Friday, December 22, 2006

Back in Korea

This blog was going to be frequently written to but the last month has been busy. I finally got my work finished despite my best efforts at procrastination. (Thank you to those who invited me to come and clean their rooms as well - sorry I didn't make it!)

I'm back in Korea at the friary and getting ready for Christmas. The cards have gone out. I've made some decorated candles for the chapel and dinner table. Maybe we'll have four guests for Christmas dinner. Maybe eight. We'll know when they turn up or don't turn up.

On my way back here last week the news emerged that Brother Justus, an American brother in Papua New Guinea, suddenly died of pneumonia in the PNG Highlands. We have all been feeling this loss very much. He was a candidate for Minister General in the elections which we had just begun. We will need to begin these elections again in the new year.

I'm preparing for other work soon - 3 months in New Zealand and Australia. Then back to Korea. And finally back to England again for the next term of my study in advanced procrastination.

Monday, November 13, 2006

not writing essays

I should be seriously writing an essay this week. But I am not.

Ten ways to avoid writing essays
(1) Clean room
(2) Cut finger nails
(3) Clean room again because of finger nails on floor
(4) Surf the internet vaguely and call it research
(5) Read lots of slightly related books - it is also research
(6) Tell others the bits of 13th century liturgical triva learnt in (5)
(7) Go for a walk to clear the mind after the hard work
(8) Have a nap
(9) Decide that tomorrow will definitely be a much better day for it
(10) Write a blog entry about not writing essays

Monday, November 06, 2006


A few days ago I visited NZ friends in the seaside town of Brighton. It's is a fascinating place with many reminders of the days when it was the place to be seen. King George IV had his Pavilion there. A simple seaside cottage with an Indian style exterior and Chinese interior as one needs to entertain the odd guests who would drop in during the summer season. Brighton Pier is also a grand survivor - recently restored - from the great days of seaside excursions.

There was a sunset straight out of the movies. A full moon rising in the dark blue sky opposite. Jet trails in the sky and the twinkling lights of the pier.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Being a mature student

"Isn't it strange being a student at your age?" one of my former students in Korea asked me recently. At my age! Indeed.

Student life is certainly different for me this time round. But it's different for undergraduates as well. We went to classes, memorised enough to pass end of year exams, met for drinking and discussion, sometimes for discussion and drinking and occasionally just for drinking. We protested against the Vietnam War and NZ's involvement in supporting aprtheid in South Africa. And so on.

These days I go to classes, and then read and think, sometimes just read, try to write essays, and then spend far too much time on e-mails and blogging and wandering round in cyberspace.

Seriously though. I believe everyone should have some opportunity every ten years or so to take time out from their regular duties for some study on whatever they are passionate about.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

cross cultural exchange?

In the Victoria and Albert Museum in London there's a famous tiger. It's eating a British soldier. This is a mystery. Not why the tiger is eating a human - that is in the nature of a tiger. Nor particularly why it should be eating a British soldier. The mystery is in why (and by whom) this nearly lifesize wooden model was made about 200 years ago. Perhaps there's a partial explanation in that it belonged at one time to the Sultan Tipoo who was among the most anti-British of the Indian sultans.

However there is more to all this than carved wood. The tiger makes sounds - a growling sound - and the man makes a shrieking sound while jerking his left arm up and down. And it contains a small organ. You can find a small video file for downloading - plus more explanation.

I mention this as an example of cross cultural exchange. Sometimes one culture devours the other. Or in symbol someone tries to reverse the power of the dominant side.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Whatever became of Francis, the poor simple man of Assisi? How did he get turned, by the Church and some at least of the brothers, into a saint enshrined in a grand basilica?

Jacques Dalarun in his "The misadventure of Francis" says of religious founders;
"What plays out around them, case by case, blow by blow, but in exemplary fashion, is a repeat of the fate of Christianity. On the one hand, teaching the Gospel versus the need to found a Church; on the other, the holy founder’s charism and immutable teaching versus the need for a foundation, an Order, to live these demands day after day. What a founder’s death really reveals, in a fragmentary way, is the difficulty, the paradox or challenge that constitutes the very life of a Christian society."

I like this writer - he has refreshing and original insights. Here's another:

“To understand Thomas of Celano, who writes in 1228, to understand all of Francis’s later hagiographers, we must certainly still read Paul Sabatier. But at the same time we should always keep in mind the work of one of Sabatier’s contemporaries, Marcel Proust. The key to the Franciscan legends, when we reach their essence, is not so much the dialectic between oral tradition and written version, as Raoul Manselli once believed. It is another dialectic, one that is irreconcilable, between facts and remembrance of the facts. This memory, unlike the Lamb, is never perfectly immaculate and spotless. It is a memory that confirms that ‘the true paradises are the paradises we have lost.’”
(the quote within the quote is from Remembrance of Things Past)

The Cathedral

Canterbury - much as it has always looked - well for a thousand years or so. The cathedral dominates the skyline in this view from just below the Franciscan International Study Centre, near the University of Kent.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A day for reading

At last. A day free for reading. The five books I haven't read yet on this course are piled up and ready to go. The fog of Duns Scotus is gradually clearing.

But first something completely irrelevant:

To do is to be - Kant
To be is to do - Sartre
Do be do be do - Sinatra

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday by the river

By the river. The River Stour. The Great Stour they call it. It's a few metres wide but it's still a river. It runs through. Through the friary grounds. Between the two friary buildings. Under the Greyfriars building (the remaining building of the original friary buildings).

Tour boats come up the river - the tour guide (and rower of the boat) sits in the bow giving his version of the history of Franciscans on this site. Occasionally one of us will wander past giving local colour to his story. I just heard him say that the friars living here now are not the original ones. As the original ones came in 1224 that is perhaps just as well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Drowsy afternoons

My first week here jet lag left me with eyes wide open and alert all through the afternoon until the early evening when I couldn't stay awake. Now I am back to my normal pattern of feeling sleepy all afternoon.
The heaters are on in the library and the sun is shining outside. So with a great effort I will turn my attention to 13th century Franciscan hagiography.


More Duns Scotus and occasional flashes of clarity through the fog in my mind.
And then an afternoon trying to sort out tickets and fares for my travel in January which is about as confusing as Scotus on a good day and probably not as beneficial in the long run.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Life in Canterbury

The friary is near the site of the first Franciscan friary in the U.K. The first friars arrived here in 1224 and settled on a marshy island near the centre of Canterbury. Most of the friary buildings were demolished in the dissolution of the monasteries but one remained, and is still there today. It is a place of prayer for those who come and is also used as our chapel.

The surrounding gardens and meadow are an island of peace in the centre of the city.

The last twenty four hours have been busy. A young man, perhaps intoxicated, sleeping on the grass in the garden. Our tertiaries coming for a Eucharist. All sorts of other people popping in and out. A car parked in the driveway, blocking others, and the search to find the owner of the car. A man coming with a gift of a can of catfood for the frairy cat. Another Franciscan friar, one of my fellow students, passing by.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Canterbury Tales

Well not really. Today was cold and wet. I did nothing more deep than defrosting the friary freezer and going to the post office. But all the time I am thinking of the study I should be / want to be doing. Believe it?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Beginning a Blog

Where to begin? I've thought about blogging for some time but needed some extra stimulus to get going on it.

I just arrived in England to start studies at the Franciscan International Studies Centre for a Masters in Franciscan Studies. This week I was thrown in the deep end with Duns Scotus metaphysics - and don't ask me to explain it yet.

I'll keep you posted.