Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ellicott City - Rome

February 18, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished off my visit to the States with several days at Ellicott City. I had a meeting with the definitory of my province which went very well. I was also able to film some presentations for our Development Office (which also has committed itself to producing materials for evangelization). I have been collaborating with them for quite a while with the daily scripture reflections, but now we have reached out into film as well. The trip back to Rome was less eventful than the trip out from Rome. I will be here for a week for a General Definitory meeting. Then on Saturday I will be heading back to the States. The weather here in Rome is cool but quite pleasant. It is not like the weather brought by the Polar Vortex in the States. I finished some reading: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan This is an account of the dust bowl during the 1930’s. This area of the country probably should never have been opened up to the plow. Its soil was such that if there were a drought, it would be carried aloft in any storm, creating massive dust storms. Yet, the huge price of wheat during World War I guaranteed that it would be used for agriculture. When the drought came, coupled with the Great Depression, it left this entire area desolate with people fleeing to find work and even food. This account gives much eye witness evidence of the suffering, and this is an excellent account of this horrendous time. The Mysterious Etruscans by Steven Tuck In spite of the fact that their civilization was quite advanced, and they were found in a part of the world that is not all remote (central Italy), the Etruscans are not all that well known. This Great Courses presentation speaks of the archeological evidence for them, their beliefs, their rise as a confederation of city states and their downfall under the power of the ever aggressive Rome, etc. It also speaks of many of the cultural artifacts that still show their influence on Italy and the world. Forgotten Patriots by Edwin Burrows The greatest number of those who died during the American Revolutionary world were the prisoners of the British, both in various on land centers and on prison ships. This book goes into great detail on the history of the treatment of prisoners by the British and by the rebel forces during the war. Much of what was done would be considered to be war crimes today, but was classified as almost normal treatment in those days, especially when the Americans were classified as rebels against the king who could have been executed for treason. The book also covers the reasons why tributes to the prisoners were so late in coming and so inadequate, somuchso that most Americans do not even know the extent of what happened in those years. Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich This is a narrative of the revelations received by the 14th century English mystic Julian of Norwich. She is famous for having said that all will be well, and all will be well. Her revelation is very, very positive in nature, but is enormously difficult to follow. I had heard about Julian, and I wanted to read something that she herself produced. The endeavor was worth the effort, but I don’t intend to read much more of what she wrote. It will stick to what was written about her. Bugsy Siegel: the life and legacy of the notorious gangster who helped develop Murder, Inc. and the Las Vegas Strip by Charles River Editors The title pretty much says what this small book from Charles River Editors is all about. It gives the biography of this mobster from his birth in the Jewish ghettoes of New York to his execution in Las Vegas, a city whose development he largely pioneered with the construction with mob funds of the casino the Flamingo. The History of Espionage by Velas Liulevicius This is a teaching company course on the history of espionage. I had previously listened to a course on Eastern Europe by this same professor. Both that first course and this one were filled with information and very interesting. This course is not a spy thriller, but rather a history from ancient times to today, including a lesson on how spy craft is treated in modern literature and film. It is quite good. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Clifton, NJ - Bridgeport, CT - Boston, MA - Ellicott City, MD - Staten Island, NY

February 10, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished off the visitation to the three friaries of the Montreal Custody of the Polish friars in Clifton, Bridgeport and Boston. There are two friars in each of these sites. They are mostly Polish parishes. All three of them are past their heyday for the Polish immigration has leveled off. If young Polish workers want to find work nowaday, they tend to go to Great Britain or Germany (for it is much easier for them to transfer their work benefits to their homeland and to visit family during the holidays). The friars are doing good work, but one has to wonder about the long term health of these communities. This past week I had my annual 50,000 mile check up - GP, cardiologist, dermatologist, hearing, sight and dentist. All of the appointments went very well. This was just a normal thing, but it is important given all the travel that I do all the time. Saturday I attended the funeral of fr. Philip Blaine, one of our friars who died this past week. He had been a missionary in Brazil for a number of years, and also an Assistant General for the missions. His main ministry was teaching spirituality and giving spiritual guidance. I will be in Ellicott City for a few more days, and then it is back to Rome. I finished some reading: Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr Years ago I read the first book by this author, The Alienist. It has been spun off into a TV series recently. This, as far as I know it, is his second and only other book. It is set in upstate New York, and it involves a series of deaths of what the book calls “throw away children.” This volumes is every bit as good as the author’s previous book. It involves detective, forensic work based on a theory in which one tries not to defend one’s theory but rather develop a theory from the evidence found. The hero is not an easy person, and there are a set of sometimes loveable, sometimes odd people around him. It is a very good read. 1177 B. C.: The Year that Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline This book chronicles the extensive international network of trade and diplomacy before the period around 1177 B.C. Then, after that time, there was a period of confusion and retrenchment. What caused it? There have been various theories: famine, civil war, invasion by the sea peoples, earthquake, etc. It is possible that all of these played a part in the downfall of civilization at that time. The author purposes that there was a systems failure. It might have been sparked by one calamity, but then snowballed as one part of the system after another failed, leading to a period that could be called a dark age. The book is good, but filled with theories that cannot be proved. The Brandenburg Gate by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It was originally part of a wall built more for income purposes (to collect the tolls and taxes on imported goods) than for defensive purposes. It became a symbol of the rise of Prussia. During the Nazi era, it was used as a gathering point for various rallies. After the war, its pockmarked surface was a sign of the division between East and West Berlin. Finally, after the war, it was a symbol of the reunification of the city and the country. Peoples and Cultures of the World by Edward Fischer This is a study in anthropology on various societies throughout the world, including tribes and clans in Venezuela, the South Pacific, etc. It is one of the Teaching Company courses. It has a lot of good information, but I cannot say that it really came together all that well. Marie Curie by Charles River Editors This is a very good treatment of the Polish scientist Marie Curie who with her husband discovered radium and polonium. She was frequently discounted for being a woman scientist, but she proved herself to be a talented scholar all the same. She lived a simple life with her husband until his accidental death. She won the Nobel prize for her work, but even then was not allowed to speak to the assembled body. She eventually died from the effects of the radiation of the elements that she discovered. The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger This is an overview of the Hasidic movement in America (and somewhat in Israel). This movement was largely wiped out in Europe during World War II, but given the large number of children that Hasids tend to have, they now number a large percentage of Jews in the world. They do not interact very well with modern society in terms of assimilation, yet they tend to be rather successful in terms of business activities. They also have serious difficulty dealing with government regulations, not infrequently ending up on the wrong side of the law in questions of finance and government housing regulations. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 28, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City - Clifton, NJ

January 28, 2019 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. This past week in Rome was more like being in London in winter than Rome. It has been cold and rainy. I managed to get a number of projects done throughout the week, which means that I can now apply myself to my coming travel and maybe even write an article or two for the Messenger magazine. I am caught up to the April article, but I must always be a bit ahead on those lest something come up and I not be able to write them at the last minute. I was able to get my visa to Vietnam for my trip there at the end of February. I will go there for the dedication of a new seminary building, and then travel to Manila to give a workshop to our novices in Tagaytay (an hour outside of Manila). At the last minute, British Airways cancelled my flight to Baltimore and rebooked me to Dulles. That is about an hour away from BWI, and I had a rental car already arranged in Baltimore. What a mess! They say they will reimburse me for my travel expenses from Dulles to BWI, but I am not all that sure of that given my experiences of trying to navigate the beaurocracy of big airlines. I got into Ellicott City on Saturday evening, and drove yesterday to Clifton, NJ where I am beginning a visitation of a few friaries (here, Bridgeport, Ct and Boston). These are friaries that are under the authority of our Montreal custody which is made up of Polish friars who serve the needs of Polish immigrants. Then starting next Sunday I will be down in Ellicott City for about ten days for some appointments and meetings. I finished some reading: Corsets and Codpieces by Karen Bowman This book deals with the history of the more absurd varieties of fashion throughout the ages. Some of them were just strange (high, high headpieces, very large codpieces on men, etc.). Others were actually dangerous for they put those who wore them in danger due to their inconvenience or their flammability. This is not exactly a scientific study – it is a more entertaining light piece of investigation. Dark Justice by Jack Higgins An assassin tries to kill the president of the US. HE is tied to a Russian oligarch who is using trying to sow confusion among the powers of the West. A secret organization under the direct authority of the Prime Minister is able to sort out the complicated plot and to enact revenge on the plotting parties. The Hoover Dam by Charles River Editors This tells the story of construction of the great dam in Nevada on the Colorado River that produced Lake Mead. This dam was an enormous project built during the depression. It is doubtful that it would ever pass environment regulations today, but it produced a source for water and hydro-power that allowed the great growth of the southwest, especially the Los Angeles area. The English Spy by Daniel Silva A British ex-princess is murdered by a bomb placed on her vacation boat. It turns out that an ex-IRA bomber has arranged the assassination. The British secret service call in the Mossed, asking for the help of Gabriel Mossed to find the killer and kill him. He seeks the help of another IRA member, a British counter-intelligence officer who had become a paid assassin, to find the killer. The book is well written, as are almost all of Silva’s books. The First Salute by Barbara Tuchman The title of the book deals with the fact that the Dutch of the island of St. Eustacius in the Caribbean were the first to give the traditional salute to the flag of the rebellious colonies that became the United States. This masterpiece speaks of the foreign relations of the colonies along with a number of the military campaigns that led to independence. Tuchman is a great historian/popular author, and this is one of her better books. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Rome

January 21, 2019 Peace and Good, It is so good to write just one city in the places that I have been for the past period of time. This past week was one of our General Definitories. It was filled with topics to cover. A lot of the work has to do with the fact that we are preparing for the General Chapter beginning in Assisi on May 18th, so there is a lot to do for that. There were also a couple situations in the Order that needed immediate attention. The weather here in Rome is rainy and cool, more like London than Rome. What is nice here, though, is that even if it is generally rainy, the sun will peak through at least once or twice during the day. There are not as many pilgrims and tourists in Rome these days. This is the off season. There was a little problem with the scripture blogs a few days ago, but the head of the office quickly addressed it. If ever you have difficulty receiving the blog, please let me know and we will get on it as soon as possible. I have finished some reading: The Egyptian Scientific Institute by Charles River Editors At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon, who was not yet the absolute ruler of France, decided to distract British forces by invading Egypt. He intended to cut the route to India and create difficulties for England there as well. He was successful at the beginning, but quickly the British under Admiral Nelson defeated his fleet, causing him to eventually sneak back to France. While his invasion was unsuccessful, his establishment of a scientific institute in Egypt was wildly successful. He brought along artists, scientists, archaeologists, etc. who went on to produce many scientific studies. One of his greatest accomplishments occurred years later when a Frenchman, Charpentier, managed to decipher the Rosetta Stone which had been found during his invasion (and thus find a translation for Egyptian hieroglyphs. Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky This is a simple book written as if it were the diary of Princess Elizabeth of England in the years immediately before the death of her father, Henry VIII. It brings across her scholarship, her terrible relationship with her half sister Mary, her fears of banishment, etc. Mad Enchantment by Ross King Ross King is an author who deals with the history of art. This volume deals with Monet and his water lily productions. It speaks quite a bit about his relationship with other artists and especially with Clemenceau. Monet promised to make a huge art donation to the French government, but then all but backed out. The book deals with his sight problems once he developed cataracts on both eyes. As is true of all of King’s books, the research in extensive and the story well told. Blood and Rubles by Stuart Kaminsky An American FBI agent travels to Russia and works with police there to track down a Russian mob that seems to be dealing with nuclear bombs. The book deals with the collapse of law and order in the aftermath of the fall of the communist system. Everything is being handled at two or three different levels. Justice is impossible to obtain, even if one follows all the rules, for it is only available to the highest bidder. Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre A Russian plutocrat seeks to defect to Great Britain bringing with him information about his activities to launder money for the various Russian mobs (with which the government is involved). He is not exactly a refined person, and he is bringing with him a family that is strange and yet in need of aid. He contacts a British school teacher while on vacation in the Caribbean, asking for help. He and his wife contact the secret services, and the rest of the book is the attempt to bring him to Great Britain and give him political asylum (which not all the government officials want because they are in bed with the Russian mob. Le Carre does not present a 007 scenario of spying – quite the opposite. One sees the human flaws in the agents and the government. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, January 13, 2019

London - Rome

January 13, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished my visit to London. It was not all that cold, but incredibly dreary. I understand why the British left the island to colonize all over the world. I also got to my favorite Chinese restaurant. I got my tripe which I try to get every time I get to London. This past week as been dedicated to a meeting with new provincials, custodes and provincial secretaries from all over the world. There were twelve of them this time. It was a good group that really tried to participate as much as possible. They asked a lot of questions and shared quite a bit. In the middle of the week I had to scoot up to Assisi for some business. While it was cold in Rome when I left, it was super cold in Assisi with a strong wind. By the time I left there were snow flakes in the air, something that occasionally happens in Assisi but rarely in Rome. We finished our meeting yesterday with a pilgramage to the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island. This basilica is dedicated to the martyrs of the 20th century (from the communists, nazis, rightists and leftists, religious groups, etc.). It is a moving experience to see the various items which these martyrs used and to read a bit of their story. Tomorrow we begin our definitory meeting here in Rome. That will continue through Friday, and then it will be off to the States (Ellicott City, Clifton, Bridgeport and Boston). I finished some reading: Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico by Gustavo Lozano and Charles River Editors This is a short treatment on Emperor Maximilian. Right around the time of the Civil War, Mexico was falling apart. There were various debts to other nations and they were threatening on intervening to make sure that they were paid. The chief among them was France which actually invaded. The US could not really invoke the Monroe Doctrine because of the civil war. Maximilian, a Hapsburg from Austria, was invited to become the emperor. He was actually liked by many Mexicans, but Juarez fought a rebellion which eventually overthrew him. He was executed, and his wife Carlotta travelled back to Europe where she lost her mind. Marshall Josip Broz Tito by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Communist dictator of Yugoslavia. He ruled from the time that he liberated his country from the Nazis until he died. The book is very fair, speaking of his relative success in establishing a mixed economy in his country, but also ruthlessly eliminating his enemies. The book also treats his attempt to establish a reformed version of communism which did not depend upon the communism of the Soviet Union. Since Yesterday: the 1930’s in America, September 3, 1929-September 3, 1939 by Frederick Lewis Allen This is a very good treatment of life in America during the 1930’s. This is volume two, the first dealing with the 1920’s. The book deals with major figures, movements, political issues, etc. One of the things that most impressed me was Allen’s judgment of why the Depression lasted so long (for it never really ended until the beginning of World War II). His diagnosis is that major corporations had gained so much power in the nation that they all but closed out of the market any entrepreneur who wanted to start a new business. Lincoln’s Bishop: a President, a Priest and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors by Gustav Niebuhr At the beginning of the Civil War, there was a disaster in the state of Minnesota. The Sioux rebelled and conducted a series of massacres in which hundreds of people died. This book deals with that period, but also with the Episcopal bishop of Minnesota who fought for just treatment of the native Americans. He studied the various treaties that had been made with them and chronicled how the government and its agents had violated all of them. He even travelled to the White House to lobby President Lincoln. I had never heard anything about this story, and the book was very good. Medieval Russia: The History and Legacy of the Groups that Developed the Russian State in the Middle Ages by Charles River Editors This short treatment of the history of Russia in the Middle Ages speaks of the slow amalgamation of the various city states to become the country of Russia centered on Moscow. It speaks of the Mongol invasion and their influence upon Russian culture and politics for over one hundred years (through the Golden Hoard). It also deals with the inauguration of the serf system. Great Trials of World History by Douglas Linder This is one of the Teaching Company great courses. This particular course covers a series of 24 lectures, each dealing with a particular trial which had great influence upon history. Some of the trials are from long ago (e.g. Socrates, Giordano Bruno) while others are more recent (of Nelson Mandela, the Scottsboro boys, the Chicago eight, etc.). Each lecture gives information about why the trial occurred, how it was argued, and how it ended. The course is very well done. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Rome - London

January 3, 2019 Peace and Good, I spent the Christmas days in Rome. Many of the friars headed out to visit friends and family, so I helped baby sit the Curia. We always need someone at home in case there is an emergency somewhere. On December 31st I flew into London to visit the friars here. We have a custody in Great Britain and Ireland, and it is good to touch base every once in a while to see how things are going. So far it looks good. The custody has its problems, as does every jurisdiction, but over all I see improvement in what has been going on. Tomorrow I will fly back to Rome and next week we have our annual workshop for new provincials. That goes a week, and then the week after we have our usual definitory meeting. I finished some reading: Will Rogers: American Legend by Charles River Editors Will Rogers was a comic cowboy during the early decades of the twentieth century. This is a short biography of Rogers along with some of his witty political commentary. My favorite saying what when he told people that he did not belong to any organized political party – that he was a Democrat. CSI Reilly Steel Inferno by Casey Hill Reilly Steel is an American forensic expert working for the Irish police. This particular story deals with a series of murders that are tied to a trial in which a rapist got away with a very light sentence due to his connections. Someone is killing people involved with this miscarriage of justice using scenes taken out of Dante’s Inferno. The Art of Deception by Ridley Pearson This is a detective novel dealing with a series of murders. The story is quite good, and I enjoyed listening to it. It is not all that deep, but it was entertaining. The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman Barbara Tuchman is a great historical author. This book deals with the period between 1890 and the beginning of World War I. It treats both Europe and the US. She deals with major characters, major movements, attitudes, etc. I could always recommend any of her books. They are packed with information without being overwhelming. By Its Cover by Donna Leon Donna Leon is one of my favorite authors. She writes detective novels in Venice. Although she is not a native, she is able to catch the nuances of life there. She will throw out comments here and there that, when one knows how Italian think, are just great. This volume deals with a theft of rare books in various libraries and museums along with a murder. The First Battle of Ypres by Charles River Editors This is the overview of the horrific Battle of Ypres at the beginning of World War I at which there were tens of thousands of casualties on both the allied (French and English) and the German side – about 130,000 on each side). It speaks of the foolishness of the generals on both sides who tried to use antiquated techniques of battle in a changed world (for the artillery and machine guns that were deployed made battle patterns used during the Napoleonic Wars insane). It marked the destruction of the veteran strength of both armies along with the devastation of the newly trained troops (entire classes of University students and those who were considered to be natural leaders on both sides of the battle). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, December 24, 2018

Rome - Arroyo Grande, CA - Rome

December 24, 2018 Peace and Good, This week I have been out in Arroyo Grande, our joint novitiate in California (mid way between Los Angeles and San Francisco). Monday I gave a Day of Recollection upon the Gospel of Luke which is the Gospel we are using in the liturgy this year. Our own novices participated, as did the novices of the Friars Minor (whose novitiate is in Santa Barbara) and the Friars Minor Capuchin (whose novitiate is in St. Ynez). Tuesday through Friday I continued with our own novices talking about the other Gospels and the Psalms. It is a good group of novices. There are six of them, two from Great Britain/Ireland, one from St. Bonaventure Province and three from Our Lady of Angels Province. fr. Joe Wood and Maurice Richard are doing a great job. Fr. Alexander Cymerman is the senior friar there. We feel it is always good to have one or two older friars with the men in formation to give them some background concerning our life from a practical point of view. I flew back on Saturday evening, arriving yesterday evening in Rome. It is a long, long trip. I will be in Rome for a bit now. This week I will baby sit the Curia. The others are off on vacation, and I will stay home in case there are any emergencies or official calls from the Vatican. (We always have to have someone available for that.) I finished some reading: Hiemdallr: the Origins and History of the Norse God who keeps watch for Ragnarok by Charles River Editors This is a strange paper on Hiemdallr, a Germanic god. It is not quite clear what this god was supposed to have done and why one would seek his assistance. He was associated with Ragnarok, sort of a Germanic end of the world, but other than this not much is known about him. The author presents a number of fragmentary prayers and inscriptions on him which are confusing and not well explained. This was not one of the better Charles River presentations. The Roman Province of Judea by Charles River Editors This is a quick overview of Judea, the southern part of Israel, from the time of its origins until its destruction under the Romans in the series of rebellions that led to the Roman decree banning Jews from Jerusalem and all but destroying the practice of their faith (under Hadrian). It gives a good amount of information in a quick format, like all of the Charles River presentations. The Astro-Prussian War by Charles River Editors This was the war which crushed the suppositions of the Astro-Hungarian Empire in its desire to lead the Germanic people. Prussia was wildly successful (because of weaponry, organization, etc.). It thus became the natural head of the movement to unify Germany as one nation, something that would happen within a decade of this war. What was interesting to me was that the Prime Minister of Prussia, Bismarck, went out of his way to defeat the Austrians without crushing them for he wanted to put them in their place without making them into an eternal enemy. The Decisive Battles of World History by Gregory Aldrete This is a Teaching Company course on many of the decisive battles over the centuries and across various cultures on the earth. Each lesson is well prepared, introducing both the parties and the main protagonists. It deals with the importance of the battle in terms of how it changed history. The presenter is a bit too enthused over the topic for my taste, but the information he presented was valuable. The Anger of Achilles by Robert Grant This is a new translation of the Iliad. I had often heard about the Iliad and read about it, but I had never actually read the saga itself. This offered a great opportunity for that. Grant is known as a popularizer of ancient topics, and I really did not know what to expect when I started the book. I was pleasantly surprised. It raises all sorts of questions in my mind and heart about the mentality of the people who received this saga and preserved it, but that is good. Merry Christmas. fr. Jude