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