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