Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rome - Geneva - Rome

November 29, 2012 Peace and Good, This posting is a bit late this week because I had to leave on Monday to fly to Geneva at a last minute’s notice to take care of some business up there with Franciscans International, the NGO lobbying organization sponsored by the Franciscans at the UN. I flew back last evening after the meetings had concluded. The weather in Geneva this time of year is not great. It rained from the moment the plane touched down until it was time to go to the airport to return. I cannot believe how expensive everything is up there. It is sometimes double the prices down here in Rome, and Rome is already at least 50% more than in the States. This past week was spent trying to get ahead with articles, web scriptural reflections, etc. I have managed to get into a position where I am several months ahead with the articles and have finished the reflections until after the New Year, so I am in good shape. Tomorrow I will begin translating some important documents for the General Chapter. We usually have another translator for documents, but these are documents produced by the Minister General and the General Definitory, and I was present when they were written. I know what we were trying to say, so it was thought that it would be best for me to do these particular documents. There will be about 150 pages of them, so I will quite busy with them for the next ten days or so. I have also been hosting some friars who came through from our province, including our minister provincial, fr. James. We all went out for pizza Thanksgiving evening (and no, they didn’t have turkey pizza anywhere). I have finished a few books: David King Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi Occupied Paris This was a very interesting book about a mass murderer in the city of Paris during the Nazi occupation. It seems as if the man involved, a doctor, Dr. Maurice Petoit, convinced people that he could transport them to safety to the unoccupied part of France and eventually to Argentina. He offered these services to those who were desperate to escape: Jews, criminals, just normal people. He killed people in one of his properties and was only caught when the smell coming out of the building tipped people and eventually the police to the fact that he was burning bodies. There is no clear idea of how many people were actually killed. It might have been more than one hundred. The author speaks about the situation in Paris, the life of the doctor, and the eventual trial and death of the murderer. The irony was that the Nazis were killing hundreds and thousands of French in their death camps at the exact same time. The investigation into the deaths actually began during the occupation period, and only ended after the liberation. It was complicated by the fact that many of the people involved in the investigation were removed from their responsibilities because they were being accused of collaboration with the Nazis. This was a good book, although it is messy and troubling. Yalta: The Price of Peace by SM Plokhy This conference was one of the most infamous of gatherings of the leaders of the World War II allies. It resulted in the surrender of most of Eastern Europe to the communists for most of the rest of the century. This book surveys what really happened at that encounter. The book is well documented and not a difficult read. It deals with the motivations of Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt. It deals with many of the accusations that have been put forward concerning that meeting. It asks what could have been done to save Poland when it was already occupied by Soviet forces. The only real alternative would have been a new war when most of the world was incredibly exhausted from the war that was not yet over. I like the realistic tone the book takes. Stalin comes across as a shrewd manipulator of the other two main negotiators. One sees how much he controlled the government and army of his country. His underlings did not dare propose anything to the allies without first passing it by him. I would definitory recommend this book for anyone interested in World War II and Cold War history. Barcelona Betrayal by Steve Kenning This is a detective novel that takes place in Barcelona. The heroes of the story are a couple of soon to be married detectives. They are both beautiful and highly intelligent. All the other police in the story come across as incompetent or corrupt or both. The story dabbles with idea of multiple personalities, but the psychological information seems to be mistaken and confused. It is a good presentation of the environs of Barcelona, but the heroes come across as two dimensional and I wouldn’t recommend this particular author. Hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


November 20, 2012 Peace and Good, This week has been glorious. I have been home, sleeping in the same bed for more than a few days. It is great to get back to a routine and not have to improvise every day depending on where one is and what one is expected to do. This past week I have working up to catch up on some projects and get ahead. Next week I will be given an extensive number of pages to translate from Italian to English for the General Chapter. I will be doing this translation because I was present at the meeting in which this material was developed so I know the nuances of the phrases used. I think it will be around 150 pages in all. Most of it is rather straight forward, but it is still a lot of work to do. So I have been writing my articles for the Messenger of St. Anthony in Padua. I am up to date up to the August edition. I finished some articles for the Crusader Magazine in England. I sent them the articles up to the February edition. Today I finished off the daily reflections up to Christmas eve. We have had some visitors from my province as well. One of the friars came in from England to refresh his Italian for a month, and another came in to attend a workshop here in Rome. It is good to have them around. Our provincial, fr. James, is arriving this evening. We’ll have a good sized group for Thanksgiving. We have been having fall weather. Some days are quite nice, while others are quite rainy. It is cool, not yet cold. The Tiber River has been very, very high due to rains they received in the north of Italy. Hope you have a good holiday. I have finished these books: A World on Fire by Amanda Forman This is a history of the relationship between the United States (northern and southern states) during the civil war and Great Britain. It was not an easy relationship. Great Britain had its reasons to be angry at the US after the way that it had treated Great Britain during various wars of its own (e.g. a rebellion in Canada, the Crimean War, etc.). Ironically, some of the things about which the north complained most bitterly were exactly things that the US had done to Great Britain. Shortly after the beginning of the rebellion, Great Britain declared its neutrality and more or less stuck to this commitment throughout the war. One of the things that truly complicated this relationship was the fact that Seward was our secretary of state. He was a very political man, and he used the opposition card to rally support for his and Lincoln’s policies. He would rail against Great Britain, even threatening to go to war against it in order to avoid having to respond to problems that the administration did not want to face. There were also a large number of volunteers and also men who were drafted (legally and illegally) into the armies of the north and the south during the war. The book tells the stories of many of them. The book is really an excellent, honest portrayal of a complicated issue. The Secret Agent: a Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad I love Conrad’s writing. The other books that I have read of his had to do with far off places (Africa, the South Seas). This one takes place in England. An agent of an imperial power is told to place a bomb in Greenwich in order to shake the confidence of the English people. The agent gives the bomb to his brother in law who is mentally slow, and it blows up. The investigation demonstrates the pettiness of the British police force. The spy himself is a pitiful character living a pitiful life. There is none of the heroics and action of a Bourne episode. It sounds a lot more like a group of moderately talented people pretending to be something they clearly are not. There is deception by people who claim to be working for the betterment of humanity (the agent who treats his wife with little or no regard, even after he is responsible for the death of her brother, the revolutionary who steals the wife’s money and sends her off to her suicide, etc.) One is left with a sense of sadness at how people act and live. Chopin: the Man and his Music by James Huneker This was one of the free books that I received from Kindle. It gives a short biography of Chopin, and then goes on at length considering the various aspects of his music. For me, the biography was the most important point, although if someone was really into music, I am sure the second part of the book would be more interesting. The biography, unfortunately, was less informative than I would have liked. This Polish musician lived a short but interesting life, dying in what he considered to be exile in Paris. God bless and Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, November 12, 2012


November 12, 2012 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all week for our General Definitory meeting. Most of the business involved the preparations for our General Chapter which will be meeting in Assisi from mid-January through mid-February. There will be representatives from the over 80 jurisdictions of the order from over 60 countries around the world. The chapter will decide the course that our order will take for the next six years. This is an ordinary chapter. Every once in a while, there is an extraordinary chapter to deal with particular problems or topics that are too large to deal with at the ordinary chapter. The ordinary chapter is called every six years to elect the leadership team for the order for that six year period and to discuss other topics of importance for the whole order. The big topic over these next years is the rewriting of the constitutions of our order. Our present constitutions were written right after the Second Vatican Council. At that time, most of the order was found in Europe and North America. Right now that is changing. The vocations in the older parts of our order are way down while those in the south and east are exploding. Furthermore, the Vatican has come out with many new documents on religious life since the Vatican Council. It would be good to take those into account in our constitutions. This work began four years ago, and will continue for the next four or five years. Another big topic which we have to address is how to finance our missions where there are many vocations. We need to find a more equitable way of sharing our resources, both financial and personnel. I am going to be in Rome most of the time for the next couple of months as we continue our preparations for the General Chapter. My reading this week has included: The Fox by Arlene Radasky This book is set in England and Scotland in two eras, during the days shortly after the invasion of the Romans and in the modern era. It speaks extensively about the druids and their religion. The hero of the story serves as a seer and folk medicine doctor. The other modern hero is an archaeologist who is able to find the ruins that deal with her because she is channeling her spirit. The older part of the story takes place around 80 AD when the Scotts are preparing to do combat with the Romans who are invading their territory. It is interesting to hear the story from the viewpoint of those who lost the battle. The author is clearly fascinated with the religion of those days. I think she glorifies it a bit too much, but it is good to hear what the people of those days believed and how they worshipped their gods. It was a good book with some good insights. Marker by Robin Cooke Cooke, I believe, is a doctor, and he really hates the health insurance industry. This is the second book of his that I have read where the insurance companies plot to kill people who cut into their profit. The plot is well developed, and I found it interesting. Even though you know from the start who the killer is, it is nevertheless exciting for the plot twists and turns. The characters are all a bit flawed, something of them terribly so. The ending was a bit forced, almost as if he realized he had to tie up all the loose ends in the last ten pages. Overall, though, it was a good read. The Devil’s Banker by Christopher Reich This is a book on CD that I listened to in an abridged form. Even though it was abridged, it was done quite well. It is about an agent for the US government who is an accountant and whose task it is to investigate the money used by terrorists. He uncovers a plot to kill the president and the king of Saudi Arabia. The constant theme of the book is “follow the money.” There is quite a bit of spy action, with the story unwinding in Pakistan, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the US. There is even a tame love story thrown in. I would say that it was worth reading. Saint Athanasius: The Father of Orthodoxy by F.A. Forbes This is a short biography of one of the great defenders of orthodoxy in Christianity. He especially opposed the errors of the Arians. The Arians were named after a certain Arius who taught that Jesus was not equal to the Father, but rather was created in time and therefore was a creature. The Nicean Creed was developed to fight this heresy (as one can hear when we profess that Jesus was consubstantial with the Father). Athanasius was the patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt, one of the great early Christian sees. He was repeatedly persecuted for holding on to the faith, often in collusion with the emperor of the Roman Empire (for the Arians were very influential with the emperors). Yet, for all that he suffered and fought, he remained faithful and the orthodox position eventually gained sway in the Roman Empire. God bless and Shalom Fr. Jude