Monday, April 25, 2016

Detroit - Chicago - Geneva

April 25, 2016 The Feast of St. Mark Peace and Good, Last Sunday I traveled to Detroit for a meeting with the Definitory of St. Bonaventure Province, the Chicago Province. The Minister General has asked us Assistants to visit the various definitories when we have a chance in order to know better what is going on in the provinces. This is the second definitory that I have visited this year. They were dealing with a lot of personnel issues, especially as they are half way through their four year term. It is a good time to check whether things are running smoothly, and to start making plans for the future, which is what they did. On Tuesday, we drove from Detroit to Chicago where I was catching a plane on Wednesday evening. I had to fly to Geneva for a meeting of Franciscans International. This is an NGO at the United Nations which lobbies for human rights issues for those who are weakest in society. A few years ago the group had run into serious financial difficulties, but now things are running well and we were able to begin planning for the future (and not just deal with a current crisis, as had been the case in the past). That meeting ended a bit early, yesterday afternoon, so today I am catching up before I fly out to Baltimore for a week or so of meetings. The weather here in Geneva was quite nice until yesterday. There is still snow on the mountains that surround the city, but it was actually warm until a cold spell hit yesterday. I am looking out the window at the clouds over the mountains and I think it is snowing there right now. I finished some books: Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Mark Ravina This is a teaching company course to explain the history and culture of Japan. It was a fascinating book that gives very good insights into a different world. I was able to get a glimpse of how the Japanese think, and it helped me develop a bit of cultural humility (understanding when I do not understand). It reminds me of the Chinese cultural world in which allusions to situations and poetry are made in very subtle ways. It would take forever to enter fully into their world, but even viewing it from a distance is enlightening. As with all of the courses from the Teaching Company, this was a very good experience. 1914: A Novel by Charles B. Smith This is an epic story of the first year of the war in 1914 from the time of mobilization until the famous Christmas truce when soldiers laid down their weapons and played soccer games along the front. There are various people in the story including Germans, French, English and Americans. We hear stories from the air war, the infantrymen on the ground, wounded soldiers in hospital, and artillery men. It is almost like a large series of short stories on a common theme. We hear the mood pass from quite excited to incredibly black as the soldiers slowly lose touch of who they were before the fighting began. Hard Revolution by George Pelecanos This is the story of an African American family in Washington D.C. One of the sons grows up and joins the police where half of him wants to serve and protect while the other feels a betrayer to his own people. The other son joins the army and returns wounded. When he recovers, he has a difficult time putting his life together. The story starts in the early 60’s, but then the major part of the story is in the days before and after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the resulting rioting in Washington. It is a good story. The Gun by by CJ Chivers This is the account of the invention and then spread of one of the most famous guns ever to be produced: the Kalashnikov, the gun used by the Soviet Union and its client states. Chivers begins with an outline of the invention of the machine gun during the 19th century, its every increasing use in the 20th century, and its use by rogue states and terrorists in these recent years. He also speaks of the failure of the US to produce as useful a weapon, instead deciding to use the M16 during the Vietnam War which was a flawed weapon. Although many of the stories are troubling, yet they help one understand a whole dimension of warfare and how it is fought. Sad Wind from the Sea by Jack Higgins This is the story of a down and out sailor who finds a woman being beaten up. He defends her, and enters into a story of lost gold and a plan to aid refugees. He joins a plan to recover the gold for his own reasons, but eventually he falls in love with the woman and this changes all of his plans. This is not the best of Higgins’ books, but it is still quite a good adventure story. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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