Monday, May 30, 2016

Rome - Seoul

May 31, 2016 The Feast of the Visitation Peace and Good, This past week I have been in South Korea visiting the friars there. Each four years we have a provincial chapter to decide how things should be run for the next years. Theirs is coming up, and before they have it, the Assistant General of the area has to do a visitation, visiting each friar and each friary to see how things are going. There is a rule, though, that an Assistant cannot visit his own province. Our Assistant for Asia if from Korea, so I am taking his place in this visitation. We have around 80 friars in this province, and it is quite stable. They are involved in parishes, social work with the elderly and the handicapped, and working with the Secular Franciscans. This mission was founded by the Italian friars, and one of them is doing the translating for me when the Korean friar cannot speak either Italian or English. I will be here until June 13th. The weather has been nice, but there is a fog (or smog) that covers Seoul each day. Some of the friars say it is dust from the deserts of China, while others claim that a good part of it is pollution. The food is as spicy as I remember, but this time I seem to be handling it a bit better. I have finished some books: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert This is a classic that I had never read before. A woman in 19th century France marries a doctor who turns out to be totally devoted to her but terribly boring. She longs for a romantic relationship similar to those she has read about in trashy novels. She has two affairs while spending money like crazy, driving the family into bankruptcy. She is not a very likable figure, always concerned with her own needs and never with those of people around her, including her own daughter. Five Chiefs by John Paul Stevens This is an account of Justice John Paul Stevens’ and the Supreme Court upon which he served. It is a mix between homey reminiscenses and a study of various court decisions made during his time on the court. He speaks quite a bit of why he thought certain decisions were right or wrong. He is ruthless on some of his views concerning recent decisions made on the death penalty, gun control, and political financing. Overall, this is quite a good book. Mojado by R. Allen Chappell This is the story of a legal representative on the Navaho reservation who is called with two of his friends to hunt for a fugitive from Mexico who has been killing people on the reservation. The fugitive is a heartless person who is incredibly dangerous for all whom he meets. There is a lot of information about Navaho ways and attitudes. This is a very good read. The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly This is one of the books in the Harry Bosch series. The books are well done. The hero, Harry, is very human, but also a genius at solving crime. He has some very confusing relationships with women, largely because of his damaged background. This book deals with a civil trial. Harry has killed a man who he thought was a serial killer. He is being sued by the man’s widow for depriving her husband of his civil rights. In the meantime, a new murder has occurred after the death of this man which fits the details of the crime perfectly. This is a very good who done it. Backfire by Catherine Coulter This is the first book by Coulter that I have read. It deals with a judge who has been shot by someone who appears to be tied to a spy from China who is stealing data on electronic serveillance systems. There are a lot of twists and turns in the book. I have to admit that I will probably not read too many of her books in the future. Her plot development is not that good, her character development is poor, and her dialog is ludicrous. Someone should tell the author to try something else for a living. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 21, 2016


May 22, 2016 Happy Trinity Sunday I have been in Rome this past two weeks. The first week was spent on catching up after jet lag and working on my writing (I managed to complete a few articles) and daily reflections. This past week we have been meeting in definitory. This one went quite long, for there were a number of situations that needed our attention. We finished late afternoon yesterday, and today I head out for Seoul, South Korea, to do a visitation of our province there. The weather here in Rome has been slowly improving. The last couple of days have been quite sunny, if not a bit cool. On Friday evening, we had a nice cook out on the Terrazzo with over 20 of our OFM friar brothers from their General Curia. One of our friars, an Argentinian, prepared the meat. I thought that we Americans ate a lot of meat, but compared to the Argentinians, we look like vegetarians. Yesterday and today our basilica has been busy with the community from Sri Lanka that is hosted here. About 30 years ago, the cardinal vicar of Rome asked each Basilica in Rome to host one of these ex-patriot communities, and we have been hosting the Sri Lankans ever since. They are a Sinhalese group which uses the Western Rite. I have finished some books and short stories: The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan This is a masterful narrative as it describes the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Long known as the sick man of Europe, the empire lost more and more territory in Africa and the Balkan peninsula. Then, with the beginning of World War I, the Turks decided to side with Germany and Austria. This was a disastrous mistake. The book deals with the massacre of the Armenians and Assyrian Christians which could and should be described as a holocaust. The deals with the battles in Arabia, Palestine and Iraq, as well as the disastrous attempt to conquer the Dardanelles and Bosporus at Gallipoli. The book is a good read and very informative. The King’s Speech: How one man saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue This book is not exactly the text for the movie by the same name. It is a biography about the speech therapist who treated King George VI. This is written by a grandson of the therapist, so it has the adulatory style of a relative of a subject of a biography. It is largely written from the diaries and letters that the grandson found, so many of the comments are a bit trite. Nevertheless, it is a decent book. The Early Works of John Dos Passos I have often seen the name of this author who wrote at the beginning of the 20th century. I wanted to read one of his works to see what his writing was all about. The commentators on this author speak of how he wrote from the point of view of the common man, especially about their experiences during World War I. His writing seems dated to me, and it is often difficult to understand because he insists on having his characters speak in the accent of their birth places (or at least what he thinks their accent was). Not my favorite author! Three Empires on the Nile by Dominic Green This is a book that speaks of how Great Britain slowly pushed the Ottomans out of Egypt and subverted the local Egyptian government to make Egypt their protectorate. It deals with the rising Muslim movement which fought against the colonial powers. One of the major events was the rising of the Mahdi in the Sudan and the death of General Gordon. It is interesting to see how the colonizing movement often used other events in the world as opportunities to seize power in Africa and Asia. King Arthur: History and Legend by Dorsey Armstrong This was one of the great courses. I cannot believe that the professor found enough material for 24 lectures of one-half hour each, but she did it (and most of the material was well worth listening to). She begins with the historic roots of the King Arthur legend, and then covers its treatment throughout the 1500 years from the time he lived until today. She deals with his treatment in Cornish, Welsh, French (Brittany), German, Scandinavian, Italian, etc literature. She even covers modern treatments such as films and video games. She is a very informative lecturer. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ellicott City - Rome

May 13, 2016 Peace and Good, This past week I got to visit some of my family down in Norfolk where I baptized my grand nephew, Luke Henry Winkler. It was good to see them all, since I rarely have time to get in contact with them. I was surprised when I met the pastor of my nephew's church. I taught him scripture back in the 90's. Saturday evening I flew back to Rome. The weather here is much more pleasant than it was on the east coast these past couple of weeks. This is a week to catch up on various things (for me, daily reflections, articles for the Messenger magazine, etc.) so that I can be ready for the meeting of the definitory next week. It is also a good time for me to get over jet lag. Sometimes it is not all that bad, but this time it really hit me. I have two weeks to get back on schedule before I head out to Korea on the 22nd. I finished some books: Israel’s Praise: Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology by Walter Brueggemann I have been using this book for spiritual reading. Brueggemann’s thesis is that Israel’s words of praise were not only a subversive act during times of persecution, they also helped to create a new world of understanding in which God reigned. He warns, though, that words of praise can be misused by those in authority to placate the crowd so that they accept the status quo. Words of praise, according to Brueggemann, should always be tied to expressions of pain and disaster from which God has delivered us. Otherwise, we are in danger of positing of God who is a passive observer of what is going on but who does not get involved. Furthermore, the liturgy should be a moment of challenge for those in authority to be instruments of God’s deliverance instead of trying to protect their power and privilege. This book has given me many ideas to think about over these coming months. Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster by Paul Ingrassia This is the story of how the big three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) lost their lead of some of the most important companies in the country. They were poorly led and the unions managed to receive benefits that were unsustainable. In the 60’s through the 90’s they went through periods of boom and bust, but they never seem to have learned the important lessons from the leaner periods (nor those what they should have learned from the Japanese makers of cars who made inroad after inroad into their sales). The account is one of a clearly frustrated author who cannot understand how the managers of the car companies could make such foolish mistakes. Into the Storm by Reed Timmer This is the story of a self-confessed weather geek who loves chasing tornadoes. At times, his story descends into an apologia as to why he takes risks that other storm chasers try to avoid. Overall, though, there are many beautiful descriptions of weather fronts and the consequences of severe weather. Timmer starts out as a student of weather at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and continues through his career as an undergraduate and then graduate student, until after his graduation he has designed his own equipment for the chase. Throughout the book there is a childlike wonder at nature, mixed at times with a childish carelessness. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir This is a very long account of King Henry VIII’s relationship with his six wives. It gives an enormous amount of detail, almost all of it interesting. It shows each of the wives as a real person. It is not apologetic for Henry’s personality which was not always the kindest or more reasonable. He, in fact, is shown as moody (especially in his later illnesses) and always suspicious (possibly because he was always dissembling himself in politics and his personal relationships). The book is worth a read, but it is quite a commitment, not unlike Michener’s novels. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island by Lawrence Durrell This is the account of how a British author comes to Cyprus to find his inspiration. He buys a small house which he fixes up. Up to this point, the story reminds one quite a bit of books like A Year in Tuscany. He comes to know the villagers and become part of their world. Eventually he gets a job in the press office of the British governor. Around this time, the Cypriot Greeks begin to militate for independence from Great Britain and union with Greece. The Cypriot Turks, on the other hand, are dead set against this. Violence begins. First, it is simply slogans on walls and stones thrown at riot police. Eventually it evolves into bombs and assassinations. The account is well written, with much time spent on the natural beauty of the island and the character of the people living there. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Geneva - Ellicott City

May 4, 2016 Peace and Good, I spent the beginning of last week at a meeting of the Board of Directors in Geneva. When we first arrived the Thursday before, the weather was quite nice. Then a cold front came down from the north and it was rainy and cold the rest of our stay. Franciscans International is an NGO for the Franciscans at the UN. They bring human rights issues to the floor, especially in the four year evaluation of human rights issues for each nation. On Tuesday I flew into Baltimore. We had a series of meeting here over this past weekend. Also, on Thursday I went to the dentist and found out that I needed two root canals. I had that taken care of yesterday. I was in the chair for about four and a half hours, but the dentist and the staff were great at making sure that it was as painless and comfortable as possible. Today I head down to Norfolk to baptize my grant nephew tomorrow. It will be good to see the family. Then Saturday I fly out to Rome for another definitory. We had a couple of friars from Rome here for the meetings over the past few days. Both of them are from the Gdansk province in northern Poland. One of them is the vicar of the Order, while the other works in the office of the treasurer. I finished some books: The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950 by Bill Sloan This is the story of the invasion of South Korea by the North Koreans. It presents the desparate struggle to maintain a toehold around the southern city of Pusan lest all of the allied forces be pushed out of Korea. Then there is the landing at Inchon near Seoul, one of the most brilliant invasion moves organized by Douglas MacArthur. The book also covers a bit of the later period when MacArthur defied civilian authorities and was fired by President Truman. This is a military history which depends on the exploits of many of the individual soldiers who fought there. It is a very good example of this type of book. The Victors by Stephen Ambrose This is the story of the GI’s who fought in Europe under the command of Eisenhower. Ambrose is usually a very good author, but I got the impression in this book that he had taken odds and end of research he had done over the years and pasted them together. He has a lot of information on D Day and the Battle of the Bulge, but then he passes over enormous amounts of time and material and all but ignores it. Yet, what he had was good and worth reading. It just is not a complete treatment of the topic. The Devil’s Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941 by Roger Moorhouse This is the account of the Ribbentrop Mollatov Pact which on the surface was a non-aggression treaty between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, but the secret addendum also included how the two intended to divide up Eastern Europe, and especially Poland, between these two nations. We see the rationale for each of the parties in joining the treaty, and we see how successful it was and wasn’t. It brought on incredible suffering for millions who were persecuted for race or religion or nationality or previous activities. The author goes into the financial aspects of the treaty. It is a really well written book, and anyone who is interested in this particular era in history would do well to read it. China Road by Rob Gifford This is the story of a journalist who is leaving China after having been assigned there for a number of years. He goes off on a journey on route 312 which goes from Shanghai to the border with Kazkachistan. A good part of the route, from Zian to the border, is what was considered the old Silk Route. Along the way, he speaks with normal Chinese and minorities. The discussions and the conclusions are fascinating. He speaks of a society that has lost its moral foundation (having discarded Confusionism and now having effectively ignore Communism). Everyone does what they want, which can create a lot of difficulties. He speaks about the past, present and future of this immense power. It is a better book to get a pulse of the nation than many academic studies. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie I believe that this is the first detective novel that Agatha Christie published. The hero is Hercule Poirot the Belgian detective, who is able to sort through all the clues in the poisoning death of an elderly rich woman. The problem in this case are that there are too many clues, and too many that point to the chief suspect. Poirot’s British friend helps him as much as he can in the process, but he finds himself befuddled and a bit resentful that he cannot follow the logic of Poirot in determining who the killer is. It is an enjoyable book, a good book upon which one could launch a career. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude