Monday, June 25, 2012

Ellicott City

June 25, 2012 Peace and Good, I have been at Ellicott City all this week, taking care of a few writing projects and recovering from the massive jet lag that I had from my trip from Rome to South Korea to California to the east coast. I am more or less caught up now, and am feeling much better. I have begun to write a series of short articles for our magazine in Great Britain. The magazine publishes somewhere around 60,000 to 70,000 copies per month, and it is distributed free. It receives enough donations to pay for the magazine and a large portion of the costs of the formation of our friars. Up to this past year, Bishop John Jukes, one of our friars who was the bishop of Kent, was a monthly contributer. I will now be taking his place, which for me is a real honor. Bishop John was a really fine man. While I am in Ellicott City, there is also the opportunity to take care of Doctor and Dentist visits. This Thursday I had a dentist visit to prepare a couple of teeth for crowns that were badly needed. Well, it turned out to include a root canal, and I ended up being in the dentist chair for six hours. The dentist and staff were wonderful to me, and they understood that with my crazy schedule, it all had to be done in one sitting. Yet, it was a bit of an ordeal. In situations like that, I always try to think of someone who is going through a crisis (physical, psychological, vocational) and I offer up the difficulty for that person. I always find a certain peace descend upon me when I do that. I have finished some reading: Spore by Ian Woodhead This is a short story about the outbreak of an infection caused by spores that kills off first older people and then younger. Sometimes I wonder what type of background the authors of some of these stories has had. It is really violently descriptive of the evil mother of the main character, who causes the infection of her own son after all but torturing and imprisoning him to take care of her. Not exactly a story I would recommend for easy reading. Nero by Jacob Abbott This is another one of Abbott’s biographies for young people. It does not break any new ground, and certainly doesn’t reflect some of the latest thinking about Nero (that some of what was said against him was the propaganda of people who wanted to curry the favor of those who overthrew him.) Yet, it is good to read one of these outlines to remind oneself of the basic details in the story. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis I have to admit that Jefferson is not my favorite of the founding fathers. He was sneaky (at times openly denying some of the political intrigue of which he was the author). He fought against needed societal constraints such of a federal government capable of governing. (He wanted the absolute minimum of government possible.) He spoke against slavery, but yet kept many slaves himself (and even argued for the extension of slavery into the west in the 1820’s). He saw things in black and white (as many of the other founding fathers did), tarring a feathering (verbally) his Federalist opponents. Yet, he was at times brilliant and tremendously insightful. The best part of the book was the overview of the correspondence between Jefferson and Adams in their old age. It was carried on for 14 years, ending only shortly before the death of both men (ironically, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence). He also helped to found the University of Virginia at Charlottsville. Ellis is a masterful historian. His books give great insight into this early American period. This is both a good read and a must for those who want just a bit more insight into this mysterious figure (hence the title, for like the Sphinx, he is difficult to classify). The most insightful comment he makes is that while the other founding fathers began with the idea of a government of the people which would protect the rights of that people, Jefferson began with the rights of the individual and spoke of a government which would least endanger those rights. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rome - Seoul - San Luis Obisbo - Ellicott City

June 18, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope you are well. As you can see by the title of this posting, this has been a very busy week for travel. It involved three night flights (Rome to Seoul, Seoul to San Francisco, and San Francisco to Baltimore). That is really a lot in a week's time. Right now I am working on 18 hours of jet lag. You would think that when it went over 12 hours, it would start becoming less, but it doesn't work that way because I was in each place long enough to start the transition to local time. I went to Seoul for the beginning of the Provincial Chapter of the Korean Province. I was there because I had done the visitation for that province. The chapter went very well, and fr. Tito was elected the new provincial. I had met him in January and had warned him that his name was being mentioned as a possible new provincial. Korea is a young province with a lot of potential. I hope that he and they are able to work on a few problems they are currently experiencing and move on. On Thursday I went from Seoul to San Luis Obisbo (actually a town called Arroyo Grande, which is just outside of Pismo Beach, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles). Given the fact that I crossed the international date line, I left on Thursday and arrived on Thursday, even though I flew all night long. I was visiting fr. Chris Deitz who has been very ill. Shortly after Christmas he suddenly became paralyzed. Something had attacked the myalin of his nervous system, especially in his spine. He had recovered quite a bit, but he still had a bit of a road to go. We spoke about what is going on in his province, and also in their mission in Vietnam. Then, on Saturday evening I took the red eye to Baltimore. I will be here on the east coast for the next few weeks so I should recover soon from the jet lag. My reading has included: Bleeding Kansas by Sara Peretsky This book is based in the farmland just outside of Lawrence, Kansas. There are constant reminders of the early years of settlement in the State of Kansas and how it was tinged with violence from raids made by the pro-slavery faction from across the border in Missouri. The action takes place with various farm families and their difficulties. One loses a son in the war in Iraq, the mother has a breakdown which leads to a suicide attempt, etc. Another, a family involved in a salvation church, has a calf that might be pure red (and therefore essential for ultra-rigorous Jewish groups that want to rebuild the temple). There are references to a fire on a farm during the 60’s in which a hippie was killed. There is a woman who moves into the neighborhood who practices Wiccah and is a Lesbian. Most of the violence occurring in the present era is emotional (although not all). It is a not bad read. The Judgment of Caesar by Steven Saylor This is the second book by Saylor that I have read. He writes about a Roman official named Gordianus the Finder who is a type of private detective. He lives in the last days of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the rule of Julius Caesar, traumatic times for the Romans. This book involves the time right after Pompey the Great was defeated by Julius at Pharsalus. Pompey fled to Egypt where he was murdered. Julius arrives and tried to judge the rights of the two Pharaohs ruling at the time, Ptolemy (a 15 year old boy) and Cleopatra (his 20 year old sister). They are brother and sister as well as husband and wife, in the tradition of Pharaoh’s of Egypt. The politics are intricate, almost Byzantine. In the meantime, Gordianus’ estranged adopted son is accused of attempted murder. The book is well researched, and for those who love Roman history, it is a joy reading. Three Powers: Three Short Works by Joshua Scribner This short work is a compilation of three short stories, each of which has to do with someone with an extraordinary gift. One can smell as good as the beasts of the fields, one can taste the residue of people and things like a snake can, and one can sense the pain of creatures that are dying. Each of the stories is short and to the point, and each presents a good lesson. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 9, 2012


June 9, 2012 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all of this week for a second week of meetings. This time our definitory met with the heads of the various conferences throughout the world. There are seven of them (Asia, Africa, North America, Latin America, Mediterranean Europe, Central Europe and Eastern Europe), the same number of assistant generals of the various areas. We talked about how things are going in their areas, getting ready for General Chapter, a couple of projects that the order has begun, etc. We actually ended the meeting early, so yesterday was spent correcting the English of one of our friars’ doctoral thesis. He did it on philosophy, and that is not my favorite field. Fortunately, I don’t have to understand what he is writing, I only have to correct the grammar. Considering that English is not his first language, he has done an incredible job. I am now half finished (it is well over 300 pages long) I have also been writing some articles for one of our magazines in England called the Crusader. They print 70,000 copies and distribute it free of charge. People are so generous with donations that it pays for the printing and helps pay for the costs of our friars in formation. Today I head off to Korea with our Assistant General for Asia. There will be a provincial chapter there this week, so I am on my way to give the report on my visitation performed several months ago. Then on Thursday I will fly into California to visit an ailing provincial there. The following has been my reading this week: The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax This is a very, very good novel about three musicians and their relationship and adventures. Two of them are Spanish, and the other is an Italian Jew. The hero of the story, Feliu, was born just before the Spanish American war during which his father died in Cuba. He becomes a cellist, and eventually joins up with a conceited pianist and a troubled violinist. The title of the book is taken from the idea that he received a bow from his father in a package received after the father’s death. Feliu is a troubled character. Even his birth was nearly fatal, for he was a breach birth in the days that this was incredibly dangerous. By the end of the book, one doesn’t know whether to like Feliu or pity him. This is a book that I would highly recommend. Heidegger’s Glasses by Thaisa Frank The basis of this story is that there was a department established by the Nazi’s during the war to respond to the undelivered letters which the Nazi’s had forced deported people to write as soon as they arrived in their concentration camps. It is not clear whether this was for paranormal reasons (so that their ghosts could rest) or to serve as propaganda when the war would end (for they intended to establish a museum filled with the answers showing that the holocaust reports were not real). Heidegger, the great philosopher, writes a letter to his Jewish optician with whom he has had a correspondence for years, asking for his new set of glasses. Now, this team must respond to Heidegger’s letter as if they were the optician (who was sent to the camps and is dead) so that Heidegger will not suspect the truth about his friend’s death. The heroine of the story is a Polish Catholic lady who runs the team and manages to provide their needs and even luxuries for them. She invents a plan to write such a strange letter to Heidegger that he will insist on seeing his friend who is in Auschwitz. The action of the story is beautiful, touching, painful, and yet funny. The book is well worth reading. Titan: the Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow Ron Chernow is well known for writing long, exhaustive biographies. I read one on Alexander Hamilton. This one deals with John D. Rockefeller, Sr. He tries to be honest and fair in his approach to his character. He is not afraid to point out the contradiction between a man who could be ruthless in business and yet extravagant in charity. He also follows a bit of the lives of the children and grandchildren, all of whom suffered either from his at times distant fathering or from the riches which they inherited. Until Bill Gates, he was probably the greatest philanthropist in the world. He started funding sectarian charities (Baptist), but slowly branched out to many other areas, but especially medical research. The book is very good, but very long (almost the size of a Michener novel). I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, June 4, 2012


June 4, 2012 Peace and Good, This has been a rather quiet week. I have been in Rome all week. The early part of the week was doing a number of projects that had been put off (reports for our definitory, daily reflections on scripture, etc.) Then Wednesday and Thursday we had a definitory. This was the shortest one that I have attended so far. On Friday, one of the American provincials, fr. Justin, from Immaculate Conception Province, arrived. I have been with him off and on in these days. This coming week, we have a meeting with the seven presidents of the zones (we call them conferences and federations) of our order. We do this every year, but this year it is especially important as we get ready for our General Chapter (meeting of all the provincials and delegates from throughout the world). We will be holding it in Assisi from mid January until mid February. That is when a new general will be elected (or the present one re-elected), as well as his definitory. That includes myself, and I am either ready to continue or to go home. It is a really good feeling to not need to have this responsibility. Some friars are crushed if they are not re-elected. That would certainly not be my reaction. I have more than enough to do with my writing and giving retreats to keep me busy for the rest of my life. Whatever the Holy Spirit wants…. I will probably be posting next week’s entry later this week and not on the weekend. This Saturday I will be heading to Seoul for the provincial chapter. Since I did the visitation during this past January, I must be present to give the report at the chapter itself. Then, off to California for a couple of days, and then on to the east coast. I have finished a few books: The Prometheus Project: Stranded by Rouglas E. Richards This is the third of the Prometheus Project books. The premise is that an alien city has been found underground in Pennsylvania. A scientist couple are instrumental in its exploration, and their children sneak in and join the team. In this volume, there is the question of what the fourth dimension must be like. The hope in the book is to stretch one’s concepts of what some other form of being might be like. Also, there is the question of behavioral activity among animals. All of these books are intended to teach scientific information in a palatable way. It is an easy read, and enjoyable. The History of Standard Oil by Ida Tarbell This is a muckracker’s history of the foundation of Standard Oil company by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. In the 1870’s and beyond. I read this at the same time that I was reading a biography of Rockefeller by Ron Chernow. This was good because it gave me a different view on some of the machinations that Rockefeller resorted to corner the market on refining oil in the United States until Standard Oil controlled 90% of the industry. He did this especially by obtaining rebates from the railroads for the oil that they carried from the main center of production (northwestern Pennsylvania). Not only did he receive money back for each barrel of oil that he shipped, he was able to receive that same rebate for every barrel of oil his competitors shipped. This caused the industry to center upon Cleveland, while that centered in northwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to suffer. This particular volume is more of an attack on his practices than an honest evaluation of what he did. Dragged into Darkness by Simon Wood This is a series of short stories by the mystery writer Simon Wood. I have read one of his mystery novels, but these are very different. They are all a bit bizarre. There is a pilot whose plane begins to crash because he has lost faith in the fact that planes can fly. There is a story of a mysterious creature found in a volcano during the war by the British which is able to read minds anywhere in the world. The catch is that it eats human flesh, so the only person who communicates with it must falsify a bit of the information to insure that some of the raids will fail, producing tons of human flesh. There is even the shrunken head genre within this collection. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude