Monday, November 5, 2018

Ndola, Zambia - Rome - Assisi - Rome - Chicago

November 5, 2018 Peace and Good, The zero to five workshop for friars who had recently finished their formation programs in Zambia went quite well. I always find that these workshops are a challenge because I must bridge the cultural divisions, but it was well worth it. The men are very idealistic, which is good in the young. My job was to encourage their enthusiasm but also to help them to balance it with prudence. This is always a challenge for the young friars. My trip back from Zambia was good. I stopped off in Addis Ababa on the way back (which was just a stop over of a few hours). The airport is much improved over what I remember from previous trips. Let's hope that they keep working at it. This past week I was in Rome for our definitory. This meeting was a bit shorter than normal for we did not meet on Monday afternoon, Thursday (because of the Feast of All Saint's Day) and Saturday. Yet, the meeting itself was quite full. We got good news. The constitutions that we produced at our Extraordinary Chapter were approved by the Vatican. They will be promulgated at the end of the month. Now we have to keep working to get ready for our next General Chapter, the Ordinary one, starting this May. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Chicago for a meeting of our federation. That will last until Thursday, and I head out to Baltimore on Friday. I finished some reading: 1939: Countdown to War by Richard Overy This book deals with the months before the German attack on Poland during World War II. It speaks of the negotiations, the various motives of the parties involved, and the sad ending to the story which plunged the Polish people into a hellish existence for the next several years. The account is well written. The Psalms by Artur Weiser This is a masterful and long treatment of each of the psalms, giving the main message, some cultural background, the spiritual significance of the message, etc. It is not a book that should be used by someone who wants a short and understandable outline of the psalms. It is much more involved, but a valuable research resource. Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier This speaks of the career of President Eisenhower, but especially of his last days in the presidency and his concerns about the accession of the relatively inexperienced President Kennedy. The author goes into length speaking about the last address to the nation that Eisenhower made, especially how he warned of the dangers of the nation being directed by the Military-Industrial Complex. The author shows how this most military man actually fought to keep the nation out of conflict. It is a good treatment. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly This is one of the killing series that Bill O’Reilly and his collaborators produced. There are parts of this book which are worthwhile, but the scholarship is not great all the way through. There are some facts he mentions which a just wrong, and others are oddly stated (e.g. presenting the Roman Senate in the last days of the Republic as a democracy when it clearly was an aristocracy that was no longer functioning for the good of the republic). The book is good as a meditation, as long as one realizes that the author has a bit of an ax to grind at times, and is a bit loose with the history at other times (inventing dialogues and intentions that are not documented in the available sources). The First Man in Rome by Coleen McCullough This is the story of the careers of Marius and Sulla, two important generals of Rome in the generation before the accession of Julius Caesar. It is surprisingly good. This is a historic fiction, but the characters are presented as three dimensional and one can develop a sense of their motivations (which were not always all that honorable). Madam President by William Hazelgrove This is an excellent treatment of how Edith Wilson hid the illness (severe stroke) of President Wilson along with the aid of his doctor. Even cabinet officials were often not allowed to see the president. Edith Wilson, in effect, was the acting president of the US. She was more concerned with the health of her husband than of the good of the nation (which is exactly what she said at times). I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Chicago - Rome - Ndola, Zambia

October 25, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished my workshop on the Letter of St. Paul with the postulants in Chicago and flew back to Rome last Friday. I arrived in Rome on Saturday morning, and just had enough time to rest up a bit, repack, and head out to Zambia to give a workshop. I am in Ndola to give a workshop to those who are out of formation from 9 to 5 years. This is a critical point in the formation of the friars for they are just getting out of formation houses and entering into friaries where the life is quite different. The young men are very idealistic, but there is always the danger that this will create two groups in the province: the young vs. the old. My job this week is to encourage them to continue to be idealistic and to challenge the status quo, but to try to do that without creating divisions. I am also here to help the friars take stock of where they are. This is the point of the friars' life when they develop good or bad habits that will follow them all throughout their lives. I am very impressed with the 12 young men on this workshop. I give some presentations from scripture, but I also open it up a lot to let them talk about their experiences. Theoretically we do this in our monthly house chapters, but it does not happen all that often. Thus, I hope that we are modelling what can be in the future. I have finished some reading: Washington Burning by Les Standford This is the account of the building and then the burning of Washington DC during the War of 1812. It dwells upon the career of the chief architect, Pierre L’Enfant. While he was probably a genius, he was also a very difficult man with whom one had to work. The choice of Washington as the site of the federal government was controversial, even after its official buildings were burned down. The book gives a good history of the events. The Polish Officer by Alan Furst This is one of the books on spy craft in the period just before the beginning of World War II and during the early days of the war. This one deals with a Polish officer who is called upon to spy first in Poland, then in France, and finally back in Poland. The books are realistic, with and incredibly good psychological insight into the people involved. They are not James Bond stories, but rather real people who are involved in incredibly difficult circumstances. I would highly recommend any of Furst’s books (this being the fifth or sixth that I have read). The Bozeman Trail: the History and Legacy of the Exploration Route that Let to Red Cloud’s War by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the major trails used by early settlers in the West, this one running through the Powder River territory. It caused a major Indian War to arise with the Sioux, during which the Crow tried to remain neutral. Eventually, with the transcontinental railroad, the trail was abandoned. Then Sings My Soul by Robert Morgan This is the history of 150 of the religious songs used throughout the English speaking world, especially England and the US. Most of the songs are Protestant, but many would be recognized by a Catholic community as well. There is a short biography of each of the song’s authors, and a bit of why the song meant so much to that individual. Map Thief by Michael Blanding This is the story of a map vendor who eventually became a map thief, E. Forbes Smiley. As part of the background material, there is a good description of the practice of map collecting. There are those who buy old maps for wall decorations, and there are the more academically intentioned collectors who build their map collection upon a theme (e.g. early colonial maps of a particular area, world maps during a certain era, etc.). The vendor tried to live a life style beyond his means, and to finance it began to steal maps from libraries and rare map collections, thereby betraying the very people who had supported him in his research. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 15, 2018

London - San Antonio, Texas - Chicago

October 15, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished off my trip to London and flew out to San Antonio to visit the house of formation there. I was only there for abour 48 hours, but it was a very good visit. I had some nice discussions with a couple of friars there. Then I flew into Chicago on Friday. I will be giving a week workshop to the postulants (8 of them) on the Letters of St. Paul. I enjoy doing this every year. It gives me the opportunity to get to know the men in formation a bit. Saturday, I was able to be at a 25th anniversary of the ordination of fr. Brad Milunski. He was one of my students at Granby many years ago. He is now the director of the formation program here. I have finally finished with my bronchitis. I am usually very healthy, but when I get a bad cold it almost always becomes bronchitis. I will have to mention that to the doctor on my next visit there in November. I have finished some reading: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the convention that led to the production of the constitution. It started as an attempt to revise the Articles of Confederation that had been the unifying principle for the US right after the War of Independence. Madison and Hamilton worked to make the revision more substantial, giving rise to what we today know as our constitution. The short book records the series of compromises between big states and small, slave and free states, those who wanted a central authority and those who wanted more states’ rights, etc. Hadrian’s Wall: the History and Construction of Ancient Rome’s Most Famous Defensive Fortification by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River account of the construction and history of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England/Scotland. Hadrian had decided that the Roman Empire was large enough, and instead of setting out on new conquests, he decided to build barriers in those places where barbarians might threaten settlements. The wall seems also to have been built to regulate trade (and taxes) between the Picts of Scotland and settlements farther south. A Canticle for Lebowitz by Walter Miller This is a book that I had read in high school many years ago, and I enjoyed it as much this time around. It is about a post-nuclear war period in which a monastery of monks dedicated to Lebowitz, an engineer become monk who protected books during an anti-intellectual rebellion and who died a martyr to the cause tries to revive civilization. It tells the story at a number of historic periods after the initial event. The author has a sense of humor, and asks important philosophic questions about progress and responsibility, etc. Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain and the Fateful Summer of 1940 by Norman Moss This book covers the period at the beginning of the Second World War, especially dealing with what was happening in Great Britain and the reaction to events in the US. It is well written, if at times a bit hard on the US for not getting involved early enough. I could easily recommend it to others. Jason and the Argonauts: the Origins and History of the Ancient Greek’s Most Famous Mythological Hero by Andrew Scott and Charles River Editors This book is an overview of the story of Jason and tells of its importance in Greek culture and also of its historic resonances. Like all of the Charles River books, it is short and really only gives an overview, but it does that very well. The Life and Legacy of the Prophet Jeremiah by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of the life and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. I found the scholarship below the level of many of the other books in this series. The actual ministry of Jeremiah is handled well, but the author accepts as unconditional truth what is really just a theory, at times a theory that does not have widespread belief. I was disappointed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 8, 2018

Rome - London - Oxford - London

October 8, 2018 Peace and Good, I have finished my time in Rome for a while. In the last couple of days, I have been working on a little project and finally made some progress on it. I want to transcribe all of the homilies that I preached during the Extraordinary Chapter (at the request of some friars and the Minister General). While I was recovering from bronchitis, I just did not have the energy. Now that I am feeling better, I finished about a third of the project. I hope to have it completed by the end of the month. I flew to London on the 5th and had some meetings with the custos and his vicar. We were able to get a lot of business done in a relatively short amount of time. Saturday I headed up to Oxford to visit our formation community, and came back Sunday evening. Now I will be in London until Wednesday when I will fly out to San Antonio, Texas to another of our houses of formation. The weather here is cool and overcast, a normal British fall. I have spent many, many hours in conversation with a number of friars here, which is always good. I have finished some reading: The Storm of the Century by Al Roker This is an account of the hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. I had already read another book on this topic called Isaac’s Storm, and this book was as good if not better than that one. This is the Al Roker who is the meteorologist on TV. He has a lot of good quotes from people who lived through the storm. The final toll of this disaster was somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 when the storm surge from a very powerful hurricane that the weather bureau had not forecast completely covered the island on which Galveston was built. The FBI by RJ Parker Vol 1 This is a series of stories about some of the FBI’s most infamous cases. One or two of the cases is treated in a very defensive manner, but the rest are simply reporting what happened with cases like the mobster cases in the 1930’s and some of the more recent cases in the recent decades. William Penn: The Life and Legacy of the English Quaker who Founded Pennsylvania by Charles River Editors This short book on the life of William Penn is quite well done with a number of long quotes from Penn’s own writings. He was a convert to being a Quaker, a choice that landed him in prison a number of times. He was at times favored by the court (especially as being the son of a war hero), and at other times ignored or even persecuted. He was the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania which was one of the most respectful colonies toward other religions and toward Native Americans. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson This was a very, very good book on the life and career of this incredible man. I found the treatment as good as that of Ross King who has written a series of very good books on the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo, on the dome of the cathedral in Florence by Brunelleschi, on the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, etc. The author does not delve into some of the more strange theories on Leonardo’s art. He describes his creative process which was the product of an insatiable curiosity. I highly recommend this book. The Cathars: The History and Legacy of the Gnostic Christian Sect During the Middle Ages by Charles River Editors The Cathars, also known as the Albigensians, were a heresy that developed in southern France in the 12th century AD. It was an offshoot of a heresy that developed in the Balkans known as the Bogomils. This religion was very dualistic seeing the earth as evil and not a product of God’s goodness. They were highly persecuted by the Catholic Church. The author of this book is not objective in any way, not even treating those moments when the Cathars did terrible things to Catholics. He also does not treat many of the political questions that had an influence on how they were treated (e.g. the attempt of the French king to gain political power in this part of France). The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War by Mark Stille The beginning of this book is an outline of the history of the Japanese navy during the Second World War. Then the author goes into an evaluation and examination of each type of naval vessel that the Japanese built and used. This speaks about various classes of ships, but then goes on to speak of the history of each ship in that class. It is a little more information than I really wanted to handle. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, September 28, 2018

Rome - Nisiporesti, Romania - Rome

September 28, 2019 Peace and Good, Over these past couple of weeks I have been showing some friends and acquaintances around Rome. This is the one time that I get to see some of the sites, so I really enjoyed it all. The last guest left this Tuesday morning, so it is back to the normal schedule. Furthermore, on Friday a group of us flew to Romania for the beatification of Veronica Antal. She was a consecrated lay woman who was murdered during the days of communism. Her cause has been proposed since I first taught in Romania in the 1990's, and it was finally approved this past year. There were over 12,000 people and over 300 priests present. Her village is not all that big, but the church is very large. In fact, when the previous pastor rebuilt it, he was accused of overbuilding, of making something way too large. Now it is clear that he was prudent for there will be many pilgrims to her tomb in these coming years. Sunday we came back to Rome, and these past days we have been meeting in definitory. This was a bit shorter than most meetings, for we finished at Friday lunch (while we usually go through to Saturday lunch). I will be here in Rome until the day after St. Francis Day, October 5th. Then I head out on one of my usual journies: London, Oxford, San Antonio, Texas, Chicago, Rome and Ndola, Zambia. I have finished some reading: Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty by Kate Hennessy Kate Hennessy is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, so this biography is an insider story of who Dorothy was and especially her relationship with her daughter Tamar. We hear a love/hate sort of relationship in which Dorothy was asking something of Tamar (to live as a faithful Catholic) which just wasn’t in her. We see Dorothy torn between acting as a mother and serving the ever growing needs of her Catholic Worker movement. This book presents Dorothy as a real person and not as a saint on a pedestal. Lagash and Eridu: the History and the Legacy of the Sumerian City by Charles River Editors These are actually two short books on Sumerian cities and the archaeological evidence that remains of their cultures, especially their religious devotional practices. They are a bit technical for the average reader, but they do provide a good amount of information for consideration of this culture that existed in Mesopotamia before the arrival of the Semitic cultures of the following generations. The Panic of 1907 by Sean Carr This is a financial crisis that I had never heard about. It was the crisis that led to the foundation of the Federal Reserve Bank. J.P. Morgan, rather than the tyrant and villain he is often portrayed as being, turns out to be the elder statesman who manages to limit the damage caused by the financial situation which began due to the failure of a financial scheme by some investors. The author gives a good analysis of what factors go into the origin and possible control of a crisis such as this. Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly This is one of O’Reilly’s historic studies. This one deals with the closing months of the war in the Pacific during the Second World War. He gives a lot of detail and valuable information. I just wish that he did not have to be so polemic in his attack on Obama. It is as if he has to blame Obama for everything, even the Second World War. At the same time, this book and the one that I read on the death of General Patton are worth considering. Shakespeare: the World as a Stage by Bill Bryson This is a rather good biography of Shakespeare, with a long section at the end which debunks the many theories that propose that someone else wrote his plays or that he never even existed. The book does not go into the plays in any depth, but does give some good background information (admitting that there is not much information available on who Shakespeare was, where he lived, what he did for long stretches of time, etc.). Bill Bryson usually write humorous travel books, but he handled this particular topic quite well. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This is volume two of what must be intended to be a three or four volume series on the secretary to King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell. It is a sympathetic portrait, where I have seen other versions of the story which portray him in a darker light. The first volume treated his dealings with the divorce of Henry from Katherine of Aragon. This one deals more with what happened to the marriage of Henry with Ann Boleyn. The author does a good job of creating a scene. Henry comes across as a spoiled egomaniac, which is probably not all that far off the mark. It was good reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Seoul, South Korea - Rome

September 16, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Seoul where I met with the definitory of the South Korean Province. I had been the visitator twice in a row, and this visit was halfway between the last chapter and the next one. It was a visit to see how things were going, and they are going quite well. I then travelled back to Rome. This week I have been hosting a friend, a priest from Ghana whom I know from when he stayed at our friary in Ellicott City while he was studying. I have given a retreat at the seminary where he was teaching, and also to the diocescan priests of his diocese. It is good when I have guests like this, for I get to see the sites of Rome that I don't see otherwise. My favorite church is of St. Clement, not all that far from the Colosseum. It is an 11th century church built upon a 4th century church built upon a series of appartments which it is believed to be the dwelling place of the fourth pope. The weather in Seoul was quite nice, but I was told that it had just broken a bit for it had been quite hot in previous weeks. The weather here in Rome is still summerlike. I have finished some books: The Cambridge Five: the History of the Notorious Soviet Spy Ring during World War II by Charles River Editors This is a quick account of the five Cambridge students during the inter-war period who agreed to spy for the Soviet Union. I have read a more complete account of Kim Philby lately, and this version is in agreement with the details of the other book. Typical of Charles River books, it is short and to the point (which has both advantages and disadvantages). Chernobyl and Three Mile Island by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River account of two separate nuclear disasters. It is really just a cobbling together of two related topics. The Three Mile Island accident was serious enough, but does not even have the slightest similarity to the seriousness of the Chernobyl disaster. The account gives both a good amount of information as well as first hand reactions to what happened and how it affected the lives of those involved. Antoni Gaudi the Life and Legacy of the Architect of Catalan Modernism by Charles River Editors Gaudi is a great architect from the Barcelona area who designed the long anticipated Church of the Holy Family. His style was decidedly unusual, and it marked a whole type of architecture that became famous between the two World Wars. He lived an ascetical life, and is now being proposed for beatification. There is no question that he was dedicated to his faith, but there was also a certain strangeness in him toward the end of his life. The League of Nations by Charles River Editors This is the story of the establishment and the short duration of the League of Nations. The short book goes into the developments before and during World War I which showed the world leaders the need for some sort of international organization to short circuit the mechanism of the march to war. Unfortunately, the US never joined the organization, and the economy of the world disintegrated during the Great Depression. Furthermore, many nations turned to autocratic governments that all but ignored the rulings of the league, while the democratic governments put up with the decisions of those governments in order to practice appeasement and keep the peace, eventually destroying the league. The History of the Goths by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths, two eastern tribes that invaded both the Eastern and the Western Roman Empires. They were responsible, in fact, for the fall of the Western empire, the king of the Goths overthrowing the last Roman Emperor. It also deals with the attempts of the Eastern Emperor to invade the West and reestablish the empire. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, September 3, 2018

Rome - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Seoul, South Korea

September 4, 2018 Peace and Good, After a couple of days of rest following the General Chapter, I went out on the road again. The first trip was to Saigon in Vietnam. I had asked the Minister General to stop there on my way to Korea to attend the ordination to the priesthood of three of our friars and to the diaconate of two of the other friars. The delegation there is doing very well. The friars have a wonderful spirit, a real joyful attitude. There is a sense of hope and future possibilites. They are at an important point right now in their developement, for the first friars to complete formation are now leaving the seminary and the friars there have to find a number of new apostolates for them. Furthermore, the numbers in formation continue to be good, so I can see them becoming a custody at the end of four years or so. I travelled to Vietnam with fr. Louis. P, who is the Secretary for Formation for the Order. This was his first time there, while I have visited four or five times already. The friars there are building a new seminary for their postulants (the first stage for those coming into the Order). They only began a couple of months ago, but it is already well along. The Vietnamese are quite industrious, and they tend to finish projects beforetime and under budget. On Sunday I flew to Seoul which was about five and a half hours from Saigon. I am here to do a half term visit to a province that I have visited canonically twice already. At the end of a visitation, we give a series of recommendations, and I am here to see how they are doing with what was suggested. I have finished some reading: The Enthusiast by Jon Sweeney This is the story of Brother Elias, one of the early companions of St. Francis. He was one of the first Minister Generals of the Order, but after the death of Francis he seems to have betrayed the charism of the Order’s founder. He even ended up being excommunicated for his siding with the Holy Roman Empire against the Pope. The book is supposed to be about Elias, but it really is more about Francis with Elias thrown in until after Francis’ death. World War II Biographies by Hourly History This is a series of short biographies on such figures as Ernst Rommel, Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, George Patton and Joseph Stalin. The presentations are a quick overview, but they nevertheless provide some good information on each of these people and how they influenced the outcome of the war. Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child I have read a number of books by the team of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston which includes the Special Agent Prendergast series. This one is by Lincoln Child alone and it deals with an Artic expedition to find traces of previous eras in the melting ice (due to global warming) of a glacier. The team comes across a frozen animal, possibly a saber tooth tiger. The TV firm that is funding the expedition decides to defrost the animal live on TV. They send a team for this TV special. The animal, though disappears. It has defrosted itself and it turns out to be a much more dangerous animal than expected. The rest of the book is about the team’s hunting it and its hunting them. It is quite well done. The Khufra Run by Jack Higgins A nun is looking for a plane full of treasure that her family tried to carry out of Algeria around the time of independence. She finds two disreputable but nevertheless not that bad characters who assist her in the hunt, the proceeds of which will be used to build a hospital for the needy. An evil Algerian colonel seeks to steal the treasure. This particular volume by Higgins bears a remarkable similarity to another of his books in which the treasure is hidden in a delta in Vietnam. The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis This is a two part book. The first part is an extended interview of Pope Francis on the topic of mercy. The second part is the text of the document that he wrote to inaugurate the Holy Year of Mercy that we celebrated a couple of years ago. There is nothing new here, but it is good to hear what it contains. Wolfgand Amadeus Mozart by Hourly History This is one of the short biographies that speaks of the life and times of Mozart. It gives an honest appraisal of his life and influences, especially that of his father. It shows how he learned from previous masters and was a source of learning for those who followed. It speaks of some of the misconceptions contained in the famous movie Amadeus. This is well done. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude