Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Los Angeles - New York

May 27, 2014 Peace and Good, I finished off the last of the provincial chapters in Los Angeles with the chapter for the Province of St. Joseph of Cupertino, California. I did a visitation of the friars and friaries of the province during the winter, and that was presented at the chapter this past week. We met at Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra, California (just outside of Los Angeles). There were 25 of us there, and the chapter went from Monday evening to Friday morning. I had to leave very early Friday to get to New York because I had another meeting on Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. (Fortunately, we finished Sunday evening and were off on Monday.) This meeting was for Franciscans International, an advocacy group for the Franciscans at the United Nations in Geneva and New York. I am on the board of trustees of this group. When I first joined the board, it was in a sad state, but things have improved greatly over the last couple of years (especially through the efforts of the president of the board, Doug Clory, a Secular Franciscan from Canada). One of the projects that Franciscans International is universal birth registration. It doesn't sound all that important, but when you consider that kidnapping people for slavery would be more difficult if people had an official record, the planning of health care and schooling would be easier if the governments knew how many people there were, etc. Another area of concern is access to good water which is a disasterous situation in a lot of the world. Furthermore, young girls often miss school because they must travel miles and miles to obtain water for their families, women are often raped at isolated sources of water, etc, then one understands the implications of access to water that go beyond the obvious need for a good supply. After our meeting yesterday, a sister on the board invited all of us on the board to an Italian meal. Their convent is very close to the Brooklyn Bridge, and we were able to walk around in Brooklyn Bridge park. It is a beautiful site, and the weather has been great the last couple of days. Today one of our friars showed me around the parish where I have been staying: Most Holy Trinity in Brooklyn. They have remodeled a number of spaces for their office space, religious education center and social outreach offices. They are doing tremendous work. This afternoon I will fly out to Rome. I have a few days off, and then a series of meetings running for two weeks in Rome and Assisi. I have finished some reading: Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam by Lawrence Freedman This book explores the foreign diplomacy and confusion concerning communist expansion during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. There was the problem with the Berlin Wall and all that this involved, the communist insurgency in Laos which threatened to overthrow the non-communist government, and the problem of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese intervention in South Vietnam during the presidency of Diem, a difficult man who made the problems all that much worse. The book is a bit heavy because it involves so much detail, but it is well done. Who Murdered Garson Talmadge by David Bishop This is a detective novel, not too heavy. The main character is a police officer who spent time in prison for shooting a released criminal. He is now a private investigator and the author of detective novels. His next door neighbor, a rich woman married to a former arms dealer, is accused of her husband’s murder. The detective must investigate this situation which puts his own life in danger due to the arms connection. Six Wives by David Starkey This is the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. It is extensively researched, and it tries to give a fair portrait of all of the wives and their actions. Henry VIII does come across all that well, but neither do some of the wives such as Anne Boylyn. The book is well written, but it is quite a long presentation on the topic. One can see the surges and counter-surges on the question of religion all throughout the period. Anathem by Neal Stephenson This is an epic that tells the story of a monastic community whose purpose is to reflect upon epistemological truths. Fra Erasmus is called out of the community to deal with a crisis when a spaceship from an alternate reality arrives in the atmosphere and threatens the planet. There is a long journey to join a meeting of experts from monastic communities all throughout the planet. There is even a space adventure in which he and his friends travel to the space craft either to destroy it or better, to force it into negotiation. The narrative is quite good, but it is a long, long story. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 19, 2014

Louisville - Los Angeles

May 19, 2014 Peace and Good, I am in Los Angeles now. I am travelling with fr. Jerzy, the Vicar General. He is officially in charge of the meetings we are attending, but I am the one who actually runs it. (His English is good for understanding what is said, but not for speaking spontaneously.). Our last provincial chapter begins this evening. It will run until Friday, but Friday morning I have to scoot out to New York for another meeting which begins on Saturday morning. The meetings have gone very well. There will be a second part to each of these meetings in July and August. Four meetings in a row has been quite a bit. I can't wait until I get back home to Rome where I will have a few days to decompress before the next series of meetings begins. I celebrated Mass out here at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. I always enjoy visiting this parish. They have an incredible contemporary music program to enliven the Masses. The weather has cooled off a bit. They say that last week it was very, very hot (which didn't help the fires to the south of here in San Diego County). I have finished some books: The Tent by Kealan Patrick Burke This is a short novel or a long story about people who are lost in the woods where an alien creature is able to mimic items with which they are familiar, such as tents or back packs. The alien intends to travel from its hiding place deep within a mountain to the city where it might reproduce and prey upon a whole new host environment. The story is well written. Although it is not overly frightening, it does provide a scary scenario. The Strange Case of the Mad Professor: A True Tale of Endangered Specied, Illegal Drugs and Attempted murder by Peter Kobel This is indeed a strange story about a professor of Anthropology who was a difficult sort of a person. Brilliant, he was nevertheless autocratic and a bit of a bully when he became the head of the department at the University where he taught. He was probably the number one expert in Lemur’s (a primate from Madagascar) in the world. When his wife died, his life took a tumble as he arranged with his lab students to manufacture LSD and other drugs. Arrested and sent to jail, he eventually was set free when he sent poisoned candies to a number of people. He died in prison from AIDS. The Shining by Stephen King Some 20 years ago, Stephen King wrote this book about a father, mother and son who reside in a large resort hotel during the winter as care takers and who are attacked by the murderous forces within the spirit of the hotel. The term “shining” refers to the ability of the boy Danny to read people’s minds and to see some things in the future. King has now written a sequel to the book. I had seen two films on the original book, but I had never read it. Lately, Kindle had both the original and its sequel on sale, so I thought it would be a good time to buy and read both. Usually I read a few pages for a large number of books each day, but I absolutely devoured this one. King has a great writing style and way of description that draws in the reader. I can’t wait to read the sequel now. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion: 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild This is an account of World War I, but from a very different point of view. It investigates the instances of opposition to the war, especially within Great Britain. This was often the case of socialists who saw the war as a plot to make themselves richer. They could not understand why socialists of every country did not just lay down their arms and refuse to kill their fellow workers. There were others who opposed the war or who refused to fight at conscientious objectors for religious or philosophical reasons. The book also gives an account of the horrible, horrible slaughter during the battles of the war, and the uncaring indifference of Generals French and Haight who commanded the British forces. It is well worth reading. I hope you have a good week, especially the holiday weekend. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chicago - Buffalo

May 10, 2014 Peace and Good, Sorry that there has been no posting up to Saturday of this week, but these past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I have been leading two of the provincial chapters, the first in Chicago and the second in Buffalo. A provincial chapter takes place every four years, and it is a gathering of the friars to review the past four years and to make plans for the next four years. The provincial, the head of the province, is elected either at the chapter or just before it. The chapter in Buffalo was a bit unusual because two of the Eastern Provinces, Immaculate Conception Province and St. Anthony Province, joined together to form a new province, the Province of Our Lady of the Angels. There are just under 200 friars in this new province. 171 of them were present for the meeting this week in Buffalo. It was a good gathering, filled with joy and fraternity. This morning I head out to the next chapter, this one held just outside of Louisville. This one will have delegates so that means that the group gathering will be smaller than the groups gathering these past two weeks. I finished a few books in the weeks before the chapters: Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst This must be the fifth or sixth book by Alan Furst that I have read or listened to, and I have never been disappointed. He writes about the period just before the beginning of World War II or at the very beginning. This book is about a Hungarian who is working in Paris who does favors for a number of people who are caught up in difficulties in Eastern Europe. Hitler has just taken over Austria, and is getting ready to take over Czechoslovakia and Poland. You can never quite tell who is spying for whom (hence the name of the book, for everyone is working in the shadows). Furst has a way of evoking the spirit of the times and developing the personalities of his characters. It is a good, good book. 1,000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke This is a comical treatment of the relationship between Great Britain and France from the time of William the Conquerer (who was not French but rather Norman, a type of Viking) to the present (when the Eurostar which passes through the Chunnel, the tunnel under the English Channel, use to end up at Waterloo Station, a train station named after a great French defeat. Clarke shows how many of the things in which the French most pride themselves actually come from other countries, often England (even the famous guillotine). I enjoyed this book because of the British sense of humor which flows through every fact and detail. Guns: Book One in the John Hardin Series by Phil Bowie This is a novel of a man who is witness protection and whose cover is blown when his face appears in the local newspaper because of a rescue that he has performed. Killers come to take their revenge, and they accidentally kill the man’s girlfriend. The rest of the book is how he takes his own revenge upon the killers and those who hired them. The book is not all that bad, but not all that deep either. Lumen Fidei: The Light of Faith by Pope Francis This is the encyclical that was begun by Pope Benedict and finished by Pope Francis. It is clearly the work of Pope Benedict. It is scholarly, well documented both with religious citations and citations from larger literary circles. It speaks of different dimension of faith and how they are important to our lives today. I have heard people say that they could distinguish retouchings made by Pope Francis, but I could not find those myself. It is a solid presentation, but I am looking forward to Pope Francis’ further writings to see his own style in action. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude