Monday, December 30, 2013

Rome - Montreal

December 30, 2013 Peace and Good, I flew back to Rome on the 23rd and celebrated Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Rome. One of the big ways to celebrate Christmas is to have a game of Tombola in the evening (Italian Bingo). I usually don't win anything, but this time I walked away with one of the big prizes. (It was a boom box, and I was able to give it away to one of the brothers who did not have one in his room - if I don't give away things like this, I will be packed down with way too many things). The 27th I flew out to Montreal. The trip was uneventful. It is quite cold up here, but Montreal escaped the terrible ice storm that hit Toronto. There is quite a bit of snow on the ground, so I am doing my daily walk (40 minutes each day) downstairs in the Church hall. What I like most about the walk is listening to books on tape as I am going around the room over and over. I have a meeting with the friars from the Polish custody of Canada this afternoon. There are around 15 of them, and they serve in four parishes up here. There are some changes coming in where they are serving, and my role is to support the Custos in his decisions (which are for the future of this jurisdiction). Most of us don't like change all that much, and the friars sometimes resist it when they have become comfortable where they are. Yet, if we don't move a bit up here, then there is not much of a future for the presence of the friars in Montreal. I managed to survive another case of food poisoning. It hits me every year or so, and is usually from sometime I eat along the way. I probably ate something bad at the airport or on the plane. Thankfully, I always carry a supply of Cipro, a powerful antibiotic, and two or three pills usually does the trick. It is just one of the prices of travelling as extensively as I do. I finished some books: Armadeggon: The Battle for Germany 1944-1945 by Max Hastings Hastings is a rather famous author about the history of war, especially the Second World War. This book deals with the closing months of the war. It covers the war on the Western as well as the Eastern front (many books all but ignore the Eastern Front). It deals with the larger movements and also with the stories of individuals (generals, soldiers, civilians, politicians, etc.). It does not sugar coat the violence, especially of the Soviet troops once they reached German territory. It freely admits that Stalin killed as many of his own and other citizens as Hitler did (if not more). It speaks of the inability of many Germans to realize that they had done anything wrong in the war, even though the evidence of the atrocities was overwhelming. But it also mentions the moral ambiguity of the air war in which tens of thousands of civilians in Germany and occupied territory were killed with no clear military advantage. It is a good, honest history of this period. The Vanished Man: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel by Jeffrey Deever The premise of the Lincoln Rhyme novels is that he is a brilliant investigator who has been paralyzed in an accident. Yet, he assembles a brilliant team around himself and solves what are considered to be unsolvable crimes. This is especially true in this volume where the murderer is an illusionist (magician) who can dress to look like almost anyone. He misleads the investigators over and over again. There are more twists and turns in the action than one would ever expect. Yet, the book is written in a way that it is almost always clear what is going on (at least to the reader). It is quite entertaining. Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II by David Faber This is a very disturbing book because it points out the duplicity and the gullibility of the politicians who sought peace during the crisis that led to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia right before the beginning of World War II. Hitler lied and twisted the truth and played to ego flaws in his opponents. Chamberland, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, dealt with him as if he were a man of honor, which he certainly was not. The Czechs were left out of much of the discussion, being told that they had to give in or be destroyed by the Germans without any help from the outside. At times you just want to stop and shout, “Wake up and see what is going on.” If the allies had intervened at this point, there is every possibility that the army in Germany would have overthrown Hitler. After this diplomatic victory, he was untouchable. Longitude: The True Story of a Long Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel It is relatively easy for mariners to determine how far north or south they are by observing the sun and the stars and determining how high they are in the sky. It is much more difficult to determine longitude, how far east or west they are. There were two main techniques used throughout history. The first was astronomical – doing a series of technical observations to determine where the moon was in relation to various stars. This technique was very complicated and could take hours to determine. The other was chronological – simply see at what time certain events occur. The difficulty of the second technique is that medieval and late medieval clocks were very delicate and could lose or gain time in the turbulent seas or when humidity changed or temperature changed. There was a clockmaker (who had no technical training) named Harrison who discovered the first clock that could be taken to sea and still work almost perfectly for months on end. The Parliament in England had established a prize of 20,000 pounds for the person who devised a way to measure longitude at sea. Unfortunately, one of the key members of the committee to determine the success of an effort was a proponent of the astronomic method, and he conspired to withhold the prize from Harrison. Yet, in the long run it was the clock (and watch) method that was used until the time of radio and later satellite navigation. Happy New Year. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rome - London - Chicago

December 22, 2013 Peace and Good, This has been a jet lag week. I finished off my meetings in Rome a week ago Friday. They went quite well, and I think we got a lot accomplished. Sunday, a week ago (the 15th), I took a flight out to London where I spent the next few days. The weather in London was pretty much what you would expect at this time of year. It is overcast with rain every once in a while. I met with the Custos, fr. Peter Damian, who is doing a great job. He has a lot of decisions to make in the next few months, but he has a calm, thoughtful spirit about him which will help him a lot in his responsibilities. Wednesday I flew from there to Chicago. Thursday I had a couple of meetings in Rockford, a two hour drive from Chicago. I asked one of the friars to drive me there. Normally, two hours is nothing for me, but working on jet lag, it just seemed too much of a risk. The meetings went very, very well, and we got a lot accomplished. Friday I preached a day of recollection for the students of this province. We looked at two scripture passages, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, and applied them to the season and their lives. I was pleased with how it turned out. In between conferences, there were some more meetings. Saturday I drove up to Milwaukee to complete the series of meetings. There was a lot of wear and tear in all these meetings, but we did get some good things done. Today, Sunday, I fly back to Rome. This morning is the first day when I feel the jet lag loosing its tendrils, and it is time to return to the European time zones. I will be in Rome until the 27th when I fly back to Montreal for another short series of meetings. I finished some books: 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance by Gavin Menzies This is the second book by Menzies that I have read. The premise of both is the same: that much of our scientific knowledge in the Western World actually came from the east when the emperor sent large fleets on exploratory journeys throughout the world. He has an enormous amount of documentation, but listening to this book, I was struck over and over again by his tendency to attribute every single scientific discovery to the east. If there was a genius in the West such as Copernicus or Leonardo da Vinci or Guttenberg, it was because they stole their discoveries from the east. He speaks about an enormous fleet that brought this knowledge to the Western world, but there just is not enough outside data to convince one of the fleet’s existence. That is not to say that what he says is wrong, just that it seems overdone. This is not a book that one would want to read for relaxation because it has a large number of technical terms, but it is informative. The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean by Kenneth Bartlett This is a Teaching Company course about the various city states in Italy which gave rise to varied cultures all throughout the peninsula. It especially deals with the machinations of the great lords of these states during the late Middle Ages and the period of the Renaissance. Bartlett speaks about the usual great cities such as Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Naples. He also speaks of Urbino, Pisa, Ferrara, Genoa etc, smaller cities that nevertheless played a significant role either in the politics of Italy or the art and literature of Italy or both. He also deals with the tension between supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor and those of the Pope, as well as the invasions of the Spanish and French royal families. The lectures are well done, and they do give insight why it is so difficult to speak of a unified Italy. To give just one example, the people of Genoa and Pisa still dislike each other so much that when someone dies, they say that at least it is better than having a Pisan at the door. The series of 24 lectures is well done. Undue Influence: a Paul Madrini Novel by Steve Martini This is the story of a lawyer who is called upon to defend his sister-in-law who is accused of killing her ex-husband’s new wife. There had been very bad faith between the ex-wife and the new wife due to questions concerning the custody of the two children from the first marriage. There is intrigue, political scandal, affairs, etc. Both the investigation part and the trial part of the book are well written. There is also a good sense of humor throughout. It was quite enjoyable. Vespers by Ed McBain This is another of the stories from Ed McBain which revolves around a fictional police station. Each of his novels usually involves two main crimes. That is true of this volume as well. The center of the book, though, is the murder of a priest. As the detectives dig more and more, there are elements including drugs which a young punk has hidden in the Church, a grumpy man who fights with the priest, a possible affair the priest is having, a church dedicated to Satan just down the street, etc. The second crime involves a woman who loves a detective, but she has had a bad past which included prostitution, murder and theft. Both stories are well developed. I always find McBain’s books easy to read and enjoyable. Hope you have a Merry Christmas. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rome - Staten Island - Rome

December 11, 2013 Peace and Good, This has been a strange week. Most of it was spent sitting in a Room during our definitory meeting. Then, on Saturday I flew out to London, on Sunday to Staten Island, and then back again on Monday night. First of all, during the week we have been meeting with all of the staff for the organization of the Order. There are offices for those who work with the Secular Franciscans, the Militia of Mary Immaculate, Formation, the Economy, our representative with the Vatican, etc. We do this once a year to make sure we are all on the same page. Then in the evening we celebrated the novena in preparation for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The preacher this year was quite good. Last year I said that the preacher did not say anything wrong, but it didn't change my heart in any way. This year fr. Rafaele, the spiritual director of the Militia Immacolata, did a fine job. I wanted to listen to what he was saying. We invite a different cardinal each evening and the assistants end up concelebrating one of the evenings. The cardinal with whom I concelebrated was the head of the Office of Saints. I was impressed with the cardinals this year as well. Last year I wondered where some of them had learned to celebrate the Mass. This year they were all devout and yet not plastic. Cardinal Turkson, who studied with some of our friars in the States, was one of the celebrants. On Saturday I flew off the London. I just managed to get there. There was a huge problem with the air traffic control system in Great Britain and mine was the only flight from Rome to London to get off the ground. Then on Sunday I flew out to Staten Island and landed just before the snow arrived from the big storm on the East Coast. Monday there was a celebration in Staten Island for the province of the Immaculate Conception. This is the feast of their patron, and it was the last time they celebrated it because next May they are united with St. Anthony Province and taking the new name of Our Lady of the Angels. I found out this morning that one of the friars present at the celebration passed away later that evening. He did not look well at all, but I was still surprised by this news. Monday night I flew back to Rome and arrived home around 8 PM. I actually don't feel all that bad considering all the travel. I think that I didn't stay in the States long enough to get bad jet lag coming back home. I finished some books: Bake Sale Murder by Leslie Meier This is the story of a small town reporter in Maine who tries to solve the murder of one of her neighbors. In the process, she and her family are put in danger. The characterization is not all that deep, but the story goes along well enough and is entertaining. Agent 6 (The Child 44 Trilogy) by Tom Rob Smith This is the second of Tom Rob Smith’s books that I have read. He tells the story of a former KGB man who is desperate to solve and revenge the murder of his wife. The murder takes place in New York, a city that he could never hope to visit (for in the 1960’s, former KGB agents were never allowed permission to leave the country. The plot is quite complicated. He ends up in Afghanistan from which he finds a way to defect to the United States. I like Smith’s characterization of the inhumanity of much of the secret police culture of the old Soviet Union. He shows how good people or people who simply did not want to be evil struggled to keep a moral bearing in the midst of official insanity and cruelty. His writing is very, very good, but reading the book can be painful as one confront institutional evil at its worse. The Vikings by Robert Wernick This is a short treatment of the history of the Vikings. Wernick explains why there was a sudden eruption of Vikings raiding Western and Eastern Europe. He gives two reasons: a population explosion caused by a better diet due to a warming period in northern Europe, and a dissatisfaction with the rise of imperial power among the leaders of the various lands – especially the establishment of monarchies. He portrays the Vikings both a ferocious warriors and clever traders. He speaks of their gradual expansion to the Oarkneys and the Faroes and then to Iceland, Greenland and even North America. Then he speaks about the decline of Viking power, one could almost say the domestication of the Vikings. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ellicott City - Dublin - London - Rome

December 1, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been in Dublin this past week for a meeting of the custody of Great Britain and Ireland. The first session was held a couple of months ago, and this one was to finish up making plans for the next four years and to confirm the assignments for the guardians of the communities and the others who will lead them during this mandate. We held the chapter in All Hallows Seminary. This used to be the seminary for priests in Ireland who were going on mission, which often meant to southern states in the United States. Most of the foreign born Irish priests in Florida and California studied here. It is now used for continuing education and for meetings like ours. The meeting went quite well. There was a good spirit among the friars. There will be a few difficult years coming, but there certainly is a light on the horizon. They have a good number of new vocations, but it will take some time for them to be trained and ready for the ministry. In the meantime, the older friars are trying to hold out and the foreign friars brought in from the US, Canada, India, Malta, Poland and Romania keep the custody going. There are about 30 friars in solemn vows in all. Friday I flew in to London and overnighted at our friary and yesterday flew out to Rome. The trip was uneventful and I will be in Rome for the next couple of weeks (with the exception of flying out next Sunday to Staten Island for a celebration and flying back the next evening to come back to Rome). We have one of our big definitories, the one in which we meet with all of the men who are entrusted with the various offices of the Order. This week is also the Novena for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Our Basilica of the Holy Apostles is the center point for the celebration of the novena and the feast. There is a cardinal each night to be the celebrant at the Mass. The music is quite well done, and we get a good crowd for each of the evening Masses (which is not the case for most of the year). I finished some books: The Thirty-Nine Stairs by John Buchan This is a short story about a British man who has just come back from working in Africa. He encounters a harried American who tells him a fantastic tale of spy craft. The spy ends up murdered in the Brit’s apartment, and he must now flee both the murderers and the authorities. He runs far and wide on a series of adventures, and eventually through his brilliance is able to save the day (keeping the Germans from acquiring the plans for the deployment of the British fleet just before the beginning of World War I). It is written in the style of the spy story from the 20’s, and thus is a bit dated, but nevertheless is well written and enjoyable. The Last Tsar: Emperor Michael II by Donald Crawford This is the story of Grand Duke Michael, the brother of Czar Nicholas II. When Nicholas abdicated, he also gave up the throne in the name of his son Alexis because of his illness (he was a hemophiliac). Michael thus because the Czar of Russia. Michael had been disgraced in previous years by marrying a commoner who was also twice divorced. Yet, during World War I, he turned out to be a great hero, winning two of the most prestigious medals given in Russia (and not just because he was a Romanov). He was arrested by the provisional government and put to death by the communists shortly before the execution of his brother Nicholas and his entire family. The book is well written, painting Michael to be a very decent person (something that was recognized even by his captors). Islamic Mysticism by Luke Timothy Johnson This is the third section in a long study of mysticism by the Teaching Company. This was the shortest of the three. It dealt especially with the various forms of Islam (Sunni vs Shiite), with the various school of interpretation of the law, and with the Sufi movement of mysticism which dates back to the beginning of Islam (if not before) and extends to the present day. The most famous Sufi’s are Rumi the poet and the school of dervishes which he founded, the whirling dervishes. Like the schools of mysticism in Christianity and Judaism, there are some mystics who were more intellectual and some who spoke more from the heart. There were some who were more ascetical and some more worldly. Some stayed in one place and others travelled extensively. I liked Johnson’s conclusion that the mystics serve as a challenge to us today when we think that what we see and measure and control are all of reality. They remind us that there is a whole other level of reality which might even be more important than the everyday. Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy Queen Victoria, the 19th century monarch of Great Britain, was the second longest reigning king or queen in that country’s history (just beating out George III by a short amount of time). During her reign, there were numerous attempts on her life (almost all with a pistol). Most of those who attacked her were mentally ill or desperate in some other way. None of them were put to death (which angered Victoria who thought that the criminals were getting off too easily and therefore serving as possible examples to other potential assassins). Ironically, every time that someone attacked her, she ended up being more popular. This was especially important at the start of her reign when she was disliked for mixing in politics and for the bad reputation of most of her extended family. The book is very well researched, but also gives a compassionate read of what happened. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mt. St. Francis - St. Meinrad - Ellicott City - Dublin

November 25, 2013 Peace and Good, My week began at Mt. St. Francis, a friary just outside of Louisville. We travelled from there to St. Meinrad Monastery in Indiana for a province assembly of Our Lady of Consolation Province. This was a gathering to get ready for their provincial chapter this coming year. One of the topics covered was health care. It has gotten so complicated and so expensive. I always have to explain our system to the Europeans with whom I work because they cannot understand what it is like to live in a country that does not have socialized medicine. We have an afternoon dedicated to inter-cultural exchange with two friars from India and Zambia sharing their experiences of how they were welcomed into the province. There are so many things that we take for granted that are very different in other countries and cultures. We have to be so careful not to insult people by acting in a certain way which is normal for us but which is considered to be rude by others. We also talked about leadership in the community (as they get ready to elect a provincial). There was a wonderful spirit at the gathering. It was obvious that the friars like each other (even if, like any family, there are occasional disagreements). I flew into Ellicott City on Thursday night. I had a couple of meetings on Friday and Saturday. Also, Friday evening I was able to baptize the grandson of a friend. I get to perform baptisms so infrequently that I truly enjoy the opportunity when it is available. Saturday evening I flew from Baltimore to London and from there to Dublin. I will be here all week for a meeting of the custody and then fly back to Rome on Saturday for a couple of weeks. I have read the following: My Life with the Saints by James Martin This is a collection of the stories of various saints who had an impact upon the life of James Martin, a Jesuit author. The book is well written and very pleasant for a simple, uncomplicated meditation. He goes through many of the favorites such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph her Spouse, Peter, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola. He also tells the stories of people who are not yet canonized but who lived holy lives, such as Dorothy Day and Charles de Foucauld. In the telling of the story, he gives pointers on how to make saints meaningful to one’s prayer and faith life. This is one book that I can easily recommend to anyone. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King This is a typical Stephen King novel. The writing, I think, is some of the best of any of our modern authors. He has a way of turning a phrase which is brilliant. This particular book is about a vampire moving into a New England town and taking it over. A small group of people recognize what is going on and decide to fight back, but it certainly seems like a losing battle. If you like horror stories (and not the newer ones which turn into slasher stories), this is the right book for you. She-Wolves: The Women Who Rules England before Elizabeth by Helen Castor This book begins with the reigns of Queens Mary and Elizabeth in England and asks how they, as women, were able to reign in their own names. The author goes back in the history of England to look at other powerful women, such as Matilda (an Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and a woman who claimed the throne of England for herself and, more importantly for her, for her son), Eleanor of Aquitaine, a queen of both France and England and the Countess of Aquitaine, Isabella, a queen who helped to overthrow her husband who was a tyrant and ruled for a time with her lover, and Margaret, a queen who tried to protect the throne for her husband who was mentally ill and for her son. Each of these women responded to difficult situation with whatever native cunning they possessed. Each was accused of acting un-womanly. Each proved that one could reign, but one had to do so with great care. The book is well written and gives an abundance of information in a very sympathetic but yet objective manner. Solo by Jack Higgins This is the story of an international assassin who is also a concert pianist (hence the name, as in someone who does a solo performance during a concert). He is also known as the Cretan lover for reasons that become obvious in the book. The assassin accidentally kills a young girl while fleeing from one of his attempts, and girl turns out to be the daughter of an army officer (SIS) who vows to hunt him down and kill him. The book is well written with much action. There is a sort of moral ambiguity in the story. Is the assassin really that much worse than the army officer who kills and tortures at the bequest of his government? It makes one think.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Peoria - Chicago - Detroit - Chicago - Milwaukee - Louisville

November 18, 2013 Peace and Good, This week I finished off the main part of my visitation to St. Bonaventure Province in the Mid-West. I interviewed the friars who live at the house of studies a couple of blocks away from Loyola University on the north side of the city. I then flew out to Detroit to meet with the friars there. The friary in Detroit is a bit unusual. It is in the middle of the cemetery. Originally it was built to house the friars who took care of the cemetery. Now the cemetery (about 80 acres) is run by a staff of lay people. The friars living there are involved in a number of different apostolates. There is a nurse teacher, a coordinator of activities at a geriatric unit, a chaplain of ministry at two colleges, and a part time chaplain at a hospice for people who are dying. This last friar amazes me. He has had a major stroke and his right side is paralyzed. He suffers from aphasia, finding great difficulty in pronouncing words (although he fully understands the concepts). Yet, he offers his services at the hospice. He is an inspiration. I flew back to Chicago to meet with the definitory to share with them the initial findings of the visit. I still have a number of friars who live here and there to interview, and a couple of things to check out, but most of the visitation is complete. Saturday I returned to the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee for the ordination to the diaconate of one of our friars, fr. Paul Langevin. I have known him since when he was in novitiate. He is a fine man. He had worked in social work before he joined the Order. Yesterday I flew from Chicago to Louisville. There was a lot of weather in both cities, and it was one of the bumpiest flights that I have been on for quite some time. The pilot did a great job of bringing us in safely. I always enjoy flying Southwest because of the friendliness of the staff. Today we will drive out to St. Meinrad Abbey where we will have a province assembly of the friars of Our Lady of Consolation Province in preparation for their provincial chapter this coming Spring. This province does a very good job of preparing for chapter as for continuing formation. I have finished some books: Longshanks: The Life of Edward I by Edward Jenks This is the story of King Edward of England, also known as Longshanks (because he was tall). The style of the book is a bit archaic, and it is actually difficult to read. I was interested in this particular king because he was the English king who invaded Scotland under Robert Bruce and William Wallace (who was portrayed by Mel Gibson as Braveheart). Edward turned out to be quite a good king, much better than both his father and his son (who proved to be such a disaster that he was eventually overthrown and assassinated). The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and Yoko Tanaka This is a type of fairy tale about a young boy who is orphaned because of a war and who is cared for by an elderly ex-soldier. He dreams about finding a sister whom the soldier claims died at birth. He finds out through a fortune teller that she is alive and he would find her by following the elephant. This is a difficult thing to do since there are no elephants anywhere near where he is living. A magician, however, almost accidentally calls an elephant into the city and the story proceeds from there. It is about loss and recovery, loneliness and love, family and devotion, etc. It is really very well written, a joy to read. Five Little Pigs (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) by Agatha Christie This is quite a good detective story. I have not read all that many Agatha Cristie books (I think this is only the second one), but I have truly enjoyed both of them. This one is about how Hercule Poirot, a Belgian investigator, investigates a murder that occurred many years before. Supposedly a woman poisoned her husband, but as the investigation goes on, Poirot develops doubts (even though almost all the evidence points toward her guilt). He undertakes the investigation just so that the woman’s daughter who was only an infant when this occurred might know the truth about her mother. The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs. One Doctor’s Heroic Search for the World’s First Miracle Drug by Thomas Hager This is a fascinating story of the invention of the world’s first sulfa drugs. The first effective antibiotics were invented during the 1930’s. The sulfa drugs were first found in Germany, by the Bayer company, the same people who produced aspirin. Originally, they were by-products of the dyes that the German chemical companies had produced, until French investigators found that the dye company was not the active agent in the attack on bacteria. Before its invention, many diseases were a virtual death sentence. The author tells the story of the death of Calvin Coolidge who developed a blister on his foot which became infected and led to blood poisoning and death. This is contrasted with the rescue of Franklin Roosevelt Jr. from an infection of his sinuses which threatened his life (in fact, when the sulfa was administered, he was facing death). The book gives a tremendous amount of information without being boring. He gives a good picture of the scientists who worked on these miracle drugs. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chicago - Milwaukee - Rockford - Peoria - Wenona- Clinton - Chicago

November 11, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been travelling around the friaries of St. Bonaventure Province throughout this past week, meeting with all of the friars who are stationed in this area. This has involved going to Milwaukee where there is a magnificent Basilica dedicated to St. Josaphat. The basilica was redone a few years ago in its original style. It is so beautiful that it is used as a site for symphonies and operas. I then went down to Rockford. There is a parish there which is originally a Sicilian parish which now has a number of Hispanics who worship there. I gave a parish mission there around 8 years ago as part of their celebration of the 100th of the parish. Some folks still remembered me there. They have a tremendous devotion to St. Anthony – more vigil lights than I had ever seen before. I then went to Peoria. There are three sites associated with this friary. One has a rectory and serves four separate churches. Another serves three churches. Then the third, which is the actual site of the friary, is a good sized parish. The friars live in these three sites and get together once a month for their friary meeting. This morning I drove three hours to Chicago and met with the friars at the friary here on Kenmore Avenue, about three blocks from Loyola University. I have the rest of the week to complete the visitation. Then I will present the findings to the definitory here in Chicago, go home to Rome, write up a report, and present it to the definitory over there in Rome. Eventually this report will be given to all of the friars in the province as part of their preparation for their provincial chapter which will be held this April. I am finishing up here just in time. It is snowing outside, and I would have hated to drive on some of the country roads downstate during a snow storm. I really admire the friars down there who serve the people in the rural areas. I finished a few books: The Lady Queen: the Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Gladstone This is the story of a remarkable queen of Naples in southern Italy. She was also the ruler of Provence in southern France and for a time of Sicily. She was married a number of times, and one of her husbands was murdered by some of her supporters (something for which she was put on trial for and acquitted by the Pope). She had to play politics and fight against any number of enemies throughout her long reign. At the end, she backed the wrong party in the division of loyalties when there was more than one pope at a time and she was overthrown and eventually murdered. The book is well written and the story informative, especially about someone who is so little known in our own times. Storm over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War by Joel Silbey This is the story of the controversy that surrounded the attempt to get the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. The northerners realized that it would become a slave territory, and they opposed it. The president played some dirty politics to get the new state accepted, and it left hard feelings between the politicians of the north and the south which festered over the next decade and a half and the eventual secession of the southern states and the start of the civil war. The book is well written and gives a good sense of how one faction played off the other throughout this era. Barbarossa Derailed: Smolensk 10 July – 10 September by David Glantz This is the story of a major battle that occurred in central Russia during the Nazi invasion in 1941. Hitler’s troops easily overran the border defenses and even the initial secondary defenses. The battle of Smolensk was a great attack and counterattack by the two sides in which the Soviets were technically defeated, but which delayed the German juggernaut for long enough that they were caught in the open outside of Moscow when the winter descended and when the Soviets had been able to gather enough troops to launch a counterattack with fresh troops against the all but used up German forces. Unfortunately, this author insists in giving in detail every regiment assignment and every major order from the leaders of each army, so it is the kind of book that would interest a scholar of army history but much less so someone who only wants a sense of what happened in this particular battle. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sydney (Australia) - Nadi (Fiji) - Chicago - Milwaukee

November 5, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, I left Australia on the 28th which happened to be my feast day. That meant I got to celebrate it twice because I was flying over the international date line (but what a miserable way to celebrate it - on an airplane all the way). Leaving Australia, I flew through Fiji and changed planes there. My travel agent always seeks the cheapest fare, and sometimes it involves a few stops here and there. This is a very long flight - four hours to Fiji, another ten to Los Angeles, another four to Chicago, not counting the lay overs in Fiji and Los Angeles. I passed through LAX only a week before the shooting there. There is one thing that I have a habit of doing which I would hope more and more of us would do. After I pass through security, I always look for a TSA agent and thank him or her for keeping us safe. You should see the look of apprehension when I first say something, and then the look of gratitude when I thank that person. I arrived in Chicago on the evening of the 28th. The next day I traveled about an hour to Marytown in Libertyville, Illinois where there is a large friary (15 friars) for visitation. They have 24 hour Eucharistic adoration, and they really try to follow the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I enjoyed my stay with them. Yesterday, I drove from there to Milwaukee where we man a huge Basilica, St. Josaphat. The friars first took over this church at the turn of the 20th century and it was over 2 million dollars in debt. It was in danger of going bankrupt. The friars found a way to pay the entire debt in a very short amount of time. It is magnificent, and in fact is used as a site for operas and concerts throughout the year. Interestingly, it was built from materials salvaged when a building was torn down in Chicago. Today I head to Rockford, Illinois to continue my visitation. These are the books I have finished: The Fifth Queen and How She Came to Court by Ford Madox Ford This is a biographical account of how the fifth wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Howard, came to the court of Henry VIII and how she was chosen as a maid of honor to Princess Mary who eventually became Queen Mary. The court was filled with intrigue, and Katherine, who was a proponent of Catholicism at a time when Anglicans and Lutherans were beginning to fight for primacy, felt herself to be a fish out of water. She was caught up in the plots and counterplots around the throne. The book is written by a 19th century English author, trying to use the speech patterns of the 16th century. It makes the book a little difficult to read for a modern author, but it does give one insight into the snake pit that the court of Henry VII became. Mystical Tradition: Christianity by Luke Timothy Johnson This is the second section of a three part study of the mystical tradition by the Teaching Company. This part deals with the mystical tradition, starting with the mysticism found in the New Testament and considering other manifestations of that tradition throughout history. Johnson deals with the eastern and western monastic tradition, the mysticism of England and Spain, of the mendicant tradition, of the Protestant reformation, etc. It does not seem to be as in depth as his study of the Jewish tradition which I finished a while ago. The third part will be the Muslim tradition. The Red Cotton Fields by Michael Strickland This is a saga about two families, one a plantation owner’s family and the other the overseer’s family. It takes place for the most part in Georgia, not far from Savannah, just before the Civil War. There are love stories, successful and frustrated. The book tries to tell the story of the difficulties just before and during the Civil War from a Southern perspective. The difficulty is that in trying to use the language and mentality of the pre-war whites, the author uses language that is racially offensive. It is one thing to feel that one has to use that language once in a while, but it seems as if the author glories in it (as well as in stereotypes of blacks as mindless children who must be protected from freedom). Sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by Ann Spangler I bought this book on Kindle both because it was on sale and it had an interesting title. It turned out to be quite good. It speaks about how Jewish people lived at the time of Jesus. Some of the insights help one to better understand why Jesus did and said what he did. For example, it was common in those days to say the first couple of words of a verse and the hearer would understand that the rest of the verse or passage was intended. That would explain why Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me” on the cross, for the rest of Psalm 22 which ends in a thanksgiving for the rescue that the person expected. It speaks of the Sabbath and feast celebrations. Overall, it is not a scholarly book or too intense, but what it offers is quite good. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sydney (Springvale and Dingley) - Melbourne (Kellyville)

October 27, 2013 Peace and Good, I am drawing my canonical visitation of the Australian Delegation to a close. I have met with all of the friars who are now stationed in Australia. I will meet with a few along the road (Chicago, Rome and we will have to see about Brussels). It has been a good visit. This is one of the better parts of my job - to spend time talking with friars to see how things are going, to offer a piece of advice, to encourage them in the good work that they are doing. One of the things that we especially need to do for the Australian friars is to bring a few friars over here from other jurisdictions. This will help with man power issues but also give a little more of a mix to group of friars serving here. It is always good to have variety and different points of view. That is difficult to obtain here because the numbers of low and they are so far from the other jurisdictions. A number of friars from Australia have also been visiting (for shorter and longer periods of time) other jurisdictions. I see real signs of hope. I am especially impressed by the work being done at the Shrine of the Holy Innocents here in Kellyville. It is only open a few months, and already there are a good group of people coming to daily Mass and devotions. The center is starting to be used for spiritual events such as day retreats. I think that this will become a real gem over time. Tomorrow I head out to Chicago. This is my feast day, and because I will be crossing the International Date Line, I will get to celebrate it twice. Of course, celebrating it in an airplane is not exactly my idea of a big party, but you've got to take what you can get. I finished some reading: Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon This is both the story of Emily Dickinson, the hermit of Amherst and the famous poet of the 19th century, and also of the fight for the rights to her works after her death. She published hardly anything while she lived, but she left hundreds of poems and letters when she died. Her life seems to have been colored by the epilepsy that she probably suffered. She formed a tight bond with her brother Austen’s wife Susan. She then stood up for Susan’s rights when he entered into a torrid love affair with a Mabel Todd, a married woman (whose husband also participated in numerous affairs). After Dickinson’s death, Mabel Todd became the copyist and editor of editions of Dickinson’s poetry which slowly became more and more popular. Austen’s other sister Lavinia fought Mabel in court for the rights to some land which had been signed over to her (possibly as payment for the work done on Dickinson’s poetry). Even though most of the story takes place in the Victorian era, it reads like a messy soap opera. The Naked Gardener by LB Gschwandthner This was one of those books that I picked up on sale from Amazon. How could you not be interested in it given its unusual title? It is a book about a woman who lives with a man in a committed relationship. She is an artist, he a professor. They winter in Virginia and summer on an old farm in New Hampshire. The book explores questions of commitment, of expectations, of fears, of relationship (especially with other women), of responsibility to the past while not allowing oneself to be imprisoned in it. The title comes from the fact that the woman actually gardens naked (in a garden which is far from peeping eyes). It is a symbol of her quest for freedom, but by the end of the book she realizes that total freedom exacts a price. Overall, it is well written. Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis This is exactly what this book is. It is not an ordered, comprehensive presentation on the psalms. Rather, it is a series of thoughts on various difficult aspects of the psalms, such as the cursing psalms or the self-righteous attitude found in other psalms. I especially appreciated his chapter on praise in the psalms, a topic about which I have been reflecting for some time. As with other Lewis writings, he is often quite original and at the very least he makes one think. The Franciscan Tradition (Spirituality in History) by Regis Armstrong This is an anthology of writings produced by members of the First, Second and Third Orders of St. Francis from the time of the founding of the orders up until the recent times. Each of the sections gives a short biography of the person involved and some background information about the times in which that person wrote. There are also the rules for each of the three orders (including that for the religious communities which follow the Third Order, for while most third orders are only lay people, the Franciscan Third Order actually has two branches: lay people and female and male religious communites). The selections and overview is well presented. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) - Dingley (Melbourne, Australia)

October 20, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, I finally made it to the next part of my journey. I had to cancel the India part of the journey because of visa problems. I had a panic moment at the airport on Thursday evening when I tried to check in. They had difficulties finding permission for me to fly to Australia. It took them over 40 minutes to process my ticket. It might have to do with the fact that I had originally arranged for the e visa for the next day (because that is when I would have been flying in from India) or it might have been that I was flying into Australia on United but flying out on Quantas and they did not see a round trip ticket. Whatever it was, the agent at United was great and kept at it until she firmed up the travel arrangements. The trip was uneventful but very long. It was about 14 hours to Sydney, a 2 hour layover, and then another hour flight to Melbourne. I was fortunate because the entertainment system on the overseas flight did not work, so I was compensated with extra frequent flyer miles. I usually don't use the entertainment system anyway because I am either reading off my Kindle or listening to books on tape on my MP3 player. I will be here in Australia for about a week doing a canonical visitation. Every several years, one of us has to visit each jurisdiction to see how things are going. We visit each site and speak with each friars. This is not too difficult here because there are only four friaries and about 15 friars. The weather is nice. It is Spring here now. The only difficulty is terrible fires on the outskirts of the cities. Over 200 houses were burned to the ground yesterday. I finished an enormous number of articles for the two magazines for which I write this past week. I am pretty well set until July with one and until the end of next year with the other. That gives me quite a bit of breathing room. I have finished some books: Hitler’s Spy Chief: the Wilhelm Canaris Mystery by Richard Bassett Canaris was the head of military intelligence in Nazi Germany. In certain ways, he was a brilliant spy master. But in other ways, he would be considered a traitor in most countries, for he actively revealed secrets to the British to a lesser degree to the Americans so that the Nazi’s would not win the war. This was eventually discovered and he was arrested after the plot against Hitler and executed toward the end of the war. He was a gentleman who tried to live according to his conscience. He collected information about the atrocities that were being committed in the east (Poland and Russia) in the hope that the Nazi leaders would be called to account at the end of the war. The biography is good and informative, well written. Mystics and Saints of Islam by Claud Field This is an account of Muslim mystics throughout the ages. It gives a short biography and some of the teachings of those mystics who proposed a direct way of coming to know God. We hear of how some of them were accused of heresy and even executed for this. We hear of the Sufi tradition of mysticism which strongly emphasized emotion and asceticism as opposed to observance of the law and study of the Koran. At the end there are a series of appendices concerning Christian teachings to be found in the Koran and the teachings of the mystics. Overall, it is a good book, even if the scholarship is quite dated for it was written in 1910. Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell I have read a number of the Kay Scarpetta series written by Cornwell. She has drifted more and more from a presentation of forensic science to the very dysfunctional relationships of the investigators. Her portrayal is, honestly, getting annoying. Kay Scarpetta is opposed by some female figure who wickedly attacks her. Her adopted daughter gets more and more obsessive. Kay’s relationship with the man she supposedly loves, Benton who works for the FBI, is strange. Her side kick investigator, Marino, becomes more and more bruttish. I have got to admit that I am going to try to avoid her books for a while. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 by William Trotter Shortly after he cooperated with Hitler to invade Poland, Stalin demanded territorial concessions from Finland (so that he might have more defensible borders around the city of Leningrad. The Finns refused. So the Soviets invaded. Even though Finland is a small country with a population of only four million, it all but fought the Soviets to a standstill. The poor performance of the Soviets was one of the factors that led to Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union the next year. It is the story of incredible bravery in the face of insurmountable odds. The book is well written and not overly technical. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oceanside - San Francisco - Hermosa Beach

October 14, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, it has been a relatively stable couple of weeks since I last wrote the blog. The first week I was giving a retreat to the friars of the California province at a Benedictine Monastery in Oceanside, California. That is just above San Diego. The topic of the retreat was themes from the Sacred Scriptures that deal with Franciscan Spirituality. It was a very good week, and we had some good discussions. This is all in preparation for the Provincial Chapter that the friars will be celebrating this coming May. On Friday of the first week, I flew up to San Francisco to try to get a visa for my trip to India. I was to give a retreat to the friars of the province there. It is relatively complicated to get a visa for India. I could not get it in Rome because I do not have a residence visa there. In the States, they have divided up the country to zones and you can only apply for a visa from the zone where you are living, which would be in Washington DC for me. The problem was that it takes 5 to 6 days plus shipped days, and I did not have that time. There was an urgent request desk in San Francisco, and I arranged an appointment to request a visa there. When I got there, they told me that I could not get a visa there because it was not my zone. This meant I could not fly out to India on Monday of this past week as I had planned. They do not issue visas at the airport when you arrive, and they would just have shipped me back to the States. So I got in contact with my travel agent and with the friars in India to cancel that part of the trip. I will fly out this Thursday to go to Australia to pick up the trip where I would have gone after my India part. I have been staying in our friary in Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) and have been resting and working on some writing projects. I didn’t realize how much I needed this time off. You run and run, and you don’t realize how run down you are getting. This has been a very good time to recharge the batteries. Furthermore, the writing juices have been flowing, so I have been able to finish a whole bunch of articles for the Messenger Magazine and I am way ahead. I finished some books these weeks: Short Stories by Joshua Scribner This is a series of short stories. Fright Reaction is about a man camping in the woods who is saved from an invasion of space aliens. All that Remains is about a young woman who remembers what a professor told his class about the brain and how the back of the brain is the most primitive part. This saves her life when she must kill her zombie boyfriend. Coryanna is the story of a nurse in a unit which cares for new born children. She sees a ghost which inhabits her. She finds out the ghost is of a child who died many years before and this ghost becomes the child to which she then gives birth. The last of the stories is called the Conductor. It is about two men who are put to the test (by whom is never revealed). They must figure out how to escape from an electrified stockade which is surrounded by carnivorous cows within a certain amount of time. Scribner has a way of providing a very clear setting within a very short format. His writings are always entertaining (if you appreciate the science fiction genre). The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien This is a very odd, very Irish story about a young man who lost a leg during the World War and returns to Ireland. He and an accomplice kill a man for his money. From there, the story becomes very complicated. It involves a police sergeant who has a theory that bicycles can become part person and the person part bicycle because they rub off on each other. The man in question is led to a room underground where one does not grow any older. One of the policemen invents various machines to change sound waves into light and heat waves. The man is accused of murder, and an army of one legged men come to rescue him. None of it makes any sense, but yet there was something enjoyable about listening to the account. Augustus: Son of Rome by Richard Foreman This is a fictional account of the end of the reign of Julius Caesar and the very beginning of that of Augustus Caesar. We hear of those who influenced and protected the young man who would come to rule over the Roman Empire (and in fact, invented the Roman Empire). We hear of the plot against Julius, and how some of the same plotters tried to kill Augustus before he arrived in Rome. The account is rather well written, giving one a sense of the personalities of those involved. A spy at the heart of the third Reich: the extraordinary story of Fritz Kolbe, America’s most import spy in world war II by Lucas Delattre This is the story of a man who worked in the Foreign Ministry in Nazi Germany during the war. He hated the Nazi’s, never joining the party even when it would have helped his career. He smuggled numerous secret documents to Bern, Switzerland where he handed them over to Avery Dulles, the head of the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) office there. At first they thought he was a plant, for he seemed to be too good to be true. Dulles slowly came to trust him implicitly, and his information proved to be most valuable in the war effort. He suffered after the war for the work he did for the Americans, but he seems to have been a good spirited man even when things did not go that well. His failure was to the son whom he left in South Africa with a German family and whom he very rarely contacted as he was growing up. Mystical Tradition: Judaism by Luke Timothy Johnson This is the first of three sets of lectures from the Teaching Company about the mystical tradition in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This one deals with mystical texts in the Old Testament and the development of a mystical tradition among Jews throughout the centuries. We see a devotion to the study of the Torah and the Talmud (the Jewish legal tradition). We see the development of the more esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah tradition (which has recently become very popular again). We also see the development of the Hasidic tradition in Eastern Europe. Dr. Johnson gives a good overview of the different movements in Judaism, including various figures who claimed to be Messiahs and who caused great pain among Jews of their days. Like all of the lecture series of the Teaching Company, this series is informative and quite well planned. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, September 30, 2013

Copertino - Rome - Los Angeles

September 30, 2013 The Feast of St. Jerome Peace and Good, The feast of St. Jerome is a special day for those of us who study Sacred Scripture. He is the man in the 4th and 5th centuries AD who translated the Bible from its original languages into Latin (for that was the language used by many of the Christians at that time). He so loved Sacred Scripture that he found a rabbi in the Holy Land who would teach him Hebrew. Now there is one other attribute of Jerome. He was a grumpy old man. If one reads his various letter, one can be shocked at how nasty he is in his attacks of others, including St. Augustine. It always reminds me that saints are not necessarily perfect. They had talents and used them, and ultimately they did the best they could with what they had. We finished off our definitory in Copertino on Thursday evening and drove back to Rome on Friday. Then on Saturday we had a one day meeting there to close off some issues that needed closure. Sunday I flew out to Los Angeles to give a retreat to the friars of St. Joseph Cupertino Province out here. I will start the retreat this evening. Hopefully, I will not fall asleep on them. There is a nine hour time difference between here and Rome. I just heard this morning that the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will occur on the same day this coming year: Divine Mercy Sunday, which is the Sunday after Easter. Rome will be packed, packed, packed. I finished some books: Old Town by Lin Zhe and George Fowler This is the story of a family in China over the period of the early 20th century to the present day. We hear about their struggles for survival, especially during the Second World War and the days of the Cultural Revolution in Communist China. The grandfather and grandmother are Christians, and we hear how they first welcome the communists to get rid of the corrupt government governing China and because they would help the poor. Only slowly do they realize how difficult it would be for Christians to practice their faith under the communists. We hear of the relationships in the family that color the entire life of this couple. The narrator is one of their granddaughters, and we hear from her the emptiness of life without faith. The book is well written. It is quite long, but well worth the effort to get a glimpse into life in China. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M Kennedy This is an enormous project to give a detailed history of the years of the depression and the entire World War II. Kennedy gives a good, thorough account. There were some fascinating details, especially about the depression, that I had never heard. I had always understood that Herbert Hoover did hardly anything, but when one understands what was going on and what the theories were that tried to explain the depression, one can see that he did his best. Unfortunately, the situation was so disastrous that this was just not enough. We see FDR foundering to find a response to the situation. He came up with some quick fixes, but these did not really end the depression. In fact, the only thing that ended the depression was the industrial upturn when World War II began. What FDR did give was some guarantees for the normal person, including Federal Insurance for bank accounts, unemployment insurance, laws against child labor, farm subsidies, etc. In some ways, the depression was needed for the country to experiment with new techniques of manipulating the economy. The book is very good, but also very long. Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History by Edward Rutherfurd This is an account of five pivotal naval battles fought by the United States throughout its history. They are the battle on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac during the Civil war, the battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War, the Battle of Midway during the Second World War and the battle during the Iran-Iraq War in the Persian Gulf to keep shipping open. Each of the wars represented a technological advance over the other, but each was also marked by tremendous courage and even luck. This is a good overview of the theme. The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii by Jack London These are stories about the period of Hawaii’s history right after it was annexed by the United States. A good number of the stories involve the plague of leprosy and the fate of the lepers, being sent to Molokai for the rest of their lives. We hear about the right Americans, descendants of both the Protestant missionaries (who then became fabulously wealthy) and of the traders. We hear of the Hawaii’s who were made second and third class citizens in their own homeland. London gives a good sense of the racial tensions of the islands in those years, and some of the racial blending. The stories are well written, and often convey the hypocrisy of the Americans and the tragedy of some of the injustices done to the natives. The book is well worth reading. I hope you have a good week. A number of people have asked for my prayers in these weeks (I can't publish the needs). Could you please join me in praying for them and their needs. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rome - Copertino - Bari

September 23, 2013 Peace and Good, This week has been a bit unusual. I arrived back from the States on Sunday evening. Monday I was able to recover a bit from tremendous jet lag. Then on Tuesday we had the funeral of one of our friars in Rome. Matteo Luo was around 85 years old. (Although his Passport gave that age, he was probably at least a few years older. One of our Chinese friars said that he was older than his aunt who was 85.) He had come to Rome to study to be a Franciscan priest, and was forbidden from returning to China by the communists. In fact, he only returned after some twenty years, and after that he was banned again from returning. He belonged to my province in the States, even though he only visited once. He was given the choice of joining any province he wanted, and he chose us. All these years, he has been begging for assistance for the return of the friars in China. When he died, he had collected a very good sum and that will be used for our new mission there. He also attracted a number of vocations for this cause. Right after the funeral, we drove down to Copertino. This was the birth place of St. Joseph of Cupertino. (The spelling difference is the difference between the Italian and the Latin/English spelling.) St. Joseph was a Conventual friar who is famous for two things: he was not all that bright (which is why he is the patron saint of students taking exams) and he was a mystic who became so enraptured with God's love that he floated into the air. He is thus the patron saint of those who fly, including astronauts. We had out retreat down here preached by a seminary professor on St. Joseph Cupertino and his mysticism. We also attended the official opening of the 350th anniversary of his death. The procession alone lasted about an hour an a half. During it, I noticed some of the vendors at the side of the street. One of them was selling T shirts that spoke of Duff Beer and had the image of Homer Simpson. I couldn't believe it. There were thousands of people along the route. This town is far south in Italy, in what they call the heel of the boot which is Italy. On Sunday, we visited our friars in Bari, about an hour and a half away. One runs a beautiful center for children from difficult families (both residential and day care). The courts assign these children to the center for care. It is run by a friar and his lay workers. They are all helped by a group of married couples. It was great. We then went to the Basilica of St. Nicholas of Bari. This is the St. Nicholas who has gone down in history as Santa Claus. He died in Asia Minor, but his body was brought to Italy during the crusades. We will be down here all week until Friday. Then it is back to Rome for a meeting on Saturday, and then a flight out to Los Angeles on Sunday. These are the books I finished this week: Iron Kingdom by Christopher Clark This is the story of the rise and fall of Prussia, a section of Germany which gave it its best (efficiency, an honest civil service, etc.) as well as its worse (militarism, dictatorship, etc.). It goes for the origin of this region in Germany all the way until it was officially dismantled after World War II. We see great characters such as Frederick the Great and Bismark, and tyrants such as the Nazi’s and others. It is really only the kind of book that someone who really, really likes history would enjoy. Fortunately, I do really, really like history.` Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Eric Reaynaud This is the story of a Soviet KGB agent who became a traitor to his country and gave many, many secret documents to the French. This was right before the period when Ronald Reagan was president, and his revelations might have actually had an effect in how the Cold War ended. His documents showed the amount of information that was being stolen from the West by Eastern spies and double agents. The French, Americans and others were able to stop the loss of those documents, and they were then able to force the Soviets to try to keep up with their technological developments on their own, which bankrupted the system. The Soviet KGB agent did this as an act of revenge against the system of favoritism toward the children of the high bosses and petty corruption that he found in the KGB. He is not exactly that nice of a figure. He and his wife both had lovers. He tried to kill his lover and did kill an on-looker. It was only after that crime that he was caught and eventually executed. The book is good, but a little repetitive at times. It also makes conclusions that the stated evidence does not really warrant. Yet, it was a good read. The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Evan Thomas At the end of the 19th century, the United States went through a period of expansion which involved the conquest of Cuba, the Philippines and other Spanish colonies. This movement was pushed by three men in particular: Theodore Roosevelt who as assistant secretary of the navy and then as the Colonel in charge of the Rough Riders in Cuba pushed a manly approach to war, Henry Cabot Lodge, a senator for Massachusetts who would eventually scuttle the US participation in the League of Nations and William Randolph Hearst, the owner of a much-racking newspaper in New York which pushed for US involvement in Cuba by publicizing true and not so true accounts of Spanish repression there. Many in the States questioned this move for it seemed to betray our protection of democracy throughout the world and also make us too much the imperialistic powers of Europe. This became especially true in the Philippines where our army savagely attacked a local independence movement (which in its turn used savage tactics against our soldiers). The book is good, and provides a good insight into the personalities of those involved in these machinations. The Messiah of Morris Avenue by Tony Hendra This is the story of how Jesus comes back to an America that was taken over by fundamentalist Christians. He comes back as Jose, a Hispanic American who tries to correct some of the misunderstandings about the Christian message. The story is really quite good. At times, it goes a little over the top in trying to attacking institutional religion. Part of it was certainly borrowed from Dostoevsky’s scene of the Grand Inquisitor in the Brothers Karamazov. Jose is put to death for preaching peace and refusing to kill. I do have to admit that the story was good to read. It led to some good meditations on who Jesus is and what he wants of us. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, September 16, 2013

London - Crew - London - Ellicott City - Chicopee - Ellicott City - Rome

September 16, 2013 Peace and Good, This has been a most interesting week. The first part of it was attending the first chapter of the new custody of Great Britain and Ireland. This meeting went very well. The friar who was suggested as a possible custos (the equivalent of a provincial) was elected on the first ballot. On Thursday, fr. James McCurry and I had to fly back to the States so that we might attend the funeral of fr. Marion Tolczyk, one of our former provincials. He was the provincial who sent me over to Rome for my studies. He had also been the head of the Rosary Hour in Athol Springs, NY. While he was in the responsibility, he helped out our friars in Poland during the difficult years of Solidarity and the government crackdown. We flew to Baltimore on Thursday and then flew up on Southwest to Hartford the next morning. The funeral was in Chicopee, MA. Then, we both flew back to Baltimore that same evening. On Saturday evening, I flew back to Rome. Needless to say, my body has no idea of what time it is. My mind has very little idea of where I am at this point. Tomorrow we have another funeral, of fr. Matteo Leu, a Chinese friar who studied in Rome and then could not go back to China because of the Communists. He served the mission office here in Rome all his life. Yet, through a quirk in our legislation, he was a member of my province. Right after the funeral, the whole General Definitory will head down to Cupertino in southern Italy for our retreat and then for a definitory meeting next week. I finished some books: Marius’ Mules II: The Belgae by S.J.A. Turney This is the second book in this series that I have read. It is the story of Julius’ Caesar’s army fighting in Gaul (France) and now among the Belgae (Belgiums). The hero of the story is a gruff Roman legate named Fronto. We hear about the battles, even the massacres. Caesar comes across as a politician who will do almost anything to accrue power and prestige. The author gives a good sense of how battles were fought. He also gives a good sense of how one culture can destroy another, all in the so-called purpose of bringing civilization to the barbarians. The writing is good, but because it deals with battles, a bit gory. The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church – The Story of John XXIII by Greg Tobin Given that Pope John XXIII will be canonized shortly (I heard the rumor in Rome that it will be December 8th), I thought it was a good idea to read a biography about his life. Tobin’s book is highly favorable. It portrays a man who is highly intelligent but yet shows the simplicity of a farmer. He serves as a bishop’s secretary, and a seminary professor, and especially as a Papal Nuncio in Bulgaria, then Turkey and Greece and finally in France before he is appointed to be the Patriarch of Venice and then unexpectedly elected as pope. He was elected to serve a short term, name a number of cardinals (because the College of Cardinals number was quite low at that point), and then to die. He surprised everyone when he called the Second Vatican Council. He died just after the beginning of the council, but his decisions in its early months shaped the course of later decisions made under Paul VI. His nickname in Italy was “Il Papa Buono,” which means the Good Pope. By the way, the Italians have given Pope Francis that same nickname, which for Italians is just about the highest honor one could ever pay to a Holy Father. The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible by Matti Friedman This is the story of a codex of the Bible that dated to the early Middle Ages and was one of the most accurate manuscripts that existed. During the War of Independence of Israel, there was a riot in Aleppo where the manuscript was kept. It disappeared for a number of years. When it was found again and brought to Israel (which was controversial because the Israeli government claimed it as its own instead of refugees from Aleppo), parts of it were missing. This book is an attempt to investigate the manuscript’s journey and to posit who might have taken the pages that disappeared. It is quite good, although the author does try to establish more suspense than the story deserves. The Copper Sign by Katia Fox This is the story of a young woman in the 12th century in England and France. She grows up helping her father who is a blacksmith, and she learns from him and other smiths how to make swords (although this is unthinkable for a woman to do in these times). In the meantime, she is persecuted by her mother, by her half-brother who is a knight, and by any number of people and situations along the way. She gathers around herself a group of people who were lost and down on their luck, and she builds a small community for them. She eventually fulfills her dream of making a sword for the king (almost by accident), and she becomes famous throughout the land. She is not a perfect person. She is driven in her goals, often forgetting and taking for granted the people around her. She is not all that nice to some people, although those relationships are slowly healed throughout the course of the book. Overall, it was a fairly good read. I hope you have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, September 9, 2013

South Bend - Chicago - London

September 9, 2013 Peace and Good, Well, I am on the other side of the Atlantic. I flew from South Bend (our novitiate is just outside of that city) to Chicago and then on to London on Saturday. It was a good flight, although as always it was long and tedious. I am here for a chapter of the new custody of Great Britain and Ireland which will take place about a three hour ride from here in a town called Crew, just outside of Manchester. We will be meeting to plan the future for the 25 friars who are part of this jurisdiction. The jurisdiction here was doing poorly for many years and it was demoted from being a province to being a delegation, but now they are moving up a notch to become a custody. This means that they have much more autonomy, making most of their decisions locally. I found out Saturday that one of the former provincials of St. Anthony Province passed away, so instead of lying back to Rome from here, on Thursday I have to fly back to the States for the funeral, and then back to Rome on Saturday night. To say the least, this is not ideal, given that jet lag really does a job on me. The good thing is that I will be flying back to go on retreat, so I will be able to rest up a bit. This past week my kindle book reader died. I bought a new one, a kindle fire which is the next level up. It is great, much easier to read than the old one. Furthermore, I was able to retrieve most of the books I had bought on the old kindle for a record of them was in the cloud. I am not really sure what that is, but it seems to be some type of super computer that stores all of these details. (Talk about Big Brother from Orwell.) I finished some books: Wild Blue: the men and boys who flew the B 24’s over Germany by Stephen Ambrose This is the story of the training and missions of the young men who joined the Army Air Corp (there was no Air Force until later) to fly the bombers over Germany. Specifically, Ambrose, who writes tons of books about the armed forces, speaks of George McGovern and his crew. This is the same McGovern who later ran for the presidency in opposition to the Vietnam War. Ambrose presents McGovern as a genuinely good young man who leads his crew into danger but watches out for them and proves to be a natural leader. His particular air wing flew out of Italy, and hit targets in Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. McGovern’s favorite missions were just after the war when he flew some of the surplus food that the army had to starving civilians. War can often brutalize people, but McGovern proved to be too decent to allow that to happen to himself and his crew. Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation by Professor Thomas F.X. Noble This is a Teaching Company course (36 lectures) on the period of history in Europe and Western Asia that ran from the time of Diocletian (the end of the 3rd century AD) up to the period after the reign of Charlemagne (c. 800 AD). While many history books judge this period to be the beginning of the Dark Ages, Noble shows it as a time of transition. It is a period that leads to the beginning of the formation of countries in Western Europe and the rise of three empires (that of Charlemagne, that of the Byzantine Empire, and that of the Islamic Caliphate). Many scholars discount anything written during this period as being a poor copy of classical literature, Noble again speaks of the greatness of some of the authors, especially figures such as St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. He covers economic, social, demographic, political, etc. considerations. It was really worth listening to this course. The Road by Cormac McCarthy This is easily one of the saddest books that I have ever read. It is about a father and a son who are wandering along on a road after a nuclear disaster which has left the land under perpetual nuclear winter (the dust from the explosions and fires have blocked out the sun). Many of the people they meet along the way are ready to murder one for some food or clothes. The man’s wife and boy’s mother had committed suicide because she just couldn’t go on to see their deaths. The boy has an innocence and goodness that has been worn out of the heart of the man. Although this book is very good, I would not recommend it to anyone unless that person is ready for a very depressing read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, September 2, 2013

Castro Valley, CA - Chicago - Mishawaka, IN

September 2, 2013 Labor Day I finished my time in California on Tuesday and flew out to Chicago. I was staying at our house on Kenmore Avenue, not all that far from Loyola University. On Thursday evening I attended a fund raiser that fr. Peter Damian Masingill arranged for our mission in India. The hosts served exquisite Indian food. The lady who catered the meal also lent her back yard for the use of this event. There were probably about 35 people there, and it was really a very nice evening. The next morning I flew out to South Bend which is just down the street from Mishawaka. This is where our novitiate is located. There are three novices from Great Britain, three from the US and one from Canada. This week I will be presenting a workshop of the Gospels and the Psalm, a workshop I have given here a number of times and also in the Philippines. I began this morning and will continue until Friday afternoon. I had a nice surprise on the way out. The agent at the airport gate announced that they were willing to offer a $400 credit for anyone who was willing to arrive a couple of hours later and would fly from Chicago to Detroit and from there to South Bend. I called the friar picking me up and he had no problem with it. Given that I bought the original ticket with frequent flyer miles, I made out like a bandit. I can use the ticket later this year from some of my trips during the visitations I have to do in November and then again in January. My Kindle died on this trip and I finally decided to buy a Kindle Fire. When they first came out, there were mixed reviews, but they have since corrected all of the original flaws. I found out that I did not lose most of the books I was reading for they were stored in the cloud (I don't understand exactly what it is), and I could receive them free of charge. I finished a few books: Thirteen Shadows: Ghost Stories by Aaron Polson This is a series of short ghost stories. They are quite readable, but never really frighten one or make one think beyond a certain level. One of the interesting ones is about a boy who works for an old man taking his dog out for a walk. He finds the man dead when he enters the house with one of his friends. The friend steals some objects from the house and they leave the man to be found by someone else. The man haunts the boy until he gets his revenge on the friend who stole the old man’s property. Then there is one in which a man’s great aunt dies and leaves him a task of opening up a jar under the nose of people who are dying. The jar contains fragrances that trigger a pleasant memory for the dying person and allows that person to leave this life in peace. Overall, not a bad read. Dillinger by Jack Higgins Jack Higgins is the name used by Harry Patterson, an author from Northern Ireland. He wrote a number of very good books on spies and plots during World War II (e.g. the Eye of the Needle). This is a fictional account of an adventure that John Dillinger is supposed to have had in Mexico shortly before his death. He went down there to escape pursuit, but is captured by a rich mine owner who forces him to work as his enforcer in the mines against the Apache whom he treats like slaves. They rebel against the mine owner, killing his wife and kidnapping his daughter. Dillinger and others, including Rose, the mine owner’s niece, find the girl and free her. As with Higgins other books, this is well written and presents Dillinger as a type of anti-hero (something that Higgins does with IRA members in his other books). The Hades Factor by Robert Ludlum This is the first of the covert first series of books by Ludlum. I have read other volumes in the series which referred to what happened in the first volume, but this is the first time I had the change to go back to the start and see how it all came together. The hero is a doctor who is also a spy and spy catcher. He is assisted by the sister of his murdered fiancĂ©e who is in the CIA. At the end of this particular episode (which involves a evil scientist/industrialist who starts a plague so that he make a fortune selling the antidote), the president invites the hero to be part of a secret team which is answerable only to him (given that the other investigative agencies failed in their investigation of the plot outlined in this work). The action is quite good. There are side characters of a computer genius who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and a British Secret Service spy. All in all, is was a good read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 26, 2013

Castro Valley - Mammoth Lakes - Castro Valley

August 26, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been in Castro Valley, just outside of San Francisco for most of the week. We had a meeting of the five provincials of the United States, the Custos of Canada, and the Delegates of Great Britain/Ireland and of Australia. These are the jurisdictions that make up the conference of friars called the CFC. We work together on joint projects (such as the common novitiate that is located just outside of South Bend, Indiana. The conference also serves as a middle stage to bring ideas from the general level down to the grass roots level and ideas from the friars at the grass roots level up to the general level. The men in this group are very easy to work with, and the meeting went quite well. After the meeting, we travelled out to Mammoth Valley so that we might visit Yosemite National Park. There was a little glitch in this for there are tremendous wild fires just outside of the park. On the way up we saw mountains of smoke rising from the fires and there was smoke in the air, but once we travelled to the eastern side of the park, the air was clear. We went into the park on Friday, and there was one point where we could see the flames rising up over the mountains, but that was from a distance of about thirty miles. The park is immense. I heard that it was the size of Connecticut. The ride to the park is not for those who easily get car sick. There was tons of curves and the road was relatively narrow (although it is very well paved). We drove up to the 9600 feet level crossing the Sonoma Pass. The scenery is at times breathtaking. We took this trip as sort of a last fling. A number of the provincials will be changing next year during the elections in the various provinces and so, after working together for the past four years, they wanted to spend a few days together not having to talk about business. It was a good time. On the way back, we encountered a lot more smoke than on the way up. We had taken a detour around the north side of the park, and the winds were blowing in that direction. There were voluntary evacuations along some of the road that we were taking, but no actual danger at that point. Tomorrow I head out to Chicago for a few days and then off to Misshawaka (the novitiate). I finished some books: The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terrorism by Beverly Gage This is the story of an explosion which killed a number of people outside of the Morgan Bank in Manhattan shortly after the end of World War I. There were many theories as to what caused the explosion. There were some who thought that it was a dynamite wagon that was illegally being driven through Manhattan to get to a construction project. Others thought that it was tied in with Italian anarchists. Still others thought it was caused by Russian communists. We hear about the attempts of the Federals, the local authorities and private detectives to get to the bottom of it. All of their attempts failed, and we are still not completely sure of who caused the explosion. It was used as an excuse to crack down on anarchists and communists in the country. No one comes out of this looking all that innocent, and we are just not sure who is the most guilty. There are obvious warnings in our time of terrorism, especially that we not allow our fears blind us to our basic values. The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer This is the epic story of a woman who is the daughter of immigrants from Poland who aspires to the highest office in the country: the presidency. Her father makes a fortune with his chain of hotels. She marries a man who owns a major bank, and together they multiply their wealth. Yet, they are socially conscious. The woman runs for various elective offices. The story is a feel good story, but the characters are a bit too one dimensional. This woman’s character is always honest, always good and generous. His opponents are sneaky and underhanded. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable (but quite long) read. Russka: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd This reminds me of a James Michener novel in which there are a series of stories around a single location to tell the history of the place. Rutherford, in fact, is the author of the series on Sarum which has been quite popular. In this particular case, it is a village in the south of what is today Russia. We start out with a story in the first centuries of AD period, and then we go to a series of stories in the Middle Ages, especially involving the Mongols who conquered most of Russia and the boyars who collaborated with them. There is a story of what is happening in the village every few centuries (with a number of stories during critical periods such as the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, and the time of the Russian Revolution. It is a good book and gives one a good idea of what was happening throughout the centuries. Ancestor: A Novel by Scott Sigler This is a science fiction book about genetic engineering. It speak of the danger of trying to create new forms of life. There is an experiment to create animals that can grow human organs for transplantation. Unfortunately, the genius who is working on the genetic code is mentally ill. The doctor in charge purposely shortchanges her medicine so that he might tap into her manic energy while she is working on this project. This backfires terribly when she unconsciously engineers creatures that turn out to be more monsters than animals. (It seems that she wanted to commit suicide and this was her way of doing this.) The rest of the book is the battle between a few good people and the others who are so interested in fame or money that they are willing to let the project go on even though there are clear signs of danger. The book is really kind of a good read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rome

August 15, 2013 The Solemnity of the Assumption Peace and Good, I am sorry that I am late getting this blog posted this week. I totally forgot about it. I have been in Rome all of this week. I am working on a couple of projects, such as translating a document for our Order. Most of what I am doing, however, is simply watching the shop. The Secretary General is on vacation, and we have to have someone around to check the mail to see if anything important should come in and to sit by the phone just in case we receive a phone call concerning something that needs immediate attention. Given the fact that this is mid-August, both of these things are highly improbable. Everything just about shuts down in Rome during these weeks. If you are ever thinking of coming to Rome, these are the weeks to avoid. It is very, very hot. Many of the Romans just close up shop and head either to the mountains or the seashore. They even close some of the restaurants. I am finishing up my weeks in Rome on Saturday. I will be flying out to San Francisco to attend a meeting of all of the provincials of the US, Canada, Great Britain/Ireland and Australia. We hold these meetings twice a year to make joint plans and speak about any topic that is proposed either from above (from the General level) or from below (from the grassroots, the individual friars or friaries). I will be out of Rome for almost a month. Then I will be back for two weeks, but almost immediately the definitory will be heading down to Puglia (southern Italy) for our annual retreat and a meeting. Then I will be off on the road for another couple of months. I finished a number of books: Speaking in Tongues by Jeffrey Deaver This is a mystery novel concerning Meagan, a young troubled girl who is going for counseling to a counselor. The replacement psychologist whom she visits kidnaps her with the intention of murdering her in front of her father. The father is a lawyer who sent the psychologist’s son to prison where he was murdered. The psychologist is also a mass murderer. He had been committed to a mental health facility where he was able to talk people into committing suicide. The title of the comes from the idea that both the lawyer and the psychologist are incredibly gifted in their ability to speak and convince others to do whatever they wanted them to do. There are abundant twists and turns in the story. Deaver knows how to write an interesting story. Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom This is one of those history books with which the author knows how to give all of the details that are important without overwhelming the reader with interesting but ultimately confusing sidelights. This is the story of a battle that was utterly unnecessary for it took place after the agents of the US and British governments had concluded a peace treaty in Ghent. Yet, the battle was the most important event for the United States throughout the entire war. It showed definitively that a citizen army such as the gathering of the militias that constituted Andrew Jackson’s force at New Orleans could defeat a highly professional force like that of the British. There is also the interesting story of Jean Laffite, a pirate who donated his services and supplies for the cause of the US (even as he was offered a very, very large bribe by the British to join their side. The war began because the British were interfering in our free trade. They would stop our ships and impress our sailors (force them to serve on their side) because after years of war, they were so short of sailors for their own fleet. They claimed that these were British sailors (even if we considered them to be naturalized citizens), and they often took off men who had actually been born in America. The war did not settle any of the big problems such as this. However, the fact that we survived against the strongest power in the world was already a victory. The war of 1812 is often called the second war of independence. The book of well written and I could recommend it to anyone who is interested in history and this period of time. D.C. Dead (Stone Barrington #22) by Stuart Woods This is part of the Stone Barrington series. The heroes of these stories are Stone Barrington who is a New York lawyer and Dino Bucetti who is a New York Detective. They are called down to Washington to investigate a murder-suicide that took place a year ago involved two White House staff members. The president and the first lady, who is also director of the CIA, do not believe that it was really a murder suicide. The dialog of the novel is not all that good. The morals of the main characters makes rabbits in heat look chaste. The story does have some good twists and turns, but it is just not all that believable. Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falconses This is one of those medieval epic stories like those written by Ken Follett. It takes place in Barcelona during the 14th century. The central theme is the building of a church by the Bastasche, those men who carried cargoes from the ships in the harbor to the warehouses. One of their members becames rich, has various adventures, and suffers the jealousy of others. The nobility make out very bad in this story, as do the Dominicans in charge of the inquisition. We hear of the persecution of the Jews and of those considered to be sinners or heretics. These stories tend to have heroes and villains who are clearly one or the other without a lot of texturing of their personalities. The story is not bad, but a little bit drawn out. I hope you have a good week. Hard to believe that Labor Day is right around the corner. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, August 5, 2013

San Jose, Costa Rica - Rome

August 5, 2012 Peace and Good, As you can see from the title above, I am back in Rome for a couple of weeks. All last week I was in San Jose, Costa Rica. It is a beautiful country, with more than a third of it being a National Park. It is a major site for eco-tourism. Unfortunately, I only saw one friary all week. We were taking part in an assembly of friars from Costa Rica and from Honduras with the hope to unite the jurisdictions. There has been some bad blood in the past between these two jurisdictions, so this has to be done gradually. It will not take place until 2017. But this past week’s meeting went very well with a very honest sharing of ideas and feelings. I preached at one of the Masses in English which was then translated into Spanish. I don’t know what I said, but the friars were most complementary. It is hard to preach to people in another culture because you never know if what you are saying matches their own perception of things. This one seems to have come off well. The trip home was long but uneventful. Because this particular trip was planned after other parts of the trip had already been booked and ticketed, I ended up flying from San Jose to Miami, Miami to Baltimore, Baltimore to London and London to Rome. In what must be an absolute miracle, my bags did not get lost along the way. I’ll be in Rome these next couple of weeks taking care of business for the order, which in August is negligible. The secretary of the order is taking a couple of weeks of well-earned vacation, and someone has to be around just in case the Vatican would call the order about something. I’ll let you know at the end of next week whether the Pope called or not. I finished a few books: Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas This is an excellent biography of the Lutheran pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer. He rejected Hitler’s call to subject the Lutheran Church to Nazi authority. He publicized some of the atrocities that he and his friends had witnessed. He was eventually arrested for opposing the government and implicated in the Valkierie plot to assassinate Hitler. I have been fascinated by his teaching and his life. He truly wanted to live his call from Christ without compromise. He understood the consequences, but he felt he could not be authentic to his faith without being willing to pay the price. One could describe him as being saintly in his forbearance, and yet he was also a product of his times (an upper class German intellectual who could be a bit of a snob). After reading this book, I want to include him as part of my prayer life, especially as a type of patron saint when I need the courage to give witness to my convictions. Heat by Ed McBain This is another of the Ed McBain detective novels. He usually deals with two cases, and in this book there is an apparent suicide that might or not be a homicide, and the investigation by one of the detectives of his own wife whom he believes is cheating on him. The dialog is quite good, and the novels are action packed. It is not exactly brain surgery, but it is a good read. Chili Con Corpses (The Supper Club Mysteries) by J.B. Stanley The premise of this book are that there are a group of friends in small town Virginia who decide to participate in a supper club (they prepare the meals on a theme while they are eating similar snacks). One of their group is murdered, and they gang up to find the killer. The presentation of the characters is not all that sharp, but the story is basically good and enjoyable. Furthermore, there are a number of good looking recipes interspersed within the action sections. Hope you have a good week. It is sweltering here in Rome, and they predict it will get hotter. Shalom Fr. Jude

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28, 2013 Peace and Good, This week has been quite restful. I was in Chicago for about two weeks, and this week we had two celebrations. The first is called investiture when the men considering entering the order begin their year of novitiate. This is a year of prayer and discernment. They have their novitiate at a town outside of South Bend, Indiana called Mishawaka. There were seven men this year, three of whom are from England. Then the day after we had the profession of those who were completing their year of novitiate. They take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for a period of three years. At the end of that period, they can decide to take those vows for the rest of their lives. Saturday I flew down from Chicago to Costa Rica. I was an interesting journey. The first part from Chicago to Miami was fine, but then when we got to Miami, we were stuck on the tarmac for about twenty minutes. Given that I had an hour to make the next flight and the gate was at the other end of the airport, it was a run. I made it, but my luggage did not (not that I expected it to given the rush). When I got to San Jose in Costa Rica, the line up for passport control was never ending. It took me about forty minutes to get through that, and then I had to wait to see if my suitcase would arrive. When it did not, I had to make the report and that took time. By the time I got out, the friar waiting for me had taken off (which I don't blame him at all). I had the addresses of two of our friaries, but the addresses were incomplete, and the phone numbers weren't for the friaries, they were for the apostolates associated with the friaries which were closed on Saturday. So, I got into a taxi and he took me to another taxi just outside the airport that could accept my credit card. We tried calling the numbers I had, but no luck. We went into the town where the friars lived which was near the airport, and stopped at the first Catholic Church to ask, but there was a baptism going on and no one was available. We met a man outside the Church whom we asked, and he didn't know - but he continued to phone around until he got an answer and ten minutes later we were at the friary. In changing the taxi and asking the man for help, I got the sense that everyone only wanted to help me. Remember, too, I don't speak Spanish, so everything was in Italian or English, which none of them spoke well. Somehow we understood each other. So far the Costa Ricans are everything I hear of them, friendly and very, very helpful. I am here for a meeting of the Costa Rican friars with the friars from Honduras to talk about joining their jurisdictions. The Latin American assistant is here too, and my presence is really symbolic to show that we support this move in Rome. I will leave for Rome on Thursday. I finished a few books: The Blue Nowhere by Jeffrey Deaver This is a detective novel about a hacker on the computer who wants to play video games, but who confuses what is real with what is virtual. He begins to kill people and he has to be tracked down by a group of cyber-detectives with the aid of a brilliant hacker who is currently in prison. The book is good. Deaver explains any difficult term or abbreviation or concept. It is well done. There are mysteries which are not solved to the very end of the book. Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret Macmillan This is the history of the negotiations that occurred in Paris at the end of the First World War. The resulting treaty, the Treaty of Versailles, has often been cited as one of the major causes of the Second World War. The author of this book presents the treaty as a messed up document, but probably about the best when one considers the countries and their varying demands and the personalities who were to say the best “difficult.” While Woodrow Wilson had proposed his fourteen points as the basis for a peace after the war, he and the other negotiators applied them when it was convenient and not when it was not. He treated eastern European minorities much better than Arab or African. He ignored the dignity of the Chinese in favor of the Japanese. The agreements certainly sparked a rebellion and a war in Turkey that ended in the forced ethnic cleansing of coastal Turkey (of the Greeks) and Crete and other areas of Greece (of the Turks). We see a horribly complicated process that did not end all that well. The books is not overly heavy, but neither is it a light read. If you’re interested in this period of history, it is a must read. The Arms of Nemesis by Steven Saylor This is another one of Saylor’s books about Gordianus the Seeker, the detective during the days of Julius Caesar. This one is about a man who is killed and the culprit seems to be his slaves. This is occurring during the rebellion led by Sparticus which convulsed the Roman empire. Crassus, the owner of the villa where the man was killed, has decided to kill all 100 of his slaves there unless Gordianus can find the killer. He does, but it is a roundabout investigation. The dialog is very credible, the historic data enlightening, and the background information informative. I very much enjoy Saylor’s books. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude