Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Manila - Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

January 31, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished off the week in Manila for the custodial chapter. I had given the opening afternoon of recollection, and I had also been asked to preach at all the Masses. That went very well. It is remarkable how a five minute homily can set the tone for a day. The days were also spent doing some editing on a text for one of the friars concerning the history of the break between the Conventual Franciscans and the Friars of the Immaculate. You might remember that I am the liason for those friars who are seeking to enter our Order from that group. On Sunday fr. Benedict and I travelled from Manila to Ho Chi Minh. The trip was only two hours, and the passport control was very easy (I had gotten an e visa). The trafic in the city is every bit as chaotic as I remember. There are still thousands of motor bikes, but I noticed a lot more cars as well. I had last been here in October of 2014, and I noticed quite a few changes in the area around the airport with many new stores and nice restaurants. Vietnam is doing quite well economically due to the movement of factories from China to here in quest of a land with lower wages. I and fr. Benedict are here to have a canonical visitation. This delegation was founded around 13 years ago, and it is growing nicely. We see some growing pains, and also we see that we are arriving at a transition period in which the energy must be refocused on reaching outside of the community. Up to now most of the work has been in the formation of young friars, but now a number of them are finishing their formation program and we have to find apostolates for them to do. There is a wonderful spirit among the friars. I am very impressed with them, and I hope they keep this spirit of collaboration as they grow. I see this as a real gem in the future. fr. Benedict and I will be travelling up to the Hanoi area on Sunday to visit some friars up there. Then on Thursday we will be returning to Rome. I have finished some reading: Elizabeth Kolbert The Siege of Miami This is a study of the effects of global warming based on the rising of the water level in Miami Beach. This is alredy happening, and it is creating a situation in which every time there is a high tide, streets are being flooded. This is due to the melting of the glaciers in Greenland and Antartica. No matter how one argues the cause of the global warming, the evidence that it is happening is no longer debatable. The Actual Hollister by Dave Eggers We have seen people wearing clothes that have the name Hollister on it all over the place. This author visits the actual Hollister, CA. Interestingly, they don’t sell clothing in that city that has the name on it because the store that markets the brand does not have a store there. What makes the story a bit more interesting is that the man visiting Hollister is a descendant of the founder of the city. Rasputin’s Revenge by John Lescroat This is a mix of the story of the last years of the Romanov Dynasty, the machinations of Rasputin, the mad monk, and, believe it or not, a sequel to the Sherlock Holmes story. While that seems to be a daunting combination, the story is really not all that bad. It is narrated by a French diplomat who has come to Russia to try to keep them in the war on the side of the allies. I would say that, if you want an easy and entertaining read, this fits the bill. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton I had seen the movie many years ago, but this was on sale so I bought it on Kindle and decided to read it. I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was. This is the first book I read in which the protagonist is not the people in the book but rather the scientific process used in trying to identify and respond to a micro organism which had landed on the earth and seems to have a devastating lethality. Give me Back my Legions by Harry Turtledove This is the fictional account of the battle between the German leader Herman (Armonius) and the Roman legate Varus. It ends with the massacre of three Roman legions in the Teutenborg Forest, a loss of about 15% of the entire Roman forces in the world at that point. It is the tension between accepting an invading force that seems umbeatable and gathering a disperate disunified force of combatants to defend the traditional ways. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 22, 2018

Rome - Manila

January 23, 2018 Peace and Good, This past week I have been in Rome for the meeting of the General Definitory with the new provincials and custodes from throughout the world. There were just over twenty of them, and we like to bring them to Rome for a week to describe the parts of their job that have to do with us and the Vatican. Part of the trip was visiting the various other General Houses in Rome, which includes our international seminary (the Seraphicum), the center of our office for secretaries of various topics (Casa Kolbe), the friary where doctoral students live (La Vigna) and the friary which houses our confessors at the Vatican (the Penitenzeria). I was asked to preach at the morning Mass each day, a short homily but one that tried to bring out the spiritual dimension of the work these men are doing. On Saturday, fr. Benedict Baek, the Asian Assistant General and I traveled from Rome to the Philippines. We are here for the second part of their custodial chapter, and I preached a spritual introduction to it yesterday and in these following days I will preach at their Masses. Part of my presence is to back up fr. Benedict, and part to see what is going on to get a different perspective. The Philippines has had some difficulties in the past, but now they have a very good custos who is bring things together. I finished some reading: Dressed for Death by Donna Leon A man dressed as a woman is found outside a slaughter house in Mestre, the industrial city adjacent to Venice. Commissario Brunetti investigates the crime which is especially brutal. He finds connections to a much larger plot which involves political corruption and other illegal activities. Donna Leon, who is Spanish, has a feel for Italy, and if one has lived there, one can pick up the hidden jokes and jibes all throughout the story. She write a great book, and I intend to read as many of her books as possible. Daniel Webster: The Life and Legacy of One of America’s Most Famous Senators and Orators by Charles River Editors This is one of those extended essays on the life and activities of Daniel Webster, the famous lawyer, politician and stateman. He is known as one of the great politicians of the period before the Civil War (along with Clay and Calhoun). He fought for the preservation of the Union, and was accused of having sold his beliefs and his soul in defening attempts of the Southern States to enforces the fugitive slave laws. Poison by Ed McBain This is the story of a woman with a number of gentlemen friends who are being murdered. One of the policement investigating the crimes falls in love with her and moves in with her, complicating the investigation. These stories (which are numerous) are the pattern that was eventually used on the NYPD Blue TV program. This one is well written, clever. Dark Night by Suzanne Brockmann This is a very poorly written spy novel. It involves company called Troubleshooters Incorporated. They are mostly retired CIA agents who contract with the agency to perform various jobs which include killing enemies of the county. The author only lightly outlines what they do, and she centers on the fact that some CIA agents are trying to kill some of the members of Troubleshooters because of what they know about certain hidden activities. The author throws a lot a sex (written in an incredibly adolescent manner) and pop/new age psychology in. At least I know that I would never buy a book by this author again. What’s Left Behind by Kea Krause This is the story of a polluted lake of waste water in Butte, Montana. Butte was the site of a massive open air copper mine which was abandoned. When it was no longer mined, the company which owned it ceased pumping ground water from the region. The water reacted with some of the pyrite rock that had been left, producing a very dangerous acidic reservoir. The essay spoke of some attempts to remedy the situation, and some attempts to bring a bit of beauty and industry to the Butte area. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rome - Ellicott City - Rome

January 8, 2018 Happy New Year. I travelled back to the States on December 30th for a series of doctors' visits this past week. This is routine stuff, and all went well. I have the green light for the next 50,000 miles (which unfortunately come rather quickly in my life). I was able to be with a number of the friars last Friday night when we held a celebration at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore. Every year at the Feast of the Epiphany we pick a patron saint and a religious saying to guide us throughout the coming year. I received St. Francis for this year, which is great. It will remind me to work at being more like out founder. The trip back and forth was uneventful. The weather is much, much warmer here in Rome than it was in Baltimore. I am here for meetings over the next two weeks, and then off to the Philippines and Vietnam. I finished some reading: The Case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg by Charles River Editors This is the story of the life, trial and execution of two of the most notorious spies in America during the 20th century. They were accused of spying for the Soviets, stealing nuclear secrets and thus shortening the process for the Soviets to obtain atomic technology. They always claimed to be innocent, but there are indications even from the Soviet archives that at least Julius, the husband, was guilty. Long Knife: The Story of a great American hero, George Rogers Clark by James Alexander Thom This is a ficional history of George Rogers Clark. He is a little known figure of the War of Independence, but he is responsible for conquering much of the western part of the then united colonies. That would mean the territory from the Appalacian Mountains to the Mississippi. He did this by taking a militia of Virginia hundreds of miles and conquering a couple of important British outposts from which Indian attacks on settlers were organized. He was never as fully recognized by his state officials or by federal officals as he should have been. Enemies at the Gate by William Craig This is a very well written, very well documented history of the siege of Stalingrad, both the German siege to conquer the city and the Soviet siege to surround and decimate the German armies holding most of the city. There is incredible cruelty in this story: for the way the citizens were treated, for the way that the soldiers of each army treated each other, and even for the way that each army treated its own soldiers. No one comes out of this looking good. The whole battle was not even intended in the beginning. Yet, once the prestige of either conquering or defending the city that bore the name of the Soviet dictator got in the way, there was no turning back. Blood Memory by Greg Iles This is a story that takes place in the south, New Orleans and Natchez. It is of a dental forensic expert who is investigating a mass murderer. The story takes a horrific twist when the crimes are tied to child abuse, and the investigator realizes that she, herself, had been abused as a child. It is difficult to view the characters in the story with any warmth or compassion because they are all deeply flawed, either by their own choices or by the wounds that life had dealt them. The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester This is the story of a very eccentric Cambridge scholar, Joseph Needham, who fell in love with China and everything that it represented. He was sent to China during the Second World War to bring assistance to the suffering academic world there. While he was there, he made countless discoveries of how many things which Europeans assumed were their own inventions were actually found in China many years and at times centuries before the West every received them. He eventually began a huge project of documenting the Science and Culture of China which was published by Cambridge University Press. Needham was not necessarily an easy person to work with. He made some serious political mistakes over the years, especially by uncritically backing Mao after the Communists took over, but his contribution to the knowledge of China is inestimable. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude