Saturday, June 3, 2023

Seoul, Incheon, Gimpo, Yang Suri, Pusan, Ilgwang, Deigon (all in South Korea)

June 3, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been travelling through Korea these days visiting the friars. I have gone from near the border with North Korea to the southern port of Pusan. The Koreans show an incredible hospitality and deference. They have a good spirit, and I am trying to work up a report to help them as they prepare for their provincial chapter in the fall of next year. The weather has been overall good. It is warming up, especially yesterday and today. Korean food is very spicy. I like that, but not everyone would. One group of friars took me out to a buffet restaurant which had Korean, Chinese, Japanese and other types of food. It was one of the best meals that I have ever had. I have one more house to visit on Monday and Tuesday, and then meet with the definitory on Wednesday for my preliminary report. Then on Thursday late at night I head back to Rome. I have finished some reading and listening: The Best and the Worst Presidential Cabinets in U.S. History by Lindsay Chervinsky This is a Great Courses presentation on presidential cabinets throughout the history of our country. She speaks of the cabinet of George Washington (how he invented the system), of Abraham Lincoln (the famous team of rivals) and of other presidents. She presents the best and the worst and even the most corrupt of those who were in the various cabinets. She speaks of presidents who used the expertise of their cabinets, and those who all but ignored their advice. Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson This is a very entertaining book about the tools that one would find in a kitchen throughout the centuries. It gives accounts of the birth of various tools such as the fork, knife, spoon, pots and pans, etc. It is obvious that the author is a good cook who truly enjoys her hobby. The Dutch Empire by Kelly Mass This is an account of the conquests of the Dutch people in the New World and Africa. It deals with their successes, and then the reasons why they lost most of their conquests rather early (with the exception of Indonesia which was not lost until after World War II). Even though the Dutch are often considered to be a kind and generous people, that was not really true of their treatment of the people in their colonies. The Iranian Revolution by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the fall of the Shah of Iran. It deals with his relationship with the Western powers, especially the US, and his attempt to “modernize” his country. This ran head long into the religious beliefs of his Shiite Muslim country. Even though the presentation is not long, it gives a good amount of information. Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible: First and Second Maccabees by James Dunn and John Rogerson This is an exegesis of the two books of Maccabees. They are found in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles, but not the Jewish and Protestant Bibles since they were written in Greek (and the Jews and Protestants only accept those OT books written in Hebrew or Aramaic). The book is very technical. For someone like me (a Bible student), this is good. But it is not the type of book that someone who is someone interested in the topic would enjoy. Moscow 1941 by Rodric Braithwaite This is the story of the invasion of the Nazi forces in the summer of 1941, and their advance to the gates of Moscow. It deals with the strategy of both parties. The author is brutally honest on the murderous regimes of both Hitler and Stalin. He proposes that this battle, the first where the Nazi’s suffered a severe setback, was actually the turning point of the war. The death of Hitler’s War Machine by Samuel Mitcham This is an overview of the last year of World War II on the European front. It gives good treatment to the war in the East and the West, a little bit less so with the war in Italy. Occasionally he falls into citation of regiment numbers at length, but that is not the normal patters. The Spy with no Name by Jeff Maysh This is a short book about a Czech secret agent in London who presented himself as a long lost Danish child who had been put up for adoption after World War II. The book is good and it gives insight to the world of spycraft. Mark Twain by Hourly History This is one of those short biographies about Twain. I have to admit that it was full enough that I learned things about him that I had never heard before. It presented some of his tortured personality, especially in his family relations and toward the end of his life. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright This is a very, very good book which gives an overview of the career of Osama bin Laden and his movement. It speaks of the successes and failures of the government’s attempt to track and intercept terrorism. Maybe of the failures were due to the fact that various investigative bodies refused to share critical information with each other. The author tries to give a full picture of the personalities and rationale of the parties involved. The End of Tsarist Russia by Dominic Lieven This was a very thorough overview of Russian and European politics just before World War I which led to the overthrow of the Tsarist regime. He describes the near paralysis of the Russian government due to the weakness of the monarch and the varied talent of his various ministers. Interestingly, most of the book is spent on the period before the Russian Revolution and not during and after it. The Princes in the Tower by Charles River Editors This is the story of the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV from the Tower of London (most certainly murdered, most probably by their uncle Richard III). The new king Richard had thrown their paternity into doubt and took the throne himself. He was eventually defeated by Henry VII, who used his treatment of his nephews as one of his justifications. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 22, 2023

Rome - Seoul, South Korea

May 23, 2023 Peace and Good, We had our General Definitory this past week. As usual, we discussed situations from all over the world. I really believe that I should get frequent flyer miles for each of our meetings. On Saturday night I flew here to Korea. I will be here for three weeks doing the Canonical Visitation. I have already done this a few times in Korea, so I know the situation fairly well. The weather here is warm and a bit overcast. Our main provincial house is right near the river and very close to downtown. The Church here is an international parish, Masses in Korean, English, Spanish, Italian and German. After this, I will be flying back to Rome for two weeks of meetings, and then back to the States for good. I finished some reading and listening: The French and Indian War by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is a relatively short explanation of what led up to the French and Indian War (the settlements of the colonial powers and their competition). It also gives a quick outline of the major events and the outcome of the war. The Middle East in the 20th Century by Eamonn Gearon This is a very good overview of the events and politics of the Middle East in the 20th century, from the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire to the present time after the Arab Spring and the war on terrorism. The professor quite fair in his presentation and informative. War and Decision by Douglas Feith This is the story of the decision to invade Iraq and its consequences from the viewpoint of one of the advisors to President Bush. He especially tries to prove many of the myths created by the press to have been false from the start. I don’t know if I agree with all of his explanations, but it was good to hear them. Chichen Itza by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the greatest Mayan city which grew when other cities in its region faded in importance, and which eventually failed itself. The book speaks of the various features of its architecture. The Batavian Republic by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the Batavian Republic (Netherlands and Belgium) during the Napoleonic era. It deals with some of the tensions among the various parties involved. Hero of the Empire by Candace Millard This is the story of how Winston Churchill travelled to South Africa to be a war correspondent during the Boer war. He was captured, and he eventually escaped from imprisonment, providing the British with a hero in a war in which they were not doing all that well. The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson This is a beautiful short presentation (more of an essay than a book) recommending to those who raise children to introduce them to the wonders of nature. Carson does not recommend teaching the children the names of things as much as letting them experience them face to face. Tell Me Lies by J.P. Pomare A counselor in Australia has a patient who might be harassing her family and even setting fires first in her home, and then at her business. Se must figure out who it might be and why he is doing this before it endangers her family. There are a number of surprises in the course of the story, and some twists and turns that could easily be called disturbing. Cardinal Wolsey by Mandell Creighton This is a biography of Cardinal Wolsey who worked for King Henry VIII and was eventually treated very poorly by him when he was not able to acquire a divorce for him so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. The author is fair in his presentation, showing his flaws but also speaking of his great talents. The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean by Raoul McLaughlin This is a fascinating presentation (with a lot of detail) of the commerce that the Romans engaged in during the early centuries A.D. It turns out that this commerce produced a major percentage of tax income for the empire, but it also produced a huge drain on silver and gold, so much so that the currency had to be adulterated. For anyone interested in this period, this is a very informative book. Ancient Greece 101 by Christopher Bellitto This is an overview of the history, culture, and politics of the Greek city states (especially Athens and Sparta). It deals with philosophy and mythology. Bellitto is very entertaining in his presentation. This was a course produced by Learn25. I could easily recommend it to those interested in the era. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 8, 2023

Chicago - Rome - London - Rome

May 8, 2023 Peace and Good, I got back to Rome where the weather has now changed. It feels like the beginning of summer. There are still a lot of tourists in town, and this is really the best of times (along with October) to visit the city. I flew to London for two things this past week. I had a meeting with a couple of bishops in Cambridge (which is only about an hour train ride outside of London), and I was there for the opening of an exhibition at the National Gallery on St. Francis. The curators did a tremendous job of putting together the materials. I was very impressed. It is free, and is open through July. This week I am Rome catching up on my daily reflections and my reports to the definitory and my Messenger articles. Next week we have our definitory, and at the end of it I fly out to Korea to do a visitation. I finished some reading and listening: The War of the Roses by History Nerds This is a quick overview of the events that led up to the War of the Roses, the events during the war, and the aftermath to it which influenced English history for a long time (especially during the Tudor era). Lincoln’s Spies by Douglas Waller This is an informative presentation on how spy craft was used by the Union army during the Civil War. It gives a full portrait of the mistakes made by some of the participants (such as Pinkerton who worked as the spy for General McClellan) and the successes in providing information before some of the major battles. One of my favorite stories was that of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond socialite, who helped escaped Union soldiers and then established a spy network that was invaluable to the Union side. Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma by David Boyle Alan Turing was one of the experts who helped the British decode the messages produced by the enigma machine. He was sadly troubled by the government for his sexuality (he was gay and that was illegal in Great Britain at that time). Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy by Richard Spence This is a teaching company course which outlines a number of horrible crimes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. They include many which are well known, such as the Zodiac and Manson Family killings, as well as accounts that were totally new to me (e.g. the murder of a family in Weimar Germany, the murder of a woman and her daughter in early 20th century France). John Wilkes Booth by Hourly History This is a short biography of the assassin of President Lincoln. An actor from a family of actors, John Wilkes Booth built up a reputation as an adequate actor, but also as a rabid supporter of the south and slavery. His disappointment at the losses suffered by the South led him and a small band of co-conspirators to plot first to kidnap, and eventually to kill Lincoln as well as a number of other key figures in the Northern government. The Persian Corridor in World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the project to ship military goods to the Soviet Union during World War II through Iran. Transportations hubs had to be established from scratch. Factories had to be built to assemble vehicles and tanks and planes. Railroads had to be built and manned to bring materials from the Persian Gulf to the borders of the Soviet Union. The rise of Modern Japan by Mark Ravina This is a Teaching Company course on Japan from the time of the Meiji Restoration, and especially the end of World War II, up to the present time. There were some details in the account about which I had never heard. It is well presented, using the literature and movies of the time to demonstrate changes in mentality and social expectations throughout the period. The Afrikaans by Nick Pirog This is a suspense novel about a group of terrorists who seize a cruise boat in the Indian Ocean and threaten to kill everyone on board if the US doesn’t send massive aid to fight the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. There are twists and turns throughout the book. The action scenes are OK, but not exactly of the same quality as those of an Alan Furst or John le Carre. The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III by Michael Jones and Philippa Langley This is the story of the search for the grave of King Richard III. He was the king who probably killed his nephews in the Tower of London, and he seized the crown from his deceased brother. He was overthrown in battle by King Henry VII and his body was buried in the Church of the Greyfriars. That church was subsequently destroyed. The author of the book speaks of her search and discovery of the tomb. The style of the book is not all that good, more of a supermarket tabloid style than anything else. Ravenna by Judith Herrin This is a sweeping history of the city on the Adriatic which was so important for the Byzantine governance of their territories in Italy and also for the incredible legacy of mosaic art in its basilicas. It was the most important city on that sea before Venice, and in fact faded from its previous importance around the time of the rise of Venice and of the Empire of Charlemagne (who looted much artwork from it for his new capital in Aachen. The book gives a tremendous amount of information in a very pleasant narrative style. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 24, 2023

Torrance, Ca - Chicago

April 24, 2023 Peace and Good, I finished my visitation of the friars in Torrance, CA, and flew to Chicago. This past week we have had a meeting of the CFF. This is the English speaking federation for the friars, and all the provincials, custodes and delegates gather twice a year to establish a plan for the friars over the next several months (and to tell the truth, te next several years). The meeting went very, very well. I always like visiting Chicago. Our friary is on the north side of the city, two blocks from the Lake and three from Loyola University. The weather has been strange, but I got my walks in no matter what. Today I fly back to Rome where I will be until Sunday when I fly to London. I have a direct flight on American, so I do not have to change in London this time. The clock is slowly clicking down til I finish my assignment in Rome - 65 days to go. I am looking forward to see how this next stage of my life plays itself out. I finished some reading: Generals and Geniuses: A History of the Manhattan Project by Edward Lengel This is a course from the Teaching Company on the scientists and military men who organized the Manhattan Project which produced the first atom bomb. The presentation is well done, and it gives a good insight both into the difficulties that had to be overcome in this project and the personalities of those involved. It also gives insight into the continuing fear that Germany or Japan were working to produce their own nuclear weapons. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst Furst is one of my favorite authors. He write about espionage during the 30’s and 40’s, especially dealing with the Nazis but also with the NKVD of the Soviet Union. In this book, the hero is born in Bulgaria, trained to be a spy in the Soviet Union, ends up serving in Spain, France and Prague, and finally, after stopping in Romania, ends up on the docks of New York City. Although all of this sounds absurd, Furst makes it work. He has a way of enticing one into a hidden world. I recommend this book. Firestarter by Stephen King This is a tale of paranormal abilities which are exhibited in a young girl whose parents were part of a secret governmental drug trial. She is able to set fires, and a secret governmental agency wants to find her, control her, and if necessary destroy her. She and her father flee as long as they can from the agents seeking them, and then they have to use their powers to defeat the evil plans of that agency. Island on Fire by Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe This is the story of the explosion of a volcano on Iceland in 1783 named Loki. It had disastrous consequences on the people living near the volcano, but also on people all around the world because of the environmental consequences of the release of ash and sulfuric fumes which travelled around the world. This probably is what led to a famine in France which led to the French Revolution. The authors are able to draw together events such as this, but also to ask what would happen today if a similar event were to occur. The Solar Revolution by Steve McKevitt and Tony Ryan The authors of this short work speak of the energy crises the world is now facing, and proposes various possible solutions (and the problems inherent in those solutions) to the problem. This includes a discussion of solar energy, geothermic energy, hydropower, wind power, nuclear energy, etc. The study is short but well done and compelling. Odds On by Michael Crichton This is the story of a set of thieves who plan to rob a Spanish casino and its customers. The name comes from the fact that the founder of the gang has based his plan upon a computer program to measure probabilities. The book is OK, but not great. The Debriefing by Jeffery Deaver This is a very good story about two DEA agents who are injured during a capture of some drug runners. The title deals with the debriefing that they undergo by the police after they are taken to a hospital. There are a number of twists and turns in the story that make it compelling. Lithium by Walter Brown This is the history of the use of Lithium to treat people who suffer from Manic-Depressive (Bipolar) Disorder. The use of lithium was almost an accident, and to this day no one really knows why it works to treat and even prevent depressive episodes. The use of the drug was only gradual due to the danger of overdose with the use of Lithium. Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs by Barbara Mertz This is an overview of Egyptian archaeology and the history of Egypt from its earliest days to the days of the Hellenist Ptolemy regime. The author has a very entertaining, irreverent style that makes a book that would possibly be incredibly boring into a pleasant treat. I would recommend this particular book, not so much for the knowledge gained as for the joy of reading the book itself. Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon One of my favorite artists is Caravaggio. I love going to the Church of St. Louis the King in Rome where two beautiful paintings (including the calling of St. Matthew) are found. He is the master of the shadow and light technique that would be used by such talented later artists such as Rembrandt. Yet, his life is so sad, so filled with self-destructive violence. He so loved to empress the humanity and humility of discipleship, and yet he so profaned his own humanity through drunkenness, debauchery, and violence. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Rome - Torrance, CA

April 13, 2023 Peace and Good, I was in Rome until Tuesday of Easter week. The weather has been OK, cool and cloudy most days. The city was packed with tones of tourists and pilgrims. This past week gave me time to get well ahead with my daily reflections, which is a good feeling since I will be travelling quite a bit in these days. I am in Torrance, near Los Angeles, to visit a community of Korean friars who run a Korean Catholic Center (basically a parish). They are wonderfully hospitable. Their English is spotty, from quite good to none at all. This is part of a visitation of their province to get ready for their provincial chapter. I will be going to Korea at mid-May. Tomorrow I fly out to Chicago for a meeting with the CFF federation. fr. Michael Heine, who was elected president of the federation, will run the meeting. fr. Joseph Wood, who is taking my place as Assistant General as of July 1, will also be present. I finished some reading: Measuring the World by Daniel Kelhmann This novel is a somewhat strange story of the travels and careers of the two Humboldt brothers, one who travels to South America and one who stays in Germany where he becomes involved in mathematics. Both are obsessed with what they are doing, all but closing out the world around them (which interesting enough is exactly what they are studying). The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman Hillerman has written a series of novels about Chee, a Navaho detective on the reservation. In this volume, Chee has to investigate a series of unconnected crimes. Someone is damaging a mechanical water well on territory that is passing from Navaho control to Hopi control. A plane crashes on the reservation that seems to have held a fortune in drugs. A body was found that might have been killed by a tribal witch. The books by Hillerman are well, well written and always a joy to read. Mozart by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the famous musician Mozart. It deals with what we actually know about him, and not so much the fables that have arisen over the years about him. The story is well told. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth This is an excellent account of an attempted assassination of Charles de Galle after he, as president of France, had agreed to grant Algeria its independence. The Jackal is a British assassin hired by rebellious ex-military forces. The account handles both his movements and the counter-movements of those who have been assigned the task of finding and eliminating him. Erwin Rommel by Hourly History This is a short biography on Rommel, the famous desert fox. At one point in the Second World War, he was even characterized as a worthy opponent by Winston Churchill. When the Nazis arrived in Germany, he did not oppose them. He was more worried about a Soviet takeover, and he appreciated how the Nazis ramped up spending for the army. It was only at the end of his career and life that he recognized how truly evil and demented the Nazi movement was. Islam 101 by Akbar Ahmed This is an introductory course on Islam. I feel with all that is going on in the world today, I should know more about the topic. The professor is a bit defensive at times, blaming the problems of Islam on the Western world, but most of the presentation is balanced and insightful. Scorpion by Mark Dawson This is a novella that deals with a former Soviet agent who has become an assassin for hire. He is engaged by the Russian mafia to kill an Arabian businessman, a journalist and a mysterious third figure. An agent of British security tries to protect the journalist and to eliminate Scorpion. Before the Frost by Henning Mankell This is a novel that takes place in Sweden, involving a grouchy police investigator and his daughter who is about to enter the force. There are a series of unexplained murders (and/or suicides). There is a background story of a religious fanatic and his movement which are planning an apocalyptic event to foster in the new era of religious conformity (to his own twisted views). Marie Antionette by Captivating History I have listened to a rather extensive biography of Marie Antionette this past year, so this short history was more a refresher course for me than anything else. History’s Greatest Military Blunders and the Lessons they Teach by Prof. Gregory Aldrete This is a teaching company course on the topic of battles that were disasters for one side of the battle, either because of poor leadership, or surprise techniques being used, or outmoded thinking concerning armaments, etc. Aldrete is a good lecturer, engaging without being exaggerated in his approach. The course is 24 lectures, each of which is about a half an hour. Early Dutch History by Kelly Mass This is an overview of the history of the people of the Netherlands in their earliest days. The book deals with the pre-Roman period, the Roman period and what followed in the midst of the retreat of the Romans from that area of the world. It deals with the question of who the Dutch actually are (in terms of which tribes came to permanently settle in what would become the Netherlands and Belgium). The book concludes with the late Middle Ages. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Rome - Piglio - Rome

April 4, 2023 Peace and Good, After we finished our definitory meeting, the members of the definitory travelled to a town about one hour outside of Rome for our annual retreat. The friary is a large shrine on top of a hill in a very rural part of the country (mostly dedicated to growing grapes for wine). The friars were exceedingly hospitable. The presenter, fr. Felice Autieri, originally from Naples but now living and teaching in Assisi, was tremendous. He presented some figures and events from the start of the Franciscan movement. His portrayal of important figures was fair and well studies (not a one dimensional presentation that one sometimes hears when professors want to show that they are unique and know more than everyone else). We have returned to Rome for Holy Week. I will be here in Rome until Easter Tuesday when I travel to Los Angeles to make a visitation with some of our Korean friars who have a friary there and serve the local Korean immigrant community. Then, that Friday I head to Chicago for our semi-annual meeting of the CFF, the last one I will be attending. Then back to Rome. The weather here in Rome is quite nice, in the 60's. There are many, many tourist here for Holy Week. They are very relieved that the Holy Father was not in the hospital longer, for they truely want to see him and participate in the Vatican liturgies. I finished some reading: The Occupation and Liberation of France during World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of the blitzkrieg that caused the fall of France, and then of the liberation of France, emphasizing in particular the liberation of Paris (mostly by its own inhabitants. Golda Meir by Charles River Editors This is a well written presentation on the life and career of Golda Meir, the first female prime minister of Israel. The history is very well outlined, and this short book also presents a good view of the politics of Israel from the time of its independence until the Yom Kippur War (shortly after which Golda Meir resigned as prime minister). Inuit Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a short and interesting overview of the mythology of the Inuit people. So much of it revolves upon the water and the creatures found in it and upon which the Inuit depend. Being a very short presentation, the overview is cursory, but it presents enough knowledge to get a sense of things. Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas This is the account of seven remarkable men who changed the history of the world and who were guided by their faith in what they did. They include George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II and Charles Colson. The author is evangelical, and the account is heavily influenced by that background, but the stories are also uplifting. Central America by Joseph Stromberg This is a relatively short history of the central American republics, their cooperation, their antagonism, and their difficulties. The author cannot go into depth on any particular topic, but there is enough information to get a sense of what one is dealing with when one speaks about a particular central American republic. The Election of 1860: A Nation Divides on the Eve of War by Jessica Genderson This is a short account of the country at the time of the Civil War, of the election of 1860, the effects of the victory Lincoln won first of all to become the Republican Party nominee, and then to become the president of the nation. It speaks about the breakaway of the Confederate States, and the lack of action by President Buchanan and the fruitless efforts of Lincoln to avoid the conflict. The Acropolis of Athens by Charles River Editors This is a good account of the significance of the Acropolis in Athens. It is the home to religious and civic monuments that shaped the way that the Athenians thought about themselves. It was destroyed by the Persians during their great invasion, but rebuilt to even greater status afterward. It suffered the destruction of the ages until it is now only a hulk of what it once was, but even in ruins it inspires poets and scholars and everyday people. Roman Gaul by Charles River Editors This is the history of Gaul before the Roman invasion, during the invasion by Julius Caesar, and then afterward until it was conquered by the barbarians and became the focal point for the new nation of France. The author spends quite a bit of time on the conquest of Caesar, possibly because so much material is available from Caesar’s own account. Witchcraft in the Western Tradition by Jennifer McNabb This is a Teaching Company course on the idea of witches throughout the ages. A considerable amount of time deals with the persecution of witches, especially in the early modern era. The professor tries to draw out why this particular phenomenon occurred at that time (agricultural difficulties due to a minor ice age, religious difficulties due to the Protestant Reformation, etc.). The professor is not a sensationalist, but rather tries to apply a logical approach to the study. The Fall of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy This is a magisterial study of the fall of the Roman Empire (or as some would say, the evolution of the empire into something else). Goldsworthy is a tremendous scholar of ancient times, and this book is no exception. It is quite long, but never boring. Each topic is treated with care and precision. I could easily recommend this book to anyone. Ernest Hemmingway by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous 20th century author. Often married, excessively macho, married to a sparce style, he wrote of war and violence (e.g. in the cull ring) and other topics that he though showed his male nature. I have never really liked either his writing style nor his pathetic posturing. May the rest of Holy Week be a good, spiritual time for you and Happy Easter Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 24, 2023

Silver Spring, MD - Rome

March 24, 2023 Peace and Good, I have returned to Rome for a month or so. This week we have had our General Definitory. Inlike last month's meeting, this one has relatively little material to cover. We are still talking about the four corners of the earth, but we did most of the heavy lifting in our last meeting. The weather here is Rome has turned very nice. It is in the high 60's most days. Spring has arrived. We finish our meeting today. Then on Monday we will head off on retreat for several days. Our retreat is being led by a historian who will speak to us about the Rule of St. Francis (the instructions given to the friars when he founded the Order). I will be here in Rome until the Tuesday after Easter when I will head back to the States. I ask you to keep in your prayers a number of my friends who are going through a difficult time right now. I finished some reading: Lithobolia by Richard Chamberlayne This is the story of a haunting of a property by a demon summoned by a neighbor who was angry over a division of property. That neighbor stated that the new owner might take possession of that property, but he would never enjoy it. The title refers to the thrower of stones, and that is how the demon manifested itself over a few months. The Ottoman Empire by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. Different from the Arabs, but nevertheless Muslim, the Ottomans rose in the Middle Ages as a migrant nomadic people who settled in Turkey and eventually became its masters. The 15th and 16th centuries marked its nadir, but it sank into discrepancy by the late 19th and early 20th century, disappearing totally after World War I. The British Colonization of New Zealand by Charles River Editors This is just a short history of New Zealand from its European discovery until the present. The book points out the differences between it and Australia and why they were never united into one nation. It deals with how the Maori were treated differently than the Aborigine. It speaks of the coming to age of the Dominion on the battle fields of World War I. No Man’s Land by John Toland This is a very thorough account of the last year of World War I. It begins with a desperate offensive by the Germans before the US forces could be well trained and enter the battle fully. The offensive was blunted by the extreme sacrifice of French and British forces, and the entrance of some of the first American soldiers to arrive in France. By the fall, it was obvious that Germany had lost, but the General Staff and the Kaiser had to be convinced of this by painful defeats. Impact by Douglas Preston Douglas Preston is one of my favorite authors, especially in his collaboration with Lincoln Child. This book, written only by Preston, is good and presents two very unlikely heroes who literally save the earth. There is only one section in it that I actually found offensive – the treatment of an Indian (Kashmir) professor who is betraying the US to foster the scientific excellence of Pakistan – I found the scene racist and poorly written. Otherwise, the book is quite good. The 4 Great Prayers: the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be by Nicholas Ayo This is a very, very good presentation on these most central prayers in our faith. Fr. Ayo is down to earth, and yet shows a profound understanding of the implications of the various petitions and statements made in these prayers. This is part of the Learn25 series, and I could highly recommend it. Reimagining Boundaries: Jewish and Christian Identity in Late Antiquity by Juan Bargos Bejarano Gutierrez This book is intended to be a short study on the flexibility of definitions concerning Jewish and Christian in the early centuries A.D. The only problem is that the author is very short on details. He uses the Clementine Dialogs to prove his point with very occasional references to sayings in the writings of the Fathers of the Churches. The book doesn’t exactly prove its case, but it does raise some interesting questions of how separate Jews were from Christians and whether there were those who tried to find middle ground between the two faiths. Kashmir: History of its Causes and Consequences by Kelly Mass This short book gives a historic overview of this very troubled part of India/Pakistan. Although the majority of its inhabitants are Muslin, its shah decided to go with India at the partition of India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the Chinese fought a war in the north to take certain critical passes through the Himalaya Mountain. The Mongolian Empire by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the rise and the eventual dissolution of the Mongolian Empire into its constitutive parts. In such a short book, there are a jumble of names and historic events and it can be difficult to keep them in track. Overall, I have not been thrilled with this series by Kelly Mass. It covers an incredible width of topics, but none in depth. Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovich Aaronovich is one of my favorite authors. This is the second in his series of books about Peter Grant, a mixed race Londoner who is recruited into a department which investigates the misuse of magic. The whole department is made up of him and his mentor. This volume involves music vampires (people who draw magical energy from music but slowly kill the musicians), a woman whose private parts are a set of teeth (with the obvious painful results), and a faceless master magician. The whole series is great, and this one was very, very good. Have a good week. You are in my prayers as we approach Holy Week. Shalom fr. Jude