Letters from London: Thoughts from a Train
Reflections from a Jesuit President on Sabbatical
November 16, 2015
Amazingly I write to you from under the English Channel.
I left Saint Pancras London at 11:31 a.m. We had a minute of silence at the station for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. A very somber 60 seconds.
After the silent prayer, I had two thoughts.
First, I remember reading some years ago that we in the contemporary West have come to expect travel to be safe and relatively hassle-free. This has not been the case for most of human history. Travel, at home and abroad was fraught with risk. One could never be at all sure about the reliability of the mode of transportation or of the warmth of welcome you would experience upon arrival. So much has changed!
Now I am in France.
The second thought about the pervasive concern in the Hebrew Scriptures for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger—the three most vulnerable categories of persons in the ancient Near East. The vulnerability of the stranger may not be immediately obvious. But in that world, the authorities of the stranger’s homeland were completely unable to provide support and defense if the traveler ran into trouble. So the traveler was entirely dependent on the good will of his/her hosts. There was little—if anything—to prevent the native population from harassing, enslaving, or even killing the stranger in their midst.
Think about it! Those of us who travel on a passport issued by the United States travel with the confidence that our government is interested in our welfare and will take action if we are victimized while abroad. Carrying that little blue booklet provides citizens with great protection and support.
In times like these it is important to keep this support in mind. There is no place in the world that is free from the dangers of gratuitous violence. When we travel or study abroad we are able to learn so much and learn in an environment of high security. We also learn about the complexity and the dangers in our world and so how to navigate in a world that is at once gracious and hostile.
The Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, is on sabbatical during the Fall 2015 semester, re-engaging with his academic scholarship during his appointment as a visiting scholar at Heythrop College. During his time abroad, he will share occasional reflections.