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