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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Rome - Ellicott City - Sante Fe - Ellicott City

October 30, 2017 Peace and Good, After the Congress on the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe at our college which is called the Seraphicum at the outskirts of Rome, I flew to Baltimore for a day. This was just a break in the journey, for I and the provincial, fr. James, and the custos of Great Britain/Ireland all arrived on Saturday, and on Monday we headed off to a meeting of the provincials of the States in Sante Fe. This is the first time I was there. It has a very Franciscan history, having been founded by the Friars in 1610. The actual name of the city if the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. There are no high or ultra modern buildings in the city. Yet, it is beautiful in its own way. There are many, many shops with artwork and crafts, and many, many restaurants. The speciality is Mexican food with a southwest flavor. Yet, there are many different types of food available. In the days that we were there, we never had a bad meal. It is a very peaceful place, with so many beautiful things to see. One day, when we had finished the meetings, we took a side trip to Taos. This is a much smaller place than Sante Fe. Along the way we stopped at a couple of beautiful churches including a shrine that was very, very beautiful as well. I have to say that if anyone were to ask me to recommend Sante Fe, I would do it in an instant. On Friday we travelled back to Ellicott City. Tomorrow I participate in a definitory meeting of Our Lady of Angels Province. There are a couple of things that must be decided, and I have been asked to share the viewpoint of the Minister General on them. Then on the 1st I head out to Chicago for about 10 days. I will be giving a talk at a workshop to about 100 friars, and then I will spend a week with the postulants presenting another workshop to them. (Postulancy is the first year that candidates spend with us as they discern their vocation.) I finished some reading: Rose George A Very Naughty Little Girl This is the story of Janet Vaughan who was responsible for many of the techniques used in storing the blood supply for those who would need transfusions. Before the outbreak of World War II, blood was generally donated from another person who was present. With the outbreak of the war, this would no longer be possible, especially given the many casualties resulting from the Nazi bombing of England. She and her colleagues developed the bottles to use, the tubing, the right mix of chemicals, etc. that have since become standard fare. The title of this essay is that she was not afraid to challenge the powers that be, something that offended the titled class in Great Britain. The Terracotta Army: the History of Ancient China and Famous Terracotta Warriors and Horses by Charles River Editors This is an account of the first emperor of a unified China who ordered that a massive army be built and buried with him to accompany him to the afterlife. The author explains how this was a great advance in culture for previously the king’s courts would accompany him in death by being killed and buried with him. This emperor had thousands of soldiers and horses built from clay and painted and arranged in order in his burial plot. This ceramic army was only discovered late in the 20th century by a family that was digging a well during a drought. The Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River overview of the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, Guam and Palau, all islands that the allies conquered late in the Second World War. These islands served as centers for the air fleets that then attacked Japan and destroyed most of their major cities. Tinian, in fact, was the island from which the airplanes that had the atomic bombs flew. The Battle of Antietam by Hourly History Limited This is a short outline of the bloodiest battle to be fought on American soil in history. In one day over 20,000 men were killed (with many more dying in the following months due to the poor medical treatment available at the time. This is the first battle in which photos were taken after to show people the horror of war. The book is the shortest of outlines and does not give a lot of background information, but it is enough, especially if one intends to visit the site sometime in the future. Bunker Hill by Thomas Fleming This is a masterful account of the battle of Bunker Hill (which actually occurred on Breeds Hill nearby). It gives insight into the characters involved, into the strategy of both sides, and into the consequences of the British victory which proved to be quite pyrric (for they lost so many of their good troops that General Howe, their commander, was very hisitant to attack American troops headon in the future, leading to some miraculous escapes of the American forces when they found themselves in untenable situations. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

La Verna, Italy - Rome - Assisi - Rome

October 19, 2017 Peace and Good, We returned from our retreat in La Verna. It was good to be back in Rome, for La Verna was freezing, both day and night. Here in Rome it is Autumn, and has actually been quite warm in these days. Last week we had a full week of definitory. As usual, we spoke about the presence of friars all throughout the world. Mixed in with our regular meetings, there are always smaller group meetings on various topics. All of that went very well. The meeting finished on Friday, so Saturday I took the train up to Assisi. It is only about two and a half hours to get there. I went up to visit two of the friars from my province, and three other friars who are in their novitiate this year. Novitiate is a year of prayer and discernment when one first enters the Order. Normally, these friars who are from England would have done their novitiate at the common novitiate in California, but this year they were sent to Assisi instead. They are thrilled to be there - to be in the place where our founder, St. Francis, lived and died. I came back to Rome on Monday. Today we head over to the Seraphicum, our International College, for a couple of days of workshop on the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Then on Saturday I head out to the States. I have finished the following: Major John Andre: The Life and Death of the Famous Spymaster during the Revolutionary War by Charles River Editor Major John Andre was the British officer who was to negotiate with Benedict Arnold for the betrayal of West Point to the British during the Revolutionay War. He was arrested on his way back from his mission, carrying plans for the fort hidden on his person. He had wanted to return to British lines on the ship that had brought him up the Hudson, but that ship had been forced to move and he had to seek British lines dressed in civilian clothes (which branded him a spy). In spite of the fact that everyone considered him to be a gentleman of high quality, he was executed by being hung (in a conscious parallel to the execution of Nathan Hale). Killers of the King: the Men who dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer This is an outline of the fate of those who executed King Charles I of England (a Stuart). A number of those most responsible were arrested, tried for treason and regicide, and hung, drawn and quartered ( a medieval horrendous form of execution). Some fled to Holland or Switzerland or America. Of these, some were found and killed or brought back for punishment. What complicated all of this is that the king had originally called upon the executioners of his father to give themselves, implying some form of amnesty. When it comes down to it, the king’s decision to find and try the killers of his father was no more brutal than the techniques used by those men (who often mouthed pious platitudes for their deeds). The Man who tried to redeem the World With Logic by Amanda Gefter This is the story of two men who tried to create an analytic map of the brain. They never succeeded because the brain functions in a much more complicated way than they expected. Nevertheless, their theoretical work was valuable for it helped create the logic network that shaped the creation of the modern computer. Moving On by Diane Cook This is an unusual story about a place where houses are set up for widows and widowers to mourn and be prepared for a future marriage. It is almost a dystopic world in which it seems to be illegal to be single. The houses are described as minimum security prisons. Yet, the woman who is the subject of the story mannages to survive and move on so that she is ready for a new marriage. American Legends: the Life of the Kingfish, Huey Long by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century. He was a populist politician from Lousiana who was both governor and senator (for a while both at the same time). He promised to make every man a king, equaling out the wealth of the people through social outreaches. Some thought him to be a dictator, others a savior. He did manage to quelch much of the corruption of the state, although others claimed (possibly falsely) that he simply funneled it into the pockets of his own supporters. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 9, 2017

Newark, NJ - Rome - La Verna - Italy

October 9, 2017 Peace and Good, I attended the funeral in Brooklyn of our friar Justin Biase. He died after a triple by-pass operation, and many friars attended his funeral (over 80). It was sad because Justin was beloved and also because we all felt that he died too soon. I came back to Rome and tried to work off my jet lag. This time it was very bad because I had crossed the Atlantic back and forth twice within three weeks. This past week the General Definitory went up to La Verna for a retreat with the definitories of the Friars Minor, the Capuchins and the TOR (all the groups of Franciscans). The preacher was Jean-Paul Vesco, a Dominican who is the bishop of Oran in Algeria. He spoke of a Christian approach to evangelization in countries where Christians are a small and sometimes persecuted minority. He based his apostolic approach on friendship with others. It was very good. Yesterday we came back to Rome for our General Definitory which we began after lunch today. We will continue until Friday evening. The morning was spent in writing reports. The weather has broken here in Rome and it is beginning to become cool. In La Verna (which is the mountain upon which St. Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ) was very cold (as it almost always is). I finished some reading: The Punic Wars: the History of the Conflict that Destroyed Carthage and Made Rome a Global Power by Charles River Editors This is the history of the wars between Carthage and Rome (three of them before the destruction of the city). It speaks quite a bit about Hannibal, a great general for the Carthiginians. The Romans come across poorly in this account, which they should. They eventually won the war simply because they stubbornly refused to understand that they had lost, and they continued to raise new armies and fleets even when one after another was destroyed and sometime annihilated. Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz This is a modern remake of the Frankenstein. The doctor still lives and is producing a race of new beings who he intends as an army to take over the world. He is being thwarted by the New Orleans police department, by Deucaleon, the first of his creatures which has rebelled against him, and by some of the other creatures he has created which are no longer doing his bidding. This is one of a series of books with similar themes from Koontz. The History of Cuba in 50 Events (History by Country Time) This is a short history of the island/country with 50 episodes that give an outline of what happened there throughout the ages. It is a short presentation, but it gives a good amount of information in a very compact format. The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux Paul Theroux is famous as a travel author. This was not his first trip to Africa. He lived there teaching for several years. In this book, he is already 70 years old, and he sees it as his last trip to Africa. He intends to travel from South Africa to the north, possibly as far as Timbuktu. This is not his final destination, however, for reasons of wars and terrorism farther north. He goes as far as Angola, which for him is a bitter disappointment, given the ravages of war that one still sees everywhere and the blatant corruption that lives so many on the edge of life and others fabulously rich. His book ends with a chapter full of anger and disillusionment. The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami by Charles River Editors This is one of the Charles River books, all under 100 pages. This one deals with the famous Boxing Day tsunami that killed so many people from Indonesia to the coast of Africa. Unlike most of the other Charles River books, this one is mostly personal remembrances of the terrible events, which in this case works very well. One Summer, America, 1927 by Bill Bryson This book is the story of the history of one year (especially from an American perspective). This was the year that Lindberg flew from New York to Paris non-stop and became a great hero in the States and also in Europe. It is the year when the Sacco and Vanzetti trial for terrorism went on. It is when Babe Ruth was at the peak of his fame and energy, as well as Lou Gerick. This was also the year that a group of international bankers made some decisions that led to the great depression. The story is well told, as are all of Bryson’s books. It is well worth reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Buffalo, NY - Alfreton, England - Rome - Newark

September 27, 2017 Peace and Good, The funeral for my niece, Jillian, went very well. A good number of the family was there, and even though there had been no obituary, the chapel was full. It was a great consolation. Last week I was back in Alfreton at the Hayes Conference Centre for the second part of the provincial chapter. I played a role that I had not really expected. On Saturday, fr. Justin Biase, an ex-provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province (which is now part of my own province, Our Lady of Angels) had a major heart attack after a triple by-pass operation. I called our provincial and suggested that it might be a good idea for him to remain in the States and not go to England for the second part of the chapter. I could cover for him. He agreed, and it was for the best for fr Justin eventually passed away. Justin was a truly good man, beloved by those with whom he came into contact. The second part of the chapter went very well. The friars made a decision to accept an invitation to serve at the National Marian Shrine of Walsingham. This shrine dates back to 1061, and was destroyed by Henry VIII. It was rebuilt in the past century both by Anglicans and Catholics. This gives us a great opportunity to serve both Catholics and Anglicans. I was very pleased that the friars wanted this. The custody of Great Britain has had a rough time in these years, but recently it has been doing quite well. This chapter seemed to be a turning point. It is no longer just surviving. It is preparing for the future - dreaming! Something very, very good happened last week. By the end of last week, fr. Justin had passed away. It meant that I had to fly to Rome on Saturday for a meeting that evening, and then fly out again on Sunday to Newark. The funeral was yesterday in Brooklyn. It was very important for me to be there, and the friars were very appreciative. Tomorrow I fly back to Rome. I finished some reading: The Civilian Conservation Corps: The History of the New Deal’s Famous Jobs Program during the Great Depression by Charles River Editors My father and uncle were in the CCC, so this book especially interested me. It was a New Deal program to give jobs to youths so that they would find a bit of hope and they could help their families to survive. The pay was low, and the work was mostly conservation and park construction. Yet, if one travels to any of our National Parks, one is bound to find a shelter or trail or something else that they built. Gettysburg: A History for the People by John Cox This is a rather complete account of the battle of Gettysburg. The telling reaches to level of the brigades and regiments, as well as calling upon personal accounts from the battle. It is a good history book, but can be a bit tedious for someone who is not fascinated by all things historical. The Forbidden City: The History of the Chinese Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing by Charles River Editors This is the account of the construction and the maintenance of the Forbidden City in Beijing. This was the home of the emperor and his entensive retenue. It is a major tourist attraction today. The Irish Potato Famine by Charles River Editors This short book gives an outline of the tragedy of the Potato blight in Ireland in the 19th century that led to over one million deaths and countless more emigrating to the US, Canada and Australia. It also tells of the furiously poor response of the British government to this crises, for much of what they did actually made the disaster worse. Rotten Ice by Gretel Ehrlich This is a science short story in which the author accompanies residents of Greenland in their hunts for walrus and seals upon the ice off the shore. Over the years, the ice has become thinner and more dangerous. This has destroyed a hunter-gatherer form of life lived by these people. This is obviously a reference to the effects of global warming upon the ice pack that holds much of the world’s fresh water supply. The Assassination of President James Garfield by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the death of President James Garfield, the second president to be assassinated in the United States. He was killed by a mentally disturbed man who thought that he was due an important posting in the diplomatic corp. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alfreton, Gt. Britain - London - Buffalo, NY

September 13, 2017 Peace and Good, We had a week of custodial chapter in a conference center in Alfreton, Derbyshire. The center was very, very good. Each meal had four choices for the main course. The facilities were clean and up to date. The grounds were magnificent. The only down side was that it rained every single day (although usually not the entire day). The meeting went well. One of my former students from Romania, Ciprian Budau, was elected as the custos of this jurisdiction. He is a good, humble man and I believe he will do a fine job. On Friday, we finished the first part of the meeting. We then travelled to London, and I flew out to Buffalo the next day. I will be here until Saturday when I fly back to London for the second part of the meeting. I am in Buffalo for the funeral of my niece, Jillian Ingoldsby. Please keep her and her family in your prayers. We are still not quite sure how she died, but it was under suspicious circumstances. We will have a Memorial Mass on this coming Saturday morning. The weather in Buffalo is tremendous, almost summerlike. That is so unusual for this time of year in Buffalo. I finished some reading: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age gave birth to the First Humans by Brian Fagan This is an account of various remains and cultures of Cro-Magnon man, our ancestor here upon the earth. The author begins with the Neanderthals and their possible interactions with Cro-Magnon man. Neanderthals, although a distant relative of humanity, was not in a direct line. That group of individuals died out, although scientists have found some Neanderthal DNA in humans, which would indicate that there was at least some interbreding. I am reading this at the same time I am reading a book on the residents of the Kalahari desert called the Old Way, and it is fascinating how much information the two books share in hunting and weapons techniques. The Great Fire of London in 1666 by Walter George Bell This is an extensive account both of the great fire of London in 1666 and its aftermath. The fire raged through most of the city, and left countless thousands homeless. Some of the great treasures in the city were rescued, but so many of them were lost in the fire. The city, when rebuilt, was no longer an amalgamation of wooden structures, but was built of brick and stone with wider byways to help fight fire in the futre. Fingerprints by Justin Bigos This is a short story of a man’s relationship, such as it is, with his alcoholic father (divorced from his mother). The father comes from a Jehovah Witness background, but he is now living pretty much on the street. He has a bad habit of showing up in the son’s house, his work, etc and stealing various things to survive. There is a real sense of sadness and ennui about this story. Tracking Ivory by Christy Bryan This is a science short story in which the author has a number of false ivory tusks manufactured with transmitters embedded within to be able to track the movement of ivory in Africa. He discovers that the tusks quickly end up in the Sudan where they were then to be transhipped to their ultimate destination. The sale of ivory finances terrorism (including that of the Lord’s Liberation Army in northern Uganda) and poaching of other elephants with modern weapons. They Helped Erase Ebola in Liberia, Now Liberia Is Erasing Them by Helene Cooper This is the story of the treatment that a group of young men received after they were hired to cremate the bodies of ebola victims during the epidemic in Liberia. Rather than being treated as heroes who saved that society from disaster, they were treated as periahs because cremation was seen as such a taboo in a society that strongly emphasizes rites which honor the dead. Aylin by Ayse Kulin This is a very odd book about a beautiful Turkish woman who becomes a psychiatrist. She is very, very successful in her profession, but much less so in her personal life. She was divorced four times, often precipatating the divorce and then blaming her partner on the results of her own choices. She eventually even joins the army where she counsels Iraq war veterans. She dies a mysterious death which might be an assassination by any one of a number of people who would have liked to see her dead. The author goes out of her war to say how wonderful this woman is, but the protrait given does not match the words of praise. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cherso (Croatia) - Rome - Alfreton (Great Britain)

September 6, 2017 Peace and Good, A couple of weeks ago I returned from the definitory's vacation on Cherso, an island off the coast of Croatia. It was a wonderful trip, very quiet and nowhere near as hot as Rome had been in August. This past week we had a definitory. That is usually quite a long one because there is all the business that piled up during the summer. Fortunately, it was not all that bad this year. On Sunday I flew into London for the custodial chapter here in Great Britain. I will be here until Saturday when I will fly to Buffalo. Originally, I was going to stay here for the coming week, but my family received very bad news that my niece Jillian passed away. I would ask you to please keep her in your prayers. This week I am in Alfreton. It is a beautiful conference center in central southern England. The weather, though, is definitely British. It has rained every day so far. The chapter has been going very well so far, even if there were a couple of glitches to iron out (there always are at chapters). I finished some reading: The Drive on Moscow 1941 by Niklas Zetterling and Anders Frankson This is an outline of the German attempt to take Moscow from the moment that Hitler made the decision to make a final push on the Soviet capital in the fall of 1941 until the moment that this push stalled and was reversed due to a powerful Soviet counter-offensive. The author sticks to the facts on both sides of the story, and presents the reasons why certain moves by either party either succeeded or failed. He premises that the failure of the offensive was due both to horrible weather (mud, and then a great freeze) and the husbanding of resources by the Soviets so that they could make a big push against the invading army. The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague by Dorsey Armstrong This is a 24 lecture series from the Teaching Company on the Black Death (or the great mortality as it was called during the Middle Ages). This was actually one of three great plagues of Bubonic/Pneumonic/Septicemic Plague over the centuries: during the reign of the Emperor Justinian, in the Middle Ages, and at the end of the 19th century in China and India. The author examines the scientific explanations, the various theories for the cause of its great mortality figure, the political and social consequences of the plague, its representation in painting and literature, etc. Critical Conditions by Stephen White A young girl is found with bloody clothes hidden in her room and a bloody gun in her bathroom. Shortly afterwards, the head of a health insurance company who has denied coverage for a treatment of the girl’s sister is found shot dead. The book is from the point of view of the psychiatrist who has to unravel the mystery of what happened in spirte of the fact that the girl refuses to talk. There are a number of twists and spins in the story which turns out to be more gruesome that one first suspected. It is well written. The Guillotine: the History of the World’s Most Notorious Methods of Execution by Charles River Editors This is one of those short accounts of the invention and the use of the guillotine. Ironically, this machine for execution was invented due to the efforts of Dr. Guillotine toward the end of the reign of King Louis XVI as a means of executing prisoners in a more humane manner (thus doing away with hanging, torture, etc.). It was eventually used throughout France and Germany, but did not spread to too many other countries. The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Buillou This is the story of a boy in Sweden who is sent to a monastery when he is miraculously saved from death after an accident. There he learns many useful skills in agriculture, cooking, building, and warfare that he eventually brings back to his homeland. There he is treated as a bit of a sissy and freak until he masterfully shows his skills at fighting. He is eventually exiled to the Holy Land to serve as a Knight as a penalty for having broken some scritural laws. Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams This is not a scientific study, but more of an overview of the discovery of various elements of the periodic table and their use in our daily world. The author provides some interesting information about the process of doing scientific analysis which lead to the finding of many of these elements. He is filled with a sense of wonder at the texture and color of these various minerals. He travels to places where these elements were discovered. He also deals with the invention of the periodic table by Mendeleev. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude