Monday, November 5, 2018

Ndola, Zambia - Rome - Assisi - Rome - Chicago

November 5, 2018 Peace and Good, The zero to five workshop for friars who had recently finished their formation programs in Zambia went quite well. I always find that these workshops are a challenge because I must bridge the cultural divisions, but it was well worth it. The men are very idealistic, which is good in the young. My job was to encourage their enthusiasm but also to help them to balance it with prudence. This is always a challenge for the young friars. My trip back from Zambia was good. I stopped off in Addis Ababa on the way back (which was just a stop over of a few hours). The airport is much improved over what I remember from previous trips. Let's hope that they keep working at it. This past week I was in Rome for our definitory. This meeting was a bit shorter than normal for we did not meet on Monday afternoon, Thursday (because of the Feast of All Saint's Day) and Saturday. Yet, the meeting itself was quite full. We got good news. The constitutions that we produced at our Extraordinary Chapter were approved by the Vatican. They will be promulgated at the end of the month. Now we have to keep working to get ready for our next General Chapter, the Ordinary one, starting this May. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Chicago for a meeting of our federation. That will last until Thursday, and I head out to Baltimore on Friday. I finished some reading: 1939: Countdown to War by Richard Overy This book deals with the months before the German attack on Poland during World War II. It speaks of the negotiations, the various motives of the parties involved, and the sad ending to the story which plunged the Polish people into a hellish existence for the next several years. The account is well written. The Psalms by Artur Weiser This is a masterful and long treatment of each of the psalms, giving the main message, some cultural background, the spiritual significance of the message, etc. It is not a book that should be used by someone who wants a short and understandable outline of the psalms. It is much more involved, but a valuable research resource. Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier This speaks of the career of President Eisenhower, but especially of his last days in the presidency and his concerns about the accession of the relatively inexperienced President Kennedy. The author goes into length speaking about the last address to the nation that Eisenhower made, especially how he warned of the dangers of the nation being directed by the Military-Industrial Complex. The author shows how this most military man actually fought to keep the nation out of conflict. It is a good treatment. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly This is one of the killing series that Bill O’Reilly and his collaborators produced. There are parts of this book which are worthwhile, but the scholarship is not great all the way through. There are some facts he mentions which a just wrong, and others are oddly stated (e.g. presenting the Roman Senate in the last days of the Republic as a democracy when it clearly was an aristocracy that was no longer functioning for the good of the republic). The book is good as a meditation, as long as one realizes that the author has a bit of an ax to grind at times, and is a bit loose with the history at other times (inventing dialogues and intentions that are not documented in the available sources). The First Man in Rome by Coleen McCullough This is the story of the careers of Marius and Sulla, two important generals of Rome in the generation before the accession of Julius Caesar. It is surprisingly good. This is a historic fiction, but the characters are presented as three dimensional and one can develop a sense of their motivations (which were not always all that honorable). Madam President by William Hazelgrove This is an excellent treatment of how Edith Wilson hid the illness (severe stroke) of President Wilson along with the aid of his doctor. Even cabinet officials were often not allowed to see the president. Edith Wilson, in effect, was the acting president of the US. She was more concerned with the health of her husband than of the good of the nation (which is exactly what she said at times). I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude