Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alfreton, Gt. Britain - London - Buffalo, NY

September 13, 2017 Peace and Good, We had a week of custodial chapter in a conference center in Alfreton, Derbyshire. The center was very, very good. Each meal had four choices for the main course. The facilities were clean and up to date. The grounds were magnificent. The only down side was that it rained every single day (although usually not the entire day). The meeting went well. One of my former students from Romania, Ciprian Budau, was elected as the custos of this jurisdiction. He is a good, humble man and I believe he will do a fine job. On Friday, we finished the first part of the meeting. We then travelled to London, and I flew out to Buffalo the next day. I will be here until Saturday when I fly back to London for the second part of the meeting. I am in Buffalo for the funeral of my niece, Jillian Ingoldsby. Please keep her and her family in your prayers. We are still not quite sure how she died, but it was under suspicious circumstances. We will have a Memorial Mass on this coming Saturday morning. The weather in Buffalo is tremendous, almost summerlike. That is so unusual for this time of year in Buffalo. I finished some reading: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age gave birth to the First Humans by Brian Fagan This is an account of various remains and cultures of Cro-Magnon man, our ancestor here upon the earth. The author begins with the Neanderthals and their possible interactions with Cro-Magnon man. Neanderthals, although a distant relative of humanity, was not in a direct line. That group of individuals died out, although scientists have found some Neanderthal DNA in humans, which would indicate that there was at least some interbreding. I am reading this at the same time I am reading a book on the residents of the Kalahari desert called the Old Way, and it is fascinating how much information the two books share in hunting and weapons techniques. The Great Fire of London in 1666 by Walter George Bell This is an extensive account both of the great fire of London in 1666 and its aftermath. The fire raged through most of the city, and left countless thousands homeless. Some of the great treasures in the city were rescued, but so many of them were lost in the fire. The city, when rebuilt, was no longer an amalgamation of wooden structures, but was built of brick and stone with wider byways to help fight fire in the futre. Fingerprints by Justin Bigos This is a short story of a man’s relationship, such as it is, with his alcoholic father (divorced from his mother). The father comes from a Jehovah Witness background, but he is now living pretty much on the street. He has a bad habit of showing up in the son’s house, his work, etc and stealing various things to survive. There is a real sense of sadness and ennui about this story. Tracking Ivory by Christy Bryan This is a science short story in which the author has a number of false ivory tusks manufactured with transmitters embedded within to be able to track the movement of ivory in Africa. He discovers that the tusks quickly end up in the Sudan where they were then to be transhipped to their ultimate destination. The sale of ivory finances terrorism (including that of the Lord’s Liberation Army in northern Uganda) and poaching of other elephants with modern weapons. They Helped Erase Ebola in Liberia, Now Liberia Is Erasing Them by Helene Cooper This is the story of the treatment that a group of young men received after they were hired to cremate the bodies of ebola victims during the epidemic in Liberia. Rather than being treated as heroes who saved that society from disaster, they were treated as periahs because cremation was seen as such a taboo in a society that strongly emphasizes rites which honor the dead. Aylin by Ayse Kulin This is a very odd book about a beautiful Turkish woman who becomes a psychiatrist. She is very, very successful in her profession, but much less so in her personal life. She was divorced four times, often precipatating the divorce and then blaming her partner on the results of her own choices. She eventually even joins the army where she counsels Iraq war veterans. She dies a mysterious death which might be an assassination by any one of a number of people who would have liked to see her dead. The author goes out of her war to say how wonderful this woman is, but the protrait given does not match the words of praise. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cherso (Croatia) - Rome - Alfreton (Great Britain)

September 6, 2017 Peace and Good, A couple of weeks ago I returned from the definitory's vacation on Cherso, an island off the coast of Croatia. It was a wonderful trip, very quiet and nowhere near as hot as Rome had been in August. This past week we had a definitory. That is usually quite a long one because there is all the business that piled up during the summer. Fortunately, it was not all that bad this year. On Sunday I flew into London for the custodial chapter here in Great Britain. I will be here until Saturday when I will fly to Buffalo. Originally, I was going to stay here for the coming week, but my family received very bad news that my niece Jillian passed away. I would ask you to please keep her in your prayers. This week I am in Alfreton. It is a beautiful conference center in central southern England. The weather, though, is definitely British. It has rained every day so far. The chapter has been going very well so far, even if there were a couple of glitches to iron out (there always are at chapters). I finished some reading: The Drive on Moscow 1941 by Niklas Zetterling and Anders Frankson This is an outline of the German attempt to take Moscow from the moment that Hitler made the decision to make a final push on the Soviet capital in the fall of 1941 until the moment that this push stalled and was reversed due to a powerful Soviet counter-offensive. The author sticks to the facts on both sides of the story, and presents the reasons why certain moves by either party either succeeded or failed. He premises that the failure of the offensive was due both to horrible weather (mud, and then a great freeze) and the husbanding of resources by the Soviets so that they could make a big push against the invading army. The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague by Dorsey Armstrong This is a 24 lecture series from the Teaching Company on the Black Death (or the great mortality as it was called during the Middle Ages). This was actually one of three great plagues of Bubonic/Pneumonic/Septicemic Plague over the centuries: during the reign of the Emperor Justinian, in the Middle Ages, and at the end of the 19th century in China and India. The author examines the scientific explanations, the various theories for the cause of its great mortality figure, the political and social consequences of the plague, its representation in painting and literature, etc. Critical Conditions by Stephen White A young girl is found with bloody clothes hidden in her room and a bloody gun in her bathroom. Shortly afterwards, the head of a health insurance company who has denied coverage for a treatment of the girl’s sister is found shot dead. The book is from the point of view of the psychiatrist who has to unravel the mystery of what happened in spirte of the fact that the girl refuses to talk. There are a number of twists and spins in the story which turns out to be more gruesome that one first suspected. It is well written. The Guillotine: the History of the World’s Most Notorious Methods of Execution by Charles River Editors This is one of those short accounts of the invention and the use of the guillotine. Ironically, this machine for execution was invented due to the efforts of Dr. Guillotine toward the end of the reign of King Louis XVI as a means of executing prisoners in a more humane manner (thus doing away with hanging, torture, etc.). It was eventually used throughout France and Germany, but did not spread to too many other countries. The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Buillou This is the story of a boy in Sweden who is sent to a monastery when he is miraculously saved from death after an accident. There he learns many useful skills in agriculture, cooking, building, and warfare that he eventually brings back to his homeland. There he is treated as a bit of a sissy and freak until he masterfully shows his skills at fighting. He is eventually exiled to the Holy Land to serve as a Knight as a penalty for having broken some scritural laws. Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams This is not a scientific study, but more of an overview of the discovery of various elements of the periodic table and their use in our daily world. The author provides some interesting information about the process of doing scientific analysis which lead to the finding of many of these elements. He is filled with a sense of wonder at the texture and color of these various minerals. He travels to places where these elements were discovered. He also deals with the invention of the periodic table by Mendeleev. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rome - Cherso (Croatia)

August 24, 2017 Peace and Good, My time baby sitting the Curia in Rome has come to an end. This Monday the entire General Definitory drove from Rome to Cherso, an island off the coast of Croatia, where there is a large friary. We are spending a week here together. It is very relaxing, and the weather is so much better than Rome. The weather in Rome has been incredibly hot and humid. Here we are only a couple of blocks from the sea (the Adriatic) and there is a breeze coming off the water almost the entire day, and the night gets so cool that one actually needs a blanket. It has been very restful, and I have been able to pray well here. We will be here until next Monday. Then it will be back to Rome for a week where we will have a definitory meeting. I have finished some reading: The British Empire by Stephen Sears This is a long series of essays dealing with the rise and fall of the British Empire. They are written from a British perspective. I find that even when the author tries to be impartial, he almost always slips into a pro-English viewpoint concerning various issues. Nevertheless, it was worth reading. Back to the Land by Chelsea Diondolillo This is an odd very short short story. It tells of the arrival at a body farm in Texas where the custodians are doing two experiments: seeing how long it takes for the sun to mumify a body and seeing what vultures do to a body left to their devices. As gruesome as the scene is, the author finds a bit of beauty in the image of the ground covered with migrating monarch butterflies as it is every spring. Caesar is Dead by Jack Lindsay This is the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar and his eventual succession by Octavian, his nephew. This is a historical fiction which paints the various figures in large strokes. Some of the action is melodramatical, but overall it makes the drama more realistic (instead of simply giving a bunch of dates and events). Doctors: The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed Through Biography by Professor Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D. This was a series of twelve lectures from the Teaching Company to outline the growth in scientific medicine throughout the centuries by presenting the biographies of major figures in the history of medicine. This includes people such as Hypocritus, Gallen in ancient times, and more modern figures such as the inventor of antisceptic surgery, anesthesis, and pediatric cardiac care. Overall, the presentations were informative and thorough. They included not only the developments credited to each particular figure, but also a bit of that person’s life story. It was a good way to present the overall message. Phelps, M. William Nathan Hale by M. William Phelps This is the story of the famous patriot in George Washington’s army who was captured by the British and hung as a spy. He is quoted as saying that he regreted that he had only one life to give for his country. That is probably not exactly what he said, but it is close enough. His biographer paints him as a highly religious man from Connecticut. He was a graduate of Yale and a school teacher who responded to the call to duty immediately at the beginning of the war for indipendence. He became a Captain, and volunteered for reconnaissance work behind the British lines (even though this type of work was looked down upon by colonials). Captured by a famous and vicious Tory, he was quickly put to death for his services to his country. Pirates: the Golden Age of Piracy by Hourly History Limited This is a series of books that I obtained either for free for for a small charge on my Kindle about history. This particular one is not all that well written. It tries to outline thousands of years of the history of piracy in a few pages, and does not treat any given topic with the attention that it deserves. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rome

August 16, 2017 Peace and Good, I has been a quiet couple of weeks here in Rome. I am at Santi Apostoli to babysit the General Curia. Most of the friars are away on vacation and someone has to be here to respond to any official request that we receive, such as a call from the Vatican. So far there have only been a couple of phone calls from various parties that needed my attention. The weather is hot, hot, hot. This is true every year in August, and most Italians try to get out of the city to go either to the shore or to the mountains. A number of restaurants and stores even close down for holidays in these weeks. We had a little excitement this past week. Some people squatted in our basilica. They had been kicked out of the building where they had been living illegally, so they chose our basilica to publicize their need. They are mostly immigrants from various countries including Romania and Bolivia. When they first arrived, there was a shouting match between the police and the organizers. Since then, they have pitched their tents in the atrium of the Basilica. Fr. Bruno, who is a real saint, has been providing them with coffee and cookies. We don't want to give them too much lest they become too comfortable there, but we want to show them sympathy and help a little. The city is supposed to be taking care of the situation, but most of the city workers are away these weeks on vacation, so everything is draggin on. I will be here in Rome another week, and then the General Definitory is going together to an island off of Croatia named Cherso in Italian where we will spend a week vacation together. I have finished some reading: Gamal Adel Nasser: The Life and Legacy of Egypt’s Second President by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the life of Nasser, the father of Pan-Arabism and the leader of his country’s path to independence. While not truly a democratic person, for he persecuted any opposition in his own country, he nevertheless tried to modernize his country as much as he could (given the almost inate tendency in Egypt for corruption at every level of the government). He had a vicious hatred for the State of Israel, and led his country in an ill fated war against the Jewish state in 1967 that led to utter defeat in only a few days. The Roman Pantheon: the History and Legacy of Rome’s Famous Landmark by Charles River Editors I have often visited the Pantheon, and have never been all that impressed with the building. I knew that Agrippa, the friend of Augustus Caesar, began its construction, but this book told me its subsequent history. It is the largest unsupported dome built up to the Renaissance. This construction was possible due to an important Roman discovery: cement. It was completely rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian, who was a devout follower of the Greek philosophy of Pythagorus. This is why there are any number of significant structures in the building based upon numbers which the Phthagorians considered to be important. I will look upon the building with much more attention and respect in the future. The History of Ancient Rome by Garrett Fagan This is a 36 lecture series upon the history of Rome from its foundation until the reign of Constantine the Great. Garrett Fagan is a good and entertaining lecturer. He presents a clear portrait of the material without inserting his own opinion in too often. If he does voice his preferences, he backs his argument up sufficiently. The series includes lectures on periods of time, on individuals and on institutions and classes of society during the Roman days. I would highly recommend this series. Dead Irish by John Lescroat A young man in the prime of his life is murdered or commits suicide in Boston. An investigator, whose full time occupation is bartender, agrees to try to prove that this was murder to assist the widow in receiving her life insurance payment. There are a number of twists and turns in the story. This is the first book by Lescroat that I have read. It was an abridged edition, and one of the few abridged versions that I have read or listened to that showed some bad editing. Furthermore, being a priest, I did not like his treatment of a main character who is the parish priest. I found his treatment pedestrian and shallow. I will give him another try, but… The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 by Charles River Editors This is an account of the rebellion of Indian troops in India just as the East India Company which actually controlled the country was getting ready to hand authority over to the British crown. Both sides exacted terrible punishment on the other. It was during this rebellion that the famous black hole of Calcutta affair took place. The British were not above massacuring entire villages: men, women and children. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Terre Haute, IN - Minneapolis, MN - Arroyo Grande, CA - Carey, OH - Ellicott City, MD - Rome

August 3, 2017 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. These past couple of weeks I finished off the visitation of Our Lady of Consolation Province in the MidWest. I also visited California to be present for the investiture of our new novices. Investiture means the day when the new novices first put on their habit. The Ellicott City stop was almost an overnight to visit my dentist. I am midway in the process of having a dental implant, and my dentist has done a great job to fit my schedule into the treatment plan. Rome has been very, very hot these days. It is making the jet lag worse, and I suspect it will take a bit of time to get over it this time.. The visitation is a great process. I get to speak with all of the friars and find out how things are going with them. At the end of the visitation, I make a report for us here in Rome and for the friars in the province as they get ready for their provincial chapter. I am baby sitting at the Curia right now. Most of the friars are out on vacation, and someone from the definitory has to be around just in case there is a call from the Vatican. There is little chance of this because almost everyone at the Vatican is on vacation as well. I have finished some books: The 1918 Spanish Fly Pandemic: The History and Legacy of the World’s Deadliest Influenza Outbreak by Charles River Editors This was one of the most deadly outbreaks of flu in the history of mankind. It must be admitted that it cannot even compare with the lethality of outbreaks of smallpox or Ebola, but nevertheless it wrecked havoc at the end of World War I. In fact, it is believed that more people died from this illness than were killed during the war itself. There have been constant scientific debates over the cause of its lethality. Was it because the population was weakened by hunger due to the war, or was it an especially virulent strain? We are still not sure. Testimony by Anita Shreve This is a very good book which is presented as a series of reports by witnesses to a scandal at a boarding school. It is seen from the point of view of the perpetrators of what amounts to a rape, the victim, the school headmaster, the family of one of the rapists, etc. The story is tragic, and has a number of twists and turns that leave one stunned. It is not a book to read when one is feeling down. It is a painful story, but not gratuitously so. Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ by Alfred Edersheim This is a very good treatment of the world of Israel in the days of Jesus. It is a very dated book, and many of the proposals would have to be updated. Yet there are gems of information contained here and there in the book. It was worth reading, but with the understanding that a more recent book would probably be more useful. Those who held Bastogne by Peter Schrijvers This is a thorough retelling of the siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. It gives a large amount of detail about the attitudes of both the American troops and the Germans (although the author tends to show much less sympathy toward the Germans, which is understandable). A very good dimension of the book is his treatment of the plight of the civilians during the battle. The book probably gives a bit more detail than most people would appreciate, unless one were really into the topic. The Virgin of Guadalupe by Gustavo Vazquez Lozano and Charles River Editors This is a short study of the immage of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the story of its origin. The authors are fair in their telling of the story, without being overly credulous or skeptical. I appreciated this approach. While there are no contemporary written accounts of the events, the accounts written many years later are consistent with traces of information that are available. While the image might have been touched up and slightly changed later in its history, it nevertheless is remarkable and considered to be miraculous by so many of those who have visited its basilica. A number of years ago I had that opportunity, and I was very, very impressed by the faith of the people there. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mount St. Francis, IN - Clarksville, IN - Louisville, IN - Terre Haute, IN

July 15, 2017 Peace and Good, All is well in the heartland. I have been travelling around southern Indiana and northern Kentucky visiting the friars of Our Lady of Consolation Province. They are good men who really try to live a simple life style. The greatest difficulty is that the friars are growing older quickly. Their average age is over 72, and that has consequences on the number of ministries they can handle, etc. The friars are very open to discussing the various needs that they face now and those they will face in the near future. It has been hot, and unusually raining for mid July. There has even been minor flooding in this area. Today I fly on to Minnesota to continue the visitation there. Then early in the week another trip out to California. I have finished some books: The Eruption of Mount St. Helens by Charles River Editors This is another of the Charles River Editors studies of various events and people. These are excellent short overviews of the topics. This one speaks of the time before and during the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I visited the site about five years after the event, and was incredibly impressed by the destruction caused by this eruption. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army by Paul Lockhart This is the story of a German general who came to the US during the revolutionary war and trained the American troops in French and Prussian military drills. This added a great amount of stability to a flatering army, especially during the days of Valley Forge. He remained with the army until the end of the revolutionary war, but continued to live in penury due to his own spending habits but especially due to the lack of gratitude on the part of the Continental Congress (who, to be fair, were sinking under the debts of the revolution with no way to address their need for money). Emma Goldman: The Life and Legacy of the Famous Feminist Icon by Charles River Editors I have always been interested in this unusual figure. Born a Russian Jew, she emigrated to the States and worked with the anarchist movement. She was the girlfriend of Alexander Berkman who tried to assassinate the head of US Steel. She fought for feminist rights and against the involvement of the US in World War I (for which she served time in prison). She was deported along with a shipload of other communist sympathizers to Russia, but quickly left there when she became disenchanted with what she saw of the establishment of the Bolshivik government. She died in France at the beginning of World War I. The Ruins of the Roman Empire by James O’Donnell This is a rambling account of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. Rather than falling to a series of barbarian invasions, the author presents the fall as gradual and due to the continuous migration of various Germanic tribes into the territory of the Romans. Rather than being total barbarians, many of them were partially assimilated allies of the Romans who simply went from mercenary status to that of taking over control of the situation. He also speaks of the situation in Byzantium and the moves of Justinian to re-establish the empire (which he soundly condemns). He also covers the weakness of the eastern empire due to religious controversies among Christians which left that part of the empire open to the Arab invasion. Overall, the book is good, but the author has some very strong opinions here and there. The English Civil War by Hourly History Limited This is an overview of the various wars that were fought to overthrow the Stuart regime in Great Britain in the late 17th century and the rise of Oliver Cromwell. It is one of the short versions of the story, not unlike the books produced by the Charles River Editors. These endeavors give a good overview of the material in a form that allows for a quick study. The Sea Peoples: The Mysterious Nomads who Ushered in the Iron Age by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Sea Peoples who seems to have been a mix of nomads (by sea and land) who were the early Greeks. They are most famous to us by the fact that they included the Philistines who were such a bane to the early Israelites. They conquered many lands including the Hittite Empire, largely through their advanced military tactics. They were eventually defeated by the forces of the Pharaoh in Egypt, but not before they caused great destruction throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rome - Mount St. Francis, IN

July 4, 2017 Peace and Good, Happy Independence Day! I spent the past week in Rome at our definitory. We actually finished a bit early, so I was able to work on a couple of projects. One was to get ahead in daily podcast reflections since I will be travelling a lot this month. I was quite successful on that. The other was to do some editing for an Asian Christian magazine that is being published by our Theological Faculty in Rome. I am the English editor of the magazine, and some of the authors really don't know English grammar all that well. On Saturday I was able to finish the second last article for a publication coming out later this year. In these next weeks, I must finish the last one. On Sunday I flew from Rome to Dallas and then on to Louisville. In June I did a visitation of the houses of Our Lady of Consolation Province in the Southwest. Now I am starting the Midwest portion of the province. I will be in the States until the end of the month when I then head back to Rome. The weather in Rome has been uncommonly hot and humid until the last day I was there. Then suddenly the humidity broke and we had a great day. That evening we had a cook out on the fourth floor terrazza of our friary, and it was a glorious evening. I finished some reading in these days: Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons This is the true story of a ship wreck in the islands off Australia in the 17th century The boat was a treasure boat on its way to Jakarta to bring money to buy the spices that were so important for the Dutch East India Company. While the admiral in charge of the boat takes sailors on a four week trip to seek assistance in Jakarta, a band of unscrupulous pirate like mutineers seizes control and begin to cull men, women and children in order to cut down the numbers so that those who remain might survive. The murders take on their own logic, however, as the band becomes more tyranical and murderous. It is an awful story that leaves one truly shaken. Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn This is the first novel by Vince Flynn that I have read. I have seen his name and titles for his books, so I was interested in reading this book. It is about an American anti-terrorist Rambo type figure who is fighting against the Islamic attack on this country. The evil figure in the book is the minister of cult in Saudi Arabia who is secretly funding an attempt to assassinate the hero. As a spy novel, it was quite good and avoids some of the more egregious mistakes of some of the other authors in this genre. Deng Ziaoping: A Revolutionary Life by Alexander Pantsov This is an extensive biography of the leader of China after Mao. It gives an honest appraisal of the figure, including the good elements as well as the bad (which verge on the evil). It shows how he manages to survive a number of falls from grace, and how he tried to balance his life and his politics in order to survive in the Kafkaesque era of Mao. The book gives a good overview of the infighting before, during and after the Maoist communist era. A Case of Need by Michael Crichton This is an older novel, written when Abortion was illegal in most states. It takes place in Boston, and a pathologist at a hospital investigates the accusation against a fellow doctor that he performed an abortion that resulted in the death of a young woman. The doctor blamed does perform secret abortions, but he is not the one who performed this abortion. The complicating factor is that the young woman is the daughter of an old Boston family who have considerable pull in the city. Roman Britain by Henry Freeman This book speaks of the inhabitants and culture of the inhabitants of Roman Britain before the invasions of Julius Caesar (unsuccessful) and that of Claudius Caesar (successful). It tries to identify the inhabitants of Britain before the arrival of the Romans (which is quite difficult), it speaks of how Roman culture was already quite present even before the Romans arrived, and it deals with how the Romans did and did not affect the culture of the British Isles. Insomnia by Stephen King This is a rather long book which deals with an elderly man and woman who are suffering from insomnia. This leads them to be able to see the auras that surround people around them. They also encounter three mysterious figures who are like the Fates of Greek myths. Two of them are neutral harvesters of those who are dying, but one is evil and capricious. The novel is intertwined with the story of an abortion proponent who is coming to Darey to give a speech, and the attempt of radical anti-abortionists to stop her at any cost. The book presupposes other levels of reality which the two elderly heroes are able to enter due to their gifts received as recompense for the insomnia. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude