Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rome - Chicago

April 29, 2014 Peace and Good, The early part of last week, I was in Rome doing some writing work that had been put off for quite some time. I was able to finish seven articles for two different magazines (in Italy and in England) for which I write. Both of them involved beginning a new series, and I was pleased that they got off to such a good start. Then on Thursday I flew out to Chicago for the first of the provincial chapters in the States. Each four years, there is an Ordinary Provincial Chapter at which a new provincial and his counsel are elected. This province is St. Bonaventure Province, and their chapter began yesterday, Monday morning. So far it is going very well. I have been here in Chicago quite a bit since last October when I first visited here for their visitation, and it feels good to have all of the preparations playing themselves out in the right way. The Minister General has proposed a candidate for the Minister Provincial of this province, and tomorrow they vote upon him. I don't think there will be any difficulty, but the friars have the absolute freedom to vote for whomever they wish. The Vicar General, the number two man of the Order, is officially in charge of this meeting, but his English is a bit limited, so I am actually running the meeting. This is the first time I am doing it, so I feel like I did when I taught High School - trying to stay a few pages ahead of the students. We are having the meeting at a Shrine and Retreat House run by the province called Marytown. The chapel is incredibly beautiful, and they have 24 hour Eucharistic adoration. The friars did a wonderful job of remodeling the retreat house a few years back, and it is used quite a bit by groups in the Chicago area. I have finished some books: Two Murders Reaped: Book Four of the Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Sally Haggard This is the fourth in the series of stories upon Duchess Cecily of York. This one deals with his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter of Lord Rivers and his wife Jaquette. I read a book on her by Philippa Gregory, and it is so interesting to see the different way of approaching the same story. Here Elizabeth is portrayed as a demonic force which all but destroys her husband and Cecily’s son King Edward. He is replaced by Richard III, who in history has been portrayed as a great villain for the murder of his two nephews (the princes in the tower). Here, the blame is put upon Cecily who sees her own grandsons as a threat to his son’s reign because they could be controlled by their mother, the daughter-in-law whom Cecily so hates. I am not sure of the truth of one theory or the other, but it is good to see both sides of the controversy. Bloody Times: the funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Manhunt for Jefferson Davis by James L. Swanson This is a parallel to what happened to Abraham Lincoln in his last days of life and afterwards and what happened to Jefferson Davis as Richmond fell to the forces of General Grant and Davis was forced to flee, eventually being arrested as he tried to flee to Florida. The author respects both stories, although toward the end he shows more deference to the Confederate cause than I feel comfortable reading about. Terminated by Simon Wood This is the story of a boss at a pharmaceutical company who writes a bad review (deserved) on an employee who first threatens her, and then makes her life a living hell. He beats her husband into a coma, vandalizes her home, gets her fired, and threatens to kill her daughter. In the meantime, the woman has to face the reality that another man who wanted to rape her and all but killed her is about to be released from prison. The book is not bad and is interesting in parts. By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz Dean Koontz writes some of the goriest books around, but he also writes books that delve into the question of evil and the obligation of those who try to be good to resist evil, sometimes with force if it is necessary. This is the premise of the Odd Thomas series he has written about a man who can communicate with ghosts. This book fits into the latter category for it is about a group of innocents who are injected with a syringe of nano robots by an evil scientist. These nanobots give them extraordinary psychic and other powers which they are called upon to use to make the world a better place. One of these is a young man with autism, and the author delves into the loneliness of that condition. The book is very well written and certainly makes one think. Have a good week. Saturday I and the Vicar General are off for Buffalo. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 21, 2014


April 21, 2014 Peace and Good, I hope you all had a Happy Easter. I just found out that this site might have been hacked. No, I am not offering vacations in North Carolina. I spent the week in a series of short meetings, one on one, with people who live here in Rome. I usually meet them every month or so, but I have been on the road so long that I haven't seen them for a few months. There was also the beautiful liturgy of the Triduum. Here in Rome every Church is built in Baroque style, and the liturgy is Baroque as well. Lots and lots of music. For me, it is a little like Baklava. It is delicious in the right dose, but too much can put you off it for a while. I like a simpler liturgy, but part of my job at times is simply to be present. This week I leave on Thursday for Chicago, and I will be travelling around the States for a month. I hope to get some articles written before I leave. Every time I thought I would get to it last week, something else came up. The weather got quite cool after a storm Wednesday, but now it feels like Spring again. Today is called Pasquetta here in Rome. It is a day for people to go out into the country and have a picnic with their families. It is almost as holy here as Easter itself. I finished some books: Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter by CJ Martin This is a short story about an ex-undercover policeman whose daughter has been kidnapped by the daughter of a Yakuza (Japanese mafia) whose death the daughter blames on the cop. She intends to get her revenge upon him and his daughter, and the policeman must fight overwhelming odds to save her. Some Revelations of Spies and Spying by William Le Queux This was one of the many books on spying written during the First World War in an attempt to support the British forces against their enemies. The Germans are always pictured as evil and clever foes who must be defeated at all costs. The hero is a spy who can out-spy anyone. He often calls upon the assistance of a French woman who is more clever than anyone would ever suspect. This particular work is a series of short stories banded together. None of the characters are more than one dimensional, but the book was not a bad read in spite of its limitations. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord This is the classical account of the sinking of the Titanic. It is well documented and well told. It covers the actual night, and does not go into detail about the building of the ship or the after-effects, including the Senate hearings on the disaster. Nor does it deal with some of the machinations of those who owned the company which ran the Titanic, American millionaires who were able to use their influence to keep from having to pay a large settlement to the victims and their families. Nevertheless, given its limited scope, the book is quite good, a type of investigative reporting. Lord of Glory: A Lenten Devotional on the Names of Christ by Ray Pritchard The title says exactly what this book is. It was a book specially dates for Lent of 2014, with a meditation each day on one of the titles of Jesus used in Sacred Scripture. The meditations were short, only a page or two, but just enough to get into the spirit of the title. Some of the days’ presentations were better than others, but overall it was a good way to spend my Lent this year. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


April 15, 2014 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all this past week for a General Definitory. We spent a lot of time on tedious topics that someone has to take care of. We were all greatly relieved when the week came to an end. As typical, now that I have some time off, I have caught a cold. Isn’t it strange how that happens. I remember in college that I would never get sick until after the exams were finished. I am just starting to feel it lighten up a bit. The weather here is nice, not yet too hot. I am hoping that it warms up just a bit for all the pilgrims who will be here for Easter, and the even much larger crowd who will be here for the canonization the Sunday after Easter. I will be heading back to the States the Thursday before the canonization for a series of meetings that I must attend over the next month. These days I am spending time catching up on things, especially writing projects. I hope to have a few articles written for the two magazines I write for by the time I head out of Rome next week. I saw on TV the other night that there were bad riots in a square in Rome. It is not all that far from where I live, but I did not hear a thing all that day. We are safe here in our building because there is pretty good security at the gate. I found out when they read the minutes for the last general definitory meeting (which I missed because of other commitments) that we will be having a silent retreat but that I was volunteered to give the daily reflections at Mass. It just goes to show you that you should never miss a meeting lest you get volunteered for this or that. Actually, I love being able to share in my preaching, and I do not get to do it often enough. I finished some reading: The Coffin Dancer by Jeffrey Deever This is one of those Lincoln Rhymes stories. He is a brilliant detective who was paralyzed in an accident. He still serves the police department by investigating almost impossible to solve mysteries. This one involves a hired killer who has the tattoo of the dance macabre on his upper arm (the specter of death dancing with its next victim). There are a number of twists and turns in the story. Deever gives you enough information to feel as if you have not been cheated in the resolution of the crime. It is very well written. The Gospel of Mark: the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible This is a version of the Gospel of Mark with extensive notes and commentary. The translation is good, but the notes are not all that informative. I did learn a couple of new ideas, and I saw a couple of connections in the text that I had not seen before, but overall I was a bit disappointed with the book. The Guilded Cage: Book Three of the Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Sally Haggard This is continuation of the story of Duchess Cecily, the wife of the Duke of York at the beginning of the war of roses. The king, Henry VI, was proving to be suffering from some form of mental illness. The queen, a French princess, was proving to be overbearing and very un-English. The young prince whom the queen bore could possibly be the son of the queen’s lover. In the background there is Richard, Duke of York, and Cicely, his wife, who are trying to survive in a very dangerous era. Foundations of Western Civilization by Thomas F.X. Noble This is a series of 72 lectures on various periods and elements of what we call Western culture, from the time of the Babylonians up to the end of the middle ages. It is a rapid survey of the eras so it doesn’t go into great detail on any of them. Yet, as an overview and a refresher, this series of lectures provides a wealth of information and is quite pleasant in its presentation. Have a good Holy Week and Happy Easter. Shalom Fr. Jude

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chicago - London - Wales - London - Rome

April 7, 2014 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome again for one of our definitorial meetings. We began this morning and we will go through til noon on Saturday. Then, next week, I will be free for Holy Week. What a joy! I am sure a number of small things will come up, but it will also give me a chance to write some articles before I fall too far behind in that camp. Last week I was in Wales for the first time. I gave a retreat to a group of Poor Clare sisters. It is almost different when one gives talks to the Poor Clares. They spend so much of their time in prayer and contemplation that one feels inadequate, but they are so grateful for whatever one can offer. There are 13 sisters in their community and one of their apostolates is to pray for prayer requests that they receive from all over the world. (In case you are interested, their site is at poorclarestmd.org.) They are quite an international group. Rome is getting ready for the canonization of the two Popes: John XXIII and John Paul II. Unfortunately, I will be out of town that weekend because I have to be in Chicago for the beginning of the first of the chapters for the US provinces. They will be four weeks in a row, one after the other. So the game plan is Chicago, Buffalo, Louisville and Los Angeles. I suspect that Rome will be packed to the gills with pilgrims. I finished some books: Dead Sea Scrolls by Gary Rendsburg This is a 24 lecture presentation on the Dead Sea Scrolls. These documents were found by accident in 1948 by a Bedouin shepherd boy looking for a lost goat. He threw a rock into a cave and heard the sound of pottery. Going up into the cave, he found a hoard of ancient documents. When the archeologists heard of the discovery, they went down to the Dead Sea and found over 900 documents which dated from the second century BC to the first century AD. These documents were invaluable for studying the transmission of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and also for studying the evolution of Jewish customs. The lectures are well done and present the majority opinion as well as other theories that, while unlikely, need to be heard. JFK’s Final Hours in Texas by Julian Read With the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy, there have been a host of books about the assassination. This is one of them. It is written from the memories of one of Governor Connely’s aids. The book is good for some of the details that it gives, although it works very hard to reach book length by packing the story with the account of how the 6th floor of the Book Depository Building was made into a Museum to commemorate the event. 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie This is only the third book that I have read by Agatha Christie, and each one is a delight. This one is a Miss Marple novel, written when she is so old that she must seek the help of another to complete her investigation. She manages to put together a set of quite eccentric yet quite believable characters. They investigate the murder of a woman on a train, a crime that was overseen by one of Miss Marple’s friends who was on her way to visit Miss Marple. I had always heard about Agatha Christie and am cautious when I have heard so much build up about someone, but whatever I heard does not begin to say how good she is as an author. The 9th Judgment by James Patterson This is a detective novel based on the careers of four women friends (a prosecuting attorney, a journalist, a medical examiner and a detective. This book deals with two criminals whose careers intersect: a mass murderer who kills women and their small children and a jewel thief. The book is well done and keeps your interest even when you know who is at fault. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude