Friday, March 20, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

March 20, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope you are well and are keeping safe. I have been in Ellicott City for about a month now, and given all the travel restrictions, I will probably be here for quite a while. I am trying to self-isolate as much as possible, given my health problems lately. I had another procedure done on Wednesday, a cardioversion, and the cardiologist has finally gotten my heart in its proper rhythm. I do not know if this will last, but it is good that I have arrived at this point. I was in Atrial Fibrilation so long that I didn't even know what not being in it felt like. I can notice the difference now, and it feels good. I have another meeting this coming week with the cardiologist. I have to admit that I am not sorry not to be in Italy in these weeks. The poor people there. There have been so many deaths, largely because of the elderly population there as well as the hospital system which I do not think is up to par. I finished some reading: The First Battle of Kiev by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the conquest of Kiev by the German troops during World War II. At this point, the Germans were all but invincible, while the Soviets were saddled by the interference of Stalin who refused to allow his troops to make judicious retreats in order to save them from utter destruction. The Fall of Constantinople by Charles River Editors This account gives a short history of the city that the emperor Constantine made into the capitol of his empire, and eventually became the capitol of the Eastern Byzantine empire from its origin to its fall to the Turks in 1453. Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy This is an account of the building and maintenance of the defensive wall built between England under the Romans and Scotland under the local tribes. Goldsworthy, along with many other authors, argues that the wall itself would not hold out the invaders. It was intended as an early warning device so that local troops could slow the invader down while other troops could be collected and advanced to the threatened positions. Furthermore, through much of its history, it was used to regulate trade (and taxes upon such trade) between the north and the Roman south. As always, Goldsworthy’s treatment is scholarly without being boring. America at War by Terence Finn This is a book which covers the various wars (and policing actions) which America has fought. Each chapter covers another war, and the author gives a good treatment of why the war developed, what were the major actions during the war, what were the right and wrong choices made by civil and military leaders during the war, and what the aftermath of the war was. The author is not a gung ho militarist. He gives reasoned arguments to show why this or that decision led to victory or failure. Medical School for Everyone: Emergency Medicine by Dr. Roy Benaroch This is a teaching company course on dealing with emergency situations in hospitals. After numerous disclaimers concerning this not being intended to diagnose medical situations, it gives a case by case account of diagnosing and then treating patients who come into the emergency room. Benaroch insists that the most important diagnostic tool is listening to the patient. Their information is not always clear and ordered, but it is the best source of information to make a diagnosis. The Irish Identity: Independence, History and Literature by Marc Conner This is a Teaching Company course on the resurrection of Irish culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. The author gives a good account of the various authors (and some politicians) who played a role in the renaissance of Irish culture and the Irish state. Some works (books and/or plays) are covered in detail. The work is quite good. The Afghan Wars by Rupert Colley This is a short account of the numerous wars that have been fought in this corner of the world. This has been a terribly troubled area since ancient times, as it continues to be up to this day. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 13, 2020

Ellicott City

March 13, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for these past few weeks. At one of my recent cardiologist appointments, they discovered that I was in atrial fibrillation and my cardiologist has been working with various medicines to try to get the heart beat back in synch. So far, it has not worked, but we continue to work on it. In the meantime, I feel great. I am still doing my 40 minute vigorous walk each day without any difficulty. Obviously, I am trying to be very careful about exposure to the coronavirus because what I have would be considered to be a pre-existent condition. I am glad that this was all found while I was near my regular doctors (as opposed to somewhere in Asia or Africa). I am working on a couple of projects. One of the nice things I am doing is a series of short podcasts for the Companions' website. I have been doing 6 a day for the past couple of weeks, so we have built up a very nice library of topics. I am also working on the translation of a book from Italian to English on spiritual direction for priests. I have finished some reading: The Taj Mahal by Charles River Editors This is a quick historical overview of the great Indian monument to the love of a Mughal leader toward his wife. It was also a massive edifice to demonstrate the power of that empire, placed at a key point along a river so that all the merchants passing by would be reminded of who was in charge. It is a mixture of Hindu, Persian and other Islamic influences. The book gives a good rendering of why the building is so impressive. Discovering Genesis by Iain Provan This is an interesting overview of the book of Genesis by a Protestant author. Even though the background of the author is not what I normally read, I found the book enlightening with some insights which I had never considered. I had obtained this book when it was on sale by Kindle, and I will keep my looking for other volumes in the series to notice when they are on sale. The Swamp Fox by John Oller and Joe Barrett This is a biography of Francis Marion, the militia leader who led troops against the British during the Revolutionary War in South Carolina. He has become a mythic figure, and this biography is largely a paean to his greatness. The book is well written, not quite objective (but making no pretenses that it is). Stalin by Ian Grey This is a biography of this unusual and frankly frightening figure. Some of the chapters in the book are quite honest and forthright on the pluses and minuses of Stalin, while others are sadly simply a mouthing of communist propaganda on certain topics (such of the arrest of resistance figures by the NKVD when Poland was being conquered, the reason why Stalin installed communist governments in Eastern Europe and his techniques, etc.). 36 Books that changed the World by The Teaching Company This is a series of lectures by multiple professors on what are considered to be some of the most important books published throughout the centuries. It is a mixed bag of presentations. Some fit better into the format of an overview of a book, while others present only one aspect of that work (since they are taken out of context from a much longer presentation). Nevertheless, as always with the Teaching Company courses, it provides a lot of useful information. Discernment by Henri Nouwen This is a series of lectures by Nouwen and edited by his followers concerning discerning the will of God in our lives. As with his other books, it centers upon the idea that God loves us and wants what is best for us. This is part of a series of books on Nouwen’s thought that are relatively short, but very meaningful. I am praying for your health and that of your family. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ellicott City

February 26, 2020 Peace and Good, I have unexpectedly hit a bit of a road block. I am in Ellicott City, and I have to take care of a medical problem before I get back on the road. It is not super serious, but it is better to take care of things here before something happens in the middle of Asia or Africa. I got to the doctor tomorrow to get marching orders and will probably put something about it all in the next page of this blog. This has given me a chance to catch up on a couple of small projects. One of them is to do some filming for the Companions web site. I have done about 30 short segments in these weeks that will be edited and posted at various times. The other is to begin a translation of a book on spiritual discernment for my publisher. I had intended to work on it after Easter when I was going to be in Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, for five weeks, but it seems as if that trip has been scrapped. I finished some books: The Republic of Venice by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history of the Venetian Republic. It was founded as a refuge for those fleeing from the barbarians at the end of the Roman Empire. It gradually grew to be a center for trade in the Mediterranean Sea. Its downfall was due to the discovery of other trade routes, the series of defeats at the hands of other powers, especially the Ottomans, and a failure to keep up with modern developments. The republic was abolished under Napoleon, and after his wars given to Austria, only coming to be part of Italy after more warfare between it and Austria. The Vikings by Kenneth Harl This is a Teaching Company course that speaks of the Vikings from their earliest days until the time that they became the modern states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The presenter is excellent, and he gives both the history and indications on culture and the international influence of the peoples we call the Vikings. The Cambridge Medieval History: Book 1 Part 2 From the Rise of Constantine to the Death of Julian This is a series of essays about the latter part of the end of the Roman Empire and the rise of the power of the Church. The topics are academic, and thus at times a bit dense, but the information they contain is invaluable. The Mycenaeans by Charles River Editors This is a short book on the history of the Mycenaeans, the predecessors of the Minoans and the ancestors of the classical Greek civilization (along with various tribes that moved into Greece over the centuries). They lived around the time that Homer wrote about in his epic the Iliad. The Franco-Prussian War by Charles River Editors This is a short but thorough overview of the Franco-Prussian war, especially dealing with the unification of Germany under Bismarck (who used war as a tool to bring together the many German states). It deals a bit with the French side of the story, but not at length. This war in 1870 ended the reign of Napoleon III and brought in the republic which lasted until World War II. Pandemic by Robin Cook This is a very good book about a quirky but brilliant Medical Investigator who is looking into a sudden death due to a total pulmonary collapse of a woman on a subway (who had entered the subway healthy). It also has to do with genetic engineering, etc. The medical investigator’s wife is the chief of that department. Cook also deals with the family situation and the inner turmoil of the hero of the story. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Peoria - Ellicott City

February 18, 2020 Peace and Good, I finished the retreat with the Sisters of the Third Order in Peoria. I flew back to Baltimore and am staying in Ellicott City for some days for some medical tests. The weather here has been very cold, but seems now to be becoming warmer. I will use this week to catch up with some projects. It is good not to have to travel too much these days, and to be in the same time zone for a while. I have finished some reading: December 1941 by Craig Shirley This is a day by day overview of the month which brought the US into World War II through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most of the information is fairly neutral, but toward the end, the author begins to make some strange value judgments about various generals and presidents that just don’t belong in a book like this. State of Fear by Michael Crichton This book reminds me of a saying by Grant concerning Robert E. Lee – never had such a good man fought in such a bad cause. Crichton is generally a good author, but this book is a sad screed against those who speak about global warming. The only thing that got me to read it to the end is that while I firmly hold for global warming and the effect of human activity in causing it, I nevertheless like to hear the other side of the argument. What might have been worthwhile was his presentation on some of the sloppy science by some (not all) of the scientists and the hysteria with which some ecologist present their message. Overall, though, this work was poorly done, and I would never recommend it to anyone. The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson This is a highly complex story of a detective in Seville who is strangely moved by the murder of one of his father’s old acquaintances. This leads him to look into his own father’s past, and he finds things he wishes he had never seen. The book is good, I would say very good, but it takes a commitment to get through it. All Roads Lead to Rome by Charles River Editors This is a short book on road building in the Roman republic and empire and in particular on the Appian way, the road that leads from Rome to the southern Adriatic coast after meandering through the fertile lands around Naples. The Underground Railroad by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the underground railroad, emphasizing the role of blacks in the establishment and maintenance of the network of people who helped escaped slaves to reach freedom, often in Canada The best part of the book is the stories about Harriet Tubman, whose role in the railroad was so significant that she was given the nickname Moses for she led her people to freedom. Mary Surratt by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the first woman who was executed for a crime by the federal government. In this case, she is said to have been involved in the murder of President Lincoln. She knew and hosted a number of the conspirators in her Washington DC lodging house. There is quite a bit of controversy over whether she was given a fair trial (for she was brought before a court-martial court and not a civilian court), but it does seem as if there is adequate evidence that she was somewhat involved in the plan. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 10, 2020


February 10, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in East Peoria preaching a retreat to a group of Franciscan sisters. I finish at lunch tomorrow, and I will drive back to Chicago and fly out to Baltimore on Wednesday. The retreat has gone very well. It is on the Gospels and their lessons to Franciscan life. This is only a small community, around 19 sisters, but they have an enormous influence for the Health Care Network that they manage. It includes several hospitals and hospices, two schools of nursing, and it has just merged with the Little Company of Mary Health Care System. The property of the Mother House is incredibly beautiful. It is over 30 acres of ponds and rolling countryside. I have finished some reading: The Golden Saying of Epictetus Epictetus was a Roman slave from the second century AD who was also a Stoic philosopher. He wrote a series of saying concerning living a life of indifference to the vicissitudes of life and trusting in the plan of the almighty. I had always heard about these sayings, but had never actually read them. Now I fully intend to reread them every once in a while. They are very good. The Mysteries of Mithras: the History and Legacy of Ancient Rome’s Most Mysterious Religious Cult by Charles River Editors This is a short book on one of the most famous mystery cults in ancient times. Many Romans stopped believing in the power of the traditional Roman gods for they were not pictured as intercessors who could assist one in need. A number of mystery religions (called this for they had secret rites) came from the Mideast and Egypt in the early centuries of the first millennium. Among these was the cult of Mithra, a Persian deity. He was especially popular with soldiers, which probably explains how the faith spread from Persia all the way to Rome. Vincent Van Gogh by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous artist. It gives a good insight into his life and career. It made me want to read a longer biography in the future. America’s Deadliest Hurricanes by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of three of the major hurricanes to hit the US in the past century: Galveston, Okeechobee, and Katrina. The reporting is good, and there are a number of touching remembrances by people who were involved in the disaster. The Last Tsar by Donald Crawford This is the story of Tsar Michael, the brother of Tsar Nicholas II who became the last tsar of the Russian empire when Nicholas abdicated the throne for himself and his son Alexis. Michael was a decent man, and a war hero. Unlike the other Grand Dukes who remained behind in safety during battles, Michel was courageous. He was much loved by his troops, a band of Muslim horsemen whom nobody thought could be trained to be soldiers. He was rejected by his brother and Alexandra, the tsaress, because he married a common woman who had been twice divorced. Alexandra comes across looking petty and prudish. The read is very good. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie This is a short story of Hercule Poirot who seeks a stolen ruby in order to spare an Indian price of embarrassment. He finds it attending a traditional Christmas celebration, something that he had sworn never to do. As always, the story is well performed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rome - Chicago - Baltimore - Chicago - Peoria

February 3, 2020 Peace and Good, From Rome, I travelled to Chicago to give a series of lectures to the postulants. The topic was the Letters of St. Paul. There is a lot of spiritual information in those letters which are valuable for those considering religious life. There are four postulants this year: two from Our Lady of Angels Province, one from St. Bonaventure and one from St. Joseph of Cupertino Province. They are a bit older, from 30 to 40 years old, and quite mature. I had a very good time sharing with them. In mid week, they had their apostolates, so I scooted over to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines in order to have my ordinary cardiology visit, and a couple of other appointments. I flew back to Chicago on Thursday and finished my classes. Then yesterday I travelled to East Peoria. I am giving a one week retreat to a group of sisters here who run a group of hospitals throughout the MidWest. I will begin the retreat tomorrow evening. The weather in Chicago was incredibly dreary until Sunday. It felt like being in London during winter. I finished some reading: Hannibal by Theodore Ayrault Dodge This is a rather long, quite detailed story of the life and adventures of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who invaded Italy and remained a threat to the forces of Rome all throughout his long occupation of the southern part of the peninsula. He continuously defeated the forces of Rome. His greatest enemy, however, was not even the Romans. It was the Carthaginian senators who refused to back him up with troops and supplies and funds. The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of the volumes in which Aloysius Pendergast, the FBI agent, must fight the evil plans of his deranged brother, Diogenes. The action takes place in New York at one of the famous museums. It involves the opening of a long lost tomb of an Egyptian dignitary and the curse laid upon said tomb. The greatest difficulty is that Aloysius has been imprisoned because he has been framed for murder by his brother. Like all of the volumes by these authors, the action is very well developed, even if details at times are a bit farfetched. Nevertheless, the authors have a talent for making even those details believable. Mr. Lincoln: the Life of Abraham Lincoln by Professor Allen Guelzo This is a teaching company course (12 lectures) on the life and career of Abraham Lincoln. The professor who presents this material is more than a fan of Lincoln. He is often laudatory to the point of obsequisness. Yet, the material is good and insightful. Ancient Pergamun by Charles River Editors This is a short outline of the history of Pergamum. This city is famous for two things. First of all, its library rivalled that of Alexandria, but unlike the latter, the scrolls prepared and conserved there were done on Pergamum (which is named after the city). The legend is that there was an embargo on the exportation of papyrus to Pergamum because the Pharaoh was jealous of the library that was being prepared there. The second claim to fame was the altar to Apollos and the temple to Asclepius, the pagan god of healing. History’s Greatest Mysteries: The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Charles River Editors This is the story of one of the earlier attempts at colonialization of the New World, in this case that of England in North Carolina. The major purpose of this colony was to provide a site for the refurnishing of privateers sent from England to harass the ships that Spain sent with treasure from the New World back to Spain. The colonists were not experts in agriculture, and certainly not in intercultural relations with the native Americans. A group of them left in Roanoke disappeared and have never been located in times since then. The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures by Philip Mould This is an enjoyable account of an art dealer (British, dealing in portraits) and his adventures in finding authentic but unknown works of art, as well as disproving frauds. He goes through the process used before one would buy one of these works, the history of the painting as much as is known, and then the process of restoring the work to its original state as much as is possible (especially after many of the works have suffered damage due to amateur attempts at restoration). The author works on the BBC program roadshow (which was the original patterns for the PBS version). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Castro Valey, CA - Clifton, NJ - Troy, NY - Rome

January 23, 2020 Peace and Good, After my visit with the provincial and secretary of the California province, I flew out to New Jersey. I stayed overnight at the parish of St. John Kanty, a parish run by the friars of the Montreal Custody (for most of the people in the parish are Polish immigrants). The next morning I had a good meeting with my publisher, Catholic Book Publishing Company. I do not have a lot of time to write in these days, but they gave me a couple of possible works that I could try over these next months. On Friday evening I drove up to Troy, NY for the memorial mass of Bishop Elias Manning, a friar from Troy who served in Brazil for over 60 years and died there recently. I was representing the Minister General there. Then Saturday evening I flew back to Rome. I lucked out, for both in Neward and in London they were able to transfer me to an earlier flight, which meant I got back to Rome earlier than had originally been planned. Early Monday morning I and the rest of the definitory headed out to the Seraphicum, our seminary on the outskirts of Rome, for a workshop with the new Ministers Provincial, Custodes and secretaries who have been elected in these past few months. This is a course on how to run the provinces and what paper work and procedures must be followed. I will be flying out again on Sunday, this time to Chicago to present a workshop to our postulants. I finished some reading: American Military: from Colonials to Counterinsurgents by Wesley Clark This is a quick history of the American military, especially in its interventions in times of war. Wesley Clark, who was part of the Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia, and who served as the head of NATO for a number of years, is the presenter. His insights are good, but not genius. He comes from his own military background, so he tends to defend military interventions even when other scholars might question them. One good thing is that he is able to situate various intervention in their historic background, explaining why certain things were said (even when those saying them knew them to be untrue, e.g. the insistence on the Iraqis possessing weapons of mass destruction when we knew that, if they did, they were not that important). Flinders Petrie: the Life and Legacy of the Father of Modern Egyptology by Charles River Editors This was one of the most famous British archaeologists. He basically invented the modern system of archaeology. Instead of digging up mounds to find the big objects that would then be shipped off to museums in one’s home country, Petrie taught that the excavations should be done slowly, carefully, and with meticulous documentation. Even small broken objects can be of importance in reconstructing the era and culture of the people one is studying. This book deals a lot more with the finds in Egypt than with Petrie’s life, but it is nevertheless good. Don’t Know Much About the Civil War by Kenneth Davis This is an overview of the times leading up to the Civil War and the war itself. It is written in a folksy style, with numerous references to what various main characters said or wrote. The author spends much time insisting that slavery was the only important cause of the war. In general, the book is good, but not the best I have read on the topic. The Great Siege of Malta by Ernie Bradford In 1565, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire tried to conquer Malta. This was to extinguish the Knights of Malta who were a religious order stationed there and who continuously harassed commerce among the Islamic states, but also to establish a foothold in Europe to use for invasion of Sicily and Italy. In spite of the overwhelming military supremacy of the Ottomans, they were unable the island due to the heroic struggle of the knights and the native Maltese. The book is very well told and an enjoyable read. De Gaulle by Aidan Crawley This is a long but thorough biography of Charles De Gaulle, the hero of World War II. The author presents his personality with all of its prickliness. In his second coming after the Algerian Revolt, he is presented as a bit of an egomaniac. Oddly, the author does not really deal with De Gaulle after his resignation from office until the time of his death. It is a good book, but an investment in time and in frustration at the ways at which De Gaulle was at times self-destructive. A Case of Need by Michael Crichton The book is very good, but the topic is unfortunate. It deals with a doctor accused of performing an abortion in Boston before the laws were changed. Crichton defends the idea of free access to abortion all throughout the book. The good part of the book is the investigation into the details of the problem by a friend of the doctor, a doctor who performs medical pathological studies. The Postwar Occupation of Japan by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of this particular topic. It shows that the US occupation was rather enlightened, even when those in charge of it didn’t know what they were doing. It speaks about the deconstruction of the military dictatorship and the growth of democracy. It also speaks about the horrible difficulties in the early years of the occupation with food, work, etc. This changed radically at the outset of the Korean War when Japanese industry was called upon to provide much of the war materials. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude