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