated by a fortune teller who interprets cards that are picked out for him by a green parrot. He is amazed by the juxtaposition of extreme poverty and extreme wealth. I would not call this a great article, but it does give a certain sense of what one would experience in Bombay. Old Man River by Paul Schneider This is a long treatment of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It speaks of the various cultures that have lived along its banks. It deals with some of the historic events that took place on the river (e.g. the capture of New Orleans and Vicksburg during the Civil War). It also speaks of the various trips that the author and his son took in canoes along the river. It also deals with some of the dangers that are facing the river now with flood control and polution. It is a good treatment. The Last of Eden by Alex Shoumatoff An author spends time with some of the indigeneous peoples of the Amazon. He speaks of their difficulties, especially with corrupt officials, loggers who illegally harvest their reserves and poor people who are desparate and who settle on those reserves so that they might have land for their families. The question comes up of whether a small number of people who are living in very primitive conditions should be able to occupy large territories that could be used for other things. How much should their unique cultures be preserved? The article provides a good meditation on this topic. The Tragedy at Brookbend Cottage by Ernest Bramah A man comes to a blind detective named Carrados worried that his brother in law is preparing to kill his wife. He has good reason to worry for the man is having an affair. The detective manages to go through the clues and deduces that the worries are valid for the man is planning to stage what would seem to be an accident so that he might electrocute his wife. She, upon learning of the plot, gives in to dispair and kills herself. It is a bit maudline and certainly an emotionally detached story (which the detective himself admits). Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude