Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rome

July 11, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome for the past ten days now. It is very hot, but the city is filled with tourists. We started our General Definitory meeting on Monday, and we will continue til the end of the week. Then I am off to Nairobi for a chapter with the friars. They are gathering to decide whether they will ask to become a province in these years. I really think they are ready, but they are a bit cautious at this moment (which, itself, is a good sign - it means that they are not irrational in their desire to become a province before they are ready). I finished some reading: The Borgias by G. J. Meyer This tells the story of Alexander VI and his children (or nephews and nieces). The greatest of the younger generation was Cesare Borgia, whom Machiavelli used as his model of what the perfect prince would be. Meyer is clearly writing an apologia, arguing that any charge against the Borgias was made up by their enemies. One has to wonder. Nevertheless, it is a good overview of the family’s influence on the Church and Italy. The Alienist by Caleb Carr In the early 1900’s, people who had mental illness were considered to be like aliens, so early psychiatrists were known as alienists. This is the story of a Hungarian immigrant alienist who works with a newspaper reporter and a few members of the police department in New York as well as the Superintendent of the Police Commission, Theodore Roosevelt. They battle to discover the murderer of a number of young male prostitutes. The book is well done and worth reading. I believe it was recently made into a movie The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor This is a thorough history of the construction, maintenance and eventual fall of the Berlin Wall. It goes into the politics of East Germany, as well as how this all effected the Soviet Union, the US, Great Britain and France. It is especially good at sorting out the mixed responses to the wall by various political figures. It is also good at dealing with the Byzantine politics of the communist state. It is well worth reading. Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies by Professor Robert Allison This is one of the Great Courses and it deals with the colonization of what became the thirteen colonies of the United States. The professor is very good, and he gave information which was both familiar and of which I had never heard before. As always, I highly recommend these courses. The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein This is a thorough and entertaining review of the fall of Nixon and the gradual and almost inevitable rise of Ronald Reagan from his youth up to his failure to take the nomination against Gerald Ford. The author has done enormous research, and he weaves together the themes of his presentation. He does that without ever getting tedious. Some of the topics could be applied just as well to what is currently going on in the country. I recommend this book. No End Save Victory: How FDR led the Nation into War by Robert Crowley, ed. This is a series of essays that speak about the lead up to World War II, including topics on the US government and the isolationist opposition, the need to ramp up production of armaments, especially after the disaster of the depression, the politics of Germany and Japan, etc. It is a long treatment, but well worth reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Chicago - Rome

July 5, 2018 Peace and Good, The chapter for St. Bonaventure Province ended a bit early on Thursday, so I had most of Friday to catch up with some paperwork before I flew out to Rome on Saturday. On Friday evening I did attend a wake service for one of our friars, fr. Fran McGann, who had passed away the week before while he was on retreat in Steubenville, Ohio. He was a later vocation, and came into the Order as a permanent deacon. He was in his later 70's when he passed away suddenly. It is quite hot in Rome, but not disasterously like it becomes in August. This coming week we have a definitory, and then the week after I head off with a couple of friars to Nairobi for an extraordinary custodial chapter. The friars there are meeting to decide whether they would like to ask the Order to become a province. I think they are ready to ask, even if the change would not necessarily take effect for a couple of years. I have done visitation in the custody twice, so I know the situation quite well. I have finished some reading: Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of and Elite International Sting by John Shiffman This is the story of one attempt to block the shipment to Iran of certain materials which had been declared out of bounds by the US government. It was a sting operation on a purchaser who worked indirectly for the Iranian government. It deals both with the law enforcement issues, but also with the larger geo-political issues. Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This volume of the Agent Prendergast series opens with a theft of a precious wine collection in a New England village. Prendergast and his ward visit the village and he agrees to take on the case. It is much more complicated than one would have first thought, dealing with modern murders, with older mass murders, and with a coven of witches who have remained hidden for centuries. These Prendergast volumes always take a degree of the suspension of credulity, but they are also always entertaining. Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq By Stephen Kinzer This is an overview of the tendency of our country which is dedicated to liberty and democracy has been involved in plots which were anything but that. It covers the overthrow of the monarchy in Hawaii and the eventual annexation of the islands, the overthrow the government in Iran in the 50’s, the overthrow of the government in Guatemala, the assassination of the president of Vietnam, the assassination of President Allende in Chile, the invasion of Panama, Grenada and Iraq, etc. I think the most revealing thing to me is how our Secretary of State in the 50’s invaded countries and overthrew regimes based on the economic welfare of companies which had exploited the people of those countries. Cuba by Stephen Coonts This is a novel that takes place around the time of the death of Castro (fictional death, not the actual events). The head of the security department tries to take over the government which Castro wanted to go to someone else. He has missiles left over from the Cuban missile crisis, and he has filled them with biologic agents which he intends to use against the US. The book tells of the military intervention to sabotage this plot. At times the writing is a touch jingoistic, but overall it is a good story. The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva This was an unusual book by Silva. Most of his books are about Gabriel Allon a Mossad agent. This one is about the plot to deceive the Nazi’s during the war concerning where the D Day landings would occur. The story is filled with levels and levels of deception. It reminds me of a Ken Follett or a Jack Higgins book. It was quite good. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz I had read this book many years ago, but I wanted to listen to it again. The narrator in this series has a soothing, kind voice. The plot of the book, that Odd (that is his name) has the ability to see and help ghosts, is well presented. The characters are lovable, and there is a fundamental goodness in what they are trying to do. It is one of those books that, in spite of a bit of severe violence, makes me feel good at the end. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Buffalo - Chicago

June 27, 2018 Peace and Good, I am finally at the last of the chapters in the US. This one has just begun, but it appears as if it will not go on all that long. There are only a handful of motions. I am hoping that we will be finished by Thursday lunch. Saturday I fly back to Rome, the first time I will be there in three months. We have a definitory meeting this coming week, and then I will fly out to Nairobi for another chapter. The one in Kenya will be to decide whether that custody should ask to become a province at the General Chapter next spring. I have done their canonical visitation twice already, and they have asked me to offer a spiritual reflection to help guide them in this discernment. The weather here in Chicago is rainy and stormy. They have had a very wet May (the wettest on record) and June. The weather everywhere seems strange this year. On Friday we will have the wake and on Saturday the funeral of one of our friars here at Marytown. He was elderly, but died suddenly while on retreat. He was a later vocation. Before he entered he had been a bartender and a permanent deacon. His name was fr. Fran McGann. Please keep him in your prayers. I have finished some reading: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks This is a book in the style of the Michener books. It presents a story which develops over a long period of time. It is about the attempt of a book restorer to work on a Passover book which is beautifully illustrated with miniatures, something that was very uncommon among that type of books. The book is being help in Sarajevo during the civil war, and is in danger of being destroyed by some fundamentalist or rightist terrorist. The restorer is the daughter of a brain surgeon of monumental narcissism, and she careens between her professional duty and an angry relationship with her mother. The book is very good. The New Deal by Michael Hilzik This is the first of Hilzik’s books that I have read, and I would be more than willing to read more. I listened to this particular book, and it is a very thorough, very thoughtful presentation of the history of the New Deal. While sympathetic to what Roosevelt tried to do, he is also critical of some aspects of what happened. It is interesting to hear how Roosevelt played one side against the other, and was not exactly the most truthful of people. Nevertheless, his efforts, while not totally successful, helped pull the country back from the abyss. Lincoln Unbound by Rich Lowry This is an overview of the work of Lincoln from the point of view of a conservative Republican who believes in the value of hard work and initiative. He hold that Lincoln, who came from the farmland and frontier, believed in the principal that the government should assist the individual to make the most of himself, but not interfere too much in the process. As with any figure such as Lincoln, he can quote statements to support his beliefs, just as those who would oppose his premises could also quote statements saying the opposite. The book is a little too polemical for my taste, but it was not a bad read. The Katyn Forest Massacre by Charles River Editors This is an overview of the massacre of Polish army officers and officials by the Soviet authorities in the forests of Katyn at the beginning of World War II. They did this to destroy the ruling class of Poland so that they could reshape society in their own image. Their crime was discovered by the Nazis when they invaded the Soviet Union, and ironically they called in neutral investigators to examine the crime scene (as if the Nazis hadn’t done the same or worse on their own land.) For as much as the Soviets tried to deny all of this, the truth came out in the days of Gorbicov. The Message of Walsingham: England’s Nazareth by R.W. Connelly This is the story of a Marian shrine in Great Britain. I chose to read this book because the friars there have been invited to serve at the shine, and I wanted to know more about it. It was founded in 1061, destroyed by King Henry VIII, and rebuilt by Anglicans and Catholics in two separate spots in this past century. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude Winkler

Monday, June 18, 2018

Castro Valley, CA - Buffalo, NY

June 18, 2018 Peace and Good, I was in California this past week for the provincial chapter of St. Joseph of Cupertino Province. This week I will be in Buffalo for the chapter of Our Lady of Angels Province, my home province. This has been a busy time, travelling from one city to another each week. This morning, in fact, I was speaking to one of the friars who said something about being "here" and it took me a few seconds to figure out where "here" was. One of the things that really impressed me this past week was the massive commitment that the California Province has made toward their mission in Vietnam. The mission is going very well, and the only thing holding back the numbers is the amount of space available for men in formation. The chapter decided to give approval for the construction of a new building to hold the postulants (which is the first step in the formation process). After this week, I will be heading off to Chicago for the last week of chapters in the States. From there, I will head back to Rome for a week and then off to Nairobi for a week of chapter. I finished some reading: The Grammar of God by Aviya Kushner I wish this book had been better for the premise was very good – a study of how the English translation of Sacred Scripture differs from the nuances that one finds in the original Hebrew. Yet, it fails to deliver. The author gets caught up in her own life and its difficulties, and she goes on and on about how the English translation gets it all wrong. (Unfortunately, much of what she used to prove this is commentary by rabbis who lived over several hundred if not thousands of years after the text was written.) Japan’s Countdown by Eri Hatta This is the history of the year before Pearl Harbor from a Japanese perspective. We so often hear about what the Americans did or did not do, and this was refreshing for its honesty and complexity in dealing with Japan’s rush to war. (In the decision to go to war, the Japanese were not even sure who the enemy should be, for they were torn between the US and England and the Soviet Union.) We hear about the two levels of debate and positions taken by the men running Japan, that for public consumption and that which they really felt. We also hear about the danger that they faced from fanatical forces that had already assassinated several government officials. Whatever you do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison This is an interesting collection of anecdotes collected by a safari guide. The author is from Australia, and ends up working in Botswana. The title comes from the recommendation that one encounters what appears to be a dangerous animal, the last thing one should do is run from it. The book is quite entertaining. The War that Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander This is a retelling of the action in the book by Homer the Iliad. The scholar who presents the action is able to deal both with the inside story and those details of ancient history and myth (and even at times the history of warfare) that make the story come alive. We see one week in the history of the siege of the city of Troy, for that is all that the story covers. There is the question of pride and honor which color all that happens. I highly recommend this book. Nazareth: the History and Legacy of the Hometown of Jesus Christ by Charles River Editors This is one of those short studies of various topics. This one is about Nazareth, from its foundation until the present. It especially deals with Nazareth at the time of Jesus and then of the shrines that were built to commemorate various events in his life. The Spy’s Son by Bryan Denson This is the true story of a spy who originally worked for the CIA, but who betrayed his country to the Soviet Union. He is eventually caught and sent to prison. While there, he sets to work to continue his espionage again, but this time using his youngest son as a courier to the Russian Secret Services. The book gives a good overview of the type of work Harold James Nicholson did before his betrayal. While certain reasons are given for his betrayal, the bottom line for what he did seems to be some malignant effect of his extreme narcissism. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ellicott City, MD - Mesilla Park, NM - Castro Valley, CA

June 10, 2018 Peace and Good, I have started on the cycle of the Provincial Chapters for our four provinces in the US. The first one was held in Mesilla Park, NM, which is about an hour outside of El Paso, TX. The chapter went from Monday to Thursday. There were 24 of us meeting there. There was a very good spirit amont the friars, and the chapter ended with a hopeful atmosphere. The heat was tremendous. Every day it hit 100. On my flight yesterday from El Paso to Oakland, I passed through Phoenix were the temperature reached 106. Yes, yes - it was a dry heat - but still. In Mesilla Park, one of the friars said that when the humidity reaches 35 percent, they are all complaining how humid it is. This week the California province has its chapter in Castro Valley, a town just outside of Oakland. Then from here to Buffalo for the Our Lady of Angels Province Chapter. These chapters are the second part of the meetings. The first was held about a month ago, and in the meantime each province has been preparing its plans to present to the friars. I was largely responsible for running the first part of the chapters, but this time around I get to sit back and help out now and then when there is a technical question. I finished some reading: The Drug Hunters by Donald Kirsch and Ogi Ogas This book is written by a man who worked in the pharmaceutics industry in research. The author explain how various types of drugs were discovered (by accident, by search, by purposly designing them, etc.) He also explains why this type of work is so incredibly expensive, especially for the testing procedures that are required to bring a new drug to market. Elixir by David Bunn This is a Christian novel about a man who is hired to find a woman to whom he was engaged and whom he betrayed. He ends up on an island off of Scotland where he finds a brother in a pilgrimage hostel who, while being a bit of a miserable person, nevertheless guides him on the right path. He then travels to the Basque country in southern France where he finds the woman whom he is seeking. She had travelled there commune with a man who has found a remarkable new medicine from various herbs hidden in the mountains there. Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie This is a story of Medicus, a Roman doctor for one of the legions serving in the British Isles and his wife Tillie. They try to get to the bottom of a series of deaths among British novice soldiers. It turns out to be the fault of a group of centurions who are doing very bad things. The story also coincides with the visit of the emperor Hadrian and his wife (remember, Hadrian was the emperor who built Hadrian’s wall separating England from Scotland to keep the barbarian Scots north of the border). This whole series about Medicus is excellent. Winston’s War by Max Hastings This is an account of World War II from the point of view of Winston Churchill. It deals with his actions, his personality, his difficulties, etc. One thing that is very interesting is the view that the British had of Americans during the war. The author proposes that they respected the Russians more than the Americans who had not entered the war when they were first needed, and then took advantage of the situation to receive their last penny for the help we gave them. It is interesting to see the story from a very different point of view. Hastings is a very good war author and this is another of his triumphs. The History of the Popes by Wyatt North This is a three volume (short volumes) history of the Popes from St. Peter to Pope Francis. Obviously, the treatment of each pope is cursory, but it is nevertheless informative and well worth reading. The author gives a biography of each pope along with his major accomplishments. He does not hide from the scandals of some of the popes, but likewise, he does not revel in them. He gives a good overview of movements in the Church and the reasons why they succeeded or failed. I would recommend this book to those who wish to get an overview that can be very helpful. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, June 1, 2018

Ellicott City, MD - London - Ellicott City, MD

June 1, 2018 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I have spent the past few weeks in Ellicott City and Ocean City, MD to recover from my small medical procedure at the beginning of the month and to rest up a bit. I have been travelling so much that I found my sleep patterns were not returning to normal. This month, living for the most part in one time zone, helped a lot. I feel much better than I did for quite some time. I did have to travel to London for a few days this past week for a meeting. We have been working with our Custody to help them get develop the procedures that they need. They are a young jurisdiction, and up to now they have done the best they could, but it is time to pass to the next level of organization. The meeting and some other informal meetings went very well. I was able to get a good walk in London while I was there. I visited Foyle's which is one of the best book stores I have ever seen. I often have topics in history that are a bit unusual. I might just find a book at a book store on that topic. At Foyle's there are usually five or six books on it. I also went to Chinatown and was able to get one of my favorite dishes - Tripe soup. I grew up eating tripe that my father had prepared. I am back in Ellicott City just for a day, and tomorrow I will be heading out to New Mexico for the provincial chapter of Our Lady of Consolation Province (not far from El Paso, Texas). I finished some books: The Master Sniper by Stephen Hunter This is a story set in Germany at the end of the Second World War. The Germans have invented a special weapon that can shoot in the dark with amazing accuracy. They plan to use it to assassinate a young child who is the heir of a great fortune from a Jewish family so that the funds would not be used to finance the Zionist movement. The plot is a bit far fetches, but there are moments of description that make reading the book worthwhile. The Quakers: The History and Legacy of the Religious Society of Friends by Charles River Editors This is an interesting overview of this non-conformist religion which began in Great Britain and has spread all throughout the world. They are not an especially numerous religious group, but their pacificism and abolitionism have greatly affected the Western World. An interesting tidbit is that two of the most important cholactiers in Great Britian, Roundtree and Cadbury, were both founded by Quakers. The Quaker name was actually a nickname imposed on them by others for the way that they felt they should quake in the presence of God (much as the Shakers said the same thing, using the word shake instead of quake). Obviously, for many, the most famous Quaker was William Penn, the propriater and founder of the colony of Pennsylvania. Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury This is the story of the abdication of King Edward VIII and the assumption of the throne of King George VI just before World War II. George comes across as a shy and ill prepared monarch who stepped up to the challenge of leading his country through an indredibly difficult time. Edward, on the other hand, and his wife, seem to be self-seeking cads. They are only concerned with titles and money and honors, even when the country was at a crisis point. There even seems to be some evidence that Edward was negotiating with the Nazis to take over as king if the Germans were to conquer Great Britain The book is well written, but has a bit of snobbery about it. About Face by Patricka Marx This is an article that examines the fade in Korea for plastic surgery. Many, many people, men and women, seek it to perfect their image. The author deals with the fact that the external is often considered to be more important in Korea that what is in one’s heart. It is a good overview. The Footprints of God by Greg Isles A scientific team manages to perfect a minute scan of people’s brains and then to communicate that information to a super computer which not only has the past information but can continue to think and develop in artificial intelligence. The problem is that the person whose brain is eventually imprinted in the computer has a thurst for power, and through computer connections, threatens to become a dictator of the world. The book is a bit improbable, but asks questions such as what does it mean to be God like, how is it that the male and female mind complement each other, can one individual be a perfect mind, etc. Unfortunately, the author reduces the concept of God to pure thought, and does not recognize God as person. Carthage must be Destroyed: the Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization by Richard Miles Carthage was the traditional enemy of the Roman Republic during the days of its expansion in the Mediterranean. Rome fought three wars against it, including the second war in which Hannibal attacked Italy through the Alps. One hears how Cato the Elder, a bit of a miserable person, concluded each speech to the Roman Senate with the phrase that Rome had to be destroyed. It eventually was, only to be rebuilt later in the history of the Roman Empire. The book gives a good overview of the history, culture, and religion of Carthage, a colony of the Phoenician Empire. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chicago - Ellicott City, MD

May 19, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished up the chapter in Chicago and flew into Baltimore. Monday, a week and a half ago, I had a little medical procedure - an umbilical hernia repair. It was no biggie - just a one hour operation on an out patient basis. Yet, I have been laying low to recover. I can't say that I have suffered much pain from it. It was much more discomfort and I described myself as being a bit tender. I visited the doctor on Thursday and everything is on the mend. I wanted to have this done here in the States, because a danger of this type of problem is that the intestines could become strangulated and part of them could die. That is the last thing I wanted to happen when I am visiting some distant site where medical care could be a bit dicey. The surgeon and his staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. It was a very good experience. A good side benefit of this was that I have been staying in one site for a couple of weeks running. The friars at Ellicott City are always most hospitable to me. It feels like home. Also, for the first time in a few months, my sleeping patterns are beginning to return to normal. With all the jet lag from which I am always suffering, this is a real benefit. I finished some reading: Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller This is a very well researched and written book on the market for extra virgin olive oil. It speaks of the history of its use in diet, religion, medicine, etc. Yet, a great percentage of what is marketed as extra virgin (the highest quality of olive oil) is really doctored and of a much lesser quality. The author speaks of the value of extra virgin as an anti-oxidant, but how that value is lost when the oil is not extra virgin. Extra virgin has to be cold pressed, not treated with chemicals, carefully stored. There is even the scandal of some olive oil that is not even olive oil, but is some lesser form of oil (seeds, nuts, etc.). Begin Cutting by Gauray Raj Telhan Part of the training of physicians is the disection of a cadavar. The author speaks of his experience and how he tried to find out the identity of the person whom he disected. It was a difficult, nervous experience. Yet, he is trying to treat that person with the dignity that she deserved. It is really quite a good essay on the competing sensations in a situation of this type. Blasphemy by Douglas Preston I have read a number of books in which Douglas Preston collaborated with Lincoln Child. This was a book he wrote on his own. It is really quite good. It speaks of a scientific team that is running a super-collider in New Mexico in order to approximate conditions at the time of the big bang. The project is opposed by some Native Americans from the reservation on which the project is taking place, as well as by a teleevangelist and his minions because they accuse the team of trying to disprove the word of God (creation). The project runs into serious glitches on its own, and the turns and twists of the action take surprising and tragic directions. Hiding from Animals by Helen MacDonald This is a short essay on the practice of hiding in animal blinds either to observe their activity or to hunt for them. It deals with the almost voyeauristic tendency of those involved in this activity. Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore This is a long treatment of the history of the city of Jerusalem from its earliest days up to the time of the Six Day War. Montefiore comes from a famous English family which has sponsored a number of charitible activities in Jerusalem. The author tries not to take sides in the various disputes throughout history. Nevertheless, the author being Jewish, there was a slight tendency to pay more attention to that group than to others. What was a bit disappointing is the occasional inaccuracies in the accounts of what was going on (either from an archaeological point of view or from the point of view of the description of religious activities). 1968: the Year that Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky 1968 was a year of riots and rebellions all throughout the world. Mark Kurlansky deals with many of the activities of that year (the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the campus occupations in the US, the Chicago Democratic Convention, the French student rebellions, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the Warsaw Pact, the student demonstrations in Poland, etc.). He does a creditable job of describing the origins and activities of the various movements, as well as their eventual successes or failures. Kurlansky has written a series of books on individual topics (salt, cod, paper, etc.). This book uses the talent to focus in on a singular topic to deal with a particular year instead of a particular topic. The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman Like all of Hillerman’s books, this one takes place on the Navaho reservation in the Southwest. It involves the tribal police, but its main focus is on a couple of unexplained murders and some unusual activities that have native Americans thinking that there is an outbreak of witchcraft. The blessing way is a ceremony to protect those involved from those evil forces. All of Hillerman’s books are well done and interesting. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory This is the story of the mother of King Henry VII of England. She always pictured herself as a holy woman of God, but she comes across in the story as self-righteous. She places in the mouth of God whatever she wants to see, especially the furtherance of her own families rights. Above all, she wanted her son to be king, or one might say, she wanted herself to become the queen mother. I am not sure that Margaret Beaufort was really that selfish and self-righteous, but that is the way she comes across in this account. Liberty by Stephen Coonts This is a story about Islamic terrorists who buy four nuclear bombs from a Russian general and who intend to attack major targets in the US. A band of investigators appointed by the President manages to sort out where the bombs are, one of which is hidden in the Statue of Liberty. The story is action packed, and is actually quite good. Rising Sun by Michael Crichton This is the story of an investigation of the murder of a woman (prostitute) during rought sex in a skyscraper owned by a major Japanese company. The two investigators assigned are one man who is new on the intercultural unit and one who has long worked with the Japanese. There are twists upon twists in the story. I have read a number of more scientific or medical books by Crichton, and I didn’t feel that this was his best work. It got a bit too preachy concerning the relationship between Japanese businesses and the US government. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude