Sunday, April 3, 2016

Rome - Ndola (Zambia) - Rome

April 4, 2016 Peace and Good, After spending the Triduum at home in Rome, I flew with two other friars from the Curia down to Ndola in Zambia to facilitate a province assembly in preparation for their coming provincial chapter. The weather there was quite warm, in the 80's most days. It is south of the equator, so it is entering into fall. Zambia is a very fertile country, and the people are very welcoming. During the week, after we had completed our talks, we took a trip to our new novitiate in Kitwe, which is about an hour away. There are about 85 friars in the province, and like all new provinces, they have a bit of work to do to iron out the rough spots. My presentation was on the topic of minority as in being a friar minor. I took the talk from the Gospels and other New Testament writings. We then had the friars break up into small groups to discuss first of all who had served them as models of minority in their own lives, and then what elements of minority they thought that their province needed to address in these next four years. We have found that it is always better to let them decide their priorities rather than to try to impose them from above. They ended up saying exactly what we would have hoped, but it came from them and not from us, and that makes all the difference. On Friday night we flew back to Rome. It is a long flight - four hours from Ndola to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and then another six hours from there to Rome. We left at 3 in the afternoon and arrived around six the next morning (after a four hour layover in Addis Ababa). Once again, we found that the flights were very good. Air Ethiopia is a very good airline. However, the airport in Addis Ababa can only be described as chaotic. The only good thing was that there were three of us, so you didn't feel that you were struggling to figure out what was going on alone. I will be in Rome this week for our General Definitory, and then Sunday I head out to England for about a week. I have finished the following: Citizens of London by Lynne Olson This is an excellent presentation about those Americans who lived in London during the war years and helped the British win the war. This includes Ed Murrow, Gil Wynant (the ambassador), Averill Harriman (the leader of the Lend Lease Program there), and General Dwight Eisenhower. It gives an excellent impartial portrait of those people, both speaking about their talents and generosity as well as their faults. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted more information about what it was like to survive the blitz and the other difficulties during the war. A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch This is a book about a young detective who has just married and also been elected to Parliament in England. He is asked to conduct an investigation by a fellow member of Parliament who then asks him to discontinue his investigation. That man is acting very oddly, and the detective and a young man who he is mentoring decide to continue the investigation of the murder of a footman of the second parliamentarian. It is set in the 19th century, and is quite good in a Arthur Conon Doyle sort of way. Claudius the God by Robert Graves This is the second in the series on the emperor Claudius (who ruled after Caligula and before Nero). He was a decent man, a scholar, but someone who was easily manipulated by his wives, two of whom were not nice people at all. This book is based on ancient biographies of the emperor, and it gives a very human portrait of a person who never wanted to be emperor and who wanted to reinstitute the republic in Rome. Hawaii by James Michener Michener’s books are incredible, but terribly long. I thoroughly enjoyed this book which is a series of vignettes about people whose lives intersected from the arrival of the first Polynesian on the islands to the time when Hawaii became a state. It is especially interesting to see the heritage of the early congregational ministers who came to the islands as missionaries and whose families went on to own much of the land. There is also the interplay of the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who were brought to the islands to work the pineapple and sugar cane fields. The next Michener book I will read is on Poland, but I will give it a break for a while because I have been reading this one for so long. The Gardens of Kyoto by Kate Walbert This is an odd little book about a mother who is speaking with her child about things that happened when she was young and later when she grew up. When young she had a cousin who was a special friend. He was drafted during the Second World War and was one of the last soldiers killed during the war. He left her a beautiful book on the Gardens of Kyoto which was given him by his true mother (although he did not know she was until he was a teenager). The book was written by a soldier of the First World War who was shattered by the violence he saw and experienced. There is a sense in the book of how war destroys people in opposition to the peace found in the zen gardens in Kyoto. Absolute Monarchs by Julian Norwich This is an excellent treatment of the history of the papacy. It is quite long, but never gets caught up in unnecessary details. Norwich is critical without being cynical. He is an Anglican, but treats the papacy with great respect, without ever hiding from nasty details. I certainly will be seeking to read some of Norwich’s other books. Single and Single: A Novel by John le Carre Most of le Carre’s books are about spies, but this is a bit of an exception. It is about figures involved in high finance with very shady underworld investors. Tiger Single is the head of an investment firm in London that deals with mobsters from Russia after the fall of the Soviet empire. Oliver, his son, has revealed information about those dealings to the revenue agents in England, and they are on the trail of the money laundering. In the meantime, a number of disasters has befallen the Russians and they are out for revenge. As is typical of le Carre’s books, it is well written and a bit convoluted, but excellent reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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