Sunday, January 27, 2013

Assisi - Spoletto - Foligno - Assisi

January 27, 2013 Peace and Good, I am writing from Assisi where we have just completed our first week of the General Chapter. The first days of any chapter are dedicated to an evaluation of how things are going. We had reports from the Minister General and a good number of his collaborators. We had some long discussions in groups concerning what they reported and what we see. This week we pass to the elections of those who will lead the order for the next six years. I have been asked to preach the homilies at the Masses for the first two weeks. They asked me to try to tie the readings to what we are doing any particular day. I give the homily in English and Italian, and it has been translated in written form into the other two official languages of the order: Spanish and Polish. It is an incredible responsibility, because I am helping to set the tone of what we are doing in the chapter hall. So far it has gone very well, thank God. We took a field trip to Spoletto (the town where the Spoletto music festival is held every year) and Foligno (a city about 20 km from Assisi). They are beautiful medieval cities built on the hill sides (as are almost all of the cities in Umbria, this part of Italy. In Foligno we visited the Church where one of our blesseds, Blessed Angela of Foligno, is buried. We are hoping that she will soon be canonized, possibly even during this year of faith. I have finished these books: Mr. B. Gone by Clive Barker This is a typical Clive Barker work: strange and violent. It is the story of a minor demon , Jackabob Botch, who ends up being fished up onto the material world. He wanders around with one of his demon friends killing and doing evil deeds. The story seems almost cute such as C.S. Lewis’ version in the Screwtape Letters. But then in typical Clive Barker style, there are scenes of incredible, tasteless violence. This is the first book that I have ever read that begins with the character depicted in the book begging the reader to burn the book. It turns out that the character has been imprisoned in the book for hundreds of years, and he only wants to be liberated for his prison. Over and over again the demon begs, demands, threatens the reader to burn the book, even saying that he would kill the reader at the end if he doesn’t burn the book. There are moments in the book which are almost theological. Yet, it doesn’t reach the heights of a C.S. Lewis work. Glass House by Patrick Reinken This is a rather interesting book. It starts out with an episode occurring in a South African diamond mine. A man is trying to smuggle a pink diamond out, and he gets caught and is tortured to death. It is only later that one discovers whether he is a good man or a bad man. In the meantime, we hear the story of a woman lawyer who is asked to defend an executive of a security company who is accused of sexual harassment. It turns out that this is not the first time that he has been accused of this offense. The story develops quite well as one discovers the connection between this man and the diamond mines and war for control of other mines that is going on half a world away. The lawyer slowly discovers the truth about all of this and plots to exact true justice in the case. Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child I have read a couple of books written by this pair of authors about FBI agent Pendergast. This book is about an agent for a top secret private organization named Gideon Crew. He bears quite a similarity to Pendergast in his reasoning power and his ability to outsmart the most nefarious criminal mind. In this case, Crew is trying to intercept a Chinese scientist who is bringing the designs for what might be a powerful new weapon to the United States. There are various secret agents trying to get the same information, and Crew has to do battle against them and their designs by himself. It is quite good, but a bit contrived at points. I hope you have a good week. Please keep us in your prayers as we meet in Assisi for our General Chapter. Remember, if you have any intention you would likee me to remember at the tomb of St. Francis, simply e mail it to me at God bless and Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rome - Assisi

January 21, 2013 Peace and Good, Last week was a great opportunity to finish off the translating projects (which of course included a couple handed to me at the last minute) in preparation for the General Chapter. Then, I worked on daily reflections for the site, articles for one maganize from Padua, Italy, and also for another magazine from Manchester, England. I am caught up with all of them. Thursday and Friday were for multiple trips to the airport to meet the friars coming in for General Chapter. Friday was a little rough, six hours at the airport because one of the flights was four hours late (it was snowing in London). Everyone made it in. Saturday we travelled to Assisi. It is cold up here, and there is snow in the mountains, but not all that bad. Saturday evening we began the chapter. There are 90 provincials and delegates from all around the world. Sunday we had a big, big Mass, very high church (which means so much music that at times you began to wonder if it was a Mass or a concert). By taste, I am much more low Church, liking things to be very simple. But with big occasions like this, you have to put on the dog. This morning, Monday, we actually began the chapter. I am preaching for the first two weeks of the chapter, sort of a spiritual director. I am overwhelmed that they asked me to do this. I am setting the spiritual tone for this gathering, or at least the first half of it. I have finished a few books. (If you ever wondered how I could finish any books during one of those very busy weeks, I am still working off some of the backlog of books read in the past few months. Asylum Harbor by Traci Halbenstein A young woman on vacation with her friends disappears from their cruise boat. The father of this young woman is the governor of Florida and a candidate for the presidency. He calls in the FBI and Rachel, a tracker who had dedicated herself to finding lost children after the disappearance of her own child. There is a question of drug smuggling as well as white slavery. There is quite a bit of adventure and action. I wouldn’t classify the book as great – more like OK. Gone for Good by Harlan Coban I first became interested in this book because its hero is the director of Covenant House in New York. This is an apostolate for run away kids founded by one of our friars, Bruce Ritter, who most unfortunately ended his life in disgrace after a scandal involving both sexual abuse and incorrect use of money. His successor, by the way, was a Daughter of Charity who is now ill and probably dying at the daughter’s mother house. The hero speaks of the great care offered these damaged children. The story involves a series of murders which began with the strangling death of the hero’s ex-girlfriend, supposedly by the brother of the hero. He had run away or disappeared right after the murder and the family presumed that he was dead. There are tons of surprises in the book and you don’t really know what is going on until the end. It is well written and leaves you wondering. Articles of War by Nick Arvin A young man from the farmland in the mid-west, so innocent that he does not swear (and is thus nicknamed Heck because that is the strongest word he will use) ends up in Normandy shortly after the invasion. He is part of a replacement unit, and does not have an assignment for quite some time. While he is waiting, he meets a father along with his small son and his daughter. Later he is assigned, but traumatized during the shelling and sniping that he experiences his first night. He loses his unit and ends up falling into a shelled out building where he gets a bad cut. This ends him up in a recovery area where he waits again for an assignment. He even finds out that the daughter of the man whom he met is pregnant (although there is no chance the child is his, he still desperately loves her). When he is finally reassigned, he ends up in one of the most horrific battles of World War II: the Hertgen Forest. He thinks he is going mad. He raises his hand up above a barrier just so that he will be shot. He receives a minor wound, but must once again return to battle. He becomes part of the firing squad to execute Private Slovak, the only US solider executed during World War II for desertion. After the war he remains for a while in Europe with the occupying army for he feels lost and no longer knows where home or the truth are. He encounters the French family he once knew and finds out that the young lady he had fallen in love with has had a child (not his, but a German soldier’s due to a rape, at least this is what the father says). At the end of the story she leaves the child by his door asking him to care for it. It is a sad, poignant story of an innocent sent off to war and how it tears him apart and leaves him so confused. It is a book well worth reading. Have a good week, and please keep us in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 14, 2013


January 14, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all this past week. We had a shorter definitory to take care of last minute preparations for our General Chapter which being this Saturday evening in Assisi. This week the delegates will begin arriving from all over the world to participate in this month long meeting to decide the future of the order for the next six years. Outside of the meeting, I have been working on some last minute translations from Italian into English. I have one more set of documents to finish later today and possibly tomorrow morning, and then I have to work on my homilies for the Chapter. I have been asked to be the preacher for the first two weeks of the chapter. That is quite a responsibility, for I will, in a sense, be setting the spiritual tone for the meeting. I did this once before when we had a Congress in Nairobi, and it went quite well that week. Please pray that the Spirit guide me in my reflections throughout these weeks. The weather here in Rome is cold and sometimes rainy. This is typical of Rome at this time of year. We only rarely have snow here, but winters are damp and cold. Yet, even now I can go out on our porch and see the roses in bloom. We received some great news from the States. I am a graduate of St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, New York. Two of its alumni were named General Managers for professional football teams this past week. St. Francis is not all that large a school, and to have two of its alumni reach this level of expertise is a real feather in the cap. I finished a few books: The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers This is the story of the life and death of Crazy Horse, the Sioux who led the battle against Custer at the Little Big Horn. The book helps you to understand the Sioux culture and why they fought against the encroaching whites. Crazy Horse surrendered when it was obvious that he and his people could no longer fight against the power of the white army. He was assured over and over again that he would be protected and his people fed, but the promises were repeatedly broken (just as the treaty promises made by the US government had been broken over the previous decades). Ironically, it was not Crazy Horse’s white captors who killed him, but rather Native American rivals. When he was in the reservation, he was treated with great respect by the army officials. Other chiefs became jealous and spread untrue rumors about what he was plotting to do. This resulted in his being arrested and he was killed in the process. The book is a good example of history told in all its details and in an interesting way. Alcatraz: A Definitive History by Michael Esslinger The title of the book says it all. This is a history of the island that became a maximum security prison in the middle of the San Francisco bay. The first part of the book is how the island was first used as a military base and lighthouse, and then how it was used as a prison for the most incorrigible of prisoners. There is quite a bit of information about some of its famous prisoners (e.g. Al Capone). There is also a large section about the various attempted escapes from the island. The prison was eventually closed down because of its cost per prisoner (which was the highest in the federal prison system because everything, including fresh water, had to be brought in by boat from the mainland) and the fact that much of its superstructure was badly damaged by salt spray which corroded both iron and concrete. Charles I by Jacob Abbott This is one of Abbott’s short biographies. Charles was the son of James I, the first Stuart king of England and the successor of Elizabeth I. He was a high Anglican at a time when there were many pushing for more Calvinist reforms. He wanted to be an absolute king, but at a time when the Parliament refused to hand over that power to him. This eventually resulted in a civil war and his execution. His reign was followed by that of Oliver Cromwell, but his sons (James II and Charles II) eventually succeeded him. As with all of Abbott’s books, this one is informative without giving too much information on the topic. I’ll be heading up to Assisi this Saturday. I will be sure to remember your prayer intentions before the tomb of St. Francis. If you want to send any particular needs for which you would like me to pray, send them to my e mail address at Make sure you label them “prayer intentions” so that I will be able to see them right away. God bless and Shalom Fr. Jude

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Buffalo - Toronto - Rome

January 7, 2012 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I spent the last week in Buffalo with my brother and sister-in-law. I had a good restful time, even if we all came down with the flu. (It seems as if it is going around Buffalo and many, many people have come down with it.) I had my flu shot earlier in the fall, but this seems to have been a variety that was not covered. My sister-in-law's dad also came down with it, and his heart was very compromised by earlier problems. He ended up in the hospital and passed away on the 2nd of January. Please keep Cassey and his family in your prayers. I headed back to Rome the evening of the 3rd, arriving late in the evening of the 4th. I had a very long layover at Heathrow in London due to a mix up in my tickets (my fault). By the time I got back to Rome, I was starting to get a relapse of the flu. I laid low the last couple of days, and this morning feel as if all is right again. This morning we begin our last definitory for the term. It is scheduled for the whole week, but I don't think it will last that long. Then two weeks from this past Saturday we meet in Rome. There will be over 100 of us from all around the world. We will be there for four weeks, reviewing the past six years, deciding who will lead the order for the next six years, and also deciding the major projects we should undertake to be more faithful to what we say we are. I have finished a few books: The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, her pirate adventurers and the dawn of empire by Susan Ronald This particular part of history has always bothered me. Why would Queen Elizabeth sponsor state terrorism. She purposely and secretly sent out pirate ships to prey upon the ships of the Spanish empire. This was especially true of the attempt to capture the treasure fleets that were bringing gold, silver and jewels from the New World. Spain was highly dependent upon these shipments in order to wage its wars against the Muslim world as well as many of their various enemies. Among the pirates there were John Hawkins, Martin Frobusher, Sir Walter Raleigh and Steven Dawson. These were not the ferocious pirates of a latter era, but they nevertheless did steal and ravage and destroy those in their way. Complicating the situation was the British attitude toward Ireland and how Elizabeth (like her predecessors) tried to control the wild tribes and practices of the island while they tried to destroy the Catholic presence there. Elizabeth comes across as brilliant but also capricious (changing her mind again and again at the last minute). She played up to her favorites, but she also sponsored the beginning of the British navy and the British empire. The book is well written and good history. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold This is a very odd story about a woman (49 years old) who has recently been caring for her mother who has developed dementia. It turns out that the mother was mentally ill (including agoraphobia) and has been cared for by her husband (who committed suicide some years before) and her daughter for many, many years. The mother was never really a nice person, and the daughter had often daydreamed on how to murder her. As the book opens, the mother has soiled herself. As the daughter tries to clean her, she snaps and suffocates her mother. The rest of the book is what happens over the next day as first she and then her ex-husband and her daughter come to grips with what she has done and the eventual consequences of it. Most of the book is flashbacks to the woman’s life growing up in this very dysfunctional household. The book is in its own way both good and disturbing at the same time. Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith Smith is the author of Gorky Park. His hero, Arkady Renko, falls foul of the system toward the end of communism in that book. This story is about the period that follows communism. Stalin’s ghost is sited in a subway station. There is a question of whether something is really happening or whether his appearance is tied to a political campaign of a rightist candidate who was probably involved in war crimes during the war in Chechnya. Even though communism is over, many of the forms of behavior that were learned during that period still continue to control the government and the justice system. As with Gorky Park, the hero is very human with serious flaws, but he is a basically honest and decent person. This is a very good book. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude