Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Ready for the New Season

September 23, 2009

Peace and Good,

Even though I'm not teaching in grad school any more, September marks a new beginning for me. During the summer, I give retreats and conferences but there are never any parish missions. With the arrival of Labor Day, the schedule changes and I am back on the road again. Right now I am in San Diego. This week I am filling in for a pastor for all the priests int he diocese are gathering this week for a convocation. I have morning Mass and then I offered confessions. Typically, the first day I was in the confessional for a half hour. The last two days I have been there for an hour.

I am still working on a translation project for my publisher. It is going well. I just finished a major section of the work and only need to edit it before I send it in.

I finished a good book this past week. It is Prisoner of the Vatican by David Mertzer. It deals with the period of time surrounding the First Vatican Council with the declaration of papal infallibility and the period after during which the Italians took over the Papal States. Having lived in Italy for seven years, it was easy to understand some of the political machinations. It seems as if everyone was lying, everyone was seeing the situation only from his point of view. Each side established non-negotiable positions and stubbornly clinged to them (even at the danger of igniting a war).

I was worried that the author would be very prejudiced. Given the other books that he wrote, he could easily have been extremely anti-clerical. Yet, as he dealt with the subject, he showed himself to be rather balanced. I was very pleased.

It was fascinating to see how the pope could not understand how the Church could function without having political power. Yet, it is almost as if the Church is better off without it. There is a freedom when you are not associated with this power or that. You can challenge anyone who needs it when you can't be accused of siding with one or the other. This is a great difficulty for national Churches because they so identify with the ones in power that sometimes you wonder if they are speaking God's message or the state's message.

God bless and

fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

At home working on projects

September 16, 2009

Peace and Good,

I have been home all this past week working on various writing projects. One of them is a 1,000 submission to the Word Among Us for a book they are bringing out on the priesthood to commemorate the Year of the Priest (which is going on this year).

The other is a long term writing/translating project I am working on for my publisher. This is the kind of project that you must be meticulous and keep plugging away at (for it is a multi-year project). I tend to be a disciplined writing, setting a minimum quota for myself each day to get these kinds of projects done.

I finished two books/documents.

The first is a book by Orhan Pamuk. He is Turkish and is a Noble Prize winner for literature. His style is intriguing. This particular book, My Name is Red, is a murder mystery set in late 16th century Istambul. He is able to bring you right into the culture. The only problem with this book was its length. It is about 500 pages long, and I find that I reach a point where I just want it to end (even though I considered it to be a very good book).

The other thing I finished by Pope Benedict's encyclical Charity and Truth. It was written to commemorate the anniversary of Pope Paul's VI's encyclical Progressio Populorum, an encyclical on social justice. I didn't find it an easy read, but it is filled with valuable insights. He worries about whether we will rely only on reason or only on sentiment when we deal with economic realities. His writing is a tremendous challenge to our American system which can lean toward a brutal capitilism if we are not careful. Yet, he doesn't neglect calling people into the third world to task for their reliance upon corrupt politics and war. He speaks about the need to strengthen international organizations, reminding those who might slip into a myopic nationalism that we are part of a world which God created and for which we have a responsibility. He attacks the culture of death and greed which is so prevalent in our world. He warns of an overdependence on technology which does not give due warrant to the rights of the individual person. Most of all, he reminds us that none of this can be done well if God is not part of the equation. It is well worth reading.

I am heading to San Diego this coming Friday for a few weeks.

God bless and
fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time at our Novitiate: August 29 - September 4, 2009

September 8, 2009

Peace and Good,

I spent this last week at our novitiate in Mishawaka, Indiana, giving a series of talks to the novices on a Franciscan approach to the Gospels and the Psalms. Novitiate is a year of discernment as to whether God is calling one to the Franciscan life. When I entered many years ago, it was the first contact with the friars. Now, there is a period of postulancy (a trial period) before one even enters novitiate. If one feels at the end of the year that one is called and that is affirmed by the novitiate staff, then one takes one's vows for a one year period. This is renewed each year until one is ready to take the vows for the rest of one's life.

There is now one common novitiate for all of the Conventual Franciscans in the country. This year there are 8 novices. They are all talented men and I was quite impressed at their zeal and sincerity. I started the week with a one hour talk on how the early Franciscans would interpret scripture (Saints Francis, Clare, and Anthony), and then I spoke about how a modern Franciscan would look at the four Gospels. The last couple of days we looked a bit at the psalms, given that we pray them each day in our breviary.

I got to see the campus of Notre Dame. It is very impressive with new buildings and facilities going up all over the place.

I finished two abridged books. The first was the CD's called The Few. It is about the first American volunteers for the British Air Force during World War II. It was OK, but I wouldn't exactly recommend it.

The second was in more or less the same category of being OK, not much more than that. It was The Body of David Hayes by Ridley Pearson. It is a detective novel with a number of interesting turns, but for some reason it just did not come together for me.

Whenever I listen to books like this, I alternate with a course from the Teaching Company. Right now I am listening to the Philisophies of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. It is a long course (18 CD's), so I'll be with it for a couple more weeks.

This week I am home in Ellicott City, catching up on some writing projects.

God bless and

fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Deacon Candidates Retreat

September 1, 2009

Peace and Good,

The work is slowly gearing up from the summer break. This past weekend I preached a weekend retreat for the deacon candidates of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. (The candidates who are just starting the program.)

It was a joy working with the candidates and their wives. A number of the candidates in earlier years of the program (the ordination classes of 2010 and 2011) were also there to give the candidates and their wives insights into what the program entails.

I based the talks on the ministry of St. Paul. Part of the reason was that with the year of St. Paul recently concluded, the ideas were quite fresh in my mind. Part of it was that Paul was the first Christian whose ministry is so well documented. Some of the themes included the idea of making sure that we convert our own hearts, that we are filled with a sense of gratitude for our call, that we reach out to the broken, that we try to be men of integrity, that we remember that it is ultimately Christ's ministry.

I have finished one CD set this week: Mission Song by John Le Carre. I love his writing. He deals mostly with spy novels. This one has to do with a plot to begin a rebellion in Kivu province of the Congo. Just having come back from Africa, I was familiar with all the terminology. It deals with colonialism and the exploitation of African states by outsiders and their own corrupt officials. There is intrigue, betrayal, honest but misguided attempts to help, etc. I would recommend this work if you can get through the various geographical references.

I am in Mishawaka, Indiana, this week giving a set of conferences to our novices. I will write about that next week.

Have a good Labor Day.


fr. Jude

P.S. I am slowly reading the Pope's new encyclical Charity in Truth. It is a challenging document, especially with the whole Health Care Debate going on. We Catholics always have to remember that Health Care is not a privilege, it is a necessity. That doesn't mean that it can only be handled in any one particular manner, but it does mean that something must be done. (I myself am quite confused over the best way to handle it.)