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

Monday, July 22, 2013


July 22, 2013 Peace and Good, It is such a joy to write just one city name in the label for the post. I have been in Chicago all this past week. Part of the reason I was here was to be present during the gathering of those who have been out of formation for zero to five years. This is a type of mentoring for those who have recently finished formation to help them with their adjustments to the full time ministry. I gave one talk, one homily, and I was present for the prayers and meals. I did a lot of informal consulting and sharing during those times. Part of my reason for being in Chicago was simply to take some time off. Chicago is a great city to visit. I went over to the Art Institute and just sat in front of some of my favorite paintings, especially those by El Greco. I will be here until toward the end of the week. We have the investiture for those beginning their novitiate (in which they receive their religious habits for the first time). We also have the first profession of vows for those who are just finishing novitiate. Then I will be heading down to Costa Rica for a meeting. This will be my first time down there. I hear it is beautiful. I finished a few books: The First Assassin by John J. Miller This is a fictional account of a couple of Southern plots to attack the north in the days immediately following the inauguration of President Lincoln. One involved blowing up the Capitol building, and the other was a plot to assassinate the president. The man in charge of protecting the president during the inauguration must then ferret out the plot to harm Lincoln against the orders of the head of the army, General Scott, who tells him to stop his investigation. The book is well written. Brothers, Rivals, Victors by Jonathan Jordan This is the story of three of the most important American generals during the Second World War: Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton. They are portrayed well without any form of hero worship. Ike comes across as an excellent manager and politician who was not a great combat general, but was just the right man to lead a multi-nation coalition. Bradley comes across as a reserved methodical general who did the right thing, but was at times a bit cautious. Patton comes across as a bull in a china shop who was the best general when it came to exploiting the weaknesses in the enemy. They were all friends and rivals. Their friendship waxed and waned, depending on what was happening. The most unpredictable of them all was Patton who had a tendency to say outrageous things that landed him (and his bosses) in trouble. The story is well written and enjoyable. The Lives of Great Christians by Professor William Cook This is one of the teaching company courses: 24 lectures long. It is a series of short biographies of great Christians throughout history. The professor presenting the lectures is Catholic, so many of the stories are about Catholics, including St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Maximilian Kolbe, etc. It also deals with the topic of monasticism in terms of the desert fathers, St. Benedict and the monks who live at Mt. Athos in Greece. Reformation figures such as Jan Hus, Martin Luther and the Wesley brothers are also seen. In modern times, he speaks of the choice to rebel against authority during the Nazi regime, the civil rights movement in the States, and liberation theology. He gives a good overview of the various topics. It is very, very difficult to cover 2,000 years in 24 lectures, but Cook does a creditable job of it. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 15, 2013

Los Angeles - Chicago

July 15, 2013 The Feast of St. Bonaventure Peace and Good, This has been a good summer week in which the only major thing that I had to do was to travel from LA to Chicago. I am staying with the friars at their house of studies on Kenmore Avenue, a few blocks from Loyolla University. I have been catching up with my daily reflections and am a month ahead, which is great because for the past few months I have been lucky to be a week early. I am giving a talk to some of our friars who are here this week for a period of continuing education. This are friars who have recently finished their formation (from very recently up to five years ago). We have found that these early years after formation are critical as the friars adjust from formation houses to normal houses in the friaries. There are about twenty friars here this week from the various provinces in the States. Next week I will attend a couple of celebrations in a friary near here. Otherwise, I now have a chance to slow down a bit and catch up on some writing projects. I finished a few books. Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald This is a series of short stories that take place during the 20’s. There is the story of a young man who is known as a “jelly bean,” a gad about town who doesn’t get all that involved in life. There is the story of a costume party in which a man and a woman who were engaged but broke it off during a fight end up getting married by mistake. There is a story of a party at the end of the war told from the perspective of a series of different people involved in the action. There is the story of Benjamin Button which was made into a film not all that long ago. There is a sad story about two couples whose lives fall apart, one when a wife cannot accept the limitations of her life and the other when a young man is struck down by a stoke and his wife lovingly cares for him until he dies. They are generally good stories, but one gets the impression in many of them that the characters are looking for something in life which they just cannot find. Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty This is the story of a double agent whom the British used to make Hitler and the Nazi High Command believe that the D-Day invasion was going to occur at Calais and not Normandy. Thus, even many days after the initial invasion, Hitler held back his Panzer forces awaiting what he thought would be the main invasion, and this gave the allies the time to consolidate their beachhead. Garbo was a Spanish national who offered to be a spy for the Germans in Madrid. He eventually made his way to England and worked for MI5, the British spy agency. He made the Germans believe that he had set up a spy network with 27 operatives, all of whom were fictional. He was highly trusted by the Germans, so much so that a couple days after D-Day, when he sent a message that this was not yet the main invasion, Hitler changed his orders concerning troop deployment. This probably saved thousands of allied lives and insured the success of the invasion. This is a good book which shows the human element in the story. The Lighter Side of Darkness: Nine Flash Stories by Joshua Scribner This is a series of very short horror stories. I have read a number of his other works. He mixes horror with comedy and irony. These are very short stories, none more than three pages long. Yet he has the gift of giving enough information to set up a punch line. I enjoy his writings, even if some of them are a bit bizarre. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 8, 2013

London - Baltimore - Los Angeles

July 8, 2013 Peace and Good, I have been in California this week for a meeting of the friars of St. Joseph Cupertino Province. They have their provincial chapter in about a year, and this was a preliminary meeting to start surfacing topics that should be examined throughout this year and at the coming chapter. My arrival was a bit difficult. Last Saturday in Canterbury I noticed that it seemed as if my travel agent had made a reservation for my trip from Baltimore to Los Angeles, but he had never bought a ticket. There was no way to communicate with him over the weekend, so I e mailed him in Rome hoping that he would see the e mail first thing Monday morning and get back to me immediately. With the difference in time which is six hours, I was sure I would hear from him by 4 in the morning on Monday. Sure enough, he had forgotten. So I immediately checked out Southwest and was able to get a ticket which actually was a shorter flight (since it was a direct). It was important for me to be at the meetings this week. The provincial of the province has been ill for a while, and my presence signified our concern for the province. Also, whenever I am at one of these meetings, I am able to answer questions about what is going on in the order all throughout the world. It helps the friars not become too provincial minded. I celebrated one of the weekend masses and mass this morning in the parish where I am staying. It is great to be able to be with the people on occasions like this because so much of what I do is with the friars exclusively. Tomorrow I head out for Chicago for a couple of short meetings and a couple of celebrations at which I must be present. I booked in a couple of extra days here in Los Angeles and in Chicago to unwind a bit. I got to visit my brother and sister in law and niece on Saturday in Fullerton, about an hour from where I am staying. I finished some books: White Eagle, Red Star by Norman Davies This is one of a series of books that Norman Davies has written about Poland. This volume deals with the period right after World War I when Poland regained its independence. Shortly after that, a war broke out between Poland and the Soviet Union. It began over ownership of some of the borderlands between the two countries. Those areas had a very mixed population, and at one time in history they had belonged to Poland (before the partitions under Catherine the Great). Poland attacked first, and when the Soviets counterattacked, they pushed the Polish forces back all the way to the outskirts of Warsaw. There was a battle there called the “miracle on the Vistula” in which the Poles were completely triumphant, both for themselves and Western Europe (for the Soviets might very well have pushed on into Germany and beyond if they had defeated Poland). The book is good, but not an especially easy read. It is more technical history than a novel. Odd Hours: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz Odd Thomas is an interesting character invented by Dean Koontz. He can see ghosts and help them to go to the other side. He has a type of psychic magnetism in which, if he thinks of someone, is eventually drawn to that person. He is an innocent in a difficult and sometimes evil world. In fact, his adventures are part of the battle between good and evil. In this story, Odd comes to a seaside California town where there is a plot of import nuclear weapons which will be used for terrorist events in several US cities. He foils the plot with the help of Annamaria, a young pregnant woman who has psychic powers as well. There is a goodness to this character. His goal in life is to do what is expected of him so that he might spend eternity in heaven with his beloved Stormy who died in a shooting in a mall. I never read one of these volumes with feeling moved by the whole set up. I strongly recommend this series to anyone who is interested. The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory Gregory has written a series of books that are placed in the Tudor era of England. This one is about a young Jewish girl who fled Spain with her father when her mother was burned at the stake during the Inquisition. They are printers, and they pretend to be Christians. The girl, Hanna, has the gift of seeing the future, although not often. She is placed as a holy fool in the court of the King (Edward VI) and the queen (Queen Mary) while she is also a confidant of Princess Elizabeth. The portrayal of the royal characters is quite good. She is honest both about their strengths and flaws. The portrait of Hanna is interesting as she learns about love and forgiveness. I enjoyed the book. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude