Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wexford - Dublin - Palo Alto - New York - London - Oxford - London

November 26, 2016 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I have been on the road quite a bit these past couple of weeks. After my time in Wexford, I headed over to a session on continuing formation held in Palo Alto just outside of San Francisco. I had been at the very last part of an earlier offering of the same workshop in January in Florida. This time I got to hear the central portion of the workshop offered by Br. Ed Coglin, the president of Sienna University. He was very good, offering insight on the artwork of St. Francis, the writings of St. Bonaventure that influenced the writings, and their implications to our religious life today. Over the course of my stay there, I had numerous meetings with friars about various situations. These events are always great to catch up with what is going on with the friars from various places. From there I flew to New York for the semi-annual meeting of Franciscans International. I am on the Board of Directors and it is an NGO that lobbies at the UN in New York and Geneva for Human Rights based on Franciscan values. We have been working on an evaluation and a strategy for the near future and were able to bring a lot of that work to a completion. Then on to London and Oxford for a continuation of the visitation of the custody of Great Britain and Ireland. These have been days filled with meetings with various friars. The visitation is going well, and I will be back in Scotland and England in January to complete it. Right now I have to fly out to El Paso tomorrow for another meeting of the definitories (governing councils) of three of the US provinces. I am just there as an observer to see what is going on. From there I will finally be headed back to Rome for a few weeks. I have finished some readings: The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller I have been really fortunate to find a couple of excellent history books in these months. The first was the Sleepwalkers about the origin of the conflict in World War I. This book is about the assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo during the Pan-American Exposition there. The book gives a good overview of the presidency of McKinley up to that point (for he was at the beginning of his second term). This includes the Spanish-American War and the conquest of Cuba and the Philippines. It also covers the development of the Anarchist movement in the States. This was a topic which has always interested me. I highly recommend this particular book – it is a true masterpiece of historic writing. Friday Night Luck by Edward Hoch A man who wants to be a policeman ends up not being hired as such, and so he becomes a member of a volunteer watch. His day job is working for a company that cleans crime scenes. He and his crew must clean a site where there is one dead body, but way too much blood. It turns out to be from another man who has disappeared. Even though he should not be doing anything on this, he investigates and gets to the bottom of the story, almost getting killed in the process. My Timbuktu by Adriana Paramo This is an interesting story about a couple who go to a music festival in the Tuareg section of northern Mali. The wife and author then contrasts what she saw with what she was later watching on the news a few years later which showed the destruction of medieval monuments by fundamentalist Muslims who had conquered the area. She tells of various encounters with the local Tuareg which makes them into real people (both virtuous and flawed). Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson is a hilarious travel author. This is about a trip he takes through Europe around 1990, right at the end of the end of communism in Eastern Europe. Some of his observations are very funny, but I found others a bit cruel and over the top. He just doesn’t seem to strike his rhythm in this book. It is nevertheless a fairly good read. Such a Lucky, Pretty Girl by Persia Walker This is a sad story about a detective who was sexually abused by her stepfather and who is then called upon to investigate the death of a young, 15 year old beautiful young woman. It turns out that the whole situation is more complicated than it would appear at first. It becomes seamy, and while some of the detectives presumptions are right on, others demand a bit of revision. I hope you have a good Advent. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Rome - Lisbon - Porto - Viseu - Coimbra - Fatima - Lisbon - Dublin - Wexford

November 9, 2016 Peace and Good, Sorry that this blog is a bit late, but the past week my computer was down for the count, sidelined by a bad virus. I use two anti-virus programs each day, but I travel so much that a virus is always a bad possibility. Fortunately, I didn't lost anything, so other than being off the net for a week, there was no big harm. We have been in Portugal for the past two weeks. The first week we did some tourism to sites where our friars are located. Porto is where Port wine originates. Coimbra is the city where St. Anthony joined our Order. This is also the place where the relics of the first five martyrs of the Franciscan Order are housed. We were at Fatima for a meeting to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Milita of Mary Immaculate, a movement founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe. This past week we had our usual definitory in Fatima. We took a bit of time out to see the sites around the city. Most of the friars were very impressed by Fatima, but I was not all that moved. It is not that I didn't like it, but I did not find myself drawn to it (as I very much was in Guadalupe in Mexico). This Sunday I flew into Ireland to do a canonical visitation here. We have two friaries: in Dublin we have a parish and in the Southeast, Wexford, we have a shrine church. The friars here are doing a great job. The weather is pretty much what you would expect in Ireland at this time of year. I will be leaving for San Francisco this coming Friday. I have finished some books: The Herald by Leslie Glass A reporter from the Herald comes to the site of a crime which appears to be a murder-suicide. He arrogantly tries to interview the presumed widow of the deceased married man even before she has been informed about her husband’s death. In the meantime, a detective is trying to sort out what really happened, especially since everyone had assumed that it was a love affair gone bad and the woman who was killed turns out to be the step-sister of the deceased. The story is well written with a few good twists and turns. The Defector by Daniel Silva I usually don’t reread books, but those by Silva are almost as good the second time through A Russian defector is kidnapped from the streets of London, and Gabriel Alon, who brought the defector to the west, has to sort it all out with his team. In the meantime, his own wife is kidnapped and held for ransom (the return of the children of a Russian arms merchant-oligarch who is living in the States. All of Silva’s books are well written. The Great Pleasure Project by Tim Neville This is the story of two men who travel to North Korea to try out the ski slops of a new mega-resort built by the present dictator of the country. There is a tremendous disconnect between the luxury of the resort and the way normal people live There is a constant sense of being watched and controlled by the communist minders. While the slopes are fine, the whole experience leaves both the author and the reader distinctly uncomfortable. Cities of the Ancient World by Steven Tuck This is a 24 lesson series on various cities of the ancient world from the Teaching Company. It is a thorough examination of the phenomenon of city life from the earliest ancient city Catal Hayuk in Turkey up to Rome and Constantinople. It speaks of the various city plans, spaces for commerce, residential houses and central administration (which includes both civil government and religious shrines). It speaks of defenses of the city and why they were needed. It also tries to draw lessons from ancient cities that might be applied to the cities of our own day. It is well done. A Tale of a Tub by Patricia Marx This is the account of a travel author who takes a trip from the States to Hamburg, Germany in a commercial freighter. Unlike what one would expect, it is not all that much cheaper than a cruise boat. The food is forgettable, the amusements minimal, the accomadations are sufficient but not much more than that. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude