Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Rome - Bacau, Romania - Rome

May 15, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome after heading over to Romania for a long weekend. The Missionary Sisters of Assisi were celebrating their 100th anniversary of their presence in Romania and I went over as a representative of the Minister General to participate. I used to give many retreats and conferences to the sisters in the early years of their rebirth after communism. During communism they were not allowed to live openly as sisters, but many continued to keep contact with their fellow sisters and even invite young women to join them in the underground network they had set up. The weather in Romania has not yet warmed up significantly. Every spring they have a low pressure front that stalls over the country til toward the end of May. Then suddenly, it passes from a rainy and overcast time to summertime in one day. I will be going up to Assisi this Saturday for our General Chapter. That day officially marks the end of my term. We will have to see whether I continue on in Rome or head somewhere else. I am ready for whatever happens. I finished some books: Letters from Berlin: A Story of War, Survival and the Redeeming Power of Love and Friendship by Margarete Dos and Kerstin Lieff This is a very interesting volume that tells part of the life story of a young woman who grew up in Berlin just before and during the war years (World War II). Her foster father was a functionary in the Navy Department. She tells of the destruction of her city and country, of her imprisonment in a Soviet work camp after the war, and of her eventual liberation and her attempt to start a new life. It is so rare to hear the story told from the other side, and I especially appreciated this book to give me a greater perspective on what German civilians must have gone through during the war and in its aftermath. St. Paul: the Apostle We Love to Hate by Karen Armstrong Karen Armstrong is a current theologian, and this treatment of St. Paul is a brief but good overview of his life and theology. She has one or two theories that I think are totally unproven (e.g. such as the idea that Apollos was the leader of the revels in Corinth, something that has no documentary evidence), but for the most part her volume is balanced. She especially tries to show that Paul was not a misogynist, but that rather many of the statements that can be interpreted in that light were either interpolations (a theory of which I am always wary because that allows one to take out anything with which one is uncomfortable) or the product of the later Church (such as in Ephesians or Colossians, something with which I am in agreement). Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage This is an overview of the growth and consumption of food throughout the centuries. It gives good technical knowledge as well as folk information. It weighs the pluses and minuses of various strategies (e.g. only eating thing grown nearby, the green revolution, etc.). It is similar to Mark Kurlansky’s books on Cod, Salt and Paper in which the author takes one topic and views it from a number of different angles. I would recommend this book. Conclave by Robert Harris I have read a number of Harris’ books, and this is one of his best. It deals with the death of an unnamed Pope (but clearly based on Pope Francis) and the election of his successor. The story is told from the point of view of the Dean of Cardinals who is running the conclave. The facts seems to be essentially accurate. Much of the drama is the subtle fighting and campaigning among the various lobbies: the traditionalists, the Italians, the Africans, the ambitious, etc. The ending is a bit strange, but overall it is well written with a good insight to some of the spiritual matters. The Titanic: the History and Legacy of the World’s Most Famous Ship from 1907 to Today by Charles River Editors This is an extensive treatment of the construction, sailing, and sinking of the Titanic as well as some of the aftermath (the survivors, the ships that assisted and those that did not, the hearings in the US and Great Britain which examined the cause of the disaster and established some remedies for future voyages. It even brings in the search for the wreck of the ship in the last century. The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of the American Empire by Stephen Kinzer This is an overview of the rise of the movement in the US to expand our horizons to foreign colonies favored by Theodore Roosevelt and others, and fought by some such as Mark Twain. This is especially seen in the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands after a coup which overthrew the legitimate government, and after the conquest of Cuba and the Philippines. It deals with the horrible war fought in the latter in which the independence fighters were crushed with cruel and clearly illegal means. The author presents some ideas and incidents which could clearly be applied to our modern situation. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 6, 2019

Montreal - Rome

May 6, 2019 Peace and Good, My visit to Montreal concluded last Wednesday, and I flew back to Rome. These days have been the usual slow recovery from jet lag. It seems it takes longer and longer to get over it. The weather here is actually quite cool. I think a cold front must have passed through yesterday. It was the windiest that I ever remember it here. This week I will be home until Friday when I head out to Romania for the weekend. The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi are celebrating their 100th anniversary there, and I know quite a few of them. Whenever I went over to Romania to teach in our seminary, I would give workshops to the sisters on the weekends. I hope to get ahead in some writing projects and taping for the daily reflections these days since our General Chapter will start on May 18th. Please keep us all in your prayers. I will be preaching again each day at the chapter so I have to work on those homilies as well. I finished some reading: Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell This is a rather short biography of the painting genius. It is one that leaves one troubled, as the painter himself was. While we cannot identify the exact cause of his mental difficulties, it is painful to read of his struggle to find himself, and of his gradual loss of himself due to his difficulties. Bethlehem: The History and Legacy of the Birthplace of Jesus by Charles River Editors This is one of those short books on an individual topic produced by Charles River Editors. This, however, was one of the first that I have read that should have been edited much better. There are factual errors in a number of places that left me disturbed. Furthermore, the material presented has an uneven feeling, too much information about non-significant things and too little about relatively important topics. Hamilton: the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda This book was not about the man Hamilton. It is the story of the rap presentation of Hamilton on Broadway. It comes across almost as a personal memoir, and it gives a good account of the creation of the play and its phenomenal success. It deals with the major actors and writers. It speaks of the importance of this play for African Americans and other minorities. A History of Some of London’s Most Famous Landmarks by Charles River Editors This is a quick overview of some of the most famous sites in London, including the Westminster Abbey, the London Tower Bridge, the London Tower, the Buckingham Palace, etc. The book gives a bit too much detail and it can become tedious at times. Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell This is a fictional account of Anne Boleyn while she served at the court of the French queen. She was only a young girl when she travelled there with her sister who eventually became the mistress of the French King Francis. The story tells of how the two sisters were used unmercifully by their calculating father who only considered them to be economic possibilities. Anne slowly grows in knowledge of the ways of the world and of court love, lessons that would be used in her courting of King Henry VIII. Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is a follow up volume to an earlier story called the Ice Limit. A group of experts travel to a site off the coast of Chile in the hopes of destroying a meteor at the bottom of the sea which turned out to be the seed of an extraterrestrial creature that had spawned and endangered the earth. Preston and Child have a remarkable partnership in authoring these books. Some are detective novels (Agent Prendergast), others are more science fiction. They all are well worth reading. I think you can see above how ecclectic my reading habits are. I have to confess that a lot of what I read nowadays is either listening to books checked out for free from the public library or reading those books which are free or discounted by Kindle. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Rome - Montreal

April 28, 2019 Peace and Good, After spending a bit of time in Rome, I travelled to Montreal on Easter Monday. The purpose of the trip is two fold. First of all, there was a meeting of the members of the English speaking federation in preparation for our upcoming General Chapter (May 28-June 27). We especially had to go over our revised General Statues. That took a couple of days. We then discussed a number of other matters, especially questions dealing with formation (both initial and continuing). Then on Friday, I began the canonical visitation of our houses in Montreal is preparation for their upcoming Custodial Chapter (this coming September). I already visited the houses in the States (three of them in Clifton, NJ; Bridgeport, CT, and South Boston, MA). Now I am visiting the four sites in Montreal. There is a lot of rain and flooding in the area right near the rivers, much as there has been along the Mississippi and its tributaries this Spring. Their Spring here begins a few weeks later than most of the States. I fly out on Wednesday to return to Rome for 10 days. I finished some reading: Hidden: Reilly Steel Series by Casey Hill This is the third of a series concerning Reilly Steel, and American forensic expert who is part of a team working in Dublin on strange cases. This volume is about children who disappear. When two of them are found dead, they are seen to have angel wings tattooed on their backs. The story turns out to be not quite what one would have expected. Spain: the Center of the World 1519-1682 by Robert Goodwin This is a very good overview of the world of Spain in its golden age. The author speaks of the monarchy, its court, the artists, authors, poets, etc. Goodwin does an incredibly good job at drawing a full picture of what was happening in Spain and in the other domains under its control. I would highly recommend this volume. Fr. Charles Coughlin: the Life of the Controversial Catholic Priest who Revolutionized Radio by Charles River Editors This is the story of a very controversial radio priest who pitched his message for social justice during the depression. The early years, he highly supported FDR, but eventually his politics changed. He began to espouse anti-Semitic messages, and was eventually silenced by Church authorities. Russia House by John le Carre I listened to this volume as a dramatic presentation of this volume. A mysterious woman comes up to a book vender at a book fair in Moscow, asking him to pass on a manuscript written by a Russian arms expert which outlines the arms capability of the Soviet Union. British and American spies conspire with the help of a boozy low life who has to act as the intermediary in this process. Typical of le Carre’s books, there are very few heroes in the story, all the characters are very fallible. America’s Most Notorious Natural Disasters by Charles River Editors This is a compilation of accounts of the Great Chicago Fire, the Johnstown Flood, the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane and Hurricane Katrina. Each of the accounts includes objective information about the disaster along with multiple firsthand accounts of those who survived the crisis. Operation Paperclip: the History of the Secret Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America During and After World War II by Charles River Editors At the end of the Second World War, the US and the Soviets (as well as to a lesser degree the British and French) set up networks to capture information on Nazi scientific programs that might assist them in their own research (e.g. nuclear, aircraft, missile, etc.). This gives an account of how the US sought paperwork, scientific equipment and most of all experts whom they could carry back to the States. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rome

April 18, 2019 Happy Holy Thursday I have been in Rome since the definitory returned from Croatia this past week. The weather is slowly becomming nicer. Spring has begun. There have been no meetings this week, so I am using the time to get caught up with daily reflections and articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua. This coming Monday, Easter Monday, I will be flying out to Montreal for a meeting with the Provincials of our federation (US, Canada, Australia and Great Britain/Ireland). Then I will be doing a canonical visitation to the three friaries in Montreal. I have finished some reading: Operation Whisper: the Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen by Barnes Carr This is the story of the careers of two Soviet spies during World War II and after. Their lives and careers began in the US, but after near discovery, they fled and reestablished their spying network in Great Britain. They were only slowly ferreted out by the British secret services and tried and jailed for their activities. United States and the Middle East: 1914-9/11 by Salim Yaqub This is a series of 24 lectures on the history of the rapport of the US to the Middle East from the time of World War I up to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The professor gives a balanced evaluation of the attitudes and policies both of the US and of their Middle Eastern partners/enemies. In a time of hysterical rantings by politicians, this is a good, well researched presentation. El Escorial: the History and Legacy of Spain’s Most Famous Royal Site by Charles River Editors This is one of the most famous of the palaces of the Spanish royal family, built under the reign of Philip II. It was an incredibly extensive palace (and monastery complex). IT is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture. While the religious part of the complex are intricately ornamented, the living quarters were much simpler, marking the religious tendencies of the king. Emperors of Rome by Garrett Fagan This is a very informative and entertaining series of 24 lectures by the Teaching Company on the history of the Roman emperors from the time of the Caesars up to the time of Constantine. The professor is Irish and peppers his lectures with gems of his Irish humor. He gives enough detail both historically and also socially to get a good picture of what was happening. He is not afraid to give his own opinion on controversies, but he clearly states that this is what it is, and he back up his arguments with good reasoning. It would highly recommend this series. Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian: The Lives and Career’s of Nazi Germany’s Legendary Tank Commanders by Charles River Editors This is one of those short biographies of two of the most important army commanders for Germany during the Second World War. Both were involved in the blitzkrieg attacks on Poland and France. Guderian then was sent off into the Soviet Union while Rommel ended up fighting with the Afrikacorp in North Africa where he obtained a reputation for incredible daring. The careers of both figures were fated for failure due to the interventions of Hitler in the fighting order and the lack of supplies reaching the North African front. Eventually Rommel was implicated for some involvement in the plot to kill Hitler and was forced to commit suicide Tiwanaku and Puma Punka: the History and Legacy of South America’s Most Famous Ancient Holy Site by Charles River Editors This is the story of an archaeological ruin outside of La Paz in Bolivia, near the shore of Lake Titicaca. It is from a civilization that preceded the Inca, and the purpose of the site seems to have been a cross between the Vatican and Disneyland. The walls of the structure were constantly being moved from one place to another. This does not seem to have been an administrative center but rather some sort of site for a mystery religion in which people descended into the depths of a structure to be reborn into the light. Have a Blessed Easter Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Rome - Vepric, Croatia

April 9, 2019 Peace and Good, These past days have been quite unusual for the entire General Definitory travelled to a Marian shrine on the coast in Croatia, Vepric. The first week of this trip was our annual retreat. I gave daily reflections for the friars, and the rest of the retreat was quiet time. On Saturday we visited Medjugorie. This was my first visit to the site. I was impressed by the faith of the people, but I cannot say that I was deeply moved by it. The one Marian shrine that I truely felt moved was Guadalupe in Mexico. We have also visited the friars and the cities of Split and Sibenik. They are both on the coast. Split is beautiful and well developed for tourism. It has an ancient town center that in part dates back to the end of the 3rd century A.D. (for it contains parts of a palace of the emperor Diocletian). Sibenik is a lovely little town, but it has not yet been fully prepared for tourism (although they are working to that end). This week we have a couple of days of definitory, our last one. Then Friday we will be heading back to Rome. We have hit a bit of rain here, but it has always been in times that we were travelling or meeting, so we still had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The place where we are staying is right near the coast, which is backed up with mountains. I finished some reading: A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer This is the story of how the massacre of the Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda happened. It gives information about the colonial past which led to many of the tensions between the tribes. It gives an accurate picture of the months leading up to the disaster. There is also the story of Paul Kagame, who led the rebellion against the government that had sponsored the murder, and is now the autocratic president of the country. Kinzer does not defend all of Kagame’s policies, but he does put them in perspective (speaking extensively about the need for stability and healing). It then deals with the question of how the present government is working on reconciliation along with economic development. Kinzer is very much in favor of Kagame’s policies without being blinded to the difficulties. Dance between Flames: Berlin Between the Wars by Anton Gill This is the story of what went on in Berlin between the two world wars. The city became a byword for decadence. Yet, there were great cultural developments in painting, writing, music, drama, etc. Gill speaks about the political developments and the terrible economic disaster (with incredible rates of inflation) in the Weimar Republic. Gill paints a picture in which one can almost understand why so many rejected the decadence while choosing the disastrous alternative of autocratic government under the Nazi’s. He also speaks of the beginning of the persecution of the Jews and leftist by the Nazi’s. The Opium Wars by Charles River Editors In the 19th century Great Britain suffered a terrible deficit with China. They bought silk and tea and ceramics from China, but the Chinese bought very little from Great Britain. This meant that silver was being sent to China and not returning. The British tried to address this issue by shipping opium to China to addict the population there. They fought two wars with China in order to force it to open up to trade with the West, but especially to ship their drugs to them. There is no way that these horrible wars could be rationalized. Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World by Paul Cartledge The story of the 300 Spartan troops has been told over and over again throughout history. The blocked the Persian invasion of possibly up to a million troops for far longer than anyone would have expected at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. This book speaks of the cultures of Greece and Persia, of the reasons for the invasion, and of the significance (in their times and up to the present times) of this battle which technically was a defeat but which was truly a victory of spirit. Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart This clever little book speaks of how certain insects cause so much pain and damage to people and vegetation. It speaks of the specific insect, how it works, where it was found, which bugs it is related to, etc. It gives a lot of information in a very short format. Gaudete et Esultate by Pope Francis This apostolic exhortation by the Holy Father speaks of everyday holiness. The pope tries to get people to avoid excesses of theory or practice. It speaks of how to apply the Beatitudes to everyday life. It speaks of how to avoid sin through penitential practices. This pope writes in a style that is very approachable, understandable. It would highly recommend it to anyone. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Buffalo - Rome

March 30, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome after having travelled to Buffalo for the funeral of one of our friars, fr. Canice Connors. The trip back was long, especially since I had to travel from Buffalo to Baltimore where I had an eight hour layover, and then to London where there was another five hour layover. All went well, but a trip like that takes a lot of wear and care on the body. It was good to be in Buffalo for a few days and to be able to see relatives. I don't get to see them often because I am always on the road in other parts of the world. I have been working on a translation from Italian to English for some documents for our General Chapter. I finished the work this morning, so tomorrow I will dedicate to doing some daily reflections for the podcast site. Monday I and the other definitors are heading out to Croatia for a couple of weeks: for our annual retreat and a meeting of our definitory. The weather has warmed up nicely. I was able to walk outside today without a sweater. Spring is here. I finished some reading: The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War by Charles River Editors This is a double book which deals first with the six day war when the Israelis defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and then the war which occurred a decade later in which Israel again won when Egypt invaded it, but just barely. Even though the treatment is not all that long, it nevertheless gives good information about the politics, the actual fighting and the consequences of choices made by the various countries and their leaders. Munich, 1938 by David Faber This has to be one of the books that has most disgusted me in recent years. It is not the book itself that bothered me, but rather the story it tells. It gives the account of how Chamberlain, the British prime minister, caved in to Hitler’s demands to allow the Anschluss uniting Germany with Austria and also the invasion of Czechoslovakia, taking the Sudetenland. The British wanted to maintain peace, and treated the Czechs with incredible disdain while they claimed to be honest brokers in the process. One can clearly see the dangers of appeasement which inevitably led to the Second World War. 1920: The Year that made the Decade Roar by Eric Burns Over these past few years, I have read a series of books that speak about a particular year. All of them are interesting, but this particular book is one of the best. It speaks about all sorts of dimensions of what was going on in America right after World War I. It speaks of the corruption of the Harding administration. It presents information on the women’s right movement, especially to get the vote. It also speaks about the prohibition which began that year. Burns presents tons of information in a very pleasant way. The Fall of Constantinople by Captivating History This is a short history of the city of Constantinople (today Istanbul). It also deals with its decline after its sacking by the crusaders of the 4th crusade in which the crusaders attacked fellow Christians and not the Muslims who they had vowed to conquer. In the latter years, the city was a small enclave without any hinterland from which it could draw forces. It was finally conquered when the Islamic forces brought many cannons with them which could breach the considerable walls of its fortress. Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan This is a history of the invasion of Normandy from the inception of its planning up to the conquest of Paris. John Keegan is a famous military historian, and again this book is an example of his skill. He grew up in one of the staging areas for the invasion, and the first chapter is filled with remembrances of the interaction of his family with the soldiers about to go into battle. The six armies include the Brits, the Americans, the Canadians, the Poles, the Germans and the French. The book is filled with interesting detail. The author is British, and at times he tries to defend Montgomery a bit too much, but overall he is fair in his treatment of the topic. The Lord by Romano Guardini This is a book that I have long wanted to read for I have seen its author’s name time and time again. The opportunity finally came and I am glad I delved into it. It is a long treatment of the person of Jesus and his mission. The use of Sacred Scripture is extensive but not always critical. It served as good spiritual reading, but not really as a source I would quote for a study paper. Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury This is the story of King George VI and his three brothers, one of whom was King Edward VIII who resigned to marry the woman he loved. This book treats George VI rather well, speaking of how a shy and stuttering (he was the subject of the film the King’s Speech) man and who stepped up to his responsibilities. Edward, on the other hand, comes across as vain and petty, controlled by his wife. This story spans from just before World War II through to the 1950’s. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 22, 2019

Rome - London - Buffalo

March 22, 2019 Peace and Good, I went to London this past weekend to do a visitation of two of our friars from Malta who are working there as chaplains for the sick. The Maltese government sends a number of sick Maltese citizens there each year because Malta, being a small island, cannot provide the modern medical techniques that are available in London. (Sometimes up to a hundred a month). They have also hired two of our friars to serve as Catholic chaplains for those patients. The friars in London do a great job in this. When I did a visitation in Malta, people on the street would tell me this. Since Malta is preparing for a chapter this coming September, I visited the two friars to see how they are doing. Then on Sunday I heard that one of our ex-provincials, fr. Canice Connors, passed away in Buffalo, NY. I checked with our Vicar General, and travelled to Buffalo on Tuesday to attend the funeral today. fr. Canice was a provincial, rector of a seminary, head of two treatment institutes for priests and religious who had serious phychological problems, etc. I knew him a bit, and he was a good, good man. I will be in Buffalo until this coming Tuesday when I will head back to Rome. I finished some reading: The Hittites and the Lydians: the History and Legacy of Ancient Anatolia’s Most Influential Civilizations by Charles River Editors This is actually a combination of two books about peoples who settled in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey. Each is well done. The Hittites actually conquered a rather large empire in that area, although they disappeared from the scene around the time of Abraham or just before. The Lydians are famous as the first people to produce an actual currency (coins) and not just weights of precious metals. The Letter to the Galatians: the Bible in Medieval Tradition by Ian Christopher Levy This is a combination of commentaries which speak about the Letter to the Galatians. It is interesting to note how at times they are so similar to what we know today, and how at times they are so dissimilar. It was a bit of work getting through it, but well worth it. Easter Rising by Hourly History This is a quick history of the rebellion of the Irish against the British during the First World War. Hourly History produces a series of books similar to those of Charles River Editors, but a bit more folksy. The book speaks of how the rebellion failed, but nevertheless the brutal suppression after its failure led to an independence movement which led to freedom. War of 1812: A History from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is the story of what some call the second war of independence. It was a war that the Americans did not want to fight, but which they almost backed into due to the treatment of American sailors by the British during their war with Napoleon. It was a war without many concrete results, but it did give some self-confidence to the newly formed US because now they felt they did not have to bow down to every threat that they faced. Empire by Michelle Pacelle and Dan Cashman This is an interesting, short book about the sale of the Empire State building. It is an involved story, with the building in unknown hands for quite a while. It also includes appearances by Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley, two of the great moguls of real estate in New York. There is family intrigue in a Japanese family of a very dishonest businessman and his sons and his illegitimate daughter (the last of whom tried to steal the building for herself). Frank Lloyd Wright by Charles River Editors When Frank Lloyd Wright was starting out, the great architect, he said that he had to choose between a hypocritical humility and arrogance, and so he chose the latter. The book speaks of his life and his career. It is open on his incredibly messy relationship with his three wives. It speaks of the buildings he designed in the US and Japan and why he made particular choices. I come from Buffalo which has some of his buildings, so I was interested in him. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude