Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dublin - Rome

December 25, 2014 Merry Christmas I returned to Rome after a visit with two Indian friars working in Ireland. I have to admit that Dublin was rainy and windy. I saw the sun for about 15 second one day. This past week I have been back in Rome. There were no meetings. Praise be God! I was able to catch up on some of my writing. I manages to finish four articles for the Messenger magazine printed in Padua and another three for the Crusader magazine printed in Great Britain. This puts me a few months ahead of time. I will be travelling to Great Britain later this afternoon and spend the night there, and then fly on to Toronto tomorrow. My brother and sister-in-law will pick me up and I’ll spend a week with family and friends in Buffalo. Then on the 2nd I’ll fly down to Baltimore and spend a week with the friars. This will finish off my vacation time for this past year. It was a busy summer with all of the provincial chapters and I was not able to take any time off then. I finished some books: To Catch a King by Jack Higgins This is the author who has written a series of spy novels about World War II and the IRA. His writing style is very good. This one is about the attempt to kidnap or convince to defect of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the resigned king of England while he is staying in Lisbon. The Nazi’s hope that they can use him as an alternative monarch when they conquer Great Britain after the fall of France. There are a couple of Americans who help to foil the plot along with a very honest leader of the Portuguese police. The most intriguing figure is one of the Abwar officers, General Schellenburg, who is real life was described as a decent person (something one sees in this plot). It is a very good book. France under Louis XIV and the Regency by James Perkins This is the story of the rule of King Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, and of the period that followed his reign which was governed by the Duke of Orleans until Louis’ grandson reached the age to take over himself. The early part of Louis’ reign and that of the Duke were marked by rampant sexual immorality. That changed toward the end of Louis’ reign due to the influence of his second wife. There are stories of the various wars that Louis fought, often for purposes that did not measure up to the loss of life and treasure. There was the story of the Mississippi plot, a type of pyramid scheme, which brought on an economic disaster in the kingdom. The book is well written, but long and often too detailed. The Publisher by Alan Brinkley This is the story of Harry Luce, the founder of the Time Life empire. He initiated Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated. He was the son of missionaries in China, which explained his continual concern for his beloved country (and his rampant anti-communism). He proved to be a difficult, lonely man, but he accomplished so much in his lifetime. His second wife was Clare Booth Luce, the ambassador to Italy in the 50’s. Both he and she preached a moral life style while both slept around with numerous lovers. The story is worth telling, but you end up not especially liking Luce. The Glass-Domed Clock: The Adventures of Ellery Queen As always, Ellery Queen, the detective, is able to sort out the murder of a man who seems to have left clues as to the identity of his murderer. The man, after he was struck, grasped a glass domed clock and a particular semi-precious gem (seeming to identify the murderer by his job – a stock brocker for the clock looked like a stock ticker and by his birthdate – the stone he was grasping was a birthstone). The Mad Sculptor: the Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter In the 1920’s, crime stories were the fad. There were many magazines that printed the accounts of grizzly murders. The tabloids used as much print in those days for crime as they do today for celebrities. This is the story of a sculptor who was mentally unbalanced and who killed the mother and sister of a woman for whom he had an infatuation as well as a male border who lived in their apartment. The details of the story are gruesome, which made the story all that more appealing to the public. Have a good week and also Happy New Year. Shalom Fr. Jude

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rome - Dublin

December 16, 2014 Peace and Good, These past two weeks have been a marathon set of meetings in Rome. They all went very well, but by the end of the second week this past Saturday, all of our minds were definitely fried. We don't have any of these big meetings again until mid January, so at least we get a bit of a break. During the meetings, we had a very nice experience. The Minister General of the OFM Franciscans (the ones who wear brown habits) came over to give us a talk on Social Justice and to share some of his experiences. We broke apart as an order 500 years ago, and slowly, slowly we are starting to reconcile. Rome has gotten cold and rainy. This is typical of winter in Rome. This morning when I left for Dublin, there was even a bit of a thunder storm. We don't get much snow - only a bit every few years. I am in Dublin for the next couple of days visiting with two friars from India who are working here. Their provincial chapter will take place this Spring, and we assistants try to visit all of the friars from the various jurisdictions before their chapters to see how things are going. I will meet with them tomorrow. Dublin is cold and rainy, no big surprise. I finished some books: Double Cross: the True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre This is the story of the group of spies whom British Intelligence ran during World War II as double spies. Some were agents sent by Germany who had been caught and put to work for the British. The majority, however, were agents who either were recruited by the British or who offered their services. They include a Russian exile, a Serbian playboy, a Spanish chicken framer, a Peruvian socialite, etc. They fed the Germans false information, especially in the run up to D Day. The British seem to have arrested and stopped all of the actual agents that the Germans sent into Great Britain. One, agent Garbo, actually developed a whole string of false agents (totally fictional) who fed moutains of misinformation to the Nazis. The book and the action described in incredible, but true. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Harris This book speaks about Western Dakota, an area that is quickly loosing population and which is an expanse of emptiness and beauty. Harris, who is a poet who had previously lived in New York, settles there with her husband on the farm of her grandmother. There she encounters a space which shapes the mentality of those who live there. She speaks of their difficulty in seeing the crisis as it is, often blaming outsiders for problems beyond their ability to resolve. She also speaks of her fruitful relationship with various Benedictine communities in which she find great wisdom and peace. This is a truly beautiful and insightful book. “The Two Headed Dog”: The Adventures of Ellery Queen The title of this story comes from a motel at which the hero, Ellery Queen, stays during a vacation trip. While there, he is told what seems to be a ghost story of how one of the cottages is haunted. He is also told about a jewel thief who stayed in that particular cottage but who escaped a police raid some months before. He is able to sort out what is really happening through a process of clever deduction. For Emmy by Mary SanGiovanni This is the story of two young girls and their father. He owns a book shop, and the younger girl mysteriously disappears one day and is not found again for months. She just as suddenly reappears again in the shop, but sadly changed. She seems to have seen things during her lost period, terrible things. Eventually they sort out that she had been swallowed up by a pocket or a window upon an alternate reality which was cruel and murderous. They book deals with the question of being able to trust in the fundamental goodness of the world, and how that becomes impossible when one has experienced the dark, terrifying alternate realities that lie in the shadows. The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future by Victor Cha This is the story of the dictatorial regime in North Korea which has run the country since the end of World War II. There is incredible inhumanity there, while the elite live in luxury and billions of dollars is wasted on a nuclear bomb development program. The book speaks of the ineffective negotiations that have taken place over the years, and of the attempts to change things through aid given by South Korea, Japan and the US. The only hope, according to the book, is an overthrow of the family that has continued to run this country into the ground for so long. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Montreal - Rome

December 9 2014 Peace and Good, I finished my visitation to the friars in Montreal and flew to Rome. Since I have gotten back, we have been meeting in our definitory. This is a long one, two weeks long. The reason for this is we have an annual report from the various secretaries under our care: e.g. the Secular Franciscans, the Constitution Commission, the Militia of Mary Immaculate, etc. I also gave my reports from my various visits since the last definitory. Each of us gives a report so that all of the definitory know what is going on in the Order throughout the world. This takes a lot of time, but it is a very healthy way of working. It means that none of us is making a decision all by himself. We work as a team. The weather is not too bad, although the fall and winter rains have begun. This is typical for this time of year. It only snows every few years. There were tons of tourists in Rome this weekend. I think this was because it was a three day weekend. We have been celebrating the novena for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We are the official Roman center for this celebration. A different cardinal comes each evening for the Mass and a special homily. I will be here for another week and then I head out to Dublin for a few days. Dublin is not all that large of a city, but I really like it. These are the books and stories that I have finished these weeks: The Teakwood Case: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is the story of the murder of two brothers. The first is murdered by accident because he resembled the first. Ellery Queen has to figure out why he was murdered, and then why his brother, whom he considered to be the prime suspect in the crime, is also murdered. A teakwood cigarette case seems to be at the bottom of it all. The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva This is one of several books that I have read by Daniel Silva. They speak about Gabriel Allon, a Mosad agent who has connections with the Vatican. It is basically a spy novel in which Allon fights against the evil forces of Iran. His treatment of Jewish and Catholic topics is quite favorable, but his treatment of Islam is quite negative. Yet, he writes a good book which is filled with suspence. The protagonists don’t always have an easy time figuring out the plot being played out. They are layers and layers of what is going on, which makes one want to read it as fast as possible because it is so well written. The Invisible Lover: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is the story of a man who is murdered, and the accused is a man who is incredibly honest and upright. Ellery has to find out how the bullet that seems to have killed the man could have come from a gun that only this man controlled. It is a clever story. The Run by Stuart Woods I listened to the abridged version of this book. It is about the run for the presidency of a Senator and also about the plot by a group of militia men to kill him. They characters are nicely rounded out if a bit predictable. I enjoyed the presentation, almost wishing I could have listened to the unabridged version instead. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bridgeport - Boston - Montreal - Chicopee - Montreal

November 27, 2014 Peace and Good, I am continuing my visitation of the Canadian custody and bringing it to an end. I visited Boston both to visit the friars in the parish there and to get together with one of our friars from Rome who is on Sabbatical there. Both were enjoyable. Boston is a great little city. I then flew to Montreal. Our friars have a number of presences here, and I have been visiting them one by one. They mostly work with the Polish immigrants. The only problem is that now that Poland is part of the European community, young Polish people who want to make a living no longer travel to the US or Canada. They go to Germany or Great Britain where it is much easier for them to travel back home every once in a while. This means that these communities in Canada are growing older and will eventually disappear as they meld into the larger Canadian community. I spoke with the friars about this and we started planning for the eventual future for these sites. I flew down to Chicopee, Massachusetts for the funeral of one of the brothers of one of our friars in Rome, fr. Donald Kos. Donald is 77 years old, and travel is getting more difficult, so he was not able to make the funeral, which made it all the more important that I would be there. I fly back to Rome tomorrow for a couple of weeks of meetings this coming week. I finished some books: The Greatest Battles in History: the Battle of the Bulge by Charles River Editors This is one of those short but thorough studies put together by the Charles River Editors concerning various topics. This one covers the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. The studies are well done but limited in scope. Because of their length, they cannot go into depth on any topic, but what they treat they deal with well. Pavlov’s House by Russell Burgess This is the story of the defense of Stalingrad during World War II told from the aspect of the defense of one particular apartment block which would block the advance of the Nazi’s. I think that this might be a true story, which makes it all the more remarkable. After reading a lot about Stalin, he is not one of my favorite people. He killed as many if not more people than Hitler. Yet, there were heroes in the defense of the Soviet Union against the invasion of the Nazi’s during the World War. This book deals with the great generals who guided the battle, but even more with the simple people who fought it to the death. Kim by Rudyard Kipling I had never read anything by Rudyard Kipling, so I was pleased that the collection that I was reading, one on spies, contained a story called Kim. He is an English boy in India whose parents have died and who is raised by Indians. He is clever, and is more a street child than a normal Englishman. He meets a Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage and becomes his disciple. This is probably the first story in English literature in which a Buddhist is one of the heroes of the story. He eventually becomes a spy for the British Raj in India. The story is well written, although a bit wordy at times. The Three Lame Men: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is the usual story about how Ellery Queen solves a mystery in which one woman is found dead and her lover is missing, presumed kidnapped. He is able to deduce from three sets of foot prints of someone who is obviously limping that something is wrong in the story that he is being told. Once again, the terminology used for various people is somewhat racist (at least according to today’s standards). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ellicott City (Baltimore) - Clifton, NJ - Bridgeport, CT

November 15, 2014 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I finished off some slower days at Ellicott City this past week and travelled to Newark, NJ to first of all visit my publisher, Catholic Book Publishing Company, and then to conduct a visitation at one of our friaries in Clifton. I have been writing for Catholic Book for some 30 years now. Most of what I have done is children's books, but I have also done some meditation books and some Bible Study Books. Since I have been on the road with my ministry as Assistant General, it has been tougher for me to keep up with writing and taping, but I do what I can. I can steal an hour here and there and so I can do shorter projects. The parish at Clifton was originally a parish of my home province, but at the chapter we handed it over to the Canadian custody which is for Polish people. Probably 60% of the parish is Polish, including most of the young people (although their children quickly become Americans). Three of the four friars there are new, so the friary community is just getting off the ground. One of the old timers at the parish is Br. Ed Handy who works for Catholic Charities in an Aids center. He looks like a 60 year old, and I was shocked when he said that he was already 74. He is a good source of common sense wisdom for the younger friars in the community. Two of the other friars had been missionaries in Kenya, and the third just moved in from South Boston. The next stop was Bridgeport. There were two friars there who I know for decades, and one new one whom I met once while he was serving in Ireland. This is a more Polish parish with probably 70% coming directly from Poland. Many of the older Americans are now home bound. The friars here do a great job in ministering to them. Fr. Stefan, who is from Poland, is one of the kindest and gentlest priests I have ever met. Fr. George Maslar from OLA province works at a local nursing home. He is already 77, but he is still on the go. This afternoon the friars are running me up to Boston which is the next stop in the visitation I finishing the following books: The Neighbor by Dean Koontz This is a novella which speaks about a young girl and boy who have terrible parents and must face the perils of a haunted house right next door. What makes it worse is that the person haunting the house is a pervert who has ogled the girl and had killed another young girl and buried her in his basement. The story is well written, as are all of Dean Koontz’ works. Waiting Out Winter by Kelli Owen This is a short story about an infestation of flies which carry an incurable disease. It turns out that the government released the flies to combat an infestation of worms that were eating up the forests, but they released the wrong batch of flies. Society degenerates as everybody hides in their own houses out of fear of contact with the disease. It is a post-apocalyptic vision of the break down of society, but seen from one family’s viewpoint. No Simple Victory by Norman Davies This is a long and very detailed overview of World War II by a British scholar who had done most of his studies on the countries of Eastern Europe, especially Poland. His premise is that while almost everyone condemns the crimes of the Nazis, they often overlook the crimes of Stalin who was just as bad in his own way. He compares the War in the East to a battle between two groups of gangsters. He tries of give a balances overview of the story. He treats the European theater of war and all but ignores the Pacific. This is a very studied, very worthwhile book on the topic. The bearded Lady: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is another of the short stories in the Ellery Queen genre. In this one, Ellery is looking for a murderer of a man who painted a beard on a portrait as a clue to his murderer. The only problem is that the beard is on a woman in the painting. He is able to figure out from this insignificant clue and a couple of other details who killed the victim. Take care and Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pretoria - London - Ellicott City - Louisville

November 5, 2014 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. The conference in Pretoria was great. I met a lot of wonderful friars doing amazing things. The greatest joy of my job is to travel from place to place and hear the good things friars are doing and be able to be a type of cheerleader for their ministries. I flew overnight to London arriving on the 28th, my feast day. fr. Peter Damian, the Custos of Great Britain/Ireland took me out to the theatre that evening. We went to see Jersey Boys. One of the friars kidded me and said it was odd to see a play with that name in Great Britain, but my answer was that it wasn't called New Jersey Boys, it was called Jersey Boys and that is found in England. I had not been to the theatre in probably 30 years, and the play was so filled with life and energy that I thoroughly enjoyed it. We then went to my favorite restaurant in China Town. It was a great surprise for my feast day. The next day I flew over to Baltimore and have been staying at the provincialate. I am just trying to rest a bit after a very busy summer and fall. I did fly out to Louisville for a few days to visit our Indian friars here. Three friars from India have founded an apostolate to reach out to young adults in this area. Their province has a chapter coming up this March, and the Assistant General for Asia did the visitation in India. We have the rule of thumb, though, that if friars from that province are stationed in other areas, then the Assistant General where they are stationed visits those friars. I have this visitation, and then I have another one in December to visit two friars in Ireland. The Indian friars here in Louisville work at Bellarmine College and they also work for the archdiocese of Louisville. They have a very original approach to spirituality which a lot of people appreciate. They are also some of the best friars I have ever met. I fly back to Baltimore this afternoon and will be there for a week before beginning a visitation of our friars in Montreal. I finished some books: “C” is for Corpse: The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries by Sue Grafton This is the third in the series of alphabet mysteries that I have read. As always, the character of Kinsey Millhone is well done. She is a detective working in a California coastal town. In this episode she is investigating the murder of someone who hired her because he was sure that someone was trying to kill him. The problem is that he didn’t know why because of a car accident which affected his memory. Kinsey continues the investigation even after this young man is killed, seeking to figure out the mystery with the slightest of information. The Reapers by John Connelly This is the story of two professional hit men and their friends. They are portrayed in a most favorable light. They have tried to kill mostly bad people, often working as unacknowledged assassins for the government. Now, after they have retired, someone is trying to kill them. It is a story of how they and their friends band together to first of all find out what is going on, and then to react in the only way they know how. Boy Made of Dawn: A Navaho Nation Mystery by R. Allen Chappell This is a novel based on the Navaho reservation in the southwest. It revolves around the exploits of a social worker who acts as part time detective. He and two others are being called to testify in a corruption case, but their lives have been placed in danger. The book is well written and provides insights into Navaho culture. The characters are well developed and believable. This is one book I would heartily recommend. The Summons by John Grisham This is a well written mystery based on the idea of an elderly judge summoning his two sons to witness his side before he dies. One son, a teacher in Virginia, arrives just after the father has passed away. The other son, a nere do good drug addict and alcoholic, arrives later. The good son finds a large amount of money hidden away. The rest of the book involves his tortured attempt to find out where the money came from and what to do with it. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 26, 2014

London - Oxford - London - Pretoria

October 26, 2014 Peace and Good, Last week I spent some time visiting our new house of studies in Oxford, England. The friars are renting a large mother house of a group of Anglican Sisters. It is an old, castle like building. The friars there are living a simple life, filled with a rich prayer life. They study with the Dominican friars not too far away. Many of their courses are in the British style of education where they are more tutorials than classes as we have them. There is a good number of vocations, and they exude a very positive spirit. Diocesan priests and sisters have been suggesting vocations to visit us because they have experienced the good spirit of the community. From Oxford, I took a train down to London (it is only an hour away). I got to visit my favorite book store in the world: Foyles. You can think of the most obscure topic in the world, and there will be at least five books on that topic. It is not that I buy the books, though, but rather I get titles for books that I later will buy on the Kindle. I also stopped at my favorite Chinese restaurant in London. It is not much more than a hole in the wall, but the majority of people who eat there are of East Asian origin, and that is always a good sign for a Chinese restaurant. I got my tripe with noodles. It is difficult to find tripe on a menu anywhere, so I enjoy this as an out of the ordinary treat. On Monday evening I flew down to South Africa with another friar from the States, Michael Lasky. We were going to a conference of peace activists organized by the Capuchin Franciscan Friars. They have developed what they call the Damietta Peace Initiative. This movement organizes discussion groups of people throughout Africa of different backgrounds, e.g. Christian and Muslim, of different tribes, etc. The first step is for them to develop a spirit of trust among themselves. They discern what their common values are, and then they talk about their differences. These groups are organized in areas where there is a real danger of an outbreak of violence. This continent, even beyond the Ebola disaster, faces constant violence due to ethnic, religious and economic factors. This has been a very good week of listening and learning. I hope to be able to share some ideas first with the General Definitory in Rome and then with friars throughout the world in my various visits. Tomorrow I will head back to London and then on to the States. My latest reading includes: The One-Penny Black: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is a short story about the theft of a very valuable penny stamp from the days of Queen Victoria. The two owners, stamp traders, have been robbed, and the thief ran into a book store where he seems to have hidden his catch in a particular book. The next day, those who bought that book are being attacked and robbed, but only of their copy of that particular book. Ellery Queen is able to sort out the mystery with a surprise ending. Pope Francis, Pastor of Mercy by Michael Ruszala This is a short biography of Pope Francis. I read it because my publisher, Catholic Book, has asked me to write a children’s book on this beloved pope. This book was free, and yet it has an enormous amount of good information in a very short format. I was glad that I stumbled upon it as I looked for more information about the pope. The Pope’s Last Crusade: How an American Jesuit Helped Pope Pius XI’s Campaign to Stop Hitler This is a really interesting book about how Pope Pius XI called upon an American Jesuit to help him to write an encyclical against anti-Semitism in the late 1930’s. The Jesuit was Fr. John LaFarge. He had worked with many blacks in southern Maryland and had witnessed the prejudice and violence often visited upon them. He had written a book to fight those tendencies, especially in the Catholic Church. When the Holy Father read this book, he asked Fr. John to write an encyclical in secret against the racist policies of the Nazi government in Germany and the Fascist government in Italy. There were many Church officials who did not want to see this type of challenge, afraid that it would only make things worse. One of them, the Jesuit General, conspired to hide the completed document from the pope who died a short time later. Pope Pius XII, Pius XI’s successor, agreed with the more cautious churchmen and refused to openly condemn Hitler and Mussolini, although he secretly assisted in hiding and saving thousands of Jewish people. Yet, one has to wonder what would have happened if the encyclical against racism had ever been published. 18 ½ Minutes: Nixon’s Darkest Secrets Revealed by Ronald Meyer The title of the book comes from the 18 ½ minute gap in the Nixon tapes. The proposal is that a group of Neocons (neo-conservatives) who have secretly been running the world’s economy wanted that portion erased because it contained information that would be deadly to their plot if released. It has to do with the genius inventor Nicolas Tesla who supposedly found a way to harness the electrical energy of the world’s atmosphere to produce free electricity. The book starts out well, but gets a bit into psychological themes and drags on after a while. Hope you have a good week. Happy Haloween! Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Castro Valley (San Fraancisco) - Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) - London

October 16, 2014 Peace and Good, We had a good meeting of the leadership of the English speaking conference in Castro Valley this past week. I had to organize the meeting a bit, but we quickly elected the president who now takes over with that task. The most important decision made was to consolidate the houses of formation in the conference. This is a painful decision, but necessary. We have a few students here and a few there. It makes more sense to have them living and studying all together with more friars assigned to take care of their formation. It took about two years of pushing and nudging to get to this point. Now that the basic decision has been made, the commissions have to work on the specifics. Friday a group of us headed down to Los Angeles for a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the mission in Vietnam and a fund raiser for the mission. As always, the Vietnamese are experts at this sort of thing. They are also very, very generous. Monday I preached a day of recollection for the definitory of the California province. They have been doing an incredibly good job at addressing the observations I made after my visitation. Things had drifted a bit in the province for a number of reasons, and now it is back on track. My contribution was to help them remember to keep the spiritual as the primary value in all that they do, lest they become more and more efficient but less of a fraternity. Tuesday evening I flew out to London and arrived last night. It is a long, long flight. I was in one of those Airbus 380's, the very big new plane. You really don't feel how big it is because there are two completely separate levels and the two groups really don't meet during the flight. I thought it would be a mess getting on and off, but it really is not since there are two exits at the two different levels. This morning I will take the train out to Oxford (only about an hour away) to visit our house of studies there. The Hanging Acrobat: The Adventures of Ellery Queen This is a detective story of the murder of the wife of an acrobat. They worked in a Vaudeville show, and everyone involved in the show is a suspect. Ellery is able to solve the case through forensic evidence that he obtains from the medical examiner. These stories, part of a collection of Ellery Queen adventures, are not all that heavy or complicated. The dialog is a bit old fashioned and comes across like the dialog in many of the radio adventure programs during the 30’s. Yet, they are worth reading. Spiritual Direction for Priestly Celibacy by David Songy This book comes across as being a doctoral thesis that was lightly reworked so that it might be marketed as a book. It has that academic and at times overly pedantic tone that a lot of theses have, but it also is filled with very good information and insights. Part of my job is to give my thoughts on formation programs and the general concept of how we form young men so that they might embrace the spiritual values of our Franciscan calling. So reading this book was a sort of homework for me, but it was worthwhile. Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China by Pearl S. Buck This is the story of the dowager empress of China who ruled the great empire for decades during the 19th century. Her country was facing ever greater threats first from a Chinese rebellion (for the emperors were Manchu, not Chinese) and later from foreign powers who fought to gain entry into her markets. She ruled as regent when her husband died, and then again when her son died, and finally again when she overthrew a nephew. She was a powerfully conservative force, not wanting her empire to be corrupted by foreign values. In the process, she all but condemned China to helplessness in its battles with the technologically more advanced western powers. Pearl Buck gives a sympathetic (but not overly so) portrait of this ruler and her reign. It is well written. In Perpetuity by Tim Lebbon This is a haunting novella about a man and his son who enter a curiosity shop. The owner, known as the keeper, is an evil figure who captures the son and will not release him until the father returns with something particular. The keeper has a type of museum of very odd objects. He tells to the father to return with a proof for love, but something physical. We hear of the father’s desperate search, thwarted by a mysterious figure known as the green man. The question asked is whether someone would do anything for love, even possibly going over a boundary never intended to be crossed. It is a good story, but the type that leaves one wondering. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) - Castro Valley (San Francisco)

10/7/2014 Peace and Good, I attended the celebration of the opening of the new house of studies in Saigon for our growing mission there. We arrived on the 2nd, and on the 3rd and the morning of the 4th there were a series of meetings with various parties. These events gather friars from all over, and they are great opportunities to meet face to face to take care of some of the business that is better handled in that way. The celebration itself was well organized. The evening of the 3rd we also went over to the seminary of the OFM's where many of our students study to celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis. The word Transitus refers to his passing (his transit) from life to death. He actually died on October 3rd but after evening prayer, so his feast is celebrated on the 4th. On the 5th, fr. John Heinz (the provincial of the California Province) and I flew out of Saigon at 5:30 AM (which meant leaving the house at 2:30). We first flew to Hong Kong ( 2 and 1/2 hours) for a two hour layover, and theen to San Francisco (a 12 hour flight). This morning we begin a gathering of all of the major superiors of the English speaking conference here in Castro Valley. We will have 3 days of meetings to plan some things for the next year and the next few years. I am fighting massive jet lag, but fortunately most of the other participants are also fighting one form or another (either coming from the east coast or from Australia). I just hope that we don't all fall asleep at the table at once. I have finished some books: Robert Browning by G.K. Chesterton This is a short biography on the poet Robert Browning (the husband of Elizabeth Barrett Browning). He comes across as a good man who wrote all but unintelligible poetry. His marriage to his wife is most interesting. She was all but an invalid, watched over incessantly by an over protective father. Browning courted her and eventually they eloped and went off to Italy to live. He helped her enjoy life and be fully alive. Chesterton portrays Browning as an incessant optimist who sees the good in all, even in people whom most of us would avoid. This is part of the series of short biographies on authors that I have been reading. The Great Triumvirate by Merrill Peterson This is a masterful biography of three of the greatest politicians of the 19th century: Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. These men were major figures for about thirty years, approximately from 1820 until 1850, give or take. They were first in the House of Representatives, then the Senate. Two served as Secretary of State. All three desired the presidency, but never achieved it. They were responsible for the various compromises that held the Union together until the Civil War. But Calhoun was more than the others responsible for the disunion that led to the Civil War and the destruction of his beloved South. Each had his flaws, and some of those flaws were almost crippling, but their greatness was also impressive. The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning by Hallgrimur Helggason This is a strange story about a Croatian hitman living in New York who has done something wrong (he never finds out what) and ends up being hunted for by the FBI and his old Croatian gang. He kills a Televangelist at the airport and steals his identity, flying to Iceland with his ticket. There he ends up impersonating the televangelist until he is discovered. His preacher friends in Iceland cover up for him as long as he converts, which he more or less does. The book is gory, but funny in a crude sort of way. Journeys on the Silk Road by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters This is the story of a British explorer (of Hungarian Jewish origins) who travelled to India where he became a famous explorer of Central Asia. His name was Aurel Stein, and he was eventually knighted for his exploits. He was especially interested in how Buddhist teachings reached China from India where the Buddha lived. He found a site where thousands of scrolls were kept, many dating back more than a millennium. He managed to barter for a large load of them which he took back to England where they were studied by scholars. One of the scrolls was a printed copy of the Diamond Sutra, the oldest printed book in existence. He eventually died in Afganistan at the beginning of the Second World War, still exploring in his early 80’s. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rome - Leceto - Rome - Padua - Rome

September 30, 2014 Peace and Good, I have been in Italy these past couple of weeks. Last week the definitory was at a retreat house in a town called Leceto, near Siena. Even though it is relatively close to a settled area, the grounds of the retreat property are quite wild. They have wild boars roaming around as well as some type of antelope. I was out of touch all this past week because there was no wifi on the property. The retreat is run by the Augustinian sisters. It is a cloistered order. There are 17 of them at this place. We decided not to have a formal preacher for the retreat. The definitory asked me to give a short reflection each morning, and I spoke about some lessons from the letters of St. Paul. I was pleased with the way that it turned out. We returned to Rome, and the next day I had to take a train up to Padua in northern Italy for a meeting. The friars there print a magazine at the Basilica of St. Anthony, one of the biggest magazines in Italy. They also have various other language versions. I have been writing for the English version for over 30 years. There are some organizational questions with the magazine in America and they asked for my advice. Today I spent getting ready for the next big trip. It starts in Saigon, and then will hit the US, Canada, England and South Africa. I will not be back in Rome for two months. I am sorry I will be out of town for the beatification of Pope Paul VI. He was a great man. I was present for his last public event before he passed away. It was a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on the feast of Ss. Peter Paul. Later in this long trip I will be travelling to South Africa. Please don't be worried about me. I know you have heard a lot about Ebola, but that is on the other end of the continent. I have finished some books: The Adventures of Ellery Queen: The African Traveler by Ellery Queen I have always heard about Ellery Queen. This is a collection of his short stories. They are certainly dated. They would be considered to be sexist and even a bit racist today. In their days, they were a good detective story. This one is about Ellery starting a class for investigators. He takes three students to the scene of the crime and lets them try to figure out who killed the man found dead in a hotel room. As would be expected, all three have theories which they defend, only to be proven wrong by Ellery who has his own correct theory. Earthquake: The Destruction of San Francisco by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts This is the story of the great earthquake that hit San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th century and the fire and tsunami that completed much of its destruction. All of the water lines broke during the earthquake, and this made fighting the great fires that erupted impossible. The army and the fire fighters had to resort to using dynamite and canons to try to blow up buildings so that they might establish a fire line. The General in charge of the Presidium, the fort at the edge of San Francisco, took over without any permission from above, and his troops both fought the fire and got involved in looting and killings. The mayor of the city was a scandalous figure who was not all that effectual during the crisis. He ended up arrested for his crimes shortly after the earthquake. This book is also written as a warning for the possible great quake that could hit California any time in the future. Expositor’s Bible: The Song of Solomon and the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Walter Adeney This is a long but interesting description of the Song of Solomon (also called the Song of Songs and the Canticle of Canticles) and the Book of Lamentations. It was written a while ago, and some of the scholarship is definitely dated. Yet, it offers some original interpretations that made me think. I am fascinated by the Song of Songs. It was probably a series of poems written to celebrate a wedding which were intended to be chanted back and forth between the bride’s and the groom’s friends, but it eventually came to be interpreted as a song expressing the love that God has for Israel (the Church). Being Hebrew poety and having been written a few thousand years ago, its symbolism needs to be carefully interpreted, but it has some very beautiful images and reflections upon love. The Lamentations are a series of poems to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem. Reading about it made me think of how important it is to ritualize our mourning. So often we try to hold in our grief instead of expressing it in a healthy way. Even Jesus cried when his friend Lazarus died. Mighty Fitz: the Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Michael Schumacher When I was a kid, I remember the ballad by Gordon Lightfoot, the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This book tells the story of a huge lake ore carrier which went down with all hands aboard in Lake Superior during a November storm that grew much stronger than the weathermen expected. The book explores the various theories about what caused the disaster, and it deals with life aboard a lake ship. It is well written. Vegas and the Mob: Forty Years of Frenzy by Al Moe This is the story of the Mob’s involvement with the gambling casino in Las Vegas. The tone of the story is as if it is being told by a Mob snitch. The author really has it in for the FBI which he claims should have known all about the Mob involvement due to the constant phone taps, but they did nothing significant about it. It also tells a bit of the story of Marilyn Monroe and her involvement with the Kennedy brothers. The book reads like a grocery story tabloid, but it is informative. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tegucigalpa - Rome

September 21, 2014 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. We finished up our meeting in Honduras and a week ago Friday, I flew back. I had gotten this ticket through and it was a very good price. However, the connections made the journey unending. I had a five hour lay over in Miami and another six hour layover in London, so it took me about 26 hours to get back to Rome. This week we have been locked up in a meeting room for our definitory. Once again, we are discussing documents, changes in structures, and interventions for places all over the world. We pass from continent to continent talking about these things. The discussion are really productive because we work at not talking set positions, but rather work to discern together what the Lord wants us to do. When we are not comfortable with a response, we go back and discuss it some more. I have been breaking in my new computer. My old one gave up the ghost in Saigon, and fr. James, my provincial, was able to bring me a new one that I ordered over the internet down to Tegucigalpa. One of the men who works at the provincialate set up most of what was needed, but there are always a few glitches. Most of them are now in order. Computers are great when they work, but when they don't..... This week the whole definitory (ten of us) are headed to a retreat house outside of Siena for our annual retreat. This means that I will be in Italy for two and a half weeks in a row, which must be some sort of record. Once October 1st comes, I will be on the road again for quite some time. Last night I visited with my sister-in-law's in laws. I know them from various family events, and they are wonderful people. I am in Rome so infrequently that it is good to be around when people are passing through. I have finished some reading: See Them Die by Ed McBain I have already read a number of books by Ed McBain. He writes policeman novels. This one takes place in a part of the city inhabited by Puerto Ricans and it involves especially the hunt for and apprehension of a Puerto Rican criminal who has become the hero of some young gang members. There are, as is true of all of his books, some side stories. There is the beautiful young woman who meets a sailor. There is Luis, the owner of a coffee shop and his relationship with a bigoted cop. The books are well written and filled with action and reflection. Afraid by Jack Killborn This is the first part of a trilogy. It deals with a Red Op Operation. The soldiers sent into a small village are US mercenaries who have been specially trained to be vicious. They have a chip implanted in their brain to insure that they will complete whatever mission they are assigned. They are searching for a man who has a video of one of the Red Op’s earlier mission in which they massacred an entire village in Vietnam. This is a very violent book, but the premise is interesting. Not everyone would enjoy it because of the graphic violence. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie I enjoy every book I read which has been written by Agatha Christie. She has a great way of writing a story that makes one want to enter into the narrative. This is a story about Hercule Poirot who must solve a murder mystery without any physical evidence. He has to use his psychological gifts in order to discern which of four murderers committed the murder which Poirot has been invited to resolve. There are twists and turns. A window washer shows up towards the end, out of the blue. While I was at first disappointed with Christie for throwing in a character who had not yet been mentioned, it turns out that this is not quite true. This is a good mystery read. The Butcher’s Boy by Thomas Perry This is the story of a professional assassin and the Justice Department agent who comes across his trail. The assassin works for the Mafia, but he keeps his distance from them. For some reason, they decide that he must die, and the rest of the book involves his flight and revenge. The book is well written and quite enjoyable reading, even given the gory nature of the book. The Thirty Years War by Samuel Gardner I had often read of the destruction of the Thirty Years War. This was a war fought mostly in the territory of the German Empire which left a large part of the population either dead or destitute. It was over religion, but the boundaries kept shifting, especially with the intervention of Spain, France, Sweden, etc. None of the major leaders come off looking all that wise or heroic. Many plainly sold out their country for hope of gain. They all ravaged and murdered at will. It is a sad, sad story. This book tells it well. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker This has to be one of the best books that I have read all year. It is an unusual story. The Golem is a mythical creature that was built from clay which became a slave of its master. The golem in this story is a woman who was built in Poland by an evil rabbi. Her husband died on the trans-Atlantic journey, so she is without a master. She is adopted by a kindly rabbi who cares for her until she can care for herself. The Jinni is a desert creature made of fire. This one had been captured by an evil wizard who imprisoned him in human form and in a container. He was freed by a Syrian metal worker in New York who befriended him. The Golem was pure service and servitude, the jinni was pure will and caprice. They learn from each other through their adventures and both become more of a complete person. The book is very, very well written. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rome - Tegucigalpa

September 11, 2014 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. This posting is a bit late because of two reasons. First of all, I have been travelling. I am in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for a meeting this week. The second reason is that my laptop died. It was over 5 years old, and with all the travel I do, it took a lot of wear and tear. I was able to buy a new laptop over the internet and have it shipped to our provincialate in Baltimore and fr. James McCurry, who also attended this meeting, was able to bring it to me down here. I was in Rome for a week after my trip from Saigon. It was a good time to slow down and relax a bit, as well as get caught up with some taping and writing projects. On Sunday I flew into Chicago where I overnighted. Early Monday morning it was off to the airport for a 6 AM flight to Miami and a flight from there down to Tegucigalpa. Honduras is a very violent country with all the gangs. This is the reason, in fact, why so many young people are fleeing to the States right now. The gangs force the young people to join them, or they will kill someone in their family. The meeting I am attending is in a complex which is safe. I will be here til tomorrow when I fly back to Rome. The friars have been most hospitable. They live simple lives and are very good men. This jurisdiction and one in Costa Rica are getting ready to join together in 2017, and every six months there is a joint meeting of the counsels of each jurisdiction to plan things out a bit. The Latin American Assistant General, fr. Jorge Fernandez, is in charge of the negotiations, but they hit a bit of a snag and the General asked me to join Jorge to help with the process a bit. It went very well this week and I believe that things are back on track. I finished some books these days: Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage by Douglas Waller This is the story of the founder of the OSS, the secret intelligence service for the US during the Second World War. The US wasn't ready for the war. They had disbanded their intelligence organization after World War I because of a tendency toward isolationism. Donovan, a hero from World War I, was called upon by FDR, to create a new one. He sought aid from the British, and eventually made a creditable organization which was the predecessor of the CIA. Donovan, while being a hero, was also a bit of a cad and egomaniac. He came from Buffalo. In fact, there was a major government building there named after him. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism. With the establishment of the OSS, he not only had to fight against the nation's enemies. He also had to combat enemies within our own government who were jealous of their responsibilities (like J. Edgar Hoover in the FBI). The book is well done, neither a book of praise nor a hatchet job. Matterhorn: A novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes This is a novel of a hill in Vietnam and the marines who fight to conquer it. One hears of the difficulties of the military authorizes and they often pettiness which caused deaths among those for whom they were responsible. One hears of the drinking, drugs, racism, etc that plagued the forces during the war. One is overcome by the sense of futility to all that was going on. The marines were ordered to build bunkers on the hill, then abandon the hill to fight elsewhere, then retake the hill with the very well fortified bunkers that they themselves built. It is a good account of those years. Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin - the Eastern Front, 1941-1945 by John Mosier This book is intended as an account of the war on the Eastern Front during World War II. The author is clear that he dislikes Hitler and what he did, but he even more dislikes Stalin. The book is intended to destroy some of the myths concerning the so-called heroic defense of the mother land against the German invaders. Stalin is portrayed as a monster. It is difficult to decide who is worse, Stalin or Hitler. The author contends that Stalin was also a terrible military leader who carelessly sacrificed the lives of millions of his citizens to win the war. The book gives a lot of good facts, but the prejudice of the author is just too evident at times. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine Jazz Age New York in by Deborah Blum This book tells of the attempts of the medical forensic investigator's office to find means for assessing when poisons were used to murder people. This is especially centered on the toxicology lab in New York which became the standard against which other such labs in the country were measured. Some of the poisons include wood alcohol, methyl alcohol, cyanide, lead, etc. The book has a bit of a crusader's tone to it, but it is well written and documented. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ho Chi Mihn (Saigon) - Rome

September 2, 2014 I spent the last week in Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) in Vietnam. I was preaching a retreat on community life within our fraternity. There are 21 students there, and they have just moved into their new house of studies. The head of the mission, fr. Luke, did an incredible job on the construction. The please is really beautiful, and it cost very little compared to construction costs elsewhere. Fr. Joseph T, an Australian friar born in Vietnam, arrived in these days to become the new director of formation at this house. I know him from when he was the custos of Australia. He is a really fine man. Fr. TammyLee also arrived for a visit. He is an American born in Vietnam and he will be joining the team there. There seems to be a great future there. These first ten years of the mission had a number of serious challenges, but it seems as if we are not entering a new stage in their development. The friars showed great hospitality. The food was great. It reminds me of Italian food: simple ingredients prepared simply. I ate a number of things for the first time: Chinese eggplant, Chinese apples, Dragon Fruit, loquat, guava, and hairy fruit. They were all tasty, some more than others. I have had enough rice, though, for quite some time. Between the Philippines and Vietnam, I ate rice at least twice a day, sometimes three times a day. I will be going back to Saigon in October for the official blessing of the house of studies. I flew back to Rome on Saturday, arriving early Sunday morning. As always, the first couple of days are spent getting over the jet lag. I will be here until Sunday and then I have a week’s trip to Honduras. This one came up a bit unexpected. I finished some reading: Easter Island by Charles River Editions There is an island in the South Pacific which became famous for the stone heads that dot the island (probably as either objects dedicated to worship or to commemorate burial sites of important officials. There are only a couple of thousand people on the island (which is now part of Chile). They are Polynesian in origin, and are located in the middle of the ocean, far from other population centers. Its own name is Rapa Nui, and it was portrayed in a film a number of years ago loosely based upon its history and culture. The book, like all of those by Charles River Editors, is very informative. El Greco: 100 Masterpieces by Maria Tsaneva El Greco has always been one of my favorite artists. Born in Crete, he did his best artwork in Spain. His elongated figures seem almost surrealistic, although that art form was not in vogue for centuries. The book gives a good introduction to his life and his work. “B” is for Burglar by Sue Grafton This is the second in the series of Kinsey Millhone detective novels by Sue Grafton that I have read. She is really quite a likeable character. She is a private detective who lives in California. In this volume she is looking for a missing person. Along the way, she runs into a slew of eccentric characters (but believable). The book never lags, and was quite an enjoyable read. Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Sturggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence by Lauro Martines This book is the story of a Dominican friar who played a controversial role in the history of the city state of Florence during the 1490’s. He preached a return to Christian simplicity in a city caught up in the Renaissance. His followers called upon people to burn up anything which led to dissipation, hence the famous expression, the bonfire of the vanities. He fought for democracy in a city that had been ruled by the Medici family for a long time, and when Italy was being invaded by France. He loudly (and justly) criticized the decadence of the pope, Alexander, the Borgia Pope who was infamous for his scandalous conduct in an age of scandalous conduct. He ended up being arrested and tried for heresy and hung. His trials speak of him admitting that much of what he did was for fame, but one has to wonder about confessions wrought out of someone through the use of torture. He does seem to have been right in what he said, but arrogant in the way he said it. The book gives a good portrayal of the man and his conduct without being overly sympathetic or overly critical. Do Unto Others by J.F. Gonzalez This is a truly odd but interesting story. A couple that is facing bankruptcy, with a child ill with cancer, receive an offer for three million dollars if they deliver up one person to a group of Satanists for a human sacrifice. The Satanists are incredibly rich and powerful. The plot is well written, and doesn’t give more away than is necessary. One is left wondering in this story, which means that the author did a good job. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Manila - Tagaytay - Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon)

August 21, 2014 Peace and Good, This past week I have been giving conferences to the friars in the Philippines. On the 14th I gave a talk on St. Maximilian Kolbe. It was his feast day, the anniversary of the day 73 years ago when he died is Auschwitz. There were well over 100 friars, Secular Franciscans and members of the Militia of Mary Immaculate. Then, on Saturday, the 16th, the day after the Solemnity of the Assumption, I gave a talk to the friars and members of the Militia about the scriptural background of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into heaven body and soul. There is not really a lot of direct proof for this dogma other than tradition, but I went over ideas of the afterlife, Mary's particular choice by God, and other topics that surround this mystery. On Sunday I went up to the novitiate building in Tagaytay. I have been there a few times before, and it is always pleasant. It is on a mountainside - actually the side of an active volcano. I gave a two day workshop to the ten guardians and members of the custodial definitory on Franciscan leadership. It was a good experience. At the end, I asked each friar to tell me a good story about the custody. We are so close to our realities that sometimes we only see the flaws. The sharing, which went almost two hours, was great. On Wednesday, yesterday morning, I flew out to Saigon. The city is growing incredibly fast. There is a vibrancy here, like things are taking off. The friars built a new house of studies, and they did an incredible job. Right now they are putting the finishing touches on it. The only thing that limited the number of vocations was space, and now there is room for over 40 friars in this one building. The young vocations have a wonderful, joyful spirit. They all know a bit of English, and they are so curious as to what is going on with friars in the other parts of the world. I finished some books: The Spy by Nathanael Hawthorne This is the second Hawthorne book I have read in the past couple of years. I fully understand his importance in the history of English literature, but I find his plot plodding and his dialog unnatural. This is the story of a spy used by Washington during the Revolutionary War. One is never quite sure of who the spy is and for whom he is spying until rather late in the narrative. There is a love story thrown in to round out the story. It is just tedious to read all the speeches each character seems to have to make. Persona non Grata by Ruth Downie This is the story of a Roman doctor in the army occupying England who is also called upon to solve a crime involving his family back in Gaul and their debts. He has a British woman whose life he saved who is his companion and soon to be wife. His family is a mess of selfishness and neediness, and they are in debt up to their eyeballs. The dialog is quite good and the text enjoyable. The Song Before it is Sung by Justin Cartwright This is a haunting account of a researcher from Oxford who has inherited the life paper’s of one of his mentors. He tries to make sense of the man’s story, especially in regards to one of his close friends, a German who was killed by Hitler for his involvement in the attempt to assassinate Hitler. In the meantime, the researcher’s marriage is falling apart. The title of the book comes from a question asked by Alexander Herzen, “Where is the song before it is sung.” The books answer is that it does not exist. It exists only inasmuch as it is sung. This becomes a symbol for life: is exists in its living. That is not the utopian ideal, but the messy reality of living life as best as one can given one’s own limitations and the constraints of the outer world. Benedict Arnold (Patriot and Traitor) by Willard Sterne Randall The man’s very name is a synonym for traitor, and yet he began the Revolutionary War as a great hero. How did it happen. As usual, a lot of it involves personal issues. He felt that he was poorly treated by the politicians of his day, especially those who were more radical in tone. (Some of them sound almost like the leaders of the French Revolution which led to such great slaughter.) He also suffered financially in the war as the Revolutionary script suffered from tremendous inflation. Much of his property was lost and never recompensed. He had his grievances. Add to it the fact that he married a woman whose family were loyalists (faithful to the king), and you had an explosive situation. He offered to sell out the most important military base, King’s Point, which would have divided the states in two and probably would have suffocated the revolution. He even made plans to betray Washington and his staff into the hands of the British. He ended his days in England after failing to make a go of it in Canada. He and his wife did not have the happiest existence for the rest of their days. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 15, 2014

Buffalo - Los Angeles - Manila

August 16, 2014 Peace and Good, Hope you are all well and not working too hard in the mid-August heat. I finished off the series of chapters for the US provinces at the end of last week. They all went very well. Each of the provinces now has to apply itself to its resolutions. They have begun, though, with a lot a good faith. On Saturday, a week ago, I flew to Los Angeles. It was really just to take a break in my flight, for I was going to be flying to Tokyo and on to Manila the next day. I stayed with the friars at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is Hermosa Beach which is not all that far from the airport. As always, the friars were most hospitable, and it was good to see the old batch of friars who were preparing to move on to their new assignments and the new set of friars who are just now moving in. Sunday I flew out and it was a long, long journey. It was about 11 hours to Tokyo, then a three hour lay over, and another four hours to Manila. There was a little mix up at the airport. The friars were waiting for me at the wrong terminal, but the information desk was able to help out and get everything all set. The jet lag is murder, especially in the heat and humidity of Manila. This is not my responsibility as Assistant General, but it is one of the jurisdictions that we want to help out in a special way since they are young and inexperienced. I am giving a series of talks on St. Maxilimian Kolbe, the Assumption of Mary, and a workshop for guardians in the custody. A lot of what I do here is simply be present and show that we care. The Philippines is so far off the beaten path that at times they feel as if they are orphaned. I will be here until Wednesday morning when I will fly out to Saigon to give a retreat to the students there. I have finished the following books: The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis This is the apostolic exhortation (one step below an encyclical) of Pope Francis. This is the first real exposition of his beliefs. He emphasizes being filled with joy at the mercy that the Lord has shown us. He strongly argues against a formalism and legalism that some feel has crept into the Church in these past few years. He is always respectful and tries to show that what he is saying was already said by his predecessors, but it is clear that he is also subtly criticizing some of the tendencies of the hierarchy in these years. The topics wander here and there, but there is more than enough to meditate upon for a long, long while. I personally feel very much at home with the emphasis that the Pope is placing upon serving the poor and going back to the Gospels to share the message that Christ did with the world of his time. Six Days of the Condor by James Grady This is the book that provided the script for the film with Robert Redford. It is more of a novella than a novel, but it is very well written. The premise is that an office of the CIA in Washington which is responsible for reading books to get ideas about spycraft is suddently attacked with all but one agent killed. The man who escapes must then try to find out why and reestablish his contact with the agency without getting killed by the rogue agents who set up the murders. Because it is short, it is packed with action. Midnight Rising by Ben Aaronovitch This is the story of a young police officer in London who accidentally finds a ghost who is a witness to a gruesome murder. This leads him to a special unit of the police that deals with magic and its regulation. The narrative is very, very well done. It has quite a bit of London slang, so I am not sure that someone who has not been there will understand everything that the main character is saying. Yet, it is funny and interesting and even intriguing at times. Theology of the Body in Simple Language by Pope John Paul II This book is exactly what the title says, an exposition of the theology of the body from the public audiences of Pope John Paul II. The best part of this presentation is that it is made in very simple language. Pope John Paul speaks of the dignity to which God has called us in creation and even more in our redemption. God has created us in a way in which our bodies carry a sacred call to give of ourselves to the other. This is done in marriage and also in the celibate state (in which the giver gives to all people, such as will be true in heaven). He has a beautiful theology of marriage and the body, and speaks of the difficulties of living that theology in a world which is too often obsessed with using others for one’s own pleasure. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mesilla PArk, New Mexico - Buffalo, New York

August 8, 2014 Peace and Good, Last week I was down in New Mexico for the provincial chapter of Our Lady of Consolation Province. They range from Minnesota to Ohio to New Mexico. The chapter went very well. It took place at their retreat center, and it was the first time that a number of friars were able to visit the new friary at the center. The friars are also building a new chapel which is already well advanced. Both of these structures were brilliantly designed to match the architectural style of the Southwest. This province is very committed to expanding their outreach to various jurisdictions of the Order to foster an intercultural dialog. It was hot and rainy down there. The night before I flew out there was a rain of two and a half inches in a little over an hour. They have been having a drought down there, but unfortunately the ground is so dried out that there is a crust on the surface and it is difficult for the rain to soak in. Friday I flew up to Buffalo and visited family for a couple of days. Then, on Monday, we began the provincial chapter of the new province of Our Lady of the Angels. This is my home province, and there were 146 friars present for the chapter. We had a number of organizational tasks to care for to help organize the new province. This included pastoral decision of where the friars will be serving over the next four years. We finished up this morning, and I will fly out tomorrow to head to Los Angeles for the night, and then on to Manila where I will be giving some talks to the friars. I finished the following books: The Ghost by Robert Harris This is the story of a ghost author who has been contracted to write the biography of an ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain. The Prime Minister left his office during a crisis which involved Great Britain’s attitude toward the U.S. He was accused of being a tool of the American administration. The ghost author is brought in to take the place of another ghost author who died or was killed. The ghost finds out some things he was not supposed to know, and his life as well is put into great danger. The book is very well written and draws one into the plot very quickly. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. He fought for the anarchists in the area around Barcelona. We hear of the pitiful battle that they fought against the Fascists led by Franco. We also hear of the cruel intrigue among the various leftist groups in Barcelona. The communists took over and persecuted the very people who should have been their allies. This experience led to Orwell’s disillusionment with the communist cause and led to his writing those two books which were a powerful condemnation of the big lie which was the basis of the totalitarian state. Orwell’s sympathies lie with those who truly fought for a classless society, which he considered to be a noble cause. The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 by Nicholas Shrady This is the story of one of the greatest natural disasters in the 18th century: the destruction of Lisbon, Portugal, by a tremendous earthquake. The disaster was actually a combination of a huge earthquake, a tsunami that killed many of the people who had fled to the shore, and a fire which killed many of the people trapped in the ruins. At least one tenth of the population was killed, maybe as much as a quarter. The tremendous optimism of the enlightenment authors was crushed, while many of the people who were faithful to Catholicism were confused for Lisbon was one of the most Catholic, faithful cities in Europe. We hear of how pathetic the reaction of the monarchy was, while a natural leader, the Count of Pambal, came forward. When the king asked him what to do, he answered that he should bury the dead and feed the living. He proceeded to do that, as well as reconstruct Lisbon as a model city. We also hear of the earlier days of Lisbon as well as its subsequent days. The book is well done and very much worth reading. Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940 by Henrik Lunde This is an extensive account of the invasion of Norway by the Nazi’s during World War II. It was not clear that Hitler wanted to invade. He was busy with his preparations for the battle with France. Yet, he felt that Great Britain might blockade his needed iron ore which was shipped from Sweden through Norway. So Hitler sent his troops north. The allies replied with a half hearted effort that often seemed wrong footed. They managed to pluck defeat from the mouth of victory, the exact opposite of what they would do later in the war. The book itself is horribly detailed and leaves one wishing that he didn’t know exactly which brigade was where at any particular moment. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chicago, IL - Savannah, GA - Mishawaka, IN - Mt. St. Francis, IN - Mesilla Park, NM

July 29, 2014 Peace and Good, This has been a good, travelling week. I started out in Chicago and flew down to Savannah, Georgia to visit with one of our bishops, Bishop Gregory Hartmayer. Savannah is a beautiful city, and I could not believe how many tourists there were at this time of year. It is very, very hot now, and humid, but the place was packed. Bishop Gregory told me that a lot of it is the Art Institute in the City. It is a large institution that draws students from all over the country, and their relatives come down to visit them, etc. That spreads the word of how beautiful the city is, and so on. The city was very clever. When it had buildings that it had taken over due to a tax bill, it would give the building to the Art Institute to take over and run. They would fix the building up and use it as part of their extended campus. This kept the buildings in good shape, and it helped the institute which is spread out all over the city. On Tuesday evening I flew into South Bend to visit our novitiate in Mishawaka. I flew Delta and I was very impressed. My flight to Detroit was running late, and by the time I got to the airport, they had already booked me on an alternate flight so that I could make my connections. On Wednesday I gave a day of recollection on Franciscan leadership to the members of the definitory of St. Bonaventure Province. I gave a couple of talks and opened it up to their sharing. It turned out very well. On Thursday evening we had the investiture of the new novices. They come from the US, Australia and Great Britain. It is great to see them in their habits. I had met most of them when they were postulants (which is a year or two of probation to try out the life). Novitiate is one step further in the discernment process. On Friday morning we had the temporary profession for the novices from last year. They take their vows for a trial period of three years. Then we drove down to Mt. St. Francis for the night (over four hours of travel). Early the next morning we flew down to El Paso, the closest airport to the retreat house in Mesilla Park. I managed to leave my computer at the TSA security control at the airport in Louisville. The TSA was great, and one of the friars flying down on Sunday was able to pick it up for me, so it wasn't all that much of a problem. We began the chapter for Our Lady of Consolation Province yesterday morning. The first part is small group discussions which doesn't involve me. I am on call from this afternoon on. We finish on Thursday afternoon, and then I fly out to Buffalo on Friday for the last chapter this summer. I finished some books: Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox This is a biography of the Canadian actor Michael J. Fox. It is well written, and the audio version is read by Fox himself. He describes his acting career. He is not afraid to speak of his demons, especially times when low self-esteem led to binge drinking. He deals at length with his discovery and dealing with early on-set Parkinson Disease. This is not a self-pity book. Rather, it is an honest portrayal of someone who did the best he could with a trauma that threw him for a loop. His dealing with his commitment to his family is heart warming. Whirlwind: War in the Pacific: Pearl Harbour, Coral Sea and Midway by Richard Freeman This is an account of the first three major battles between the Japanese Empire and the United States Navy during World War II. The first battle, Pearl Harbour, was an unmitigated disaster for the US. The only positive things that could be said is that the Japanese had not caught the aircraft carries in the harbor and they failed to destroy the fuel storage areas which would have forced the fleet to flee to California for months. The second battle occurred some five months later as the Japanese tried to invade Port Moresby in New Guinea. The battle was a bit of a draw, if not an actual loss for the US. Yet, it put an end to the Japanese plan to blocade the route from the US to Australia. It also damaged some ships that otherwise might have been used at Midway. Finally, the battle of Midway was an incredible victory for the US. One US carrier was sunk to four Japanese carriers. The account presented in the book is thorough without being too detailed. The author has a very good writing style. Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview, edited by John J. Collins and Daniel Harlow This is a series of articles on the development of Jewish identity at the end of the Old Testament period up until the time of the rebellions (the great rebellion in 67-70 AD, the rebellion in the Diaspora in 112-115 AD, and the Bar Kochba rebellion in 132-135 AD). This time period and topic parallels the Teaching Company course that I have been listening to, and it is interesting to compare and contrast the approaches. This version, of course, allows for a much more in depth study of the topic. The book is well compiled and offers a wealth of information, but it is more for a scholar than for an easy read. The Age of Gold by Gore Vidal This is a short epic of a newspaper family dynasty from the beginning of the Roosevelt era until the end of the millennium. It speak of the relationships within the family and how they interacted with political figures such as Roosevelt, McCarthy, Truman, etc. Gore Vidal even puts himself into the story as a character who occasionally shows up. The premise and the question is whether there ever was a golden age in American history and culture. The characters end up leaving the question unanswered. It is really quite well done. Vidal writes characters who one does not necessarily like or admire, but whom one certainly wants to know more about. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Castro Valley, CA - Soquel, CA - Castro Valley, CA - Chicago - Savannah

July 22, 2014 Peace and Good, This past week I was in the middle of the redwoods at a retreat house for the second session of the Chapter for the California Province. It went very well, and we finished on time. The retreat house, run by a community of Franciscan Sisters, is about an hour from San Jose and not too far from the Muir Woods. It is in the midst of some new growth redwood trees. It is a really beautiful area. This was the second of four sessions for the various chapters. The next two will be next week (in New Mexico) and the week after that (in Buffalo). I headed back to Chicago on Saturday and off to Savannah on Monday for a meeting. So far I have been fortunate with my flights. No delays, no lost luggage, etc. While in Chicago, I was able to go to my favorite Vietnamese Restaurant for some Pho (soup with noodles). Vietnamese food reminds me of Italian food: simple ingredients prepared simply. This week I will be in Mishawaka (near South Bend, IN) for a day of recollection and the simple profession of some friars. I finished some books: The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham This is the story of a woman from Burma (now called Myanmar) who was the daughter of one of the leaders who fought for independence of his country (and was assassinated shortly after that independence was achieved). She travelled to Burma to be with her mother who was deathly ill. When she arrived, she became entangled in the movement for more freedom against the military dictatorship which ruled the nation. Even though she won an election to take over the country, the military refused to acknowledge her victory. They placed her under house arrest where she remained for decades. Yet, she never gave up, and in fact renewed her fidelity to the cause by embracing her Buddhist heritage. She won the Noble Peace Prize and countless other awards for her heroic witness to the truth. Early Judaism: A comprehensive Overview, edited by John Collins and Daniel Harlow This is a series of 24 lectures by the teaching company on the late Old Testament period and early centuries of this era period of Judaism. It speaks about the history of the peoples, their difficulties, their literature, their worship, etc. The material is presented by a Jewish rabbi, and it is packed with information that comes from a non-Christian viewpoint (which can be very valuable to get another perspective on various things). It was one of the series of lectures from which I learned quite a bit. The Taj Majal: The History of India’s Most Famous Monument by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of the building, architecture and history of the Taj Mahal. Built as a tomb for a beloved wife of a Mughal Emperor (Muslin Emperor of part of northern India), it was also a monument that proclaimed the grandeur of that empire. It was located at a critical juncture of a river over which much commerce and travel passed and thus was a constant reminder of the power of that reign. It is an interesting mix of Persian and Hindu motifs that show the blending of the various cultures. The Religion by Tim Willocks This is a rather long saga of the story of a number of people involved with the siege of Malta in the 16th century. Suleiman the Magnificent sent his Turkish forces to invade Malta which was the base of the knights of Malta. They had proved to be an irritant to his commerce through their piracy. He intended to do away with them once and for all. Against all expectations, the knights were able to defend themselves until the Turks finally gave up and went away. It is also the story of a noble woman (Carla) and the man who falls in love with her, Matthias Tannhouser. There are also a number of memorable characters. There is much bloodshed in the story given the stage upon which the story is set. Yet, the story flows very well, and there are a sufficient number of heroes (on both sides) and villains to give the story a vibrant tone. It is well worth reading. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, July 12, 2014


July 19, 2014 Peace and Good, I spent this past week in Chicago for the provincial chapter of St. Bonaventure Province (one of the two mid-west provinces). It ran from Monday through Friday. Unlike the first part of the chapter, I did not have to run the meeting. I was there to help them with canonical questions (because some of the votes can get complicated due the Church law) and to give some suggestions. I had a chance to fill the friars in on what is happening in the Order throughout the world. I have to say that this chapter was incredibly well run. There was a wonderful spirit among the friars. Rather than blaming anyone for any of the problems of the past, the friars decided to look forward to see how they could make it better. Friars asked themselves how they could live their vows more faithfully. During the chapter we had two celebrations. The first was the anniversary celebrations for those who had lived 60, 50, 40 and 25 years of ordination or vows. Then we have a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the province and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the mission in Australia. Today I fly out to Oakland for the chapter for the California province which begins on Monday afternoon. I finished some books: Flowers from Berlin by Noel Hynd This is the story of an American who volunteers to serve as a spy and terrorist bomber for the Nazi’s at the beginning of the Second World War. The flowers in the title of the book are his bombs planted especially on ships which are bringing military assistance to Britain. His foe turns out to be his own wife and an FBI agent who is able to track him down in the village where he is serving as a Lutheran minister. They are able to foil the plot of this man, whose code name is Seigfreid, who intends to assassinate President Roosevelt. The book is well written. The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman This is a short story about a man who is obsessed with painting pictures of fairy tale pictures. He also had visions of evil monsters who want to destroy him and those whom he loves. He paints them away through his work. For a good part of the story, it seems as if he is hallucinating this all, but there are points in the story where he realizes that there is a level of truth in what he is experiencing. The only way he can control his environment, the only way he can survive is to “paint away the darkness.” “Forget Not Love”: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe by Andre Frossard This is a biography of Maximilian Kolbe translated from the French. It gives a good overview of his life. I never realized how ill he was for most of his adult life. He suffered from Tuberculosis from the time that he was ordained, and this was in a period before antibiotics. He had to spend long periods of time in a sanitorium on a chaise lounge, unable to do anything but sit there. He established what amounted to the largest friary in the world in Poland as well as a mission in Japan. By the time that he was arrested, his apostolate was printing a daily newspaper of 300,000 copies, a magazine of 1,000,000 copies. He had established a radio station, was experimenting in TV, and had planned to build an airport. The Nazi’s arrested him both because he was a priest and a leader of society in Poland, and he died in a starvation bunker in Auschwitz giving his life for that of another prisoner. Siege: Malta 1940-1943 by Ernle Bradford I am trying a little experiment in these days. I am listening to a novel about the great siege of Malta by the Turks in the 1500’s, and am reading this book which is an account of the siege of Malta by Italy and Germany during World War II. The Maltese put up with tremendous sufferings during the Second World War. Yet, they held on and served as what Churchill called, “an unsinkable aircraft carrier.” The planes and ships stationed there effectively starved the effort of Rommel to conquer in Northern Africa and changed the course of the war. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ellicott City

July 5, 2014 Peace and Good, I have been in our friary in Ellicott City for the past couple of weeks. This has been an opportunity to visit my doctors and dentist, something which is quite difficult with all the travels that I normally do. I had seven appointments over the past couple of weeks, and everything went well. My biggest concern is always the cardiologist since I had some difficulties a few years back, but all is in order. I have also had a chance to visit the local library and take out tons of books on CD and transfer them to my computer so that I can listen to them as I travel and do my daily walks. I especially love history, and I was able to find a number of books which I had wanted to read for quite some time. Today I fly out to Chicago for the beginning of a series of provincial chapters over the next month. I was in charge of leading the first session of these chapters, and now I sit back and participate as the Minister General's representative. I hope that means I will have more time to talk with the friars about what is going on in their lives. The first sessions were filled with business and getting ready for the next event. Now, I don't have to worry about those things. These past couple of weeks allowed me to get in touch with some of my friends in the Baltimore area. That was great, because I don't get to pass through Baltimore all that often, and sometimes when I am here, it is just to go from one meeting to another. I finished some books: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix This is an extensive biography of the emperor who rules Japan during World War II and all the way into our era. Over the years there has been a tremendous controversy concerning how involved Hirohito was involved in the launching of the war and its atrocities during the war. From this book it is clear that he both knew of all of this, and that his role was whitewashed after the war by Japanese authorities and American authorities (including Douglas McArthur, who was the Governor General of Japan during the after war period). He is not presented in his best light, but it is clear that much of what he was was determined by those who formed him during the reign of his father (which was tragic considering the mental instability from which his father suffered. The Craft of Intelligence by Allen Dulles This is a book that explains the origin of the CIA and the need for intelligence and surveillance in a free society by one of the great directors of the CIA. At times it turns into a bit of an apologia for his organization, and it often only tells half the truth, but it is overall a solid book. Dulles began his career as a spy of the OSS in Geneva during World War II. I read a book last year that was about one of his German spies. His brother was John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State during the Eisenhower years, and his other brother was Avery Dulles, the Jesuit author and teacher at Catholic University. (It was said of Avery Dulles that there was dull, duller and Dulles). Brilliant Prey by Brenda Wallace This has to be one of the worst written books I have ever read. It is supposed to be the story of a member of Mensa (the organization for brilliant people) who is given a challenge by an unknown person. As she tries to solve the puzzle, she is lead to a story of murder and worse. But there is little connection between the characters and their character development is poor. The story jumps from one event to another. The book tries to be religious, but then descends into depravity. I really don’t know what the author had in mind. The Red and the Black by Marie-Henri Beyle Stendahl This is one of those classic 19th century novels that I had never read and desired to put under the already read column. It was not quite what I expected. It is filled with never ending dialog and monolog. It is a love story, but really the story of a man who loves himself so much that he would be willing to use others to reach his objectives. It is the story of class distinction in France after the restoration of the monarchy (after the fall of Napoleon). Overall, I found the book tedious, and really could not wait for it to be finished. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rome - Ellicott City

June 27, 2014 Peace and Good, Well, all of the meetings over in Rome and Assisi have been brought to a conclusion. This past week I tried to catch up with various projects that had to be put on hold while I was travelling and meeting so much. This included writing a children's book on Pope Francis for my publisher, Catholic Book. I will be getting the proofs already later today, and we should have it ready to print in a couple of months. (The hold up will be the artist who will have to do 16 drawings for the book.) I wish I could write more, but I just don't have the time and energy with my schedule. On Saturday, I attended the ordination to become a bishop of one of our friars. He will be the bishop of some small towns just outside of Assisi. I knew him when he was the custos (boss) of our friary in Assisi. I flew back to Baltimore on Sunday. Nothing unusual. This has been one of the kinder jet lags that I have had recently. This week is a series of doctors and dentist appointments. Nothing wrong, just getting the periodic check up. With all the travel that I do, it is better to take care of it all at once, so this week I have had six different appointments. Next week I will only have two, and then on next Saturday I head off to Chicago. I finished some books: Mary Wollstonecraft by Elizabeth Pennell This is the life story of one of the first English feminists. She was the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Although most of the writing of Mary Wollstonecraft herself is very dates, it was significant for its era. She was spiritual, but anti-religious (at least the way that religion was practiced in her era). She lived with one man without marriage, and with another in marriage (but living apart so as not to be too much of a burden on each other). Unconventional only begins to tell the tale, but she really tried to be a charitable and kind person in spite of her difficulties (which included a very ungrateful family for all that she did for them. Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin by Gerard Helfreich This is the account of the attempted assassination of Theodore Roosevelt when he ran for another term in the presidency in 1912 as a third party candidate. The book tells the story of his break away from the Republican Party and his attempt to form the Bull Moose Party. He was shot by a German American who was demented and who believed that he had had a vision of the murdered President McKinley who had told him that Teddy Roosevelt was to blame for his death. He also wanted to make sure that no one ever had a third term as president. He was sentenced to a mental health facility where he remained until he died many years later. Roosevelt, although he was shot in the chest, was not seriously injured (for the bullet was deflected by his eyeglass case and his folded up speech), and he continued to speak to the crowd (in Milwaukee). They never removed the bullet, which he carried without bad effect until the day of his death. 1913: The Eve of the War by Paul Ham This is a short treatment of the circumstances in Europe in the year before World War I broke out. One sees what Germans, English, French, Austrians and Russians all thought of each other. One sees how the generals and the general staffs of the various armies made plans for war with little regard to civilian authority. One sees how the leaders of the nations gave in to the inevitability of war, and thus unconsciously created the situation in which war was inevitable. This is a good treatment of a topic that is being studied quite a bit on this 100th anniversary of World War I. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson I have heard the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde many times, but this is the first time I have read it. I was pleasantly surprised. It is more intricate a story than I would have expected. It gives the account from various different viewpoints, including that of Mr. Hyde, the beast into which Dr. Jekyll turns. It deals with questions of addictive behavior in which one knows what is right, but lacks the will power to do it. It deals with what we today call the shadow side of each of our personalities. What surprised me most was the favorable treatment of Mr. Hyde and how what others judged to be horrible behavior could be seen differently from someone who was new and clumsy in social circumstances.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rome - Assisi

June 10, 2014 Peace and Good, I finished off the week in Rome at our definitory. We went all the way up to Saturday afternoon. Then that evening, we had a big celebration in the Basilica for the Vigil of the Pentecost. The local bishop led the Mass. (Rome is divided up into sectors. Even though the Pope is the Bishop of Rome, there are local auxiliary bishops as well.) The service went two hours, which was quite long. Yet, the church was packed which was nice to see. There are not a lot of people living in the immediate area around the Basilica. Most of the buildings are used as schools or offices. Thus, on Sunday, there are often not more than a handful of people at Mass in our Basilica. Last Saturday night it was full. This week the definitory is in Assisi for a series of meetings with the presidents of the various conferences and federations throughout the world. We have a representative from India, Zambia, Poland, Slovenia, Italy, the US and Argentina. This is a way to feed some of what is happening in Rome down to the grass roots level. We will be here until noon on Saturday, and then it is back to Rome for a week. It is interesting how many times in our meetings that the name of Pope Francis is mentioned. He is certainly giving all of us a challenge to be more of what we say we are. The weather here in Italy has gotten very hot. It is a bit early this year. By August, it is all but unbearable. I finished some books: The Ten Biggest Civil War Battles by Charles River Editors The Charles River Editors are a group of MIT and Boston University graduates who produce a series of informational e books on various topics. This treatment of the ten most serious battles of the Civil War is well done. It gives information on those who participated, why the battle happened, what happened during the battle, and what the aftermath of the battle was. It includes many accounts of the battle from the point of view of the participants. This whole series is well worth consideration. Coral Sea 1942 by Richard Freeman This is a short book on the battle that took place in early 1942 that, even though it was a bit of a draw between the forces of Japan and the forces of the States, at least marked the first moment at which the Japanese plans were foiled and when their momentum began to disappear. The book gives enough information to get a good picture of the battle without overwhelming one with detail. It also gives a good evaluation of how this particular battle influenced what happened in the Battle of Midway only a short time later which truly marked the turning point of the war. Samson and Denial by Robert Ford This is a novella that is part a crime story, part a horror story. The “hero” of the story discovers that his brother has been murdered by the Russian mafia. The two brothers had been involved in selling illegal drugs. He returns home to find that wife has been kidnapped by the same Mafia. He tracks down the men who did this, and along the way he comes upon an ancient Mayan skull with magical powers. It destroys his enemies, but not until he has to confront an army of angry Amazon warriors who want to kill him to protect their cultic object. The story takes a lot of twists and turns, but it is well written. Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz by Elain Murray Stone This is a short book that chronicles the life and career of St. Maximilian Kolbe. It gives the basic fact of his call to the Franciscan Order, his founding of the Militia of the Immaculate, the founding of the huge Franciscan friary in Niepokolanow near Warsaw, his founding of the mission in Japan, and then his arrest and death in Auschwitz. This is not a long treatment, but the author manages to tell the basic story in a very appealing manner. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude