Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ocean City, Maryland

September 25, 2021 Peace and Good, I have spent the week at the shore this past week. It has been a very restful time. There is something about the sound of the waves that calms me almost immediately. I finished a couple of projects in these days (including a long translation from Italian to English), but overall I had lots of time to read books and listen to them. The weather has been not all that bad. Even Thursday, which was supposed to be stormy, turned out quite well. I passed a CVS on my daily walks, and decided this was a good time to get my flu shot and my shingles vaccine. The Minute Clinic is a great idea. It makes it so conveninet to get this small things done, and the nurse practioner was tremendous in her care. I finish my vacation tomorrow and will head back to Ellicott City. This week I will dedicate especially to doing some filming for segments for the Companions of St. Anthony. I finished some reading: Canaletto by Delphi Classics This is a beautiful presentation of the Venetian artist whose works include both scenes of the canals of Venice and various British scenes (where he resided for a while). The academic background in minimal, but sufficient. The amount of detail in each of his painting is incredible. America’s Forgotten Wars by Charles River Editors This is an overview of various internal difficulties and external wars that America fought but which are largely forgotten today, e.g. the Philippine rebellion after the Spanish American War, a rebellion of Mexican-Americans after the Mexican American War, the Whiskey Rebellion, the war against the Barbary Pirates, etc. Egyptian Mythology by Matt Clayton This is an overview of the major gods of the Egyptian pantheon. It deals with the evolution of their cult, of their representation in art, of their centers of worship, of their influence in later versions of the Egyptian (and other) religion. The Varangian Guard by Charles River Editors The Varangian Guard were a personal body guard of the Byzantine Emperor. Originally they were from the Russ, being descendants of Scandinavian settlers in the Ukraine and Russia, and later were mostly English soldiers. In general, they defended the reigning emperor, although toward the end of their role they began to play king makers themselves. They were so ferocious that, at times, they were sent into battle against the enemies of the empire, including Muslims, Bulgarians, and invading barbarians. The Kingdom of Kush by Captivating History This is a short history of the kingdom of Kush, what we today would call the Sudan. It gives a great amount of information on the cultural links and discontinuities with Egypt during its history. The author shows Kush to be a culture which had a value for its own achievements. The Great Fire of Rome by Stephen Dando-Collins This is a short account of what happened during the great fire of Rome. It investigates the theory that Nero was behind it all. It deals with the conditions of living in Rome before and after the fire. It also speaks of the scapegoats who suffered after the fire, chosen to deflect the attention from Nero (whether he was guilty or not). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Rome - Baltimore - Ocean City

September 19, 2021 Peace and Good, I flew in from Rome this past Sunday. Things are getting a bit easier, or maybe I am just getting used to the craziness of travel these days. On Monday evening our province began its extraordinary chapter at the Maratine Center in Baltimore. It was good to see all the friars who were present. We were talking about our pastoral plan for the next few years. Wednesday morning I had a bit of a shock. I got an email from Rome that our Minister General and three other friars tested positive for covid. I immediately left the chapter and had myself tested. By 11 that morning, I was shown to be negative. I had been tested before I left Rome, and I had not been in the presence of three of the four positive friars for at least five days before Wednesday, but it was still a shock. I am now in Ocean City at an appartment owned by the friars. I love listening to the waves. Just a couple of minutes of that and I feel all the tension melt off. The only downside is that these days there is a motorcycle rally in Ocean City until today. Their cycles are loud, loud, loud. I think they adjust them to be louder. They leave today, which will make the town much quieter. I finished some books: Mother Teresa: Come be my Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk This is a beautiful collection of letters and remanences of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The major topic is the spiritual darkness from which she suffered for most of her life in the Missionaries of Charity. She came to understand that this was a sharing in the emptiness that Jesus suffered on the cross, as well as the emptiness that so many people experience in their own sufferings. He goal in life was to help respond to the thirst from which so many people suffer. Mary Todd Lincoln by Hourly History This is a short account of the story of the wife of Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln. A very ambitious woman who, unusually for her days, dabbled in politics, Mary Todd is presented as a grasper and someone who tried to live above her status. She eventually lost her senses, even being committed to a mental hospital by her son. She was not the nicest person, but she also lived a life that was filled with tragedy. Colombia and Panama by Joseph Stromberg This is part of a series on various countries of the world offered by Audible. This volume offers an overview of the states of Colombia and Panama from colonial days to the present. The presentation is not terribly academic, but it does give a good amount of useful information. After the Quake by Haruki Marakami This is a series of stories concerning people in Japan after the terrible earthquake in Kobe. It deals with situation in their own lives, but which have an impact on the people around them. The stories include good, heartwarming accounts, Buddhist philosophy stories, and even a bit of science fiction. The Fall of Troy by Peter Ackroyd This is a novel about a boisterous German archaeologist and his Greek wife who excavate the ruins of Troy. Herr Oberman has a tendency to look only for the treasures, and he effectively does great damage to anything else in his way. He is so obsessed with his theories that he is willing to harm anyone else who gets in the way. The Sicilian Vespers Wars by Charles River Editors This is the story of the rebellion of the people of Sicily against the occupying French authorities, and then of the series of wars that were fought with France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy in regard to the crown of Naples and Sicily (at times united and at times treated individually). Saint Odd by Dean Koontz This is the last in the series of the Odd Thomas books. Odd is a fry cook in a desert town in California who can see and help ghosts. In this volume, he must sabotage a plot to destroy his home town by a band of Satanists who know of his power and want to create mayhem. Odd come across as an honest, kind and generous young man who only desires to be with his beloved Stormy who died in the first volume of the series. Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar This is a fascinating story about a young Indian American woman who is looking for the perfect man. She is in constant contact with an over-protective mother in India. She suspects that the young man her daughter finds is dangerous, somehow associated with another man who was violent with her when she was a young woman. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Rome

September 11, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome this past week, but at our theological faculty where we were holding a seminar for the new officials of our provinces and custodies. It was good to meet the newest ones, and to see some old friends. I have also been involved in translating from Italian into English the document we call Franciscan Discipleship. This is the manual on formation (initial and continuing). It is about 75 pages in English. I have finished the first draft and now must go through it a couple of times to edit it. Whenever one is translating, he leaves vestiges of the original language and I have to work that our. I will be flying to the States tomorrow and will be travelling there and in Canada for almost a month. I have finished some reading: Darwin and the Origin of the Species by Josephine Bailey This is a short, well-done biography of the naturalist who wrote the book which proposed the survival of the fittest and evolution, Charles Darwin. The book gives a good personal biography as well as an overview of the production of his book and the eventual debate about its accuracy in later years, including how this theory has influenced scientific (and religious) reaction to the present. The Pied Piper by Harold Schecht This is the story of a young man in Tucson, Arizona who gathers other young people around himself and who murders three young women. He was a strange man who dressed in an outlandish manner, but who nevertheless had a magnetic appeal over a small group of young people, much as the pied piper of the famous fairy tale. The Persian Gulf States by Wendy McElroy and Sheldon Richman This is a short presentation by Audible Original Books on the history of the nations which surround the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. The book covers the ancient era of these areas, their status under colonial rule, and their present difficulties, especially since the religious revolution in Iran. The Original Watergate Stories by the Washington Post This is an amalgam of the articles that appeared in the Washington Post concerning Watergate from the days right after the break-in until the resignation of President Nixon. It is fascinating to hear the discoveries unroll as the press obtained a clearer and clearer idea of what was actually going on, especially by following the advice of their informant Deep Throat that they “follow the money.” The Robertson Panel by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on a commission that was established to study the UFO phenomenon. The material that the panel was given was limited, and their findings were superficial. The CIA went out of its way to hamper any serious investigation of the phenomenon, discrediting anyone who made a serious report of something in this regard. St. Brigid of Kildare by Charles River Editors At the beginning of this short biography, I was a bit nervous because the author went into the etymology of St. Bridgid’s name, which was that of a Celtic goddess. But the majority of the book is an honest study of what is accurately known about the saint, as well as some the legends that surround her and the cult of devotion that has developed over the ages. It is quite good. The Magyars by Charles River Editors This is a study of the Central Asian nomadic tribe which came to settle in the plains of central Europe and who slowly became the Hungarians. They started out in their present location as raiders of their surrounding nations, but they eventually settled down and became more and more Europeanized and a bulwark against the invasion of the Turks during the late Middle Ages. The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy This is the story of the gradual death of a man who serves in the Russian bureaucracy. He has a small accident which is the beginning of his decline. As he grows more ill, it is impossible for him to communicate his fears to his own family who slowly become outsiders to him, intruders who are just waiting for him to die and get it over with. The pace of the book is typical of Tolstoy, but the matter dealt with is profound and creates true pathos in the reader. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Rome

September 6, 2021 Peace and Good, This past week we met in definitory. During the week, we end up discussing events and needs from all over the world. Sometimes it makes your head spin when you have talked about situations in North America, Africa and Asia, all within a couple of hours. I have been translating a big project, a manual called Franciscan Discipleship (64 pages) over these past couple of weeks. I should finish the first draft this week, which puts me a bit ahead of schedule. I will be attending another meeting all this week. It is for the new provincials and secretaries of the provinces who were elected in this past year. We will be conducting this at the Seraphicum, our house of theology at the edge of the city. The weather has been warm. The European Community has just downgraded the status of the US again, making it a bit more difficult to enter. I am heading to the States this Sunday which will not be a problem, but coming back might be a bit tricky. I finished some reading: Great Masters: Tchaikovsky: His Life and Music by Robert Greenberg This is a Teaching Company course on the life and music of the great 19th century Russian composer Tchaikovsky. His personal life was strange. He married one of his groupies, but all but had a nervous breakdown when he moved in with her because he was gay and could not live as a heterosexual. He was also a pedophile who was forced to commit suicide because he had an affair with the son of a high ranking member of the royalty. His music well illustrates his profound psychological turmoil, as Greenberg well illustrates. Peoples and Cultures of the World by Edward Fisher This is a series of lectures by an anthropologist who gives some insights into the organization of various cultures and their economic systems. The professor goes here and there, from the Amazon to Polynesia to the US. Some of the insights are very valuable, others less so. The Korean Woman by John Altman This is the story of a North Korean woman who has been trained by the secret services of that country to be a sleeper spy in the United States. At the same time, there is an American secret service agent who is trying to launch a group of missiles against North Korea to catch them unprepared (in spite of the logical consequences to the South). The story is well developed. Blood Territory by Mark Whittaker This is the story of an investigator who travels to the northern territory of Australia to try to determine who had murdered a young man there. The police had arrested one of his former best friends and imprisoned him. Yet, there are other suspects, including the police themselves for the man murdered had submitted a lawsuit against the police for beating him up. Accidental Presidents by Jared Cohen This is the story of the various vice presidents who had taken over the presidency when their predecessors died in office (whether by illness or assassination). Some of them proved to be quite successful, e.g. Harry Truman. Others were non-entities who had been chosen for their office for political reasons. Probably the most successful of all had been Theodore Roosevelt who became president when McKinley had been killed in Buffalo, NY. This is a good book in the tradition of David McCullough. Odd Thomas: You are Destined to be Together Forever by Dean Koontz This is a novella in the Odd Thomas tradition. He is a fry cook in a California village who can see ghosts who come to him so that he might intervene on their behalf. The writing is great, and the reader is even better. Odd comes across as a decent young man who is doing the best he can in bewildering circumstances. The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton This is the book by Merton which has been compared with St. Augustine’s Confessions. It is the autobiographical story of how he went from a Bohemian family with no beliefs to a Trappist Monastery. It is written in Thomistic language so I found its terminology a bit dates, but overall it presents a good story of how Merton abandoned a meaningless life for something which responded to his deepest hunger. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Rome

August 29, 2021 Peace and Good There is only one city mentioned above, and that is a miracle. I am here in Rome for a few weeks. It is hot, but not as hot as it was earlier in the season. This is the end of the August holidays, when everyone who can runs off to the shore or the mountains. I have been translating a document which is around 64 pages long on formation. It is a big project, but I have been chipping away at it, doing about 2,000 words each day. I have til the end of September to finish it. Rome has a lot of tourists, but very few Americans. They are mostly Italians, although I have heard a bit of French and German in the streets. They have established a green passport for vaccinations. If you don't have it, you can eat outside but cannot enter restaurants, museums, offices, etc. I don't have it (even though I am fully vaccinated), but I don't really need it because I am pretty much being a home body in these days. I finished some reading: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling These are a set of folk tales told to young witches along with an extended commentary supposedly produced by Professor Dumbledore, the head master of Hogwarts, the school where Harry Potter studied. The Ottoman Conquest by JB Bury This is a comprehensive essay in the collection of Cambridge History on the conquests of the Ottoman empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. The writing style is technical and filled with so much detail that it is not really a pleasant read, but it is nevertheless informative. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough All of McCullough’s books are masterpieces, and this is no exception. It deals with the lives and careers of the Wright brothers, the inventors of the first motored, manned airplane. The Wright brothers come across as honest and humble Midwesterners who applied their lives and talents to the project of flying. They were the sons of a Protestant bishop. Their sister, Katharine, played a significant role in their lives and that of their father. By the end of the book, one feels that one has a good grasp of who they were and what their reputation was in their own times. The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman This is an overview of the use of poison throughout the years. Herman examines old cases and tries to determine whether the symptoms and deaths of those involved were due to natural factors or to actual poisoning. The Falklands War by Hourly History This is a short history of the war between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982 for the possession of these islands in the South Atlantic. Their possession had gone back and forth over the years, but by the 20th century almost all of its inhabitants were British who strongly wanted to stay in possession of the British. Their major industry was sheep pasturing, although there seems to be deposits of oil and natural gas in their coastal waters. The Science of Sci-Fi by Erin Macdonald This was a very entertaining course from the Teaching Company (although one of the free courses I obtained from Audible) concerning scientific concepts and their use and misuse in science fiction books, films and programs. The presenter has a great sense of humor, and she is able to present the material (which can be very complicated) in an understandable manner. The Ends of the World by Peter Brennen This is a book that deals with evidence found in the rock strata concerning the five earlier extinctions of much of the life upon the earth, and which then extrapolates the lessons to be learned from those events and applies them to our present circumstances. The style of the writing is inviting and not overly technical, and I found the author honest in his use of scientific facts. The Doolittle Raid by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the raid led by James Doolittle against Tokyo and other cities in April of 1942. The president and the military leaders were desperate to strike a blow against Japan in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The arranged for land planes to take off from an aircraft carrier, drop their bombs, and continue on to China where most of them crash landed. In one sense, the attack was a woeful failure, for they did relatively little damage. However, the trauma of the capital being attacked led to the imprudent attack on Midway Island in which four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, changing the course of the war. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 20, 2021

London - Rome - Assisi - Rome

August 21, 2021 Peace and Good, I hope you are all enjoying your summer. I finished my two weeks in London, during which I didn't see the sun more than five minutes. Travelling to Rome is itself no difficulty, but the paperwork is crazy. I had to fill out three internet forms, and another two forms on the plane and at Rome airport (the paper forms saying the same thing I had already registered on the internet forms). Rome is warm, but the friars tell me that it is much cooler than it has been in these days, with temperatures up to 100. August is always a slow, hot time, with many Romans fleeing to the beach or the mountains to get away from the heat. Many restaurants even close for a few weeks during this time of year. I went up to Assisi for a few meetings on Thursday and came back yesterday. The trains are not all that full yet, but when I got to Assisi I was shocked at the number of people visiting the Basilica. It is like all the Americans who flew when it was finally a bit safer. The Italians decided to get out of their houses and see a bit of their own country. The friars had to let people into the Basilica in batches, and the line waiting to get in had several hundred people. I will be in Rome until mid-September when I will fly back to Baltimore for our extraordinary chapter. I finished some reading: Sekigahara and Shiroyama by Charles River Editors This is the story of two major battles that involve thee Samurai. The first battle is that in which many of the war lords of Japan were defeated and one Samurai master is able to unify the kingdom. While the emperor was theoretically the leader of the country, he was only a figurehead. This situation lasted several centuries. Then, the second battle took place after the opening of the kingdom to outsiders. It was a battle between the newly organized army of the Meiji emperor and the rebellion led by the old and now disempowered Samurai. Stalingrad by Captivating History This is a short account of the siege of Stalingrad and the defeat of the German and allied forces by the Soviets. Oddly, most of the book is spent on background material, and relatively little on its main topic, that particular battle. It nevertheless is worth reading. African Mythologies by Captivating History This is only a short collection of various African myths (from all over the continent), but I found it fascinating. We rarely hear stories like this. I noticed that many of the stories were in praise of a figure called the trickster, someone who knows how to survive in the midst of difficult circumstances. Like all myths, the good tend to win and the bad tend to be punished, but that is not always true in these stories. The Spirit of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini This is a highly philosophical review of the theory behind the liturgy. It is well done, but it certainly takes considerable reflection in order to understand and apply what he is saying. He finds a balance between overly spiritualizing the liturgy and making it too mundane. Henry IV: the Righteous King by Ian Mortimer This is a rather long, but very good book on Henry IV who overthrew Richard II, and whose son was Henry V, the victor of Agincourt. He had tremendous difficulties with rebellions in his reign and attacks in Wales, Scotland and France. He had to fight his own parliament to receive adequate funds for his needs and his campaigns, and then was attacked by them for not doing enough. The author presents him as an honest, religious man who did the best he could in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. Frederick Chopin by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous Polish composer who spent most of his adult life in France. He was the lover of George Sands (despite the name, a woman). He eventually died of tuberculosis. He was a rather depressed character. He deeply loved his native Poland, but once he left it he never returned there. He needed money so now and then he would give concerts, but he suffered from a paralyzing tendency to stage fright. Mercia by Captivating History This is a rather complicated history of this kingdom in the center of England during the late Dark Ages, just before the invasion of the Danes and the establishment of the kingdom of England by Alfred the Great. The names are impossible and often so similar that reading this short work is torture. Have a good week. fr. Jude

Friday, August 13, 2021

London

August 12, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Great Britain since the beginning of the month, and will only be leaving here on the 17th. This week I took a quick trip to our friary in Barton, which is just outside of Manchester (only a couple of hours by train from London). I have been meeting with friars and talking. There is no special agenda, just giving the friars a chance to share with me whatever they would like. This is especially important given how closed we were during the pandemic. The weather has been miserable. There has not been one sunny day since I arrived. It has rained, at least for a while, every single day. I have been helping out a bit in our parish (very, very small) near our custodial office in London. It is good to have Mass with the people. That is something I don't often get when I am in Rome. The regulations concerning mask wearing have been somewhat lifted here, but many people are still wearing it inside of stores, and almost every on mass transit. A good number of people still wear them outside. I finished some reading: Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese This is a history of the use of coal from the earliest days of its exploitation in China and England to the present. The author deals with its mining, the pollution it causes, the problem of Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur Monoxide, etc. She speaks of its present use to generate electricity, especially in the US and China. The work is well presented, and somewhat balanced in its approach. A History of India by Michael Fisher This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company that runs from prehistoric times to the present day. It speaks of the Indian subcontinent, meaning the modern states of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. It speaks of the influence of the Hindu, Muslim and other faiths (e.g. Christianity, Jainism, Sikes, etc.). It deals with colonialization and the fight to obtain independence. The courses are very informative and well done. Nicholas II by Captivating History This is a short biography of the tragic figure of the last czar of Russia and his family. It deals with his desire to retain an autocratic system even when history was moving against that tendency. Of course, it also deals with the influence of Rasputin. Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines by Charles River Editors This short work is an overview of the lives and careers of two of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution at the beginning of the 19th century. The led what turned out to be an incredibly violent revolution, a reaction to an incredibly violent exercise of slavery. Toussaint comes across as a stabilizing factor, while Dessalines is much more violent and ruthless. Lincoln’s Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher This is the story of how Lincoln and Stephen Logan defended a young man on a charge of murder. He had been attacked by another man from the village along with his brother, and the much smaller young man defended himself with a knife, killing the man attacking him. The trial is one of the first cases to have a full transcript, produced by Robert Hitt. Lincoln is shown as clever, wise, personable and brilliant in his presentation. The book is very good. Nat Turner by Charles River Editors This is the story of a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831 led by a man named Nat Turner. It was especially brutal, both for what the slaves did to the whites and the revenge that the whites enacted upon the slaves. It was the nightmare of the slave owning class for the next decades. The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhymes books. The paraplegic forensic investigator is called to investigate the assassination of an anti-American activist in the Bahama Islands. The assassin is from an obscure intelligence agency whose task is to kill dangerous enemies of the US. The book is filled with twists and turns. I especially like these books because they involve flawed characters, including Lincoln Rhymes. Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien This is an account of the role of the US women who were the pioneers of flight in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. This includes Amelia Earhart as well as other female flyers who faced terrible prejudice. This was a dangerous time to fly, and not a few women and men died in plane crashes in these days. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude