Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tagaytay, Philippines - Rome

March 13, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome for a three day definitory meeting. I flew into Rome from the Philippines on Sunday afternoon. It is a long, long journey. It is ten hours from Manila to Doha, a four hour layover, and then another six hours from there to Rome. There is a seven hour difference in time between Manila and Rome, so I have a bit of jet lag (but it is not as bad as it sometimes is). Tagaytay was mercifully temperate throughout the week I spent there. Philippines tends to be hot and humid, but Tagaytay is on the side of a mountain so it is cooler than Manila. Actually, the mountain is an active vulcano, but it is quiet right now (for the past century or so). I had a week of conferences with the novices and postulants. It went very, very well. It is great to see the enthusiasm of the young men when you begin to unpack the meaning of the Gospels. By the end of the week, you could see their minds reaching out to try to apply some of the lessons to other texts, which is great. In a week, you can present only so much, but if you can make them hungry to learn more, then you have done your job. I will be in Rome until Saturday, attending some more meetings and hopefully catching up on some projects. Then I am off to London for a few days. I finished some reading: Poets and Saints: Eternal Insight, extravagant love. Ordinary People by Jamie George I enjoyed this book. It is a bit of a travelogue of a family’s trip to Europe along with a pilgrimage testimony. The author is a Protestant minister, and he visits a number of sites that are connected with Protestantism, but he also visits Catholic sites. One of those sites was Assisi where he met one of our American friars who is now serving in Turkey, Andrew. He was very kind in his treatment. This is a light volume, but it has some very good spiritual insights. Hitler’s War by Harry Turtledove When I got this book, I thought it would be about World War II. In a way, it was, but with a couple of details slightly changed. It ask what would have happened if Franco had not become the leader of the Spanish fascists, if the Munich accord on Czechoslovakia had not taken place, etc. It gives the account from the point of view of the soldiers of the various countries. It was not half bad. To Kingdom Come: An Epic Saga of Survival in the War over Germany by Robert Mrazek These are personal stories of the participants in the war against Germany by the US 8th Air Force stationed in Great Britain. It gives a good account of who they were, of their background, and of their missions. A number of them were shot down, and it gives accounts of those who were able to find their way to freedom through the activities of the French underground. It is a really good story, giving the good and the bad of what happened. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen This short book was not directly written by Nouwen, but it is a collection of essays and talks that he had given over the years on the topic of spiritual direction. I found the book excellent, with insights that I know I will carry with me for a long time. Two ideas in particular struck me – the constant topic that God loves each one of us, a reality that does not need to be earned, and the idea that each of us, as Christians, is called to downward mobility. We are not called to success by the definition of the world, but to surrender and emptying out of oneself. French Indochina by Charles River Editors This is one of the short account from Charles River Editors, this one dealing with the limited topic of how the French came to Indochina, what they did while they were there, and how they were expelled from ii in the 1950’s. As always, the account was informative and worth reading. Vikings by Hourly History This is a short account of the history of the Vikings from the period in which they developed writing (and by definition passed from the prehistoric to the historic era). I found that the author gave a revisionist point of view in terms of the raids that the Vikings exacted upon Great Britain and Ireland (implying that they were revenge raids, but without a lot of outside proof). The end of the account is the development of the nation states of Scandinavia. There is also a good section on the age of exploration (Iceland, Greenland, and the coast of North America). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Tagaytay, Philippines

March 4, 2019 Peace and Good, I spent a few days in Ellicott City. On Monday morning, I was able to video some presentations for our development office on the Sacred Scriptures. Then in the evening I met with a Scripture group. It was a nice day, reminding me of when I was able to teach and do parish missions. Tuesday evening I flew out to Ho Chi Minh. I arrived on Thursday morning. I was there for the dedication of a new postulancy house. The building is three stories high with 24 rooms (with bathrooms). It was well, well done. The celebration was a good moment to mark the growth of the jurisdiction. Sunday afternoon I flew into Manila and drove up to our novitiate of Tagaytay. This is built on the side of an active vulcano which has not erupted for a century and a half. We have our international novitiate here (friars from the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka). I will be here until Saturday giving a workshop on the Gospels. I have finished some reading: John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger This was one topic about which I had never read, and the book is very good. It presents the 6th president of the US as an academic and diplomat who was poorly suited for the presidency, but who nevertheless became a success by being a fly in the ointment when it came to the question of slavery. He was one of the lawyers who defended the blacks from Africa on the Amistead. He is not presented as an especially loveable character (much like his father), but the author is able to give a rounded picture of who he was and what he did. The Portrait of an Artist by Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon, the agent from the Mossad, is able to track down and eliminate a danger from the Islamic movement. This one was recruited by the CIA, but then turned against them to begin a war of terror. The twist in the story is that he is able to do all this with the help of the daughter of a rich Saudi whom he assassinated a number of years before, for she had turned against the extremists whom her father had been financing. As always with Daniel Silva’s books, the story is well told. The Great and Holy War: How World War I became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins This book deals with the religious aspect of World War I. There was the tendency during the war to see it as a hold Crusade against the godless forces of the enemy. It also deals with the religious consequences of the war around the world such as the rise of Islamic movement (first a nationalist movement and later more than that), the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East, the rise of Zionism, and the explosion of various Christian/Pentecostal movements throughout the continent of Africa. The General vs. the President by H.W. Brands This is the story of the interaction of General McArthur and President Truman. McArthur is a larger than life figure who had an enormous ego. He could easily have become a dictator if he had had the possibility, for he only lightly respected the democratic structures of our country. Truman had to find a way to fight the Korean War without starting World War III. He was not helped in this by the general, whom he eventually had to fire. This book gives a good account of the relationship between the two. Vikings by Hourly History This is a short presentation on the history of the Vikings. The author tries to be very sympathetic to them, rationalizing some of their outrages throughout history. The book starts in the late early Christian era, and goes up to the age of exploration in Iceland and Greenland, the conquests in Ireland, England and Normandy, and the rise of the modern nation states of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Tulip Mania: The History and Legacy of the World’s First Speculative Bubble during the Dutch Golden Age by Charles River Editors The title more or less gives away what the book is all about. During the Golden Age of Holland, when its vessels were travelling throughout the world and it was making fabulous profits on trade, people began to buy tulip bulbs (which were a recent introduction from Turkey) for fabulous amounts of money. This was a classic speculative bubble, and it crashed suddenly, leading to the downfall of many fortunes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 25, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City

February 25, 2019 Peace and Good, Last week was a full week of definitory meetings. We went from Monday to Friday. As we approach our General Chater in mid May, we are addressing more and more attention to that and less to the day to day running of the Order. That is not a bad thing, but it is changing the tempo of our meetings a bit. On Saturday I flew to BAltimore, but there was terrible weather in London so our flight from Rome to London was delayed enough that I missed the flight to Baltimore. BA put me up for the night, but I am disappointed in their service in these weeks. This is the second time in a month that they have messed up my flight, and both times the response from their help lines and their personnel has been less that I would expect. I will be flying out to Vietnam tomorrow for the dedication of our new postulancy. They have a lot of vocations, and the only thing holding it back was a lack of space. Then on Sunday I will fly to Manila to give a week workshop to the novices there. I finished some reading: Medical Rounds for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases by Roy Benaroch This is a Teaching Company series. This deals with 24 different cases that a doctor has to diagnose and treat. The presenter is extremely clear both in his presentation and in the process of reasoning that led to a diagnosis. I found this series very informative, both in detail and in the realization of how difficult it can be for a doctor to find the right diagnosis at times. It brought me to a greater respect for my own doctors. The Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhyme series. This one deals with a man who appears to be a mass murderer. There is a side story of police corruption. As with the other volumes, this paraplegic detective and his team are brilliant in unraveling the clues which other police often miss. What is so good about the series is that these come across as real people with their normal personality flaws. I would recommend this book and the others in the series. The Mahdi: the History of the Prophesized Figure Muslims believe will redeem Islam and Bring about the End Times by Charles River Editors This is a very short presentation on the idea of the Mahdi, the promised one who would lead Islam in the right path. This is especially important among the Shia Muslims, much less so among the Sunni. It has often led to figures claiming to be the Mahdi, such as the one in the Sudan who killed General Gordon in the 19th century. Today, among ISIS and among some Iranian clerics, one hears some of these ideas expressed again. Cut and Run by Ridley Pearson An agent with the witness protection agency falls in love with a woman who is on the run from drug bosses for whom she worked. The list of all people in protection along with their addresses is endangered when the scientist who worked up the encoding system disappears and some of the people on the list end up dead. The book is not exactly a great work, but it has a certain suspense and a lot of action. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory This is a well done account of the captivity of Queen Mary of Scotland under Queen Elizabeth of England. Elizabeth has her farmed out to Lord Shrewsbery and his wife Bess. This couple has only recently been married. Bess is a simple upbringing, and more a businesswoman than a wife. She is also a secret spy of Cecil, the advisor and spy master of the queen. The story is told in three voices, Queen Mary, Lord Shrewsberry who secretly falls in love with Mary, and Bess who seethes on the sideline at the disloyalty of her husband and the loss of finances in the upkeep of the queen. This fictional history is well done. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ellicott City - Rome

February 18, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished off my visit to the States with several days at Ellicott City. I had a meeting with the definitory of my province which went very well. I was also able to film some presentations for our Development Office (which also has committed itself to producing materials for evangelization). I have been collaborating with them for quite a while with the daily scripture reflections, but now we have reached out into film as well. The trip back to Rome was less eventful than the trip out from Rome. I will be here for a week for a General Definitory meeting. Then on Saturday I will be heading back to the States. The weather here in Rome is cool but quite pleasant. It is not like the weather brought by the Polar Vortex in the States. I finished some reading: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan This is an account of the dust bowl during the 1930’s. This area of the country probably should never have been opened up to the plow. Its soil was such that if there were a drought, it would be carried aloft in any storm, creating massive dust storms. Yet, the huge price of wheat during World War I guaranteed that it would be used for agriculture. When the drought came, coupled with the Great Depression, it left this entire area desolate with people fleeing to find work and even food. This account gives much eye witness evidence of the suffering, and this is an excellent account of this horrendous time. The Mysterious Etruscans by Steven Tuck In spite of the fact that their civilization was quite advanced, and they were found in a part of the world that is not all remote (central Italy), the Etruscans are not all that well known. This Great Courses presentation speaks of the archeological evidence for them, their beliefs, their rise as a confederation of city states and their downfall under the power of the ever aggressive Rome, etc. It also speaks of many of the cultural artifacts that still show their influence on Italy and the world. Forgotten Patriots by Edwin Burrows The greatest number of those who died during the American Revolutionary world were the prisoners of the British, both in various on land centers and on prison ships. This book goes into great detail on the history of the treatment of prisoners by the British and by the rebel forces during the war. Much of what was done would be considered to be war crimes today, but was classified as almost normal treatment in those days, especially when the Americans were classified as rebels against the king who could have been executed for treason. The book also covers the reasons why tributes to the prisoners were so late in coming and so inadequate, somuchso that most Americans do not even know the extent of what happened in those years. Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich This is a narrative of the revelations received by the 14th century English mystic Julian of Norwich. She is famous for having said that all will be well, and all will be well. Her revelation is very, very positive in nature, but is enormously difficult to follow. I had heard about Julian, and I wanted to read something that she herself produced. The endeavor was worth the effort, but I don’t intend to read much more of what she wrote. It will stick to what was written about her. Bugsy Siegel: the life and legacy of the notorious gangster who helped develop Murder, Inc. and the Las Vegas Strip by Charles River Editors The title pretty much says what this small book from Charles River Editors is all about. It gives the biography of this mobster from his birth in the Jewish ghettoes of New York to his execution in Las Vegas, a city whose development he largely pioneered with the construction with mob funds of the casino the Flamingo. The History of Espionage by Velas Liulevicius This is a teaching company course on the history of espionage. I had previously listened to a course on Eastern Europe by this same professor. Both that first course and this one were filled with information and very interesting. This course is not a spy thriller, but rather a history from ancient times to today, including a lesson on how spy craft is treated in modern literature and film. It is quite good. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Clifton, NJ - Bridgeport, CT - Boston, MA - Ellicott City, MD - Staten Island, NY

February 10, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished off the visitation to the three friaries of the Montreal Custody of the Polish friars in Clifton, Bridgeport and Boston. There are two friars in each of these sites. They are mostly Polish parishes. All three of them are past their heyday for the Polish immigration has leveled off. If young Polish workers want to find work nowaday, they tend to go to Great Britain or Germany (for it is much easier for them to transfer their work benefits to their homeland and to visit family during the holidays). The friars are doing good work, but one has to wonder about the long term health of these communities. This past week I had my annual 50,000 mile check up - GP, cardiologist, dermatologist, hearing, sight and dentist. All of the appointments went very well. This was just a normal thing, but it is important given all the travel that I do all the time. Saturday I attended the funeral of fr. Philip Blaine, one of our friars who died this past week. He had been a missionary in Brazil for a number of years, and also an Assistant General for the missions. His main ministry was teaching spirituality and giving spiritual guidance. I will be in Ellicott City for a few more days, and then it is back to Rome. I finished some reading: Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr Years ago I read the first book by this author, The Alienist. It has been spun off into a TV series recently. This, as far as I know it, is his second and only other book. It is set in upstate New York, and it involves a series of deaths of what the book calls “throw away children.” This volumes is every bit as good as the author’s previous book. It involves detective, forensic work based on a theory in which one tries not to defend one’s theory but rather develop a theory from the evidence found. The hero is not an easy person, and there are a set of sometimes loveable, sometimes odd people around him. It is a very good read. 1177 B. C.: The Year that Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline This book chronicles the extensive international network of trade and diplomacy before the period around 1177 B.C. Then, after that time, there was a period of confusion and retrenchment. What caused it? There have been various theories: famine, civil war, invasion by the sea peoples, earthquake, etc. It is possible that all of these played a part in the downfall of civilization at that time. The author purposes that there was a systems failure. It might have been sparked by one calamity, but then snowballed as one part of the system after another failed, leading to a period that could be called a dark age. The book is good, but filled with theories that cannot be proved. The Brandenburg Gate by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It was originally part of a wall built more for income purposes (to collect the tolls and taxes on imported goods) than for defensive purposes. It became a symbol of the rise of Prussia. During the Nazi era, it was used as a gathering point for various rallies. After the war, its pockmarked surface was a sign of the division between East and West Berlin. Finally, after the war, it was a symbol of the reunification of the city and the country. Peoples and Cultures of the World by Edward Fischer This is a study in anthropology on various societies throughout the world, including tribes and clans in Venezuela, the South Pacific, etc. It is one of the Teaching Company courses. It has a lot of good information, but I cannot say that it really came together all that well. Marie Curie by Charles River Editors This is a very good treatment of the Polish scientist Marie Curie who with her husband discovered radium and polonium. She was frequently discounted for being a woman scientist, but she proved herself to be a talented scholar all the same. She lived a simple life with her husband until his accidental death. She won the Nobel prize for her work, but even then was not allowed to speak to the assembled body. She eventually died from the effects of the radiation of the elements that she discovered. The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger This is an overview of the Hasidic movement in America (and somewhat in Israel). This movement was largely wiped out in Europe during World War II, but given the large number of children that Hasids tend to have, they now number a large percentage of Jews in the world. They do not interact very well with modern society in terms of assimilation, yet they tend to be rather successful in terms of business activities. They also have serious difficulty dealing with government regulations, not infrequently ending up on the wrong side of the law in questions of finance and government housing regulations. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 28, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City - Clifton, NJ

January 28, 2019 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. This past week in Rome was more like being in London in winter than Rome. It has been cold and rainy. I managed to get a number of projects done throughout the week, which means that I can now apply myself to my coming travel and maybe even write an article or two for the Messenger magazine. I am caught up to the April article, but I must always be a bit ahead on those lest something come up and I not be able to write them at the last minute. I was able to get my visa to Vietnam for my trip there at the end of February. I will go there for the dedication of a new seminary building, and then travel to Manila to give a workshop to our novices in Tagaytay (an hour outside of Manila). At the last minute, British Airways cancelled my flight to Baltimore and rebooked me to Dulles. That is about an hour away from BWI, and I had a rental car already arranged in Baltimore. What a mess! They say they will reimburse me for my travel expenses from Dulles to BWI, but I am not all that sure of that given my experiences of trying to navigate the beaurocracy of big airlines. I got into Ellicott City on Saturday evening, and drove yesterday to Clifton, NJ where I am beginning a visitation of a few friaries (here, Bridgeport, Ct and Boston). These are friaries that are under the authority of our Montreal custody which is made up of Polish friars who serve the needs of Polish immigrants. Then starting next Sunday I will be down in Ellicott City for about ten days for some appointments and meetings. I finished some reading: Corsets and Codpieces by Karen Bowman This book deals with the history of the more absurd varieties of fashion throughout the ages. Some of them were just strange (high, high headpieces, very large codpieces on men, etc.). Others were actually dangerous for they put those who wore them in danger due to their inconvenience or their flammability. This is not exactly a scientific study – it is a more entertaining light piece of investigation. Dark Justice by Jack Higgins An assassin tries to kill the president of the US. HE is tied to a Russian oligarch who is using trying to sow confusion among the powers of the West. A secret organization under the direct authority of the Prime Minister is able to sort out the complicated plot and to enact revenge on the plotting parties. The Hoover Dam by Charles River Editors This tells the story of construction of the great dam in Nevada on the Colorado River that produced Lake Mead. This dam was an enormous project built during the depression. It is doubtful that it would ever pass environment regulations today, but it produced a source for water and hydro-power that allowed the great growth of the southwest, especially the Los Angeles area. The English Spy by Daniel Silva A British ex-princess is murdered by a bomb placed on her vacation boat. It turns out that an ex-IRA bomber has arranged the assassination. The British secret service call in the Mossed, asking for the help of Gabriel Mossed to find the killer and kill him. He seeks the help of another IRA member, a British counter-intelligence officer who had become a paid assassin, to find the killer. The book is well written, as are almost all of Silva’s books. The First Salute by Barbara Tuchman The title of the book deals with the fact that the Dutch of the island of St. Eustacius in the Caribbean were the first to give the traditional salute to the flag of the rebellious colonies that became the United States. This masterpiece speaks of the foreign relations of the colonies along with a number of the military campaigns that led to independence. Tuchman is a great historian/popular author, and this is one of her better books. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, January 20, 2019


January 21, 2019 Peace and Good, It is so good to write just one city in the places that I have been for the past period of time. This past week was one of our General Definitories. It was filled with topics to cover. A lot of the work has to do with the fact that we are preparing for the General Chapter beginning in Assisi on May 18th, so there is a lot to do for that. There were also a couple situations in the Order that needed immediate attention. The weather here in Rome is rainy and cool, more like London than Rome. What is nice here, though, is that even if it is generally rainy, the sun will peak through at least once or twice during the day. There are not as many pilgrims and tourists in Rome these days. This is the off season. There was a little problem with the scripture blogs a few days ago, but the head of the office quickly addressed it. If ever you have difficulty receiving the blog, please let me know and we will get on it as soon as possible. I have finished some reading: The Egyptian Scientific Institute by Charles River Editors At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon, who was not yet the absolute ruler of France, decided to distract British forces by invading Egypt. He intended to cut the route to India and create difficulties for England there as well. He was successful at the beginning, but quickly the British under Admiral Nelson defeated his fleet, causing him to eventually sneak back to France. While his invasion was unsuccessful, his establishment of a scientific institute in Egypt was wildly successful. He brought along artists, scientists, archaeologists, etc. who went on to produce many scientific studies. One of his greatest accomplishments occurred years later when a Frenchman, Charpentier, managed to decipher the Rosetta Stone which had been found during his invasion (and thus find a translation for Egyptian hieroglyphs. Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky This is a simple book written as if it were the diary of Princess Elizabeth of England in the years immediately before the death of her father, Henry VIII. It brings across her scholarship, her terrible relationship with her half sister Mary, her fears of banishment, etc. Mad Enchantment by Ross King Ross King is an author who deals with the history of art. This volume deals with Monet and his water lily productions. It speaks quite a bit about his relationship with other artists and especially with Clemenceau. Monet promised to make a huge art donation to the French government, but then all but backed out. The book deals with his sight problems once he developed cataracts on both eyes. As is true of all of King’s books, the research in extensive and the story well told. Blood and Rubles by Stuart Kaminsky An American FBI agent travels to Russia and works with police there to track down a Russian mob that seems to be dealing with nuclear bombs. The book deals with the collapse of law and order in the aftermath of the fall of the communist system. Everything is being handled at two or three different levels. Justice is impossible to obtain, even if one follows all the rules, for it is only available to the highest bidder. Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre A Russian plutocrat seeks to defect to Great Britain bringing with him information about his activities to launder money for the various Russian mobs (with which the government is involved). He is not exactly a refined person, and he is bringing with him a family that is strange and yet in need of aid. He contacts a British school teacher while on vacation in the Caribbean, asking for help. He and his wife contact the secret services, and the rest of the book is the attempt to bring him to Great Britain and give him political asylum (which not all the government officials want because they are in bed with the Russian mob. Le Carre does not present a 007 scenario of spying – quite the opposite. One sees the human flaws in the agents and the government. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude