Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chicago - Carey, Ohio - Buffalo

November 28, 2010

Peace and Good,

This past Sunday began with liturgy at our friary at Marytown in Chicago. We had solemn morning prayer followed by a beautiful Mass. It was an appropriate way to celebrate the feast of Christ the King.

That afternoon, I travelled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio. You might remember that I was there a couple of times this past summer, preaching a retreat to our new novices and then preaching a novena for the Feast of the Assumption. I spent Monday doing some homework. Every year the Minister General sends a letter to the friars of the order throughout the world, and I was asked to translate it from Italian into English. It was a little difficult, because even though my Italian is not bad, I am not yet used to thinking in Italian (and Italians have a different way of expressing ideas, e.g. never say in ten words what can be said in twenty).

Tuesday I headed out to Buffalo where I spent the Thanksgiving holiday. Wednesday I was the celebrant at the funeral of my Godfather. He passed away Saturday morning. This was a real miracle, because I am on the road so often. What were the chances that this would coincide with one of my few visits to Buffalo. At the wake, I noticed that there was a display of his military medals, which included the silver star. Like many of his generation, Steve rarely spoke of his experience of war. One of the things that most impressed me about him was that when his wife, Eleanor, came down with Alzheimer's, he had her taken care of at home. He couldn't think of institutionalizing her. What an example! Please keep him, Steve Mayer, and his family in your prayers.

Thanksgiving was a great time to visit family here in Buffalo and then yesterday in Pittsburgh. My family is so supportive of me in so many ways.

I finished a few books this week. The first was A Passage to India by E.M. Foster. I had seen the movie made from this book years ago (it was a Merchant Ivory production). It was great, but the book was even better. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It dealt with the theme of two cultures meeting and how difficult it can be for one to understand the other. Actually, for India, it was more than two cultures (the British, the Hindus, the Muslims, etc.).

The second book was the Gracchi, Marius and Sulla by A.H. Beesley. It deals with the period just before the rise of Julius Caesar. One can understand what happened to Caesar when one understands the social turmoil that was going on in Rome at that time.

The third book was a set of CD's called the Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman. The story revolves around a Navaho retired detective who tries to solve a strange set of crimes. There are a number of insights into Native American culture. For example, ambition is not seen as a virtue among the Navaho's. One is supposed to fit in and help the tribe and family, not to stand out. This is well worth reading or listening to.

Today I head out to Albany to visit another provincial.

God bless and
fr. Jude

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ellicott City - Chicago

November 22, 2010

Peace and Good,

This week began with my meeting in Ellicott City with Fr. James McCurry. He is the provincial of St. Anthony Province, my home province. We spoke about the concerns of the province as we prepare for our union with Immaculate Conception Province. Both of these provinces are located on the east coast of the United States. St. Anthony was founded to serve the Polish Americans who had settled between Buffalo, Boston and Baltimore. We are now serving in two high schools (St. Francis in Athol Springs, NY and Archbishop Curley in Baltimore) and numerous parish both in that triangle described above and in Georgia and Florida. There are around 125 friars in the province.

At this past provincial chapter, St. Anthony also assumed responsibility for our friars in England and Ireland. This is a much smaller jurisdiction, and we are helping them until they can once more be a province.

Tuesday evening I travelled to our formation house in Forestville, MD to celebrate Mass and talk with those who are in initial formation. There are eleven of them from three different provinces.

Wednesday I drove is Mishawaka, IN to our novitiate. There I spoke with our novices (7 of them) and then Thursday drove to Chicago to visit the provincial of St. Bonaventure province. St. Bonaventure is a daughter of our province. There are around 50 friars in it. They have three large houses (Marytown, Chicago and Milwaukee) and several smaller parishes. Marytown was founded on the inspiration of St. Maximillian Kolbe. They have a beautiful chapel in which they have 24 hour a day Eucharistic adoration. It is also a retreat house, well used. Milwaukee is a beautiful, beautiful basilica as well as a formation house for four older vocations studying for the priesthood. Chicago is a formation house for a number of younger men who are postulants (checking out the community) or simply professed (having recently taken their vows).

I have finished a number of books. There is a Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova. This is about growing up in the Soviet Union in the 50's and 60's. The title comes from a game that her grandmother played with her children during the famine caused by Stalin. She only had a slice of bread for each, so she would break it up into crumbs so that it would look like more. The book is well written and it gives you a sense both of what it was like and why people wanted to go elsewhere.

A second book is the Third Reich in Power by Richard Evans. This is the second of a trilogy on the Third Reich. It is incredibly thorough. This volume covers the years that run from the time that the Nazi's took power until the beginning of World War II. As I read it, I am constantly amazed as to how evil some people can become. It answers well the question as to why the Germans allowed it all to happen.

A third book is the Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg. This an extensive collection of legends (mostly written by the rabbis) about the early books of the Bible and the characters of those stories. Many of the stories seem strange and foreign to our ears, for they are a mixture of moralistic tales and science fiction. Yet, for me, as a Bible scholar, it was well worth reading.

Hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

fr. Jude

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rome - Baltimore - San Francisco - Baltimore

November 14, 2010

Peace and Good,

As you can see by the title, this has been a week on the planes. I came back from Rome on Monday and Wednesday I flew out to California to visit with the provincial of St. Joseph Cupertino Province.

This is a rather small province, just over 50 members. It goes from Los Angeles to San Francisco and out to Reno. Their friars are most involved in parish ministry, although a number of them do have singular apostolates.

Fr. Chris Deitz is their provincial. He is beginning his third term. He resides at Arroyo Grande which is near Pismo Beach.

The province has taken on responsibility for our new mission in Vietnam. We have a number of friars who were born in Vietnam living in California, Australia and Japan. A few of them have founded a mission in Vietnam and Fr. Chris will be visiting them shortly to help them in their early growing pains. It appears as if there are many young men who would like to join out community there. One of the friars at the friary where I was staying, Castro Valley, will be heading out there for a three month trial in a couple of months. Having worked with the refounding of the province in Romania, I find this very exciting.

The travel back and forth has left me quite jet lagged. I am not all that good on that, and at times it takes me a week to adjust. I just do what I can and when I need a rest, I do that.

This has been a good week for articles for the Messenger Magazine and daily reflections for the internet site. I finished them up to Christmas eve. It is good to be so far ahead.

In terms of books, I listened to Justice Denied by J.A. Jance. He is quite popular lately. This book speaks of a series of murders by a vigilante. She has an informant in the DNA lab and gives her information about unsolved rapes, and she then dresses in a nuns habit and executes them. The action and the character development which quite good.

A second book is Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley. This is the story of two boys, one white and one black, who become brothers through a relationship of one's father and the other's mother. When the mother dies, it all falls apart. There are some masterful sections and incredible insights, but one thing really bothered me. Twice there are instances where people in the book have sex with underage children. In both cases, the development was unnecessary and I just don't know why the author would include it and glamorize it.

A third book was The Curve of the World by Marcus Stevens. This is about a jet that crash lands in the Congo during civil war. One man runs into the jungle to escape what he is sure will be a massacre. We hear of his struggle to survive, and also of his wife who travels there with her son who is blind to try to find him. I thought that this is one of the best books I have listened to in years. Many of the insights into intercultural situations rang true from what I have observed.

This week my trips will not be quite so far - Chicago, South Bend, Carey, Ohio and Buffalo.

Take care and
fr. Jude

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Week of Meetings


November 7, 2010

Peace and Good,

This has been an eventuful week. On Tuesday morning at Mass I was sworn in as Assistant General. My duties began shortly after Mass when we began a meeting of the General Definitory. The Minister General is the head of the order, and the rest of us who are assistant general are a type of cabinet who advise the general and who serve as liasons to the various sections of the globe where the order is established.

This first council meeting went for four and a half days, about seven to eight hours a day. In addition, there was often homework to do to prepare for the discussion the next day.

I was incredibly impressed at the fraternal caring of those at the meeting. There was no attempt to outshine the others or force one's opinions on the others. The primary question is how can we serve the order and the individual friars.

Being new, I often had to ask questions concerning various topics. The others were more than willing to bring me up to date. They were patient with my Italian, which is not horrible, but definitely rusty.

One of the major concerns for the order is how to keep updating the friars and help them to grow spiritually. That is so important because we can so easily get caught up with what we are doing that we forget who we are.

This coming year, I am already programmed to visit the US, Canada, England, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Kenya and Malta. Those are the required trips, others might pop up as time goes by.

I fly back to the States tomorrow for about a month to visit the various provincials throughout the States and Canada. Then back to Rome on the Feast of St. Nicholas.

In spite of the work, I'm still reading. It keeps me sane. I finished another biography by Jacob Abbott about Genghis Khan. This was not his best. So little is know about him that Abbott often resorted to side topics to fill out the book.

A second work was Empires before Alexander by Robert Dise. This was one of the Teaching Company courses. It was excellent. The author provides a great amount of information but he throws in a great dry sense of humor every once in a while. At one point he was talking about Israel and how, when the Israelites entered the promised land, they probably did not really conquer Jericho and make its walls come tumbling down because it had not been inhabited for hundreds of years before and after their conquest. His line was that you didn't need hundreds of soldiers with trumpets, a half dozen of them with kazoos would have done the trick.

A third work was the Children of the Frost by Jack London. These were stories from Alaska and the Yukon. Many of them spoke of the Inuit and other native American tribes. It was excellent, and as always, whenever I read something about a very different culture, it opens my horizons as to how people think. Of course, the only problem is that London is an outsider, but he seems to have been respectful to their culture.

God bless and
fr. Jude