Monday, March 18, 2013


March 18, 2013 Peace and Good, I hope that you are all well. This has been quite some week. I have been in Rome for one of our definitory meetings. Each morning and evening of the Conclave we turned on the TV to see whether there was white smoke or black. Like the rest of the world, we were surprised when the new pope was elected so soon. I stayed at home and watched it on TV because it was a cold and rainy day, and I was just getting over a cold. I was a little worried when the new pope’s name was announced (his birth name) and when he walked out on the balcony. My first thought was that he was so old. But when it was announced that his name was Francis, my hopes began to spring up. Then, he did so many things in such a simple way. He said “Good evening” to the crowd. Such a human thing to do. He asked for their blessing. He spoke to us with gentleness and kindness. Ever since then he has been doing one thing after another which has endeared us all to him. He reminds me of John XXIII and of John Paul I. There is a goodness and holiness to the man. He genuinely cares for all of us, and especially for the poor. I am very, very hopeful. In the meantime I am also getting ready for my next trip. Right after Easter I will be heading out to Vietnam, Australia, the Philippines and England. I will be on the road for a little over a month. I went to the Vietnamese embassy today to get my travel visa. The travel visa to Australia was easier – I got it over the internet. It only took about five minutes. I will be staying in Rome this week to catch up on my daily reflections and some other writing projects. Then next Monday I will head up to Assisi for a thanksgiving commemoration for the outgoing Custos of Assisi and the greet the incoming one. I have finished a few books: The Killing Ground by Jack Higgins The premise of this book is that a special task force is set up in Great Britain by the Prime Minister to combat the forces of evil that are threatening the peace of the kingdom. This book has a little bit of everything: Muslim terrorists and assassins, Russian Mafia and Plutocrats, ex-IRA thugs, etc. (Interestingly enough, there are also Muslims, Russians and ex-IRA operatives on the good side as well.) The book is packed with action, but it is very one sided. The good side always wins. The suspense is only how badly the bad side will lose. Even if one of the good side is wounded, he of course will survive. Nevertheless, it is a good read, even if it falls short of reality now and then. The Cossocks by Leo Tolstoy This was one of Tolstoy’s first works, one that began to make him famous in Russia. It was written at a time when people did not travel all that much, so news about this distant people from within the Russian empire was fascinating to those who read this work. You can already see Tolstoy’s preference for the simple country life as opposed to the extravagant court and social scene in St. Petersburg and Moscow. It tells of a Russian rich young man who travels down to southern Russia lives among the Cossacks at the border with Chechnya. He lives a life of leisure, hunting and talking and drinking with his new friends. He falls in love. He is torn between his new life in this village where he would always be a foreigner and his old life among his friends back in “civilization.” The Vietnam War: A Concise International History by Mark Atwood Lawrence This is a good, not too long presentation of the history of Vietnam to set the Vietnam War in a greater context. The author speaks of the three Vietnamese Wars: against France, against the United States and against China. He is not partisan in his information. He freely points out the failures in policy and strategy both of the United States and the North Vietnamese. I would recommend this book for someone who simply wants to know more about what happened leading up to the war, during the war, and after the war. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude


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