Monday, January 8, 2018

Rome - Ellicott City - Rome

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Melbourne, Australia - Rome, Italy

December 30, 2017 Peace and Good, I returned from Australia the evening of the 23rd, arriving around noon on the 24th. The trip was unending. There was a 16 hour flight from Melbourne to Doha in the Gulf States, a three hour layover, and another 6 and one-half flight to Rome. The jet lag from Melbourne to Rome is 10 hours, which means that these past few days have meant laying low and trying to get over the jet lag. The weather here is Rome is a bit unusual. It has cooled off quite a bit, but the first couple of days back were rainy with thunder storms (which don't happen all that often in Rome). This is good because we had a very dry summer, and the winter crops need the moisture. I am heading to the States this morning for a week. I have a number of doctors' visits this coming week - normal stuff for a man of my age. Then back to Rome for a couple of weeks of meetings. The first week will be our definitory, and then the second week will be a school for the new provincials in the Order. We do this every year or so for the provincials and custodes who have been elected in the meantime. I have finished some reading: The Seminole by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history and culture of the Native Americans who grouped together with run away slaves in the southern US, and eventually in Florida and Oklahoma, to become the Seminole people. They were not treated all that well by the US government. Many of them were forced to leave their homelands under Andrew Jackson and travel the trail of tears, the ethnic cleansing of the lands each of the Mississippi by the government of whatever native Americans were resident there. The Fugue by Arna Hemenway This is a very odd story of a man nicknamed Wild Turkey (more after an episode in which he obtained a number of wild turkies for a Thanksgiving meal for his band of soldiers rather than after the drink). It travels from here to there as his memory, which is suffering from post tramatic stress syndrome after a particularly horrific episode while on patrol in Iraq, seeks to find its footing. The messiness of the telling of the story well matches the messiness of the ex-soldier’s messed up mind. The Bed-Rest Hoax by Aleandra Kleeman This is a scientific essay in which the author takes to bed for a number of days to experience what women who are running a high risk pregnancy are told to do by many doctors. She uses her own experience and especially scientific studies to show that complete bed rest is actually more harmful to these women than a regiment of limited activity. How Can We Find More People Like You by Sara Borbett This is a travel essay on the attempt of some agents of AIRBNB to find more people in Japan who would host travelers. They find that the ones who would be most likely to allow strangers into their homes are those who already march to a different drummer. That is a little difficult to find in Japan where there is an intense sense of privacy in addition to the need to conform. Salvador Dali by Charles River Editors This is a short version of the life story of the great surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The author of this account is honest in the appraisal and Dali was both a great artist and an even greater promoter of his own talents. This account gives a very fine study of some of the most important pieces of art produced by Dali. I am glad I went through it. Black Cross by Greg Iles This is a fictional story of a secret British plot to infiltrate two specially chosen commandoes (one an American scientist and the other a German Jew from Palestine) into Germany to set off a set of bombs with neurotoxins to prove to Hitler that the allies possessed the poisons and would use them if the Germans attacked the invading troops in Normandy with their supply of poison gasses. It is set in the spy mode, and the author pushes credibility a bit (which is common in this genre), but it is a good book. Happy New Year Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Boston - San Jose, Costa Rica - San Francisco - Sydney, Australia - Melbourne, Australia

December 21, 2017 Peace and Good, It has been a very busy couple of weeks, both in terms of travel and in terms of cultural background. After the Minister General and I dropped fr. Donald off into the care of fr. James, the provincial, we continued on to Costa Rica for the inaugural chapter of a new custody. This custody was formed by the merger of a delegation in Costa Rica and a custody in Honduras. We have been working on this union for seven years, and it is a joy that we finally saw it occur. We had the official union on December 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day after that celebration, I flew up to San Francisco. This was just a stopping off point, for I was then flying out to Australia. It took me eight hours of flight to get to San Francisco, so I decided to stay the night in a hotel and then fly out the next day rather than trying to fly the whole way that same night. This was a good choice, for the flight from San Francisco to Australia was 14 hours in itself. I visited the friars in Kellyville and Warrawong which are near Sydney, and yesterday I flew south (only about an hour flight) to visit our friars in the Melbourne area (Springvale and Dingley). We have about 15 friars here, including two from the States, one from the Philippines, and one from India. This is a delegation of the Chicago Province (St. Bonaventure), and the visit is a preparation for the provincial chapter in Chicago which will take place right after Easter. I will be heading back to Rome on the evening of the 23rd, arriving in Rome around noon on the 24th. I have finished some reading: The Book of Jubilees by R.H Charles I have often heard about the Book of Jubilees, but I had never read it. This is a book that did not make it into the Bible, but which had a considerable influence in its days (just before the birth of Jesus). It is a type of rewriting of the Book of Genesis with the elements of the story favored by the intellectual background of the author’s school of thought emphasized. It is longer than I expected, but well worth going through at least once. William Wallace by Charles River Editors This is a short life story of the famous Scottsman who was portraayed by Mel Gibson in the film Braveheart. It is a sad story of rebellions, betrayals (often by his own Scotts), the relentless pressure exerted by King Edward I (known as Edward Longshanks). It was a brutal time, and both side used war techniques that would be considered cruel and outragerous today. How the Dog became the Dog: From Wolves to our Best Friends by Mark Derr This is a book that speaks about how dogs evolved from wolves (and possibly with a bit of jackal and/or fox). One can see in the book that the author is head over heals in love with dogs, and sometimes his retoric becomes a bit overly canine centered. He talks about how packs of wolves probably travelled along with packs of the first humans and that somehow they began to interact (maybe even learning hunting techniques from each other). He bemoans the limited breeding of dogs today because it forces attributes on dogs and lead to genectic abnormalities. It is not a bad bood, but not a great one either. Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt and the Supreme Court by Jeff Shesol This is the account of how FDR had a running battle with the Supreme Court which outlawed a number of his New Deal laws and organizations. The court was rather old, and five of the justices were quite conservative. FDR came up with the proposal to add members to the court, up to fifteen. This took various forms, either adding a member for each justice over 70 (and later over 75) or just adding members, etc. The Congress which was overwhelmingly Democratic after the 1936 election nevertheless turned down his proposal. In spite of this, the proposal seems to have frightened some members of the court who then changed their stance on a number of controversial cases to be in favor of FDR’s position. In a sense, he lost the battle but won the war. Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea by Antonia Juhasz This is the account of a dive near the oil well platform that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago and what the scientists found on the bottom of the gulf. The oil that had been dumped there was largely still there. The micro-organisms which ate the oil at first seem to have eaten only parts of it, leaving some of the most toxic elements still there. Furthermore, those elements are entering the food chain which could cause serious health problems in the future. The Night of the Long Knives by Charles River Editors Shortly after Hitler took power in Germany, he turned on the SA led by a brutal thug named Ernst Rohm. The industrialists who financed the Nazis and the leaders of the army demanded that Hitler do something about the SA who were street thugs and who were causing chaos in the land. Hitler along with Goering and Himmler led a purge against the SA in what has long been called the night of the long knives in which many of the SA leaders (along with other enemies of Hitler) were killed. I hope you have a good week as you prepare for Christmas. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Rome - Boston

December 10, 2017 Peace and Good, I was in Rome this past couple of weeks. We had a very long definitory, meeting with some of the men who work with the causes of Blesseds and Saints, with our office of Justice and Peace, and with our office for Ecumenism. We also met with the definitories of some of our Italian provinces. After the meetings finished, I worked on a series of daily reflections to get ahead of the game because I will be travelling extensively these next few weeks. I also finished a series of articles for our magazine in Kenya and a couple of articles for our magazine in Padua. Then we had our big celebration on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During the novena, we have a different cardinal each day. On the feast itself, it was Cardinal Re. Yesterday I travelled with our Minister General, fr. Benedict Baek, fr. Donald Kos to Boston. We were stopping off in Boston to drop Donald off. He had lived in Rome for 59 years in service to the Order and the Church. His health is failing a bit now, and so we brought him home to be in the Old Friars home in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Today the General and I take off for San Jose, Costa Rica where we will be celebrating a custodial chapter which marks the union of two jurisdictions (something we have been working toward for over seven years). I have finished some reading: You’ll Apologize If You Have to by Ben Fowlkes This is a short story of a professional octagon fighter who loses a battle and end up unconscious and with a huge bruise on his face. He returns home, and has a bad meeting with his ex-wife and child, and another bad meeting with a stranger whom he encounters while walking on the beach. He had just smoked a joint, and the man objects to what he did. The protagonist pushes him to sit down where he is, in the sand and the mud. He later goes back to apologize because he is afraid that the man will call the police on him, and he meets the man’s wife who is much older than he and welcomes the fighter into here home. White Guy in a Djelleba by Michael Chabon This is a travel story about how Michael Chabon is on a trip in Morocco with his family. He is going to a particular village, and his driver goes off track, causing everyone a bit of anxiety. It turns out that the family had asked for lunch somewhere where they served more than couscous, for they were already getting sick of it. The driver had taken them to a market/barbacue place where they get the best meal they were to have while in Morocco. It is a nice story of typical tourist anxiety with a happy ending. How Chance and Stupidity have Changed History: the Hinge Factor by Erik Durschmied This is a good book on a series of battles and historic events in which plain dumb luck or plain stupidity played a major role in the ultimate result. It speaks of battles all throughout history as well as things such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. The author gives enough datail to picture what was happening as well as a bit of speculation concerning the “what if” this or that had happened. Gabrielle Glaser The False Gospel of Alcoholics Anonymous This is an essay in a collection of scientific articles. AA has been considered to be the only way to fight alcoholism, but this article challenges this belief. It speaks of attempts to treat alcoholics in Finland with a mix of medication and counseling which can result in total abstinence or a much lower level of drinking. This is an interesting detail in the article, for AA takes it as a given truth that alcoholics can never drink again, a truth that this article challenges. I am not sure I buy all of its conclusions, but it certainly gives one much to think about. The Big Cat by Louise Erdich This is a strange little story about a man who marries into a family in which all of the women snore incessantly. He speaks of family get togethers as torture during which he rarely slept. He eventually divorces his wife, has an affair with her, and then remarries her. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude Winkler

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Ottawa - Rome

December 3, 2017 Peace and Good, I returned from Ottawa to Rome where we are holding a marathon definitory meeting. It is planned to go from Monday of this past week up to the vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. There are two reasons for the longer meeting this time. The first is that December is when we get the reports of the General Secretaries of our staff. These are the friars who are in charge of various offices which deal with the Secular Franciscans, the Poor Clares, the promotion of the causes of Blesseds and Saints, etc. We are also meeting with the provincials and definitories of the provinces of Italy. They have not been doing all that well in these years, so we want to continue to have a dialog with them to help them in any way we can The weather here has been rainy, which is very good because there was a bad drought all throughout the summer. It is cool, but not really terribly cold. I will be here until December 9th when I begin a long trip (Boston, San Jose, Costa Rica, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne and back to Rome. I finished some books: Outlaw by Ted Dekker Ted Dekker is a child of missionaries in Iryan Java, the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea. He recounts a story of a woman missionary and her infant son who are captured by a savage band of natives. They suffer untold indignities and are at times tortured and almost put to death. The woman had originally intended to share the faith with these people, but she comes to share it in a way that she would never have expected. Her love and that of her son in the face of violence create a new way of seeing reality in the Tulim Valley where they found themselves. The Dutch East India Company by Charles River Editors The Dutch East India company was a great trading empire founded by the Dutch traders and centered in the Indonesian Islands. It was not founded for the advance of civilization, but rather for the accumulation of riches. This was not all that favorable for the inhabitants of this area. The Dutch played on divided loyalties here much as the English did in India. They were certainly guilty of what today would be called war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even though the Dutch remained masters of Indonesia until after World War II, the company’s importance slowly faded as time went on. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Charles River Editors This was long considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world, even in ancient times. The problem is that while there are some inconsistent descriptions of its layout, there is no archaeological evidence that it every existed in Babylon. One of the possibilities that the author posits is that it really existed in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, which was occasionally also called Babylon. There is a lot of theory in this treatment but not a lot of firm information. Hades: The History, Origins and Evolution of the Greek God by Charkes River Editors This is an overview of the Greek treatment of the god Hades. While this god was a brother of Zeus and one of the Greek pantheon, it was nevertheless different from the other gods. It did not reside, for example, on Mt. Olympus. It resided in the underworld. Greeks did not perform the same type of sacrifices to this particular god. This god was not one whom one would adore to ask for favors, but rather one whom one tried to placate so that it would not do something bad to one. The Greek treatment of Hades and the underworld was eventually mirrored in Livy’s Aeneid and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Tyre by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the great trading city of Type on the shore of what today is Lebanon. While it formed a sea borne empire that stretched from Spain to Palestine, it was nevertheless subject to the great powers that surrounded it for all of its history (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc.). It was the motherland for settlers who ended up in Carthage and who created first a dependant entity and then eventually an empire in its own right. How Rome Fell by Adrian Goldsworthy I listened to this book about the fall of the Roman empire from the first moments in which there were difficulties up to its eventual dissolution. Goldsworthy is a good scholar and is fair in his treatment of causes and effects. This is a fairly long treatment of the topic, but every bit of it is worth reading. I certainly intend to search for more books by Goldsworthy. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Chicago - Ellicott City - New York - Ottawa

November 21, 2017 Peace and Good, I completed my workshop in Chicago for the Postulants. It was on the Letters of St. Paul, especially applying the spiritual insights of Paul to religious life. I was pleased with how it went. The postulants are a good group of young men. I flew back to Ellicott City for some appointments (both meetings and Dentist and Doctor). As usual, the doctors' appointments set off a set of referrals which I had not expected. No problems - just what is needed at my age. I will be travelling back to Ellicott City right around New Year's for those appointments. It was a trip I had not expected, but... On Thursday I took the train up to New York City for a meeting of the Board of Directors of Franciscans International. We are a good group of eight, and we work very well together. We met at Leo House, a house set up for visiting clergy. It is on 23rd West, a perfect location. All went well, and we finished by lunch on Sunday. I then took a train over to Newark Airport where I picked up a plane for Ottawa. I am visiting here a few days to see our newest friary. It is an international community with a Canadian, an Indian, a Romanian and a Philippino friar. So far, so good. Yesterday we had lunch with the Archbishop of Ottawa, Bishop Prendergast. He is a Jesuit, and the friars have known him for quite some time. Tomorrow I fly back to Rome. I will be there until the 9th for our usual definitory. I have finished some reading: The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith This is a masterful overview of the colonialization of Africa and the subsequent rise to freedom of the various nations. It gives an unprejudiced view of how this happened and the consequences of the process in the modern era. It speaks of the unspeakable tragedy of authoritarian figures seizing control and robbing the nations of their resources in order to fund a scandelous form of life. It deals with the tendency toward dictatorship in almost all of the countries in Africa. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding the situation there a bit better. Coolidge by Amity Shlaes This is a thorough biography of silent Cal. He was the president who took over the reigns when Warren Harding suddenly passed away. It was a tough act to follow for Harding’s administration was one of the most currupt in history. Coolidge did a good job in righting a sinking economy, but he was so insistent on saving money in the budget that he often did not respond to situations with the needed concern. He believed in a rugged individualism. I found the author of the book a bit too much of a fan of Coolidge, but overall the treatment was good. CSI Reilly Steel: Taboo by Casey Hill This is the first of three short novels dealing with a CSI agent from the States who is now working in Ireland. She is there to run the CSI department and teach many of the policemen there the techniques that are used here. There is, of course, resentment to her showing up and imparting here wisdom on others. This particular volume involves a serial killer who establishes a theme of violating any number of taboos in the killings. It turns out that the killer is well known to Reilly, the agent. Deadlock by Iris Johansen This is the second volume of Johansen I have read or listened to. Her books are OK, but I would not say that I was overly impressed by them. This one involves a complicated plot where various artifacts left by Rasputin’s protegee have been discovered, and this leads to murder and torture of the people involved. There is a bit of secret agent theme in the book. The thing I dislike most about Johansen’s books are that she does not get the dialog right. It always sounds like some unbelievable movie script. The Fall of Japan by William Craig This is an excellent treatment of the last days of World War II in the Pacific. It deals with the bombing of the cities of Japan by fire bombs and by the atomic bombs. It tells of the many coups planned when surrender became imminent (by hard liners who would have preferred that the nation go down in glory). It speaks of the hunt for the prisoner of war camps so that the prisoners might be rescued before they were executed by vengeful guards (which did happen in some camps). It speaks of the beginning of the period of occupation by American fources. It has just the right amount of details to give great insight into the topic. I would recommend this book. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ellicott City - Chicago

November 10, 2017 Peace and Good, At the end of October I finished my meetings at Ellicott City with the definitory of Our Lady of Consolation Province. I flew out to Chicago for a couple of activities. On the 4th, I was part of a workshop which commemorated the 500th anniversary of the document that split the brown Franciscans from the Conventual Franciscans. There were two academic presentations on this history of the split, and then the common elements that the two groups share. My presentation was on ways that we are now collaborating all throughout the world. I was pleased with the result. We had small group discussions afterward, and the friars came up with many possible forms of collaboration for the future. The idea that everyone seemed to agree with was the suggestion that we get together often to share a pizza. I told them that we get much more done over a picnic table than over a conference table. Since Monday, I have been presenting the Letters of St. Paul to our postulants. Postulants are the men who have just entered our community and they are discerning whether they would like to go to novitiate. This workshop is something that I do every year. We have seven new postulants and one who is doing a second year. Three of the eight were born in foreign countries, which is a trend that seems to be happening year after year. That is not really too much of a surprise, for in the past many vocations came from ethnic communities. I will head out tomorrow to Ellicott City for a few meetings, and then on Thursday I go to New York for a meeting of the Board of Directors of Franciscans International. I have finished some reading: Windsor Castle by Charles River Editors This is the story of Windsor Castle, the castle used as a residence for British Kings all the way back to the days of William the Conqueror. The author speaks of how the castle was esteemed by some kings and fell out of favor by others. There is too much detail for the casual reader and it becomes a bit borning because it has the feel of being weighed down by history. Megido by Charles River Editors This is one of the short treatments of various topics by Charles River Editors. This one deals with the city of Medigo, which lies at a crucial point in the Jezreel Valley in Israel. This city/fortress blocked any invading army travelling to the north or south. It was often destroyed and rebuilt, eventually ending up as a mound (hence the name of the last battle in the Book of Revelation: Armagedon – which comes from the words har = mount and Medigo). This treatment is much more technical that would be of use to the casual reader, devolving into great details concerning the various layers of habitation. Bride by Julia Elliott This is a short story about a medieval nun copyist who lives in a community that is ravaged by plague and famine. It is a very strange story, but yet compelled me to think about the situation more. I would clasify it as good in that it made me think. A Hero of France by Alan Furst Over the years I have read a number of Furst’s books, and I have to say that they never disappoint. He writes about the era just before the beginning of World War II and its early days. This volume is about a ring of French patriots who work to rescue British flyers who have been shot down. The volume is filled with suspense, but never in a cheap or manipulative way. There is a calm style throughout Furst’s writing that lulls one into the story and the world which he is constructing. Obviously, I would strongly recommend this book and anything else Furst has written. The Old Way by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas This is a book of remembrances that Elizabeth Thomas has written concerning her stay with the Bushmen in Namibia in the 1950’s. She was there with her family, and she and her brother (who worked in film) were present in the last days of that particular culture. In the generation immediately following, much of what made the Bushmen distinct was lost to the predominant culture of the land and the civil war that preceded independence. She saw various techniques and ways of living that probably date back to the Neolithic era. The Bushmen were hunter-gatherers who had an uncanny knowledge of their environment, one which was the accumulation of folk wisdom that dates back millenia. She gets a bit preachy when she contrasts the evils of modern society to the simplicity of the Bushmen culture, but the book is well worth reading. Have a good week Shalom fr. Jude