Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

December 26, 2010

Peace and Good,

I entitled this blog boxing day because that is what it is called in countriesk that were ruled by Great Britain. The servants of the family had to serve them Christmas Day,and they didn't get a chance to celebrate until the day after when they could finally open their Christmas boxes.

Well, I finished out series of meetings on Tuesday morning. They went for seven days, and we didn't quite finish the agenda. That is OK, though, because the important things were finished, and in Italy there is usually not the sense of urgency you can find in the States to get things done. Here, if they get done, then they get done. If they don't, then maybe they weren't supposed to get done.

The last few days I have been spending just getting caught up. There are a lot of e mails coming in to take care of, and then I am still moving in to my office (mostly going through old files and reading what is necessary and shreding a lot of out of date material.

I concelebrated noon Mass on Christmas Day in our Basilica with about 20 other friars. What was odd is that there were only about 25 people in the congregation. We live in the historic district of Rome where not a lot of people live. Inner Rome has a ton of Churches and very few people, while the suburbs have tons of people and very few Churches. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it. The only problem in Rome is that these churches can't be closed because they are historic.)

I got to visit one of the suburban churches one evening, St. Mark's Church, where I was ordained a deacon. I was supposed to be ordained a deacon in another parish with my class, but a couple of days before it my appendix ruptured and I came down with peritonitus. When I got out of the hospital (ten days later and probably 30 pounds lighter), they decided to ordain me before my parents left (for they had been visiting for the ordination). I had been working in St. Mark's, and they decided to have the ordination there. The Church was packed for a Monday evening Mass. It was great.

I have travelled to Assisi for a few days of quiet and prayer. There is something about this city for a Franciscan that makes one feel at home immediately. It is so beautiful, so peaceful.

I finished a couple of books. The first is Jerusalem 1913: The Origin of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Amy Dockser Marcus. 1913, just before the First World War, was probably the last opportunity for the Arabs and Jews to come to some form of agreement concerning the establishment of the state of Israel. It came close, but some sad incidents and some stubborn personalities on both sides interferred and led to what seems to be the never-ending conflict that we now see.

The second book was an essay on Cardinal Newman as a Musician by Edward Bellasio. I wanted to read it because he was recently beatified. Unfortunately, the book is horrible. I would not recommend it in any way!

Hope you have a good Boxing Day. Be safe.

fr. Jude

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rome for meetings

December 19, 2010

Peace and Good,

I have been in Rome for meetings all week. I am part of tthe general counsel of our order (which we call a definitory). Throughout this week (and Monday and Tuesday of this coming week) we were meeting to talk about what is going on in the order and make plans for the future.

This week we met a series of friars who are responsible for various dimensions of what we do.

There was friar Martin who is from Argentina and is the Assistant general who is the spiritual assistant for the Secular Franciscans throughout the world. The seculars are lay people who live in the spirit of St. Francis in their everyday lives. There are actually many more of them than of the friars. When St. Francis founded his movement, it was originally a lay movement and only became a religious order as time went on.

There was friar Edoardo from Padua in Italy who assists the Poor Clare sisters. They are considered the second order of the Franciscans. (The frist order is the male religious belonging to the OFM, the OFM Conv and the OFM Capuchin, the second order is the Poor Clares who are a cloistered order, and the Third Order are lay people, a group of religious men who follow the Third Order Rule knows as the TOR's, and the Franciscan Sisters other than the Poor Clares.) There are 26 convents of the Poor Clares here in Italy and three in other countries (those Clares joined to our order, there are others joined to the OFM's and the Capuchins). Like many communties, those in Italy have become older and are joining communities together. The communities in Poland are doing much better.

There was friar Francisco from Columbia. He is the director of the office that speaks about Peace and Justice and the Safeguarding of the Environment.

There was friar Sebastian from Romania who works in the office that fosters interreligious dialog from Assisi.

There was friar Rafaele from Italy who works in the office of the Militia Immacolata, a movement founded by St. Maximillian Koble in which one consecrates one's life to accepting God's will in the same way that the Blessed Virgin Mary did.

There was friar Alcides from Argentian who works in the office for formation of the friars (those who are just entering and those who have been in for a while and need a time of renewal).

There was friar Fermino from Italy who is working on a rewriting of our constitutions (a very long and complicated process). The constitutions are the basic rules of how we are to live as friars both individually and in community.

There was friar Andreas from Germany who takes care of our archives and is working to catalog many of the important artifacts that we as an order possess.

There was friar Ryszard who is developing a new internet site for us. (By the way, if you are interested, the present site is

There was friar Angelo from Italy who works on preparing the causes for beatification and canonization for our order (and for people who are somehow related to our order).

It was fascinating to listen to the work they are doing.

Last night the definitory went to see a movie together. It is called Men of God, a French film about a community of Trappists who lived in Algeria during the recent civil war. They were caught between the Islamist extremists and the army. It is excellent. It is one of the most honest portrayals of religious life and discerning God's will that I have ever seen.

Finally, I finished two books.

The first is Jeanne D'Arc: her life and death by Margaret Oliphant. Oliphant is English, and it shows in the descritions given, but there are also some good insights into the inner life of this saint. I still struggle with the idea, though, that God would root for the French against the English. In a case like this, why would God care who won the war. They were all miserable rulers who exploited their people horribly. I sometimes don't know what to make of it.

The other work was a collection of Best Russian Short Stories, including stories by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Checkov and Gorky. It was really a good selection and it was interesting to see the tenor of the story and the forms used change as time went on. I still think that Gorky's descriptions are some of the best I have ever read, even he did some very despicable things toward the end of his life by buying into the Stalinist persecution of many of his fellow writters.

Have a great week preparing for Christmas.

God bless and
fr. Jude

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Baltimore - Rome

December 12, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe / Gaudete Sunday

Peace and Good,

Well, I travelled back to Rome and will be here for three weeks. (What a joy, sleeping in the same bed for three whole weeks.) This week, after I got over some of the worst jet lag, I have been taking care of some projects. I edited a number of reflections for the daily reflections, wrote a new article for the Messenger magazine from Padua, wrote a report for our next definitory meeting which begins tomorrow, etc. I was so busy with the projects that when I went outside Saturday for something, I realized that I had not been outside the front door since I arrived on Wednesday. I'll have to watch that, it's so easy to get caught up in what you're doing.

The various Assistant Generals have been out on the road since the last meeting. They have been coming back home one by one, and it is great to see the joy on the friars faces to see them home again. It reminds me of the scenes when the disciples were sent out by Jesus and when the first friars were sent out by St. Francis and then came home. We have stories to share with each other from Paraguay, Poland, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, Australia, the States, etc.

This coming week and a half are filled with meetings. I will be here at home (Santi Apostoli) for Christmas day, and then the day after I will head up to Assisi for a private retreat.

I finished a couple of books. The first was Alexander of Russia by Henri Troyat. Alexander was the czar who defeated Napoleon when he invaded Russia. He is a complex figure. He wanted to be liberal in his ideas, as long as it didnàt have to be applied to real life, e.g. the fact he did not liberate the serfs in his own country. He was the grandson of Catherine the Great. She wanted him to succeed her, but died before that could be made public. He allowed for some army friends to assisinate his father (who was definitely a loser), and he suffered from guilt for this for the rest of his life. This is not the first book I have read by Troyat. He is an excellent author, but one has to be willing to invest a lot of time because none of his books are short.

The other book I finished was called Cod by Mark Kurlansky. As an author, Kurlansky has cornered an interesting section of the market: food. In this book, he shows how cod fed massive portions of the population in Europe from the Middle Ages. It was considered to be a source of weaalth from the new world alongside silver and gold. He speaks of how it became a cheap source of protein for the slaves on the sugar plantations in the Carribean, indirectly supporting that horrific institution. He also speaks about the collapse of the fishing stock and how desparate life is now for cod fishermen. He even include a number of recepees for cod from earlier days and the present. It was a good read.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, December 6, 2010

Buffalo - Albany - Montreal - Ellicott City

December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Peace and Good,

Hope you are all well. This week I finished off my visits to the provincials of the US and Canada. On Sunday I drove from my brother's house to Rensselaer (across the river from Albany). There I met with Fr. Justin Biasi, the provincial of Immaculate Conception Province. This is the other eastern province (my own province of St. Anthony being the other one). The two eastern provinces are in the process of joining. The schedule has the approval coming in 2013 and the actual joining coming in 2014.

Immaculate Conception is also responsible for two other jurisdictions: a custody (a baby province) in Brazil and a delegation (smaller than a custody) in Costa Rica. We spoke about the province in the US and these two entities. There are about 100 friars in all. Like St. Anthony, they have parishes, shrines, and retreat house ministries as well as college campus ministers.

On Wednesday I drove up to Montreal to visit the custody there. There are 16 friars, all from Poland, serving the needs to Polish immigrants and recently French speaking Catholics there. In the past, this custody did not belong to our conference because the friars minister to and in Polish, but now they are a part of the North American and English/Irish conference.

From there back to Rensselaer for the night. I got to meet with one of our friars who is ministering in Assisi. We shared some information and a number of stories about the joys and confusion of life in Italy.

Then on to Ellicott City. Friday night there was a reception to say goodbye to me as I get ready to head off to Rome today for my permanent stay.

I finished a few books and tapes. The first was Brother Odd by Dead Koontz. This is part of the "odd" series. This is the third in the series that I have read. It was excellent. Odd (his name was supposed to be Todd but they made a mistake at the registry) can see ghosts and his mission is to help them find peace. In this book he is staying at a monastery of monks and nuns in the Cascades. The nuns care for mentally challenged children. There is a warmth and gentleness in the description that, in spite of the fact that this is a ghost book, is firmly pro-life. It was a joy to see a book that respected the defenseless so well.

A second book was the Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. This is one of those classics I always wanted to read. It is written in a decadent late Victorian style. It has much more to do with moral degeneracy than with age.

The third was the Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver. This is a Lincoln Rhyme book. He is a paralyzed investigator who solves cases for the police (or at times in spite of the police). This one has to do with a mass murderer who is drawing his information from an internet company that mines information and sells it to customers. It speaks of the danger of Big Brother watching our purchases, our moves, etc. I wouldn't classify it as great, but it was good.

Tonight I fly out to Rome and will be there for the vigil of the Immaculate Conception. Our Basilica of Santi Apostoli has a big celebration for the feast. People also bring bouquets of flowers to the statue of Mary in the Piazza di Spagna.

Take care and
fr. Jude