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


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