Among my recent interlibrary loan items is a hefty volume about the Diocese of Thái Bình in northern Vietnam. There isn’t a scale in my house, but I’d guess that it is four or five pounds like a college chemistry or ecology textbook. Published in conjunction with the eightieth anniversary of the creation of this diocese, this “yearbook” or “commemorative publication” (kỷ yếu) includes over 700 pages of glossy and thick papers and many photos of people and churches. It offers basic information on both past and present of the dioceses as well as individual parishes and missions. The information may be brief, but they add up to some fascinating insights.
A few days ago, I saw two or three friends from Seattle years posted on Facebook a tribute on Raymond Hunthausen, former archbishop of Seattle, on his death at 96 years old. (The writer is Fr. Michael Ryan, rector of the Cathedral parish and one of the spiritual chaplains of the L’Arche community that I belonged.) By a coincidence, the next morning I came across two items while looking at some old issues of a magazine by Vietnamese Catholic refugees, and one of them shows a photo of the late archbishop presiding over a mass among Vietnamese refugees in 1978.
It’s been a rough week in the news, headlined by the ongoing Gaza Strip protests and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Yesterday saw the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area. Then last night I read about the closure of another small liberal arts college, this one in Oregon. It was therefore a relief, even a kind of solace, to have finished reading the very beautiful study about conservatives in Louisiana by the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild.