Sunday, May 31, 2015

London - Canterbury - London - Rome

June 1, 2015 Peace and Good, I spent most of last week in England. When I arrived on Sunday, I arranged to meet with two Maltese friars who are working there and living at our friary at Waterloo. This was in preparation for their provincial chapter which will take place in September of this year. The friars are recently arrived. Malta is a small island, and they cannot afford to have many of the specialized medicines available on the island itself. Thus, the government sends those who need special care to London. There are about 60 per month, and almost all of the Maltese are Catholics. Therefore, the government also pays for two Catholic chaplains to address the spiritual need of these people while they are in treatment in London. The OFM friars (who wear the brown habit) were the chaplains until last year. As of the new year, we were asked to take over this responsibility. The two friars who are doing this are young and energetic. It is great to see them so involved in this good work. I also took a trip to Canterbury to visit our Franciscan International Study Centre there. I taught there for a number of terms before I was transferred to Rome. fr. Tom Reist from my province has been the president of the study centre for the past few years. When he took over, it was dying quickly. He has managed to direct a turn around and it is now quite healthy. It offers three certificate programs: spiritual direction, Franciscan Studies and Franciscan Formation. I am hopeful that it now will have a chance. On Friday I flew back to Rome. I am here for a few days and then will scoot over to Romania for an anniversary celebration of their province. I taught in their theology institute when it was first opened after Communism ended there, and so I know almost all the friars in the province. Then this coming Sunday it is back to the States for my annual 50,000 check up with doctors and the dentist. I finished some books: The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming There were five young men who studied at Cambridge during the 30’s who acquired important positions in the British government during and after the war who turned out to be Soviet spies. This book proposes that there was actually a sixth who was a British double agent. Furthermore, this leads an academic investigator to a secret that neither the British Secret Service nor the Russian Secret Service want revealed – that the present Russian prime minister had tried to defect to the West during the Cold War. People get killed to keep this secret and the investigator is in serious danger (as is his family). It is a good book. The Silent Man by Alex Berenson John Wells, a CIA agent, must work to uncover a mystery which includes an attempted assassination against him and his girl friend, and the theft of two atomic warheads in Russia. It turns out that this is an Islamic plot to bring the war to US territory. There is a lot of action, and the characters are well plotted out. The ending is a bit abrupt, but other than that, it is a good read. Navajo Autumn by R. Allen Chappell This story takes place on the Navaho reservation. Thomas Begay is arrested when he is found dead drunk under a bridge and the body of a Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator is found nearby. Charles Yazzi, Thomas’ friend, helps him out and investigates the whole affair, eventually coming to the conclusion that there is much more going on than originally suspected. The book is well written and gives one a good sense of some of the aspects of Navaho culture. The Vatican Pimpernel by Brian Fleming This is the story of Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish monsiegnor who works at the Vatican during World War II. Being Irish, he does not want to take sides. Then he witnesses the rounding up of the Jews by the Nazi’s, and from then on he aids whoever is running away (allied soldiers and airmen, Jews, foreign labor patrols, etc.). At the end of the war he even treats Nazi war criminals with human respect. He comes across as incredibly heroic, almost foolhardy. He was credited with saving thousands of people during the war. A Stroke of Good Fortune by Flannery O’Connor The setting of this short story in incredibly simple. A woman is climbing a staircase in her apartment building. She is winded and ends up resting on the landing. A busybody opens her door and speaks with her. The woman on the staircase thinks that she is having difficulty because of an undiagnosed heart condition, but the busybody suggests that maybe she is just pregnant. She doesn’t want to be pregnant for she has lost other pregnancies and a child, but this is her grace moment: to accept what God has sent her way. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Montreal - London

May 26, 2015 Peace and Good, In finished off my two weeks in Montreal and flew out to London on Saturday evening. The second session of the chapter went well and we actually finished it early. It gave me a couple of days to do some projects and get caught up on things that were on the back burner. Here in London I had a couple of meetings with two friars from Malta yesterday. This is part of the visitation to their province that I will be conducting in Malta in July. I am heading out to Canterbury for a couple of days where I will have some more meetings with one of the friars stationed there. We have a school of theology there which has been having some rough times lately. Fr. Tom Reist (originally from Buffalo) has been working to help the school make a come back. I am going there to see how things are going. I have finished some books: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving This is a saga of an author whose widowed father is a cook for a lumber camp in the woods of New England. He accidentally murders the wife of the local sheriff who is cheating with his father. They have to run away and hide their identities to protect them from the sheriff who is a very violent man. He has a wife who has no sense of integrity or fidelity, even to their son. His son dies in a horrible accident, and that all but kills the father and grandfather. The story is well written, but very long and winding. Stopping Napoleon: War and Intrigue in the Mediterranean by Tom Pocock Usually when one speaks of Napoleon, one deals with the great land battles of central Europe and even of his invasion of Russia which ended in disaster. This book deals with what could easily be considered to be a minor theater of the war, the Mediterranean. Yet, by keeping up the pressure in this area, the British and their allies were able to drain forces from Napoleon’s armies and navies that might have reinforces his efforts elsewhere. Come the Dark Stranger by Jack Higgins A stranger comes into town a number of years after the Korean War. He is looking for a number of his comrades, one of whom betrayed them all to the Communists. Higgins always presents a good adventure story, and this is one of them. He eventually tracks down the culprit, but it is certainly not the person whom he suspected. The Holy Land: Oxford Archaeological Guide by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor and Barry Cunliffe This is a very thorough archaeological study of all of the major and many of the minor archaeological sites in the Holy Land. It is not for the casual tourist, although the account does present information about rest rooms and other accommodations at various sites. I read a book like this every couple of years just to keep up on what I studied many years ago at the Biblicum but also to learn facts and tidbits here and there that make the whole story more understandable. The Obedient Assasin by John Davidson Leon Trotsky was assassinated at his home in Mexico City by Ramon Mercader, a Spanish born Communist, under orders from Stalin. This is the story of Ramon’s call from Spain by his Communist mother to go first to France and eventually to Mexico to kill Trotsky whom Stalin hated. Ramon is pictured as a hen pecked mommy’s boy who kills Trotsky even when he recognizes that he has no more power and that he certainly wasn’t behind many of the difficulties that the left experienced during the Spanish Civil War. This is a fictionalized account of what happened. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, May 17, 2015


May 17, 2015 Peace and Good, It is so good to be able to write just one city in the title of this blog. I have been here in Montreal for the past week for the custodial chapter of the friars up here. So far it has gone quite well. A custody is a type of baby province, and the provincial, fr. Jan from Gdansk in Poland, is the one who is actually running the chapter. I get to sit back and listen to the translations (for most of the business is in Polish) and make a comment every once in a while. This time here has helped me to catch up on daily reflections. My next chore will be to write a few articles for the Messenger magazine from Padua. Then I will be pretty much caught up. I have finished some books: Halloween Party by Agatha Christie A young girl is murdered at a Halloween party, drowned in the apple dunk basin. The story follows the investigation by Hercule Poirot as he tries to discover who could possibly have sneaked into the house where the party was being held and killed the girl. He also has to try to discover the why of the murder, although there is a major clue right from the start: that the girl bragged in front of a mystery author at the party that she, too, had seen a murder. A Temple of the Holy Spirit by Flannery O’Connor This is the story of a young girl whose two slightly older cousins visit their home from religious boarding school. The young girl thinks of herself as a genious and of the cousins as nitwits, and she cannot stand the fact that they get to go on a date with two boys to the carnival. Typical of Flannery O’Connor’s stories, there is a moment when she has to decide to be a better person or not, and she seems to fail in her commitment. Young J. Edgar Hoover and the Red Scare by Kenneth Ackerman Following World War I and the Communist revolution, there was an outbreak of violence in the States instigated by anarchists and communist radicals. This book outlines how J. Edgar Hoover worked to stop these dangers, but in a way that trashed the value of the constitution (illegal arrests and detainments, cruel imprisonment conditions, deportation without due process). His boss, the Attorney General was blamed for most of went on and J. Edgar Hoover got away with it, being named the head of the newly founded FBI shortly afterward. When one studies his career, though, and how he kept secret files and conducted illegal searches and wiretapings, one can see how the pattern began early. The Last Cato by Matilda Asensi Even since the DeVinci Code, there have been a series of conspiratorial books involving the Vatican. This one is about a society that dates to the Middle Ages which has sworn to defend the true cross from all dangers. They have made their task into a religion in itself. Supposedly, they set up a secret perfect society in the middle of a mountain in Ethiopia. The action concerns a nun who works in the secret archives of the Vatican, a ruthless Vatican Swiss Guard and an Egyptian Coptic scholar who go through a series of rigorous tests so that they might infiltrate the secret society and find out why they are stealing relics of the cross from all over the world. The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic by Robert O’Connell This is the story of how Hannibal invaded Italy during the Second Punic War. He won almost all of the battles, and nevertheless lost the war. One of his victories became synonymous with tremendous crushing victory: Cannae. Yet, the Romans dogedly held on. Those soldiers who survived Cannae were treated as if they were ghosts, sent to Sicily and not even allowed to live in town. Yet, they were the core of the force that eventually defeated the Catheginians definitively. This book is well reasoned and well written. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rome - Chicago - Lexington - Rockford - Algonquin - Montreal

May 10, 2015 Peace and Good, I finished off my first week of definitory on May 2. The next day I flew out to Chicago, arriving the evening of Sunday. Monday I and a couple of other friars drove to Lexington, Kentucky, for the episcopal ordination of fr. John Stowe, one of the friars of Our Lady of Consolation Province, who was being ordained as a bishop for the diocese of Lexington. John is the third bishop of this relatively new diocese. The ceremony was incredibly well planned and beautiful. Wednesday we headed back to Chicago (a six and a half hour drive). Thursday and Friday I visited two friaries in the Rockford diocese that are run by the friars from Poland, the Cracow diocese. They are a good group of friars. They run three different parishes, one Polish, one Mexican and one American. Saturday I flew up to Montreal for the custodial chapter that will be held here the next couple of weeks. The friars here are of Polish origin, and they serve Polish immigrants here in Canada and in three parishes in the United States. I will be here until the 23rd. This is an easy week for me for the chapter is run in Polish and I only have to listen to the translation as much as I can. I finished a few books this week: Indignation by Philip Roth This is the story of a young Jewish man who is the son of a Kosher butcher. He, himself, is a non-believer. When the son goes off the college, the father becomes unreasonable protective, driving the son to seek a college in Ohio. There a series of unfortunate incidents lead him to be thrown out of college, and he is drafted into the Korean War where he is killed, fulfilling the worst fears of the father and leading to his own death. St. Francis of Assisi by Wyatt North North write short biographies of various saintly people and then tells about their importance for our modern days. This is that type of presentation. It is not especially deep, but it is good to reread the story every once in a while to remind oneself of what is really important. Third Degree by Greg Iles A doctor finds out his wife is cheating on her husband and he holds first her and then their children hostage. In the meantime, the doctor has been doing illegal things for profit with his partner. The authorities are getting ready to raid their clinic. The police show up and try to end the hostage situation which is complicated when they find out that the doctor is actually suffering from an inoperable tumor. A lot of action and good characterization, but some unlikely situation nevertheless. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes This is a long and frustrating account of the battle that marines faced during the Vietnam War. They were often used for political purposes and to foster the promotion of their superiors. They were told to do one thing one day, and then the opposite the next. They built up fortifications only to have to leave them to the enemy, and then have to retake them later on. Matterhorn, is in fact, a mountain fortress that was controlling the infiltration of the North Vietnamese into that part of the highlands of Vietnam, and it is the center of the story. Eenie Meenie by Willow Rose This is another of those horror stories written by a Danish author. She tells of a prison for young male offenders. Someone, and one doesn’t come to know who until the end of the story, is angry because the offenders get off so easily. He takes it into his mind to make sure that they are punished severely for their crimes, castrating one, blinding another, etc. This author doesn’t hesitate to use gruesome scenes to make the point. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mesilla Park (New Mexico) - Rome

May 1, 2015 The Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker Peace and Good, I have been back in Rome this week for one of our General Definitory meetings. We have met from Monday til yesterday. The other definitors will be back in session next week, but I am taking off this coming Sunday to head to Chicago for the episcopal ordination of one of our friars, John Stowe, who has been named the bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. The trip back to Rome from El Paso (the nearest airport to Mesilla Park) was eventful. The first flight had some mechanical difficulties and we had to deplane. After about an hour, we took off and actually made up a bit of the time because of a strong tail wind. Nevertheless, when we got to Chicago, we had to sit on the tarmac for a good amount of time because our gate was not ready. Fortunately, I had a good amount of time between flights. The next flight from Chicago to Rome was even worse. We had a delay of three hours because of a number of mechanical difficulties. We did finally take off and the flight was fine. This was my third delay (or in one case cancellation) due to mechanical difficulties in ten days. This week, one of our older friars in our house, fr. Luigi Costantini, passed away. He has worked for the General level of the Order for fifty years. He was the recording secretary at every General Chapter since the 1970's. He was 91 years old, and was in fairly good health until a couple of weeks ago. We will miss his presence here. I finished some books and stories this week: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind by Ellen Brown and John Wiley This is not the book Gone with the Wind, but rather the book that explains who Gone with the Wind was written and sold. Margaret Mitchell wrote the book in sections over the years. She never felt it was ready for people to see, but a friend mentioned it to someone who then requested permission to see whether their publishing house would be interested. She put it together as much as she could and sent it off. The publishing house was very interested, and she worked like the devil to make it ready in time for publishing. She and her husband were shocked at its success, and the rest of her life she fought a double battle: to preserve her privacy, and to fight for what she considered her just rights against her publisher, the movie people, foreign publishers, etc. She died when hit by a car while crossing a road to go to a film with her husband. Binary by Michael Crichton A multi-millionaire who is disgusted with politics as it is being exercised decides he is going to do something about it. He steals the components for nerve gas and plans to kill a massive number of people during one of the political conventions in San Diego. The agent investigating the plot must not only figure out what this perpetrator is doing, but also how he is playing off against his own personality (for the millionaire had stolen the agent’s file and knows his psychological assessment and is using it against him). The River by Flannery O’Connor This is the story of a young boy who spends the day with a sitter who takes him first to her home, and then to the river where a famous preacher is performing healings that day. These experiences are all new to the boy, and he eventually wanders away from his family to return to the river. There seems to be a choice between believing in the power of the Spirit and living one’s life the way one always had (which involved partying and drinking, things that the boy’s parents seem to know well). Avanti: Mussolini and the Wars of Italy 1919-1945 by J. Lee Ready This is an account of Italy’s war effort during World War II. At times, the author is objective, giving the positive and negative side of the battle. At other times, the author is very, very prejudiced against anything which would hint of cowardice or lack of organization on the part of the Italians. He openly attacks the British, Americans, Germans, etc. The book is interesting, but one has to wonder how much the account has been colored by the conclusions that the author is trying to push. Odd Thomas: You are Destined to Be Together Forever by Dean Koontz This is a novella in the Odd Thomas series. Odd can see ghosts, and they lead him to various adventures. This is sort of a prequel in which he and his beloved girlfriend Stormy receive a card from a mechanical fortune teller which predicts that they will be together forever. This is sort of tragic, for Stormy is killed at the end of the first Odd Thomas full book, but it might be a foretelling of an everlasting future that, like most of what happens to Odd, cannot be measured according to our earthly standards. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude