Thursday, September 19, 2019

Montreal

September 19, 2019 Peace and Good I have been in Montreal for these past two weeks for the custodial chapter of the friars here. It is a small custody, and the friars get along quite well. During our discussions we dealt with the fact that their ministry (which is to Polish immigrants in Canada and the Northeast US) is slowly dying, for the emigration has largely dried up. Poles tend to go to Germany or the British Isles if they are seeking work nowadays. The weather here has been cool but nice. It is fall weather. I have had the opportunity to take some long walks, listening to my books on tape. I have gotten ahead with my daily reflections, and later today I hope to finish a couple of other projects. I fly out to London tonight where I will spend the day tomorrow. Then the next day I fly into Kenya for the first provincial chapter of the new province there. I have finished some reading: The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder This is a disturbing book which speak about two situations: the first was the inhuman conquest and destruction (with terrible human rights violations) of Nanking during World War II. The other is the story of a young, unbalanced woman who travels to Tokyo to ascertain the truth of something she had read and believed about what happened during this disaster. There are many images that are violent and disturbing, which the author fully intends given the topic that is covered by the book. The Great Swindle: the History of the South Sea Bubble by Virginia Cowles This is the story of the stock fraud called the South Seas bubble. The people at this time (in England and France) did not yet understand credit and stock bubbles. They were taken in by a scene to reap ever greater riches from the stock of a company that was effectively producing nothing. It all but destroyed the credit of France (which eventually led to the French Revolution). While the stock fraud was equally serious in England, the government there handled the mess better so that most people did not suffer as much as they did in France. Martin Van Buren by Hourly History While he would never be considered to be a great president, Martin Van Buren was important for the fact that he was the father of the modern political machine (with its spoiled system of political patronage). A one term president, he was able to settle some dangerous political situations with diplomacy both in his service as the secretary of state and later as president. Hell is Always Today by Jack Higgins This is one of Higgins’ many books. This one deals with a serial killer of women who strikes during rain storms in London. A woman is killed, but she is not the victim of this murderer. Nevertheless, in the investigation into her murder, clues surface that help in the apprehension of the serial murderer. The style of the books is dates, but it is nevertheless good, light reading. The History of Britain in 50 Events by Stephan Weaver This is one of those short books that goes through several thousands of years of history in 50 pages. It is not intended to be a serious study. It is more a pot porri that offers short bullet points of important events throughout the history of the nation they are presenting. Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky: the Controversial Mobsters who Worked with Lucky Luciano to Form the Notional Crime Syndicate by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of these two mobster figures who were deeply involved with organized crime in the New York area (branching out to Los Angeles, Los Vegas and Cuba). Siegel was the force man and Lansky was the economic genius who ran his operations as if they were a normal industry. The biography is not an encomium of these figures, speaking openly of their evil tendencies and acts. Have a good week.' Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cardiff, Wales - London - Montreal

September 10, 2019 Peace and Good, The retreat went very well in Wales. There were 14 friars from the custody who participated, and the topic was the prophets. We had a lot of good discussions. We finished the retreat on Friday after breakfast, so I spent the day until Saturday afternoon in London. I was able to get my tripe noodle soup in Chinatown. The weather was quite cool and cloudy. I flew to Montreal on Saturday evening. Our plane raced just in front of Hurricane Dorian, and we felt a bit of the bumps from the first winds of the storm system. There was a lot of damage in Halifax which is in Nova Scotia. I will be here in Montreal until the 19th. Today we begin the custodial chapter. There are around 15 friars in the custody, and they serve the Polish immigrants up here and in the Northeast of the States. The problem is that the emigration from Poland to the US and Canada has largely dried up because Poles would now prefer to go to Germany or England or Ireland. We will have to discuss the short term and long term future of the friars' presence here. The weather here is nice. It is like early fall. I finished some reading: The Evolution of Christmas by Gustavo Vazquez-Lozano and Charles River Editors This gives a decent outline of how Christmas has been celebrated through Christian history. It speaks of what really happened at the first Christmas, who was there, and the date of when it happened. It deals with the tendency among many Protestant groups to de-emphasize its celebration, and then the rebirth of its importance in the 19th century (one of the sources of its rebirth being Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol). Markus Garvey by Charles River Editors Garvey was born in Jamaica, but most of his work was done in the States. He formed a black rights program that proposed black separation and the establishment of a black republic all throughout Africa (seeing himself as the head of that country). He founded various black enterprises which mostly failed shortly after their founding due to lack of experience and secret opposition by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. He was attacked by other civil rights advocated for his separatist tendencies. Blaise Pascal by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the polymath Blaise Pascal. I had always heard of Pascal’s wager – that one might as well believe in God, for if he exists, then it would go well with one, and if he did not exist, nothing lost. This biography showed how ill he always was right from his early childhood. He was educated by his father who tried to keep him away from mathematics since he knew that once he found that field, it would obsess him. However, Pascal found the subject himself and exactly what his father worried about happened. He was absolutely brilliant, something recognized even by brilliant contemporaries. Toward the end of his life, he dallied with the tendency toward Jansenism, an extreme form of asceticism. The Akkadian Empire from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is a short account of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia around the year 2200 BC. It was one of the first multi-national empires. It had a standing army and well developed cultural resources. It seems to have faded from the scene due to two major factors: a catastrophic centuries long drought due to changing climatic conditions in the north Atlantic which changed the climates of vast parts of the globe and the invasion of the Gutian nomadic peoples. The Enemy by Lee Child A military investigator is asked to look into the sudden death of a General who is on his way to a military conference. There is some initial suspicion about a missing briefcase, but the case takes on its own momentum when the general’s wife is murdered, as well as a couple of other army men. What complicates it all is that the new head of the investigator’s department tries to force him to drop the investigation. The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz Koontz has become one of my favorite authors. This book is about an FBI agent whose husband suddenly and inexplicably commits suicide. She investigates the whole thing, and finds that there are many more suicides occurring. She eventually finds that this is all a result of a terrible conspiracy to control society by a rich and hidden group of people. St. Clement of Rome by Greg Gordon This is a short introduction and the First Letter of Clement to the community in Corinth. He was writing at the end of the First Century AD, and addressing some of the same problems that Paul addressed in his letters to the community in Corinth. I especially like St. Clement because his church in Rome is built on three layers: a medieval church on top, an early Christian church (post-Constantine) below, and still father below, the appartments where St. Clement was believed to have lived. Dolores Clabourne by Stephen King I have always like King’s style of writing, but this book was a real masterpiece. It is the story of a down Easter woman from an island off of Maine who is accused of murdering the woman whom she had cared for over a long period of time. The reason why she is suspected is especially the fact that she was thought to have been possibly responsible for the death of her husband. She does through the whole story in an interrogation by the police. She is foul mouthed, tough, but basically a good woman who tried to do what was right in her life. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rome - Cardiff, Wales

September 3, 2019 Peace and Good, My time in Rome, a month in all, is now over. I will be away from the city for most of a month and a half. My first stop along the way is Cardiff, Wales, where I am preaching a retreat to the friars of the Great Britain/Ireland custody. From here I will be headed to Montreal at the end of the week. I have travelled from 90 degree weather to 60 degree weather. The city is cloudy and with often periods of light rain. The retreat house where we are staying is quite comfortable, and I am busy doing research for the various talks and homilies. I have finished lots of daily reflections and articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua in this past month. The last project I had to complete is a talk I will be giving in Romania on October 2nd for the opening of the academic year for our theological faculty in Roman (where I taught for many years on a part time basis). The British friars are tense today because there will be big vote in the Parliament on the Brexit question. We celebrated our Mass today with the intention of seeking divine guidance on a messy situation. I finished some reading: Tried by War by James McPherson This is an account of the career of Abraham Lincoln for the point of view of his responsibility as commander in chief during the Civil War. It deals with his relationship with his generals and how he often had to step in to force them into action. The author has done a good job of outline the problem and giving an honest evaluation of his successes and failures. The First Sino-Japanese War by Charles River Editors This is a short account of a war fought between Japan and China at the end of the 19th century as Japan was rapidly industrializing and China falling more and more into decadence. In this war, Japan was able to wrest control of Taiwan and Korea from China. Korea was at first treated as a protectorate, and later was invaded and treated as a colony. Crowned Cousins: The Anglo-German Royal Connection by Alan Palmer This book deals with the relationship between the English monarchy from the time of George I till the present with the German royal families. It deals with marriages, feuds, etc. One of the most disturbing parts for me was how the British royal family tried to protect various members of the German families who had collaborated with the Nazis. There is also a lot of information who Queen Victoria intervened in numerous situations dealing with Germany and especially Prussia (for her daughter was the queen mother of the Kaiser). Lincoln: the Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan This book deals with the life and career of Lincoln seen from a literary point of view. Some of the author’s opinions are a bit forced, but most of it is quite good. He evaluates his debates, his speeches and his most important pronouncements. The Dawn of Innovation by Charles Morris This is the story of how the US began developing its native industries during and immediately after the War of 1812, and how the “American method” gradually overtook the industrial production of Great Britain by the end of the 19th century. This was especially true with the manufacture of arms and the development of precision manufacturing which allowed interchangeability of parts in machines. Nathan Hale and the Culper Ring by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the life and career of the spy Nathan Hale (I regret that I have only one life to give for my country) and an account of the spy ring that Washington was able to develop in the New York City area to obtain information about the intentions of the British during the War for Independence. Richard Nixon: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History The Hourly History accounts are similar to the Charles River Editors accounts. They are short but thoroughly investigated accounts of various figures and situations. This one is an honest account of the life and career of Nixon. It explains without defending. It gives credit where that is due, but also speaks of Nixon’s shortcomings and gradually increasing paranoia. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rome

August 23, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in Rome, which is a bit of a miracle. I think that this is the longest that I have been at home for many years. Once I begin to travel again at the end of the month, it will mean that I will be out for almost two months. This means that I am trying to get by taping of daily reflections and my writing of articles and talks done for the next few months. I have done that with the daily reflections, finishing them up to mid-October. I have just finished writing all 11 articles I need for the Messenger magazine from Padua for 2020, so I am done til December of next year. Now I have some editing to do on some projects, and a couple of new projects to get off the ground. I should be able to finished them by the end of next week. The weather is hot and humid, as it always is this time of year. The city is packed with tourists. I feel sorry for them, for when you walk down the street, you often see them sitting down on curbs with a look of exhaustion on their faces. I have finished some reading: The Night of the Long Knives by Charles River Editors This is the story of the rise of Hitler in Germany and his vendetta against some of his own followers. The Brown Shirts, the SA, had grown powerful, and like the Revolutionary Guards in Iran after the revolution which overthrew the Shah, they wanted to take over the army. The old Prussian guard and the rich businessmen who were financing the Nazis expressed their horror to Hitler at this idea. The SA were nothing but thugs who had no real plan for the future. Hitler decapitated their leadership by killing or imprisoning most of them, leaving the lower ranks to fade away. Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of the many book that this team has written. Some of them are science fiction, others detective stories, others a mix of both. This one is steeped in Southwest Native American culture. A group of archaeologists find a lost city which contains dangerous mysteries that probably shouldn’t be discovered. There is also a group of skin walkers, the Native American version of werewolves, in the mix. It is quite a good, event filled book. Easter Rising: a History from Beginning to End by Hourly History This short book speaks of the Irish Rebellion at Easter time in 1916. The country had already been promised home rule when World War I would end, but given that there was no end in sight, and that many of the Irish did not want home rule but rather wanted total independence, they decided to do something extreme. The rebellion was not all that organized with one major faction withdrawing from it at the last minute. While with wasn’t totally successful, it nevertheless sparked a violent backlash from the British who over reacted, creating such a bad feeling among the Irish that many who would not have thought of rebellion now favored its cause. The Early Church From Ignatius to Augustine by George Hodges This is a short history of some of the Fathers of the Church. It was written a while ago, but it still is worth reading to get an overview of the topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude William the Conqueror: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is a short biography of the man who conquered England in 1066. The Hourly History series is very similar to the Charles River Editors series, providing a good amount of information in a relatively short format. I compare their books to extended Wikipedia articles. The Bear River Massacre by Charles River Editors This book speaks about one of the Indian Wars in the Northwest at the end of the 19th century. This one deals with the war against the Shoshone People and their almost total extermination during one of those wars. The only ones who reached out to them were the Mormon settles who had moved up north from Utah to southern Idaho (where they are still very numerous). The Bloody Shirt: Terror after the Civil War by Stephen Budiansky This was one of the most difficult books that I have read in years, not because it wasn’t good. It was a very good presentation of the topic. It was just painful because of what it speaks. It deals with the white backlash against the reconstruction in the South after the Civil War. It was racist and violent. The national government didn’t want to get too involved lest the war begin again. But this negligence left the African American population of the South all enslaved with the Jim Crow Laws and the successful effort to disenfranchise them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rome

August 13, 2019 Peace and Good, We have begun our regular definitory meetings here in Rome. We met yesterday, and will meet again today and tomorrow. Then a number of the definitors have to be off on the road again. I will be staying here in Rome until the end of the month. Then, a long series of trips will begin. It has been hot, hot, hot here in Rome. August has to be the worst month of the year to visit Rome, but the city is packed with tourists. I went to lunch with a couple of friars on Saturday, by foot, and I thought I would get heat stroke. For the first time in my life, I bought a Panama hat. I usually don't wear any type of hat. The government is chaotic, and it seems as if it is ready to fall. The push is from Salviati, a minister from the right who is against immigration. I can really understand a bit of it for the country is much more populated than our own, and there are many, many migrants coming in from all over. But the speeches of the right sound a bit too fascist for my taste. I have finished some reading: All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer This is the story of how the British and American governments conspired to overthrow the legitimately elected Prime Minister of Iran during the 1950’s. He was accused of being a friend of the Communists. His real crime was that he was a nationalist who took over the oil production in the country previously owned by the British. It is true that some of the reaction was due to a panic lest the Soviet Union get a foothold in this terribly important petroleum rich country. The book leaves one feeling ashamed for what we sometimes did to other peoples for our own purposes. The People from Here: the History and Legacy of the Washoe by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the Washaw people in the Northwestern part of the country. Unlike most other tribes, they were never that organized. Part of this was their choice, and it was partly due to the depredations of other tribes which had adopted horse warfare (for the Washaw never really used the horse). They were a simple, peace-loving people. The latter part of the book deals with their difficulties in being recognized as an authentic tribe by our government. Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott This is an amalgam of stories about certain women who worked as spies during the Civil War, two Confederates and two Union. The two Confederates acted as spies against the union forces, crossing the no man land between the two armies to present their information to the Confederate army. One of the union spies was a woman who dressed like a man to serve in the army. The other was a spy in Richmond who obtained information through a slave she sent to work in the house of Jefferson Davies, and she also shielded union soldiers who has escaped from prison. Niels Bohr: the Life and Legacy of the Influential Atomic Scientist by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the famous nuclear scientist from Denmark who was part of the team that developed the idea of the atom that we now use and who worked for the production of the atom bomb. He later fought the use of the bomb. The story is not spectacular, but it is interesting. Bloodwork by Michael Connelly This is a detective story of an FBI agent who retired for health reasons. He needs a heart transplant which he received. The sister of the heart donor asks him to investigate the murder of her sister. As he does this, he discovers a series of murders of people having the same blood type, which happens to be his as well. This brings on the accusation that he himself had killed the sister to obtain her heart. The story has a number of interesting twists and turns. Pacific by Simon Winchester This is almost an anthology of unconnected stories and issues concerning areas in and around the Pacific Ocean. Winchester is a very good author, and he presents an abundance of information. The topics treated include the situation in North Korea, the loss of the coral reefs, the situation in Australia, a Hawaiian attempt to reproduce a voyage made in a traditional method of the Polynesians, etc. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 2, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Rome

August 3, 2019 Peace and Good, I have returned from my vacation in the States. The trip was as good as can be expected, although the departure from Baltimore was almost two hours late. (Thanksfully, I had a long layover in London, so I did not miss my connection. I have learned that the layover in London is better for summer travel which often gets delayed.) The weather here is hot and surprisingly there was quite a bit of rain yesterday. It is rare to have rain in August here since we have the classical Mediterranean climate. The next few days are dedicated to recovery after my usual jet lag. Then on the 12th we begin a definitory. August in Rome is usually quite slow since many of the locals clear out of town because of the heat. They either go to the sea or the mountains. A number of restaurants even close up for the month. In the early afternoon, there is the saying that the only people walking around are mad dogs and Englishmen. I finished some reading: The City by Dean Koontz This is a very interesting, very entertaining book about a young African-American boy who has an incredible talent playing piano. He has a sainted mother, and a listless father who abandons the family. This is the late 60’s, and there is a plot by some people living in the same apartment block to rob and commit terrorist acts. There is also an interesting figure in the story, the city, who is represented as a woman who intervenes occasionally in the story. I highly recommend this book. It has much the same spirit as the Odd Thomas series written by this same author. Ancient Rome: the Rise and Fall by Simon Baker It seems as if British scholars do an incredible job on ancient Roman history, from Gibbons on. This book is no exception. It is well done, contains enormous amounts of information, and is entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. The Song of Songs: Interpreted by Early Christians and Medieval Commentaries by Richard Norris This is a collection of commentaries on the Song of Songs. This poem which celebrated matrimonial love (possibly as a marriage song) which came to be interpreted in spiritual terms. The interpretation of early Christians and medieval commentators are very imaginative in the school of Origen, the North African exegete. They are not the easiest read, but they are worth seeing at least once in one’s life. Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal by Teofilo Ruiz This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company on the period of history in Europe from around 1300 to 1500, dealing especially with the changes in government and society throughout this time. This is not the first series of lectures by Ruiz that I have followed. He has some good information, but he often produces a revisionist history which is based on the latest politically correct ideas. The one thing which I do not appreciate is the fact that he tends to be highly anti-clerical whenever he gets a chance. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot This is a history of the involvement of Dulles in the CIA and American intelligence efforts (and efforts at overthrowing governments along the way. The portrait presented is not all that complementary. Dulles is seen as a tool of the military industrial complex who would stop at nothing to further the needs of his rich friends. In the early days, that involved moments of what seemed to be collaboration with the Nazi’s magnates, and then protection of war criminals. Later, it would involve the overthrow of the president of Guatemala and the prime minister of Iran during the 50’s. The author makes a good argument that Dulles was somehow involved with the assassination of JFK and his brother. It is worth reading, even if the conspiracy theory presented is sometimes a bit difficult to accept (or accepted, a bit shocking). Anubis: the History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the Afterlife by Markus Carabas and Charles River Editors This is a highly technical account of Anubis, one of the Egyptian gods of the dead. The author shows how his legend grew, and also how it was borrowed by other societies in the ancient world. The account quotes ancient sources extensively, which makes the narrative difficult to follow. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ellicott City - Castro Valley, CA - Arroyo Grande, CA - Ellicott City

July 23, 2019 Peace and Good, This past week I travelled out to California to be present for the investiture of our new novices. The novitiate in the first official year of being a friar, and we had five young men begin their year of prayer and discernment. At the same time, we had three make their first profession of vows in Ellicott City yesterday, which was also the celebration of the jubilee of profesison of vows and ordination of a good number of our friars. That celebration was well done with beautiful music by the choir of one of our local high schools. I will continue to be in Ellicott City for a week before heading back to Rome. This week I am also doing some short videos for the Companions web site on Bible study. I finished some reading: The Astors: the History and Legacy of One of the World’s Wealthiest Families by Charles River Editors The Astors were one of the richest families in New York society. They made their initial fortune on fur trading and property speculation. The various generations did not always do well either financially but also in terms of the quality of their lives. The Anzac: the History and Legacy of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during the 20th Century by Charles River Editors This is the story of how Australia and New Zealand passed from colonial possessions which has to be garrisoned by British troops, to the point where they were autonomous dominions with their own armed forces. They especially came into combat in Gallipoli in Turkey during the First World War, and then in various Pacific invasions during the Second World War. Jay Gould: the Life and Legacy of the Railroad Executive who became America’s Most Notorious Robber Baron by Charles River Editors This is the life story of a 19th century investor who built up and bought up a number of important railroads while he made himself rich. The account is actually a bit respectful for his accomplishment, although he did mistreat many of his workers. He was involved in a plot to corner the gold market which ended in a financial crisis during the presidency of President Grant. God’s Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson This is a very good account of the production of the King James Bible. It was done to give the king (who resented the power of the Calvinist reformers in England) the ability to control the translation of a new version of a Bible. This was done in contrast to the Bishop’s Bible (which was not well done) and the Geneva Bible (whose translations were often done as propaganda against the monarchy). The author goes through the various personalities (which range from holy to scoundrels). He explains how this royal Bible was adopted by the Pilgrims (which is the exact opposite of what one would have expected since they were Calvinists and one would have expected them to favor the Geneva Bible). This book was informative and helpful. World War I: the Great War by Prof. Velas Liliutevicius This is a 24 lecture course on World War I, including what led up to the war, why it happened, how it was fought, how it got out of hand (especially the new technologies for killing), and the ultimate consequences of the war. This is not the first time that I have listened to courses prepared by this professor, and I have been impressed by all of his work. A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin and His Son by William Randall This is the story of the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his illegitimate son who became the royal governor of New Jersey. They became estranged because the elder Franklin supported the patriots cause while the son supported the royal cause. There had been a strange relationship between the two even before this due to Benjamin’s tendency to treat his son with less respect than one would have expected. The story is quite good, although it leaves one a bit uncomfortable. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude