Monday, July 30, 2012


July 29, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I have been in Rome this past week, catching up on all the projects that are overdue because I have not have time over these past months to complete them. Travelling all the time makes it difficult to do some of the things which you have been asked to do. Now that we finished our definitory this past Saturday, I had a full week to work on these other things. I will continue to be in Rome for another 10 days or so, and then head up to Assisi to give a talk on the Word of God to a group of youth who will be gathering there for a summer camp with St. Francis. I will write up the talk in English, but they have asked me to make the presentation in Italian. The weather here has been very hot these past days. This is a time of the year that it is a terrible idea to visit Rome. Even the Holy Father gets out of the city and goes off to the hills outside of Rome, Castel Gondolfo, to get out of the oppressive heat. Most of the other members of the curia are either travelling these days or taking a bit of vacation. Our Minister General and the Assistant General for Latin America are off at our missions on the Amazon in Brazil. I am actually the only definitory member at home, so you might say that I am in charge of the order for these next few days. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. I have to be within phone range in case we get any important phone calls, and I have to sort out the mail to make sure that nothing important has arrived. The Secretary General will be back home at the end of the week. I have finished a few books. The range of these three books gives you a good sense of how eclectic my reading habits are. Much of what I read is determined by what is on sale on my Kindle. The Bismark: The Final Days of Germany’s Greatest Battleship by Niklas Zetterlin This is the story of the building and the sinking of the great German battleship the Bismark. It was built to sink merchant shipping. Yet, it was discovered early in its attempt to break out into the Atlantic. In its first battle it sank the Hood, one of England’s most beloved ships. It was slightly damaged in the battle, and decided to head to Brest in France for repairs. On the way, it lost its pursuers, and then was located again. Eventually, a torpedo from an airplane hit it in a spot that froze its steering mechanism. From that point on, it was a sitting target, and it was sunk the next day. Anthony and Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough Lately I have been reading a series of detective novels by Stephen Saylor about the Roman empire. This is a totally different style which deals with the story of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra and Augustus Caesar. It deals more with the question from the point of view of romance and intrigue, but it nevertheless gives a huge amount of historic detail. I especially like the portraits of the various characters involved in the drama. It portrays Anthony as a well meaning brute of a figure who has huge appetites which often lead him into difficulty. Caesar is presented as a stoic, often cold, always calculating figure. Cleopatra is shown to be a royal mother who is clever to the point of being conniving. Most of her plots are to further the prospects of her son by Julius Caesar. It is well worth a read. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton This is an apologia for belief. It is written in a style that was common in 19th century England (e.g. Cardinal Newman). It was written in the first half of the 20th century. The arguments are based upon the idea belief is not only reasonable; it is the only reasonable idea. He demolishes the rationalist ideas of scientists and free thinkers. The only problem is that it is not an easy read. The arguments are filled with imagery that was understandable in the era in which it was written, but is less so today. What I liked the most is the idea that Christianity allows one to be imaginative, childlike in one’s approach to the world, while the secular approach is not really as “free” as its proponents would have us believe. They have categorically refused to believe in anything that cannot be measured, quantified, qualified. A child with imagination can believe in dragons and flying cows. A child can believe in that which that child has never seen. But to refuse to believe in what one cannot see and measure is a type of slavery to one’s senses and it shuts one out of so many possibilities. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 23, 2012


July 23, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope you are well. I have been in Rome all this week for meetings. This was our regular definitory which lasts from Monday morning until Saturday lunch time. We are getting ready for our General Chapter this coming January. Representatives from over 80 jurisdictions throughout the world (over 40 different countries) will be gathering in Assisi for four weeks to discuss the future of the order. There will also be elections for our Minister General and his definitory. My term finished then for I am filling in for my predecessor who passed away two years ago. If the friars feel that the Spirit is calling me to serve for another term, that would be six years. I am ready for either. If I am to stay in Rome, that is fine. If I am called to another apostolate, that would be fine as well. The weather here in Rome has been quite warm this week. Thank goodness that much of our building is now air conditioned. That is not at all guaranteed over here, because Italians are deathly afraid of drafts. They think that it is bad for one’s liver. (Of course, it’s not the wine they drink, but rather the drafts.) I will be home here in Rome for the next few weeks catching up on a number of projects that had to be put off for quite some time. It is a good feeling to know that I will be able to finish these things. I have finished a few books. The first one by Kadare was really incredible. It gives one insight to a very different culture and I highly recommend it. The Ghost Rider by Ismail Kadare The author is Albanian, and wrote mostly during the time of the control of Albania by the communists. Many of his works had to be smuggled out of the country, and he had to be careful what he wrote about lest the government crack down upon him. This is a story which takes place in medieval Albania in which a young woman who had married and travelled to a distant land suddenly shows up at her mother’s doorway. She claims that her brother brought her home. The only problem is that her brothers (nine of them) had all died of a plague shortly after her marriage and her departure. Both she and her mother immediately collapse and they both die shortly afterwards. The police investigator of the village must get to the bottom of the truth lest people begin to say (which was already happening) that her brother had come back from the dead. By the end of the story one realizes that it has less to do with the question of whether someone had risen from the dead or not. It was all about the promise that the brother had made to his sister to bring her back to her mother if and when she was needed. In Albania, this is called a besa. It is a promise but also a matter of honor. Albania lie between the east and the west, between the Christian and Muslim world. Its entire understanding of itself would shortly be shaken by war and confusion. The people needed something on which they could relay. The besa, honor, gave them an interior guide which could direct their conduct. We could also think of its importance in a communist system in which out author was writing. The government wanted to control everything, but they could not control a man’s self-worth if he was a man of honor and integrity. Crush by Alan Jacobson This is the story of an FBI profiler who goes on a vacation to the wine country of California with her boyfriend, only to be caught up in the investigation of a serial killer. She, herself, almost becomes a victim. She works with and against the local police. There are the usual questions of the FBI and local jurisdiction, mixed in with a dose of local dirty politics. The serial killer proves to be illusive, possibly because while some of his killings are simply his own agenda, others seem to have a financial stake. The book ends without tying up all the loose ends, a choice made by the author to leave room in the story for a sequel. Maximum Ride by James Patterson James Patterson has set up a cottage industry of co-authoring books of various different styles. This is the story of a group of teen age mutant children. They have been genetically altered so that they have wings and other unusual abilities. Bad people are constantly trying to capture them or kill them. The dialog is intended to be wise-guy cool, something an adult would think that a teen ager might say. This is an easy read, funny in parts. The bottom line of this particular volume is to combat global warming. Not exactly rocket science, but something that can help one to relax. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ellicott City - St. Meinrad, IN - Ellicott City - Rome

July 16, 2012 Peace and Good, This past week I was attending a province assembly of the friars of one of the Midwestern provinces, Our Lady of Consolation. The topic was intercultural fraternity. There are already a number of friars working in intercultural communities here in the United States. The province has traditionally had ties with two entities that they founded: Zambia (which is a province) and Honduras (which is a custody, or a baby province). Furthermore, in these past few years, they have established joint projects with the custody of Mexico and with the province of India. Friars from each of those jurisdictions came to the assembly to share their experiences. There were speakers on the situation of the order, on the process of mentoring, and on intercultural dialog. We were at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana which is really quite some place. There are about 50 monks, and there were another 60 or 70 of us. It is always good when the friars get together, and there was a wonderful spirit there. The last day, Thursday, we have a short extraordinary chapter. A chapter is a gathering of the friars, usually every four years. But, if there are extraordinary projects to approve, then the friars (or their delegates) gather together in between to make their decisions. There was a technical matter that had to be voted upon by the chapter, so that is what we did. That evening I headed back to Baltimore, and then on Friday evening back to Rome. This morning we began our definitory which will continue on until Saturday. A friar passed away in Romania who was one of the key people in re-establishing the order there. I knew him very well, and he died on Saturday. We had been told that his funeral was Wednesday, so I got permission and bought a ticket to go to the funeral, going there tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, they changed the date of the funeral, and it is going to be tomorrow morning. There is only one flight a day, so I cannot be there. Not a lot I can do. As one of the friars said, you made the gesture of charity, and the Lord absolved you from having to carry it through. I really would have loved to be there though, for I know him since 1991 and he was the one who first invited me there. These are the book I have finished: The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper I expected to read a book that was basically similar to the story that was seen in the recent movie, but this book is quite different. The character Hawkeye is much more hidden, filled with native American wisdom. He constantly attacks the ways of the whites, including their religion. He is also filled with tremendous prejudice against native Americans other than the Mohicans with whom he has lived for a long while. We see the nobility of Chingachgook and his son. We see the evil of Magua. The taking of the fort seen in the film and the massacre of its refugees is repeated. The aftermath, however, is quite different. The two daughters of Munro are captured (twice actually). We see Uncas, the son of Chingachgook, take a role of leadership due to the fact that he belongs to the clan of the tortoise. The end turns out to be much more violent and sad than could have been filmed. Barbarosa: The Russian German Conflict 1941-1945 by Alan Clark This is the story of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and the battles fought between then and the end of the war. The book is very informative. It contains a large number of accounts for those who organized both the attack and the defense. The author argues that Hitler’s military decisions for most of the invasion were not all that bad, and in fact, possibly better than the strategy proposed by his generals. Clark shows how the invasion was a near miss, for the Soviet troops were all but defeated when they were able to pull it together at the last minute. Toussaint L’Ouverture: a Biography and Autobiography John Relly Beard This is a presentation of the life of the leader of the freed blacks who established Haiti as an independent nation at the beginning of the 19th century. This revolution was marked by incredible violence among the various parties involved: black slaves, those of mixed race, the rich whites and the poor whites. The presentation of Toussaint is one of a sainted figure who tried to reconcile the various warring parties and establish peace among the people, while never surrendering the liberation of his own black people from the bondage of slavery. I am not sure that he was quite as innocent as is presented, but it is clear that he was poorly treated first by the French Republic and then by Napoleon. The book was written as a type of apologia for blacks, showing that they could lead themselves and fight for their own rights. This message was intended for the US as much as for Haiti.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ellicott City - Mariottsville - Mt. St. Francis

July 8, 2012 Peace and Good, This past Friday we had the storm that wiped out electricity in a number of states in the East. The friary in Ellicott City did not get power back for an entire week. I was there the first couple of days after the storm, and then the last day of the outage. It was incredibly hot. It reminded me of Ghana and the Philippines, but without fans. From Monday to Friday I was preaching a retreat at Mariottsville which was just down the street from Ellicott City. This was the second retreat in a row. This was a larger group than the first retreat I preached in Malvern, PA. There were over 30 friars on retreat. It went very, very well. We had a great discussion one evening on different dimensions of our life. Wednesday we had a ceremony to receive the new postulants for our order. There are four new young men who have entered the program. Although the number is down from previous years, we can certainly be very, very thankful for this great blessing. This morning I flew out from Baltimore to Louisville. I am here to attend an assembly of Our Lady of Consolation Province at St. Meinerad Monastery in Indiana. We will be discussing the multi-cultural dimension of our order. My reading includes: A Mist of Prophecies: A Mystery of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor This is the third of Saylor’s books that I have read. They are all set in ancient Rome, during the period of time of the death of the republic and the beginning of the reign of Julius Caesar. This one takes place while Caesar and Pompey are off in Greece to fight the battle that will end in Caesar’s complete ascendency. Gordianus who is called the seeker, a type of detective, seeks the murderer of a woman who seems to have a gift for prophecy. This woman also turned out to be his adulterous lover. The book really centers on the women who held power in Rome behind the thrones of the so-called leaders. Once again, Saylor’s historic accuracy is great, and his descriptions held me from the first page of the book. He has a gift. The Lotus Eaters by Tatiana Soli This story begins with the evacuation of Americans from Saigon just before the Vietcong and North Vietnamese take the city. A photographer who has been in the city for years decides to send her lover along but to remain for the “big moment” of the takeover. The book then passes into a retrospective of how Helen, the photographer, arrived at this moment. She came to Vietnam an inexperienced photographer and innocent of the world. She was taken in by a Hemmingway type photographer with whom she lives for a few years before he is killed in the war. She both hates the violence of Vietnam but craves its life energy, almost as if she is addicted to the adrenaline of the danger. She comes to understand the people and the country and identify with them more than her own countrymen. Her married lover eventually dies, and she marries Lin, a Vietnamese assistant who becomes a staff photographer for Life. Helen, the photographer, is torn between the work and her quiet, gentle love of Lin. This is a very good book to gain insight into a woman working in what is considered to be a man’s occupation, into a person trying to understand an alien culture, and into the havoc that a war can have upon both those living within the country at war and those who are sent into that country to fight. Nobody escapes undamaged. It is a very good book. Dunkirk by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore Whenever I hear about Dunkirk, I think of the miraculous evacuation of so many British soldiers who were trapped on the coast of France at the beginning of World War II. Montefiore brilliantly speaks of the situation that led up to that moment in time and how the British troops (and to a lesser extent the French and Belgians) fought to keep open an evacuation route to the beaches. He centers on the defenses that helps men evacuate and not so much on the evacuation itself. In fact, he seems more interested in telling the story of the ships that were destroyed than the ones that made it home safe. As history, it is very complete, especially using the accounts of eye-witnesses. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ellicott City - Malvern, PA - Ellicott City

July 2, 2012 Peace and Good, I am sorry that this blog is a bit late, but I am caught up in the power outage that has hit the east coast. They are speaking about the power being out for as long as a week. This afternoon I begin a retreat at a local retreat house which I believe has power. This past week I preached a retreat for the friars of Immaculate Conception Province and St. Anthony Province at Malvern, PA. The retreat house there is the largest retreat house in the nation, and it is run entirely by laymen. There is a real advantage with that. We religious were never trained in business practices, and we often make big mistakes when we try to run large enterprises. Business people have more of a sense of how things should be run: e.g. how much to charge, how to hire people, how to advertise, etc. The retreat went very well. I come from one of the provinces of the men on the retreat, and I am amazed that they treat me with such great respect. Part of it is, I am sure, respect for the responsibility that I have been asked to fulfill: Assistant General. Part of it seems to be their hunger for Sacred Scripture which I explain in the conferences. I am so grateful to be able to share my insights with them. That was why I was sent on for further studies: to share what I learned with those who want to know more. I have one more session of this retreat this week, and then another two in October. That will complete my cycle of retreats for the year. Then, it will be a question of waiting until our General Chapter in January to see whether I will continue in this responsibility or whether they will ask me to do something else. I have finished a few books (although getting a charge for my e book has been a bit of a challenge). They are: Winter Sea by Susanna Kearnsley This is a novel set at two levels. At one level, it is the story of a historic novelist who wants to write a novel about characters who live in Scotland around 1700 and who are involved in an abortive rebellion to bring back a Stuart king in Scotland. (This was the time of the unification of reigns between England and Scotland.) The other level is the story that this novelist tells, but which all but seems to be channeled into her dreams. She knows details that no one could possibly know, and she finds out that part of the story is actually part of her own family’s past. It is not a question of some previous life. It is more the question of whether some of our family memories can be passed down through our DNA, a good question upon which we can reflect. It almost sounds like something that Carl Jung would talk about, the unconscious memory of people as individuals and as a group. More than dealing with the actual historic details, the story is of a love affair between a young woman and a Scottish officer in the service of a French king, as well as of the author and the older son of her landlord. As an author, she feels the obligation to tell the story as it happened, even when it seems to have a sad ending (something that her book agent will not accept). Romulus: Founder of Rome by Jacob Abbott This is one of the series of books by Abbott on historical figures. The difficulty of this book is that there is relatively little information about who Romulus actually was (if he, in fact, ever existed). The book is therefore packed with filler, like the introduction of the alphabet to Europe and the story of the Trojan horse. There are the usual stories from legend, as well as a good amount of information on the institutions of the Roman Republic (such as the role of the family, augury, etc.) Mountains of the Pharaohs: the Untold Story of the Pyramid Builders by Zahi Howas This is a very good presentation of how the pyramids were built and by whom. The author is an Egyptian archaeologist who worked on the excavation of various pyramid sights. He speaks of the history of the pharaohs responsible, the techniques used in building the pyramids, and the reasons why there are variations in the style and location of them. I never realized that the pyramid sights were actually the seats of government, the pharaoh and his court being located within a short distance from the pyramid being built. Furthermore, rather than picturing the pyramids being built by slaves, they were actually put up by a well fed and well trained team that was supplied with material from a well articulated form of government that extended from the Mediterranean to the Aswan cataract. Hope you have a good week. Shalom, Fr. Jude