Saturday, November 27, 2021

Buffalo - Castro Valley, CA

November 27, 2021 Peace and Good, I visited my family in Buffalo, and I also had a canonical visitation with one of our Croatian friars who serves in Our Lady of Bistrica Parish in Lackawanna, NY. The weather was good, and the food even better (as it always is in Buffalo). I flew to Oakland on Tuesday to visit our friary in Castro Valley, CA. We have two friaries in this town, the provincialate where I am staying and a parish down the street. The Minister General and the Assistant General for Asia will be arriving here Monday for the beginnin of a short tour of the States (in preparation for the provincial chapters this coming year). We will be heading back to Rome on December 10th. The weather here is most pleasant, around 70 degrees today. This morning the provincial of California signed the official document which establishes the delegation in Vietnam as a custody. This is the last step before they become a province, something that will probably not happen for 10 years or so. I would like to ask you to pray for my nieces husband, Reid, who is seriously ill. He and Crissy have three small children. I finished some reading: Chile and Argentina by Mark Szuchman This is a review of the history of these two South American countries from the time of the European exploration until the present. The narration is good, but the production has the annoying habit of reading quotes from various figures with the supposed accent they would have used, a bit racist in my opinion. The information contained in the presentation is quite good and thorough, if not exhaustive. This is one of the series of productions by Knowledge Products made available on Audible.com. John Jay by Captivating History This is a short biography of one of the principle figures of the American Revolution (significant in the writing of the constitutions) and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the prime mover in the establishment of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, and the governor of New York. These short biographies (c. 110 pages each) give a good outline of the significance of the figure to history, and also a bit of information about the personal life of the subject. Krishna by Charles River Editors This is a presentation of the figure of Krishna in the Hindu religion (as well as Buddhism and Jainism). The book gives an explanation of who Krishna is, and how he is worshipped. It also goes into a long overview of some of his exploits when he lived upon the earth. The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carre I very much like the books of John le Carre (David Cornwall), but this is not exactly one of his spy novels. It is a type of autobiography, a presentation of times and places and situations which gave rise to many of his characters and plots for his books. I listened to this book, and I have to say it was absolutely entertaining. Le Carre’s writing style is always clever, and this book is one of his most masterful presentations. Gettysburg: A History for the People by John Cox This is an overview of the battle of Gettysburg. It is filled with useful detail, but also quite a bit of information that would be on interest only to those who are fascinated by the battle. One of things that I most missed in the book was a series of maps in the text that would help one to follow the various movements being described. An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer This is an incredibly complex spy story which leaves one wondering from the beginning to the end. What further complicates one’s understanding is the tendency to back track to an earlier episode to describe what really happened (or at least what happened according to someone else who had been present for that person). It involves the CIA, the Chinese spy agency and a secret UN agency that has been set up to spy. One is never quite sure which side the participants are on, or rather which sides (for they are often playing one group off against another). Yet, the book is very well written and I could recommend it. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Chicago - Buffalo

November 21, 2021 Peace and Good, This past week I presented a workshop on the Letters of St. Paul to our postulants. Postulancy is the first year for men who are entering out community. There are eight postulants in Chicago this year. This group was filled with questions, which I truly enjoy. Yesterday I travelled to Buffalo where I will visit some of my family and also do a canonical visitation to one of our Croatian friars who has worked here for the past 30 years. He is now quite elderly, and he probably intends to stay here at the Parish of Our Lady of Bistrica, a small parish in Lackawanna. I will be here until Tuesday, and then I will travel to Oakland (Castro Valley, CA) where I will spend Thanksgiving. On the 29th, our Minister General will arrive and I will travel with him throughout the country for about two weeks. I have finished some reading: Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet by Andrew Reilly This is a series of short essays on what it would take to establish a human presence on the planet Mars. Rather than bringing everything with them, future astronauts would have to discover how to use the resources that are already available there. Furthermore, some of those who would go there would have to intend to settle there for the rest of their lives. The author presents a list of the difficulties involved, but he also presents some of the possibilities that are available today, and what might be available in the near future. A History of Korea by Captivating History This is a history of Korea from the earliest settlements to the present era. Given its location, it has often been caught up by the national rivalries of the nations surrounding it, e.g. China, Japan and Russia. The book speaks of that dynamic, and the efforts of the local population to develop and maintain their own local culture and government. Unheard: the Story of Anna Winslow This is a series of podcasts which purports to outline an investigation into the death of a student in England possibly due to negligence by a research facility and/or a mental health facility. The premise of the podcasts are that they are part of a research project being developed by a fellow student of the deceased. Twentieth Century Ghosts by Joe Hill This is an anthology of ghost/horror stories gathered together by the author of NOS482. Some of the stories are true masterpieces, while others less so (as one often finds in any type of anthology). I would say that the book is well worth reading if one likes this type of literature. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown This is the classic account of the fate of native American tribes during the 19th century seen mostly from the point of view of the native Americans. The stories are often tragic, and leave one furious at the blind point of view of many of the settles and soldiers during this period. There are any number of incidents that today would be called ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Battle of Cannae and the Battle of Zama by Charles River Editors This is account of Hannibal’s most famous and most complete victory over the Romans at Cannae, and also of his defeat in North Africa at the end of the second Punic War. It gives a good portrait of the personality of Hannibal and the reasons for his choices. The short book is well done, as are most of Charles River Editors productions. Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower This is a most troubling account of the women who collaborated in the murders machines that the Nazi’s ran in the East of their empire during World War II. The women outlined at times tried to outdo their male counterparts in cruelty. After the war, they often tried to discount their culpability, blaming it on being young and easily influenced by what was going on around them. David Hume by Nicholas Capaldi This is a scholarly (but readable) outline of the great Scottish philosopher who challenged many of the beliefs on knowledge and science of his era. It is a part of the great philosophers series by Audible Books. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Rome - Louisville - Chicago

November 11, 2021 Peace and Good, I am on the move again, and will be in the States until December 10th, travelling here and there. International travel is getting marginally easier. One still has to have Covid tests and fill out form after form, but other than the mask wearing while one is in flight, it is really not all that bad. I was at a three day meeting of Our Lady of Consolation Province (Midwest and Southwest) at Mt. St. Francis, a site just outside of Louisville. The meeting went very well. The frias spoke of the present situation of the province and its dreams. Yesterday we drove to Chicago, about 5 hours of travel. I will be here next week to give a workshop to our postulants (postulancy is the year before novitiate). The weather here is changing, rain today and snow tomorrow. This is to be expected in Chicago at this time of year. I have been working on a new book in my mind. These days I hope to get an initial outline completed and we will see what comes of it. I finished some books: Samuel Adams: a Life by Ira Stoll This is a good portrait of the revolutionary Samuel Adams, and cousin of the second president John Adams. He was one of the most responsible for stirring up revolutionary spirit first in Massachusetts, and eventually throughout the colonies through his committees of correspondence which shared news about what was happening. Stoll is not afraid to show the flaws in Adams’ personality, the most troubling of all being his rabid anti-Catholicism. Adams served on countless commissions during the Second Continental Congress, and later helped write the Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Constitution and served as the second governor of the state. Lawrence Welk by Charles River Editors This is not exactly a scholarly production, but it is an interesting note on popular culture during the 50’s and 60’s. I remember how my parents turned on the Lawrence Welk show every Saturday evening. The book goes through Welk’s career, and the interesting note is how good a businessman he was, dying incredibly rich. The Seven Days: The Emergence of Robert E. Lee and the Dawn of a Legend by Clifford Dowdey This book deals with the beginning of Robert E. Lee’s career as the general in charge of the Army of Virginia which was protecting Richmond. The book is an honest evaluation of the characters and the successes and failures of all of the major characters in this drama. McClennan comes across as a great organizer but a terrible general. Lee is seen as something who is taking over a massive operation in mid-stream due to the injury of the commanding general Johnston. The surprise is the failure of Stonewall Jackson who had performed so brilliantly during the valley campaign, but who seemed out of sorts during this particular battle (possibly a victim of exhaustion). The book is well done. Van Gogh by Peter Russell This is one of the Delphi Masters of Art series. It deals with Van Gogh’s life, and his art. Then there is a massive appendix of his correspondence with his father, with his brother, and with others. The correspondence well shows the development of Van Gogh’s emotive difficulties that eventually led to his genius in art but also his collapse and probable suicide as a person. The Great Upheaval by Jay Winik This is a brilliant series of stories about three of the major players in the late 18th century and how revolution changed them. The author, whose works I have previously read, deals with the American, French and Russian revolutions. The Americans managed to find a balance between authority and change, the French failed terribly in this attempt due to a series of factors, and the Russians under Catherine the Great drifted from being the darling of the enlightenment to an autocratic empire. Winik is able to show how these three movements influenced each other for the positive and the negative. Nigeria and West Africa by Wendy McElroy This book gives a history of the area in Africa that eventually became Nigeria. It is not all that exhaustive, but it does give an outline to the history of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Nigeria. I would recommend it as a primer on the topic. The Forgotten Tudor Women by Sylvia Soberton This is an outline of the lives and careers of various women in the Tudor circles. The book deals with court politics and the explosive personalities of Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth. It is the kind of book that would be appreciated by Tudor fans, but for those who are not, it is filled with unfamiliar names and titles and is honestly not all that well written. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Rome

October 30, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all of this week for our General Definitory meeting. This is a long one, beginning on Tuesday and running all the way until next Friday (with All Saints and All Souls Day off as holidays). We have been discussing many different situations in many different countries. I almost feel as if I have jet lag just from all of the discussions. The weather is quite nice, with a bit of rain now and then. Today, Rome is pretty much in shutdown due to the meeting of the G20 and the presence of so many important leaders. You can hear helicopters flying overhead almost all the time. I will be in Rome (except for a one day trip to Assisi on Wednesday) until this coming Sunday. Then I will be flying in to Louisville. I have finished some reading: Hinduism by Gregory Kozlowski This is an outline of the development of Hindu beliefs and how this religion is related to other major faiths in the sub-continent (Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists). It is interesting that Hinduism really developed as a reaction to the influence of Islam and Christianity, for before it was simply a series of disconnected local beliefs. It was only when these beliefs entered India that people felt that they had to define who they were and what they believed. Tear Down This Wall by Romesh Ratnesar This is an account of Reagan’s famous speech in Berlin in which he called upon Chairman Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. The author deals with the politics of the nations as well as the politics of Reagan’s own staff as the speech was prepared. The end of the book deals with how the wall actually fell. The author is a bit too groveling when it comes to Reagan’s character, but the story is well outlines. Wicked Prey by John Sanford This is the story of a gang who plan to rob political lobbyists during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Due to the fact that much of the money that these lobbies possess is unreported and illegal, there is no way they can report what happened to them. But the plan begins to fall apart as member after member of the gang end up dead. There is a good amount of action. The characters are well outlined. The ending is in doubt until the very end. It is well done, and makes me want to read more of Sanford’s books. Plato’s Republic by Simon Blackburn This is a study of Plato’s Republic with its positive and also its negative elements. The author gives a good background to Plato and his times, and yet he is able to see how Plato falls short. Plato, for example, wanted to ban poets from his ideal republic, and he did not really believe in democracy, for he felt that the properly prepared autocrat, his philosopher king, would guide the people beast. The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri This is the second book by Camilleri that I have read. It is part of a series about a Sicilian police detective who must solve confusing crimes. Being Italian, Camilleri is able to get the background (food, Mafia, government political games) right. This volume is the story of a series of women who are kidnapped overnight, but nothing is done to them while they are under the chloroform that was used in their kidnapping. These crimes turn out to be only the surface of a deeper mystery that the detective must slowly solve. I find these novels very entertaining. Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz I have now read all of the Odd books by Koontz. This is probably the strangest of the several volumes on this fry book who is able to see ghosts books. It deals with Odd being invited to a mansion along with Anna Maria, a pregnant young woman who is much more than she seems to be. Strange, strange things begin to happen, and Odd must figure out what is going on so that he might rescue a young child who is being held captive in the mansion. Even though the action was different, I thoroughly enjoyed the person of Odd, who is just the right mix of kind, generous, dutiful person along with a good dose of wiseass. The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva This is the story of an assassin who was trained by the KGB and secreted into the West as a sleeper agent. Now that the cold war is over, he is an assassin for hire. His services are acquired by a group of super rich and super powerful men who would like to control the government of the US, especially in terms of defense procurements. He is opposed by a CIA agent who must do things that were strictly forbidden in order to stop the assassin and his purposes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, October 21, 2021

San Antonio, Texas - Rome

October 21, 2021 Peace and Good, I spent last week in San Antonio for a meeting of the provincials and custodes and delegates of our federation. The meeting went from Tuesday to Thursday. After that, we spent a few days exploring the area around San Antonio, including the Alamo, the riverwalk (which I highly recommend), and Panna Maria (the first site of the friars' work in America). Tuesday I flew from San Antonio to Rome. The trip was uneventful, which in these days is a real gift. Passing through passport control was remarkably easy. The weather here in Rome is quite cool, much more so than I encountered in Texas. I will be here for the next few weeks, travelling to the States again on November 6th. I finished some reading: The Man who made lists by Joshua Kendall This is the story of Dr. Peter Roget, and Englishman of Swiss descent, who developed the thesaurus that is most famous in the English speaking world. He had a difficult childhood and an impossible mother. His pain led him to an obsessive need to categorize things and words. His obsession served him well when he working as a secretary of various societies of higher learning. One gets the feeling that he was a functional victim of Asperger’s syndrome. He came out with his thesaurus only when he retired from his other activities, which included being a physician. The Bloody Mohawk: The French and Indian War and the American Revolution by Richard Berleth This is an account of the European settling of the Mohawk Valley in upper New York State and the tension between the native American population and the Dutch, German and English settlers. The most important of the English settlers turned out to be Sir William Johnson who served as a liaison with the Iroquois in that area. The history of the era is bloody and savage. Lincoln’s Gamble by Todd Brewster This is the story of how Lincoln came to first of all write and then later issue the Emancipation Proclamation. We see a Lincoln who is anything but firm in his ideas about slavery and its abolishment. The author shows the pressures that he was under (e.g. the danger of the loss of the border states). The declaration truly did not end slavery as such, for it was only valid in those states that at the moment of its issuance were still in rebellion. The author gives a good give and take on the whole story and the book is worth reading. Hitler’s Final Push: the Battle of the Bulge from the German Point of View edited by Danny Parker The author states that this is from the German point of view, but I didn’t realize how seriously he meant that. The book is filled with technical details about the planning of the offensive and the various points of view of how it should develop. The actual battle itself is almost a second thought. What information it gives is interesting, but most people would find its detail overwhelming and frankly boring. Vikings by Frank Donovan This is a medium size book on the history of the Vikings. It gives detail on how they spread and influenced areas from Russia to Sicily, Ireland to Iceland and Greenland and even the New World. The author gives just the right amount of detail. The book moves along nicely. It is not a comprehensive study, but a great introductory presentation. Voodoo River by Robert Crais This is about a detective from California who is hired by an actress to find out the truth about the family which released her for adoption. The detective is opposed by many in the town because there are secrets that they want to remain hidden. There is, in fact, a sinister side to the whole affair with people being killed and grossly illegal actions taking place. The dialog of the detective is a bit smart alecky, and the villains are stereotypes, but if one is in the mood for some light reading, it is fine. Tapestry of Spies by Stephen Hunter This is a story of an MI6 agent who is searching for a Soviet spy, an ex-Cambridge alumnus who is fighting for the communists in Spain. It was a time when Britain was more concerned in fighting communism than fascism, something that changed very rapidly in the coming years. There is the normal account of fighting and intrigue, but the author knows how to give twists and turns that one would not have expected. It was quite good. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 11, 2021

Montreal - San Antonio

October 11, 2021 Peace and Good, I finished the extraordinary chapter in Canada where things went very, very well. Then on Saturday I went to visit a summer camp which the friars run about 200 km outside of Ottawa. They open it up for Polish people, and it is well used. It is about four hours each from Montreal and Toronto. Yesterday I flew into San Antonio. Travel is tough, but I was very glad I was not flying Southwest this time due to all of the cancellations. I went from 60 to 90 degrees. The center at which we are meeting this week is beautiful, about a 20 minute walk from our friary. After this meeting I will head back to Rome. That will be this coming Tuesday. I finished some books: Lexington and Concord by Hourly History This is a short account of the battles of Lexington and Concord. It gives a sufficient amount of background information about what led to this battles. There is not a lot of depth in the account, but that is not the intend of books by this publisher. Heart of a Dog by Mikail Bulgakov This is a strange account of two doctors in 1924 in Moscow, which had only shortly before become Communist, who are working with animal parts transplanted into human beings to treat various illnesses. They are considered to be brilliant. One day they find a stray dog whom they take home, and shortly afterward transplant the testes and adrenal glands of a criminal who died shortly before into the dog. It becomes more and more human, but it also shares in many of the tendencies toward dishonesty and criminality of the human donor. To save matters, they eventually take out the human parts and transplant the dogs original organs back in it. It returns to a state of happiness as it lives a contented life in their house. The story is almost a cross between The Island of Doctor Moreau and Young Frankenstein. Trade in the Ancient World by Charles River Editors This short book deals with the growth and extent of trade in the ancient world (especially the Mediterranean world). It speaks of trade in copper and tin, oil and wine, wheat, precious metals, spices and amber. It deals with shifts in the currents of trade due to political circumstances. It is not an exhaustive treatment, but a good first look at the topic. The Miami by Charles River Editors The Miami were a tribe of native Americans living in the Ohio and Kentucky area. They were caught up in the various Anglo wars (French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War) and suffered as a result. Most of them were deported to reservations to the west of the Mississippi during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. The Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker This is a rending account of the slave trade as seen from the slave ship itself. It speaks of the misery of the slave trade as well as the time that slaves spent on what was called the middle passage. Many of them died of disease and mistreatment. All of them were horrified at their dislocation and dehumanization. The author also treats of the horrible treatment of the crews of those ships. The end of the book also speaks of the campaign to end the slave trade in Great Britain (which then served as a bastion to effect an end to the trade in the Atlantic). The Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty This is an interesting novel set in Northern Ireland during the days of the hunger strikers (Catholics in prison who starved themselves to death to fight for the right to be treated as combatants and not as criminals). There has been a couple of murders of homosexual men by what appears to be a serial murderer. A Catholic constable in the province’s police force investigates the crimes and others, eventually discovering a rather unpleasant surprise. Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King This is a very comical novella on a dissolute family who live their summers at a resort lake in Maine. Their cottage is across the lake from a wealthy Italian family from Providence, Rhode Island. Almost by accident, they start a contest as to who can explode the better fireworks for the celebration of the Fourth of July. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Ellicott City, Md - Montreal

October 3, 2021 I returned home from Ocean City on Sunday, a week ago. This week I worked with one of the staff for the Companions of St. Anthony, Reilly, to tape a number of presentations (a Thanksgiving Day Triduum, short overviews of the readings for Advent, a number of Psalms). Yesterday I flew to Montreal. Travelling is tough these days, but this one was not too bad. The Canadian passport control has become much better and I sailed through it. They do have covid tests upon arrival for random travellers, but I was not chosen. This morning I had Mass in English at one of our parishes here. It was nice, and the pastor prepared a special lunch for me with his staff. Tomorrow we celebrate St. Francis Day, and then on Tuesday we begin the extraordinary chapter for the Canadian custody (whose mother province is the Polish province in Gdansk). The weather here is cool and cloudy, but not all that bad. I finished some reading: Agatha Christi by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous British detective novelist (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, etc.). What comes across is a quite traditional woman who started writing out of necessity (financial), and who developed it into an art form, or at least a home industry. She was twice married (her first husband having abandoned her, her second being a famous archaeologist). She never really treated her daughter with as much care and affection as she needed. Yet, she proved to be a remarkable author of works that entertained millions over the years (as well as being a playwright). The Dillinger Days by John Toland This is an account of the criminal career of John Dillinger and the other criminal gangs during the 20’s and 30’s. The book is well written, speaking of Dillinger’s decisions and motivations. He was not as bloodthirsty as others such as Pretty Boy Floyd (a clear psychopath), but he did use violence when he wanted to rob anyone or get away from pursuing foes. John Toland is a good author, having written a number of books on war events. A History of India by Michael Fisher This is a teaching company course on India (understood in the larger sense of the word, the entire Indian subcontinent). It deals with everything from the most ancient evidence of civilization to the modern problems in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The author is good at making difficult topics understandable. He gives both historic and cultural information, including the topic of the two major religions in India, Hindu and Islam, as well as other minority religions such as the Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, etc. It is a course well worth investigating. Emperor Hirohito by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the controversial emperor of Japan (controversial for his role in World War II). The author shows that Hirohito was neither a puppet of the military leaders, nor a vicious manipulator and autocrat. The truth is somewhere in the middle. After the Second World War he played a more symbolic role in governing, not unlike that of the Queen of Great Britain. Death at Sea by Andrea Camilleri This is a series of short stories concerning the investigations of a Sicilian police investigator. There is a pleasant tone in the book, informal and humorous. This is the first of Camilleri’s books that I have read (in English, translated from Italian). He deals with some of the uncomfortable topics of Sicilian life, such as the influence of the Mafia, the corrupt government practices, the role of the rich and the plight of the poor. The investigator comes across as human. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz This is one of the seven books that Koontz wrote on Odd Thomas, a fry cook from a desert town in California who is gifted/plagued by being able to see ghosts who appear to him to intervene on their behalf (to solve the case of their deaths, to help them let go and enter their eternal fate, etc.). In this volume, Odd travels to a Benedictine monastery to seek peace of mind after the traumatic events of his life. Instead, he must solve a very strange case there in order to save the lives of the Benedictine monks and sisters, and especially of the special needs children who are in their care. Italy and her Invaders by Stanley Leathes This is an academic paper (Cambridge University Press) on the invasions of Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is all but unreadable for the amount of detail and the shifting alliances and fates of the various invaders, e.g. Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire) plus of the Italian powers (Venice, the Papacy, Naples, Milan, Florence, etc.). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude