Sunday, December 20, 2015


December 21, 2015 The First Day of Winter Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all this past week at our General Definitory meeting. This time we have a whole series of reports about the canonical visits of the definitors to provinces that are preparing for their chapters. I gave my report on Kenya which I visited in October and November. It was very upbeat for things are going quite well there. We will continue to meet today and tomorrow (and possibly Wednesday if we don't finish things by then) for eight other reports from various jurisdictions. Then we will discuss whether we need to take any particular action upon the situation in those jurisdictions. The weather this past week has been quite cold, although not especially rainy. We continue to see heightened security everywhere we go. I was told that the major basilicas (St. Mary Major, the Lateran and St. Paul's outside the Walls) have all established metal detectors at their main entrances. I will be heading out of Rome on Christmas Day, first of all heading to London where I will overnight and then on to Ellicott City on Boxing Day. I have to fly this way because it is a frequent flyer ticket and you have to take what they give you. I have been listening to a Great Courses lecture on folk tales. The lecturer gives insight on how to determine whether a story was passed down orally or whether it was written down at a very early stage. This is very helpful for my scripture studies, for many of the stories in the Old and New Testament were probably oral for quite some time because someone actually copied them down. It gives me something to think about. I have finished the following: The Affair of the Corridor Express by Victor Whitechurch A young boy is summoned from his boarding school to meet his father in London. Along the way, he is accompanied by a teacher, but still mysteriously disappears on the train. Even though the train is fully searched and it had not stopped along the way, the boy is not found. A detective must sort out the clues to find out how the boy was taken and where he is being held. Now We Are Fine by David Sedaris This is a story both about a family vacation at the beach (extended family) and the death of one of their siblings by suicide. The suicide victim had always been a troubled soul. She had divorced herself from much of her family, and so her passing left more questions than answers. There is a bitter sweet edge to the story. The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong This is an overview of the production of the Bible and its influence in the centuries since it was first produced. Overall the information given is good, but oddly the author spends a lot of time on the Kabbalah and its various interpretations, more than one would expect in a treatment that is supposed to cover over 3,000 years of material. Likewise, the treatment of Jewish interpretation seems to be much better documented than that of Christian interpretation. The book is worth reading, but it has its weaknesses. Final Analysis by Catherine Crier A psychologist is murdered in the guest house of his residence. His wife, with whom he is on the worst of relations, is the prime suspect. The three sons of the marriage testify at the trail, two against their mother and one in her favor. It turns out that the psychologist all but raped his wife when she came to him for counseling when she was a young woman. She appears to have a borderline personality. This family is the poster child case for dysfunctionality. The wife is tried for the murder and found guilty. Dream Acres by Steven Rinella This is a great short story of a shack that five men buy in Alaska. It is on a beautiful bay, but it really is not much more than a large shack with a large yard filled with tons of junk that had been dumped there for decades. Yet, there was something about the wilderness that surrounded it and the ability to fish in the bay and catch large fish that then became supper that made it all worthwhile. Have a good week and Merry Christmas! Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 13, 2015

St. Paul's Bay, Malta - Rome

December 14, 2015 Peace and Good, I spent this past week in Malta staying in one of our friaries on the north part of the island. It is in a place called St. Paul's Bay, and according to tradition, it is the place where St. Paul was shipwrecked while he was on his way to Rome. This past week was intended for a bit a rest, and I wrote a bit, took very long walks, read a lot, and just laid low. Friday I flew back to Rome and this morning, Monday, we begin our meetings again. We will meet all this week and up to and including Tuesday of next week. Our December meeting are always scheduled so that we can receive reports from the various secretaries of the offices which help us run the Order. When I got to Malta, one of the first things that I noticed was that they had passport checks. In the past, when you arrived from another European Community, there were no checks. Now they are checking everyone, coming and going. It is obvious that between the refugee situation and what happened in Paris last month, they are tightening up on security. Then, when I got to Rome, I was shocked at the number of troops on the trains, buses, etc. With the Holy Years just getting off to a start, there is an incredible amount of security. We all feel that something is going to happen in Rome sooner or later. I finished some books: Excuse Us While We Kiss the Sky by Matthew Power This is the story of a new urban movement which seeks to explore areas of the city environment which are normally cut off from the public. They go into sewers to explore them, climb towers and other high buildings, etc. It is an attempt to go beyond what cultured society allows and to feel the freedom of their bold reach. They are often arrested by the police who view that they do as a disruption of polite society, but this tends not to stop them. One part of me sees what they do as foolish and even dangerous for themselves and others, but the other part wants to aplaude them for their freedom of vision and verve. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon This book is part comedy, part detective novel. What is the Jewish people had lost the Israeli war of independence and the US had set up a refuge for Jews in Sitka, Alaska. This novel takes place in the last days of the refuge before the land is reabsorbed by the US. A detective is trying to find out who killed a man in his own hotel and who caused the plane crash of his sister. He finds that the two stories are interconnected. They have to do with a much larger plot that involves radical Jewish groups and the US government. The book is funny, but probably drags on a bit longer than it really had to. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo by Michela Wrong This is an account of the corruption of the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko who was the dictator in Congo (Zaire) for many, many years. The depths of the corruption are mind boggling. Experts talk of billions of dollars, much of it aid money, being wasted. Two major industries, mining for precious minerals and for diamonds, were wrecked by this. Nothing could be done without paying bribes, even bringing ones produce into the city for the farmers were continuously stopped by soldiers at road blocks who demanded their bribe. This is a good book to understand how some of the worst dictatorships can devolve into a kleptocracy. A Promissory Note by Rodrigues Ottolengui A coyboy finds a small baby lying in the grass of the pastures and brings it home to be raised. He falls in love with that child become woman and marries her. A man then allures her away and leaves him an IOU for one wife. He follows them and finds out where they are living. When she dies, he decides to collect on the IOU by promising to take the man’s life within a month. The rest of the story is about the man’s attempt to escape his pronounced fate. Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle This is the story of three sisters who were cousins to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I of England during the Tudor era. The first, Jane, was executed by Mary because she was the hope of a Protestant rebellion during the days when Mary was trying to restore the kingdom to Catholicism. The second, who was in line for the throne, was imprisoned and died in custody because she married without permission of Elizabeth which was required for anyone who could inherit the throne. The third was a wise but physically malformed young woman who was also arrested for the same reason but survived the three. It is a good story, and well demonstrates the terror of much of the Tudor reign. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rome - St. Paul's Bay

December 7, 2016 Peace and Good, The early part of last week we began our definitory. This one is a bit unusual, for we went three days and then took a break. Most of the definitory went down to Peru for the beatification of two of our friars. I asked the General for permission to skip this trip. I have been travelling a lot this year and I feel a bit worn down. I am spending this week at one of our friaries in Malta. The friars have been very hospitable, and I have plenty of time to pray, sleep, eat and walk. I will be flying back to Rome on this Friday to pick up with the definitory again this coming week. I finished some books: The Rembrant Affair by Daniel Silva A Rembrandt painting is stolen in a violent robbery from a restorer who is working for Gabriel Allon’s friend Julian Isherwood. Allon, a retired member of the Mossad, Israel’s spy network, follows up the leads. It brings him to a Nazi war crime when the painting was first stolen, plus a descendant of the original thief who is now running a highly questionable industrial trust which was built upon the proceeds of plundered Jewish goods taken during the war. As always, Silva’s books are well plotted and written. Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca by GM Ford This is a humorous account of a down and out detective who uses street people to investigate his assignments. There are two crimes being followed: a plot to bury toxic waste on a Native American reservation and the murder of a young Native American. The detective got this assignment from a crime lord who wants the detective to find and protect his granddaughter who is a wild one and who has taken up with a radical environmental terrorist group. The name of the book which takes place in Seattle comes from the Juan de Fuca Islands which are in the Puget Sound and how one of his street people calls them Wanda Fuca instead of Juan de Fuca. The Pearls of Isis by Rodrigues Ottolengui This is another continuation of the stories about precious gems that I had read in these past days. This one involves a very precious set of pearls which the detective’s friend has bought, just as he bought the precious opal that had been stolen and its twin. In this case, the pearls are from Latin America and each pearl represents the ransom paid by a perspective bridegroom so that his very beautiful bride would not become a temple priestess. The pearls were extorted from their owner by blackmail, and then stolen by the owners girlfriend. Like the other stories, it is just a bit hokey. Eiffel’s Tower by Jill Jonnes This is the story of the construction of the Eiffel’s Tower in Paris for the International Exhibition of 1889 by the engineer Alexander Gustav Eiffel. He was already a famous engineer for the many iron bridges he had constructed throughout France. He proposed this 1000 foot tower to be a hallmark of the exhibition. It was a very controversial project, much opposed by many as an eyesore. Yet, it was truly the crowning point of the many building constructed for the exhibition. The author covers the difficulties of constructing it, the importance it acquired, and the reasons why it was never torn down. She also deals with many of the cultural occurrences in those days, especially the painters Van Gogh, Gaugin, Whistler, etc. She also speaks extensively of the tremendous success of the Buffalo Bill Western Show which took place at the same time. Birthplace of the American Vacation by Tony Perrottet In the 19th century, William Murray wrote a guidebook to travelling in the Adirondack area of northern New York State. He presented it as a way of escaping from the poisonous atmosphere of the big city. The book turned out to be a best seller. People flocked to the mountains (often ill prepared) in order to live in nature for just a bit. This is where the word vacation came from – they vacated their normal homes to spend a holiday (the British way of saying vacation which went out of vogue at this time) in the wilds. This short presentation speaks of the Adirondack area then and now in very glowing terms. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Geneva, Switzerland - Gdansk, Poland - Rome, Italy

November 29, 2015 Peace and Good, I began the week in Switzerland finishing up the meeting with Franciscans International, an NGO which lobbies at the United Nations. We had to register as officers of the local association (sort of like a corporation board) at the canton government office. They were very nice, but there was also a lot of official things to go through. Tuesday I flew up to Gdansk, Poland, to visit with one of the Polish provincials. Gdansk was previously known as Danzig, and it was part of the Hanse League (a group of trading cities in the Renaissance period). It is a beautiful small city. They have completely rebuilt the center city which is a large piazza with interesting buildings. One of the days the friars took me to see two sites. One of them was the place where the German invasion of Poland began with a bombardment of coastal defenses outside of Danzig. It was a very moving site. The other is a site that the city government has given us to set up a peace and reconciliation center to find peace between the German and Polish people. On this property was the summer building of Gautleiter Foster, the head of the German government in northern Poland during the war. I happened to mention that my family would eat Keishka and Charnina (duck's blood soup). The next day, guess what was on the menu. The Poles show an incredible hospitality. Friday I flew back to Rome and tomorrow we begin one of our definitory meetings. I finished some books: Love in the Time of Coca by Stephanie Pearson This short story is about a trip to Columbia, an area which was formerly a drug lord’s center, to stay at a spa resort and go mountain biking through the rough landscape around Medillin. It speaks of how even the drug lords in that territory want to protect tourists, and how everything on the main route is safe (although it counseled against taking some of the off routes). The descriptions are quite good, although I would still avoid the areas where the author travelled. Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy This is the second biography that Goldsworthy produced which I have listened to in these months. The first one was about Augustus Caesar, and this one about Julius Caesar. This is a very thorough treatment, very fair and based upon the best scholarly research. The author does not present Julius Caesar as a tyrant nor as a great unmitigated hero. The civil war that followed the crossing of the Rubicon is presented as an attempt for Caesar to protect his reputation. Caesar is shown to be much more merciful than many of the generals of his era. He is also shown as a great organizer, one of the best leaders of Rome for over a century. His greatest sin to the members of the Senate who killed him is that he shut them out of power. I highly recommend these two works for anyone interested in this period. The Duplicate Harlequin by Rodrigues Ottolengui In a previous story, Ottolengui speaks of how a rich collector comes to possess a very valuable opal. In this story we find out that it is one of two identical opals that served as the eyes of a pagan god. A thief wishes to obtain them so that he might barter them for control over the opal mine from the priests who control the shrine from which the opals were stolen. Ottolengui is not the best of authors, but it is worth reading nevertheless. The Valhalla Exchange by Jack Higgins Higgins is one of my favorite spy authors. This story deals with the end of World War II and the attempt by some Nazi leaders to flee and continue the battle. This is centered on Martin Bormann, one of Hitler’s close assistants. It involves a complicated plot to trade his safety for some very important allied prisoners. The plot gets foiled by a small number of American soldiers who arrive at the castle where the VIP’s are being held. They and the Germans in the castle must battle against a contingent of SS troops. Although the characters are great and talented, they are most of all believable. This Must be Paris by Michael Paterniti This is a quite enjoyable travel short story. A man finds a small town in the plateau of Spain. There he discovers the manufacturer of a special cheese which he had encountered in the deli where he had worked. The place, which is normal enough, becomes magical to him. It reminds him of the beach his family went to when he was young. It is a place where one forgets schedules and unwinds. One listens to long stories of many things that are not all that important, but which help one enter into another reality. This is one of the best travel stories I have ever read. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rome - Geneva

November 23, 2015 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I began this week in Rome, resting up a bit from my trip to Kenya and also visiting with some of the Kenyan friars who are studying in Rome for their masters and doctorate degrees. When I get back this Friday I have still a few more friars to visit, and then I will be able to write my report. On Monday evening I was invited back to the Bishops' TV network for another interview. This one was part of a program called Pope Francis' diary. It is a half hour program. There were three topics that we covered: the massacre in Paris, one dimension of Pope Francis' teaching at my choice (and I chose his emphasis on mercy) and then what I had seen in Kenya where Pope Francis is visiting this coming week. On Thursday I flew up to Geneva for a meeting from Friday until this morning, Monday, of Franciscans International. This is a NGO of the Franciscans throughout the world which lobbies for human rights at the United Nations. The staff here in Geneva and that in New York is doing a fine job. It is thankless work because you rarely see a big victory in one's lobbying, but one makes contacts and plants seeds of thought and slowly it has an effect. One example is how they lobbied to have the right to drinkable water to be seen as a human right. That is essential lest companies control the distribution of water and monopolize water in a particular country (which would weigh very heavy on the poor). This morning we had to register some of us at the cantonal office of the canton of Geneva as part of the registering of the organization as a legal entity in Switzerland. The country is very, very well run, but also very heavy on requirements (which especially makes sense given the number of terrorist funding agencies that have arisen). Tomorrow I fly out to Gdansk for a meeting with one of the provincials there. Then Friday I head back to Rome. I have finished some books: Fade to Black by Steven Bannister A light arises out of an ancient mound near the city of Glastonbury. This light represents the arrival of an evil force that is set on murder. A young police detective who is a descendant of an ancient family which has fought this evil force in each generation must team up with the archangel Michael to combat both this force and its human accomplices. The Aztec Opal by Rodrigues Ottolengui This is the story of a very expensive opal which disappears during a dinner held on a boat trip. The boat strikes a sand bar and the lights go out. When they are turned back on, the opal around the neck of one of the women is gone. The detective must figure out who has stolen it from among the guests around the table. Scavenger by David Marrell Unfortunately, I have picked up a couple of not so good books in the past couple of weeks, and this is certainly one of them. The premise is that a very rich person kidnaps a number of people so that he might use them in a real video game in which the object is to find a time capsule hidden in 1900 by an insane preacher. People are killed in this game. The problem with the book is that the characterization is weak, the premise improbable and the reader (I listened to this one) not all that good. Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis This is an account of the opposition to the Kennedy administration in Dallas from the time of his election as president to his assassination. The author does not propose that the far right killed Kennedy. He seems to think that it was Lee Harvey Oswald. However, he does speak of the atmosphere of violence that was established in Dallas in those years by people like the billionaire Hunt and General Walker. These men fought for the continuation of segregation, the exit of the US from the UN, and other favorite positions of the John Birch Society. They orchestrated violence against LBJ and his wife and against Adlai Stevenson. This book gives a good outlook of what was going on when Kennedy visited the city where he was killed. Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Black Sea and the Caucasus by Michael Totten This is a travel story of a newspaper correspondent who travels through areas of the world where Western culture is mixed or collides with eastern. He travels to Kurdistan in Iraq, Georgia during the Russian invasion, Serbia, Kosovo (which turns out to be more Western than not even though the majority of its population is Muslim), Montenegro (where the Muslim population is being proselytized by missionaries from Saudi Arabia), Romania and Ukraine. He encounters adventures and near disasters. He recognizes his foolishness at times (e.g. travelling in Ukraine without knowing either Russian or Ukrainian). He finds very friendly people (especially in Kosovo) and people who would cut his throat if they had a chance (e.g. some Serbs). It is well written and an easy read. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nairobi - Rome

November 17, 2015 Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the Patron Saint of the Secular Franciscans Peace and Good, I completed the canonical visitation to Kenya. The friars there are doing very well. They show a spirit of enthusiasm that is encouraging. I just have to contact a number of friars now who are living outside of Kenya to finish off my report. I flew back to Rome on Friday night. I was at the airport and in flight when the terrible events at Paris unfolded. I did not know anything about it until one of the friars picked me up at the airport early Saturday morning and told me. It seemed as if security was a bit more stringent than usual, but nothing that one could really say was extraordinary. I have to admit that I have decided to be careful here in Rome and try not to go to many public events for the next couple of months. Rome is a target city, as if New York and Washington. We have so many migrants passing through that anyone could sneak in anything. I was on TV again last night. It is a regular show called "The diary of Pope Francis" on a network run by the Italian bishops. The staff is very kind, and I enjoy the experience. I have been catching up on a number of writing projects in these days. One of the friars who is the general editor of the Polish version of the Messenger of St. Anthony asked me to write a six article series for him. I have now finished five, and just one to go. I took Air Ethiopia on the way to and from Kenya. The flights were very good and the service was exemplary. The only problem is that the airport at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is chaotic. There is very little notice for gates and boarding. The security is hit and miss. I am going to ask my travel agent never to put me through Addis Ababa again. I have finished some books: A Singular Abduction by Rodrigues Ottolengui A young girl who appears to be in a fugue state is kidnapped and the kidnapper demans a certain ransom. A detective is able to figure out how to rescue the girl and find the kidnapper, all without losing the ransom of $20,000 which her distraught father has been forced to pay. Lives of the Trees by Diana Wells This is a curious book that goes through any number of species of trees and gives an explanation of where they occur, how they grow, how they were spread by various explorers, some verses in which they appear and other interesting facts. I wouldn’t exactly call it a scientific study, but more like a folklore version of various trees and their importance to us. Sullivan’s Justice by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg It is not often that I have read a book so badly written. The characters are quite unbelievable and do things which are strange. The coincidences are just too great. The entire premise of the book is unbelievable. I don’t know if this was Rosenberg’s first or last book, but I have intention of reading anything else that she wrote. The Montezuma Emerald by Rodrigues Ottolengui A butler comes to a detective to report that his master is missing. The detective follows up the account for it seems as if a very valuable emerald has also gone missing. A dead body shows up in the morgue, but that does not guarantee that everything is as it seems, especially when the man he assumes to be the assassin is followed by someone he thought to be a beggar. This story goes into the topic of trying to trick the detective, something that seems to be very popular in mystery stories of a certain era. Clear Eyes in Calcutta by Andrew McCarthy This short account speaks of the author’s trip to Calcutta and especially to the sacrifice of a goat in a Hindu ceremony. The author seems to be fascinated with the blood and the reaction of the crowd. He also visited Mother Theresa and was left with mixed feelings, especially from what seemed to be her self-promotion, something that many viewers have questioned. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Limuru - Sabukia - Ruiri - Nairobi (all in Kenya)

November 9, 2015 Peace and Good, I am finishing up my canonical visitation to Kenya. All has gone well all the way along the trip. The trips between the various friaries has not always been easy because the roads are so bad in certain portions of the country (usually in those zones which do not have a deputy in the ruling government). This past week I have been "up-country", in an area where there was really not internet coverage. Also, the last couple of days, the water went out in the friary where I was staying. I asked the friars what had happened, and they said that the pipes for the water run down to the village from up in the hills, and the elephants often either step on the pipes which run overground, or they want water and they smell the moisture in the pipes and actually pull them apart to get at the water. When he told me that, I realized that "I was not in Kansas anymore." Sabukia is the national shrine to Mary in Kenya, and the bishops of Kenya have entrusted it into our care. The friars are doing a great job. The shrine is being paid with funds collected in Kenya itself, but the friars often have to go out into the parish to preach appeals for funding there. The shrine church will hold 4,000. They recently had a Eucharistic Congress there, and there were between 20,000 and 30,000 people. People are coming all the time to the shrine. The friars have also put up a carpenter's shop and school (funded by the Polish government) and are building a retreat house. It has a great future. Ruiri is a poorer area. The friars oversee the parish, an infirmary (which is run by Felician sisters), a grammar school (also run by the Felicians), a retreat house, the postulancy and twenty out stations. There are not enough friars in this friary, Sabukia and one other friary, but there are going to be a couple of good sized ordination classes so that should be resolved. The custody has actually been most prudent in accepting new assignments so that they do not overtax the friars. I am very hopeful for this jurisdiction. There is a lot of hope and enthusiasm. The friars speak very well of each other. It was interesting that when I told them of my next destination in the visitation, they inevitably spoke of how good the friars where in that friary. That is a very good sign. This mission was founded by the Polish friars from Gdansk. They did a fine job. They did not have all that much money, so the Kenyans never became dependent on outside sources of money. They built institutions that are sustainable. They put locals in charge as soon as possible. I will head back to Rome on Friday evening for about a week My readings have been: Citadel: The Battle of Kursk by Robin Cross This is the account of the last great offensive by the Germans against the Soviet forces during the Second World War. It was an all in bet that Hitler made and lost. The Soviets had excellent intelligence and knew that the Germans were coming. They had prepared an incredible defense against the tanks of the Wermacht, and no matter how much the Germans pushed, they only pounded themselves against impenetrable barriers. After this battle, it was only a matter of time before the Germans would be defeated by the allies. Darius the Great by Jacob Abbott Over the years, I have read a whole series of books by Abbott about various important figures in history. I believe that they were written at the turn of the 20th century for young people to show them moral values. Abbott presents this figure, Darius, as a great emperor who was also an oriental despot. He was not of royal lineage, but inherited the throne almost by accident in a coup d’etat that unthroned a false successor to the throne. He is the Persian emperor whose army was defeated by the forces of Athens at Marathon. Abbott’s picture of this personage is not all that positive, even is occasionally he does state something more positive about him. Roadwork by Stephen King Over the years, Stephen King has published a number of works under the pseudonym Stephen Bachman. This character is supposed to be a New Hampshire farmer who presents a more negative picture of the world than King would (believe it or not). This book is about the decompensation of a man who is losing his work place and his family home to a road development. In the back of the story is the loss of his son to a brain tumor. This unhinges the man and he more or less drives out his wife and tries to first stop the road project through sabotage and then tries to defeat them in a spectacular way. Between Cross and Crescent: Jewish Civilization from Mohammed to Spinoza by David Ruderman This is a thorough outline of various movements and important figures in the Jewish world from around 600 AD until around 1700 AD. Like all of the Teaching Company Courses, this is well told and well documented. He covers the Jewish centers in Babylon, in Spain (during the period known as the convivenza), in Israel and Turkey, in Amsterdam and in Poland. He describes cultural changes and challenges, especially during the years of the Crusades and the rebellion in 1648 in Poland under the Cossacks. This course is well done. Hitler’s Rockets by Norman Longmate During World War II, the Germans invented two remote flying devices to bomb London. The first one, the VI rocket, was more of a drone bomb that flew relatively slow and was highly inaccurate. The second was a much more sophisticated rocket, the V2. It devastated London during the closing months of the war. Once it was above a certain height, it flew at such a tremendous velocity that it could not be shot down or even detected until one heard the familiar double blast that marked the crashing of the rocket into the ground. There were many casualties, and the rockets especially crushed the spirit of the citizens who could do little to protect themselves. The only thing that stopped the rockets was the conquest of the sites where it was manufactured and launched. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rome - Nairobi - Limuru

November 2, 2015 Peace and Good, I am now in Kenya for the canonical visitation of the friars here in preparation for their custodial chapter. There are around 38 friars in all, five communities. They are growing very nicely. They are in charge of the national Marian Shrine in Sabukia where I am headed this morning. The friars are very welcoming. I have enjoyed my visit so far. Mass yesterday went about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but as always in Africa, there is a spirit of energy and joy. The young men in formation are filled with energy and dreams, which is a very good sign. I have to remind them to go at a slow pace to make sure they don't make any big mistakes, but so far they are doing everything right. They are taking a new site in Mombassa near the coast to establish a retreat house, which will be the first in the diocese. The bishops have been begging for our presence, largely because of the good work the friars are doing in Sabukia. This custody was founded by the Polish friars from the Gdansk Province. They have done just about everything right. They did not build large structures that would be impossible for the local friars to continue. They did not shower them with money. They put locals in charge as soon as possible. I have to congratulate them for their good work. I will be in Kenya until the 13th of this month, and then on to Rome for a few days. I have finished some reading: 460 Days by Amanda Lindhout with Sara Borbett This is the story of a young man and a young woman who are kidnapped by Somali rebels. They are held hostage until their ransom is collected from their families. At one point, they concoct an escape, but they are captured even before they can get out of the town where they are being kept. When I read stories like this, I just have to ask myself why people would travel to lands where there are so many people kidnapped regularly. Is it for the thrill? Do they have a right to put their families to so much pain? The Rope of Fear by Thomas Hanshew This is a simple British story about a bank theft and the murder of one of the guards. A brilliant detective manages to put all the clues together and name to perpetrator and recover the money. It is typical of those stories that attempt to duplicate the mystique of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but it is more a wannabe than a success. The Collectors by David Baldacci Over the years, I have occasionally bought a book that I had already read or listened to years ago. This was the case of the collectors. Unlike most of the others, though, the second time through was just as enjoyable as the first time. A group of unusual misfits in Washington DC who call themselves the camel club solve mysteries such as the murder of the friend of one of them at the Library of Congress. What was first thought to be a simple heart attack turns out to be a murder perpetrated by a spy ring. There is a side story about the wife of the murdered man who turns out to be a con artist. The book is very, very good. Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba … and then lost it to the Revolution by Ronald English When prohibition ended, the mob in the United States was looking for another way to cash in on the vices of Americans. They came up with the idea of coopting the president of Cuba (Battista) and owning a series of casinos that would provide opportunities of gambling, sex and booze. Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky were the first to see the potential. They saw Cuba as a base of expanding to an international crime empire. The only fly in the ointment was the revolution led by Fidel Castro. In spite of the repressive techniques used by Battista, Castro, almost by accident, managed to take over and expel the mob from Cuba. Detroit an American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff This is the story of a newspaper journalist who travels back to his home town to work for one of the big Detroit papers. He finds a city in a terminal stage of degredation. He speaks about the corrrupt system in which those who lead the city always take huge cuts, even if it means that critical services are not offered. He speaks about arrogant politicians who would rather fight and argue than solve problems. He speaks about a a fire fighter department and police department which cannot receive even the simplest equipment that could have saved lives. He also speaks about the loss of jobs due to the implosion of the car industry and how the mistakes and leadership and unions caused this disaster. It is a sad story, but one that must be told as a warning to many big cities of what could happen to them. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rome - Bacau (Romania) - Rome

October 25, 2015 Peace and Good, Well, we finished our last visit to Romania in preparation for their provincial chapter. This was actually part two of one of the meetings we had a couple of weeks ago with the definitory and the guardians of the local communities. Like the others, this went quite well. I have been able to get caught up a bit on daily reflections and writing projects which is good because today I head out to Nairobi for a visitation. I don't know what the internet situation will be, so these blogs might be a bit irregular for the next few weeks. Don't worry - it is just that some of the places I visit will have good internet connection while others will almost definitely not. The Synod ends their meeting in Rome this morning. The overall reports in the newspapers seem positive. They are dealing with some very difficult questions, and we always have to remember that bishops in various parts of the world have very different priorities. I finished some books: Michaelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King Ross King is an incredible historian, especially in terms of Renaissance art. I have read a few of his books already, and this one about the painting of the Sistine Chapel in very, very good. His gives good insight to the political world and the various wars fought between the Papal States, Venice, Florence, Bologna as well as outside powers such as the French, the Holy Roman Empire and the Swiss. Michelangelo is not the nicest of people. This might have been due to some form of bipolar disease. Yet, he was an incredible genius. Never having painted in fresco, he managed to paint this masterpiece. It took him a long time (years) and it almost crushed him, but the end product was more than he could have ever hoped to produce. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie This is an inspector Poirot book. A murder takes place on a cruise boat on the upper Nile. Poirot and a detective friend investigate. The woman was very rich and very beautiful, and she had stolen her best friend’s fiancee (who follow the couple to torment them). There are people who hated the victim’s family for financial reasons. There are a number of characters who are involved in no good but who were not involved in the murder (which by the end becomes multiple murders). There are more twists and turns that one would ever expect, but these volumes are always fun to read. Syria and the Assad Family by Charles River Editors Charles River Editors are a group of authors who graduated from MIT who have produced a series of informational books about various topics. This one deals with the rise and rule of the Assad family in Syria. It is not up to date with the ISIS situation, but it does give a good background to how this family came to power even though they belong to a religious and ethnic minority. And the Show Went On by Alan Riding This is the account of what happened to the French art scene during the Nazi occupation. It covers writers, painters, musicians, singers, newspaper writers and editors, film directors and actors, etc. It deals both with the classical art scene and the popular. One hears of artists (in the large sense of the word) who risked their lives by getting involved in the resistance (either through their art or physically taking up arms). One hears of those who just kept going as if nothing unusual had happened, or perhaps did what they had to do to survive. Then there were others who were active collaborators. The book covers the scene before, during and after the occupation. Of special interest is what was done to Jewish artists who were banned from any artistic scene and many of whom were persecuted and killed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 19, 2015

Chicago - Rome

October 19, 2015 Peace and Good, I spent all of this past week in Chicago for a meeting with the provincials and custodes of the conference. The meeting itself lasted three days, and we accomplished quite a bit. I like the honesty of the provincials who try not to cover over problems that would be bound to surface later with unfavorable consequences if they had not been dealt with at the proper time. I also had a lot of short meetings with each of the provincials there. We cover a lot of business in these meetings that could not be dealt with by e mail or on the phone. One of the days we met with fr. Mauro Gambetti, the custos of Assisi. He is a fine man, and it turned out to be an excellent meeting. There is a strong feeling that he is trying to address some of the problems that are bound to occur in international communities like Assisi. He also has a very good working relationship with the other Franciscans in the area. I got to visit my favorite Vietnamese restaurant twice while I was there. They make a soup called Pho which I really like. Saturday evening I flew back to Rome, arriving around noon yesterday. No problems in the trip. It is raining quite heavily in Rome in these days. I finished some books: Missing: Page Thirteen by Anna Katherine Green This is a short story (or rather two short stories) about a man who loses a page of the secret formula that he desperately needs for he will be meeting investors with a few short hours. They call in a woman detective who manages to find it. It had gone under a door in the mansion that was never opened (being sealed with concrete) for some unknown reason. After the formula is found, the owner explains to the detective why he dreaded entering that space (although we never really hear why it was shut up in the first place). It is clever story filled with misdirection. Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin This is the journal of a trip to the Holy Land by James Martin, a famous Jesuit author, and his friend George. Martin speaks of the trip and the experience of the two pilgrims, but he also carefully examines the scripture passages that speak about the events that occurred at the various sites. His scripture work is very well done, and his insights into both scriptural revelation and human response to spiritual situations is very well done. I highly recommend this book. The Displaced Person by Flannery O’Connor This was the last of a series of short stories in a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s stories. This one is about a family of displaced Poles who end up on a farm run by a twice divorced, once widowed woman. She is always displeased with her white and black workers and complains about them unendingly. The Pole turns out to be better than her greatest dream, and yet she finds a way to be displeased with him and his family. He dies tragically, and her life and living fall apart. She had the chance to choose salvation, but preferred to live in his misery and complaining. A counter figure is an old Irish priest (many of the clergy in the rural south in years gone by were from Ireland) who sees beauty in the simplest things, especially in the beauty of a peacock’s feathers. He is the symbol of seeing the good and wonder in the world around us, something that the owners of the farm was incapable of doing. Hostage by Robert Crais The chief of police responds to a hostage situation. Three punks have invaded a home with a father and two children. He must try to save the hostages. In the meantime, it turns out that the father is the accountant of the mob and some important, incriminating records are on the grounds. The mob kidnaps the chief’s wife and daughter and threatens to kill them if the chief does not help them get the disks with the information back. This is an action filled book. One man’s Initiation – 1917 by John Dos Passos I have never read anything by Dos Passos before, so I was interested in this story. He is said to have described the war from the soldier’s point of view. This story deals with two men who are ambulance drivers, bringing the wounded from the battlefield to the care stations. They encounter so much during the fighting, so much that would wound them psychologically for the rest of their lives. He writes in short bursts of episodes which gradually build up to provide an overall impression. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bacau (Romania) - Roman (Romania) - Rome - Chicago

October 12, 2015 Peace and Good, This has been quite a full week with a series of meetings in Romania. The province there is preparing for their provincial chapter this coming February. They are a young province, refounded only 25 years ago after the fall of communism. There are a number of situations there that needed attention (as there always are with young jurisdictions). We formed a team from the general definitory to go there and meet with the friars to help them prepare for their chapter. We held three meetings there and one in Rome for members of their province who are stationed in Italy. We have one more meeting on Tuesday of next week. Saturday I flew out of Rome to go to Chicago. We have a meeting here starting tomorrow with the major superiors of our conference. That will conclude either Thursday evening or Friday morning. Then this Saturday I will fly out to return to Rome. It was good to be back in Romania this past week. I taught there for a number of years (going there a month at a time to offer scripture courses). In total I made 21 trips there. On Thursday morning (out flight out was in the afternoon) I was able to attend the funeral of the father of two of our friars whom I have knows for 23 years now. Yesterday I made my usual pilgrimage to the local Vietnamese restaurant. I like their soup which is called Pho. It is a mix of broth, noodles, some small slices of meat, and vegetables. It is very tasty. I finished some books: The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark This is a travel book which takes place in Brittany, France. The premise of the book is the oysters that are raised in Locmariaquer which are different from most of the other oysters raised all throughout the region. The author tells of the lives and foibles of the people who live there. She tells of the hard, frustrating work that the people must do to prepare the oyster beds. I enjoyed the book overall, but it fell into too much description at times. Joy comes in the Morning by Jonathan Rosen This book begin with an old Jewish man, a holocaust survivor, having written his memoirs in a book called Joy comes in the morning, preparing to kill himself. He has already suffered from a stroke, and he knows that more are coming and he is afraid of losing control. This event proves to be the catalyst by which his son Lev meets a young female rabbi. They slowly fall in love, each sharing both in his/her gifts and brokenness. It is a very nice story. It also deals with some very important questions about faith and doubt. Petrostate: Putin, Power and the New Russia by Marshall Goldman This is an outline of the history of how Putin gained such great political power in Russia, based on the economic power that he and his friends have accrued as they have quasi-nationalized the oil and gas industries of the country. Many of the deals to privalize these industries were based on fraud and violence and the companies were acquired by quasi-Mafia figures. Putin wanted the country to have more say in its energy industry, but in the process he created what could be described as a kleptocracy (a rule by thieves). His control of the gas and gas pipelines bringing most of the natural gas supplies to Western Europe give him enormous power to blackmail those countries whenever it pleases him. Au Train de Vie: That Voice you hear when Traveling by Peter LaSalle The title of this story is the name of a small café in Paris that the writer visits frequently when he is staying in that city finishing up a book that he was writing. It is a sort of nostalgic site which provides him with an anchor while he is staying in a foreign environment. It is a place that he wanders to over and over again, without even realizing he is heading in that direction. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovich This is the second volume in this series about a magician apprentice who is also a policeman in London in the magical division (which is composed of himself and his teacher). The apprentice is half English, half African, with all that this means. In this episode, he is searching for the murderer of a number of jazz players which is important to him for his father is a jazz player as well. The murderer turns out to be a group of jazz vampires, three women who accidentally kill others when they drain their life energy from the jazz players. There is also a sub-plot of an evil magician who is not stopped from what he is doing. There is a great amount of London humor mixed with African emigrant culture, all of which I can now identify with given my travels in these years. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rome - Assisi - Bacau - Roman (Romania)

October 4, 2015 The Feast of St. Francis Peace and Good, The week began with myself and the General Definitory meeting with representatives of ten different experimental communities from England, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Poland and Brazil. They are all trying to live our life as Franciscans with a bit more seriousness. We spoke with them for two days and it was an enlightening and encouraging experience. It is not that they are doing anything all that extraordinary, but rather they are simply trying to be more faithful to what we say we are. On Wednesday I traveled from Assisi to Bacau in Romania. I was there for a meeting on Thursday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Theological Faculty at Roman (Romania). I had been part of the faculty right from the beginning, and I represented all of the professors who came from foreign countries to help out the newly refounded province. It was good to see a lot of the friars whom I had taught over the years. Friday I visited one of the towns where I friars serve: Burinesti. In the old days, this town was known as the baby factory of Romania. Families had nine and ten children. Nowadays you see only older people and very young. The others are all in foreign countries trying to earn a living. Saturday there were two events. We had a memorial Mass for a friar who died 50 years ago. He had been placed in prison for a few years and suffered terribly. He was famous for his singing voice. He would sing out religious hymns in prison on Sundays and Holy Days. His voice was so beautiful that the guards would let him finish. But then was he had finished, they would beat him into unconsciousness for breaking the rules. He was 90 pounds when released from prison and died a few months later. Then, later in the evening, we went to a celebration called the Transitus. This commemorates the death of St. Francis on the evening of October 3rd. Today we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis with an ordination to the diaconate. I have finished some books: Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie This is the third or fourth book by Ruth Downie I have read in the Medicus series. They are about a Roman doctor and his native British wife in the 2nd century A.D. His true profession is being a doctor, but he is continuously called upon to do investigations. This one involves murder and coin counterfiting (a capital offense in Roman territories). It also deals with the policies of Rome which tend to be shaped for its own benefit, and the struggle of native Britains against other tribes and against Rome. The book is well written, and the relationship between the doctor and his wife Tulla is warm and humorous. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Locks by Rebecca Skloot One of the most difficult thing that early researchers sought to do was create a colony of human cells that would live in a petri dish. By accident, they found that some cancer cells taken from an African American named Henrietta Lacks refused to die. It became the cell culture that was used in almost all cell research for decades. Yet, her impoverished family knew nothing of it and never received any recompense from it. This book tells the story of how an author finds them and eventually enters into their trust. It asks some serious questions concerning the rights of a person over the cells of his/her own body when they are harvested in some operation or through other means. The Wisdom of the Torah by Dagobert D. Runes This is a collection of passages from the Old Testament. It is interesting what selections an editor will choose to make an anthology. This selection is quite interesting and gives one a lot to meditate upon. This was part of a collection of five sources of wisdom from the various holy books of religions throughout the world. The Biter Bit by Wilkie Collins This is the account of a young detective who is sent to investigate a robbery of 200 pounds sterling from a man who kept the money in a small box under his pillow while he slept. The man identifies his suspect and pursues him with unfailing energy. Even the fact that the man was preparing for a secret wedding does not forestall the man’s attention. It is only when he reports to his superior that his ideas are shown to be false. Rather than the identified suspect, it turns out that the culprit is the victim’s own wife who had stolen the money to pay a very large dress bill that she had hidden from her husband. A Late Encounter with the Enemy by Flannery O’Connor A 104 year old man is taken care of by his 60 some year old female relative. She has taught all her life, but before this time there was no requirement that she would have an advanced degree. Now she has been studying each summer for years and years. Finally, she is ready to receive her degree. She dresses up her grandfather in his Confederate general’s uniform (although he was never any higher than a Major, he was given the uniform when a film on the Civil War was showing in his town). Her dream was that he would live long enough to sit on stage when she graduated, a wish that is fulfilled (but in a very exact way, for he dies on stage). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 27, 2015


September 27, 2015 Peace and Good, This week I have been in Rome for the second week of our general definitory. We met from Monday to Thursday to finish up the business that we had begun this past week. As I have often said, we discuss many, many different realities during these meetings. We speak about countries as distant as Korea and the Philippines, Kazkachstan and Great Britain, Argentina and Canada. It takes a long time, but all of the definitors hear the story of these places and are thus able to help reach final decisions on many matters. This week of definitory became a bit busier because late last week I got a call from a friar who has made many appearances on the Bishops' TV network here in Italy. He asked if I could appear as a commentator during the Pope's visit to the States here in Rome. Wednesday and Thursday afternoon I participated in the commentary. What I feared would happen actually happened. Before I got off the set on Wednesday, I already three other invitations to do commentary (for that network, for the Italian state network, and for one of the big newspapers here in Rome, the Republica). These past couple of days I have had a chance to get caught up on writing and taping podcasts for the internet. I have to write an article for a book in the States in the next few weeks, so this gives me a bit of cushion for that. I finished some books: The Boy who Stole from the Dead by Orest Stelmach This is part of a series of stories about a Ukranian family which has roots to the area around Chernobyl. In this volume, a young man who was rescued from the Ukraine and brought to the US has become a star high school hockey player. He is arrested for killing another young man with a screwdriver. He refuses to tell his aunt (his guardian) what is going on. She must investigate the story both in the United States and the Ukraine to discover what is really happening, which given that this is occurring in the ex-Soviet Union, is never a simple or transparent story. A Dedicated Man, an Inspector Banks volume by Peter Robinson This is the first of the Inspector Banks novels that I have read. Banks is an inspector from the south of England who has ended up in Yorkshire in the north. Thus, he is a bit of an outsider. He is not a perfect character, yet he has powerful gifts of deduction. A man’s body is found, murdered with a blow to the back of the head. Banks finds that everybody rather liked the man. Eventually, there is another murder of a young girl who knew too much and wasn’t careful about the person to whom she revealed her knowledge. I fully intend to read other volumes of this series. This one was quite well written. Foundation: The History of England from its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd This is a very long account of the history of England from its pre-historic foundation until the days of the Tudors. It is very well researched and written. It provides a number of side topics to get a sense of the times. It gives an honest and clear portrayal both of what was happening and the main characters in the drama. I would recommend this volume. Hunting Season by Nevada Barr This is the story of a national park ranger who must investigate a murder of a “good old boy” whose body has been left in very compromising circumstances. She is working with a staff of three, one of whom hates her because he feels that she got her job because she is a woman and that he really deserves his job. There is an undercurrent of racism (this takes place in the deep south). It is a good story with a number of diversions along the way. Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga This is a series of stories that take place in a port city in Southern India called Kittu. The author speaks of those who are rich and poor. He tells stories of Hindu, Muslim and Christian. He speaks of the misery of those who are destitute, and those who consider themselves better than others because of caste distinctions. The premise is that these stories take place in a one week period. It is a very good potpourri of life in that city with its joys and sorrows, etc. The title comes from the period of time between the assassination of Indira Ghandi and her son, Rajiv Ghandi. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, September 18, 2015

Birkirkara (Malta) - Rome

September 19, 2015 Peace and Good, It is Saturday of our first week of our definitory meeting. I arrived back in Rome this past Friday, and from Monday morning on we have been meeting. We still have one more week of meetings before I head out on the road again. So the meeting is going quite well. It fascinates me that we could talk of such places as Germany, India, Paraguay, Ghana, etc all in one meeting. Every time one of us Assistants visits the friars in some country, we write a report of what we saw. That way all of the definitory knows what is going on most of the time. This really helps us in making important decisions. What is remarkable is that after talking and talking and talking, when it is time to vote, almost every decision is by a unanimous vote. Bishop John Stowe has been visiting the Curia these past few days. He is a friar from the Mid-West who was recently ordained the ordinary of the diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He is a fine man, and was here in Rome for the course offered by the Vatican for new bishops. By surprise, this week I will be on TV. The Italian Bishops have a TV station, and they are producing a report on the pope's visit to the States. I got a call to ask me to be one of the panelists for a couple of days during the visit. I have finished the following books: Fifty Shades of Greyhound by Harrison Scott Key This is the story of a man who decides to travel from one city to another on a Greyhound bus. It is a trip that leaves him wondering why he is doing this. It is incredibly uncomfortable, especially when one has to use the rest room on the bus. The only pauses are the rest stops along the way with few or no amenities. His friends keep asking him why he would ever think of taking a bus when it would not cost that much more to fly. City of Scoundrels: the 12 Days of Disaster that gave birth of Modern Chicago by Gary Krist This is the story of Chicago at the beginning of Prohibition. The city was governed by a mayor who was fairly corrupt, but who was also responsible for much of the beauty of the city that one can now see. He considered himself to be a cowboy and went on vacation out to the ranches out west. While he was gone, there was a transit strike, a zeppelin crashed, a race riot started and a young child was kidnapped and killed by a sex pervert. This transformed the politics of the city and state (and even had effects on the national level). It is quite an interesting story. Six Months in 1945: From World War to Cold War by Michael Dobbs This is an account of the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. Like a number of accounts that I have read in these past couple of years, one is struck by the fact that our being allied with the Soviet Union was very much based upon our battle with Nazi Germany. Once that battle was over, the competing governmental systems and economic systems led almost inevitability to the Cold War. (Actually, much more probable at this point was a real war, and it is all but a miracle that it did not happen almost right after the end of the Second World War.) The action runs basically from Yalta to Potsdam, and one can see Stalin’s plans for hegemony over Eastern Europe being set in place step by step. Christmas in Thessaloniki by Arnon Grunberg This is a series of interviews with people who have been affected by the economic meltdown in Greece in these recent years. There is no question that the Greek government and people abused the system, but now they are paying a price that could be very dangerous not only to them but also to Europe for in terrible situations like they are facing, extreme politics comes to the fore. The Black Hand by Arthur Reeve A young girl is kidnapped by members of the black hand, an organized crime group among the Italian immigrant community. A detective finds a way to trap the kidnappers and stop their crime spree among the helpless poor Italians living in New York. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rome - Birkirkara (Malta)

September 10, 2015 Peace and Good, After a week in Rome catching up with things, I came down to Malta this past Sunday along with the Assistant General for the Mediterranean world for the provincial chapter of the province of Malta. I had done the canonical visitation of the province during July, and I was here to present the report that I wrote at the chapter. The chapter has gone very well. There is a peaceful atmosphere, for the province is doing OK. A long term provincial has finished his term (over the years, he has been provincial off and on for a total of 21 years). The friars elected a new provincial yesterday, a very good man. I will be here until tomorrow, and then I head back to Rome. In between meetings, I have had time to address a couple of writing projects that I am doing for my publisher, Catholic Book. I met with the editorial staff this past month, and they asked me to translate a novena to Our Lady, the Untier of Knots (a German devotion that the Holy Father popularized in Argentina). I also have to edit the Lectors' Workbook for 2016-2017. Neither of these projects is all that long, but it is a question of finding the time when I am not totally jet-lagged. The weather here in Malta is hot and humid (which they say is true of every September). The weather in Rome broke just before I came down here. I have finished some books: A Circle in the Fire by Flannery O’Connor This is another one of Flannery O’Connor’s strange stories. A group of three young boys arrive at a farm run by a very efficient woman. They cause all sorts of difficulties, even setting the forest on fire. It is as if the boys and the people living on the farm come from two different worlds. D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton This is the fourth of the alphabetic detective stories by Sue Grafton. In this one, the victim is a not so nice person. It almost seemed as if the world were a better place without him. Furthermore, it was not even clear that this was a murder. The victim’s daughter, though, hires Kelsey to investigate his death. She discovers that it was, in fact, a murder and that a surprise murderer was involved. This series is very well written. Unnatural Causes by P.D. James This is the story of an inspector from London who goes on vacation to visit his aunt along the shore in northern England. Of course, there is a murder, and even though he is not the chief investigator, he is called upon to try to determine who has killed an author for the area and especially who cut off his hands and left his body floating in a boat just offshore. There are many twists and turns. None of the characters are all that praiseworthy, including the investigator. Yet, it is a good read. Augustus by Adrian Goldsworthy Goldsworthy is a great scholar of ancient Rome. This is a good presentation both of the life of Augustus and of his effect upon Rome which had gone through a series of rebellions over almost of century of civil wars. Goldsworthy gives a good sense of what was going on throughout the world at this point, of the intellectual and artistic life of Rome, etc. He also debunks some of the myths such as the role of Livia, his wife, in the death of a number of their relatives. This is a good book. Great Hurricane 1938 by Cherie Burns When I was a student at our seminary in Granby, MA, I took an ecology course. We had one field trip when we went into a forest and saw how most of it was relatively new growth. Only one section in a hallow in the forest was old growth. Our professor described how all the trees of the forest except for those in the hallow had been toppled during the Great Hurricane of 1938. This was the first time I ever heard of it. This book describes a horrible hurricane which hit in 1938 on Long Island and the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island without any warning (for the weather service was still quite primitive in its tracking of storms). Hundreds were lost and immeasurable property was destroyed. This is a good account of the terror and heroism that occurred during this tragedy. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 31, 2015

Accra - Rome - London - Newark - Brooklyn - Ellicott City - Brooklyn - Newark - Rome

August 31, 2015 I finished my journey to Accra on a peaceful note. I visited the mission church of our parish there and preached for the Mass which was quite enjoyable. The flight out of Accra and into London and then the flight from there to Rome were uneventful. As soon as I landed, I washed two weeks of Africa out of my dirty clothes. Wherever I stayed was quite comfortable, but there was always dust and sweat and bugs. I wanted to freshen all of the clothes that I had carried over there as soon as I could. I flew out from Rome to Newark that Wednesday. This trip was a bit more eventful. The flight out of Rome was postponed because of thunder storms that morning. When we finally got out, there was a loud noise on the right side of the plane. An hour into the flight, the pilot informed us that we might have sucked some birds into the engine and that it would not be prudent to fly over the ocean without a check up. We landed in London (where United has a maintenance site) and the engineer informed us that birds had gone through the engine. They put all of us up at a hotel near the airport and rebooked us for the continuance of the journey. Some did not get out til Friday, although most of us flew out on Thursday. I tried to help some of the Italians on board who did not speak English with their rebookings. I landed in Newark and the next day one of the friars drove me to our parish in Brooklyn. I can't believe how much the tolls for tunnels and bridges cost in the New York area. I was in Brooklyn to go through some 20 boxes of archives and sort them out. The office of Franciscans International, the lobbying group for Franciscans at the UN and on whose Board of Directors I am a member, had closed its office in New York and I had to decide which materials to ship over to the main office in Geneva. After a lot of work, I ended up with 2/3's of one box of things to keep. They had slips that dated to 1988 for a donation of $10. They had never sorted through any of it when the office closes - they only boxed up the materials. During the week, I drove down to Baltimore to visit an oral surgeon to have a tooth extracted. The process went well, but a week after I still feel the pain in my jaw. It always takes me a long time to heal from dental work, so it is not problem. While in Brooklyn, I visited a mission that our friars have toward the Hipsters of New York (a type of modern beatnik). Br. Nick who is the director of the mission did a great job of fixing up the previously closed church building and creating an invited atmosphere to welcome this community. I arrived back in Rome yesterday and will be here for the week. This coming Sunday I head back down to Malta for the provincial chapter at which I must give my report on my visitation. These are some of the things I have finished reading: The Men who United the States by Simon Winchester Simon Winchester has written a number of memorable books, including A Crack at the End of the World about the San Francisco Earthquake and Krakatoa about the volcano which exploded with incredible force in Indonesia. This book is an overview of a number of men who made the United States what it is today. He did not center the story on politicians as much as explorers and inventors and innovators. The stories are well told, and the overall effect of a collage of individuals who built this nation. Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal This is an account of the Mossad’s (Israeli Secret Service) most ingenious successes and even failures. This includes the arrest of Adolph Eichmann, the raid at Entebbe in Uganda to liberate hostages, the project to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel, etc. There are also a number of stories about assassinations conducted against terrorist targets and also against scientists who were working on weapons of mass destruction in Sudan and Iran. Some of the stories left me very unsettled, as if Israel decided that it was the arbiter of morality and could do anything that it saw fit to protect itself. The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe This is the story of an important, incriminating letter which is stolen by someone visiting an famous grand dame. A detective searches every nook and cranny of the thief’s house (for his identity is well known). He finds nothing. Another man then accepts the challenge and finds it in the most unlikely of places, right in the open. The story is good, but like a number of 19th century American works that I have read, the dialog goes on and on. Dambusters: A Landmark Oral History by Max Arthur This is the story of the plan to bomb three major German dams in the Ruhr Valley. It is a series of first hand eye witness accounts and it is an interesting way to present history. A new bomb had to be invented in order allow the bombers to destroy the very powerful structure that was these dams. These dams were essential as a water source for the people in that area and also for the hydropower produced there. The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva This is another of the stories of Gabriel Alon, an agent of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. In this one he fights an Islamist group from Egypt which has kidnapped the daughter of the US ambassador to Great Britain, a millionaire friend of the president. Typically, there are twists and turns which are well written. Silva has a tendency to bring the action to a point of crisis and then has the hero miraculously survive. He also has a tendency to end the main line of the plot, tell some personal details of the life of Gabriel and his wife Chiara, and then end a secondary plot. Yet, in spite of this predictability, there are always surprises. These volumes contain a considerable amount of violence (due to the terrorism and the counter-terrorism). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Accra - Saltpond - Takoradi - Accra - Rome

August 18, 2015 I am a bit late this week because the last few days in Ghana were not good for wifi connections. They have daily blackouts because of a shortage in power generation facilities, and this can wreck havoc on routers. This past week I was with the friars. I preached at two different churches in Accra, St. Francis and St. Clare. The first is a parish and the second is an outstation (but within the city limits). Both masses were great. My heart really is in Africa in the way that they celebrate their liturgies. If it weren't for the heat of equatorial Africa, I would volunteer in a minute. During the week, I stayed at novitiate at Saltpond to give some talks to the incoming class of novices. That went very well. Then on Saturday they asked me to preach at the solemn profession of friars in Takoradi. This is a city on the far west of the country along the coast. This is where we have a printing press which is very successful. Saltpond in in the center on the country on the coast. It is named after the saltponds along the coast which were used for salt production. Accra is in the far eastern part of the country along the coast. I very much enjoyed my time in Ghana. The weather was not bad at all because it is rainy season right now. Yet, I could feel the wear and tear physically after three weeks in the country. It was good to get back to Rome yesterday. Today I am catching up on various things, and tomorrow I head to New York City for a project for Franciscans International. This is what I have been reading: Killing Patton by Bill O’Reilly This is the story of the last year of life of General Patton and his strange death at the end of the war. There is the possibility that he died because of a plot inaugurated by either the KGB or the OSS (the predecesor of the CIA) or both. O’Reilly’s analysis is at times very good, but at times it is calously foolish. One good example of the latter is O’Reilly’s attack on the fact that the Americans at the end of the war did not continue on and try to conquer Berlin before the Soviets reached it. First of all, the Soviets were already there. Second, over one half of a million Soviet troops were killed in conquering it. Would O”Reilly have had that many Americans die to conquer a city that the leaders of the big three powers had already decided would be in the section of Germany controlled by the Soviets? Overall, this is a good book. The War at Sea: Volume 1 The Defensive by S.W. Roskill This first volume is a good analysis of how Great Britain responded to the threat of the Nazi attack at the beginning of the war. This includes questions of how to slow down the Nazi juggernaut, how to combat submarine depredations against merchant shipping, how to mine the waters around Nazi ports and defeat the mines in their own waters, etc. Of particular note is the war in the Mediterranean and what happened against the French and Italian navies, what happened in the siege of Malta, and what happened to the navy during the invasion of Greece. The Year that Changed the World: 1989 by Michael Meyer This is the story of the call of the communist world in Eastern Europe in 1989. The auhor was a correspondent for Newsweek magazine and he was stationed in this part of the world almost by accident in 1989. He travelled from crisis site to crisis site, documenting the almost accidental fall of the communist world. The fall began with an economic crisis in Hungary and the decision to place the government into the hands of a reformer (in order to have someone to blame when the inevitable fall would come). He and his friends consciously conspired with the West German government to bring down communism. The book is well written and quite exciting. He also gives an insightful analysis of the reaction of the Western world to the fall and how it led to our present difficulties. The Blackmailer of Park Lane by E.F. Benson This is the story of a rich man who is bored with life. The bring an little excitement into his dull existence, he decides to blackmail a man who is about to become a peer of the empire with a vague accusation. The man who is blackmailed responds by paying up, but then blackmails in turn his blackmailer for he catches him spending some of the gold coins which had been the money that he had used to pay the blackmail. Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb This is the true story of how operatives of the state of Israel first discovered and then kidnapped and carried to Jerusalem Adolph Eichmann, one of the main architects of the final solution to kill all of the Jews under the rule of Nazi Germany. He is brought to Germany and put under trial, condemned to death, and executed (the only person that has ever been legally executed by the Israeli government). The Mossad, which was in charge of this operation, was a relatively new organization and this was at the other end of the world in a country with a large German minority, many of whom were sypathetic to the Nazi movement. One of the things that strike one is that even after everything this man did was brought out into the open, he continued to deny responsibility, saying he was just following orders. Good Country People by Flannery O’Connor This story is another of the Flannery O’Connor short stories. It tells of a woman and her daughter who had lost a leg in a hunting accident. The daughter is named Joy, but changes her name to the most ugly name she can find, Hulga, to get back at her mother. They meet an innocent Bible salesman who describes himself as good country folk. He and the daughter, who is a confirmed atheist, take a long walk by themselves. The daughter, with her dispeptic personality, turns out to be a better person than the faker Bible salesman. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bolgatanga - Congo - Bolgatanga - Navrongo - Accra

August 9, 2015 Peace and Good, I have now finished the second retreat for the priests of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese in the north of Ghana. It was a good experience. Coming from Rome and the States, I found I had to be constantly listening carefully to see if I could understand the culture of the priests up here. I want to share an experience that happened at the end of last week. I didn't want to write it until I had left the region so that you would not worry about my safety. A week ago I was a witness to an attack of killer bees. The bees had become agitated because someone had sprayed his car to kill mosquitoes. The smell attracted the bees and they attacked everyone who was in the area. A poor man was on crutches and he could not run away. He was stung into unconsciousness. Some people from the kitchen were able to scare the bees away with fire and smoke, but the man had to be taken to the hospital and he was unconscious for quite a while. The priests and bishop of the diocese where I preached was great. I always find that hospitality is even greater in areas where the people are poor, and the north is quite poor. There had been a lack of rain, but these past two weeks there has been a great amount of rain which should really help the crops. I am now down in Accra, the capital, with the friars. I am not yet sure of what the week holds, but I will be with the friars for the next week and head back to Rome this coming Sunday. I finished the following: Churchill and America by Martin Gilbert Gilbert is a famous British historian and this book speaks of the relationship between Winston Churchill and the U.S. This was an especially close relationship from the start for Churchill’s mother was American, something which he spoke about until the day of his death. He was also especially close to Franklin D. Roosevelt, sometimes sending each other cables more than once a day. He came to the States several times to visit or for lecture tours, and then during the War met with Roosevelt quite frequently (especially considering that the means of travel were not as developed as they are today). He was eventually named a citizen of the US by the Congress (while remaining a British citizen), an honor for which he was very grateful. Cannato, Vincent American Passage: The History of Ellis Island This is the very long and very well written history of Ellis Island as a center for the incoming immigrants from Europe from the 1890’s until the 1950’s. The book tells the stories of the immigrants and also of the people who ran the center and those who were their supervisors in Washington. It covers the ups and downs of immigration policy, including the nativist arguments which favored closing off immigration to those who wanted an almost open policy of immigration. Cannato doesn’t look for villains, and he explains why one or another of the characters took this or that position on immigration. This is both a story of incredible generosity by this country and of occasional tragedy when an immigrant was ordered deported after he or she has sold everything and pulled up roots head over here. I strongly recommend this volume. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz I believe that this is the sixth volume in this series that I have read. It is one of the few series in which I am never disappointed. Odd is a young fry cook who has been given the gift of communicating with spirits who linger here on earth because they are not ready to pass on. In previous volumes, much of what he did was help them to leave this existence for their future life. Yet, each one also involved some sort of battle with evil. The second dimension is emphasized in this volume which is the next to the last of this series. He must battle for the lives of 17 young children who have been kidnapped by a Satanist cult. He is helped by and elderly and wise and supernaturally in the older woman. As always the book leaves one wanting for more. Revolutionaries: A New History by Jack Rokove This is a very good account of the people who participated in the American Revolution from its first tenuous moments until the ratification of the Constitution and the beginning of political parties in the country (in the rancorous debate between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson). The characters involved do not always come out looking all that good. We see their strength and their weaknesses. We see how they interacted with each other to produce a movement that went far beyond the individual strengths of any of them. The Dawn’s Early Light by Walter Lord Walter Lord has made a cottage industry of writing short, readable history books. This one is about the War of 1812, and especially the burning of Washington and the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore. The title obviously comes from the Star Spangled Banner which was written during the siege of that city by Francis Scott Key. Lord has the ability to give a great amount of detail without overwhelming one with needless facts. It is a good read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bolgatanga - Congo - Bolgatanga (all in Northern Ghana)

August 2, 2015 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I finished preaching my first week of retreats to the priests of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese in northern Ghana. The bishop of the diocese and about 15 of his priests were on retreat this week. The topic was the Gospel of John and how we are all called to become the Beloved Disciple (who is a major character in this Gospel). I enjoy preaching to priests for we can apply many of the insights both to ourselves and our ministry. I was very impressed by the goodness and the challenges of the priests. We began Monday morning and finished at lunch on Friday. The weather here has been much more pleasant than the last time I was up here in northern Ghana. I remember it being near 100 each day when I preached a retreat in the seminary not far from here (St. Victor's at Tamale). It is now rainy season and the temperature, while a bit hot and humid, is really not all that bad. They badly need rain for the crops, and we have had a couple of good rains this week which is very, very good. The people in many of the villages do not really have all that much, and some could face very difficult times if the crop were to fail. I will be preaching another week of retreats to the priests of this diocese at the retreat house in Congo (not the country, it is a village not all that far from Bolgatanga). The retreat house is run by three Capuchin Franciscan friars from India, and it was good to share some time with Franciscan brothers. Yesterday we visited the original cathedral and now a Minor Basilica in Navrongo. (The seat of the diocese was moved from there to Bolgatanga some time ago). This is an internationally recognized landmark for the church is built with mud brick. I had seen it in 2008 the last time I was here, and it is quite an impressive structure. I finished some books: America the Marvelous by A.A. Gill This is a funny essay which defends America from efite Europeans who look down their nose at anything American. The author argues that most of what is in America came originally from Europe, but it was free to develop in its own way. He rightly notes that while Europeans put down America, they buy American clothes, electronics, etc. At the end he speaks of how only 35% of Americans even have a passport and this supposedly something bad. His answer is that it is incredible that so many have a passport when there is so much to see and do in America itself, and besides, the European youth who all get passports are only getting them so they can travel to New York themselves. The author is quite witty. The Countss of Lowndes Square by E.F. Benson The countess has an alter ego, she is a blackmailer. This is the way that she survived for her husband and father both left her pennyless. She carefully chooses only those who can afford to pay her requests, and she only asks what she knows that they can afford. But the day comes when she, herself, if blackmailed. She must discover who is doing this to her and respond appropriately. Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney by James F. Simon This book describes the debate and the sometimes nasty relationship between Abraham Lincoln before and after he became president and Chief Justice Taney, the author of the Dred Scott case in which he declared not only that slavery was legal, but also that black people could never aspire to citizenship in this country. Taney’s decision gave rise to the political movement which gave Lincoln the presidency. Once he was president and he fought to preserve the union, Taney threw roadblocks in his way. Some of what he decided as chief justice was to uphold the rule of law, but some of it was obviously because he had Southern sympathies. The author treats the strengths and weaknesses of both of these famous characters, not ignoring who each succeeded and failed in what he was attempting to do. The book continues to carry weight because it deals with the question of how far a president can go during war The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin This is the story of a woman who prays for anyone who asks her, and her prayers seem to be answered with miracles. She is unusual in that she weighs somewhere between 600 and 700 pounds and is homebound. Her sister who is part time librarian for their small town in the Pochinoes takes care of her. Their town is filled with small town figures with all the blessings and curses of everyone knowing everyone. The story is not all positive, for a mysterious figure comes to town and a horrible thing occurs. This raises small town prejudices and angers that threaten to destroy the idealic situation. Furthermore, there is a secret from the past that poisons the prayerful spirit of Agnes. This is a good book. The Hitler Book by Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl This is an account of the Hitler years written by agents of the KGB specifically for Stalin so that he might better understand his arch-enemy. The material comes from the eye-witness accounts of German officers who had been captured by the Soviets (and tortured). It is interesting because it mirrors the Soviet account of the war in which the Germans were never really afraid of and possibly were accomplices of the Anglo-American alliance. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rome - Chicago - Bolgatanga (Ghana)

July 27, 2015 Peace and Good, I headed over to Chicago last Sunday for an assembly of formators from all over the States. We have agreed to consolidate our formation programs, and this was a meeting to put together a directory for the programs. There were 25 participants, and the meeting went much, much better than I had expected. The first day, every single friar around the table participated in the discussions. There was a feeling of wanting to do what is best for the friars in formation. The meeting went all day on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the off times, I finished my report for the visitation of the Maltese province. I find it is always best to do these things as quickly as possible or they do not get done. On Thursday I flew out from Chicago to Rome and then from Rome to Accra, Ghana. I am here to give three retreats over the next few weeks. The first two will be in the far north of the country, in a diocese called Navrongo-Bolgatanga. Then the last one will be down south, probably in a town called Saltpond. I was invited here because I had given a retreat in a regional seminary a few years back, and one of the teachers there had become the bishop of this diocese - a very fine man named Fr. Alfred Agyenta. I arrived in Accra around 8 PM and slept at the regional bishops' house in the capital. The next morning I left the house at 4:30 to go to the airport for a one and a half hour flight up north. Then there was a two hour drive to the diocese. I arrived 15 minutes before the beginning of an ordination. This was a truly African liturgy, lasting around four and one-half hours, with more singing and dancing than I had ever seen. The strange thing is that time flew in the liturgy. Everyone (probably over 1,000 people) was so engaged that time flew. Today I am getting ready for the retreat which begin this evening. I finished some books: The Swan Thief by Elizabeth Kostova This book is by the author of the Historian, a book about vampires. I did not know what to expect when I began reading this particular work. It is about an artist who is arrested as he tries to deface a painting in a museum. He is non-communicative, so he is commited to an asylum. There he is cared for by a doctor who is also an artist. The doctor slowly uncovers the story of the man as well as a second layer of the story about the object of the man’s obsession. It is very well written. I did not know the end until the end, which is quite an accomplishment for an author. The Gardener of Baghdad by Ahman Ardafan A man who runs a book shop in Bagdad during the difficulties decides he must sell and move out. While he is cleaning up, he discovers a manuscript that speaks about a love story between an Iraqi man who owns a garden shop and the daughter of a British general. This most unlikely match comes to fruition, but only with much pain and sacrifice. The style of description of the author is wonderful. One feels that one has entered this other reality. I highly recommend this particular volume. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia This is a very long and detailed study of the various eras and civilizations that existed in the Mediterranean basin from pre-historic times to the present. Abulafia is a good author who gives a good picture of what happened and why. He does not get lost in detail as some historians do. Life During Wartime by Janine di Giovanni This is part of a travel collection. This particular story is about a journalist who spends time in Sarejevo during the Bosnian war and the horrors of what she saw, as well as a trip that she and her fellow correspondents made a few years later for a type of reunion. As she describes the fate of her fellow correspondents, one realizes the cost of doing this type of reporting. The Nameless Man by Rodrigues Ottolengui A man walks into a detective’s office and tells him that he has lost his memory. The detective promises to discover who he is within 48 hours. There are a few instant clues, and as the story unravels, he picks up more information that allows him to complete his task. The story is not all that well laid out, jumping to conclusions without describing how they are reached while the action is going on. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 20, 2015

Valletta (Malta) - Birkirkara - Rome - Chicago

July 20, 2015 Peace and Good, I have finished off my visitation to the Maltese Province. It was quite a good experience for me, meeting many of the friars again after four years (for I had done their previous visitation). We had a meeting in Birkirkara with all the friars who could attend from the entire province and I was able to share many of my observation concerning what I saw in these weeks. I have written the first draft of the report and am giving myself a couple of days before I correct it one more time and then send it to the Maltese provincial for his input before we publish it to the province. On Saturday I flew back to Rome where it was very, very hot. I arrived at Santi Apostoli, my home, around 4 PM and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and repacking for on Sunday morning early I was off to the airport for a flight to Chicago. I will be here until Thursday attending a meeting of the friars involved in formation throughout the country, and then I am off to Ghana in West Africa for a few weeks giving retreats. (This country was not involved in the Ebola outbreak, although it is not that far from the involved countries. The advantage of Ghana is it is one of the best run countries in all of Africa.) I have finished some books: The Amateur by Richard Harding Davis This is a short story about a newspaper reported who pictures himself a bit of a detective. He meets a young woman on a boat over to London who is searching for her run away husband. The man finds out that the husband is fleeing some charges which will shortly run out due to the statute of limitation. The mystery, though, is who is the young woman. The Artificial Nigger by Flannery O’Connor The title of this story is troubling, but one has to remember that it was written decades ago. It is the story of a young man and his grandfather who travel by train from the countryside to the city of Atlanta. They become lost there and the grandfather plays a cruel joke on the boy. The boy runs away and knocks over a woman who is a bit hurt. The grandfather denies that he even knows his grandson. The rest of the story is one of repentance and mercy. It is quite good. Argo by Tony Mendez This is the story of how the CIA developed a plan to rescue six Americans from Iran after the residents of the US embassy were captured by the Revolutionary Guard. They were hidden by Canadians in their residences. Mendez, an expert in helping people exfiltrate from dangerous locations, goes into Iran and they all pretend that they are part of a filming agency examining possible filming locations. The story is very good and true besides. The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the birth of America by Steven Johnson This is a biography of Joseph Priestly, the scientist who discovered oxygen. He lived in the 18th century, and was born in England but died in Pennsylvania. He was a friend of Benjamin Franklin as well as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He trained as a non-conformist minister and was one of the founders of the Unitarian Church. His religious and political views got him in serious trouble in England and he and his family had to flee to the States after a serious riot broke out in Birmingham, England where he was living. He was incredibly insightful, but at times not especially prudent in what he said and printed. The Dark Side of the Island by Jack Higgins I have now read a number of Higgins’ books, and they are all well written and exciting. This is about a former British intelligence agent who returns to a Greek island where he organized an attack on a Nazi facility. He does not know that he is blamed for a betrayal of the people of the island to the Nazi’s and they horrible punishment thereafter. Some of the people try to kill him, and he must find out who really betrayed the mission and the people to the German authorities. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rabat - Bummarad - Birkikawra - Qawra - St. Paul's Bay - Vittoria - Valletta

July 13, 2015 Peace and Good, This has been a busy week with the visitation to the friaries in Malta. The first friary outside of Valletta, the capital, was Rabat. This is our oldest friary on the island. It is right next door to the city of M'dina, which is an Arab name (for Malta was under the Arabs for a century and a half, and their language is a form of 9th century Arabic). Rabat also has some remains from the original Phoenician inhabitants. (Phoenicia was the country in what we today call Lebanon. They were the founders of Carthage, the enemy of Rome.) The next friary was Bummarad. This is a very small parish, 1,100 families. It is in a farming region, so the second Mass of the day which I attended was at 6:15 AM. I didn't even ask when the first Mass was. This is one of three parishes on the north coast of the island. The third friary was Birkikawra. This is both a shrine church and the location of a printing apostolate run by the friars calls CAK. This apostolate is doing great work in bringing products out in Maltese which obviously has a very limited audience since there are only 400,000 Maltese on the island (although there are many, many more settled throughout the world). They had the Pope's latest encyclical translated and printed only four days after it was issued. Then I went to Qawra. This is a big parish near the sea. It has a very diverse population, probably the most diverse of any community on the island. There are many immigrants from Arab countries and Africa. There are many people who are unchurched and who are sometimes rejected by traditional parishes. The pastoral team is doing a great job reaching out to them. The pastor has an incredible mind. He is always thinking of new things. His friary was the first one of the friars to be powered by solar panels. He is now thinking of mag-lev power generation. He is 69 years old, but has the energy of a 30 year old. St. Paul's Bay is a coast side parish. Their grammar school has representatives of 31 nations. It too has an outreach to the poor. Finally, I visited Vittoria (also called Rabat) on the island of Gozo. This is an island much smaller than Malta with a population of 23,000. It is much more traditional than the "mainland." There is a beautiful shrine there with a group of mostly older friars (who are still very active). Yesterday, Sunday, I came back to Valletta to do some reports and a talk at a gathering of the friars tomorrow. Then on Saturday I head to Rome and Sunday on to the States (Chicago). I finished the following: The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America by Richard Grimes This is a book about the Treaty of Paris of 1763 which ended the French and Indian War and its consequences. Canada and all of New France with the exception of Louisiana were given to the English, who then forbid colonists to settle in territory over the Appalachian (one of the causes of the Revolution of 1775). The native American were not consulted and they were asked to change allegiance to the English whom they tended not to trust. Spain took over Louisiana territory until around 1801 when Napoleon took it back. The book goes into depth concerning the unintended consequences of this peace treaty which changed so much on the North American continent. Amigos by Julia Cooke This is a strange travel story about a woman who befriends a prostitute who works the tourist trade in Cuba. This woman becomes pregnant and is trying to figure out how to survive. It gives a good sense of the despair of some of the people in Cuba at their poverty and helplessness. Stalina by Emily Rubin This is the story of a woman who is named after Stalin by her parents who are Russian Jews as a way of protecting her from persecution. Her father dies after being arrested, and her mother carries on. Stalina eventually leaves Russia, leaving her mother in an institution where she can be cared for in her dementia. Stalina finds a job in a motel where rooms rent by the hour. The rest of the book deals with her experiences there and with other Russian emigres. The book is quite funny, but also gives an insight into the Russian spirit in the years of persecution and those that followed. Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb This is the first of Robb’s books that I have read. This one, at least, is about a female detective named Eve who is married to a multi-millionaire Irishman named Rourke. She investigates the murder of a priest during Mass and discovers that there are many secrets behind his life and death. Although Eve is not Catholic, the book treats Catholic themes somewhat favorably. One of two heroes of the story ends up being a priest. The book is set in the mid 21st century, which is an odd choice because the author does not really deal with this other than positing some ultra modern gadgets. Also, especially at the beginning of the book, some of the details around the Mass and the Church are all messed up. You only wish that the editor had sought the opinion of someone who knew what he/she was talking about. Otherwise, the book is clever and entertaining. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude