Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Rome - Lusaka, Zambia

November 6, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished the week of definitory in Rome. The weather is starting to change with more cloudy conditions and a bit of rain. Our definitory finished on Friday morning and then on Sunday I flew out to Zambia. I am in Lusaka to give a retreat to the National Conference of Zambian Bishops. I begin that tomorrow morning. Then, when I finish, I will fly up to Ndola to give a workshop to our novices and saome talks to our postulants. When I finish that, I will be flying back to Rome. The days are quite hot here, around 90 degrees. The evenings cool off quite quickly, so sleeping is not all that much of a problem. There are blackouts each evening for the country depends on hydro-power, and the water levels are very low. This is the rainy season, but the rains have not really begun yet. I have finished some reading: The Roman Provinces of North Africa by Charles River Editors This is a short account of North Africa before the arrival of the Romans, its status under the Carthaginians, under the Romans, and then the loss of Roman power due to the Barbarian invasions in the 4th century AD. Where Serpents Lie by T. Jefferson Parker This is the story of a man on the squad that hunts child molesters and his squad. He is searching for someone who might be on his way to becoming a serial killer (at least due to his current conduct of kidnapping children and dressing them in other clothes). The twist in the story is when pictures are found which show the head of the squad in very compromising conditions with underage children. The action in the story is OK, but not a classic. Petra: the History of the Rose City by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of the pre-history, history in ancient times, and modern discoveries in the beautiful city carved out of rock in the Southern region of Jordan. It served as an entrepot for travel and commerce between the Arabian peninsula and Mesopotamia. It was the home of the people known as the Nabateans. God is not Afraid of New Things by Pope Francis, ed Josh Beckley This is a collection of quick sayings of the Holy Father. As the editor states, some edify, some inspire, and some even challenge and possibly confuse. They are not exactly profound, but they are very helpful. America’s Secret War by George Friedman This books deals with the war against Al Qaida and also the American invasion of Iraq under George W Bush. The book is well written, and gives political insights on the Iraq war that I had never considered. It is an honest presentation of the various points of view, including those that we as Americans would rather not hear. I highly recommend this book to give further insight to the mentality of the people with whom we are dealing in the Middle East. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Kindle offers collections of famous masterpieces of literature at a very reduced price, and this is the first presentation in one of those volumes. It is Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. It is not a masterful presentation, but rather a book written to encourage young people to a spirit of entrepreneurialism and adventure (as evidenced in the life of Franklin who opened the first public library in Philadelphia, the first philosophical discussion society, the first fire brigade, the first militia, etc.). The Lost City of Heraklion by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on one of the cities at the mouth of the Nile delta that served as a commercial center in the days before the creation of the city of Alexandria by Alexander the Great. In subsequent years, it was damaged by earthquakes and eventually subsided into the waters until it was discovered by underwater archaeologists. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pismo Beach, CA - Arroyo Grande, CA - Rome

October 29, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished the parish retreat at Pismo Beach. It is a very good parish community, and I thorougly enjoyed my time there. The topic was the Gospel of Matthew. There are a lot of people there who are truly working on their spiritufal lives. Last week I was at our novitiate which is just down the street from the parish. We have five novices this year. I gave four days of presentations on the Gospels and the Psalms. Then on Saturday I gave a day of reflection to the novices of all three Franciscan Friars (Friars Minor, Capuchins and Conventuals) on the Gospel of Matthew, the gospel we are using in the liturgy this coming Church year. I flew back from California yesterday. It is a long, long journey. I am back in Rome for our definitory until Friday. I will be heading out next week to do some things in Zambia. I finished some reading: The Cambridge Medieval History: From the Rise of Constantine to the Death of Julian This is a series of presentations on the beginning of what we would call the Middle Ages. It is the first volume of many that were available at a very reduced price by Kindle. The essays are good, if somewhat technical. Some deal more with the history, while others deals with background information on the era. The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver I thing that this is the first of Deaver’s books in the Lincoln Rhymes series. The detective is paralyzed and preparing to have someone assist him in suicide. He is challenged to assist finding and stopping a serial killer. He and his team are able to deduce the clues left by a killer and eventually track down the killer. The whole series is well done, and I would recommend this book and the others in the series. The Great Terror by Robert Conquest This is a very extensive treatment of the Great Terror of Stalin in the late 1930’s in which millions and millions of people were arrested and many of them killed or sent to prison camps in which many of them died. The details are abundant. The stories are horrific. One wishes that it were a horrible novel, but it is a true story. Like the holocaust, there are many who say that it is too incredible to believe, but Conquest has documented the whole affair well. The book is well worth reading, but it leaves one breathless. The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagen This is a very, very thorough account of the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta in the 4th century BC. The war went on for a long, long time and left both powers all but broken. Worse, the only way that Sparta was able to triumph was to ally itself with the enemy of the Greeks: the Persians. Athens eventually lost the war, but even more they lost their moral compass (abandoning their republican values for empire). The book is very good, but it would be a bit too much for most readers because of the level of detail in the book. Pacific Glory by PT Deutermann This is a novel about a group of people who are serving in the armed forced during the early and middle years of World War II. The author tries of give an accurate picture of what life was like for these characters, but the author is only partly successful. Hark Evidence by John Lescroat This is a murder mystery in which an attorney is called upon to defend his former father in law who is a famous judge from the charge of murdering a man who was about to marry the judge’s former courtesan. The book is OK, but not much more than that. D Day: A Captivating Guide to the Battle for Normandy by Captivating History This is a short account of the D Day invasion during World War II. Like the Charles River Editors books, it is not a book that gives great detail, but it is a good overview presentation. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Castro Valley, CA - Pismo Beach, CA

October 20, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Castro Valley which is just outside of Oakland. The representatives of our various jurisdictions of the CFF (Australia, US, Canada, England, and Ireland) were present, and we had a very good series of discussions. The topics were formation, justice and peace, our presence on the web, etc. I think we made quite a bit of progress. This past week I have been preaching a parish mission in one of our parishes in central California. The pastor had asked me a couple of years ago to preach a mission, but I have not been able to do it until now. I had the commitment in Castro Valley for the CFF meeting, then a week off, and then a workshop in Arroyo Grande, our novitiate. I was able to fit the mission into the off week. It is an older parish, and the parishioners are great. I really enjoyed my time here. This afternoon I head out to Arroyo Grande, which is only about twenty minutes from here. I will be there until next Sunday when I head back to Rome. Monday to Thursday I will be working with the novices on the Gospels and the Psalms, and then Saturday I will be giving a day of reflection to the members of all three novitiates here in California (the Friars Minor, the Capuchins and ourselves). I finished some reading: Dictator by Robert Harris This is the third of a series on the Roman orator Cicero. Harris is an excellent author, and this book is a fitting end to the story. I would highly recommend both all three books of the series as well as anything that Harris has written. Leif Erikson by Captivating History This is the story of the explorer Leif Erikson, the first European to discover North America. The account gives both the critical information as well as the legends concerning this figure. It is a bit repetitious, but worth reading. The Apocrypha and the Bible by Gustavo Vasquez-Lozano and Charles River Editors This is a very good overview of the apocrypha of the Bible (those books which did not make it into the Old and New Testament). The research was very well done, and I could recommend it to anyone who wanted an overview of the topic. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson I like Bryson’s travel books. He is humorous and interesting. The only thing I have noticed in his accounts is that he at times descends to an adolescent, cruel way of dealing with people who annoy him. I wish he could avoid this, for otherwise his accounts would be hilarious. Fatherland by Robert Harris This is a short account of a detective in 1960’s Germany trying to investigate some murders/suicides. The interesting twist is that in this account Hitler had won World War II. The account is well done and is filled with exciting twists and turns. Marie Antoinette by Captivating History This short account of the life of Marie Antoinette is well done. It does not present her as a horrible person (as much of the propaganda of the era did), but rather as a not well informed, somewhat shallow person caught up in a drama beyond her understanding. Her major concern was to fit in in the somewhat catty environment of the court. She excelled in demonstrating the latest fashion. She and her husband tried to perform works of charity, but it was too little and too late. The regime was corrupt and bankrupt, and only a strong and decisive leader could have saved it (which neither Louis nor Marie were). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Nairobi, Kenya - Rome - Roman, Romania - Rome - Castro Valley, CA

October 9, 2019 Peace and Good, This has been a very busy week with travel here and there. My last Sunday in Nairobi was the celebration of the solemn profession of five of the Kenyan friars. The Mass lasted three hours and twenty minutes. It was a beautiful celebration, especially with all the singing and dancing. My trip back from Nairobi was unfortunately a bit eventful. After I had arrived at the airport, the flight to London was "postponed." What astounds me is that the posponement was for 24 hours. There was not a lot I could do, for even to go to a hotel for the night would have meant that I would have to pay for another visa. I kept searching for a member of the British Air personnel at the gate, but after 10 minutes, the only representative did not reappear for well over an hour. I called traveler services in London, but they claimed they could do nothing. Finally, after two hours, a representative appeared and rebooked me on a Qatar Airline flight that got me back to Rome. I arrived in Rome on Monday afternoon, and then headed over to Romania on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning I had a presentation at a symposium celebrating the opening of the school year at the school of theology where I taught for a number of years. Thursday I flew back to Rome and celebrted the Feast of St. Francis (with the celebration of the solemn profession of two of our Indian friars who are studying in Rome). On Sunday I flew out to San Francisco for a meeting of our federation in Castro Valley, a friary just outside of Oakland. We will be meeting here until Thursday evening, and then I will drive down to Pismo Beach where I will be preaching a parish mission in one of our parishes. I have finished some reading: African Kaiser by Robert Gaudi This is a well written account of the leader of the German forces in German East Africa (Tanganyika), General von Lettow-Vorbeck. He was a brilliant leader of men (both German and African), and he was a tremendous thorn in the side to the British, not surrendering until after the armistice of 1918. He was also a man of honor, and was respected even by his adversaries. As he fought alongside the Africans, he came to realize the absurdity of much of the basis for colonialism. Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser This is an account of the lives and careers of two cousins, Alice Longworth Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. The former was the daughter of TR, while the later his niece and the wife of FDR. Both were famous in their own right, and they did not especially like each other all that much. Alice is famous for having a pillow which said that if you did not have anything nice to say about others, you should sit right down next to her. Eleanor was a liberal do-gooder, who actually did an incredibly large amount of good. Abuse of Power by Stanley Kutler This is a series of transcripts of the Nixon office tapes that led to the Watergate scandal and the eventual resignation of the president. It proves that Nixon was an incredible liar, possibly even eventually deceiving himself with his lies. His office discussion was also petty and profane and conspiratorial, caring only about his presidency and willing to sacrifice anyone who got in the way of that goal. Francisco Franco by Charles River Editors This is a short but thorough study of the career of Francisco Franco, the dictator who ran Spain for decades following the Spanish Civil War. We see how he changed from a ruthless character to one who was more willing to compromise (at least in economic questions). The book also presents a good picture of why the Spanish Civil War began, begin honest about the part that each of the parties played in this disaster. The Punjab: the History of the Punjabis and the Contested Region on the Border Between India and Pakistan by Charles River Editors This is an historic picture of the Punjab, the region of the five rivers, in India. This is a territory which has a mixed population of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. It was thus a place of terrible suffering in the division of India at its independence leading to the nations of India and Pakistan. The book presents a bit about the Sikhs, a religion which has bred into its followers a martial spirit (which is why so many of them served in the army of the Raj under British occupation, and even today so many serve in the British army. Havana by Stephen Hunter This book is about the CIA and the mobs attempt to assassinate Castro at the beginning of his career. The two main protagonists are an honest State Trooper who served well in World War II and is expected to assassinate Castro, and a KGB agent who is sent to Cuba to mentor him. In spite of the topic, it is actually quite humorous, but the language at times is a bit rough (for a good part of the story takes place in the area of Havana where the prostitutes ply their business. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude Winkler

Friday, September 27, 2019

Montreal - London - Nairobi - Sabukia, Kenya - Nairobi

September 28, 2019 Peace and Good, I have just finished two weeks in Kenya for the first provincial chapter of the province of Kenya. I have done two visitations in Kenya, and I helped a bit in the process of working to make the custody into a province. The old custos asked me to preach each morning at the Masses of the chapter. Then, one of our friars, fr. Robert, who had been asked to preach a morning of recollection at the beginning of the chapter, found out he could not attend due to other obligations. He asked me to give that as well, which I did. The topic was on the Order (and the province) as a family. It went very well. This is the rainy season, and we got quite a bit of it at the site of the chapter, Sabukia. This is the national Marian shrine, and it was entrusted to our friars by the national conference of bishops. The friars there are doing a great job, including building a basilica size church for the pilgrims. They are depending only on funds collected in Kenya. Not a penny of money for the church has come from outside the country, which is a very good thing for it creates a sense of ownership to all the people of Kenya. The facilities in the retreat house there were quite comfortable. Our trip up and back to Sabukia led us along the Rift Valley. The country is beautiful, especially because everything is green now due to the weather. I am back in Nairobi and tomorrow morning we have the solemn profession of vows for five of our men. Then tomorrow night I fly back to Rome. I have finished some reading: Legends of the Bible: Prophets and Prophecy in Ancient Israel and the Middle East by Charles River Editors This is a very good short treatise on the topic of prophecy in Israel and the ancient Mid-East. It is well researched, and can serve as a primer on the topic. Before the Bear: the History of California before it joined the United States by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of California in the period before it became a states: thus, under the Spanish, then Mexico, and then eventually under the US. It deals with the topics of Spanish exploration (but strangely giving much more notice to the role of the Jesuits in this than of the Franciscans). It speaks of the rapport between whites and native Americans. It deals with the topic of the gold rush and what that meant for the growth of the state. 1947 Where Now Begins by Elisabeth Asbrink This is a book which deals with this critical year, two years after the end of the World War II. At first I was a bit perplexed by the very Jewish overtone, but then I realized that it was written by a survivor. It deals with the birth of Israel, with the attempts of ex-Nazis to relaunch their movement in Sweden, the rest of Europe and Argentina. It speaks quite a bit about Simone Beauvoir and George Orwell. It is good, but not as good as some of the other treatments of an individual year that I have read in the recent past. Arnold Rothstein: the Life and the Legacy of the Notorious Mob Kingpin who was Accused of Fixing the World Series by Charles River Editors This was one of the famous mobsters in the 1920’s, a type of protégée to Bugsy Seagal and Myer Lansky. He was very involved in gambling, rejecting the advice of his Jewish religious father. He was eventually assassinated, probably because he had had another mobster’s friend killed. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metexas Metaxas has written a series of religious biographies. This one is a laudatory biography of the man who pushed through the bill to end the slave trade in the British Empire, and eventually to suppress slavery in the British West Indies (for it had already been suppressed by a judge’s decision some time before). Wilberforce based his policies upon his Methodist background, and he tended to be an energetic, sincere and humble figure. The book is certainly a praise fest, and although Metaxas mentioned some for the criticism that was leveled against Wilberforce during his life, it is always in terms of denouncing those who spread what he considered to be base calumnies. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein This is a rather old book about science fiction. One of the first missions to Mars all but fails, but a child is born from one of the couples who is then raised by the Martians. He is found by later Earth explorers and brought back to Earth. He has great difficulties adjusting to the new environment. Heinlein emphasizes a bit too much his sexual growth and practices. He also has subtle and not so subtle digs at religion. But much of the book is entertaining and even makes one think about greater ideas. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Montreal

September 19, 2019 Peace and Good I have been in Montreal for these past two weeks for the custodial chapter of the friars here. It is a small custody, and the friars get along quite well. During our discussions we dealt with the fact that their ministry (which is to Polish immigrants in Canada and the Northeast US) is slowly dying, for the emigration has largely dried up. Poles tend to go to Germany or the British Isles if they are seeking work nowadays. The weather here has been cool but nice. It is fall weather. I have had the opportunity to take some long walks, listening to my books on tape. I have gotten ahead with my daily reflections, and later today I hope to finish a couple of other projects. I fly out to London tonight where I will spend the day tomorrow. Then the next day I fly into Kenya for the first provincial chapter of the new province there. I have finished some reading: The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder This is a disturbing book which speak about two situations: the first was the inhuman conquest and destruction (with terrible human rights violations) of Nanking during World War II. The other is the story of a young, unbalanced woman who travels to Tokyo to ascertain the truth of something she had read and believed about what happened during this disaster. There are many images that are violent and disturbing, which the author fully intends given the topic that is covered by the book. The Great Swindle: the History of the South Sea Bubble by Virginia Cowles This is the story of the stock fraud called the South Seas bubble. The people at this time (in England and France) did not yet understand credit and stock bubbles. They were taken in by a scene to reap ever greater riches from the stock of a company that was effectively producing nothing. It all but destroyed the credit of France (which eventually led to the French Revolution). While the stock fraud was equally serious in England, the government there handled the mess better so that most people did not suffer as much as they did in France. Martin Van Buren by Hourly History While he would never be considered to be a great president, Martin Van Buren was important for the fact that he was the father of the modern political machine (with its spoiled system of political patronage). A one term president, he was able to settle some dangerous political situations with diplomacy both in his service as the secretary of state and later as president. Hell is Always Today by Jack Higgins This is one of Higgins’ many books. This one deals with a serial killer of women who strikes during rain storms in London. A woman is killed, but she is not the victim of this murderer. Nevertheless, in the investigation into her murder, clues surface that help in the apprehension of the serial murderer. The style of the books is dates, but it is nevertheless good, light reading. The History of Britain in 50 Events by Stephan Weaver This is one of those short books that goes through several thousands of years of history in 50 pages. It is not intended to be a serious study. It is more a pot porri that offers short bullet points of important events throughout the history of the nation they are presenting. Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky: the Controversial Mobsters who Worked with Lucky Luciano to Form the Notional Crime Syndicate by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of these two mobster figures who were deeply involved with organized crime in the New York area (branching out to Los Angeles, Los Vegas and Cuba). Siegel was the force man and Lansky was the economic genius who ran his operations as if they were a normal industry. The biography is not an encomium of these figures, speaking openly of their evil tendencies and acts. Have a good week.' Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cardiff, Wales - London - Montreal

September 10, 2019 Peace and Good, The retreat went very well in Wales. There were 14 friars from the custody who participated, and the topic was the prophets. We had a lot of good discussions. We finished the retreat on Friday after breakfast, so I spent the day until Saturday afternoon in London. I was able to get my tripe noodle soup in Chinatown. The weather was quite cool and cloudy. I flew to Montreal on Saturday evening. Our plane raced just in front of Hurricane Dorian, and we felt a bit of the bumps from the first winds of the storm system. There was a lot of damage in Halifax which is in Nova Scotia. I will be here in Montreal until the 19th. Today we begin the custodial chapter. There are around 15 friars in the custody, and they serve the Polish immigrants up here and in the Northeast of the States. The problem is that the emigration from Poland to the US and Canada has largely dried up because Poles would now prefer to go to Germany or England or Ireland. We will have to discuss the short term and long term future of the friars' presence here. The weather here is nice. It is like early fall. I finished some reading: The Evolution of Christmas by Gustavo Vazquez-Lozano and Charles River Editors This gives a decent outline of how Christmas has been celebrated through Christian history. It speaks of what really happened at the first Christmas, who was there, and the date of when it happened. It deals with the tendency among many Protestant groups to de-emphasize its celebration, and then the rebirth of its importance in the 19th century (one of the sources of its rebirth being Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol). Markus Garvey by Charles River Editors Garvey was born in Jamaica, but most of his work was done in the States. He formed a black rights program that proposed black separation and the establishment of a black republic all throughout Africa (seeing himself as the head of that country). He founded various black enterprises which mostly failed shortly after their founding due to lack of experience and secret opposition by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. He was attacked by other civil rights advocated for his separatist tendencies. Blaise Pascal by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the polymath Blaise Pascal. I had always heard of Pascal’s wager – that one might as well believe in God, for if he exists, then it would go well with one, and if he did not exist, nothing lost. This biography showed how ill he always was right from his early childhood. He was educated by his father who tried to keep him away from mathematics since he knew that once he found that field, it would obsess him. However, Pascal found the subject himself and exactly what his father worried about happened. He was absolutely brilliant, something recognized even by brilliant contemporaries. Toward the end of his life, he dallied with the tendency toward Jansenism, an extreme form of asceticism. The Akkadian Empire from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is a short account of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia around the year 2200 BC. It was one of the first multi-national empires. It had a standing army and well developed cultural resources. It seems to have faded from the scene due to two major factors: a catastrophic centuries long drought due to changing climatic conditions in the north Atlantic which changed the climates of vast parts of the globe and the invasion of the Gutian nomadic peoples. The Enemy by Lee Child A military investigator is asked to look into the sudden death of a General who is on his way to a military conference. There is some initial suspicion about a missing briefcase, but the case takes on its own momentum when the general’s wife is murdered, as well as a couple of other army men. What complicates it all is that the new head of the investigator’s department tries to force him to drop the investigation. The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz Koontz has become one of my favorite authors. This book is about an FBI agent whose husband suddenly and inexplicably commits suicide. She investigates the whole thing, and finds that there are many more suicides occurring. She eventually finds that this is all a result of a terrible conspiracy to control society by a rich and hidden group of people. St. Clement of Rome by Greg Gordon This is a short introduction and the First Letter of Clement to the community in Corinth. He was writing at the end of the First Century AD, and addressing some of the same problems that Paul addressed in his letters to the community in Corinth. I especially like St. Clement because his church in Rome is built on three layers: a medieval church on top, an early Christian church (post-Constantine) below, and still father below, the appartments where St. Clement was believed to have lived. Dolores Clabourne by Stephen King I have always like King’s style of writing, but this book was a real masterpiece. It is the story of a down Easter woman from an island off of Maine who is accused of murdering the woman whom she had cared for over a long period of time. The reason why she is suspected is especially the fact that she was thought to have been possibly responsible for the death of her husband. She does through the whole story in an interrogation by the police. She is foul mouthed, tough, but basically a good woman who tried to do what was right in her life. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude