Sunday, June 9, 2019

Assisi - Collevalenza

June 9, 2019 Peace and Good, I have been at the General Chapter for three weeks now. We started out in Assisi where we elected our Minister General and the General Definitory. I have been asked to stay on for another term, so it will be another six years on the road. On the 28th we moved to a shrine around 70 km from Assisi called Collevalenza. It is a shrine to Divine Mercy, and there is a massive pilgrimage center here (with over 200 rooms). The shrine receives quite a few pilgrims, along with our 120 chapter delegates. The weather this Spring has been cool and rainy. It is only now warming up (considerably). We will be here until the end of this week. The chapter will have lasted a month. We have our most important business already accomplished, and we just have some odds and ends to take care of this week. I have been preaching each morning at Mass in Italian and English. Since we are meeting all day long, the friars prefer a short and to the point homily - 3 minutes or so. I have the ability to do that, so it has been working well. I have finished some reading: Grover Cleveland by Henry Graff This is a relatively short biography of the life and career of Grover Cleveland, the only president in the history of the country to serve two non-consecutive sessions as president. He is presented as a good, honest, but not overly imaginative man. He sided with business over the worker. He helped guide the US through some difficult years, but was certainly a man of his times. After his presidency he opposed the push for empire under McKinley and Roosevelt. Not exactly a great president, but not a bad man either (especially after the incredible corruption during the presidency of Grant.) Native Peoples of North America by Daniel Cobb This is a teaching company course on Native Americans from a Native American perspective. It is an unusual version of revisionist history. Much of the information is very good, but some of it is so stilted that it is almost ludicrous. For example, the professor speaks of how the Anglo’s are guilty of rights violations against the Apache and Comanche because they hindered their raiding of other tribes. Another example is how he blames the Office of Indian Affairs (which has a sordid history) for the looting of their main office in Washington during a demonstration. As If In An Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of the Revolution by Richard Archer This is the account of Britain’s first occupation of Boston in the early days of the colonies’ rejection of British rule. The occupation was intended to bring the Bostonians into line after their fight against taxes imposed on various products, but it had the exact opposite effect. The presence of a large number of troops in a city with too much free time on their hands brought a continuous growth in resentment, leading to the point that the colonials began to question whether they had become something else than British, leading to the American Revolution. Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn Scott Hahn is a convert from a Presbyterian background where there is very little devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This volume is a type of apology for his previous attitude and gives a good scriptural and patristic defense of our devotion to Mary. There are a couple of places where he uses sources in a bit of an uncritical manner, but overall it is very well done. I found it informative and enjoyable. The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy I had read this book a long, long time ago, but I did not remember how good it was. It deals with the era at the end of Communism as well as the machinations to develop an arms accord agreement. The first part is very, very good, while the later part gets a bit preachy. It was well worth reading. Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion: The History and Legacy of America’s First Domestic Insurrections by Charles River Editors This is a short account of Shay’s Rebellion in Western Massachusetts that occurred during the days of the Articles of Confederation and was one of the events that led the countries leaders to realize that they needed a more developed centralized federal government and the Whiskey Rebellion fought in Western Pennsylvania which was fought over the establishment of excise duties on the production and sale of whiskey (given the location of these settlers over the mountains, whiskey was the only practicable way to bring the excess of their grain harvest to sale in the cities). Both of them did not amount to much, but both showed that the spirit of rebellion that fueled the War of Independence had not yet died out. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Rome - Assisi - Collevalenza

May 28, 2019 Peace and Good, We have begun our General Chapter. The first ten days were in Assisi, and now we will be in Collevalenza (a shrine about 70 km from Assisi) until May 27th. The new Minister General, fr. Carlos Trovarelli, a friar from Argentina, asked me to continue on as the Assistant General for the English speaking countries and I said that I would. This is another six year term, but we can evaluate things periodically given that I am now 65 years old. I am preaching each day at the chapter. I give a very short (usually around 3 minutes) homily first in Italian, and then in English. The friars appreciate that it is to the point, and yet it gives them one or two things about which they can reflect over the day. I will continue to do this until the end of the chapter. We have a good number of new members on the definitory - seven out of ten. fr. Carlos, fr Benedict (from Korea) and I are the only ones to remain. The weather has been miserable. It has been very, very rainy throughout these days. This is the most miserable May that I ever remember in Italy. I finished some reading: March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution by William Englund This is a very good coverage of the drift into war of the US during the First World War and the Russian Revolution and how it was perceived in the US and European states. The author gives a good, inviting story and this should be listed among those good treatments of a limited period of time (often a particular year or decade, in this case a single month). Claudius: the Life and Legacy of the Emperor who Stabilized the Ancient Roman Empire after Caligula by Charles River Editors Claudius was the successor of Caligula and the predecessor of Nero. He was considered to be a bit of a dolt by the imperial family, but when he became emperor he enacted a number of good, lasting reforms. The later stage of his reign, unfortunately, was not as successful, a bit marked by a growing paranoia and vicious reaction toward the Senate and other nobles. He is believed to have been murdered by his wife and the mother of Nero. The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead This is the first of a two set series on the Nile River that I have read. This one deals with the branch of the Nile that comes from Ethiopia and joins the White Nile around Khartoum in Sudan. The author is really dealing with British involvement in this part of the Nile during most of the 19th century, the period of exploration and imperial invasion. The account is very British, at times highly prejudiced, but nevertheless well worth reading if only for entertainment value. The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky Mark Kurlansky has written a series of monographs on singular topics such as the cod fish and salt and paper. This volume deals with the exploitation and destruction of the incredibly fertile oyster beds just off the coast of New York City. During Dutch days, British days and the early days of the republic, New York was famous throughout the world for the quality and quantity of its oysters. But a combination of overfishing and pollution destroyed these rich beds. In the course of the story, Kurlansky gives a number of recipes as well as an overview of the social and political history of New York from the time of the Dutch until the end of the 19th century. Alger Hiss and the Battle for History by Susan Jacoby Alger Hiss was the low level employee of the State Department who was accused of being a communist by Joseph McCarthy in his hearings and was eventually convicted of perjury for his statement concerning his relationship with Whittaker Chambers, a repented communist who also testified before the House committee on Un-American Activities. The author never doubts Hiss’ guilt both on having been a communist spy and having committed perjury, but she also attacks the techniques of the right in their attacks, positing that much of their wrath was really directed at old New-Dealers. She is especially vicious in her treatment of Richard Nixon who at that time was a congressman on the committee. Alfred Lord Tennyson: the Life and Legacy of Great Britain’s Most Famous Poet Laureate by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of the life and poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I had often heard the name, but knew little about him, so I read this volume. It gave me enough information, and I have to admit that I would probably never want to read anything about him again (not out of dislike, but more because of the feeling that it just was not worth it.) Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

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