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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Chicago - Rome - Ndola, Zambia

October 25, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished my workshop on the Letter of St. Paul with the postulants in Chicago and flew back to Rome last Friday. I arrived in Rome on Saturday morning, and just had enough time to rest up a bit, repack, and head out to Zambia to give a workshop. I am in Ndola to give a workshop to those who are out of formation from 9 to 5 years. This is a critical point in the formation of the friars for they are just getting out of formation houses and entering into friaries where the life is quite different. The young men are very idealistic, but there is always the danger that this will create two groups in the province: the young vs. the old. My job this week is to encourage them to continue to be idealistic and to challenge the status quo, but to try to do that without creating divisions. I am also here to help the friars take stock of where they are. This is the point of the friars' life when they develop good or bad habits that will follow them all throughout their lives. I am very impressed with the 12 young men on this workshop. I give some presentations from scripture, but I also open it up a lot to let them talk about their experiences. Theoretically we do this in our monthly house chapters, but it does not happen all that often. Thus, I hope that we are modelling what can be in the future. I have finished some reading: Washington Burning by Les Standford This is the account of the building and then the burning of Washington DC during the War of 1812. It dwells upon the career of the chief architect, Pierre L’Enfant. While he was probably a genius, he was also a very difficult man with whom one had to work. The choice of Washington as the site of the federal government was controversial, even after its official buildings were burned down. The book gives a good history of the events. The Polish Officer by Alan Furst This is one of the books on spy craft in the period just before the beginning of World War II and during the early days of the war. This one deals with a Polish officer who is called upon to spy first in Poland, then in France, and finally back in Poland. The books are realistic, with and incredibly good psychological insight into the people involved. They are not James Bond stories, but rather real people who are involved in incredibly difficult circumstances. I would highly recommend any of Furst’s books (this being the fifth or sixth that I have read). The Bozeman Trail: the History and Legacy of the Exploration Route that Let to Red Cloud’s War by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the major trails used by early settlers in the West, this one running through the Powder River territory. It caused a major Indian War to arise with the Sioux, during which the Crow tried to remain neutral. Eventually, with the transcontinental railroad, the trail was abandoned. Then Sings My Soul by Robert Morgan This is the history of 150 of the religious songs used throughout the English speaking world, especially England and the US. Most of the songs are Protestant, but many would be recognized by a Catholic community as well. There is a short biography of each of the song’s authors, and a bit of why the song meant so much to that individual. Map Thief by Michael Blanding This is the story of a map vendor who eventually became a map thief, E. Forbes Smiley. As part of the background material, there is a good description of the practice of map collecting. There are those who buy old maps for wall decorations, and there are the more academically intentioned collectors who build their map collection upon a theme (e.g. early colonial maps of a particular area, world maps during a certain era, etc.). The vendor tried to live a life style beyond his means, and to finance it began to steal maps from libraries and rare map collections, thereby betraying the very people who had supported him in his research. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 15, 2018

London - San Antonio, Texas - Chicago

October 15, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished off my trip to London and flew out to San Antonio to visit the house of formation there. I was only there for abour 48 hours, but it was a very good visit. I had some nice discussions with a couple of friars there. Then I flew into Chicago on Friday. I will be giving a week workshop to the postulants (8 of them) on the Letters of St. Paul. I enjoy doing this every year. It gives me the opportunity to get to know the men in formation a bit. Saturday, I was able to be at a 25th anniversary of the ordination of fr. Brad Milunski. He was one of my students at Granby many years ago. He is now the director of the formation program here. I have finally finished with my bronchitis. I am usually very healthy, but when I get a bad cold it almost always becomes bronchitis. I will have to mention that to the doctor on my next visit there in November. I have finished some reading: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the convention that led to the production of the constitution. It started as an attempt to revise the Articles of Confederation that had been the unifying principle for the US right after the War of Independence. Madison and Hamilton worked to make the revision more substantial, giving rise to what we today know as our constitution. The short book records the series of compromises between big states and small, slave and free states, those who wanted a central authority and those who wanted more states’ rights, etc. Hadrian’s Wall: the History and Construction of Ancient Rome’s Most Famous Defensive Fortification by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River account of the construction and history of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England/Scotland. Hadrian had decided that the Roman Empire was large enough, and instead of setting out on new conquests, he decided to build barriers in those places where barbarians might threaten settlements. The wall seems also to have been built to regulate trade (and taxes) between the Picts of Scotland and settlements farther south. A Canticle for Lebowitz by Walter Miller This is a book that I had read in high school many years ago, and I enjoyed it as much this time around. It is about a post-nuclear war period in which a monastery of monks dedicated to Lebowitz, an engineer become monk who protected books during an anti-intellectual rebellion and who died a martyr to the cause tries to revive civilization. It tells the story at a number of historic periods after the initial event. The author has a sense of humor, and asks important philosophic questions about progress and responsibility, etc. Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain and the Fateful Summer of 1940 by Norman Moss This book covers the period at the beginning of the Second World War, especially dealing with what was happening in Great Britain and the reaction to events in the US. It is well written, if at times a bit hard on the US for not getting involved early enough. I could easily recommend it to others. Jason and the Argonauts: the Origins and History of the Ancient Greek’s Most Famous Mythological Hero by Andrew Scott and Charles River Editors This book is an overview of the story of Jason and tells of its importance in Greek culture and also of its historic resonances. Like all of the Charles River books, it is short and really only gives an overview, but it does that very well. The Life and Legacy of the Prophet Jeremiah by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of the life and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. I found the scholarship below the level of many of the other books in this series. The actual ministry of Jeremiah is handled well, but the author accepts as unconditional truth what is really just a theory, at times a theory that does not have widespread belief. I was disappointed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 8, 2018

Rome - London - Oxford - London

October 8, 2018 Peace and Good, I have finished my time in Rome for a while. In the last couple of days, I have been working on a little project and finally made some progress on it. I want to transcribe all of the homilies that I preached during the Extraordinary Chapter (at the request of some friars and the Minister General). While I was recovering from bronchitis, I just did not have the energy. Now that I am feeling better, I finished about a third of the project. I hope to have it completed by the end of the month. I flew to London on the 5th and had some meetings with the custos and his vicar. We were able to get a lot of business done in a relatively short amount of time. Saturday I headed up to Oxford to visit our formation community, and came back Sunday evening. Now I will be in London until Wednesday when I will fly out to San Antonio, Texas to another of our houses of formation. The weather here is cool and overcast, a normal British fall. I have spent many, many hours in conversation with a number of friars here, which is always good. I have finished some reading: The Storm of the Century by Al Roker This is an account of the hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. I had already read another book on this topic called Isaac’s Storm, and this book was as good if not better than that one. This is the Al Roker who is the meteorologist on TV. He has a lot of good quotes from people who lived through the storm. The final toll of this disaster was somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 when the storm surge from a very powerful hurricane that the weather bureau had not forecast completely covered the island on which Galveston was built. The FBI by RJ Parker Vol 1 This is a series of stories about some of the FBI’s most infamous cases. One or two of the cases is treated in a very defensive manner, but the rest are simply reporting what happened with cases like the mobster cases in the 1930’s and some of the more recent cases in the recent decades. William Penn: The Life and Legacy of the English Quaker who Founded Pennsylvania by Charles River Editors This short book on the life of William Penn is quite well done with a number of long quotes from Penn’s own writings. He was a convert to being a Quaker, a choice that landed him in prison a number of times. He was at times favored by the court (especially as being the son of a war hero), and at other times ignored or even persecuted. He was the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania which was one of the most respectful colonies toward other religions and toward Native Americans. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson This was a very, very good book on the life and career of this incredible man. I found the treatment as good as that of Ross King who has written a series of very good books on the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo, on the dome of the cathedral in Florence by Brunelleschi, on the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, etc. The author does not delve into some of the more strange theories on Leonardo’s art. He describes his creative process which was the product of an insatiable curiosity. I highly recommend this book. The Cathars: The History and Legacy of the Gnostic Christian Sect During the Middle Ages by Charles River Editors The Cathars, also known as the Albigensians, were a heresy that developed in southern France in the 12th century AD. It was an offshoot of a heresy that developed in the Balkans known as the Bogomils. This religion was very dualistic seeing the earth as evil and not a product of God’s goodness. They were highly persecuted by the Catholic Church. The author of this book is not objective in any way, not even treating those moments when the Cathars did terrible things to Catholics. He also does not treat many of the political questions that had an influence on how they were treated (e.g. the attempt of the French king to gain political power in this part of France). The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War by Mark Stille The beginning of this book is an outline of the history of the Japanese navy during the Second World War. Then the author goes into an evaluation and examination of each type of naval vessel that the Japanese built and used. This speaks about various classes of ships, but then goes on to speak of the history of each ship in that class. It is a little more information than I really wanted to handle. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, September 28, 2018

Rome - Nisiporesti, Romania - Rome

September 28, 2019 Peace and Good, Over these past couple of weeks I have been showing some friends and acquaintances around Rome. This is the one time that I get to see some of the sites, so I really enjoyed it all. The last guest left this Tuesday morning, so it is back to the normal schedule. Furthermore, on Friday a group of us flew to Romania for the beatification of Veronica Antal. She was a consecrated lay woman who was murdered during the days of communism. Her cause has been proposed since I first taught in Romania in the 1990's, and it was finally approved this past year. There were over 12,000 people and over 300 priests present. Her village is not all that big, but the church is very large. In fact, when the previous pastor rebuilt it, he was accused of overbuilding, of making something way too large. Now it is clear that he was prudent for there will be many pilgrims to her tomb in these coming years. Sunday we came back to Rome, and these past days we have been meeting in definitory. This was a bit shorter than most meetings, for we finished at Friday lunch (while we usually go through to Saturday lunch). I will be here in Rome until the day after St. Francis Day, October 5th. Then I head out on one of my usual journies: London, Oxford, San Antonio, Texas, Chicago, Rome and Ndola, Zambia. I have finished some reading: Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty by Kate Hennessy Kate Hennessy is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, so this biography is an insider story of who Dorothy was and especially her relationship with her daughter Tamar. We hear a love/hate sort of relationship in which Dorothy was asking something of Tamar (to live as a faithful Catholic) which just wasn’t in her. We see Dorothy torn between acting as a mother and serving the ever growing needs of her Catholic Worker movement. This book presents Dorothy as a real person and not as a saint on a pedestal. Lagash and Eridu: the History and the Legacy of the Sumerian City by Charles River Editors These are actually two short books on Sumerian cities and the archaeological evidence that remains of their cultures, especially their religious devotional practices. They are a bit technical for the average reader, but they do provide a good amount of information for consideration of this culture that existed in Mesopotamia before the arrival of the Semitic cultures of the following generations. The Panic of 1907 by Sean Carr This is a financial crisis that I had never heard about. It was the crisis that led to the foundation of the Federal Reserve Bank. J.P. Morgan, rather than the tyrant and villain he is often portrayed as being, turns out to be the elder statesman who manages to limit the damage caused by the financial situation which began due to the failure of a financial scheme by some investors. The author gives a good analysis of what factors go into the origin and possible control of a crisis such as this. Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly This is one of O’Reilly’s historic studies. This one deals with the closing months of the war in the Pacific during the Second World War. He gives a lot of detail and valuable information. I just wish that he did not have to be so polemic in his attack on Obama. It is as if he has to blame Obama for everything, even the Second World War. At the same time, this book and the one that I read on the death of General Patton are worth considering. Shakespeare: the World as a Stage by Bill Bryson This is a rather good biography of Shakespeare, with a long section at the end which debunks the many theories that propose that someone else wrote his plays or that he never even existed. The book does not go into the plays in any depth, but does give some good background information (admitting that there is not much information available on who Shakespeare was, where he lived, what he did for long stretches of time, etc.). Bill Bryson usually write humorous travel books, but he handled this particular topic quite well. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This is volume two of what must be intended to be a three or four volume series on the secretary to King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell. It is a sympathetic portrait, where I have seen other versions of the story which portray him in a darker light. The first volume treated his dealings with the divorce of Henry from Katherine of Aragon. This one deals more with what happened to the marriage of Henry with Ann Boleyn. The author does a good job of creating a scene. Henry comes across as a spoiled egomaniac, which is probably not all that far off the mark. It was good reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude