Monday, June 20, 2016

Bangkok - Nairobi

June 21, 2016 Peace and Good, I am coming to the end of my long journey. Last week I was in Bangkok to close up the office of Franciscans International there. It only took one day of work, but it was the kind of work that you had to be present to do. The day after I finished the work, one of the friars took me and some others to see the local Catholic Church (there are about 700,000 Catholics in Thailand) which has the walls and ceiling covered with the art work from the Sistine Chapel, and the local Buddhist temple which is called the Path to Heaven (which is narrow and difficult) and the Path to Hell (which is wide and easy). Thursday evening I flew from there to Nairobi, arriving the next morning. The flights were good - I was on Qatar Airlines. I am here in Nairobi to present the report of the visitation that I did of the custody back in October and November. I was very impressed with what the friars are doing here. I gave the report yesterday, as well as preaching at Mass and then giving a one hour talk to begin the chapter. Now I am free for the rest of the week to sit and listen to the various reports and discussions. I will be flying to Rome on Friday evening and next week we have a definitory there. I hope to finish writing and translating my visitation report to Korea in the next few days. I finished some books: The Edge by Jeffrey Deever This has to be one of the best written books that I have read in a long while. Deever manages to give so many twists and turns that one does not know until the end who is responsible for various crimes. His hero is a “shepherd,” the one who cares for people in federal protection who are in danger of being killed or kidnapped by a professional murderer with whom he has been battling for a decade (for the murderer killed his mentor). He plays his role based on what he has learned from game theory playing board and other games over the years. I highly recommend this volume. The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda by Yaroslav Trofimov Back in 1979, a large group of Saudi rebels took over the grand mosque in Mecca and successfully defended it against the attempts of the Saudi government to retake it for a long time. They wanted the overthrow of the Saudi kings and a return to a fundamentalistic interpretation of Islam. They proved to be the ancestors of many of the Muslim terrorist movements in later days. The book explores the incompetence of the government in dealing with this crisis, and then the long term consequences both of the rebellion and the attempts of the Saudi government to placate the more traditionalistic element in their society. The Pirattes Laffite by William Davis This tells the story of the pirates Jean and Pierre Lafitte. Born in France, they traveled to the New World where they took up a career as privateers/pirates. The former means that they had received letters of marque from some government that permitted them to prey upon ships of some foreign power. They were never too particular in which letters they used. Their claim to fame came when they aided General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans from the British. After the war, they spent another decade in one plot after another, both dying within a relatively short time of each other. Bucholz, Robert London: A Short History of the Greatest City of the Western World This is one of the teaching company courses. This one covers the history of London, dealing both with its successes and failures. Bucholz is an excellent professor, giving enough material to make the presentation very lively without over-burdening the listener to details that would just bore him/her. London is a fascinating history for its long history and its ties with the British government. The White Queen: A Novel by Philippa Gregory This is the story of one of the York queen, Elizabeth, towards the end of the war of the roses. She was a widow when she secretly married Edward IV. He was in the process of overthrowing Henry VI, a king who had inherited the mental disability of some of his French ancestors. When Edward died, his brother captured and probably killed the two sons of Edward and Elizabeth (the princes in the tower). It is believed that Richard III killed the princes, but Philippa Gregory lays the blame at the feet of Henry VII and his mother. Elizabeth shamelessly promoted the cause of her family, infuriating many of their opponents and those overlooked for honors in their favor. She is portrayed favorably in this book, but from history she seems to be a much more ambiguous character. The Thin Man by Dashiel Hammett This is one of the first big detective novels of the 20th century. It was written by the partner of Lillian Hellman who is famous for her testimony before the McCarthy hearings in the Senate. I wanted to read this because I had never read any of his works. This will probably be the only one I end up reading. The dialog is forced and it is often not quite clear who is saying what. Everyone in the story seems to be one drink away from drunk. It is just not a very pleasant read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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