Monday, August 3, 2020

Arroyo Grande, California

August 3, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in our novitiate all this past week giving lessons to the six novices. I will be here til the 11th, which is good because that fills out my two weeks of self-isolation requested at the airport when I arrived. No problems so far, although I do admit that I have bought a thermometer and have gotten in the practice of measuring my temperature twice a day, no matter what. The lessons are going very well. I covered major topics in the Gospels this past week, and will look at the Psalms this coming week. The novices are very interested, and they have great questions (which I always like, because even if I don't know the answer, it forces me to investigate and further my own knowledge). The weather is incredibly beautiful. We are not all that far from the ocean, so there is the marine layer which moderates the temperature. The mornings are wonderfully cool. I went into town (Grover Beach) to go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I found out that during the crisis they only have take out. I went to another restaurant which only has out of doors service. It was such an odd feeling that I ended up going home to eat lunch. It was almost dystopian. I can't wait til things are settled out (although I do have a lot of worries that they are rushing the vaccine too much for political reasons). I have finished some reading: Saint Augustine by Hourly History This is a short overview of the life and work of St. Augustine. It is well done, without any of the anti-Catholic prejudice that I often find in the Captivating History series. Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods This is a series of essays on various methodologies used to study the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of them have to do with the process of reconstructing the original text from a series of disjointed fragments. Others deal with sociological and historical studies which, while on the surface don’t exactly have a lot to do with the scrolls, nevertheless offer insight into the meaning of the texts. Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World by Tom Zoellner This is an audio book that I listened to concerning the element uranium including its discovery, mining, use and misuse. It deals with those who would like to use it to provide energy, as well as those who consider it to be too dangerous to use extensively. It also deals with the difficulties its mining has caused to indigenous populations such as the Aborigines of Australia. While it presents some of the science behind its use (both for energy and weapons), it does such in a way that is not overwhelming. A Devil is Waiting by Jack Higgins This is one of several books by Higgins that I have read. The premise of most of them is that there is a team of soldiers and ex-IRA provos who are working for the Prime Minister of Great Britain (directly) to fight against communism, which often involves Islamists, ex-IRA members who have not given up the fight, and Russian oligarchs. I have to admit that I liked his first books better for now the formula is starting to get a bit old. How do Empires WorK? By OpenLearn This is a short course that describes the difference between the Chinese empire of the last centuries and the British Empire and their collision during the Opium Wars. American Colossus by HW Brand This is the history of the US from the time of the Civil War up to the First World War. It especially deals with the growth in economic power in the States, but it also deals with social problems like the plight of African-Americans in the south, the labor movement, immigration, etc. It is a very well written book with an immense amount of information which is well delivered. Patrice Lumumba by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of one of the leaders of post-colonial Congo. The Belgian king Leopold exploited the colony for his own purposes, allowing the murder and torture of so many people. The Belgian government eventually took the colony away from the king, but never prepared the people for independence. When it did become independent, a civil war broke out almost immediately (often fostered by the economic interests of rich investors in the mining industry. Lumumba was a civil servant who tried to govern the country as it was falling apart. He applied for assistance to the Soviet Union and China (largely because the US and Great Britain would not help the new country because of their ties to those businessmen who were destroying the country). He was labeled as a communist, and was assassinated by Congolese rebels with the complicit approval of the CIA. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rome - Arroyo Grande, CA

July 28, 2020 Peace and Good, Yesterday I flew in from Europe to be at our novitiate in Arroyo Grande, California ( just outside of San Luis Obispo). There are six novices this year. I will be here until August 11th, presenting lessons on the Gospels and the Psalms and just sharing information about the Order. Travelling these days is no fun. There is a lot of paperwork and checkups along the way. I flew from Rome to Munich, there to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. I flew Lufthansa this time. The flight to Los Angeles was at most 1/6th full. Very few people are flying. The airports are all but empty. Everyone is wearing masks, although some are wearing them the wrong way and some take them off a lot in public. Arriving in the States was not bad. There was a form to fill out, they took our temperature, and gave us a brochure on self-isolation. The weather out here is perfect. The marine layer comes in at this time every year, so the temperature is about 70 during the day. It was much, much hotter in Rome. I finished some reading: Hangman by Faye Kellerman This is the first book I have read by Kellerman. She writes about a detective who is a practicing Jew (which enters often into the book). It is a good story. In this case, the story is about two mass murderers who are tracked down by the detective’s team. I intend to read other books by her. Ivan the Terrible by Captivating History This is the outline of the life and madness of Ivan. The title terrible is really a mistranslation of his title, for he was considered to be Ivan the Awesome, but he was also terrible, especially as he descended into murderous paranoia. The book speaks of the good he did, but also of the terrible massacres he committed with his accomplices. The author goes out of his way to excuse Ivan for this due to the murderous atmosphere in which he was raised. Wall Street Wars by Richard Farley This book deals with the attempt by the FDR administration to deal with the monetary difficulties during the depression. It included dealing with the stock market, the banks, and the gold standard. It deals with the various debates in the Congress and the lobby techniques of the moneyed class. The most interesting section deals with the work of Joseph Kennedy as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. This was the father of JFK, and the author is very complementary concerning his efforts. The Texas Revolution by Charles River Editors This is the story of the settlement of Anglos in Texas after the time of the American Revolutionary War which meant that they outnumbered the Hispanic settlers. It speaks of the tensions among them and the Native Americans. The Americans eventually broke away from Mexico which had gained its independence. The book speaks of the siege at the Alamo. It also speaks of the eventual annexation of Texas into the US. JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke This book deals with the last few months of JFK’s life before his assassination in Dallas. It has an enormous amount of inside information. The author is honest about what he knows and what he does not know. What is interesting is that Kennedy was doing an internal review of the US relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba, as well as rethinking our involvement in Vietnam. The book covers the assassination of the President of Vietnam in a coup approved by the US. The book also deals with the relationship between Jack and Jackie, which seems to have been improving in these months. The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon in 1950 by Bill Sloan This is a long and good treatment of the first year of the Korean War from the invasion by the North Koreans to the entrance of the Chinese into the struggle to countermand the invasion of ally troops into the far north of North Korea (along the border with China). It necessarily deals with the various military leaders for the Americans, including the always temperamental and sometimes unhinged MacArthur. The book gives extensive remembrances from the troops who fought. It is well done. Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Hourly History This is a short biography of the heroic Lutheran Church pastor who opposed the Nazi’s in his homeland. It speaks about his insights, his attempts to influence policy during the time of the Nazi’s, his insistence that he belonged in Germany (and his refusal to flee to safety) and finally his execution in the closing days of the war. One would have wished for a bit more insight into his personal struggle with his decisions and the dynamics of his faith life. Keep Safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 20, 2020

Rome

July 21, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope you all are well. I finished my quarantine in Rome and am now free to go around. Most of the people do not wear masks on the street, but it is required in mass transit. I still like to put mine on whenever I go out. We have our definitory meeting this week. Every morning is our usual business, and then in the afternoon we have a Zoom meeting with the presidents of the various federations throughout the world (7 of them). This kept the presidents from having to travel to Rome in this uncertain times. The rules of various countries seem to change by the hour. Spain and France have now closed their borders due to a new outbreak. I am able to be in Italy because of our meeting. I will be leaving Italy on Monday, heading to our novitiate in California. On the one part, California is not doing that well with Covid, on the other I will be in the novitiate which is fairly isolated. The weather here has gotten hot, hot, hot. This is normal for the end of July and August. It is strange to see so few tourists in the city. The Europeans tend to come here in the late Spring and the early Fall, while the Americans come during the summer. There are no Americans around this year. I finished some reading: Influenza: A Case Study by OpenLearn This is one of those free university courses on an individual topic from OpenLearn. This one tends to be highly technical and really only serves someone who has studied the dynamics of disease transmission and control. World War II: D-Day by Hourly History This is a short account of the planning, execution and aftermath of the D Day invasion. The author gives a good amount of information in a very short format. The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology by Edward Kilmartin, SJ This is the study produced by Edward Kilmartin and edited after his death by another Jesuit. It is highly complicated and intense, but had a wealth of information. I had to read it slowly and carefully, but it gave me a series of insights into various topics about the Eucharist and the celebration of the Mass. Anglo-Saxons by Captivating History This is a short account of the settlement and kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons, Germanic settlers in England. It offers too much information about individual kings, leading to a confusing mix that is not all that helpful. The Abbey by James Martin, SJ This is a short but very nicely written book about a custodian of an abbey and his landlady and their relationship to a couple of the monks of the abbey near Philadelphia. It is not the best book I have read on a topic like this, but it is good. Especially good is the author’s attempt to recognize the need for a difficult and complicated faith journey in the characters. Werewolves by Charles River Editors This is a short book on the various traditions and myths concerning werewolves throughout Europe. Much of what we know from films and TV programs is a later development in the legends. Sometimes the legends have the werewolf an accomplice of the devil, other times not. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Rome

July 14, 2020 Peace and Good, Today marks the 43rd anniversary of when I first set out for Europe to begin my studies there with my classmate, fr. Robert Twele. I have only a couple of days left in my quarantine. These days have been very productive. I have finished my daily reflections on scripture up to the end of August, and I have finished all of my articles for the Messenger of St. Anthony until the end of next year. Next week we have a meeting of our definitory, and after that I will head to California to spend some time with our novices. After that I will head to Ellicott City for some doctor's and dentist's visits, and then back here again. The way things are going in the States, I will most probably have another two week period of quarantine. Needless to say, I have gotten quite a bit of reading done in these days: Bunker Hill by Nathanael Philbrick All that Philbrick has written is well done, and that is especially true of this book. It deals with what preceded the battle, the battle itself, and its aftermath. It gives a good insight into some of the major characters involved, and provides ample background information on the whole period. This is a book that I can easily recommend. Trail of Tears by Captivating History This is an account of the ethnic cleansing decision by President Andrew Jackson to exile all of the native Americans in the Southeast US to Oklahoma. Although they signed a fraudulent treaty, the US authorities never kept the provisions of their own agreement. Thousands died along the way from North Carolina and its environs to Oklahoma. The author goes a little overboard in declaiming the blatant racism of this (which it was), but the story needs to be told. Halicarnassus by Charles River Editors This is a major city in Asia Minor that played a major role in various wars and advances and retreats of world empires. It was the birthplace of Herodotus, the famous Greek historian. It was also the site of the famous tomb of King Masalaus, which gave the name to the structure known as the Mausoleum. Gene Manipulation in Plants by OpenLearn This speaks about the techniques of gene manipulation in plants used for agriculture. It gives two major examples: to resist the effects of herbicides and antibiotics, and to add nutritive value to the crop. It also deals with some of the questions raised by those who are deeply suspicious of genetically altered crops. The Dark Ages by Captivating History This is a short account of the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire in the West until the coming of the Renaissance. The author of this series tends to be anti-Catholic and anti-Church, but other than that, his information is interesting. The Battle of Kursk by Hourly History This is the story of a great tank battle that occurred in the Ukraine in the summer after the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad. This was an attempt by Hitler to regain the initiative, but the Soviets knew about the coming battle and prepared well for it. The German loses during the battle meant that they were henceforth on the defensive until the end of the war. I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter This is a fictional account of the career of Jack the Ripper told from three perspectives: that of a diary written by Jack himself, that of the memoirs of a reporter who followed the story, and that of a series of letters written by a prostitute in this era. The book is not intended to be the official solution to the mystery, but simply a take on the story. It is well done. Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests that History Forgot by Joseph Cummins We tend to know about the Boston Tea Party, but we often don’t realize that this was only one of the many forms of resistance involving the tea trade that took place in the colonies around the same time as the affair in Boston. This book goes through the various stories of other episodes, asking at times how historic the accounts are. Managing Coastal Environments by OpenLearn This is a very short course on the dynamics of dealing with estuary and marshland maintenance. It deals with human manipulation of the environment (for agriculture, for seaside houses, etc.) as well as the mega-effect of global warming and the rise in sea levels In precarious areas. It speaks of efforts to rehab some coastal environments as well. The short course is quite informative. Keep Safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Seoul, South Korea - Rome

July 5, 2020 Peace and Good, Well, I made it back to Italy. The trip was long, going from Korea to Doha, Qatar, and then from there to Rome. The first plane was almost empty, but the second was packed to the gills. There was absolutely no social distancing. We had to wear face masks and shields the whole way. I did not know if I would get into Italy because of Coronavirus restrictions. In Seoul, they had to call Italian immigration to make sure they would accept me. That took about an hour and a half to get an answer, and I was really starting to get nervous. Then the thumbs up came and I flew out. In Rome, there was absolutely no difficulty. I do have to make another two weeks of self-isolation, but that is in my own room in Santi Apostoli. Furthermore, I have a beautiful terraza outside my room, so I can do my daily walk there. It has gotten hot in Rome, much more so than in Korea. I will be here in Rome until the end of the month, and then head out again to California. All of my travel plans are tenuous, though, because of rules that change every other day. I have to admit that we Americans don't look that good around the world right now because of our poor response to Covid 19. Korea worked very hard at their infections, and they are down to 20 to 30 per day in the whole country. I have finished some reading: Madamn de Pompadour by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the famous mistress of King Louis XV of France. Although not glamorous nor of the nobility, she managed to become indispensable for the king for a long period of his life (even though he was also married). She used her power carefully, and also served as a procurer of younger and more beautiful women to amuse the king (without ever endangering her hold on his affections and attention). Loos 1915: the Unwanted Battle by George Carrigan This is one of the many pointless and hopelessly lethal battles of World War I. It has a lot of military detail, much more than the casual reader would be interested in considering. Yet, it is good as an example of how cheap life became when one’s goals were out of perspective during a time of crisis. The Fear Index by Robert Harris Robert Harris has become one of my favorite authors. He is the author of a trilogy upon Cicero, a novel about a Tony Blair like figure, of Alfred Dreyfus of the Dreyfus Affair. This novel is a bit different. A brilliant Artificial Intelligence scientist develops a plan to invest money in the stock market based on playing against the fears for some sort of turmoil that the market might be facing. Being an artificial intelligence, though, the machine begins to think and plan for itself. The book is very good. King Edward VI by Hourly History This is a short biography of the son of Henry VIII who took the throne after him. He died a very young man the throne passed to his half-sister Mary who tried to restore Catholicism to England, using considerable violence. The author is clearly prejudiced in his book, cheering every way that Edward worked to make England more Protestant. The Origin of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms by OpenLearn This is a short university course that speaks of the reign of Charles I and the origin of the wars that developed in Scotland, Ireland and England. Each of the rebellions had its own cause. Some of it was based on religion, while other aspects like Charles’ attitude toward his reign (believing in the divine right of kings) played a role, as did the party of Puritans who wanted to make England more clearly Protestant. Boudicca: Warrior Woman of Roman Britain by Caitlin Gillespie This was a warrior queen who rebelled against the power of Rome during the reign of Nero. She and her followers managed to burn three important Roman cities and they fought bravely against the legions of Rome. She died when she was defeated. Boudicca fought the Romans largely because her husband, the king, had left his inheritance to Nero in the hope that the Romans would protect and respect Boudicca and her daughters, but the Romans abused Boudicca and raped her daughters. Have a good and safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Seoul - Inchon - Busan - Ilgwang - Daegu - Seoul

June 29, 2020 The Feast of Ss Peter and Paul Peace and Good, I have entered into my last week in Korea. I will leave for Rome very early on Friday morning. As you can see, I have been travelling around the nation visiting the friars. When I took the train with another friar, there were no problems. The only thing is that one is supposed to wear a mask whenever one is in public. The friars have been most hospitable. Theoretically, after I write my report, I am supposed to travel back here to give the report at their chapter in October. I doubt that is going to happen given the requirements for quarantine. I will probably have to give it over Zoom. The weather is warming up. Korea can be very hot and humid in the summer. This week also begins the rainy season. I have finished some reading: Delphi Complete Works of Giotto This is the first of the Delphi collections that I have read. This is a series of books on various authors. It covers their major works, and also reprints major works by art critics on this particular artist. Giotto is famous for passing from the Byzantine style of art to a more modern form with different coloring, more life in the characters, and background rather than static formulas as in Byzantine icons. His work is especially evident in Padua (the Scrovegni Chapel), Assisi (St. Francis Basilica) and Florence. The Apache and Comanche by Charles River Editors This short book deals with these two famous and ferocious tribes from the American Southwest (especially in the area of Texas and New Mexico). It gives the history and major characteristics of the tribes as well as their eventual defeat by American or Mexican (or both) invaders. Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway by Walter Lord Walter Lord has written many good books on individual topics, such as the sinking of the Titanic (A Night to Remember). This book covers the miraculous victory of American aerial forces against a Japanese invasion of the island of Midway. Much of the victory was due to the fact that the Americans had broken the codes of the Japanese, but much of it was incredible luck for most of the waves of American bombers were shot down without doing any damage. Only a few of the last planes got through, and ultimately the Americans destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers for the loss of one American one. Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Glenn F Williams Governor Dunmore was the head of the colonial government of Virginia, and this is the story of how a series of Indian raids (which were often caused by settler encroachment upon their territory) led to an Indian war just before the War of Independence. In fact, news of Lexington and Concord reached the colonial troops during their battles. The book tries to give a balanced view of the events, but it does lean at times to an apologia of the Virginia forces. Patrick Kingsley by Audible Interviews This is an interview with a reporter who has written a book on the refugee crisis in Europe (The New Odyssey). He tries to understand the state of the problem from every viewpoint without being too judgmental. He tells the stories of various refugees whom he has met. Ann Morgan by Audible Interviews This is the author of a book about twins who decide to take each other’s place (Beside Myself), but one of them ends up suffering from mental illness. She hears voices in her head, and has manic and depressive moments in her life. As always, there is a difficult dynamic with members of her own family in dealing with this problem, especially “mother.” Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis is a good author of topics concerning the Revolutionary era of American history, and this book is a good example of that. It deals with the aftermath of the colonial victory at Boston and their defeat in the New York City area. It is honest about the missteps of both the British and American leadership. It is a good read. Have a good and safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Inchon - Seoul - Gangwa - Yahgpyeong -- South Korea

June 22, 2020 Peace and Good, I am out of quarantine and doing my visitation of the Korean province. There are about 65 friars, spread out in 8 friaries in Korea and one in the States. They are involved in many different apostolates (parish, care for handicapped children, care for the elderly, retreat house, etc.) Visiting the province is a bit of a challenge, because I must always remember not to apply my US or Roman way of judging. It is a very different culture. I will be in Korea until July 3rd when I head back to Rome. I don't know yet whether I will have a quarantine when I arrive there or not. The weather here is getting very hot. It is also quite humid here in Seoul for it runs along the Han River. The food is very good but you have to like it spicy because it always is. I finished some reading: 1861 Civil War Beginnings by Nick Vulich This is one of the worst books I have read in a long while. Vulich portrays himself as a new type of historian, but some of his writing borders on childish. This is the last book I will read by this author. Ernest Hemingway by Charles River Editors This is easily one of the best biographies that I have read from Charles River Editors. The life and works of Hemingway are treated honestly, showing the talent and the personal shortfalls of Hemingway. The author delves into some of Hemingway’s personal history to explain some of his plots and his self-destructive tendencies. I strongly recommend this particular treatment. Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler I read this book as part of a research for a talk I am giving in Romania in a short while. The author is a Jewish man who studies the story of Abraham and its treatment by Jewish, Christian and Islamic commentators. He sees this common figure in these three religions as a possible starting point in dialog. His treatment of the story is at times creative, and is always well studied and from the heart. Inheriting Abraham by John D. Levenson This is a book which I read as part of a research for a talk that I am giving in Romania. It speaks about Abraham from the perspective of Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources. Part of the premise of the book is that Abraham is not a figure to base an inter-religious dialog upon. He argues that the positions taken by authors of each of these religions has made that type of exercise futile and irrelevant. Many of his arguments are well taken, but some of them are made by taking the most extreme of possible interpreters and then positing that position as exemplary of the entire school of interpretation. Elizabeth and Essex: a Tragic History by Lytton Strachey Essex was a noble in the court of Queen Elizabeth during her last years. This book deals with the queen who could be both capricious and maddingly unable to make a decision, and Essex who was impetuous and sought glory at any cost. Although she madly loved him, she also did things that acted as a red flag in front of this vain and at times foolish man, until he finally chose to rebel against her and she executed him. Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower and a Dangerous World by William Lee Miller This is a comparison on these two important American figures. The author speaks of how contemporaries judged them (with Eisenhower more popular at the time) and how historians not judge them (with Truman seen as the better president). He deals with how they dealt with the Korean War, the McCarthy Red Scare, the Atomic Bomb, Civil Rights, etc. In all, Miller holds in favor of Truman, even if he is able to recognize his shortfalls. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude