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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


December 13, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been at home in Rome for the past couple of weeks. In December we have a two week Definitory meeting, and we are reaching the end of the second week. There hasn't been as much business as usual for the term is winding down. We have our General Chapter in May when all of the offices are up for grabs, so a lot of our time now is spent in getting ready for that meeting. The weather has turned cold, at least for Rome. It is close to freezing each morning. It is overcast a good amount of time, which is normal December weather. I head out to California this coming Saturday to give a workshop to our Novices on the Gospels and the Psalms. I finished some reading: Churchill’s Empire by Richard Toye This was an excellent treatment on how Churchill viewed the British Empire. He is famously quoted as saying that he did not become Prime Minister to oversee the dissolution of the empire. While he fought for home rule in Ireland, he fought against its independence and that of India with vehemence. He was racist – not in the sense of being unsympathetic toward those who suffered under colonialism, but in the sense of seeing the white person as being the natural ruler of the universe. He was in many ways Victorian or Edwardian, a man whose services in World War II was indispensable, but who outlived his times. Uxmal: the History of the Ancient Mayan City by Jesse Harasta and Charles River Editors This is a short report on the city of Uxmal in the Yucatan Peninsula which was important during the Mayan period. It deals with the politics of the city and the surrounding area. It examines the archaeological remains of the city which were found at a later date than many of the other Mayan ruins. Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome by Anthony Everitt Anthony Everitt is a masterful author of the Roman Empire. This book deals with the emperor who reigned at the time when the empire decided that it was large enough and it went from an aggressive imperialism to trying to rule that which it already controlled. It deals with the personality of Hadrian, which was a bit of a mixed bag. It deals with the politics of Rome when it was ruled by someone whom it considered to be a newcomer who did not have the noble pedigree of many of the families of Rome. The book is very informative and worthwhile to read. Meander by Jeremy Seal The English word meander means to wander here and there. It comes from a river in Asia Minor which does exactly that. This is a travel book about a man who travelled on the Meander River from its source down to the sea by canoe. It tells of the many people he met along the way, as well as the fate of the river which is used for agricultural and industrial purposes which has greatly degraded the quality of the water contained therein. It is really quite a good travel book. The Royal Air Force in World War II by Charles Rive Editors The history of the English Air Force is famous for the way that it defended England during the Battle of Britain. This book covers the history of the air force before the war as well, speaking why it was not all that well prepared when war came. Furthermore, it deals with the question of the type of bombing it did during the war, going from precise target bombing to area bombing of cities. Mining for Michigan by Charles River Editors The northern peninsula of Michigan is quite famous for its mineral deposits. The most important for much of its history was copper which was mined and used even in prehistoric times. There is also gold and silver in small quantities and iron ore in much larger quantities. As always with Charles River Editors books, this presentation is not all that long, but it is quite informative. Have a good week, especially as we draw close to Christmas. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ellicott City, Md - Rome

December 3, 2018 Peace and Good, I have returned to Rome following the North Carolina visitations. Last week was a chance to catch up with some writing projects. This week and next we will be meeting in definitory. I think that the definitory will not be full days throughout the week because there is not a lot to finish these days. We have already done a lot of work preparing for the coming General Chapter this coming May and June. The weather is quite rainy here in Rome. When I arrived last Sunday, in fact, there was quite a bit of flooding in the streets. This is typical of this time of year. I have finished the following reading: The Great Famine: the History of the Irish Potato Famine during the Mid-19th Century by Charles River Editors This is the story of the great potato famine in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century. It speaks of the reason why Irish were so dependent on potatoes (because their lands had been divided and sub-divided among the owner’s sons). It deals with the political question of whether this was a subtle genocide on the part of the English to reduce the population of Ireland (probably not that culpable, but negligent all the same). It deals with the migration of millions of Irish to Australia, America and Canada to escape the disaster. Liberty’s First Crisis by Charles Slack This is the story of the enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts during the reign of President John Adams. These acts were intended to silence the opponents of the administration (which was Federalist) and their use was a dangerous attack on the freedom of speech. The book covers why they were enacted, what their consequences were, and how they were allowed to expire when Jefferson won the presidency. One insight that I received from the book is the idea that the founding fathers considered party politics to be a form of rebellion. They wanted everyone to be housed under one big tent of common interest. It was only with the rise of Jefferson and his band of followers that the leaders of the country accepted the idea of political parties as a necessary corrective to the body politic of the country (that one party would correct the excesses of the other through elections). The Election of 1828 by Charles River Editors This is the story of how Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Adams had won the election of 1824 by winning the approval of Henry Clay whom he then appointed his Secretary of State. Many saw this a dirty deal, for Jackson had actually won the most votes. The rematch of 1828 proved that the people agreed with the assessment, besides the fact that the election was pitting a popular war hero against a quiet diplomat. Jackson’s victory led to the rise of political power for the western states (western for those days were states like Kentucky and Tennessee). And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov This is the story of a group of Cossocks right before World War I and in the early days of the war. Sholokhov was seen as a great reporter of an all but lost culture. The Cossocks were a mixed group of Russian and other Slavic run away serfs and of others who married into their race. They lived in the southern steppes, and often served as the cavalry force of the Tsars, even against his own people when they rebelled against him. Mutiny: the history and legacy of the mutinies about the HMS Wager, the HMS Bounty, the Amistad and the Battleship Potemkin by Charles River Editors This is one of the combination books that Charles River is putting out which combines a series of their smaller books in one larger collection. This one deals with a rebellion aboard the Wager which involved a ship whose crew left their officers to die off the coast of Chile, the famous mutiny of the Bounty, the Amistad which was the story of a group of slaves from Africa whom had been carried to Cuba (where the slave trade had been outlawed) and who won their freedom, and the Potemkin which had a mutiny during 1905 when there was a rising against the Tsar. Top Cases of the FBI volume 2 by RJ Parker This is a very strange collection of poorly put together stories about the FBI and its war against terrorism, white collared crime, etc. The first volume was much better. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Chicago - Ellicott City - Durham, NC - Burlington, NC - Winston Salem, NC - Pittsboro, NC - Ellicott City

November 24, 2018 Peace and Good, After our meeting in Chicago, I flew into Baltimore and took off an a trip to North Carolina to visit four of our friaries. I had never seen them before, and it was great to spend time with the friars. In Durham, our friars are the chaplains at North Carolina University and Duke, as well as taking care of an African-American parish. In Burlington, they take care of a large parish (anglo and hispanic) and are chaplains at Elon University. At Winston Salem they take care of a large parish (anglo and hispanic). In Pittsboro, they take care of a small Hispanic and Anglo parish. The last setting, however, is about to change, for there are plans to build housing for about 60,000 people, along with a center for high tech industries. These past few days I have been in Ellicott City. I got to visit our friars in formation in Silver Spring, especially for the Thanksgiving meal. I took care of a few other meetings as well. Today, Saturday, I am heading back to Rome. This week I will have time to catch up my writing projects. Then we have two weeks of definitory. I finished some reading: Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor I have read a number of books by Beevor. He is an unparalleled war historian. This one deals with the Battle of the Bulge at the end of World War II. He gives a tremendous amount of information in a way that is not overwhelming. He tries to mildly defend Montgomery (who, like himself, was British), but he is merciless against General Bradley (which is odd, considering his high reputation among many army people). The book is well worth reading. Water, the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization by Steven Solomon This book deals with the use of water for transportation, trade, growing crops, sanitation, manufacturing, etc. It speaks of the exploitation of water in dams, streams and rivers, underground sources, etc. It covers over 3,000 years of history and the whole world. It really is a monumental work, and its last section dealing with the challenges of water policy in the modern world is worth reading even by itself. This is an important book for anyone interested in the use of water and its misuse. Lenin’s Brother: the Origins of the October Revolution by Philip Pomper The older brother of Lenin, Sasha, was arrested in a plot to assassinate the Tsar. He and his band were convicted and he was executed. This book speaks of Sasha’s life and character and his conversion to revolution. It compares and contrasts Sasha with Lenin, and delves into the question of whether this execution hardened the character of Lenin so that he would later become a merciless executioner of his enemies. Catilina’s Riddle by Steven Saylor Catalina is usually seen as a revel in the Republican period of Rome, defeated by the famous Cicero who was counsel at that time. This book which centers on this particular period of history from the viewpoint of a type of Roman detective who is known as Gordianus the Seeker questions whether the portrayal of either Catalina or Cicero is completely valid. It also presents some aspects of Roman life that we would consider horrible and explains how they were simply accepted as what was normal. It deals a bit with the question of class struggle that led to the eventual destruction of the Republic. I did not find this volume quite as good as Saylor’s others, but it was good enough to enjoy. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kimeade and Don Yaeger This is a short account of the small war that the young US navy fought against Barbary pirates during the days of President Jefferson. It was not an unmitigated success until the last days of the war when the dedication of the US forces to their mission managed to force the various Barbary (North African) emirates to accede to the demands of the Us (without the US having to pay any ransom money or having to bribe the not to attack US ships). The authors use this as an object lesson in how to fight for our rights when we are endangered by outlaw (and especially Muslim) forces. The 47th Samurai by Stephen Hunter This is a book which speaks about a valuable sword that a US ex-marine gives to a Japanese family in honor of their father, but who are then murdered by a mobster (Jakuza). The American studies how to fight like a Samurai and defends the rights of the family who were treated so badly. It is a bit of a swashbuckler story, but not all that bad. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, November 5, 2018

Ndola, Zambia - Rome - Assisi - Rome - Chicago

November 5, 2018 Peace and Good, The zero to five workshop for friars who had recently finished their formation programs in Zambia went quite well. I always find that these workshops are a challenge because I must bridge the cultural divisions, but it was well worth it. The men are very idealistic, which is good in the young. My job was to encourage their enthusiasm but also to help them to balance it with prudence. This is always a challenge for the young friars. My trip back from Zambia was good. I stopped off in Addis Ababa on the way back (which was just a stop over of a few hours). The airport is much improved over what I remember from previous trips. Let's hope that they keep working at it. This past week I was in Rome for our definitory. This meeting was a bit shorter than normal for we did not meet on Monday afternoon, Thursday (because of the Feast of All Saint's Day) and Saturday. Yet, the meeting itself was quite full. We got good news. The constitutions that we produced at our Extraordinary Chapter were approved by the Vatican. They will be promulgated at the end of the month. Now we have to keep working to get ready for our next General Chapter, the Ordinary one, starting this May. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Chicago for a meeting of our federation. That will last until Thursday, and I head out to Baltimore on Friday. I finished some reading: 1939: Countdown to War by Richard Overy This book deals with the months before the German attack on Poland during World War II. It speaks of the negotiations, the various motives of the parties involved, and the sad ending to the story which plunged the Polish people into a hellish existence for the next several years. The account is well written. The Psalms by Artur Weiser This is a masterful and long treatment of each of the psalms, giving the main message, some cultural background, the spiritual significance of the message, etc. It is not a book that should be used by someone who wants a short and understandable outline of the psalms. It is much more involved, but a valuable research resource. Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier This speaks of the career of President Eisenhower, but especially of his last days in the presidency and his concerns about the accession of the relatively inexperienced President Kennedy. The author goes into length speaking about the last address to the nation that Eisenhower made, especially how he warned of the dangers of the nation being directed by the Military-Industrial Complex. The author shows how this most military man actually fought to keep the nation out of conflict. It is a good treatment. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly This is one of the killing series that Bill O’Reilly and his collaborators produced. There are parts of this book which are worthwhile, but the scholarship is not great all the way through. There are some facts he mentions which a just wrong, and others are oddly stated (e.g. presenting the Roman Senate in the last days of the Republic as a democracy when it clearly was an aristocracy that was no longer functioning for the good of the republic). The book is good as a meditation, as long as one realizes that the author has a bit of an ax to grind at times, and is a bit loose with the history at other times (inventing dialogues and intentions that are not documented in the available sources). The First Man in Rome by Coleen McCullough This is the story of the careers of Marius and Sulla, two important generals of Rome in the generation before the accession of Julius Caesar. It is surprisingly good. This is a historic fiction, but the characters are presented as three dimensional and one can develop a sense of their motivations (which were not always all that honorable). Madam President by William Hazelgrove This is an excellent treatment of how Edith Wilson hid the illness (severe stroke) of President Wilson along with the aid of his doctor. Even cabinet officials were often not allowed to see the president. Edith Wilson, in effect, was the acting president of the US. She was more concerned with the health of her husband than of the good of the nation (which is exactly what she said at times). I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude