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