Saturday, October 22, 2016

Seoul - Rome

October 23, 2016 I spent most of last week in Seoul with our friars at their provincial chapter. I had been the visitator for this province since the Assistant General for Asia comes for Korea and he could not do the visitation in his own province. I had a presentation that went less than an hour, but there is something about being present for the discussions that shows the local friars that we, in Rome, care about what is going on there. The General and Benedict, the Assistant General for Asia were also there. I was also present on Wednesday for a discussion on the future of our Philippine custody. We have been looking at the situation for some time, and would like Korea to take a more active role in guiding the Philippines so that they could be better prepared to become a province. There will be a proposal at the second session of their chapter in November that says this. I arrived back in Rome on Thursday evening. I had a few meetings on Friday, and yesterday I was trying to catch up on rest and sleep. This has been a bad jet lag time since I did an around the world trip in about ten days. It will probably take more than a week for me to catch up. Later this morning the General Definitory heads out to Portugal. It is only about a two hour trip. We have a congress there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Militia of Mary Immaculate, a group founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe. Then we will also have a definitory there. From there I will head to Dublin for a visitation of the Irish part of the Great Britain/Ireland custody. I will not be back in Rome until early December. I have finished some books: Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by Julian Thompson The story of the mass evacuation of most of the British Expeditionary Force from northern France where they were trapped at the beginning of World War II has always fascinated me. This is not the book to read about this topic. It delves mostly into land defences as the pocket which held the Brits collapsed around them. It speaks at length of the names and identify of various groups of soldiers. It only quickly covers the actual evacuation. A Change in His Heart by Jack Gredrickson This is a very good story about a beaten down detective in a small city who seeks to survive numerous indignities throughout a snow storm. In the meantime, a discount store owner and his assistant are selling cheap, fire damaged boots to a multitude of customers. These stories collide when the detective buys a pair of boots which smell of smoke, have a purple dye that runs, and are uncomfortable. The owners assistant discovers both that his boss has been setting him up to be charged with sales tax violations, and that he sabotoged his romantic interest. It has a very good ending. Seven Women by Eric Metaxis This is a companion volume to Metaxis’ book on seven men. These are important women who, by their faith, managed to change the world. They include Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, St. Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. This is a nice mix of the Christian tradition,, including two Catholics, one Orthodox and four Protestant. Three are from previous centuries while the other four are recent, including two who gave their witness saving people during World War II. This is the author of a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and another one on William Wilberforce who fought for an end to the slave trade at the beginning of the 19th century The book is a series of short biographies, and is an inspiring read Rocks with Wings by Anne Hillerman This is one of the books written by the daughter of Tony Hillerman. He has written a long series of books of police enforcement on the Navaho reservation. His books give a wonderful insight into modern day Navaho culture Anne Hillerman is successful on that insight as well, but the plot of her detective story leaves something to be desired. She seems desperate at the end of the book to put everything in at once, and she has characters saying things that are unlikely just so that she can tie the plot together. I hope that her future books are as good on the cultural elements but improve on the detective part of the story. Hail Dayton by Rachel Maddux This is the story of visiting a small town in Tennessee, Dayton, in which the famous Scopes Evolution Trial took place. There is nothing much there, but a few years ago the town fathers arranged for an annual commemoration of the event with a series of plays and other events. The author comes from up the road a bit in Tennessee, and Dayton had often been used as a mock term for a hick town. After visiting Dayton, the author finds that much more difficult to do. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rome - Montreal

October 13, 2016 Peace and Good, The last few days of last week were spent in Rome. There I had the joy of showing my niece from Chicago, Christine, and her husband, Reid, around Rome. They arrived on the 4th and left on Saturday morning. Even though I have theoretically lived in Rome for the past six years, I get very few opportunities to see the city. It is sort of like what happened growing up in Buffalo which is just down the road from Niagara Falls. The only time that we really got to see it was when relatives were in Buffalo to visit us. Likewise, when I am in Rome, I am usually there for meetings and don't get to see the sights. So it was great to see my relatives, and it was great to see the city as well. One of the things that we did was go to an audience with the Holy Father. It is funny that until recently I have not gotten to see him up close, and just in the past two months I have seen him three times: in Cracow, in Assisi and at St. Peter's Basilica. He looked tired this past Wednesday, as he did in Assisi. I have to keep remembering that he is around 80 years old, and that is really a lot to ask of someone at that age. On Sunday I flew out to Montreal where we have been having meetings for the past few days with the provincials of our federation. This is a beautiful city, and the friars here have been incredibly hospitable. They are Polish friars, and the Poles show hospitality with food. That has been the case, and I think we all put on 10 pounds in the past few days. Tomorrow I head on to the next city: Seoul. I will be there to give my report on the visitation that I did there to the friars present at their provincial chapter. I will arrive on Saturday and leave on Thursday. I have finished some books: A Certain Recollection by John Buentello This is the story of a police officer who responds to being awakened in the night by passing police cruisers by getting up and going to the scene of the crime. The only problem is that he is not an acting officer. He is retired and is suffering from dimentia. Yet, his natural instincts are powerful and he is able to solve the crime before the other officers sufle him off the scene. Hitler’s Scientists by John Cornwall This is an overview of science in medicine from the end of World War I up to the end of World War II. The author speaks of how many of the scientists did terrible things, some because they wanted to but others because they were afraid of losing their privilege or status. He contrasts the many failed research projects in Germany because of lack of organization (with various offices fighting for projects and refusing to share their findings with others) with the more centralized research projects in Great Britain. He sounds a warning at the end concerning scientists (e.g. geneticists, virologists) who feel that they can do whatever they want because they are only trying to learn (without examining the possible terrible consequences of their choices). Tales of the Trash by Peter Hessler This is a really fine short story of an ex-patriot living in Cairo and his trash collector. Although those who collect trash seem to be at the bottom of society, it is actually a very developed system of work and bribes and rights which regulates trash collection better than most modern companies could ever devise. The trash collector becomes a type of friend with this man, sharing beers in the evening and the trash collector even asking the man’s advice with medical matters. Rival Rails: the race to build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad by Walter Borneman This is the story of the quest to build transcontinental railroads (not just the first one) and all the machinations what various rail barons went through to get their rails down and to try to keep others from doing the same. One get the sense that most of those building up their railroad chains (either through construction or through purchase of pre-existing railroads) didn’t really consider the cost and profit question, nor did most of them have as their first priority the service that they were going to offer to their customers. There is an interesting aside about a Fred Harvey who set up the first decent railroad restaurants and then also the best dining cars available. Serial Killer by Jon Breen A couple of police detectives go to a creative writing class to share their experiences of policing with those who want to write detective novels. One of the students asks whether they have ever dealt with a serial killer. They recount how a man feeding the birds in a park became so upset with another man who tried to stop him because of the harm he was doing to the birds that he eventually killed him. There is a clever twist when they are asked why the detectives would consider him to be a serial killer when he only killed one man. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude