Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ellicott City - Los Angeles - Seoul

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I am actually writing this greeting before many of you have even celebrated the New Year. Given the time zone where I am now, we are several hours earlier than Rome, and even though we are several hours after the States, there is the international date line between us so that we are actually a day later than you are. (As I said when I passed the date line in the other direction, this confuses the heck out of me, but since they tell me it is January 1st, I believe it.)

I spent Christmas Day with our friars in Ellicott City. Many of the friars were with their families, so it was a small but very enjoyable gathering. The next day I flew out to Los Angeles to visit a group of Korean friars who live in Torrence.

This is an area at the south of Los Angeles, right by the ocean. The friars serve in a Korean ethnic parish, one of many in the area. The Church had originally belonged to another Catholic community, but when they built a new building, they passed the old complex on to the Koreans. The facility is beautiful, much better situated than I would have thought from an "old" building.

The friars introduced me to Korean cooking the first day. It tends to be quite spicy. If you have ever eaten Kim Chi, the fermented and spiced cabbage, that is a good measure of what much of the diet tastes like. I actually enjoy the food.

After a day visiting the friars and their apostolate, I also visited a group of California friar at our parish in Hermosa Beach. The friars have just finished an extensive remodeling project on the Church and the friary, and the results have been very gratifying.

The next day I took off for Seoul. The check in at Los Angeles for the United flight was the most chaotic I have ever seen. I don't know whether it was the holiday or just misorganization, but I was shuffled from long line to long line. It took well over two hours to check in.

The flight was then delayed due to mechanical difficulties. This part of the trip was handled very well. We were kept informed. We left quite late, and I missed my connection to Seoul from Tokyo. At the Tokyo airport, there was an incredibly good organization of the efforts to help the travelers. My new ticket was already prepared, the hotel arrangements were set, etc. Everyone was so helpful in arranging everything.

I arrrived in Inchon airport. This is Seoul's international airport, about 40 minutes outside of the city. This is the city at which General MacArthur made a surprise landing of troops during the Korean War and changed the courwse of the war.

I have been meeting the friars here in Seoul. There are ten friars in this friary, which has an international parish, a retreat house, the provincial's offices, etc. I am using both Italian and English to communicate with the friars, sometimes depending upon the services of an interpreter (one of the Italian friars who have served in Korea for many, many years.)

Tomorrow I head down to Pusan, a city along the southern coast. There are two friaries in that area, then up to Daegu which is a bit to the north of Pusan, and then back to the Seoul area for there are five friars in this immediate area.

I have finished a few books. The first is by Tom Clancy (actually sponsored by him and written by another author, much as James Patterson writes his series of novels.) It is called Op Center: War of Eagles. It deals with the reprecusions of a plot in China between two rival groups within the government which has become violent and threatens to destroy the peace within China and outside as well. It was OK, but not my favorite book.

The second was A Girl Like You by John Locke. This is part of his Donavan Creed series. It is a detective story told in the style of the detective stories of the 40's and 50's. It was entertaining for a light read.

Finally, there was a book called 1688 by John E Wills. This was an unusual book. It charts the occurances in various countries in the year 1688. It is like reading a global yearbook which has pictures as various as India, Japan, China, Africa, England, France, etc. For a history book, it is quite good to give one a picture of a particular era.

Hope you have a good week and a good New Year.

fr. Jude

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rome - Ellicott City

December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Peace and Good,

Some of my readers might be familiar with Boxing Day, but for those who are not, in the 19th century, servants were busy on Christmas Day in England. They did not have time to celebrate the holiday. Therefore, the next day was set aside for them to open their Christmas gifts and take the day off. It was the day they received and opened their Christmas boxes.

I finished off my meeting in Rome. It went through to Wednesday evening. As is typical, we covered topics about the friars from all over the world. This past week we also listened to the annual reports of the Justice and Peace coordinator, the director of the office of ecumenism, the head of our web and communications office, and the editor of our official order magazine.

Friday I travelled from Rome to Baltimore via London. I always fly that route because it is on British Air and thus I keep up my frequent flyer privileges, and also it flies in directly to Baltimore and it is easier for the friars to pick me up. For some reason, the flight just seemed endless this time. We were flying against heavy head winds, so it took an hour longer than scheduled. Then, when we arrived, they had a lot of difficulty opening up the cargo doors so the baggage took over an hour to arrive. Yet, I arrived safe and sound so I shouldn't complain.

Yesterday, Christmas Day, and the day before I spent some quiet time to get over some of the jet lag. I will be flying out later today to Los Angeles to visit a community of Korean friars there, and then on Wednesday I head out to Seoul. I am doing a visitation of their province, which means visiting every friary and talking with every friar. Most of this will be through translators, but sometimes what is said is not as important as is the fact that we are present and reminding the friars that we are part of a world wide order.

I finished a few books. The first was called The Strength of the Story by Jack London. It was a series of short stories, some of which were futuristic (at least for when they were written), others were etiological (talking of ancient or pre-historic times and tracing our modern virtues and vices back to situations taking place in those days). I have to admit that I didn't think it was his best work.

A second book was the Dark of the Moon by John Sanford. It is the story of a series of murder that take place in the northern midwest and the state investigator, Virgil Flowers. The book gets the flavor of the places it mentions just right, and the action is quite good. For a detective novel, I thought it was not half bad.

Finally, there was the Imperial Cruise. This was written by James Bradley, the same author who wrote the book Flags of our Fathers about his father's and other's actions on Iowa Jima during the war. This book is about a cruise taken by Taft, the Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt. It visited Pacific areas including Hawaii, Philippines, China and Japan. It spoke about some of the hidden politics that was going on. For example, President Roosevelt gave Japan the right to invade Korea and Formosa and make them part of their empire, the beginning of the imperialism that led to World War II. It was based on the assumption that because Japan had modernized so rapidly in the past half century, then they must be honorary Whites. There was a tremendous amount of racism in those days, especially seen by the incredibly brutal way that a rebellion was put down in the Philippines after the US conquered it (and had given assurances to the rebels who were our allies in our fight against the Spanish that we would grant them independence). It is a really shameful period in our history that we just don't hear about in our US history classes.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Saturday, December 17, 2011


December 18, 2011

Peace and Good,

It is so infrequently that I get to put a title on this blog with only one city. I have been back in Rome for our definitory. This meeting is a bit longer because we are meeting with the secretaries of our various offices.

Let me explain what this means. We have the definitory which is the council that makes the decisions for the order under the guidance of the Minister General, fr. Marco. Then we have a series of offices which deal with certain concerns and initiatives. They include the Assistant General of the Secular Franciscans (a group of lay people who vow themselves to live the ideals of St. Francis), the secretary of the Militia Immaculata (a group founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe for those who wish to consecrate themselves to Mary Immaculate), the secretary of the office of Justice and Peace, the order's archivist, the secretary for formation of friars in the order, the secretary for mission animation, the secretary for the promotion of the causes of beatification and canonization, etc. Each December they report to us concerning what is going on in their field and they consult with us concerning what we would like them to do over the next year.

This has been a rough week for jet lag. I went back and forth over the Atlantic (Chicago to London, London to Louisville, Louisville to Rome) a little too often within a one week period. I am more or less back to normal. I'll still be here until this coming Friday when I begin the next trip (Rome to Baltimore, Baltimore to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Seoul).

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of our friars, fr. Donald Kos. He is originally from Holyoke, MA, but he has lived in Rome ever since the 50's when he came over here to study. He has two full time jobs. He is our representative with the Vatican, and also he works in the Office of the Penitenzeria. There are some sins that are so serious that only the Pope can absolve them (e.g. desecration of the Eucharist). fr. Donald works in the office that takes care of these matters.

I finished a few books this week.

The first is a book called the Book Thierf by Markus Zusak. It is the story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who is cared for by foster parents. The title of the book is based on the idea that the family is very poor, and so she has to steal books because she learns to love to read. The story is heart breaking, challenging, etc. It is narrated by the Angel of Death. The beginning of the book is a bit difficult to follow, but it is honestly one of the best books I have ever read.

The second book is Mystery at Geneva: An Improbable story of Singular Happenings by Dame Rose Macaulay. The story is about a plot to destroy the proceedings of the League of Nations in Geneva. It is almost a fairy tale detective sort of story. Dame Macaulay pokes fun at the endless discussions that often resulted in no change at the League of Nations. It is not too serious of a book, but it was a fun read.

The third book was Dark Passage by Alan Furst. Furst has become one of my favorite authors. He write about the period of history at the beginning of the Second World War. This story involved a Dutch ship captain and his crew and how they are drafted into the Dutch free navy after their country had been overrun by the Nazis. They are used by the British Secret Service for various missions throughout the Mediteranean and the Baltic. It is well written, and gives just the right mix of action and introspection. Again, a good, good read.

I hope you have a good week in this last week before Christmas. Try not to get too busy.

fr. Jude

Saturday, December 10, 2011

London - Baltimore - Louisville - Rome

December 10, 2011

Peace and Good,

I think it finally happened. I ran into myself at the airport, because these past couple of weeks have been incredible for travelling.

I had travelled to London and arrived on December 3rd for the funeral of one of our bishops, Bishop John Jukes. He was the auxiliary bishop of Southwark with responsibility for Kent, the county in which Canterbury is located. He was in his late 80's and suffered from Parkinsons for the past few years. After a very active life, the confinement of the disease was tough on him. We was well cared for by a live in nurse, Mrs. Patricia Murphy. We met his body in the Southwark cathedral Sunday evening and concelebrated Mass. (Southwark is the southern part of London. When it was permitted to re-establish the Catholic Church in the 19th century, one of the provisions was that the dioceses not take the name of Anglican dioceses.) On Monday we had Franciscan Vespers. The Poor Clare Sisters from Arundel came to sing the psalms. This is the first time in their history that they have had an outing outside of their convent together. They did a wonderful job. I was asked to preach. You never know how your style will be accepted in another country, but it went well. Then, on Tuesday, we had his funeral. It was high church, but not pompous. Very dignified! I was quite impressed. I think the days served the friars well for the diocesan clergy were very impressed, and a number of candidates for the order were present and moved by the ceremony.

Wednesday, I flew back to Ellicott City with Fr. James McCurry, the provincial of St. Anthony Province. We then flew out to Louisville on Thursday to be there for a funeral in Columbus, Indiana on Friday of the father of one of our provincials, fr. James Kent. Again, the turn out of the friars was wonderful. There is something about when friars gather together for one of our funerals or one of those of our loved ones that is moving. Friday evening we flew back to Baltimore.

Tonight, I fly back to Rome. I will be there for about ten days while we have a series of meetings.

I finished a few books. The first is Disintegration by Scott Nicholson. This was a very disturbing book in the sense of Alfred Hitchcock. For most of the book one is wondering whether the main character really has a twin or whether he is dissociative. The truth turns out to be much worse. This book is like passing a car wreck, one does not want to, but one feels oneself drawn to look at it.

On a whole different note is The Story of a Soul by St. Therese, her autobiography. I love to read about her spirituality of serving God in the little things, of being patient with those who most bother us, etc. It calls me back to what I know I should be more and more.

The third book was L'Assemoir by Emile Zola. Again, this is a disturbing story but in a whole different way from Disintegration. It is the story of a country woman who comes to Paris with her lover. He abuses and leaves her. She miraculously pulls her life together and marries a roofer. He falls off the roof, is badly hurt, and slowly disintegrates to a life of inaction and drinking. She, too, slowly turns to the wrong path and dies a pathetic death in the novel in which she finds herself. Zola was especially bothered by the plight of the working poor of France and how they often destroyed themselves with their life styles (including drink).

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chicago - Milwaukee - London

December 4, 2011

Peace and Good,

I was in Chicago and Milwaukee this past week doing an evaluation of the formation program of our Mid-western Chicago province. Every once in a while the administration of the provinces takes a look at what they are doing to form the young friars in our way of life. At those times, it is good to tap an outsider to help in the evaluation so that one gets an objective perspective.

During the trip, I visited out Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee. It is an incredible church, well worth a visit if you are ever in that city. They have just finished a project to change the lighting of the Basilica (energy saving lighting that is much brighter than before). The whole place sparkles and shines. When you enter, you can see why the local symphony uses the basilica for some of its presentations.

Firday evening I flew to London for the funeral of our Bishop John Jukes. I will be preaching at the Vespers (Evening Prayer) service on Monday. The funeral is Tuesday, and then I will be flying back to the States for the funeral of the father of one of our provincials. My jet lag doesn't know which way to adjust anymore. Yet, it is important to be present for these events, if only to show our support to our brother friars.

I finished some books this week. The first is the Messenger by Daniel Silva. This is the second time that I have read this particular book. It was good enough that it was worth the effort. It involves the Mossad and a plot to kill the pope. There is a good mix of fighting terrorism and infiltrating an organization that funds the terrorists. It is good suspense, and I enjoyed it.

I also finished Yiddish Tales by Helena Frank (the translator). These are a series of tales written in Yiddish in Eastern Europe and the US. I downloaded them from They have a playful spirit even while they cause one to laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. They speak of the poverty of the Jews of Eastern Europe, of their persecution, of their struggle to be faithful to the faith in a changing world, etc.

A third book was Flutter by Amanda Hocking. She is an author who has become famous through the fact that she self-published her own e books. It is only recently that she has obtained a contract to publish printed books. This is the story of a family of vampires and their struggles, especially against a wild band of vampires from the far north of Scandanavia who have a grudge against them.

Have a good week.
fr. Jude

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Manila - Chicago

November 26, 2011

Peace and Good,

I finished up my visit in the Philippines. I wasn't feeling all that well at the beginning of the week (a travel stomach thing), but I always carry the right medicine with me and I recovered quite quickly. I finished a series of talks to the candidates at a place called Novaliches. This is a complex run by the friars on the north of Manila including their residence, a church, a retreat house and a clinic for the poor. The deacon there, fr. John, was a civil engineer by trade, and he has done wonders in sprucing the place up.

In these two weeks, I managed to give 28 hours of presentations on Sacred Scripture. It was well worth while, and I think the friars appreciated the fact that someone had come from a distance to offer them assistance.

I flew out of Manila on Friday morning. The first flight was to Tokyo. This was my first time in Japan. It was a four hour flight, and a five hour lay over. Then an eleven hour flight to Chicago.

I always suffer from jet lag, and this is a ten hour difference in time zones. I arrived on Friday evening, and I am writing this on Sunday noon and am still under its effects.

Because I passed the international date line, I actually lost a day in flight. It still freaks me out that I technically arrived in Chicago before I left Tokyo.

I finished a few books this week. The first book was Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag. I had seen her name often, but this is the first time I have read one of her books. It is about a judge who takes into account the need to exclude prior bad acts in a trial about a current matter when those acts have nothing to do with the case. There is outrage at her decision, and she is shortly after assaulted and later kidnapped. There is a lot of action, and the writing is good. I would recommend it to others if you like this type of mystery.

A second book is Winter in Tirane by Jiri Kaajane. Tirane is the capitol of Albania, and it describes the lot of a man caught up in the period right after the revolution that removed a Stalinist regime from power and before things began to settle down. Everyone is either trying to continue the past or launch themselves into a future which is totally unknown to them (for they were very restricted in what information they could receive from overseas during the communist times). A lot of the hair brained plans remind me of Romania when I would visit it shortly after the communists fell. Everyone is selling something, whether it be influence or flour stolen from the job or know how.

A third book was Icebound by Dean Koontz. The previous books I read by Koontz were more horror stories. This one is more of an adventure mixed with hunting for an insane murderer story. It was good, but some of the details were a little far fetched.

Have a good week.

fr. Jude

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tagaytay - Manila

November 21, 2011

Peace and Good,

Hope I can get this posting in before the internet is lost again. It has been a bit touchy this morning.

I finished my conferences in Tagaytay, our interprovince novitiate. It was great speaking to novices from the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. They have such rich experiences.

I came down here to Manila on Wednesday and have been giving conferences to our post-novitiate students (12) and sisters from the area (probably 60) plus secular Franciscans (5). Again, it is wonderful to share things with people who are excited to learn.

I came across a curiosity. The Philippines does not have a standard time zone. Some areas are five minutes before or after. This was the case in the US until they had to start printing train schedules and it got too confusing. They told me that they are working on it here too.

It is hotter here in Manila. I can take it for a while, but I don't think I could ever be a long term missionary in a tropical climate. It takes a toll on me.

I will be speaking with the candidates this week, and then a day of tourism if all goes well. I would like to see Corregador if that works out (where our troops were holed up when the Japanese invaded after Pearl Harbor). Douglas MacArthur had to be rescued from there on a PT boat at night so that he wouldn't be capture. He is still a huge hero here.

I finished a few books this week. The first is Without any Warning by Peggy Edelheit. It wasn't too bad. A lady author renting a beach house is deluged by a group of older ladies from her home town and a long lost friend, all of whom was a free stay at the house. They get involved in a murder mystery along the way.

The second is Augustus by Pat Southern. This is a more academic biography of Augustus Caesar. It is interesting how he turns out in the end. He is at times manipulative and ruthless, but he was probably the best of many bad choices.

The third was another murder mystery: Murder by Proxy. It was by Suzane Yound, and again it wasn't bad, but nothing I would rave over.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving. I'll be heading to Chicago on Friday. Because of the International Date Line, I lost a day, so I will be arriving before I left.

fr. Jude

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rome - Manila -Tagaytay

November 13, 2011

Peace and Good,

I hope you are well. I am writing you from our novitiate in the Philippines. This is the first time that I have been east of the Holy Land.

This past Monday I flew from Rome to Manila via Dubai. I left Rome at 8:30 PM local time, and arrived in Manila around 10 PM local time the next day. I dreaded this very long trip, but it turned out to be less difficult than I expected. The friars met me at the airport in Manila and I stayed at our parish that evening. The weather is hot and humid, but this is not the hottest it gets. Our parish is right across the street from a grammar school with 4,000 students, so from 5 AM there was a constant background of children's voices.

Later that morning the friars drove me out to Tagaytay. It is about an hour outside of Manila and in the hills, so it is quite a bit cooler. This is where we have our novitiate. The town actually has quite a few houses for religious communities. It is a beautiful area, on the side of an active volcano (which has not exploded now for 120 years.

We have five Philippino novices, three from Vietnam and two from Sri Lanka. They use English as the common language, although it really isn't the mother tongue of any of the friars here. I am presenting a workshop of the Gospels and the Psalms to them. It will be here a week and then in Manila a week.

Being the Assistant General, I realize that I represent the larger order to the friars, and it is good for them to see and hear me to remind them that we are much larger than their local reality. Also, being so far off the beaten path for the friars in this part of the world, my presence basically says that we care about them and want what is best for them.

I finished a few books. The first is a book called A Mind at Peace by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar. It is a book that had been recommended by a Turkish authors that I read, Orhan Pamuk. The book presents Istanbul as a city which is caught between the east and the west, and which suffers from an identity crisis and a malaise as a result.

The second book is the Great Boer War by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He is the author of the Sherlock Holmes books. This was a history of the war between the British and the Boers (the Dutch settles in South Africa) around the year 1900. Unfortunately, he has the tendency of British authors of his era to name every regiment, every officer killed, etc.

The third book was called Virgin Soil by Ivan Turgenev. It is about a couple of revolutionaries who really don't end up getting much of anything done. They talk a good talk, but they are completely undependable and unrealistic. Their idealistic view of the peasants is sadly crushed when they are rejected and betrayed by them. One of the main characters ends up killing himself rather than go to jail. The book is quite good, and it is viewed as one of Turgenev's best.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Wednesday the friar's

Sunday, November 6, 2011


November 6, 2011

Peace and Good,

It is so rare that I get to write only one city under the title. I have been home at Santi Apostoli all week for our definitory meeting.

The first few days of the week I hosted one of the friars from my province. I still don't know Rome well enough, but it is great to walk someone through that which I can share. Then, beginning Wednesday, we held our definitory. We have one new Assisitant General, fr. Benedict Baek from Korea. He takes the place of fr. Vincent Long who was made a bishop. There is so much for fr. Benedict to learn. I know what he is going through because I was there only a year ago.

The meeting went well. The Minister General uses a true system of collegiality. It takes longer to discuss things, but it works out much better in the long run because all of us can embrace the final decision.

We finished yesterday, and I am using today to catch up on daily reflections, etc. before I head out on my next journey: Manila, Chicago, Hartford, New York, Baltimore and Rome. I leave tomorrow evening for that round the world trip.

I finished a few books. The first is the Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This is the second book that they wrote which I have read. The hero is a detective named Pendergast who comes from New Orleans. The villian in this book is his brother Diogenes. The writing is good and the story is exciting. I would recommend any of their books.

I read some more short stories by Joshua Scribner. One of them was quite strange about a series of women who are involved in some sort of quest and each of the women except one dies in the course of the story. It turns out to be a phychological parable of a woman shedding the various personalities she has acquired in his dissociative state. The title of this story is Tortured Spirit. The other stories are called Three Mindful Experiements (all dealing in some way with electricity and emotions).

I also read Mudfog and other Sketches by Charles Dickens. These stories have an almost Mark Twain spirit to them. They are clever.

Have a good week.

fr. Jude

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Atlanta - London - Canterbury - Hantly - Dundee - London - Rome

October 29, 2011

Peace and Good,

After the episcopal ordination of my confrere fr. Gregory Hartmeyer, I travelled back to Atlanta to fly back the next evening to London.

Our friary is right near Waterloo train station, so it is very easy to get there from the airport. Simply an express train to Paddington and then the underground to Waterloo. I have been there a number of times, so I have a favorite Chinese restaurant and a favorite half price book store.

The next day I took the train out to Canterbury where I gave a two day workshop/weekend of recollection to our friars in formation and a group of Montrebre Sisters also in formation. The theme was the books of Wisdom: Wisdom, Sirach, Psalms, Proverbs, Quoheleth, Job and the Song of Songs. We have three men in simple vows, two in novitiate there (and another two in the States) and one candidate.

Sunday I took the train back to London and took a flight up to Aberdeen the next morning. A friar picked me up and drove me up to the home of Bishop John Jukes. Bishop John is the retired regional bishop of Kent in the diocese of Southwark. He is a wise gentleman, and I had a number of good talks with him. Scotland is so far north that the days are already very short. I can't think of what it is like in the winter with only a few hours of sun.

On Wednesday I took the train down to Dundee. I was supposed to baptize someone there, but it didn't work out. Nevertheless, I got to visit some friends. Then I took the flight down to London from Edinburgh the next day, and then back to Rome yesterday.

There were a lot of moves in these two weeks, and I got to visit a good number of people.

I finished a few books. There is the Empire of Liberty: A history of the early Republic by Gordan Wood. It is part of an Oxford Unmiversity Press series on American History. The book was well written and a must for those who enjoy reading American History.

I finished Wolf the Saxon: A Story of the Norman Conquest by GA Henty. Henty wrote a whole series of books for young Englishmen around the turn of the century. This one deals with the Norman conquest from the point of view of a young Englishman. With his books, you never have to wonder who is the hero and who is the villian. But the books are a good read.

I also finished Gobseck the Usurer by Honore de Balzac. It is the story of a money lender in Paris during the 18th century who hoards his riches so much that much of it is ruined by the time he dies.

I hope you have a good week. I will be in Rome for our monthly meeting, then it is off to Manila.

fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rome - Atlanta - Savannah

Peace and Good,

October 19, 2011

This past week I have been with some of my relatives who were visiting Rome. I have not had too much of an opportunity to see the city, so this week was great. I got to learn the connection between some of the streets that I had wanted to visit. One of my favorite surprises is the Church of St. Louis. It is the French national church in Rome, and it has two Caravaggio paintings in one of thee side chapels. I have always loved the art of Caravaggio. He was famous for his use of shadow and light. But for as good an artist as he was, he lived a horrible life style, including being accused of murder (which he did, in fact, commit).

There were demonstrations all week in Rome similar to the Wall Street demonstrations. Unfortunately, on Saturday, they became violent. By then, my brother and his family had moved on to Naples. In Rome, as long as you know there are difficulties, you simply remain indoors and you are safe. Yet, the whole financial thing is becoming very, very messy.

On Sunday I flew out to Atlanta to attend the episcopal ordination of one of our friars, fr. Gregory John Hartmeyer, as the new bishop of Savannah. I got stuck in London because of fog, and missed connections in Atlanta to get to Savannah. I ended up bumming a ride with some parishioners from one of our parishes in the Atlanta area. They were wonderfully hospitable, but I did feel a little as if I were in the home alone film when the mother rides home in the back of a truck with a polka band.

The ordination was incredibly beautiful. This is the first episcopal ordination I have ever attended. (Remember, there are three levels of ordination: to the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy.) The pastoral team of Savannah had planned it so well and the music was tremendously moving, including a special composition which featured the motto of the new bishop: Pax et Bonum (which means Peace and Good).

I finished a few books.

The first was Spies in the Balkans. It is about a police detective in Salonika, Greece, just before the Nazi invasion in World War II. He sets up a network of police officers throughout Eastern Europe to save threatened Jewish refugees. It is by Alan Furst. He is a very, very good author, and he sets the scene perfectly. I was very impressed by his style and will read books by him in the future.

There was a series of short stories by James Scribner such as the Broken Rule, the Pause Ghost, Under the Bed and Replaced. He, too, is very good. There are low key horror stories, but often with a twist. For example, Under the bed is about the monster under the bed who frightens a little girl. The only thing is that the monster is real, and when the father is tied up by a maniac who threatens to harm his daughter and wife, it is the monster who sets him free.

Then there was Flight Fall by Andy Straka. It is a detective story about the killing of a hunting Peregrin Falcon. It is much better than it sounds, and has a lot of twists and turns.

Hope you have a good week.
fr. Jude

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rome - La Verna - Rome

October 11, 2011

Peace and Good,

The weather in Rome is beautiful. It has been cool the last couple of days, but today promises to be a warm fall day.

This past week I spent several days with the rest of the General Definitory at La Verna in north central Italy. This is the mountain upon which St. Francis received the stigmata, the wounds that Jesus bore. He is the first documented case of the stigmata in the history of the Church. (When St. Paul says he bore the wounds of Christ, we believe he is referring to the scars from the beatings that he has received.) St. Francis has gone up to mountain to pray for the 40 days before the feast of St. Michael. (He always had a special devotion to the angels.) During his prayer, he saw a Seraph angel upon a cross descend and, when the vision was over, he had the wounds of Christ.

Like any authentic mystic, he was more embarassed by this phenomenon than proud. Most of the friars did not even know about it until two years later when he died. Francis had always tried to follow the example of Christ, and Christ let him follow that example to his very death.

Our retreat was preached by Fr. Giacomo Bini, an ex general of the OFM friars (the ones who wear brown habits). He is always excellent and challenging. We were there together with the other general definitories of the OFM's, the Capuchins, and the TOR's (Third Order Regular). It was good to talk about our common difficulties and joys. Sometimes you get so caught up in your own problems that you fail to realize that everyone else is going through the exact same thing.

I am back in Rome for the week. My brother and his family and some cousins are visiting, starting later today.

I finished a few books.

There is Code to Zero by Ken Follett. It is the story of Russian spies who try to destroy the first American rocket to fly into space. It is a spy/mystery sort of book, including a case of amnesia. It is actually quite a good read.

The second was a series of lectures from the teaching company (36) on the Era of the Crusader by Kenneth Harl. The Crusades is such a messy and confusing era. This series clearly outlines the historic and social factors in play which led to the launcing and the ultimate failure of the crusades.

Finally, there is The Cat who dropped a bombshell by Lilian Jackson Braun. This is a murder mystery in the style of Garrison Keeler along with two siamese cats, one of which is instrumental in solving the mystery. It is a cute short account, worth a read.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vienna - Croatia - Rome

October 3, 2011

Peace and Good,

This past week has been a week of meetings and celebrations in Slovenia and Croatia. On last Sunday we drove down from Vienna and stopped for lunch in Ptuj, Slovenia. We had asked the friars there if we might stop for some lunch on our way down to Croatia. We were very surprised when almost all of the friars in the province showed up to greet us. It was a wonderful sign of our fraternity.

That evening we arrived at our friary on the island of Cherso. This is not all that large an island. It is rocky and dry, but there is a natural beauty to it. We have a large friary there where there is a formation house for the candidates to the order are trained. Even though this is a small island, four of our ministers general over history were born there.

We had a week of meetings. This was our first definitory (counsel) meeting since the summer began (even if we had a few hours of meetings here and there). We had a lot of material to cover. We did have an afternoon off to enjoy the sea (the Adriatic). Then, Friday afternoon, we had a celebration for the feast of St. Jerome, the patron saint of the province of Croatia.

Then, on Saturday, we drove back to Rome.

I have finished a few books.

The first was a short book called Stickteen by John Muir. This is a beautiful story of the explorer of glaciers and mountains out west and a dog who travelled with him one winter.

The second was a book by Agatha Christie called The Murder at the Vicarage. I had never read any of her books, and now I see why so many people enjoy her murder mysteries. The hero of the story is a Miss Marple, a nosey but wise older lady who is able to put the pieces of the story together and find a solution that others can't see.

The third book was Through Russian Snow by G.K. Henty. This is another of Henty's books about Englishmen and their adventures. In this one, two brothers at the time of Napoleon miraculously become heroes and meet in Russia during Napoleon's invasion and defeat (although they are fighting on opposite sides).

Have a good week. Tomorrow is the feast of St. Francis, so please say a prayer for us friars, sisters and lay Franciscans.

fr. Jude

Friday, September 23, 2011

Castro Valley - Ellicott City - Brooklyn - Clifton, NJ - Vienna

September 24, 2011

Peace and Good,

Our semi-annual meeting of the provincials of the North American, British and Irish Conference went quite well. We discussed a number of topics that deal with the life of the order (e.g. what we did in Kenya at the Congress of Nairobi talking about solidarity of resources in the order and our multiculturality), the future (the coming General Chapter in 2013), and our own projects (e.g. how we can encourage the friars to continue in their scholarship.

Saturday we celebrated the solemn profession of two of our friars in Baltimore. fr. Nader is studying for the priesthood in San Antonio and fr. Nick is teaching at our high school in Athol Springs, NY.

Sunday, I was in Brooklyn for a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the martyrdom of two of our friars in Peru. They were from Poland, and their "crime" was that they were feeding the poor. The communist rebels of the time, the Sendero Luminoso, killed them and another diocescan priest from the States. They are all up for beatification.

On Monday, I visited my publisher, Catholic Book. With my travel schedule, it is tough to keep up with my daily reflections and other projects, but I hope to be able to do some smaller projects for them over the next couple of months.

Tuesday evening I flew out to Vienna, Austria. We have a meeting here today with the General Delegates of Austria, Switzerland and Belgium. It is a beautiful city. It reminds me of a city that was built as a capitol of an empire (the Austro-Hungarian Empire), but which has lost its empire. Austria is a country of only about 7 million people, and the capitol of Vienna is almost too grandiose for such a small country.

I finished a few books. One was Retribution by Max Hastings. It was a book on the Pacific war during the Second World War. Hastings is a good writer, and the book offered great insights into what actually happened, especially the tension among the US military leaders (the army vs. the navy).

A second book was Botchan by Soseke Natsume. It is the story of a school teacher in a small Japanese village and the pety politics among the faculty of the school. There are no real heroes in the story, and the style is very different from many of the short stories written by Japanese authors of the era.

The third book was Vendetta by Honore de Balzac. It is a Romeo and Juliet story set in the period right after the fall of Napoleon in France. A Corsican family who made out well during the reign of Napoleon is torn apart when the daughter falls in love with the son of their sworn enemy.

Hope you have a good week.
fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mishawaka - Mount St. Francis (Louisville) - Chicago - Castro Valley (Oakland)

September 14, 2011

Peace and Good,

Sorry that I have not written in a bit. I have been on the road and it has been difficult to obtain an internet connection at times.

The last time I wrote I was in Mishawaka (South Bend, IN)giving a workshop on the Gospels and the Psalms to our novices. There are seven of them from our US provinces and England. The week went well. Friars love Sacred Scripture, and it always helps to ask why things were written the way they were and what the meaning of them is for us today.

I drove with another friar down to Mount St. Francis, Indiana. On Labor Day we had a couple of meetings. One of them was to decide to build another friary for the friars working at our retreat house in New Mexico. The way things are set up in the order, there are various limits to how much can be spent by each level of government. Building a friary required the permission of the provincial chapter, a gathering of over 30 friars.

The day after Labor Day I flew to Chicago to spend the week with out friars who live close to Loyola University on the north side of the city. I have to admit that I was very tired from all the travel I have been doing this summer, so this stay was more of a rest than anything else. I visited the Art Institute a couple of times, especially spending time in the Impressionists section and the room dedicated to El Greco. It was a good, relaxing week and I feel ready to start the journeys again.

This week I am meeting with the provincials of all the US and Canada jurisdictions at our friary in Castro Valley. We meet every six months to discuss joint projects that we are committing ourselves to. This is a wonderful group of men who are really dedicated to the good of the friars. They are the ones who chose me for my responsibility as Assistant General (one year ago next week) and I feel humbled that they trust me so much, which is evident in our group and one on one meetings.

Over this week I also finished editing the next edition of the Lectors' Wookbook, a book that outlines and explains the readings for Sunday throughout the Church Year. This one that I edited is not for this coming year but rather for the year after that.

I finished reading a few books. The first was a biography of Cleopatra by Jacob Abbott. He is the author who wrote a series of short biographies on historic figures for students in England around the turn of the 19th century. It was good, but one day I would like to read the new biography on her that has recently been published.

I finished a mystery called the Incumbant by Alton Gansky, a novel based on the idea of a political prank gone wrong. It was not a bad read.

I finished a collection of short stories by Nathanael Hawthorne called the Great Stone Face. The title is based on the prediction that a great man would be born who resembled a face in the side of one of the White Mountains in northern New England. The great man turns out to be a humble, wise man who by his simplicity bring joy and wisdom to others. The other short stories were entertaining as well.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Madrid - Ellicott City - Mishawaka

August 30, 2011

Peace and Good,

Last Sunday was the last day of World Youth Day in Madrid. I flew out the next morning, and considering that there were hundreds of thousands of young people flying out, the airport wasn't really as chaotic as I would have thought.

I flew right into Ellicott City (Baltimore) where I spent the next few days catching up on doctor's appointments and other little projects. I always set aside mindless projects for the days after I travel when the jet lag keeps me from being able to think all that well.

I was on the east coast during the earthquake. I have been in earthquakes in a number of countries, and right away realized that this was at least a moderate one. I wasn't all that surprised when it measured 5.8.

I also just got out of Baltimore before the hurricane closed the airport. It was a bit bumpy on the way up, but once we got past the storm, things were radically different.

I am in Mishawaka (South Bend, Indiana) this week to give a workshop to the novices on the gospels and the psalms. There are seven of them from England, Nigeria, and the US. St. Francis told us that the style of life that we were to live was to live the Gospels, so it is good to know them well. Likewise, we pray the psalms several times a day when we pray our Divine Office, so it good to know that the symbolism means for they were written over 2,000 years ago in a primitive language (Biblical Hebrew).

I finished a few works. The first was a set of CD's called Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. It is about two sisters who start out in Shanghai just before World War II and who emigrate to the States where they face innumerable difficulties because of their being Chinese. The book is good both for knowing another culture and realizing how prejudiced we as a nation were against east Asians.

A second work was Callista: A Tale of the 3rd Century by John Henry Newman (Blessed Cardinal John Newman). He writes about a martyr for the faith in North Africa. His style of writing in ponderous, with long, meaningful speeches. Sometimes, it is better to imply things without having to say it out loud over and over again.

The third work was the Death of Ivan Ilich by Leo Tolstoy. This was a masterpiece of literature in which he recounts the thoughts of a man who is dying and the reactions of his friends and family. They cannot really understand, they blame him for his illness, etc. He feels all alone and confused and angry. He slowly longs for the death that will set him free from his terrible suffering. It is truly worth reading.

Hope you have a good week and a great Labor Day Weekend.

fr. Jude

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cracow - Ostrowiec - Warsaw - Madrid

August 22, 2011

The Queenship of Mary

Peace and Good,

Hope you are all well as the summer quickly draws to an end. This has been a busy couple of weeks for me.

Last Saturday, nine days ago, I was in southern Poland for the 70th anniversary of the death of St. Maximillian Kolbe in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. We had a Mass right outside of the building where he died, giving his life for the sake of another prisoner.

The next day, one the friars drove me to see a bit of Cracow. This was my first time in Poland, and the city is famous for its beauty. We have the oldest church in the city. We walked around a bit, and then he drove me to Warsaw for the next part of our visit, via Ostrowiec. Ostrowiec is the home city of my mom´s parents. They left there for the States 97 years ago. It is not a big city, but rather a big town. Some day I will go back to visit a bit and see if here are any records in the Churches of my grandparent's baptism.

In Warsaw, we went to Niepicolanow, the community that St. Maximillian founded. There are still 150 friars there. We celebrated the Assumption in the Church there with thousands of people. The cardinal/archbishop of Warsaw was the main celebrant.

The next morning we all flew out to Madrid for World Youth Day. It is actually closer to say World Youth Week. We stayed at the high school run by our friars in Madrid. They were incredible hosts. Some of the events saw over a million young people gathered for Mass and adoration. The only problem was that it was hot, hot, hot. About 100 degrees each day.

I read a lot in the papers about the protests against the pope's visit, but I have to say I saw only two cardboard signs in windows thoughout the whole visit. This is a time of the year that there are very few tourists in town because of the heat, but the streets were packed all day long and even most of the night. (They eat supper late here, at the friary at 9 PM.)

Here at the high school we had sudents from Spain, Italy, the States, Poland, Croatia, Russia, etc.

I finished a few books this week. The first is a book called the Gospel of Matthew, part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. The book was by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. It was a great commentary with some insights that I had never seen before. I would recommend it and probably the other books in that series.

The second was a short story called Strong as Death. It was written by Guy de Maupassant and dealt with a man who fell in love with a married woman and then her daughter in Paris during the 19th century.

Finally, there was a free book from Kindle (my e reader) called the Potluck Club by Linda Evans Shepherd and Ev Marie Everson. It was a Christian mystery book. The Christian part is always present but really not pushy. The mystery part is good. It deals with a group of ladies from a Church who gather once a month for a pot luck supper and prayer (along with a good dose of gossip). The characters are believable and engaging. It was well worth reading.

Hope you have a good week. It's back to the States for me today.

fr. Jude

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ellicott City - Rome - Harmesh

August 13, 2011

Peace and Good,

I am writing this blog from southern Poland. The entire General Definitory is here for the 70th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Maximillian Kolbe. We arrived here yesterday, and today we went to Auschwitz for a tour of the camp where our brother franciscan died in the starvation bunker. Remember, Kolbe was already famous for his work in promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He had begun a magazine that had over a million copies a month. He had a daily newspaper with 300,000 copies a month. He had a radio station. He began a mission in Japan (Nagasaki). He was arrested by the Nazi's because he was a leader of culture in Poland.

One day a prisoner escaped and the rule was ten prisoners had to die in the starvation bunker when that happened. He was not chosen, but one man who was chosen cried out that he would never see his wife or children again. St. Maximillian broke ranks and offered himself in place of that man. He survived in the bunker (although he was very ill most of his life) and killed on the vigil of the Assumption. Tomorrow we will be walking from the friary to the camp to celebrate Mass where he died.

St. Maximillian is the patron saint of intervenous drug addicts (for he was eventually killed with an injection of carbolic acid).

From Poland, we will be going to Spain for World Youth Day.

I finished a couple of books. One was a book called Hallowland by Amanda Hocking. She is interesting. She could never get published, so she published her own books on Kindle e books and she is now a millionaire. The story is a standard Zombie story, but not all that bad.

A second book was the Other Bolyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. This is the story of Ann Bolyn's sister, who also had an affair with King Henry VIII. It is written as a bit of a scandal sheet, but nevertheless was still good.

Have a good week.

fr. Jude

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ellicott City - Halifax - Ellicott City

August 7, 2011

This past week I was visiting a new Franciscan foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They were founded by a former friar, and for the past few years they have had a loose connection with the Conventual Franciscans. Yet, in Rome, we didn't know much about them. I went and offered to give a retreat on the Gospel of John.

There are three groups: brothers (some of whom are priests or studying for the priesthood), active sisters and contemplative sisters. I didn't know what to expect, because some of the new Franciscan movements can be a bit extreme. They were balanced and filled with joy and charity. They are doing everything right as they start off their communities, and I really think God will bless them abundantly.
They are growing nicely, but they are cautious not to grow too quickly lest they loose track of what they are all about.

The weather in Halifax was a bit challenging (it has been a bad summer and quite cool), but the countryside was spectacular (

I finished a number of books with all of the travel I have been doing. The Jensen Directive and the Prometheus Deception, both by Robert Ludlum. Both of these a typical Ludlum novels in which you don't really know who is on which side until near the end. The are turns and twists all the way through. The Jensen Directive is about an agent who has become a private contractor. He attempts to save a world figure who seems to be promoting peace. The man is killed and Jensen is blamed. The Prometheus Deception involves a plot created by a secret organization which claims to be working for the government but which is actually opposing it.

I also read Travels in Alaska by John Muir. You might remember that I read another Muir book. He helped found our national parks. His descriptions of the glaciers and rivers and wild life show what a mystical experience nature was to him.

Finally, I listened to Our of Egypt: Christ the Lord by Anne Rice. I was very hesitant to listen to it, because in the past I had read a number of her vampire novels and I didn't know how she would handle the story of Christ. I was pleasantly surprised. She did very good research, and while I might not agree with everything she wrote, I have to admit that she wrote it in a very appealing way. It is a good meditation on the time from when Jesus came back from exile in Egypt until he was lost in the temple. It is well worth a read.

I hope you have a good week.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nairobi - Rome - Ellicott City

July 28, 2011

Peace and Good,

Well, I finished off the second week of meetings in Nairobi. If you remember, the first week waa a congress with about 60 friars from all over the world speaking about interculturality and solidarity. The second week was a series of meetings at different levels.

The first meeting which went from Monday to Wednesday was with the presidents of the various conferences. The order is divided up into seven geographic divisions. Each area or conference has a president who serves as a representative to the central government and a coordinator in his own area in collaboration with the assistant general of that area. We met to discuss plans for the next few years, especially getting ready for our next general chapter which will take place in January of 2013.

The second meeting was with all of the major superiors of the conference that is situated in Africa. We are present in seven countries right now: Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burkino Faso and Malawi. A big challenge right now it to provide for the education of the students. The vocations are coming in so fast now that we can barely keep up with additions to the houses of study. It is exciting to see the Church growing and vibrant.

The third meeting was with the general definitory. We had to take care of urgent business because the next time we will be meeting is September.

The friars of Kenya took us out to dinner to a restaurant called the Carnevoir. Need I say what they served. There were the usuals: pork, chicken, beef and turkey. We also had camel, ostrich and crocadile. I liked everything but the crocadile which tasted very, very fishy.

Our flight back from Nairobi was interesting. About ten minutes after take off we must have hit an air pocket because the plane jolted and there was a booming noise. Everybody in the plane sat up very straight and alert for the next ten minutes or so.

I just stayed in Rome for a day, and then I flew back to the States. Saturday I will fly up to Halifax to give a retreat to a new religious community of Franciscans. I have been getting many, many requests to give retreats lately. Next year I will be flying all over the world to do this, and it fits in very well with my job description of helping in the initial and continuing formation of the friars. I think that will be my gift to the order. I am not all that great at writing documents, but I have a gift for preaching.

I finished a number of books.

A first was the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This is one of those books that one always hears about, but until now, I had never read it. There was a controversy about a new edition in which, instead of using the "n" work for African-Americans, they softened the text. It really is jarring to listen to it and hear a very, very frequent use of that word. I am not sure I really liked it, but it was good to have listened to it.

A second work was Louisa of Prussia and her times by Louisa Muhlbach. This is a typical historical romance from the 19th century. It is a little overblown in terms of rhetoric, although the author goes out of her way to quote from the letters of the characters involved. Louisa was a key figure in the Prussian resistance to Napoleon. I was a bit disappointed because I thought it would be a biography of her. She is said to have been an incredibly heroic woman. It was more an overview of the era, but worth reading nevertheless.

A third work was a long series of lectures from the Teaching Company on Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World by Glenn Holland. There were 72 lectures, and he goes through the religions of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Rome and Christianity. There were some very good insights, although the style of the professor was not all that engaging.

Hope you have a good week. By the way, this past week I had my 30th anniversary of the priesthood.

God bless and
fr. Jude

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rome - Nairobi

July 18, 2011

Peace and Good,

As you can see in the title, I am now in Kenya. I was supposed to travel here on Saturday morning, but at the last minute the flight was rescheduled to the evening. With flights to Africa, you always have to watch out because this often happens.

I am going to be here for two weeks. The first week we had a congress to speak about the fact that our order is changing rapidly. We are about the same size we were at the Second Vatican Council, but now many more vocations are coming from the southern hemisphere (Latin America, Africa and Asia). We talked about interculturality. How different cultures can learn to live with each other and respect their gifts. We also talked about the sharing of finances. The jurisdictions that are older tend to have more finances but fewer vocations, while those that are young have many vocations but little money to finance their education. As friars, we always have to remember that what we have was given to us by God, and if we have in excess, it is to be shared with those who don’t have enough.

I was asked to give a homily each morning to explain the readings and apply them to the themes of each day. This was in Italian and English. Each was only a few minutes long, but preaching in front of one’s confreres is challenging. The response, though, was very affirming.

We ended up with a nice document that is very practical (which isn’t always the case with international meetings). We had about 57 friars from 25 countries. What an incredible mix of ideas. The official languages of the congress were Italian and English. Because I know both, I found myself going back and forth to help with translations and by the end of the week I was not quite sure what language I was using at any particular time.

We spent one afternoon visiting two animal centers. One was a giraffe center. They are incredibly beautiful animals. Then we visited a conservancy center where animal orphans are displayed to help the various conservation projects in the land.

We finished the congress with a Mass at one of our local parishes with the cardinal of Nairobi. It was a truly intercultural experience. Mass lasted a little over three hours. Part of it was that there were 25 young people being confirmed, but also the cardinal more or less preached seven different homilies during the course of the Mass. He was an incredibly engaging speaker, though, and he had the people in the palm of his hand. We were very impressed.

This morning we moved from the retreat center where we held the congress to our seminary which was just down the road. We have another series of meetings this week to program activities for the next few years.

I finished a couple of books. The first is EM Forster's book A Room with a View. It was an excellent story of different understandings of the meaning of life and how they collide. One of my favorite sayings in it is "Life is like playing a violen in front of an audience and learning how to play it as one goes along." People make choices, mistakes, and yet they seem to muddle on.

A second book was A Sicilian Romance. This was by Ann Radcliffe. She was a novelist from the 18th century, and this was the beginning of actual novel writing in English literature. The chacterizations were not all that good, and the novel was packed with very improbably coincidences, but it was worth reading to see what was written in the generation before Charles Dickens.

fr. Jude

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ellicott City - Rome - Nairobi

July 10, 2011

Peace and Good,

I returned to Rome on Wednesday, arriving on Thursday. That gave me a day to rest before I set out on the next trip. Saturday, I and a number of the friars flew to Nairobi, Kenya, for an international congress on interculturality and solidarity.

My order is about the same size as it was 30 years ago. What has changed is where you find the friars. Whereas the majority of the friars used to be in the northern hemisphere (Europe and North America), now, by far, the most of the vocations are coming from the southern hemisphere (South America, Africa and Asia). What does mean for how we live our Franciscan life?

Furthermore, the friars of the northern hemisphere have quite a bit of resources that have accumulated over the centuries, but they have very few vocations. The friars of the southern hemisphere have many, many vocations, but not enough money to feed and train them. How can we share the resources.

We will be here a week for the congress. Next week we have another series of meetings: with the presidents of the conferences (the groupings of provinces arranged geographically), the friars serving in Africa, and then our own general definitory.

I finished a few books. The first was a long podcast on the Religious Roots of America: The Politics of Faith in America by Ray Suarez. It points out that far from being greatly religious men, most of the founding fathers, and especially Jefferson, were at best deists (believing that there was a God who had little to do with out everyday lives).

The second book was a biography of King Richard III by Jacob Abbott. Shakespeare portrays this king as some kind of monster. He was not the nicest man, probably having killed his two young nephews in the Tower of London so that he could become king. But this presentation is more balanced, showing that, given the rough politics of the day, he wasn't the worst person who ever lived.

Finally, there was A Life of General Robert E Lee by John Esten Cooke. Unfortunately, this biography was written by a southener shortly after the civil war, so Lee is presented as a secular saint. Cooke loves General McClellan, a disaster of a general, but one whom the southerners liked because he wasn't concerning with the freedom of the slaves and didn't want to fight the south. At the very least, it's good once in a while to read an unbalanced biography to see how it should not be done.

Hope you have a good week.
Fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ellicott City - Cincinnati - Buffalo - Pittsburgh - Ellicott City

July 5, 2011

Peace and Good,

I hope you all had a good 4th of July weekend.

This past week I was in Cincinnati, at Xavier University, for our Chapter of Mats. This title comes from a meeting of the friars in 1221 when Francis asked all of the friars to gather in Assisi for a chapter. There were between 3,000 of them and 5,000. In fact, there were so many that there was no room in the homes and the friars had to sleep outdoors upon mats (hence, the chapter of mats).

This gathering was of 260 friars from the States, Canada, England, Ireland, and representatives from Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Honduras, Russia, etc. We gathered for a week of talks and discussion on how to be friars in today's world. The gathering was very fraternal, and the weather cooperated enormously (low hunidity, which is a bit of a miracle in southern Ohio in late June). We spoke about trends in the world and the Church over these coming years, and also how we can look back at our tradition in order to find ways to respond to these trends.

On Friday I traveled to Buffalo for the funeral of the oldest friar in my province. Fr. Aurelian was 93 years old. He was a bit of a character, but also a humble, obedient friar. He taught Latin for many decades in the high schools of the province, and he was also novice master for a time.

On Saturday I traveled down to Pittsburgh to baptize my great nephew and great niece. Much of the extended family gathered for the weekend, and it was great seeing all the in-laws.

On Monday I came back to Ellicott City for a series of dentist appointments, and then tomorrow it is off to Rome.

I finished a few books.

The first is the Life of St. Francis by Paul Sabatier. He is a Protestant who loved St. Francis and wrote about him during the 19th century. He has many insights as an outsider, although at times he pushes the image of Francis as rebel a bit too much (given his non-Catholic background). Still, today, his biography is considered to be a classic.

The second was a short work called Creatures that once were Men by Maxim Gorky. I have written about Gorky before. He has an incredible ability to present a whole picture, especially of the poor in Russia around the time of the revolution. He turned out to be a communist stooge in later years, but his earlier writings are incredibly good, including this story which tells of a group of men who live in a poor men's hostle (more of a hovel than a true building).

The third book is the Memoirs of Shirlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Talk about classics. Yet, for all that I have seen in movies about Shirlock Holmes, I had never read the original. He is a bit darker of a figure than one sees in some of the movies. It is well worth reading.

Hope you have a good week. I will be in Kenya for the next couple of weeks, so I don't know how much acccess I will have to the internet, so you might not hear from me for a couple of weeks.

Take care and
fr. Jude

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rome - Baltimore - Louisville - Baltimore

June 24, 2011

The Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist

Peace and Good,

Sorry I'm a bit late this week. It has been hectic again. I was in Rome for a week for our definitory. This is a meeting every six weeks in which we take stock of what is happening in the order. This time of year things tend to quiet down a bit which I don't mind.

The mother of our guardian, Fr. Peter Damian Masengill, passed away, and I was to be the order's representative at the funeral. I was to fly from Rome on Sunday and arrive in Baltimore Sunday evening, and then fly out the Louisville the next evening to be there for the funeral Tuesday morning. Thank goodness I checked my e mail account Saturday afternoon after I had checked in for the flight from Rome, because the flight was cancelled. Of course, my travel agent in Rome was closed, as was the British Air office in Rome. Finally, I figured out to call the US office on Skype. I was on the phone for about an hour, but they were able to get me out on Monday. I was able to change my flight from Baltimore from Monday evening to Tuesday without a penalty (I love Southwest). All worked out well. I flew back to Baltimore Tuesday evening, and have been using the past couple of days to catch up a bit.

I finished a few books these weeks. The first was the Fourth of July be James Patterson and Maxine Petro. Patterson has created an industry of writing books along with other authors. This one was quite good. It was about a mass murderer and a policewoman who solves the mystery while on administrative leave for a shooting. The plot was good, the action believable.

A second book was a biography by Jacob Abbott on Cyrus the Great. He was the Persian emperor who conquered the Babylonians and let the Jewish people return to Israel after having lived in exile in Babylon. Abbott's biographies are always informative. They are not exactly scholarly, but they give enough information to make the plot interesting.

The third book was an Op Center book by Tom Clancy called Call to Treason. This is part of a series sponsored by Clancy. Op Center is a type of CIA but on a smaller basis. This involves a plot by a senator who is running for president who is a rabid isolationist. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.

I'll be in Ellicott City (Baltimore) until this coming Monday, and then off to Cincinnati for a meeting of many of the friars in the States called the Chapter of Mats.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, June 13, 2011

Boynton Beach - Montreal - Ellicott City - Rome

June 13, 2011

Happy St. Anthony Day,

As you can see above, I headed back to Montreal last Sunday for the second session of the custodial chapter of Canada. The frisrs made a number of decisions concerning their future which I consider to be very wise. I think that they are on the right track. Part of my job as assistant is to offer an outside evaluation of how things are going, but that always has to be done carefully so that it doesn't seem as if the central government of the order is interfering.

The flight up to Montreal and back to Baltimore were adventurous. Given all my travel, I rarely encounter glitches. This time I had them coming and going. On the way up, they pulled me off the plane because the agent had given me the wrong ticket. On the way back, the plane was 4 hours late because they didn't have enough stewardesses. I wrote the company, letting them know of my disappointment in how things were handled. It's bad enough that they charge you for everything (luggage, a pillow, a better seat, etc.), but when something goes wrong, they don't really seem to care.

On Saturday, I gave a couple of talks at our Shrine in Ellicott City for the celebration of the feast of St. Anthony. There was a good turn out, and I was pleased with how the talks went.

Then, that evening, it was back to Rome. I'll only be here until next Sunday when I head back to the States to represent the order at a funeral.

I finished a couple of works this week. One was a series of lectures from on the Civil War and Reconstruction by David Blight. He was good, and entertaining, and opiniated. The course gave an alternate view of some of the details of what really happened in those years. I would recommend it.

A second was a novel, Think of a Number by John Verdon. It is a detective novel based on the premise of someone being able to figure out exactly what number you would think of from one to a thousand, tied in with a serial murderer. The portrait of the family life of the detective involved is quite good. It shows how one's talents can be both a blessing and a curse. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, June 6, 2011

Montreal - West Palm Beach - Montreal

June 6, 2011

Peace and Good,

So far, so good. This past week I was in Montreal for the chapter of the custody of the Polish speaking friars who are working in the Montreal area. A custody is like a baby province. There are 15 friars here from Poland, and most of them work in Polish (although two now serve in French and one in English). The language things is a bit difficult. The chapter is in Polish, with one of the friars translating it for the General and myself in Italian. I am hearing two languages at the same time, neither of which is my mother tongue. Fortunately, my Italian is good enough that the translation in my mind is pretty automatic, but I can still feel the wear and tear of it.

A chapter is held every four years to decide the future of the jurisdiction. We first discuss how things have been going, positive and negative. We then elect our leaders for the next four years. Then, we talk about the future plans. This week we are on the last element, planning for the future.

Thursday, the General and I flew down to Florida for a meeting. We had to meet with the head of a foundation down there to see if we could establish a relationship between our order and them. The meeting went very well. There is a woman, Sandy, who serves as a go-between to establish these relationships, which is very useful given that most of us friars would not even know where to begin in all of this.

While we were down there, we went to one of the mega-churches and ate in the dining room there. The General and I wore our habits. What a great experience. People were genuinely interested in who we were and asked us to tell them about being Franciscans.

I flew back to Montreal yesterday for the second session which will last through Wednesday evening.

I finished a few works. The first was the last volumes of the work of Suetonius, the Lives of the Caesars. These volumes were on the authors of that era. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of information in these that was useful to someone in our age.

The second was a series of short stories by a Russian author named Leonid Andreyev. He tends to write about biblical themes, but always from another point of view (e.g. a man who had a toothache the day that Jesus passed by on the way to his cross, the story of Judas). He also experimented with his literature, presenting what a serpent might say or the life of a prisoner who was released and only wanted to create his own prison because it was safe that way.

Finally, there was Isaac's story. Isaac was the main meteorologist in Galveston, Texas when a hurricane came in and killed over 8,000 people at the turn of the century. It was a good story in which everyone tries to blame everyone for the tragedy.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ellicott City - El Paso - Carlsbad - Mesilla Park - Montreal

May 30, 2011

Peace and Good,

I hope you are well and are enjoying the Memorial Day weekend.

I finished off my visitation of Our Lady of Consolation Province (the friars in one of the mid-western provinces). I visited the friars in Western Texas and New Mexico.

Our parish in El Paso. This community has three different ethnic groups. There are the Hispanic (Mexican) members of the parish and they are the most numerous. Then there are the members of the Tigua tribe, native Americans. Finally, there are the Anglos. When one enters the Mission Church, one of the things one sees is images of corn all over the place. Corn is considered to be a sacred gift, and in fact, when members of the tribe bless objects (statues, caskets, etc.), they pour corn flour on it.

I then went to Carlsbad, New Mexico, about a three hour ride from El Paso. The countryside is beautiful but desolate. There are three friars in Carlsbad taking care of two parishes. The area is quite stable because of discoveries of energy sources, especially oil and gas, in the area.

Finally, I went to the retreat house in Mesilla Park, which is next door to Las Cruces. Las Cruces got its name from the many crosses that dotted the hill sides from the friars and native Catholics who were martyred for their faith. There was a retreat group from El Paso there and they are past of a program to help people grow in their faith. They prayed and attended conferences from early in the morning til late in the evening.

On Saturday I began my trip from El Paso to Montreal, and arrived on Sunday afternoon. This air connection is difficult to make, having to fly from El Paso to Houston where I overnighted, then to Atlanta and finally to Montreal. I am here with fr. Marco, the Minister General, for the chapter of the custody of Polish friars who are working in the Montreal area. The custos took us around to see a bit of the city yesterday evening, including the Basilica of St. Joseph which is a beautiful shrine built be St. Andre, a brother of the Holy Cross who had a dream to build a shrine to honor St. Joseph.

I finished a few books.

The first is the next volumes by Suetonius on the Roman emperors, specifically Vespasian (the emperor who followed the civil war between three different generals after the death of Nero), his son Titus (who conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and the city), and his brother Domitian (who might have assassinated his brother Titus and who persecuted Christians - the Book of Revelation was written during his reign).

A second book was the Longest Journey by EM Forster. It was a strange book that spoke about how the English upper class, university educated people treat others. In this case, there was a young, privileged man and how he treated his half brother who was his mother's son by an illicit union. The whole question of treating people with respect, loss of honor, etc. is the major topic.

A third work was La Grenadiere by Honore de Balzac, a French author from the 19th century. It is about a woman who is dying and how she cares for her two young sons and tries to prepare them for her passing. This short novel is quite good, showing the shifting of emotion and the confusion of this sort of situation.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, May 23, 2011

Valetta - Rome - Vatican City - Baltimore

May 23, 2011
Peace and Good,

Well, I finally got out of Malta on Sunday evening. It is only an hour or so from Rome by flight.

In Rome we had a week long definitory. Monday we received a surprise announcement. One of the Assistant Generals, fr. Vincent Long Nguyen, from Australia, has been named the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne. It is a very large diocese, and he will be responsible for the Western sector of the city. He has been the assistant general for the past three years, himself having taken the place of a friar from Japan who resigned because of illness. He will be greatly missed.

The rest of the week was non-eventful. I have been reflecting on my final report for the visitation to Malta, but I don't want to write it until I finish visiting a couple of friars who are serving outside of the country. I had already spoken with a Maltese friar who is serving in London, and Saturday I went to the Vatican to meet with a friar who is a confessor at St. Peter's. (Actually, we have a large friary just for those friars who are involved in that ministry - I think that there are 16 of them in all).

Sunday I flew out to Ellicott City, and stayed overnight, with a trip to El Paso scheduled for this afternoon to continue my visitation of the mid-western province.

I finished a few books.

The first was the Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It was a suspense novel about the theft of an ancient artifact from a Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Nepal and how a CIA agent and his protegee recover it.

The second work was Amy Foster by Joseph Conrad. The more I read of Conrad, the more I like his writing. He was a Polish author who settled in England and wrote in French and English. This is about a young man who leaves the mountains of Poland to emigrate to the States, but who is shipwrecked on the shore of Kent in England. Because he speaks no English, he is first treated as someone who is insane and dangerous. Even when he marries a local woman who took mercy on him, he is ultimately rejected by her which leads to his death. It is a wonderful reflection on the difficulty of understanding people of other cultures, one of Conrad's major themes.

Finally, I listened to a book called Assegai by Wilber Smith. It is a British swashbuckler set just before the outbreak of World War I in East Africa. It is simplistic and demeaning at times to locals, but overall it is a good read. Nothing serious, just an enjoyable book.

Hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gozo - Quara - Birkikara - Valetta - Rome

Peace and Good,
When I last wrote the blog, I was on the island of Gozo, which is a smaller island near the island of Malta. The population is only about 40,000 on the entire island, and they are very religious. The churches are always packed.

I took the ferry back to the mainland and visited the parish at Quara. This is not that far from St. Paul's Bay, but it has a very different population. There are many immigrants, troubled families, etc. in the parish. The pastor and the friars there are trying to reach out to a population which is not all that church going (which is most unusual in Malta). One of the friars is a former DJ and he is working with a team to produce a song to present to the Holy Father for World Youth Day in Madrid this summer.

The next stop was Birkikara. There is a friary church there (which is not an official parish). There is also an apostolate for printing religious materials in Maltese called CAK (pronounced Chuck). It is a relatively new apostolate, and is doing wonderful work.

Finally, back to Valetta to meet the provincial and his definitory for a preliminary after visitation report. That went very well. They were very receptive to my observations, and responded that many of the things I noticed have been themes which they have been addressing over the years.

Saturday evening I was to fly back to Rome, but when I got to the airport, I had a sinking feeling when I looked at the flight board. There was no flight to Rome. They had changed the flight from the evening to the morning, and I had never received a notice. Fortunately, it was relativly easy to rebook the next day.

I am back in Rome for the week for a series of meetings. Then, on Sunday, back to the States, and on Monday off to Texas.

One of the things that I noted in Malta is that on May 28th, there is a referundum on divorce. They do not have it. Coming from the States, that is such a foreign concept. The whole question being asked is whether allowing it will weaken the fabric of society and the family. It is a very, very Catholic country.

I finished a few books. The first was an abridged version of the Front by Patricia Cornwell. Usually, abridged books handle the story rather well, but this particular version seemed jumpy. The story itself was OK, but I have noticed in Cornwell's books a tendency to make a manipulative woman the villian of the story.

A second work was a continuation of Suetonius' biographies of the emperors of Rome: Nero, Galba, Otho and Vitellius. Nero is portrayed as a monster, which is the accepted version of the story. The only difficulty is that Suetonius is writing after the event in the company of those who opposed the Caesars, so is this a true version of the political spin put out by the opposing faction? The other three were three generals who tried to take the throne over a period of eighteen months of civil war. None of them come across as that praiseworthy.

The third work was a biography of Daniel Boone by John SC Abbott. This was a librivox version (a free download from the internet done by volunteers). Both the content of the book (which was racist against native Americans to say the least) and the reading (which was done by one narrator) were poor. What was good was to get a picture of how much Boone did for his people, and how little he was compensated for his efforts.

Have a good week.

fr. Jude

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rabat - St. Paul's Bay - Burmarrad - Vittoria, Gozo

May 8, 2011

Peace and Good,

I began the week in the city of Rabat. You might notice that this name might sound familiar. It literally means fortress, so many cities in the Middle East received that name. Technically, Malta is not part of the Middle East, but it was under the Arabs for some 150 years. Next door to Rabat is another city named Mdina, which likewise is a name that should sound familiar (there is a Medina in Saudi Arabia).

All of the towns in this part of Malta are fortresses. In the 1560's, Malta was invaded by the Turks who, after a seige of a few months, went home. The Knights of St. John (which eventually became the Knights of Malta) protected it against the Muslims until the days of Napoleon. It was occupied by French troops for a little over a year, and then the Britist took over and governed it as a protectorate until the 1960's.

From Rabat, I travelled to St. Paul's Bay. This is a beautiful bay on the northern part of the island. It is a tourist area. A town of some 12,000 people during the winter explodes to over 60,000 during the summer. There are no very nice beaches right there, but in the bays not far away are some beautiful beaches with fine white sand.

The friars in St. Paul's Bay are very busy between the parish and other responsibilities that they take care of (e.g. Fr. George works on the diocesan tribunal).

While I was there, we had the funeral of one of the friar's grandmother. The island is small enough that most of the friars in the province can be there for those events. This was already the fourth time in two weeks that we had gathered together. It is so different from the States where our friars are often hundreds of miles away.

Nearby is a smaller parish called Burmarrad which is staffed by three friars. I visited there on Wednesday.

Then, on Friday morning, I took the ferry over to the neighboring island (which is still part of the republic of Malta) called Gozo. It is one third the size of the island of Malta with about 1/10th the population.

I will hear back to the main island this evening. I will continue to be in Malta until Saturday when I fly back to Rome.

The churches all throughout the island are incredible. They are heavily boroque with little angels and gold leaf everywhere. Many of them have a number of tombs under the Church floor (the tombs are not raised, they are flush with the level of the floor, decorated with beautiful colors of marble).

I finished a few works this week. The first is called Ethan From by Edith Wharton. This was one of the first novels which did not try to have a happy ending. It is about a farmer who does not really love his wife and she does not love him. A young cousin of his wife comes to his farm to help his wife who suffers from psycosomatic illnesses. He slowly falls in love with her, but the wife knows and makes life miserable for the two of them. The farmer and his young love even try to kill themselves by crashing their sled into a tree, but only end up broken and disabled, which leaves everybody miserable.

A second work was a short work by Nathanael Hawthorne called a Select Party. It is the story of heaven in an almost Mark Twain approach. It is nice, but not all that serious.

A third work was a biography of Peter the Great by Jacob Abbott. He has written a number of short biographies that I have read on major historic figures. They were written for school children in Britain around the year 1900, and so they are simplified, but informative.

Peter comes across as modern in his attempt to modernize his country, and yet medieval in his cruelty and capricious decisions. It is hard to get a read for him. You have to admire the city he built, St. Petersburg, but then you have to realize that thousands of people died building it. He is a very complicated figure.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rome - Valetta - Rabat

May 1, 2011

Peace and Good,

Before anyone asks, no, I was not in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Like many of you, I watches it on TV. I am in Malta now for a visitation of the province.

Malta is a small island (30 miles by 50 miles) to the south of Sicily. It is an independent republic. The population is 400,000, with over 1,000,000 people of Maltese descendance living throughout the world.

In ancient times, it was settled by people from Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon). The people still speak a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, although almost everyone also speaks either Italian or English or both.

From around 1500, it was taken care of by the Knights of St. John. This became a fortress against the Turks throughout the 1500's, and also against Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was called an unsinkable aircraft carrier because there were seven air fields that would intercept ships bring supplies to Rommel in North Africa.

In 1565, Sulaiman the Magnificent of Turkey invaded Malta but could not conquer it. This is called the great seige. It was said afterward that whenever the island of Malta was referred to in the future, he would day that Malta doesn't exist anymore.

Valetta, the capital, was built by the knights on high ground. It is incredible how they built a small but very modern city from the sandstone quarried right on the spot. The co-cathedral of St. John in Valetta is one of the most magnificent baroque churches in the world. The museum also contains two paintings by the famous artist Carrevagio.

Now I am in the small city of Rabat (40,000) in the center of the island. Right alongside is a fortress and the Arab city of Mdina (notice how close the name is to the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia).

The good is very similar to that in Italy. There are a lot of tourists from England and Germany. They use the euro like they do in much of Europe.

I have finished a couple of books. The first is the Queen's Necklace by Alexandre Dumas. He is the author of the count of Monte Cristo. This is the complex story of the intrigues in the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. There was an episode of fraud and intrigue that became a scandal so serious that some say it was one of the reasons for the French Revolution.

The second book was the volume on Augustus Caesar by Gaius Seutonius. This is volume two of a long work on the emperors of Rome. I also finished volume three on the emperor Tiberius. Augustus is presented as a basically decent person, while Tiberias comes across as a miserable cus of a man who takes out his anger on the people of Rome. He even showed how much he disliked people by making sure that Caligula would succeed him.

God bless and
fr. Jude

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Haooy Easter

April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

I have been in Padua all this past week, up in the Basilica of St. Anthony. I went there to help out with confessions. There are tons of people who go up there from the entire region. I am able to listen to confessions in both Italian and English. Actually, the majority of the confessions were in a version of the local dialect. I had to place close attention, but I was able to follow what they were saying.

It was good to be able to sit in the confessional again. This is one of the favorite parts of my priesthood. Sometimes, you get to offer a good piece of advice. Sometimes, you just listen and commiserate. All the time, you can say at the end that their sins are forgiven.

I also met with the editors of the Messenger of St. Anthony, the magazine for which I write, to speak about some projects. I have been writing for them since 1982, and their magazine sends out 60,000 copies all around the world.

It is strange to be in a part of Italy where pasta is not part of every meal. They eat a lot more rice and other dishes for the first plate than in other parts of Italy.

I finished a couple of books. The first was Herodias by Gustave Flaubert, a French author from the 19th century. Herodias is the mother of Salome, the one who asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Authors of the 19th century were fascinated by Biblical themes (at least Freanch and Russian authors) and they would not only tell the story as it is told in the Bible, they would complete it with more detail that they had made up. Often, if you read between the lines, you can tell what was going on in that author's society.

A second book was the Grand Canyon by John Muir. He was a naturalist who visited the natural wonders in the Western States and Alaska during the 19th century. His writing is excellent, and you can see how much he saw the face of God in whatever he encountered. He was largely responsible for the development of the national park system.

I am off to Malta tomorrow to begin a province visitation (like the one I did in the mid-western province in the States). This time, though, the distances are much smaller. Malta is a relatively small island with a population of 400,000 in all. Interestingly, they are descendants of the Phoenician people who came from Lebanon, so their native language is Semitic, like Hebrew and Arabic. Nowadays, almost all of them speak either English or Italian, so I should not have too much difficulty getting around.

Have a good week.

fr. Jude

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brunswick - San Antonio - Baltimore - Rome

April 15, 2011

Peace and Good,

I finished off the first part of my canonical visitation by visiting San Antonio. I was there with the Minister General in January. It is a formation house with a few friars in residence who work outside the house in parishes, libraries, etc.

The spirit of the house is very good. There is an older friar in residence there whose health has become tenuous. I am so impressed by his spirit of joy, and by the care that the friars give him. That is one thing that I have seen all throughout this province, that they care well for their older friars. The goal is to keep them home in their friaries as long as is possible. I think it gives great witness to our world today.

My stop in Baltimore was really just to unpack and repack for my trip back to Rome. I arrived here on Saturday night and on Monday morning we began one of our marathon definitory meetings.

Sunday afternoon I got to meet Sr. Denise Boyle who is the director of Franciscans International. That is a group that lobbies at the United Nations for causes that are important to Franciscans all throughout the world.

The definitory is proceeding as normal. I am very impressed at the collaborative spirit of the friars on the definitory. There are no ego's trying to take over, no one defensive. When we confront difficult situations, there is only a spirit of "what is the best that we can do." There is even a realization that there are situations in which nothing can be done right now, so we have to leave it in the hands of God and hope when the time comes to act, we will recognize it.

We finish our definitory tomorrow, and I am going to scoot up to Padua to be at the Basilica of St. Anthony for Holy Week. I wanted to go there to be available for confessions during Holy Week.

I finished a couple of books. The first is Innocent as Sin by Elizabeth Lowell. It is an international detective/spy sort of book concerning an international arms merchant. It is not bad, but probably not the first on my list of recommendations.

A much better book, if you like vampire stories, is The Passage by Justin Cronin. Rather than calling it a book, it should really be called a saga. It goes on forever, and really entails three separate stories, all of which are good in their own right. This is one that I have no difficulty recommending, in fact, I highly recommend it (Again, as long as you don't mind the vampire motif),ì.

Hope you have a good Holy Week.

fr. Jude