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