Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Chicago - Ellicott City - New York - Ottawa

November 21, 2017 Peace and Good, I completed my workshop in Chicago for the Postulants. It was on the Letters of St. Paul, especially applying the spiritual insights of Paul to religious life. I was pleased with how it went. The postulants are a good group of young men. I flew back to Ellicott City for some appointments (both meetings and Dentist and Doctor). As usual, the doctors' appointments set off a set of referrals which I had not expected. No problems - just what is needed at my age. I will be travelling back to Ellicott City right around New Year's for those appointments. It was a trip I had not expected, but... On Thursday I took the train up to New York City for a meeting of the Board of Directors of Franciscans International. We are a good group of eight, and we work very well together. We met at Leo House, a house set up for visiting clergy. It is on 23rd West, a perfect location. All went well, and we finished by lunch on Sunday. I then took a train over to Newark Airport where I picked up a plane for Ottawa. I am visiting here a few days to see our newest friary. It is an international community with a Canadian, an Indian, a Romanian and a Philippino friar. So far, so good. Yesterday we had lunch with the Archbishop of Ottawa, Bishop Prendergast. He is a Jesuit, and the friars have known him for quite some time. Tomorrow I fly back to Rome. I will be there until the 9th for our usual definitory. I have finished some reading: The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith This is a masterful overview of the colonialization of Africa and the subsequent rise to freedom of the various nations. It gives an unprejudiced view of how this happened and the consequences of the process in the modern era. It speaks of the unspeakable tragedy of authoritarian figures seizing control and robbing the nations of their resources in order to fund a scandelous form of life. It deals with the tendency toward dictatorship in almost all of the countries in Africa. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding the situation there a bit better. Coolidge by Amity Shlaes This is a thorough biography of silent Cal. He was the president who took over the reigns when Warren Harding suddenly passed away. It was a tough act to follow for Harding’s administration was one of the most currupt in history. Coolidge did a good job in righting a sinking economy, but he was so insistent on saving money in the budget that he often did not respond to situations with the needed concern. He believed in a rugged individualism. I found the author of the book a bit too much of a fan of Coolidge, but overall the treatment was good. CSI Reilly Steel: Taboo by Casey Hill This is the first of three short novels dealing with a CSI agent from the States who is now working in Ireland. She is there to run the CSI department and teach many of the policemen there the techniques that are used here. There is, of course, resentment to her showing up and imparting here wisdom on others. This particular volume involves a serial killer who establishes a theme of violating any number of taboos in the killings. It turns out that the killer is well known to Reilly, the agent. Deadlock by Iris Johansen This is the second volume of Johansen I have read or listened to. Her books are OK, but I would not say that I was overly impressed by them. This one involves a complicated plot where various artifacts left by Rasputin’s protegee have been discovered, and this leads to murder and torture of the people involved. There is a bit of secret agent theme in the book. The thing I dislike most about Johansen’s books are that she does not get the dialog right. It always sounds like some unbelievable movie script. The Fall of Japan by William Craig This is an excellent treatment of the last days of World War II in the Pacific. It deals with the bombing of the cities of Japan by fire bombs and by the atomic bombs. It tells of the many coups planned when surrender became imminent (by hard liners who would have preferred that the nation go down in glory). It speaks of the hunt for the prisoner of war camps so that the prisoners might be rescued before they were executed by vengeful guards (which did happen in some camps). It speaks of the beginning of the period of occupation by American fources. It has just the right amount of details to give great insight into the topic. I would recommend this book. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ellicott City - Chicago

November 10, 2017 Peace and Good, At the end of October I finished my meetings at Ellicott City with the definitory of Our Lady of Consolation Province. I flew out to Chicago for a couple of activities. On the 4th, I was part of a workshop which commemorated the 500th anniversary of the document that split the brown Franciscans from the Conventual Franciscans. There were two academic presentations on this history of the split, and then the common elements that the two groups share. My presentation was on ways that we are now collaborating all throughout the world. I was pleased with the result. We had small group discussions afterward, and the friars came up with many possible forms of collaboration for the future. The idea that everyone seemed to agree with was the suggestion that we get together often to share a pizza. I told them that we get much more done over a picnic table than over a conference table. Since Monday, I have been presenting the Letters of St. Paul to our postulants. Postulants are the men who have just entered our community and they are discerning whether they would like to go to novitiate. This workshop is something that I do every year. We have seven new postulants and one who is doing a second year. Three of the eight were born in foreign countries, which is a trend that seems to be happening year after year. That is not really too much of a surprise, for in the past many vocations came from ethnic communities. I will head out tomorrow to Ellicott City for a few meetings, and then on Thursday I go to New York for a meeting of the Board of Directors of Franciscans International. I have finished some reading: Windsor Castle by Charles River Editors This is the story of Windsor Castle, the castle used as a residence for British Kings all the way back to the days of William the Conqueror. The author speaks of how the castle was esteemed by some kings and fell out of favor by others. There is too much detail for the casual reader and it becomes a bit borning because it has the feel of being weighed down by history. Megido by Charles River Editors This is one of the short treatments of various topics by Charles River Editors. This one deals with the city of Medigo, which lies at a crucial point in the Jezreel Valley in Israel. This city/fortress blocked any invading army travelling to the north or south. It was often destroyed and rebuilt, eventually ending up as a mound (hence the name of the last battle in the Book of Revelation: Armagedon – which comes from the words har = mount and Medigo). This treatment is much more technical that would be of use to the casual reader, devolving into great details concerning the various layers of habitation. Bride by Julia Elliott This is a short story about a medieval nun copyist who lives in a community that is ravaged by plague and famine. It is a very strange story, but yet compelled me to think about the situation more. I would clasify it as good in that it made me think. A Hero of France by Alan Furst Over the years I have read a number of Furst’s books, and I have to say that they never disappoint. He writes about the era just before the beginning of World War II and its early days. This volume is about a ring of French patriots who work to rescue British flyers who have been shot down. The volume is filled with suspense, but never in a cheap or manipulative way. There is a calm style throughout Furst’s writing that lulls one into the story and the world which he is constructing. Obviously, I would strongly recommend this book and anything else Furst has written. The Old Way by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas This is a book of remembrances that Elizabeth Thomas has written concerning her stay with the Bushmen in Namibia in the 1950’s. She was there with her family, and she and her brother (who worked in film) were present in the last days of that particular culture. In the generation immediately following, much of what made the Bushmen distinct was lost to the predominant culture of the land and the civil war that preceded independence. She saw various techniques and ways of living that probably date back to the Neolithic era. The Bushmen were hunter-gatherers who had an uncanny knowledge of their environment, one which was the accumulation of folk wisdom that dates back millenia. She gets a bit preachy when she contrasts the evils of modern society to the simplicity of the Bushmen culture, but the book is well worth reading. Have a good week Shalom fr. Jude