10-14-2016 - From Sous-Chef to Cardinal

Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

An interesting footnote to my last blog. On Sunday, October 9th, Pope Francis in his usual, unexpected, casual way at the weekly Sunday morning midday blessing at St. Peter’s Square, announced that he had made 17 new cardinals to the Catholic Church. http://www.americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/new-cardinals-signal-shift-away-us-culture-wars

At the same time, one of the appointed, Kevin Farrell, who had been the bishop of Dallas, Texas, for the past ten years, just arrived to Rome and was staying with his brother, Brian, in the Vatican. The two brothers were about to go out to lunch and had the local TV on to listen to the Holy Father’s weekly blessing, when all of a sudden the Pope read the names of the new Cardinals, including Kevin’s. That’s how Kevin found out he was about to become a cardinal! And we are thrilled for him.

On a personal note though, I wish the Holy Father would have apprised me of the situation prior to his announcement. I have lost my sous-chef who has cooked our Thanksgiving turkey on a grill for 25 years with me! Pope Francis got his guy! I think I may have lost mine!

8-23-2016 - Kev, BF and me

Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

The news out of the Vatican in the last few days has made me think of writing something on a more personal note. On Wednesday of last week Vatican News published that Pope Francis had asked Bishop Kevin Farrell, the bishop of Dallas, to be the first head of the new Vatican Department for Laity, Family and Life.  http://americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/pope-appoints-bishop-kevin-farrell-dallas-tex-head-new-vatican-department-laity

Apparently up to now Francis was hearing from cardinals, bishops and priests what lay people were thinking about the Church or what they hoped to hear from the Church. He wanted to hear directly from them. He chose Bishop Farrell to head the new dicastery and appoint lay people from all over the world to participate in this new department. He wanted to hear their thoughts on the Church, the world and society in general. He wanted to listen to them. It is a wonderful and humbling honor for Bishop Farrell.

Kev, BF and I go back a long time. We are all from Dublin. BF, Kevin’s older brother, Brian, and I are  the same age. We went to the same high school in Dublin, a tough Irish Christian Brothers school in the center of Dublin, Synge Street CBS, where you were expected to do well in school or there would be a price to pay! It was arguably the toughest school in Dublin at the time. Ironically, in recent years that same school which was the bastion of Irish Catholicism now has students from more than 30 different religions, and has a prayer room for the Muslim students.

Brian always excelled in school, always top of the class. I did not. Brian was two years older than Kev. BF and I graduated from high school the same year. We entered the newly arrived to Ireland seminary of the Legionaries of Christ in June, 1961 with some other Irish fellows. Brian and I were shipped off to Salamanca, Spain, that September with 6 other Irish. A year later we were sent to Rome to study Philosophy and Theology in the Pontifical Gregorian University. After ordination BF worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State and, later, was ordained bishop by Pope John Paul II, and was made Under-Secretary at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, where he has dealt with all Christian Religions and Judaism.  After various assignments, I went to Washington, D.C. to open a Legionary of Christ family center there. BF and I were always good friends throughout the years. I left the Legion In 1972 and joined the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

At that time Kevin was serving as a chaplain in the University of Monterrey, Mexico. I was somewhat instrumental in getting him into the Archdiocese of Washington. I subsequently left the priesthood and became the executive director of the World Federation on Hemophilia in Montreal, Canada, where I lived for some years. Kev soared in the Archdiocese. He started in the Hispanic Center, went on to be head of Catholic Charities. Cardinal Hickey recognized his many talents and sent him to Notre Dame to get a master’s degree in Business and Administration. Ultimately he made him Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Kev’s long time mentor was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and “Teddy” still is an extraordinary influence in Kev’s life. When there were serious problems in the Archdiocese, Teddy would often say to Kevin: “Kev, let’s go down the road for a beer and talk!” Most serious problems were resolved in an afternoon over a glass of beer!

Kev and I have cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving on a Weber grill in my home for the past 25 years. In fact, I don’t think I can cook the turkey without him!  As soon as he arrives to our home he sits down with my wife, Deborah, and together they write the schedule for the whole Thanksgiving weekend. Deborah loves him. My son and his wife love him, my granddaughters think he is funny. All our friends love to spend time with him. And Kevin gives freely of himself to everybody. Kevin is for real. There is nothing phony about him. And what you see is what you get. I have no doubt but that Pope Francis chose the right man. Kev will build the new dicastery into a powerful support for the Pope’s goals of making the Church more realistic, more human and more forgiving.

And the Vatican is just going to have to learn to deal with the two Irish brothers from Dublin! But those fellas will give the Church their best. And they are my longest and dearest friends


Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

I have in my library more books written by Thomas Merton than by any other author. I was in my late twenties or early thirties when I discovered his writings and his person. On January 31st of this year he would have been 100 years old. He inspired me like few people have in my life. He was larger than life. His thought process was breathtaking, provocative, global. He was one of the most prolific writers I have ever known.

Thomas Merton was born in France to two wandering, American artists. His mother died when he was six years old. He became an orphan at fifteen when his father died. His grandparents, who lived in Douglaston, Long Island, took care of him and his younger brother. While studying literature at Cambridge University in England he lived quite a wild social life. He fathered a child out of wedlock. Both the child and the mother died later during a London air raid.

He returned to the United States in 1935 and studied at Columbia University in New York. There he met a Hindu monk,  Mahanambrata Brahmachari. In his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton wrote about a singular piece of advice the monk gave him: “ ‘There are many beautiful mystical books written by the Christians. You should read St. Augustine’s Confessions, and The Imitation of Christ’ … “Now that I look back on those days, it seems to me very probable that one of the reasons why God brought him (Brahmachari) all the way from India was that he might just say that.” Merton took his advice and later that year the former atheist was baptized Catholic in November 1938 in a small church near Columbia University. At the time he was writing regular book reviews for the New York Times.

He accepted a position as a teacher of English Literature at St. Bonaventure’s College which was run by the Franciscans in the Upstate New York town of Olean. There he became very interested in the poetry of the English writer, Gerald Manley Hopkins, who later became a Jesuit priest. Two years later one evening he was with his friends and announced to them that he was not only going to become a priest, but that he was going to enter a Trappist Monastery outside Louisville, Kentucky, which was arguably the toughest religious order in the Catholic Church. He told them he would be taking a vow of silence, he would never leave the grounds of the Monastery, he would never write again, and in the end he would dig his own grave and be buried there. He would be allowed though to have visitors come and see him from time to time.

In 1941 he was accepted in the monastery. He took the religious name of Brother Louis. Because of his literary background the Superior of the Monastery allowed him to write poems and short religious books for the other members of the community. Finally the Superior suggested to him to write an autobiography. He finished writing The Seven Storey Mountain in 1946. The title was taken from the mountain of Purgatory in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Even before it was published Harcourt Brace begun to suspect that the book could be a success. They had planned to print 5,000 copies. They increased that to 12,000 copies. The book was finally printed on October 4, 1948 at $3 a copy. It exploded onto the literary world. On one day alone 5,000 copies were sold. The book had a higher weekly sale than any other book Harcourt Brace had published. The original clothbound edition of The Seven Storey Mountain sold 600,000 copies. What made it so special and why the fascination? Monica Furlong in her book Merton, A Biography says it was “the parallel fascination that he (Merton) can tell us at first hand, and with the eye of the writer, about what it was like to live a medieval life in twentieth-century America.”

Merton continued to write for the rest of his life. He wrote some 50 books during the 27 years he lived as a Trappist monk. He wrote on spirituality, contemplation, literature, Zen, and social and political issues. His books were translated into at least 30 languages. Since his death some 180 books have been published on Merton in English alone. He was not afraid to tackle the contemporary issues of the times. He wrote on the immorality of the war in Vietnam, the dangers of nuclear warfare, the need for interracial justice and racial equality, nonviolence and interreligious dialogue.

At one point in his life he felt the need for deeper silence and solitude, and requested that he be allowed to move from the monastery building to a small one-room hermitage close to a lake that was separate from the monastery though on the property.

He loved to communicate with leaders of Eastern religions such as Buddhists, Hindus and Sufi Muslims during that period of his life. One day he went to the Superior of the monastery and requested that he be allowed to attend a meeting of some of the authorities on Oriental mysticism that was to be held in Bangkok. He had been invited to make a presentation at the meeting. His request was granted.

He arrived to Bangkok on December 9, 1968 tired from the long trip and with a cold. The next morning he gave a talk on “Marxism and Monastic Perspectives”, certainly a fascinating topic! After lunch he went to his room saying how much he was looking forward to having a siesta. No one knows exactly what happened subsequently. It seems like he turned on a fan and was electrocuted. He was only 58 years of age. That day we all lost someone special. But he has left us a trove of wonderfully provocative books. He had a way with words : “We are already one, but we imagine that we are not. So what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are”.

Some years ago Deborah and I visited the monastery outside Louisville, Kentucky, and saw where he was buried with a small sign over the plot which read simply “Brother Louis, 1915-1968”.


Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

It is my honor to introduce to you this morning Senator Chris Murphy from the great Nutmeg State of Connecticut.

The first time I ever spoke to Chris was eight years ago when he called my home one evening and asked if he could speak to my wife. You’re right! To my wife, Deborah, not me!

He had heard that Deborah had worked for the Speaker of the House in Washington many years ago and wanted to pick her brain about politics in Washington. Chris had just launched his candidacy to unseat one of the most powerful politicians in the State of Connecticut, Congresswoman Nancy Johnson, who had served in the House of Representatives in Washington for 24 years. Congresswoman Johnson was untouchable in North West Connecticut. Chris defeated her, and went on to serve in the House of Representatives for four years.

Three years ago Chris launched his candidacy for the vacant senate seat left by former Senator Joe Lieberman, and handily defeated the Republican candidate, Linda McMahon, wife of the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, who spent more than $50 million of her own money in the campaign.

Today Senator Chris Murphy is the youngest senator in the U.S. Senate at 39 years of age, as, indeed, was another senator some years ago by the name of Joe Biden. Chris has always been a quick learner and a very hard working public servant. He serves on three powerful Senate Committees: the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions; the Committee on Foreign Affairs; and the Joint Economic Committee.

Chris will be remembered nationally for being the senator who spent days and nights in Newtown, CT, just over a year ago after the Sandy Hook massacre in the elementary school with the parents and families of the 28 young children and adults who were murdered by a deranged young man with a gun. Chris took it personally, especially since he had two boys of the same age as the kids who were killed. And Newtown was, after all, part of his district when he served as a Congressman.

Before the Ukraine became a world headline and Crimea was invaded by Russia, Chris took the initiative with Senator John McCain, and they quietly made two private trips to Kiev to assess the situation and brief their colleagues in the Senate.

This year Chris won the prestigious “Mission Possible Champion of the Year” award from Miriam’s Kitchen here in Washington. He has championed efforts to expand services for at-risk veterans and to approve the availability of housing vouchers for displaced individuals. He lived in Washington, D.C. for a week solely on food stamps in order to bring attention to the awful nutritional challenges facing the poor and disadvantaged in our towns and cities.

Chris Murphy is the real thing. He gives credence to the fact that public service is a noble and worthwhile calling.

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you my dear friend and my senator, Senator Chris Murphy.

Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association Annual Meeting

J.W. Marriott Hotel

Washington, D.C.,

June 26, 2014

4-8-2014 - Reflections on “Dallas Buyers Club”

Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

Just recently I saw the powerful movie “Dallas Buyers Club” starring the Oscar-winning Matthew McConaughey in a stunning performance playing the true story of Ron Woodroof, an AIDS-stricken Texas electrician and rodeo rider, a freedom fighter battling an almost tyrannical FDA and the medical community.

It reminded of the early days of the AIDS virus. I was Executive Director of the World Federation of Hemophilia, a community deeply affected by the Aids virus due to their use of blood products.  It was a time of terrible prejudices against gays, IV drug users and anyone with the AIDS virus.  Huge tensions existed between the affected patient communities, their doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. Who does not remember the ongoing battle between American Dr. Robert Gallo and the French Dr. Luc Montagnier over who was the first to discover the origin of the AIDS virus? Two huge egos argued over patents while patients died in the thousands!

The Japanese government refused to allow Abbott sell their AIDS test in Japan so that the Japanese Green Cross could develop their own test a year later. During that time many HIV victims were not aware they had contracted the AIDS virus thus the virus continued to spread. The Japanese hemophilia community never forgave their doctors for not demanding that the government allow the Abbott test be made immediately accessible to doctors and patients.

I remember attending a dinner at a Medical Congress in Bari, Italy in 1991 when a French doctor spoke and said: “We are like gods to the patients. We only have to tell them what they need to know!” It was a time of arrogance.  Some doctors did not feel they owed any explanation to their patients about their condition.

One day I was having lunch in Montreal with the wife of the founder of the World Federation of Hemophilia. Her husband, Frank Schnabel, had died of AIDS in 1988. She commented to me that the shame of having AIDS was such that he never told her he had AIDS until two months before he died!  It was a time of shame, frustration and anger.

And then there were the extraordinary men and women whom I had the honor to know during that time:

Dr. Anthony Fauci fought for the AIDS patients at the National Institutes of Health in Washington;

In the early eighties, a great friend of mine, Professor Pier Mannucci, discovered in his lab in Milan that if you heat-treat human plasma you can inactivate viruses, including the HIV virus;

Dr. Jonathon Mann started the Global AIDS Department at the World Health Organization in Geneva with two others, including my good friend, Dr. Manuel Carballo. It eventually grew to be the largest department at WHO;

Jose Antonio Alonso, the charismatic and fearless president of the Spanish Hemophilia Society, also a dear friend;

Mathilde Krim, the energetic founder of AmFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) on whose board I was honored to serve.

The AIDS era was also a time for heroes that many of us have known, admired and loved.



Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

Jean, Alan’s fiancée and lover of many years, asked me to say a few words today. I would like to talk about Alan. I would also like to talk about Alan and “geyser golf”. And, finally, I would like to say a few words about Alan and the people he loved.

I had the pleasure of driving in a golf cart for four years with him each summer and fall. Alan Moutran was the perfect gentleman. He was quiet, well spoken, erudite, level-headed. He did not exaggerate. He wasn’t loquacious. He never got mad. He never had an angry fit. I never saw him throw a club. I never even saw him mad at himself.

He loved everything about golf. He was a student of the game. He loved it with passion. He honored the game. He loved its etiquette. He read up everything dealing with golf.  He loved to learn about the latest equipment. He couldn’t play too much. For him golf was the constant pursuit of perfection. He loved to practice.

He always wanted to pursue the perfect stroke, the perfect swing, the perfect follow-through. And he enjoyed watching others play the game. He wouldn’t correct you. He was too much the gentleman. He would simply say to you something like “ you lifted your head” or “ you didn’t follow through”, in a matter of fact way. It was not a criticism.

Which of course brings me to my next point: Alan and “geyser golf” on Tuesday afternoons. And of course the fundamental question we all asked ourselves: why did he play “geyser golf” with us on Tuesdays? I should clarify that “geyser golf” is golf for people with very high handicaps, like George, Rodney and myself. Alan really was lowering his standards playing with us. At one point we thought we had perhaps singlehandedly lowered his golf game!

I know from Jean that the one issue he complained about was that we played so slowly. I’ve thought about this for quite a while and it bothered me until I realized it was so obvious. Alan would take 3 or 4 or 5 shots to get from the tee to the hole. We could take 6, 7 or 8 shots. Alan with his refined swing would hit from tee to fairway to the green and into the hole. Unfortunately though for him he never enjoyed the beauty of the course, like we did. We had the pleasure of seeing and savoring every aspect of our lovely course: the trees, the bushes, the heavy grass, the flower beds, the sand traps, in and out of bounds. You see we know the course. He never had the simple pleasure of having to walk around for 5 or 6 minutes just trying to find your ball. So yes, damn it, we were slower than him! But he enjoyed the camaraderie and our weekly bet –which happened to be a round of drinks, and our conversations after the game!

I’m sure we will find in time a fourth player. But it will be another player, never a substitute.

Finally, I would like to say a few words about the people Alan loved. Meredith and Melanie, not a week went by in the summer and fall that your father would not give us an update on both of you. He just loved the two of you so much. He was so proud of your accomplishments. He wanted us to know everything about you. And he loved spending time with you.

Meredith, you were his first-born, his special girl, that extraordinary relationship between a first-born and her father. He talked about how competent and self-assured you were, your wonderful work in higher education.

Melanie, he was so proud of you when you went to Taiwan, how you were determined to become fluent in Mandarin, and how recently you got a big job in New York City precisely because you could speak Mandarin.

Brett and Leah, and, indeed, all of Jean’s family, you all knew how giving Alan was, and how much he cared for each one of you.

And there was no better son than Alan to his mother, who is still alive.

And, Jean, you simply were the love of his life. He loved to talk about your every success. We all knew -and, indeed, were reminded if by any chance we had forgotten- that there was no librarian in Litchfield County more successful and respected than you, and certainly the best fundraiser of the lot. He couldn’t wait to tell us that you were in line to be chosen as one of the most influential 20 people in Litchfield County last year, but we were not to mention it to anyone until it became public news. He loved you dearly. He was happy and complete with you.

And to all of us here, our hearts may be heavy, but Jean and his family wanted today to be a celebration of Alan, his wonderful winsome smile, his kind, penetrating eyes, his softspoken voice, his dry sense of humor, his passion for the game of golf, and always and ever a gentleman on and off the golf course.

You will be missed, dear friend, but you will never be forgotten. We love you.

I would like to conclude with a quote from the Irish writer, Sean O’Casey:

“I have found life an enjoyable, enchanting, active and sometimes a terrifying experience, and I’ve enjoyed it completely. A lament in one ear, maybe, but always a song in the other. And to me life is simply an invitation to live”.

Alan would want all of us to toast his life and, for us, to accept each day’s invitation to live life to the fullest.

In conclusion, I wish to offer a toast to our dear and always beloved friend, to Alan!

Torrington County Club

November 2, 2013

9-13-2013 - Remembering Arthur Ashe

Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

The United States Tennis Open is now history. Rafa Nadal and Serena were worthy champions. Djokovic and Azarenka gave it their best. The Arthur Ashe Stadium delivered some of its finest tennis. But it was a short article in the New York Times that made me reminisce about a man who touched me deeply many years ago.

This year the attendees at the U.S. Open could also drop by and visit “The Arthur Ashe Inspirational Tour”, which was put together lovingly by Arthur’s widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, which was a collection of his books, quotes, causes he was involved in and memorabilia.

I had the pleasure of meeting Arthur Ashe in 1993 when I was the Executive Director of the World Federation of Hemophilia. It was a time when AIDS still was a word with a questionable, prejudicial meaning and connotation. Ashe had gone public with the fact that he had contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion while he was in hospital with heart problems.

The Federation had organized a lecture series in conjunction with McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Arthur Ashe had agreed to be the key speaker. As always, in his quiet voice, he delivered a very moving presentation regarding the need to shed our prejudices, treat everybody with respect, and get rid of our anger regarding AIDS.

When his speech was over, he quietly approached me and asked whether it would be alright if he did not stay for dinner. He was hoping to get the last flight out of Montreal to La Guardia. He explained that he tried as much as he could to get home every night to tuck his little daughter in her bed and kiss her goodnight. He made it home that night to tuck her in. Two weeks later I was shocked to read that he had died.

I am reminded today of the words of the great Irish poet, Seamus Heaney: “The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life”. Arthur Ashe had his priorities right. He lived his life boldly.

9-18-2012 - A Personal Loss

Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

Last week a man died whom I considered one of my great mentors. He never knew me. We never spoke. He simply inspired me. I have some of his books. When I was a student in Rome I sneaked into some of his classes for the sheer pleasure of listening to an intellectual giant, even though I did not belong there. I was not a post-doctorate student. He inculcated in me a passion for the Bible, Old and New Testament. It was he who introduced me to the works of Abraham Joshua Heschel whose writings I grew to love. I would have wanted him to become Pope some day, but he was a Jesuit. Jesuits don’t become Popes. I think most people are intimidated by them.

Carlo Martini died last week outside Milan. He was 85 years of age. When I studied in Rome at a Jesuit university, he was the Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Insitute. He later became a cardinal and the Archbishop of Milan. I have never known anybody who could make the wonderful stories of the Bible alive, exciting and relevant. He influenced my thinking hugely. I will always be grateful to him.

I am attaching this article on Cardinal Martini from the New York Times.

9-18-2012 - The Endearing Value of a Website

Novens, inc. was established in 1997 by dmurphy.

A website is more than just data. It can involve a lot of people doing good things for others. About a month ago I got a call out of the blue from a mother from Mexico City, who had found us through our website. She has a daughter in her early twenties who nine years ago suffered kidney failure and later, due to a blood transfusion, she contracted hepatitis B and has suffered ever since. Her daughter sleeps every night attached to a dialysis machine for nine hours. She now is at a point where she can get a kidney transplant. Nevertheless, the doctors in the hospital in Mexico strongly suggested that, in order to avoid any chance of her hepatitis becoming reactive, she should receive injections of Hepatitis B Immunoglobulins.

I explained to her mother that Novens does not register product, but that I would be happy to contact some of my colleagues from a major fractionator whose headquarters is in Barcelona, Spain.  The company is Grifols, S.A.

And then the wonderful chain of good people helping good people took over. I spoke with my long-time friend David Sorrell at Grifols U.S. plant in North Carolina. He put me in touch with his colleague, Angel Almodovar, head of International Sales, who, in turn, contacted his Sales Manager in Mexico, Veronica Lopez, who is in the process of shipping the product from Barcelona.

In the next few weeks the young lady will have the product and will be able to undergo surgery to receive a new kidney. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her mother. Our gratitude to all the people at Grifols.