Friday, September 28, 2012

Chicago - Carey - Chicago - Rome

September 28, 2012 Peace and Good, I am sorry that I am so late this week in writing this blog, but it has been incredibly busy, as you will soon see. I had flown over from Rome to Chicago a two weeks ago today. Then on Sunday the rest of the General Definitory arrived from Rome. I am the only native English speaker, so I was responsible for coordinating arrangements with the local friars. We stayed first of all with our friars in the friary on Kenmore Avenue. This is a few blocks away from Loyolla. They were incredible. They responded to our every need, often before we even asked them. Our definitory met throughout the week, preparing material for our General Chapter in January. We also took an afternoon off to visit Chicago. There was a two hour bus tour with an Italian translater to explain the history and architecture of the city. The friars then took a boat ride on the river, and we ate supper on the pier. On Saturday we drove down to Carey, Ohio. Along the way we stopped at one of our parishes in Angola, Indiana where we had lunch. That evening we had a dinner celebrating the 100th anniversary of the friars' presence at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation. The next day at noon we had a solemn Mass celebrated by our Minister General. The church was packed. Then at 2:30 we had devotions at which I preached. On Monday we headed back to the Chicago area. We stopped at our novitiate on the way to have lunch and meet with the novices. They are located at Misshawaka which is right near Notre Dame University. We arrived at Marytown in Libertyville, IL, later that day. This is in the north Chicago area. Tursday and Wednesday we met with the provincials, custodes and delegates of North America and Great Britain/Ireland. Then Thursday we took a trip to Milwaukee to see our Basilica of St. Josaphat (which is magnificent) and to have a brewery tour and then go to a German restaurant for supper. Today I finished off our meetings with the provincials. Now I am heading back to Italy for a week. I have a series of meetings in Assisi. I will be heading back next Friday. These are the books I have finished: Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor This is another one of those detective novels set in the times of Julius Caesar. The hero of the book if a man named Gordianus the Finder. He uses his investigative skills to discover the murderer of a young woman in a city being besieged by the troops of Caesar. Marsailles up to that point had been a free city founded by the Greeks. When Caesar passed by on his way to Spain to fight the troops of Pompey, they refused him entrance. He therefore put the city under siege. Gordianus and his son-in-law find a way to get into the city to seek his son who has disappeared. There is a sub-theme of fathers and children and the pain that this relationship can cause. As always, Saylor is brilliant in his portrayal of both the times and the people involved. The Pope’s Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere by Caroline Murphy This is the story of the daughter of Pope Julius II. Although he recognized his daughter, Julius did not flaunt his relationship as his predecessor did (the Borgia family). She became a power in her own name. The story comes from what documents have been passed down, and it often has to be constructed from receipts and legers. She really was a remarkable person, heading the Orsini family in Rome. She lived in Rome during the days when the city was conquered by the king of Spain and his army of disgruntled Spanish and German (many of whom were Lutheran and hated the Roman Catholic Church). Later in her life, she spend most of her energy and resources to further the cause of her children. This is a fascinating insight into the life of a woman during the Renaissance. Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig Symonds We tend to talk about Lincoln’s generals, but we have also to remember the importance of his navy in establishing a blockade outside of the cities of the South and in bombarding cities along the Mississippi and other rivers. The books deals with the abolition question because so many black slaves sought refuge with the naval forces who then established free colonies along the coast for them. It also deals with the same difficulties that Lincoln faced with generals: that some of them were political hacks and blatantly incompetent, while others were just not all that good at what they were doing. Over the years, Lincoln was able to find a core of admirals upon whom he could trust. There was also the tremendous tension within Lincoln’s own cabinet, especially between the secretary of the Navy Welles and the secretary of commerce Chase. That erupted in the question of who was permitted to carry contraband goods to and from the rebelling states, e.g. the bales of cotton that were piled up along the rivers, etc. The book is well researched and well written. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rome - Chicago

September 17, 2012 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all throughout this past week for a workshop for the new provincials and new secretaries of the various jurisdictions of our order. This is always a great event because we get to see how international our order is. There were representatives from Italy, Romania, Argentina, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, India, Korea, Japan and Indonesia. These are all first term provincials, and the workshop was instituted to help them fulfill their responsibilities. I have already had contacts with some of them and I was able to get together with a few of them to deal with situations in their provinces. One of the nice elements of this was that we had supper at our house in the Vatican. Our friars are the confessors on one side of the Basilica of St. Peter’s and they live just inside the gate on the left side of the Basilica, just beyond the Swiss guard are standing. We ate supper out on the terrazzo overlooking the gardens of the Vatican. When we friars pass through the gates, we are actually saluted by the Swiss guard. On Friday I flew out to Chicago for our meetings the next couple of weeks. I was lucky to make my connection in London because there was only about 2 ¼ hour turnover, and the plane was 1 ½ hour late leaving Rome. Fortunately, there were no problems in getting through security (which there sometimes are). The rest of the general curia arrived yesterday in Chicago. I had come a couple of days early to get the arrangements ready for the rest of them. This morning we began a series of meetings that will continue all through this week and into next week. I have finished a few books: Forever Odd by Dean Koontz This has to be one of my favorite characters: Odd Thomas. This is his actual name, either because of a mistake made by a clerk when he was born or the malicious intent of a deeply disturbed mother. Odd is a fast fry cook in a diner who also sees ghosts and becomes involved in their travails. One of these ghosts, by the way, is Elvis. In this volume he seeks to save Danny, a young man subject to brittle bone disease, who has been kidnapped by a maniac. Odd is different, but incredibly respectful to elders, humble, gentle, and kind. Toward the end of the book he reflects upon why there is so much pain and evil in the universe and how this all can be healed. I heartily recommend the whole series. Bonnie Prince Charlie: a Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden by G.A. Henty This is another of Henty’s historical novels that are intended to show heroism for the young men of Britain during the period in which they were written. This one takes place in Scotland during the last moments of the Scottish independence movement during the 18th century and in France where many of the exiled Scots fought in the army of the king of France. There are the usual twists and turns. The author manages to show the heroism of the Stuart backers without rejecting one’s duty to be faithful to the Hanoverian (George I, II and III) dynasty. He also brings across the tragedy of Scotland’s attachment to a lost cause and the consequences of such horrendous decisions. The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution by Thomas Slaughter During the presidency of George Washington, there was a bit of a rebellion of westerners (which at that time meant western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc.) against the federal government. The cause was an excise tax imposed upon whiskey. It was difficult to transport grain over the mountains to the east, and life on the western frontier was rough. Therefore, farmers would make whiskey out of their excess grain. When the federal government imposed a tax upon that whiskey, many farmers in western Pennsylvania rose in arms. This book explains why there were already tensions between the eastern establishment and western settlers. The westerners were barely surviving. They felt that the government was not helping them establish a transport system (e.g. open passage on the Mississippi). Now, it was taking what little currency they had (for much of the business of the frontier was done with barter). Furthermore, there was agitation by the Spanish and English in the hope of cutting off a bit of the land between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi. The rebellion itself was crushed quickly. Washington assigned control of a militia army to Richard Henry Lee (of the Robert E Lee family), and by the time that the army arrived in Western Pennsylvania, it was all over. Many farmers and agitators were arrested, but very few were charged. Only two of those charged were convicted, and they were pardoned by Washington. The tensions between the big eastern establishment and the small farmers and businessmen continued to fester, coming to the fore with the election of Jefferson, and even more Jackson. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, September 10, 2012


September 10, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I am been in Rome since this last Monday, having returned from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This has been a week for catching up on projects. Today I actually feel as if I am caught up, although that never really lasts. These past couple of days I was going over the Lectors’ Workbook for 2013. This is a project that I have been doing for over ten years. Now it is only a question of making a few corrections and some changes that I might have developed from my reading. I also had another teleconference with members of the board of directors of Franciscans International. It is incredible that we can have a conference with people from Canada, the US, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. We are getting ready for our semi-annual meeting which will be held in Assisi in the days immediately preceding St. Francis Day. We will be meeting with the Generals of all of the Franciscan Orders, so this is an important meeting for the future of the organization. These past couple of days we have been receiving guests from various provinces all over the world. Every year or so we have a workshop for new provincials to teach them how to do certain things that their job requires. The official title is something like “Workshop for new provincials…”, but the English speakers have shortened it to “Finishing School.” Once again, this really shows how international our order is. We have participants from Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, Slovakia, Poland, Kenya and Zambia. They will be here until Saturday, but I will be sneaking out on Friday to head to Chicago to get ready for our next big meeting there which begins this coming Monday. I have finished a few books: The Kommandant’s Mistress by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman This is the story of a commandant in a camp in Germany during the war who takes a “mistress” from among the Jews in his camp. The story is told at several different times at the same time, and the transition is often nothing more than a common word. It is told from his perspective and hers. We see how the commandant is raising a family within the camp. We hear about the beginning of his career, mid-way through it during the war, and even after when his “mistress” has written books telling about her trial. The topic is disturbing, and the current that the book follows is confusing, which might well reflect the reality of what happened to those who were involved in this sad period of history. The Savage Day by Jack Higgins This is the story of a British-Irish soldier who is forced out of the army for following orders which results in a massacre of insurgents. He is then secretly recruited to spy upon the IRA in Ireland during the troubles. It is a well written spy novel with interesting characters. There are really only two major characters and a limited number of minor ones, and yet the author brings them to life in a powerful way. He treats the IRA in quite a fair way, showing that there are members who are honest patriots and others who are homicidal maniacs. There are a number of spins along the way that keep one wondering. Higgins is really a fine author. The Vicomte of Bragelonne by Victor Hugo This is a typically long, drawn account of some proceedings at the court of King Louis XIV when he is quite young and still controlled by the queen mother and Cardinal Mazerin. Athos, one of the three musketeers, is on a mission to help Charles II of England reclaim his throne after the death of Oliver Cromwell. After Charles is restored, the story shifts to the intrigues at the palace of Louis XIV in the early years of his reign. We hear about how Louis XIV brings back one of the Musketeers to be the captain of his guard, and how he tries to set a course for himself that is not so conditioned by his counselors who were robbing the country blind. We also hear about some of the escapades which occur when the king tries to cut his dependence upon one counselor who has lined his pockets and he begins to trust another. The book ends on an odd note, almost as if it had been cut off at the end of an episode and not the entire story. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rome - Nazareth - Jerusalem - Rome

September 4, 2012 Peace and Good, I just got back from my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was incredible. This is the third time that I have been there. Our guide was one of our friars from Padua whom I know from when I was studying in Rome many years ago: fr. Gianni Cappoletto. He is now the provincial of the Paduan province, and he took time off to give us this pilgrimage/retreat as we get ready for our general chapter. We first went north to Nazareth. There we stayed with the OFM friars at the basilica of the Annunciation. We visited Bethlehem, Capernaum, the site of the Beatitudes, the site of the multiplication of bread and loaves and of Peter’s mandate to be the chief shepherd of the Church, etc. The weather was very hot, and I would not recommend having a tour at the end of August. Yet, it meant that there were not quite as many tourists as there often are. The second part of the pilgrimage was based in Jerusalem. We went to Qumran, Jericho, Bethlehem, Ein Karin, Emmaus, etc. We even had Mass both on the hill of Calvary within the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and within the tomb in which Jesus was buried and from which he rose from the dead. . As a writer, I was both listening for myself and for what I could share in my articles in the Messenger of St. Anthony. I found some dozen topics upon which I can write over these next months. This is not the St. Anthony’s Messenger magazine which comes from Cincinnati. It is the English language version of our magazine printed in Padua. If anyone is ever interested in subscribing, you could write to the Anthonian Association, 101 St. Anthony Drive, Mount St. Francis, IN 47146. In the States, a year’s subscription costs $31. It is a good international magazine (11 issues a year). My most positive moment during the pilgrimage was on the mount where the Beatitudes were proclaimed. To be honest, we are not sure exactly where they were proclaimed, but this is the spot where that event is commemorated. There was something about the site and the day that deeply moved me. My worst moment was in the Holy Sepulchre, as it has been the last two times I was in the Holy Land. The tomb is jointly administered by the Orthodox, the Armenians, the Copts and the Roman Catholics. It is a four ring circus. It is noisy and not very prayerful. We did have a wonderful moment of prayer when we had a vigil in the Church of the Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane after hours. The church is very somber and one sees the rock of the garden right under the altar. The trees in the garden are very, very old. (Probably not dating to the time of Jesus, but their antiquity gives that sense nevertheless). The OFM Franciscans who take of the sites in the Holy Land are real heroes. They do a wonderful job and are friendly and helpful. I cannot say enough about them and their often difficult service. A troubling aspect of the visit is the wall that Israel is constructing to keep out terrorists. They have extended the wall all throughout the Arab zones to confiscate their land. They make daily life for the inhabitants very, very difficult. If one is working on the other side of the wall, it can take hours to get through it each day. I don’t know what the solution to terrorism is, but this one is not working. It is only creating more and more hatred which will have a bad effect in the long run. I finished a few books these days: The Jesuits in North America by Francis Parkman This 19th century book (by the same author of the book, The Oregon Trail) speaks of the Jesuit mission in North America. It outlines some of the different cultural backgrounds of the tribes among whom the Jesuits served. It then goes on to speak about the mission of some of the early Jesuit missionaries first in Montreal and then among the Hurons. While the author clearly admires the Jesuits, he also speaks of how they so controlled the life of the early settlers that it was unhealthy. We hear about the establishment of Montreal. We then hear about the sufferings and martyrdom of the missionaries by the Iroquois. We also hear about the eventual success of the mission, especially among the Huron. Even though Parkman is not Catholic (and in the 19th century there was a lot of prejudice against Catholics), one can see the respect and at times the awe that Parkman feels toward the heroism of the early Jesuit missionaries. The missionaries were unfortunate in that their mission to the Huron and Algonquin was damaged by the attacks of the Iroquois confederacy. They also suffered through disease which ironically might have been brought into the villages by the missionaries themselves. By the end of their mission, most of those whom they had served had been conquered or died. The book is not an easy read for it was written during the 19th century, but it is well worth reading. Everyman by Philip Roth The story begins at the funeral of a Jewish man who has died in old age during a serious operation. His daughter misses him, his sons much less so for they were estranged. We then hear memories of his life, starting with how he was raised by a father who owned a jewelry shop. Then we hear about his relationships. He had been married three times. The first time he divorced after having two sons. His second marriage was ideal but he cheated on his loving, trusting wife. His third marriage to a woman many years his junior was a disaster. We hear of how he retires and slowly loses his health, having to undergo a major operation every year in his last years. He finds himself lonely and diminished. He begins to think of death without any perspective of the afterlife. The book is good, if not a bit depressing (which is sometimes the logical response to what is happening in some people’s lives). Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith This is the story of Arkady Renkin, a detective in the Soviet Union during the days of Brezhnev. He is assigned to investigate a triple murder. All he hopes is that the investigation will go away and be taken over by the KGB. Instead, he discovers more and more of the truth, blindly driven to do his work well even when it puts him in danger. In the meantime, his marriage is falling apart for his wife has fallen in love with a communist official with good connections. He falls in love with a dissident who is involved. He runs afoul of a group of renegade KGB agents. The story ends up in the US when he has to confront the businessman who is behind the whole thing. This whole genre of literature is fascinating. There is a disjoint between what is happening and what the characters know. There is constant suspicion. A commitment to honesty can prove deadly in the Soviet system. This is definitely a good read. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude