Sunday, February 27, 2011

Aberdeen - Manchester - Dublin - Rome

February 27, 2011

Peace and Good,

I started the week visiting Bishop John Jukes, one of our bishops, up at his home in Huntley. He is retired and lately in ill health. Please keep him in your prayers. His insights, though, were invaluable. I enjoyed my time with him.

I then flew to Manchester for our second friars' day. The friars came from Liverpool, Manchester and Barton. The presentations went very well. Fr. Steve King, who is in charge of formation for the young vocations, did such a great job at this and the London presentation that he was asked to join us in Dublin so that the friars there could hear about the positive developments as well.

In the house where I was staying is an apostolate dedicated to the printed word. They produce a magazine called the Crusader. It is distributed free of charge throughout the British Isles, 60,000 copies. The readers are very generous and pay for the magazine and help enormously in the costs of formation for the younger friars. Giving the magazine away free is a real sign of trust in the providence of God.

I flew to Dublin for the third of our friars' days. In Dublin were the friars from our parish in Dublin and from our Shrine Church in Wexford (on the southeast coast of Ireland). I got to see our oldest friar in this jurisdiction, fr. Pat Griffin, who is 92. He is still filled with humor and there is a twinkle in his eye.

Thursday was a free day so I set off for downtown Dublin to see a couple of sites. One of the friars suggested that I visit the memorial to the victims of the Potato famine. It is right in front of the old Customs House. There are a number of emaciated figures depicted in statue form trudging toward their waiting ship to carry them off to America. Their faces are so gaunt, and they have a look I have seen in the pictures of people starving from all over the world. I sat for a long time just meditating on the representation. I was deeply moved by it.

Friday I flew back to Rome and am here this week for one of our definitories. That will go from Monday through Saturday.

I finished a couple of works. One is a very old play called Sejanus: His Fall by Ben Jonson. He is a contemporary of Shakespeare. Sejanus was a Roman who was a type of chief of staff under Tiberias. He was known for his cruelty and corruption. When Tiberias retired to the island of Capri, Sejanus all but took over the government of Rome. Yet, his fall came in an instant, and for ancient peoples, it was a parable of how quickly the mighty can fall.

The second work is a series of CD's called the Classics of British Literature by John Sutherland. This is a very long (48) lectures course on British literature all the way from the time of the Anglo Saxons to the modern day. The professor is excellent, and he gives one a panorama of what the major themes were throughout the centuries.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My 100th Posting

February 20, 2011

Peace and Good,

I can't believe that this is already my 100th posting of this blog. This week has been pretty much like most of my others: San Antonio, Baltimore, London and Aberdeen. I was visiting my friary in Baltimore (Ellicott City) watching a program when a commercial came on of a bank being advertised by the Baltimore quarterback, Joe Flaco. I asked the friar alongside of my why they would be using the Baltimore quarterback in that commercial. His answer was, "Jude, where do you think you are?" I honestly thought I was in Buffalo at the time. Time to get a label for my clothes, "If lost, please return to..."

We are having a series of meetings in Great Britain and Ireland so that the friars there can meet the new Delegate, the representative of our provincial there. His name is Fr. Paul Miskiewicz. He gave a beautiful talk at the gathering in London.

I got my walk in by walking along the Thames River. Our friary is only a few blocks from the huge circus wheel that has become a great tourist attraction here in London. I love this city. It is a great place to walk and there is so much to see. The weather is cold and rainy here.

It was so good for the older friars to see the young vocations. There has been a rebirth of this jurisdiction and there is now a lot of hope for the future. Our provincial Fr. James has a lot to do with that. He is gentle and hopeful, and that is contagious.

I am up in Aberdeen diocese, the town of Huntley, to visit one of our retired bishops, Bishop John Jukes. He is the retired bishop of Kent in England. He is a wise man, and I just wanted both to pay my respects and learn anything I can from him.

I have finished a couple of books. The first is Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose. Ambrose writes extensively about war. He has a good style, honest and forthright. The book is about the soldiers of World War II from the United States. Unlike the armies of most European powers, ours was not really a professional army. They were mostly normal citizens who were drafted into the army and who responded mostly with generosity and courage.

The second book was the Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry. She writes period historical novels. This one takes place in the city of Constantinople in the middle of the 13th century. She gives an enormous amount of detail in her story and I think most of the general picture is accurate. This was a traumatic period in the history of Europe, with Western Christian fighting against Eastern Christian. It is well worth reading.

Have a good week and
fr. Jude

Monday, February 14, 2011

A meeting of the conference

February 14, 2011

Peace and Good,

I am back in Ellicott City after a week down in Texas and New Mexico. I flew down there last Sunday. It was an interesting trip. I got to the airport and my flight to Houston had been cancelled. I was supposed to fly through there to get to El Paso. I had to fly through Milwaukee, then Phoenix, to finally get to El Paso. The friary is about an hour from there, in Mesilla Park, New Mexico. This is a retreat house run by the mid-western province, Our Lady of Consolation.

This was a meeting of all of the provincials and custos of the CFC, the conference of North America, England, and Ireland. The Minister General, fr. Marco, was also present (he had flown in from Columbia and was flying out to Chile after the meeting.

On Monday we discussed the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition in the order. We have a heritage of great scholars, but now that many of our institutions of higher education have been closed, there is a tendency not to train men and women to take over that responsibility. We discussed various ways to address the problem.

Tuesday we spoke of Mission animation. Our provinces have missions or connections with missions on six of the continents. Our latest commitment was by the California Province which has a mission in Vietnam. We were especially speaking about how to let the friars know what is going on and to interest them in making a commitment to go to the missions. (In our order, the minister provincial cannot send someone to the mission, the friar must volunteer.)

We also had a number of discussions concerning other projects and we set the calendar for meetings and chapters (gatherings of all of the friars in the provinces) for the next couple of years.

On Thursday fr. Marco and I flew to San Antonio to visit one of our houses of formation. It is a beautiful site, a former Carmelite Monastery. Our friars study at Oblate School of Theology. fr. Marco and I spoke to the friars in initial formation on Friday and then on Saturday I filled the other friars in on what is going on in the world.

I flew back to Baltimore for a few days rest here (and working on my daily reflections). Wednesday I will fly off to London for a series of meetings there (London, Aberdeen, Manchester, and Dublin.

I finished a couple of books this week. The first is the third book in a series on the Third Reich by Richard Evans. Each of the volumes is a masterpiece of research. These books are not for the light reader, but they are a wealth of information. The third volume, the Third Reich at War, deals with Nazi Germany from 1939 until 1945.

The second book was Cardinal John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua. This was a book where he defended his decision to become a Catholic and also the path which took him in that direction. I was not impressed at all with the writing style. It is a polemic aimed at the attacks of an author who wrote criticizing Newman. I had always heard of Newman's excellence as an author, but that is not what I experienced in this book.

Have a good week.
fr. Jude

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Assisi, Rome, Baltimore, Boston and El Paso

Peace and Good,

February 8, 2011

As you can see, this past week has been quite busy.

It started with my trip to Assisi to speak with the Custos of the Sacro Convento. A custos is the man in charge. With larger jurisdictions, he is called a provincial. With smaller jurisdictions, he is called a custos. The Sacro Convento is the friary and basilica where St. Francis is buried.

Late on Sunday I headed back to Rome. This was a trick, because there was a train strike going on. The only thing is that this does not necessarily mean that all of the trains are not running. In fact, a good number were running, but the people who could answer the phone and tell you which ones were running were not at work. So it is a guessing game. I guessed right and got home on Sunday evening.

Tuesday I headed out to the States. It was an uneventful trip, and I arrived in Baltimore that evening.

Wednesday morning was a doctor's appointment and that afternoon I went to see the optometrist. You have to take care of these things while you can. Everything seems to be in order.

Thursday morning I met with one of our friars who is working for a NGO (non-governmental organization) that represents Franciscans at the UN. His organization tries to give a voice to the powerless of the world. He and the group are doing great work. We Franciscans are somewhere between a quarter of a million and three quarters of a million worldwide. We have networks that can often pick up news of bad situations, and fr. Mike brings these problems to the attention of those who can make a difference. I was inspired by what he is doing. You might want to check out the website of his organization. I am not sure of its address, but if you google Franciscans International, you will find it. If you wish, they have a program where you could donate $5 a month to help their expenses from your credit card.

Friday morning I headed off to Boston to make a canonical visitation of one of our parishes. This parish is run by friars from Poland (it is made up of Poles who have just arrived from Poland). My province used to run the parish, but we have very few friars who speak Polish well enough. Most of the friars who do speak some Polish speak the version spoken by their grandparents when they came over from Poland in 1890, so it sounds very old fashioned to the new Poles.

On the way, the stewardess noticed my sandals without socks. She jokingly asked me if I was a Polar Bear (those who jump in freezing water during the winter). I told her I was a Franciscan. She was thrilled. St. Francis is her favorite saint, and she is going to Assisi next month. I gave her the name of one our friars in the Sacro Convento whom she can look up while she is there.

Sunday I flew down to El Paso for a meeting of the North American Provincials and our Minister General. I was supposed to fly to Houston and then on to El Paso, but the weather played havoc with the flight and I ended up going to Milwaukee, then Phoenix, and then finally El Paso. That was a long way around.

I finished a couple of books this week. The first was a two volume work on the Life of Napoleon by John Holland. It was a good work, but a little too English in its viewpoint for my taste.

The second was the Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad. I am always amazed at how well Conrad writes in English, given that he was born in Poland and English was not even his second language, French was. This is a novella about a man who escaped from his ship where he was being held for the murder of one of his shipmates. He is taken aboard another ship and finds safety in the room of the captain. The captain and he form a strange relationship until the man finally escapes to an island. Conrad always gives you the flavor of Asia or Africa in the 19th century. I enjoyed the story.

Have a good week and
fr. Jude