Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) - Van Mon (near Hanoi) - Rome

February 9, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been in Vietnam this past week. I have really fallen in love with Vietnam. I find the people good and kind and hospitable. The food is wonderful - very much like Italian food. Simple ingrediants prepared simply. I especially like the Pho, the soup with some meat, vegetables and plenty of noodles. These past couple of days I have been visiting our house in Van Mon. This is a leper village, and our friars help them and some of the handicapped children. Our friars live a very simple and good life. This is very much in the countryside. The last night in Hanoi we stayed at a hotel run by a Vietnamese family. It was only 30 euro, and it was palatial. Yesterday I travelled with fr. Benedict back to Rome. It was a long but good trip. Today I head out to Boston to attend the funeral of one of our friars, fr. Donald Kos. He served the Order and the Church for 59 years here in Rome. For the past several years, I have sat next to him at meals. He was a very good, simple man. We took him back to the States in December because he was not doing that well. They found out that he had terrible cancer, and only lasted a week once they put him in hospice care. I have finished some reading: Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman This is the account of Antonina, the wife of Jan, the zookeeper of the Warsaw Zoo, and their experiences before and during World War II. It is based on a diary kept by Antonina and presents a beautiful story of their harrowing effort to save the animals which they were charged to care for and as many refugees as possible. Doing this put them and their small children in danger, but they responded to the dangers with creativity and good cheer. I would highly recommend this book. I have not yet seen the film which is based upon the book. Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead This tells the story of a series of villages on the high plateau of France where the people, mostly Protestants, cared for countless Jews during the war. They created a great network to save as many as possible, especially the children. A number of them were caught and sent to the camps where most died. The people involved are seen as very human with all of the flaws that we all have, but also as willing to risk everything to do what they knew was their religious duty to those who were suffering. Off Diamond Head by William Finnegan This is a short story of a young boy whose family resettles in Hawaii and his devotion to surfing, his difficulties fitting in as an Haole, a white, in a society where the majority were either Hawaiian, or Philipino, or Japanese. Mysticism by William Harmless I came across this book by accident, and I have to saw that it is one of the best studies of mysticism that I have ever read. The first part of the book is a study of a series of mystics throughout the centuries, in the Christian, Muslim and Buddhist tradition. Rather than accepting the platitude that all mystics see the same thing, the author clearly shows that their experiences are closely tied to their cultural and religious backgrounds. I highly recommend this study to anyone interested in the topic. Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child I have now read a whole series of Preston’s and Child’s books. This one is in the Agent Pendergast series, a New Orleans detective who must fight mysterious forces of evil in society and his own life. He is a bit of a bon vivant, and lives with his “ward”, a woman who is mysteriously over 100 years old but appears to be in her early 20’s. This volume deals with a plot to poison Pendergast with a potion that was invented by his great grandfather and which turned out to be a highly dangerous substance, responsible for the death of many. Have a good week Shalom fr. Jude


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