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