Friday, February 23, 2018

Rome - San Diego

February 23, 2018 Peace and Good, We finished out definitory at the end of this past week. This is the one when we sort out the various requests for assistance for the friars in formation from throughout the third world. We have many, many vocations in those countries but few resources to help them. We worked until Saturday lunch, and it went quite well, everything considered. At lunch, I went with fr. Mark Folger, our friar from California who works on our translations, and two of our Vietnamese friars to try out a Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate Tet, Chinese New Year. The food is actually quite good there. I finished off my visitation of the friars in Vietnam with this interview. On Monday morning I headed out to San Diego. I am here to begin a parish mission this Saturday. I came a few days early to get over the 9 hours of jet lag between Rome and San Diego, but also to rest up a few days for all the jet lag I have built up over these months. I am on Coronado Island where I have given a series of retreats in Sacred Heart Parish. Coronado is beautiful and I am enjoying the rest. I am doing a little bit of writing and editing, but just as much as I want. There are a lot of retired military people on the island (which is a naval base and the training center for the Seals). The staff and the parishioners are very, very friendly. I will be giving a talk to the clergy of San Diego on Friday. Then I will be here until the Thursday after to continue resting before I go back to Rome to preach a retreat to one of the Italian provinces. I have finished some reading: The Lost Girls by Apoorva Mandaville This is an essay on the difference in symptomology for autism between boys and girls. The girls have been more difficult to diagnose, for many of their symptoms are hidden behind a fa├žade of social convention. Furthermore, they tend to suffer from greater social anxiety, eating disorders, suicide attempts, etc. The essay also speaks of attempts to address the needs of autistic girls. Prince Felix Yusupov by Christopher Dobson Prince Felix Yusupov was one of the richest men in Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution. He is also the man primarily responsible for the assassination of Rasputin. He was a strange man, gay and yet married, often dressing up as a woman, partying without limit. He was related to the ruling Romanov family. The story also covers his difficult years in exile, for he never really learned to husband his resources for a rainy day. 1864 Lincoln at the Fates of History by Charles Flood This is a very good account of this fateful year in the Civil War and the year in which Abraham Lincoln was re-elected for a second term. At the beginning of the year, up to the summer, it looked as if he would not be re-elected. So many men were dying under the leadership of Grant. So many battles ended in defeat or a Pyrric victory. It didn’t look as if there were any exit from the war. Then Sherman captured Savannah, and everything changed. I could easily recommend this book for an excellent read. Lie Down With Lions by Ken Follett I really don’t like Follett’s books that much, but this was one of the discount books I picked up sometime ago, so I decided that it was time to read it. The story is quite good – a battle between a French doctor who is a spy for the Soviets during their invasion of Afganistan and a CIA spy trying to help the Afgan fighters. I find many of Follett’s books formulaic – good man, bad woman, heroic woman who much teach the good man how to be a better man. He also presents sex scenes that are much too graphic for my tastes. Not a bad read, but not the best either. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson This is an interesting presentation of the life of lobsters and the attempt of lobstermen to make a living catching them off the coast of Maine and of scientists to understand and protect the lobster population. There is so much that is not known about lobsters, including mating practices, how they decide to release their fertilized eggs, why some areas are full of lobsters while others are not, why their population plummets at times and then later explodes. The book is a good introduction to the topic. The Haj by Leon Uris This is one of those epic stories like those produced by James Michener, but this one is one generation instead of the multi-generational works that Michener produces. It deals with the Haj, the leader of a clan of a Palestinian family which is dispossessed of their land during the War for Independence in 1947-48. The story is really told from the point of view of an intelligent son who is part hero, part tragic figure. Uris is not all that sympathetic to the Arab point of view – in fact I found some of his portrayal as racist and demeaning. Yet, there is much action and he gives some insights that are worth notice. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Van Mon (near Hanoi) - Rome - Holyoke, MA - Rome

February 14, 2018 Peace and Good, This past couple of weeks took an unexpected turn. I was at the leprosy village outside of Hanoi when I heard of the passing of fr. Donald Kos. The General and I had accompanies him home to the States on December 9th after having spent 59 years in Italy. He had served both the Order and the Church in a number of responsibilities. When he arrived in the States, his health was already in decline, but we did not realize how much until a week before his death when we were told that they had discovered widely metastasized cancer. It is remarkable that they had not discovered this in his many visits to the hospital in his last months here in Italy. He was placed on hospice care and died a week later. fr. Donald was a man of incredible dedication. He was a canon lawyer, and at times they can be legalistic. That was not fr. Donald. He was always a humble servant. The General wrote me in Vietnam saying that it would be a good idea for me to accompany him to the funeral which was to be held in Holyoke. Last Thursday I flew from Hanoi to Rome, and then Friday from there to Boston. The funeral was the next day, and then we made our return trip to Rome on Sunday night. This is an itinerary I would not recommend. I worked out yesterday that in the past month I have flown around 35,000 km. This week we have a meeting of our definitory. I have three presentations to make, but all three had been completed before I started this long trip so I am ready with the paperwork. We end on Saturday. I have finished some books: Pope Francis’ Little Book of Wisdom by Andrew Kirk Assaf This is a nice collection of the sayings of Pope Francis. It is arranged thematically, and is not all that profound, but a nice meditation nevertheless. I think that many of the thoughts come from his daily tweets and his daily homilies. A Certain Justice by PD James This is the second time that I have read this book, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The first third of the book sets up the figure of the person who was to be murdered. She was a driven lawyer in London who has a daughter who hates her, a lover who wants to break it off, a younger colegue who she wants to expose for bribery, etc. The inspector is Adam Daglish, a somewhat eccentric investigator who works well with his staff. PD James is an excellent author. The Amish: The History of America’s Oldest and Most Unique Communities by Charles River Editors This is one of the short studies produced by Charles River Editors. It gives a history of the community, an outline of their theology, and especially a description of their practices. It is sympathetic without being fauning. It found it a good read. The Ark of the Covenant by Charles River Editors This study of the Ark of the Covenant is a bit strange and not one of the better studies produced by Charles River Editors. The author begins with some strange theories about what the Ark meants, suggests that there were many arks over the years (without any credible evidence), and then tries to describe the disappearance of the ark. I can’t say that I learned anything valuable from this study. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King Thw widow of a famous writer must confront a madman who claims that he wants her to donate some of her husbands archives to a particular university, but whose real purpose is to hurt her as much as he can. She must resort to seeking a strange and wonderful (sometimes) world which her husband had used as a refuge from his abusive father and insane brother and from which he drew much inspiration for his stories and books. As always, King is a wonderful storyteller, and this book is no exception. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) - Van Mon (near Hanoi) - Rome

February 9, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been in Vietnam this past week. I have really fallen in love with Vietnam. I find the people good and kind and hospitable. The food is wonderful - very much like Italian food. Simple ingrediants prepared simply. I especially like the Pho, the soup with some meat, vegetables and plenty of noodles. These past couple of days I have been visiting our house in Van Mon. This is a leper village, and our friars help them and some of the handicapped children. Our friars live a very simple and good life. This is very much in the countryside. The last night in Hanoi we stayed at a hotel run by a Vietnamese family. It was only 30 euro, and it was palatial. Yesterday I travelled with fr. Benedict back to Rome. It was a long but good trip. Today I head out to Boston to attend the funeral of one of our friars, fr. Donald Kos. He served the Order and the Church for 59 years here in Rome. For the past several years, I have sat next to him at meals. He was a very good, simple man. We took him back to the States in December because he was not doing that well. They found out that he had terrible cancer, and only lasted a week once they put him in hospice care. I have finished some reading: Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman This is the account of Antonina, the wife of Jan, the zookeeper of the Warsaw Zoo, and their experiences before and during World War II. It is based on a diary kept by Antonina and presents a beautiful story of their harrowing effort to save the animals which they were charged to care for and as many refugees as possible. Doing this put them and their small children in danger, but they responded to the dangers with creativity and good cheer. I would highly recommend this book. I have not yet seen the film which is based upon the book. Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead This tells the story of a series of villages on the high plateau of France where the people, mostly Protestants, cared for countless Jews during the war. They created a great network to save as many as possible, especially the children. A number of them were caught and sent to the camps where most died. The people involved are seen as very human with all of the flaws that we all have, but also as willing to risk everything to do what they knew was their religious duty to those who were suffering. Off Diamond Head by William Finnegan This is a short story of a young boy whose family resettles in Hawaii and his devotion to surfing, his difficulties fitting in as an Haole, a white, in a society where the majority were either Hawaiian, or Philipino, or Japanese. Mysticism by William Harmless I came across this book by accident, and I have to saw that it is one of the best studies of mysticism that I have ever read. The first part of the book is a study of a series of mystics throughout the centuries, in the Christian, Muslim and Buddhist tradition. Rather than accepting the platitude that all mystics see the same thing, the author clearly shows that their experiences are closely tied to their cultural and religious backgrounds. I highly recommend this study to anyone interested in the topic. Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child I have now read a whole series of Preston’s and Child’s books. This one is in the Agent Pendergast series, a New Orleans detective who must fight mysterious forces of evil in society and his own life. He is a bit of a bon vivant, and lives with his “ward”, a woman who is mysteriously over 100 years old but appears to be in her early 20’s. This volume deals with a plot to poison Pendergast with a potion that was invented by his great grandfather and which turned out to be a highly dangerous substance, responsible for the death of many. Have a good week Shalom fr. Jude