Sunday, May 27, 2012


May 27, 2012 The Solemnity of the Pentecost Peace and Good, I was at home in Rome all of this week. On Sunday, my sister-in-law Mary Jane arrived with three of her friends. They are driving around Italy, and they spent three days here in Rome seeing the sights. This really is the only chance that I have to see the city because otherwise I am on the road or writing reports. I showed them around and we had a great time in spite of the weather. Monday we saw the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Stairs, the shopping district nearby, Santi Apostoli, the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Church of San Clemente, Largo Argentina (where Julius Caesar was killed),the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. That was pretty much all on foot. Tuesday, the weather turned ugly with period of heavy rain followed by sun, changing pretty much every half hour. We saw the Church of St. Bartholomew where there is a memorial to the modern martyrs of communism, the Nazis, religious persecution, economic persecution. It is important to remember that people are still suffering for the faith. We then went to St. Peter’s Basilica and then the Vatican Museum. Wednesday was dedicated to the Papal audience. As usual, fr. Peter Damian, my guardian, was able to get great tickets. We were on the same platform as the Holy Father. He looked healthy, with a good strong voice. Since then, I have been taking care of a few projects at home, things that often get put off when I am travelling. I am going to be home for another two weeks, most of which time will be spent in meetings. These are some of the books I have completed: Rubicon by Steven Saylor This is a story set in ancient Rome, occurring as the city is cast into chaos with the arrival of Julius Caesar after he crossed the Rubicon and thus declared war on Pompey the Great and his followers. There is a murder of one of Pompey’s relatives in the house of a certain Gordianus who is a type of ancient crime investigator, and Pompey demands that Gordianus investigate the murder. The story continues as Gordianus seeks to effect the return of his son-in-law who had been forced into Pompey’s forces when they fled from Rome. There is a very surprising ending. It is a really good book, especially for those who are interested in ancient history. The Prometheus Project: Captured by Douglas Richards This is the second volume of a three volume series. These are short books intended for a younger audience that deal with a great scientific discovery. An alien civilization has built a modernistic city under the ground in Pennsylvania which is discovered by accident. A brilliant physicist discovers how to enter the city, and he moves to that site with his family (his wife is a brilliant biologist). Their two children sneak through a tight security and become part of the discovery team. This second volume tells what happens when another alien who happens to be a criminal escapes his imprisonment and takes over the futuristic city with the goal of taking over the world. The two young discoverers, thinking outside of the box, are able to thwart his plans and save the world. This is an easy, enjoyable read. Young people would certainly enjoy it, although by the end this volume starts to get a bit sappy. Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs This is a detective novel that sounds remarkably similar to the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. It is about a series of crimes that are investigated by a forensic anthropologist in North Carolina who works with a male detective (as opposed to the chief medical investigator in Virginia who works with a male detective). The story is complicated by the presence of a politician who is using the crimes to work up the crowd in order to win a new position. All mixed up with this are questions of Wicca, Devil Worship, Santeria, etc. I actually like this character more than Kay Scarpetta. It was a good read. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rome - Chicago - Rome

May 20, 2012 Peace and Good, This past week I had a quick trip to Chicago and back. We had an extraordinary chapter of St. Bonaventure Province in Chicago. Every four years we have an ordinary chapter. That is a gathering of the friars to elect the new provincial and his team for the four year period. In between these chapters, we can also have an extraordinary chapter for matters of importance. In this case, the province in Chicago was being asked to take responsibility for the jurisdiction in Australia. There are 15 friars there, and they were directly under the authority of the Minister General in Rome. The difficulty was that the general and his staff (including myself) did not have the time to properly accompany those friars. We have found that provinces do a much better job of being there to help these smaller jurisdictions to get their act together. For the past year, we have been talking about this transfer of responsibility, and this past Tuesday the friars in Chicago voted overwhelmingly to take upon themselves this call. There are only two small steps remaining in this transfer, and it should be done by the middle of June. I came back to Rome on Thursday, and the past couple days have been slow, trying to get over the jet lag. Today, my sister-in-law Mary is arriving in Rome with a few of her friends, and I will be hosting them a bit as they see Rome. This is one of the few opportunities that I have to explore this city – when I have guests come in from out of town. The earthquake you heard about in Italy did not really affect Rome. It was much farther north. I have finished a few books: Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stevenson This is one of those books which I know I should have read long before this, but now is my chance to catch up on some of those “must reads.” I remember there was even a Walt Disney version of this story, but I never got to see it. The book is quite good, blending adventure with self-discovery. There is, of course, a happy ending, but there are so many twists and turns in arriving at it that it comes across as not being too serendipity. The story is one of a young man who is cheated out of an inheritance and kidnapped out to sea, but who finds an unusual friend among a highland Scott and who travels with him to come home again. The Gospel of Mark, The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture by Mary Healy This is part of a new set of commentaries on Sacred Scripture. At this point, I only found two of the Gospels, this and Matthew which I read last year. Healy has some very good insights upon the Gospel. The commentary is solid, and there were some discoveries that I have been wondering about for quite some time. I was pleased reading this commentary, and I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to know more about the Gospel of Mark. Victory by Joseph Conrad Conrad is a remarkable author. This not my favorite of his stories, but it was still a far shot better than many other authors. It takes place in the south Pacific, with a band of strange and even dangerous characters. There is a taciturn Swede, a devoted poor English woman whom the Swede rescues from the advances for a lecherous German, two Englishmen who are card sharks among other felonious conduct, and an ape like Columbian. The victory is not anything of which one would expect. The speeches are a bit too long and tedious, but the story is still strong and surprising. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bacau - Rome - Chicago

May 14, 2012 Peace and Good, I finished off the second of the two retreats that I was giving in Romania. This was a different type of a group with its own dynamic. Not bad, just different. The province of Romania is quite large (over 250 friars) and quite young, and you can sense that when you talk with the friars. It will take time for them to mature as a group, and that only comes slowly. On Saturday I flew back to Rome. It was a good flight. I was in the middle of a group of men who were very loud. I thought that they might be from Naples in southern Italy. The people from Naples know how to have a good time. The city is not organized, but no one really cares all that much. The friars who were on the same flight told me that they were not even Italians, they were gypsies. They travel to Italy to plan in the gypsy bands that visit the restaurants. That explained everyting. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Chicago for an extraordinary chapter of our province out here. That will be held tomorrow, and then back to Rome on Wednesday evening. I finished some reading: Underneath by Kealan Patrick Burke This is a twisted short story of high school years. There are bullies, the girl everyone makes fun of, the boy who is beaten up and eventually takes his revenge, cutting, etc. But that is only the start of the strangeness. I didn’t realize til later that the author writes mainly ghost stories, so now the strangeness makes sense. I wouldn’t say it was a pleasant read, but it was at least interesting if at the same time troubling. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris This is a book that I have avoided reading (and I haven’t seen the film either) because it just seemed too gory. It is, in fact, messy to an extreme, but it was well written. This was the abridged version that I have read, but it was very, very good. It is about two mass murderers and an FBI agent. One is in a criminal psychiatric institute and is a cannibal but also a psychiatrist, so he is incredibly astute. The other kills woman to form a “woman” suit because he was refused a sex change operation and wants to become a woman whatever way he can. Reaper by Rachel Vincent This is a short story about a teen age male banshee who dies in an accident (offering his life in place of his brother’s). He is brought back to life to be given the job of reaper, one who helps the soul of a dying person leave the body and head on to the next stage. This is another of those books written for young people which speak about the afterlife and what expects one. There are vampire stories, wolf men, etc. It is almost as if young people are not finding the answers for their mystical search in traditional ways and so they are looking into other sources. I think we should see this trend as a symptom and not as a problem. What does it suggest for the way we present our faith? What are we missing? I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bacau, Romania

May 6, 2012 Peace and Good, I arrived here in Romania this past Saturday, and have spent the week preaching a retreat for a group of friars from the Romanian province (over 20 of them). I was at the retreat house where I preached the retreat to the students at the beginning of Holy Week, but the weather has transformed the place. When I was last there, it was still very cold. Now everything is in bloom. Summer arrived here in Romania very quickly. The theme of the retreat was Old Testament personalities and what they have to teach us about religious life today. The ones I covered were Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Saul and David, Hosea and Amos, Isaiah, Deutero-Isaiah and Ezekiel. I closed with the last of the Old Testament figures and the first of the New Testament figures: John the Baptist. I finished the retreat on Friday after lunch. Saturday, the provincial took me on a trip. First, we went to a Marian sanctuary in the north of the country. The area is called Bukovina, and there is a large Polish population there from the 17th century. A couple of centuries ago, someone found a copy of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa near a river bank, and it proved to be a miraculous icon. We take care of the shrine that houses this holy object. The provincial and I were there for a gathering of the faculties of our own theological faculty (in Roman) and of the diocesan seminary (in Iasi). This was the first gathering of its type. The bishop and his auxiliary were there, so it was important for us to be there too. The, we drove to see a couple of the painted monasteries in the area. They are like fortresses, and these two are for Orthodox sisters. They were built and painted inside and out at the end of the 15 hundreds. They are really magnificent, and they are considered to be art treasures. For all the times I have been in Romania, this was the first time I had a chance to see them. I finished some reading: The Prometheus Project: Trapped by Douglas Richards This is a short book which was really written for early high school students about two heroes whose parents are scientists and who help in the exploration of a city built by aliens. There are ample descriptions of scientific phenomena, but in a way that is very appealing. There are questions of courage and morality and faithfulness. It is really quite well written, and is part of a trilogy which I am certainly going to read. The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory The is another of Philippa Gregory’s historic novels on the Tudors. This particular one deals with the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. Dudley was married to Amy, a noble wife, but he ignored her to flirt with the queen. There is a good description of the intrigues being played at the court, with spies and informants giving information to various courtiers who then played power politics, always based upon favor with the queen. There are also the intrigues involved foreign politics and the question of whom the queen would marry. Elizabeth proves to be an expert of intrigue and deception, even involving possible murder for the sake of her freedom. Aces and Knives by Alan Cook I have read another of Alan Cook’s mysteries, that one set in a home for the elderly and one of the retired teachers residing there is the master detective. This book takes place in Los Angeles and involves a father and son, the father being the director of a tech company while he believes the son is a never do well but is someone who actually turns out to be the hero of the story. The story is quite good, with a murder occurring while the prime suspect is the boyhood friend of the murdered as well as the investor who is trying to buy out the company where that man was vice-president and our hero’s father is the president. I hope you have a good week. I am here in Romania until next Saturday, preaching the second retreat for friars. Shalom fr. Jude