Wednesday, March 14, 2018

San Diego - Rome - Foligno

March 14, 2018 Peace and Good, Last Thursday I flew back to Rome from San Diego via London. It was a long, long trip - 12 hours to London and another 2 1/2 hours from there to Rome. On Sunday I came by train to Foligno which is the next city over from Assisi. I am here to give a retreat to a group of friars from the new Central Italian province. We are in a retreat house just up the street from the city, which has about 450,000 inhabitants. It is a beautiful area in Umbria with olive groves and old stone houses just under us. The weather has been iffy. We ended up with a sleet storm yesterday which covered the ground with an inch of sleet. Today is mostly sunny and quite nice. The retreat is going well. I will be here until Saturday morning when I head down to Rome to change my clothes and head off to the airport for a plane to London to take another train up to Oxford where I will join the Minister General who has been there for a week or so now refreshing his English. I have finished some reading: A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson This is the story of a Canadian genius who developed the British secret service at the beginning of World War II. Much of the book details his often frustrated attempt to deal with the Americans. He got along quite well with Bill Donavan, the founder of the OSS, the predecesor of our CIA. He did not get along that well with J. Edgar Hoover who wanted the FBI to control all of the intelligence efforts both inside and outside of the country. Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army by Charles River Editor Joseph Kony is a strange figure (one of many) who developed a resistance movement in the north of Uganda. This area of the country is a bit of a disaster due to the way in which colonial masters divided up countries in Africa, often splitting one tribe between two different countries. The Acoli minority in the north was persecuted by various dictators, so they were rife for rebellion. Kony, however, killed more of his own people in the rebellion than outsiders, and he often kidnapped young children to become his soldiers. He is still being hunted by authories for all the atrocities that his soldiers have commiteed over the years. The Great Hurricane of 1938 by Cherie Burns This hurrican hit Long Island and New England before the naming of hurricanes and before the development of means of predicting their strength and movement. It hit in September and many, many people were killed in the flooding that resulted from the storm surge which was tremendous and unexpected. One of the people who was endangered during the storm was Katherine Hepburn. The disaster led to an upgrading of the system of prediction and the means with which the weather bureau communicated the warnings to the people in the path of future storms. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson This is the combination of the story of the invention of the wireless by Enrico Marconi and the capture of a man and his girlfriend who had run away to Canada after the murder of the man’s wife. (The girlfriend seems not to have been involved in the caper.) The combination is important for the man was captured through the use of Marconi’s new invention, and this episode gave great credibility to it and made it a success (something that was not previously guaranteed due to difficulties in the process that Marconi encountered and a number of industrial and scientific enemies that he made over the years.) 1861 by Adam Goodheart This book is about the coming of the Civil War. I have read many books about this era, but this is by far the best that I have seen. I contains details about which I had never heard before. It tells stories of individuals and how their lives and at times their deaths affected the country. The author gives a good and balanced analysis on the situation. I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in US history. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

San Diego

March 7, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been in San Diego this past ten days for a parish mission in Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado. The topic of the mission was a preparation for the events and spirituality of Holy Week. We had a great turnout, and many, many confessions. I was very pleased with how it went. It is a very active parish. I intend to write an article for the Messenger magazine in Padua on their outreach to married couples and families, to the divorced, to the hispanics, etc. They are taking very seriously the Pope's call to be a sign of mercy and welcome. On Friday I gave a workshop on the Passion Narratives at the Pastoral Center to priests and deacons. We had about 30 show up. That, too, went very well. These past few days I have tried to slow down a bit, but also finish one project (editing next year's Proclaimers' Workbook). This evening I fly back to Rome and next week I am giving a retreat to friars from the Central Italian Province. This province is made up of five earlier provinces that joined together this past year. The weather here was cool when I first arrived, but these past few days have been wonderful. I feel guilty watching the weather channel and what is happening on the East Coast. I finished some reading: Rebbe by Joseph Telushkin This is the biography of the seventh Rebbe who led the Lubavitcher Hassidic Jews. Many of his followers believe that he could be the Messiah (although they tended to give various descriptions of what that might be. Telushkin is the author of a book of Jewish humor that I had previously read and enjoyed. It is obvious that he is highly devoted to this great figure. The Rebbe (this is the title with which he was identified) led his community through the traumatic post-war period, living in New York. He reached out to all varieties of Jews to bring them back to a practice of their faith. He sent young missionaries all throughout the world so that there might be representatives of Judaism to be an anchor for those Jews who wised to practice their faith. Yet, he strongly opposed Judaism or compromise in the Middle East. While he obviously was a great figure, Telushkin works a bit to much to excuse his obvious shortfalls. The Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tenniswood This is an overview of the struggle of the English to deal with the threat of the Barbary Muslim Pirates during the 17th century. Many of the pirates were actually Europeans who had been captured and turned coats to become Muslim themselves. They attacked not only ships in the Mediterranean, but also raided the coasts of France, Italy, Spain, and even England and Ireland. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis I have always wanted to read this Christian classic. It is filled with symbolism, and it deals with the choice one must make to embrace the joy and love of heaven. It contrasts that pure love with all the partial loves we so often experience upon this earth. I am not sure I like a lot of the symbolism that Lewis uses, but that has been true of many of the books I have read by this author. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King I very much like the writing style of King. I read his books not for the horror tales that he often presents, but for his choice of vocabulary and grammar. This volume is the first in a three part series. It deals with a mass murderer who drives a mercedes car into a crowd gathered to enter a jobs fair. There is a retired policeman who investigates this figure along with a young woman with various psycyological difficulties and a young African American boy who is a genius on the computer. I very much enjoyed this book. Edith Stein: Philosopher, Mystic, Martyr, Feminist by Alex Terego This is one of a series of short book on heroic or important Catholic figures. It gives a short biography of Edith Stein and a bit of her teaching. These short of books wet my apetite to read more about people like this. Marco Polo by John Man This is an account both of the travels of Marco Polo and his family and of the author’s trip in the footsteps of Marco Polo. The author gives a good account, and he tries to investigate the various controversies concerning the historicity of Marco Polo’s account. He speaks of the production of the account of his travels, as well as the consequences of his account upon subsequest exploration, including that of Christopher Columbus. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rome - San Diego

February 23, 2018 Peace and Good, We finished out definitory at the end of this past week. This is the one when we sort out the various requests for assistance for the friars in formation from throughout the third world. We have many, many vocations in those countries but few resources to help them. We worked until Saturday lunch, and it went quite well, everything considered. At lunch, I went with fr. Mark Folger, our friar from California who works on our translations, and two of our Vietnamese friars to try out a Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate Tet, Chinese New Year. The food is actually quite good there. I finished off my visitation of the friars in Vietnam with this interview. On Monday morning I headed out to San Diego. I am here to begin a parish mission this Saturday. I came a few days early to get over the 9 hours of jet lag between Rome and San Diego, but also to rest up a few days for all the jet lag I have built up over these months. I am on Coronado Island where I have given a series of retreats in Sacred Heart Parish. Coronado is beautiful and I am enjoying the rest. I am doing a little bit of writing and editing, but just as much as I want. There are a lot of retired military people on the island (which is a naval base and the training center for the Seals). The staff and the parishioners are very, very friendly. I will be giving a talk to the clergy of San Diego on Friday. Then I will be here until the Thursday after to continue resting before I go back to Rome to preach a retreat to one of the Italian provinces. I have finished some reading: The Lost Girls by Apoorva Mandaville This is an essay on the difference in symptomology for autism between boys and girls. The girls have been more difficult to diagnose, for many of their symptoms are hidden behind a fa├žade of social convention. Furthermore, they tend to suffer from greater social anxiety, eating disorders, suicide attempts, etc. The essay also speaks of attempts to address the needs of autistic girls. Prince Felix Yusupov by Christopher Dobson Prince Felix Yusupov was one of the richest men in Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution. He is also the man primarily responsible for the assassination of Rasputin. He was a strange man, gay and yet married, often dressing up as a woman, partying without limit. He was related to the ruling Romanov family. The story also covers his difficult years in exile, for he never really learned to husband his resources for a rainy day. 1864 Lincoln at the Fates of History by Charles Flood This is a very good account of this fateful year in the Civil War and the year in which Abraham Lincoln was re-elected for a second term. At the beginning of the year, up to the summer, it looked as if he would not be re-elected. So many men were dying under the leadership of Grant. So many battles ended in defeat or a Pyrric victory. It didn’t look as if there were any exit from the war. Then Sherman captured Savannah, and everything changed. I could easily recommend this book for an excellent read. Lie Down With Lions by Ken Follett I really don’t like Follett’s books that much, but this was one of the discount books I picked up sometime ago, so I decided that it was time to read it. The story is quite good – a battle between a French doctor who is a spy for the Soviets during their invasion of Afganistan and a CIA spy trying to help the Afgan fighters. I find many of Follett’s books formulaic – good man, bad woman, heroic woman who much teach the good man how to be a better man. He also presents sex scenes that are much too graphic for my tastes. Not a bad read, but not the best either. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson This is an interesting presentation of the life of lobsters and the attempt of lobstermen to make a living catching them off the coast of Maine and of scientists to understand and protect the lobster population. There is so much that is not known about lobsters, including mating practices, how they decide to release their fertilized eggs, why some areas are full of lobsters while others are not, why their population plummets at times and then later explodes. The book is a good introduction to the topic. The Haj by Leon Uris This is one of those epic stories like those produced by James Michener, but this one is one generation instead of the multi-generational works that Michener produces. It deals with the Haj, the leader of a clan of a Palestinian family which is dispossessed of their land during the War for Independence in 1947-48. The story is really told from the point of view of an intelligent son who is part hero, part tragic figure. Uris is not all that sympathetic to the Arab point of view – in fact I found some of his portrayal as racist and demeaning. Yet, there is much action and he gives some insights that are worth notice. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Van Mon (near Hanoi) - Rome - Holyoke, MA - Rome

February 14, 2018 Peace and Good, This past couple of weeks took an unexpected turn. I was at the leprosy village outside of Hanoi when I heard of the passing of fr. Donald Kos. The General and I had accompanies him home to the States on December 9th after having spent 59 years in Italy. He had served both the Order and the Church in a number of responsibilities. When he arrived in the States, his health was already in decline, but we did not realize how much until a week before his death when we were told that they had discovered widely metastasized cancer. It is remarkable that they had not discovered this in his many visits to the hospital in his last months here in Italy. He was placed on hospice care and died a week later. fr. Donald was a man of incredible dedication. He was a canon lawyer, and at times they can be legalistic. That was not fr. Donald. He was always a humble servant. The General wrote me in Vietnam saying that it would be a good idea for me to accompany him to the funeral which was to be held in Holyoke. Last Thursday I flew from Hanoi to Rome, and then Friday from there to Boston. The funeral was the next day, and then we made our return trip to Rome on Sunday night. This is an itinerary I would not recommend. I worked out yesterday that in the past month I have flown around 35,000 km. This week we have a meeting of our definitory. I have three presentations to make, but all three had been completed before I started this long trip so I am ready with the paperwork. We end on Saturday. I have finished some books: Pope Francis’ Little Book of Wisdom by Andrew Kirk Assaf This is a nice collection of the sayings of Pope Francis. It is arranged thematically, and is not all that profound, but a nice meditation nevertheless. I think that many of the thoughts come from his daily tweets and his daily homilies. A Certain Justice by PD James This is the second time that I have read this book, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The first third of the book sets up the figure of the person who was to be murdered. She was a driven lawyer in London who has a daughter who hates her, a lover who wants to break it off, a younger colegue who she wants to expose for bribery, etc. The inspector is Adam Daglish, a somewhat eccentric investigator who works well with his staff. PD James is an excellent author. The Amish: The History of America’s Oldest and Most Unique Communities by Charles River Editors This is one of the short studies produced by Charles River Editors. It gives a history of the community, an outline of their theology, and especially a description of their practices. It is sympathetic without being fauning. It found it a good read. The Ark of the Covenant by Charles River Editors This study of the Ark of the Covenant is a bit strange and not one of the better studies produced by Charles River Editors. The author begins with some strange theories about what the Ark meants, suggests that there were many arks over the years (without any credible evidence), and then tries to describe the disappearance of the ark. I can’t say that I learned anything valuable from this study. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King Thw widow of a famous writer must confront a madman who claims that he wants her to donate some of her husbands archives to a particular university, but whose real purpose is to hurt her as much as he can. She must resort to seeking a strange and wonderful (sometimes) world which her husband had used as a refuge from his abusive father and insane brother and from which he drew much inspiration for his stories and books. As always, King is a wonderful storyteller, and this book is no exception. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Manila - Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

January 31, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished off the week in Manila for the custodial chapter. I had given the opening afternoon of recollection, and I had also been asked to preach at all the Masses. That went very well. It is remarkable how a five minute homily can set the tone for a day. The days were also spent doing some editing on a text for one of the friars concerning the history of the break between the Conventual Franciscans and the Friars of the Immaculate. You might remember that I am the liason for those friars who are seeking to enter our Order from that group. On Sunday fr. Benedict and I travelled from Manila to Ho Chi Minh. The trip was only two hours, and the passport control was very easy (I had gotten an e visa). The trafic in the city is every bit as chaotic as I remember. There are still thousands of motor bikes, but I noticed a lot more cars as well. I had last been here in October of 2014, and I noticed quite a few changes in the area around the airport with many new stores and nice restaurants. Vietnam is doing quite well economically due to the movement of factories from China to here in quest of a land with lower wages. I and fr. Benedict are here to have a canonical visitation. This delegation was founded around 13 years ago, and it is growing nicely. We see some growing pains, and also we see that we are arriving at a transition period in which the energy must be refocused on reaching outside of the community. Up to now most of the work has been in the formation of young friars, but now a number of them are finishing their formation program and we have to find apostolates for them to do. There is a wonderful spirit among the friars. I am very impressed with them, and I hope they keep this spirit of collaboration as they grow. I see this as a real gem in the future. fr. Benedict and I will be travelling up to the Hanoi area on Sunday to visit some friars up there. Then on Thursday we will be returning to Rome. I have finished some reading: Elizabeth Kolbert The Siege of Miami This is a study of the effects of global warming based on the rising of the water level in Miami Beach. This is alredy happening, and it is creating a situation in which every time there is a high tide, streets are being flooded. This is due to the melting of the glaciers in Greenland and Antartica. No matter how one argues the cause of the global warming, the evidence that it is happening is no longer debatable. The Actual Hollister by Dave Eggers We have seen people wearing clothes that have the name Hollister on it all over the place. This author visits the actual Hollister, CA. Interestingly, they don’t sell clothing in that city that has the name on it because the store that markets the brand does not have a store there. What makes the story a bit more interesting is that the man visiting Hollister is a descendant of the founder of the city. Rasputin’s Revenge by John Lescroat This is a mix of the story of the last years of the Romanov Dynasty, the machinations of Rasputin, the mad monk, and, believe it or not, a sequel to the Sherlock Holmes story. While that seems to be a daunting combination, the story is really not all that bad. It is narrated by a French diplomat who has come to Russia to try to keep them in the war on the side of the allies. I would say that, if you want an easy and entertaining read, this fits the bill. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton I had seen the movie many years ago, but this was on sale so I bought it on Kindle and decided to read it. I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was. This is the first book I read in which the protagonist is not the people in the book but rather the scientific process used in trying to identify and respond to a micro organism which had landed on the earth and seems to have a devastating lethality. Give me Back my Legions by Harry Turtledove This is the fictional account of the battle between the German leader Herman (Armonius) and the Roman legate Varus. It ends with the massacre of three Roman legions in the Teutenborg Forest, a loss of about 15% of the entire Roman forces in the world at that point. It is the tension between accepting an invading force that seems umbeatable and gathering a disperate disunified force of combatants to defend the traditional ways. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 22, 2018

Rome - Manila

January 23, 2018 Peace and Good, This past week I have been in Rome for the meeting of the General Definitory with the new provincials and custodes from throughout the world. There were just over twenty of them, and we like to bring them to Rome for a week to describe the parts of their job that have to do with us and the Vatican. Part of the trip was visiting the various other General Houses in Rome, which includes our international seminary (the Seraphicum), the center of our office for secretaries of various topics (Casa Kolbe), the friary where doctoral students live (La Vigna) and the friary which houses our confessors at the Vatican (the Penitenzeria). I was asked to preach at the morning Mass each day, a short homily but one that tried to bring out the spiritual dimension of the work these men are doing. On Saturday, fr. Benedict Baek, the Asian Assistant General and I traveled from Rome to the Philippines. We are here for the second part of their custodial chapter, and I preached a spritual introduction to it yesterday and in these following days I will preach at their Masses. Part of my presence is to back up fr. Benedict, and part to see what is going on to get a different perspective. The Philippines has had some difficulties in the past, but now they have a very good custos who is bring things together. I finished some reading: Dressed for Death by Donna Leon A man dressed as a woman is found outside a slaughter house in Mestre, the industrial city adjacent to Venice. Commissario Brunetti investigates the crime which is especially brutal. He finds connections to a much larger plot which involves political corruption and other illegal activities. Donna Leon, who is Spanish, has a feel for Italy, and if one has lived there, one can pick up the hidden jokes and jibes all throughout the story. She write a great book, and I intend to read as many of her books as possible. Daniel Webster: The Life and Legacy of One of America’s Most Famous Senators and Orators by Charles River Editors This is one of those extended essays on the life and activities of Daniel Webster, the famous lawyer, politician and stateman. He is known as one of the great politicians of the period before the Civil War (along with Clay and Calhoun). He fought for the preservation of the Union, and was accused of having sold his beliefs and his soul in defening attempts of the Southern States to enforces the fugitive slave laws. Poison by Ed McBain This is the story of a woman with a number of gentlemen friends who are being murdered. One of the policement investigating the crimes falls in love with her and moves in with her, complicating the investigation. These stories (which are numerous) are the pattern that was eventually used on the NYPD Blue TV program. This one is well written, clever. Dark Night by Suzanne Brockmann This is a very poorly written spy novel. It involves company called Troubleshooters Incorporated. They are mostly retired CIA agents who contract with the agency to perform various jobs which include killing enemies of the county. The author only lightly outlines what they do, and she centers on the fact that some CIA agents are trying to kill some of the members of Troubleshooters because of what they know about certain hidden activities. The author throws a lot a sex (written in an incredibly adolescent manner) and pop/new age psychology in. At least I know that I would never buy a book by this author again. What’s Left Behind by Kea Krause This is the story of a polluted lake of waste water in Butte, Montana. Butte was the site of a massive open air copper mine which was abandoned. When it was no longer mined, the company which owned it ceased pumping ground water from the region. The water reacted with some of the pyrite rock that had been left, producing a very dangerous acidic reservoir. The essay spoke of some attempts to remedy the situation, and some attempts to bring a bit of beauty and industry to the Butte area. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude