Thursday, March 27, 2014

San Antonio - Mesilla Park, NM - Chicago

March 27, 2014 Peace and Good, This has been a week to catch up a bit and also to give one talk to a group at our retreat house in Mesilla Park in New Mexico. I spend a few days at our house of formation in San Antonio, meeting with the postulants (the men getting ready to enter novitiate). The friars in formation there go to one of the universities in the area or, if they are studying for the priesthood, to Oblate School of Theology (run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate). This is a very good school, and it has a great program for those who wish to work in the Hispanic Ministry. I then flew to the other side of the state of Texas, to El Paso. That city is only about an hour from our retreat house in Mesilla Park. The friars there have built a new friary and they did a great job, building something that fits perfectly in the southwest environment. It is comfortable but not extravagant in any way. I spent the rest of the week writing reports and also preparing a talk that I was going to give early this week on St. Anthony. The reports have been hanging over my head for a few weeks, but I can never get them done until the time is right. When I feel that the ideas have circulated in my head enough, then I find it easy to write the reports. That is what happened. I have a few more shorter reports to finish, but that should be relatively easy to do next week when I am in Wales to give a retreat to the Poor Clare Sisters. The talk on St. Anthony was to a group of friars and lay people who work for the charity run by the Messenger of St. Anthony, the magazine from Padua for which I have been writing since the early 80's. I was pleased with the talk, and fr. Mario, the editor of the magazine, also presented an hour long film on the life of St. Anthony done by a Canadian production team. The talk and the film worked perfectly together, and it proved to be a good spiritual presentation without being too heavy. I have finished some books: Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The by Kevin Kenny The colony of Pennsylvania was founded as a proprietary colony, owned by one man and his family: William Penn. It was founded to be a refuge for Quakers and eventually for others who were persecuted for their faith (including Catholics). Its policy toward Native Americans tended to be more enlightened than that of other colonies. That is, until the French and Indian War, a decade before the Revolution. A group of Presbyterian farmers from the border lands with Indian territory went on a rampage to defend themselves and their families and even massacred Native Americans who were living with the whites of the colony. This is the story of how the utopian idea of relations with the Native Americans in this colony was subverted by the violence of these men. The Women of the Wars of the Roses by Alicia Carter This book is an account of four of the important women who were behind the scenes during and toward the end of the War of the Roses in England, the period that preceded the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. The account is fair to all of these women. The author tells what the propaganda or gossip was and what the truth probably was. He does idolize any of the women, but he also does not demonize any of them. It is a good and fair account. Letters to an Old Garibaldian by G.K. Chesterton This is a series of fictional letters to an Italian by Chesterton pointing out why the Prussian ways of the Germans during World War I are so wrong and those of the British and the Italians are so right. It was obviously a piece of propaganda to get Italy to deny its treaty commitments to Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Britain was desperate to get Italy on its side. The letters are very polemical and sometimes even racist. They do give a good idea of what people were thinking at that time. The Broker by John Grisham This is the story of a lobbyist who gets in trouble with the law, and especially the CIA, when he tries to broker a deal to give over certain important software which controls a group of satellites. He ends up in prison and is eventually pardoned by an outgoing president. This was arranged so that the CIA might see who was going to kill him and figure out who launched the satellites in the first place. He is hidden in Italy, and seeing that I live in Italy a good part of the time, this was quite an enjoyable account of learning how to maneuver in this society. I enjoyed the action and the cleverness of the man at the center of the story. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ellicott City - Cincinnati - San Antonio

March 16, 2014 Peace and Good, This past week, after I had recovered from my Australia trip, has been giving a parish mission in St. Maximilian Parish in the diocese of Cincinnati. I had been booked to give this parish mission four years ago before I was elected Assistant General. I had backed out of all of the other commitments, but this parish is named after one of our friars (St. Maximilian) and it was its 25th anniversary. The Pastor, Fr. Jeff, had asked me to try to be there. I was glad that I had kept this one commitment. It is a very large parish and very vibrant. The area around the Church continues to grow. I preached on some aspects of the life of St. Maximilian and how we could emulate his spirituality in our own lives. As always with parish missions, I offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the afternoon each day, and the line got longer and longer as the week went on. I visited the combined school a couple of times, and I gave a day of recollection to the parish staff (which is quite large). All total, it was a very good experience. I flew down to San Antonio on Friday to visit on of our friaries which is a formation house. There are three postulants (men considering entering the Order) and one post-novitiate student in the house. This is also where Fr. Phil Leh lives who runs a center for illegal immigrants who have become ill. Recently, he has also taken in young men whom the drug lords are pressuring into carrying drugs across the border. If they refuse, the drug lords murder someone in their family. Fleeing to the States is the only way they can protect their family and themselves. I am also using this time in San Antonio to write some reports and get some research done for a day of recollection that I will be giving next week. These are the books that I have finished: The Wolf: The German Raider that terrorized the South Seas During World War I in an Epic Voyage of Destruction and Gallantry by Richard Guilliatt and Peter Hohnen During the First World War, the Germans tried to cut off supplies from the British Isles from their far flung empire. Their main weapon in this battle was the submarine, but they also used a hand full of surface raiders to lay mines and take prize ships. This is the story of one of those ships which especially prowled the Indian Ocean and the Southern Pacific Ocean near Australia and New Zealand. We hear about the crew and also the many prisoners that were held in the hold of the ship. We hear about the denials by the British Government which was afraid of sparking panic among shippers, but who thus denied a means of providing safety to those very shippers. The book is an interesting account of a long and perilous journey (one that lasted over a year). For the Thrill of it: Leopold, Loeb and the murder that shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz This is the story of a shocking murder that occurred in Chicago in the 1920’s. Two young men decided to kill a young boy for the thrill of killing someone. The tragic story also speaks of their trial. While they declared themselves guilty, there was a trial to determine whether they would be sent to prison or executed. Clarence Darrow served as the attorney defending one of the boys. Ultimately they were not executed because of their young age. One of the two died in prison, while the other was eventually released and married. One gets a sense of the post-World War I sense of decadence in which everything could and was being done. Helsinki Homicide: Nothing But the Truth by Jarkko Sipila This is a detective story written by a Finnish author which takes place in Helsinki. It is about a woman who gives witness at the murder trial of a mob boss and who then suffers the consequences. I like books like this which are not set in our own cultural environment. It gives a different view of the world. The only difficulty is the names which are all Finnish and for an American can be a bit difficult to sort out. The Autumn Bridge by Takashi Matskoka This is a very interesting book that spans a 500 year period from the Middle Ages to the opening of Japan to outsiders in the 19th century. It is the story of a family that has the gift to see the future and how one woman in history keeps visiting the men of that family as a “ghost”. One gets to see how chaotic the intervention of Westerners was in a society that had been static for centuries. There is the question of how Americans judged the Japanese and visa versa. This book deals with so many interesting questions that it is difficult to sort out the most important message. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ellicott City - Cincinnati

March 9, 2014 Peace and Good, Most of last week I was just trying to recover from the jet lag of coming in from Australia. The trip itself is brutal. It took about 26 hours of travel to get from Melbourne to Baltimore. Then there was the eight hours difference in time zones. It was a week before I was sleeping well at night again. Last Thursday I spent meeting with a number of people with whom I had to do some business. I was able to get it all done, and actually things have gone very well. Friday I flew into Dayton, Ohio to give a parish mission in St. Maximilian Parish. This is the very last parish mission that I had committed myself to before I was chosen to be the Assistant General. All of my other commitments were cancelled, but the pastor of this parish asked me if I might be able to keep the commitment, given that this was part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the parish. Furthermore, given that the parish is named after St. Maximilian Kolbe, one of our friars, I thought that I should not back out. This is a very large parish, somewhere around 2500 families. It is very active, and I can sense that there is a good spirit among the parishioners. I will be here until the end of the week. I have finished some books: Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is a detective story about a New Orleans born FBI agent who is investigating the kidnapping and murder of his wife by a Nazi band in Brazil. There are many twists and turns, not all of which are all that believable. Nevertheless, it is a good book that shows the reasoning skills of Pendergast and his friends against a fiendish plot. Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North by James M. McPherson During the Civil War, there were many people in the North who were opposed to both the war and especially the emancipation of slaves. This is their story. They were at times considered to endanger the republic. The danger seems to have been local more than national, but they nevertheless did constitute a type of fifty column that at times threatened to collaborate with the southern forces. This book speaks of the rise of the movement and their eventual downfall following several victories by the northern forces (Mobile, Alabama, Atlanta, Georgia, etc.) and the victory of Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election. Snyder, Timothy Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin Snyder writes about the area between Poland and Ukraine and Belarus during the period of 1933 and 1945 where some 14 million people were murdered by the Soviets and the Nazis. The Soviets tended to kill their own, such as the 3 million or so Ukranian peasants who were starved to death during the move to collectivize farms. There were also many killed during the Great Terror, especially Ukranians and Poles who lived in the Soviet Union. Among the Nazi’s, it was especially Jews and Slavs (especially Poles and Russians) who were murdered. It is incredible to listen to such horror, but it is so important to know what happened and why. American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen This is the story of the largest slave rebellion to take place in the United States. It occurred just before the War of 1812 in New Orleans. Hundreds of slaves picked up their field tools and found arms and marched toward the city from the plantations along what is called the German Coast. The book is well documented, although it becomes a bit polemic about the fact that this rebellion has been studied so little in the decades afterward. It even speaks of how various accounts of the rebellion (whether by white supremicists or communists) were written to defend a position rather than to discover the truth). Overall, the book is good and informative. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude