Monday, July 18, 2016

Rio de Janeiro

July 18, 2016 Peace and Good, All this week I have been at two meetings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first was a meeting of the major superiors of the various Latin American jurisdictions. I was here to listen to what they are doing and to get some ideas I could share with the major superiors of my own federation. I was able to follow almost everything spoken in Spanish, but Portuguese was a real challenge. By the end of the week, though, I was picking up a lot more of it. The weather has been quite pleasant. It was warm most of the week, with a couple days of really cool weather. Then the second meeting was a congress to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the presence of the Conventual Franciscans in Latin America. We did not arrive earlier because we had been forbidden by the chancellor of the Spanish Empire, Cardinal Ximenes, to be in any of the Hapsburg dominions. That included all of Latin America, Portugal and Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and the Philippines. He belonged to the other branch of Franciscans and there were a lot of hard feelings. There are around 600 friars now in Latin America, and they in almost all of the countries. The congress presented a history of the friars here, and also talked about the challenges in the years to come. Yesterday we went up to the statue of Christ that overlooks the city. The view was incredible. Today I fly out to Los Angeles for the opening of the new year for the novitiate in Arroyo Grande (half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco). Then later in the week I will fly out to Rome and on to Cracow for the World Youth Day I have finished the following: Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel by John Guy This is a masterful, complete biography of Thomas a Becket who became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was murdered by knights of King Henry II. From a middle class birth, Thomas rose to become chancellor of England and then the most important bishop of the English Catholic Church. His attempts to protect the rights of the church ran head long into the autocratic rule of Henry. Thomas had to flee and was exiled to France for some two years before they were reconciled. But the peace lasted only a short while, and eventually Henry uttered some angry words that were interpreted by four of his knights as an invitation to kill Becket. This account gives a good picture both of Becket and Henry. It is not sparing in pointing out the faults and the talents of both men. I highly recommend this biography for anyone interested in this topic and for the topic in general of standing up for the right, even at the cost of one’s very life. Woodrow Wilson by John Cooper This is a extensive biography of the president who led the United States during World War I. He was the president of Princeton University and governor of the State of New Jersey before he assumed office. He portrayed himself as a progressive in the line with Teddy Roosevelt. He carried out a series of important work reforms and helped many groups of people such as farmers. One blind side, however, was his total failure to address civil rights. His fourteen points during World War I in which he fought to respect the rights of peoples where an insightful contribution to history which won him the Nobel Prize for Peace. His failure after the war was his stubbornness in fighting for the peace treaty and the League of Nations which did not allow for compromise and thus doomed his efforts (a stubbornness which was probably partly due to the damage done when he suffered a serious stroke during his presidency). The Bad Place by Dean Koontz Koontz is a very good author, both of stories such as the Odd Thomas series which is only lightly filled with horror and other stories which are quite horrific, such as this one. The bad place is death, and this tells the story of an evil figure who brings death to all whom he touches. He is the product of genetic damage and inbreeding which gives him supernatural powers, as the ability to teleport. His nemesis is his brother who killed their mother. The brother, Frank, seeks the help of a couple who are detectives. They and the wive’s brother Thomas who has Down’s Syndrome, fight the evil figure. This is not a story where everything ends well, but it is a very good tale. Victorian Britain by Patrick Alitt This is one of the Great Courses Series. This one deals with Great Britain during he reign of Queen Victoria. A bit of it is simple history, what happened when. Some of it is a description of movements and tendencies during the era, e.g. how women were treated, the working class, leisure, etc. The instructor is entertaining and the courses fly along with a great amount of good material being shared. The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean This is a truly beautiful book about a woman who is elderly and has Alzheimer's. She grew up in Leningrad and worked in the Hermitage Museum during the siege of the city during World War II (with all the horror that this involves). As she slowly loses her grip on reality, her mind travels back and forth between a present time that she does not fully comprehend and her time in the museum when she would wander the rooms. The curators had taken down the paintings, but she memorized which painting went where to create a type of memory castle which is now more real to her than the world in which she now lives. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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