Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rome

April 18, 2019 Happy Holy Thursday I have been in Rome since the definitory returned from Croatia this past week. The weather is slowly becomming nicer. Spring has begun. There have been no meetings this week, so I am using the time to get caught up with daily reflections and articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua. This coming Monday, Easter Monday, I will be flying out to Montreal for a meeting with the Provincials of our federation (US, Canada, Australia and Great Britain/Ireland). Then I will be doing a canonical visitation to the three friaries in Montreal. I have finished some reading: Operation Whisper: the Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen by Barnes Carr This is the story of the careers of two Soviet spies during World War II and after. Their lives and careers began in the US, but after near discovery, they fled and reestablished their spying network in Great Britain. They were only slowly ferreted out by the British secret services and tried and jailed for their activities. United States and the Middle East: 1914-9/11 by Salim Yaqub This is a series of 24 lectures on the history of the rapport of the US to the Middle East from the time of World War I up to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The professor gives a balanced evaluation of the attitudes and policies both of the US and of their Middle Eastern partners/enemies. In a time of hysterical rantings by politicians, this is a good, well researched presentation. El Escorial: the History and Legacy of Spain’s Most Famous Royal Site by Charles River Editors This is one of the most famous of the palaces of the Spanish royal family, built under the reign of Philip II. It was an incredibly extensive palace (and monastery complex). IT is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture. While the religious part of the complex are intricately ornamented, the living quarters were much simpler, marking the religious tendencies of the king. Emperors of Rome by Garrett Fagan This is a very informative and entertaining series of 24 lectures by the Teaching Company on the history of the Roman emperors from the time of the Caesars up to the time of Constantine. The professor is Irish and peppers his lectures with gems of his Irish humor. He gives enough detail both historically and also socially to get a good picture of what was happening. He is not afraid to give his own opinion on controversies, but he clearly states that this is what it is, and he back up his arguments with good reasoning. It would highly recommend this series. Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian: The Lives and Career’s of Nazi Germany’s Legendary Tank Commanders by Charles River Editors This is one of those short biographies of two of the most important army commanders for Germany during the Second World War. Both were involved in the blitzkrieg attacks on Poland and France. Guderian then was sent off into the Soviet Union while Rommel ended up fighting with the Afrikacorp in North Africa where he obtained a reputation for incredible daring. The careers of both figures were fated for failure due to the interventions of Hitler in the fighting order and the lack of supplies reaching the North African front. Eventually Rommel was implicated for some involvement in the plot to kill Hitler and was forced to commit suicide Tiwanaku and Puma Punka: the History and Legacy of South America’s Most Famous Ancient Holy Site by Charles River Editors This is the story of an archaeological ruin outside of La Paz in Bolivia, near the shore of Lake Titicaca. It is from a civilization that preceded the Inca, and the purpose of the site seems to have been a cross between the Vatican and Disneyland. The walls of the structure were constantly being moved from one place to another. This does not seem to have been an administrative center but rather some sort of site for a mystery religion in which people descended into the depths of a structure to be reborn into the light. Have a Blessed Easter Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Rome - Vepric, Croatia

April 9, 2019 Peace and Good, These past days have been quite unusual for the entire General Definitory travelled to a Marian shrine on the coast in Croatia, Vepric. The first week of this trip was our annual retreat. I gave daily reflections for the friars, and the rest of the retreat was quiet time. On Saturday we visited Medjugorie. This was my first visit to the site. I was impressed by the faith of the people, but I cannot say that I was deeply moved by it. The one Marian shrine that I truely felt moved was Guadalupe in Mexico. We have also visited the friars and the cities of Split and Sibenik. They are both on the coast. Split is beautiful and well developed for tourism. It has an ancient town center that in part dates back to the end of the 3rd century A.D. (for it contains parts of a palace of the emperor Diocletian). Sibenik is a lovely little town, but it has not yet been fully prepared for tourism (although they are working to that end). This week we have a couple of days of definitory, our last one. Then Friday we will be heading back to Rome. We have hit a bit of rain here, but it has always been in times that we were travelling or meeting, so we still had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The place where we are staying is right near the coast, which is backed up with mountains. I finished some reading: A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer This is the story of how the massacre of the Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda happened. It gives information about the colonial past which led to many of the tensions between the tribes. It gives an accurate picture of the months leading up to the disaster. There is also the story of Paul Kagame, who led the rebellion against the government that had sponsored the murder, and is now the autocratic president of the country. Kinzer does not defend all of Kagame’s policies, but he does put them in perspective (speaking extensively about the need for stability and healing). It then deals with the question of how the present government is working on reconciliation along with economic development. Kinzer is very much in favor of Kagame’s policies without being blinded to the difficulties. Dance between Flames: Berlin Between the Wars by Anton Gill This is the story of what went on in Berlin between the two world wars. The city became a byword for decadence. Yet, there were great cultural developments in painting, writing, music, drama, etc. Gill speaks about the political developments and the terrible economic disaster (with incredible rates of inflation) in the Weimar Republic. Gill paints a picture in which one can almost understand why so many rejected the decadence while choosing the disastrous alternative of autocratic government under the Nazi’s. He also speaks of the beginning of the persecution of the Jews and leftist by the Nazi’s. The Opium Wars by Charles River Editors In the 19th century Great Britain suffered a terrible deficit with China. They bought silk and tea and ceramics from China, but the Chinese bought very little from Great Britain. This meant that silver was being sent to China and not returning. The British tried to address this issue by shipping opium to China to addict the population there. They fought two wars with China in order to force it to open up to trade with the West, but especially to ship their drugs to them. There is no way that these horrible wars could be rationalized. Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World by Paul Cartledge The story of the 300 Spartan troops has been told over and over again throughout history. The blocked the Persian invasion of possibly up to a million troops for far longer than anyone would have expected at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. This book speaks of the cultures of Greece and Persia, of the reasons for the invasion, and of the significance (in their times and up to the present times) of this battle which technically was a defeat but which was truly a victory of spirit. Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart This clever little book speaks of how certain insects cause so much pain and damage to people and vegetation. It speaks of the specific insect, how it works, where it was found, which bugs it is related to, etc. It gives a lot of information in a very short format. Gaudete et Esultate by Pope Francis This apostolic exhortation by the Holy Father speaks of everyday holiness. The pope tries to get people to avoid excesses of theory or practice. It speaks of how to apply the Beatitudes to everyday life. It speaks of how to avoid sin through penitential practices. This pope writes in a style that is very approachable, understandable. It would highly recommend it to anyone. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Buffalo - Rome

March 30, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome after having travelled to Buffalo for the funeral of one of our friars, fr. Canice Connors. The trip back was long, especially since I had to travel from Buffalo to Baltimore where I had an eight hour layover, and then to London where there was another five hour layover. All went well, but a trip like that takes a lot of wear and care on the body. It was good to be in Buffalo for a few days and to be able to see relatives. I don't get to see them often because I am always on the road in other parts of the world. I have been working on a translation from Italian to English for some documents for our General Chapter. I finished the work this morning, so tomorrow I will dedicate to doing some daily reflections for the podcast site. Monday I and the other definitors are heading out to Croatia for a couple of weeks: for our annual retreat and a meeting of our definitory. The weather has warmed up nicely. I was able to walk outside today without a sweater. Spring is here. I finished some reading: The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War by Charles River Editors This is a double book which deals first with the six day war when the Israelis defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and then the war which occurred a decade later in which Israel again won when Egypt invaded it, but just barely. Even though the treatment is not all that long, it nevertheless gives good information about the politics, the actual fighting and the consequences of choices made by the various countries and their leaders. Munich, 1938 by David Faber This has to be one of the books that has most disgusted me in recent years. It is not the book itself that bothered me, but rather the story it tells. It gives the account of how Chamberlain, the British prime minister, caved in to Hitler’s demands to allow the Anschluss uniting Germany with Austria and also the invasion of Czechoslovakia, taking the Sudetenland. The British wanted to maintain peace, and treated the Czechs with incredible disdain while they claimed to be honest brokers in the process. One can clearly see the dangers of appeasement which inevitably led to the Second World War. 1920: The Year that made the Decade Roar by Eric Burns Over these past few years, I have read a series of books that speak about a particular year. All of them are interesting, but this particular book is one of the best. It speaks about all sorts of dimensions of what was going on in America right after World War I. It speaks of the corruption of the Harding administration. It presents information on the women’s right movement, especially to get the vote. It also speaks about the prohibition which began that year. Burns presents tons of information in a very pleasant way. The Fall of Constantinople by Captivating History This is a short history of the city of Constantinople (today Istanbul). It also deals with its decline after its sacking by the crusaders of the 4th crusade in which the crusaders attacked fellow Christians and not the Muslims who they had vowed to conquer. In the latter years, the city was a small enclave without any hinterland from which it could draw forces. It was finally conquered when the Islamic forces brought many cannons with them which could breach the considerable walls of its fortress. Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan This is a history of the invasion of Normandy from the inception of its planning up to the conquest of Paris. John Keegan is a famous military historian, and again this book is an example of his skill. He grew up in one of the staging areas for the invasion, and the first chapter is filled with remembrances of the interaction of his family with the soldiers about to go into battle. The six armies include the Brits, the Americans, the Canadians, the Poles, the Germans and the French. The book is filled with interesting detail. The author is British, and at times he tries to defend Montgomery a bit too much, but overall he is fair in his treatment of the topic. The Lord by Romano Guardini This is a book that I have long wanted to read for I have seen its author’s name time and time again. The opportunity finally came and I am glad I delved into it. It is a long treatment of the person of Jesus and his mission. The use of Sacred Scripture is extensive but not always critical. It served as good spiritual reading, but not really as a source I would quote for a study paper. Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury This is the story of King George VI and his three brothers, one of whom was King Edward VIII who resigned to marry the woman he loved. This book treats George VI rather well, speaking of how a shy and stuttering (he was the subject of the film the King’s Speech) man and who stepped up to his responsibilities. Edward, on the other hand, comes across as vain and petty, controlled by his wife. This story spans from just before World War II through to the 1950’s. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 22, 2019

Rome - London - Buffalo

March 22, 2019 Peace and Good, I went to London this past weekend to do a visitation of two of our friars from Malta who are working there as chaplains for the sick. The Maltese government sends a number of sick Maltese citizens there each year because Malta, being a small island, cannot provide the modern medical techniques that are available in London. (Sometimes up to a hundred a month). They have also hired two of our friars to serve as Catholic chaplains for those patients. The friars in London do a great job in this. When I did a visitation in Malta, people on the street would tell me this. Since Malta is preparing for a chapter this coming September, I visited the two friars to see how they are doing. Then on Sunday I heard that one of our ex-provincials, fr. Canice Connors, passed away in Buffalo, NY. I checked with our Vicar General, and travelled to Buffalo on Tuesday to attend the funeral today. fr. Canice was a provincial, rector of a seminary, head of two treatment institutes for priests and religious who had serious phychological problems, etc. I knew him a bit, and he was a good, good man. I will be in Buffalo until this coming Tuesday when I will head back to Rome. I finished some reading: The Hittites and the Lydians: the History and Legacy of Ancient Anatolia’s Most Influential Civilizations by Charles River Editors This is actually a combination of two books about peoples who settled in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey. Each is well done. The Hittites actually conquered a rather large empire in that area, although they disappeared from the scene around the time of Abraham or just before. The Lydians are famous as the first people to produce an actual currency (coins) and not just weights of precious metals. The Letter to the Galatians: the Bible in Medieval Tradition by Ian Christopher Levy This is a combination of commentaries which speak about the Letter to the Galatians. It is interesting to note how at times they are so similar to what we know today, and how at times they are so dissimilar. It was a bit of work getting through it, but well worth it. Easter Rising by Hourly History This is a quick history of the rebellion of the Irish against the British during the First World War. Hourly History produces a series of books similar to those of Charles River Editors, but a bit more folksy. The book speaks of how the rebellion failed, but nevertheless the brutal suppression after its failure led to an independence movement which led to freedom. War of 1812: A History from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is the story of what some call the second war of independence. It was a war that the Americans did not want to fight, but which they almost backed into due to the treatment of American sailors by the British during their war with Napoleon. It was a war without many concrete results, but it did give some self-confidence to the newly formed US because now they felt they did not have to bow down to every threat that they faced. Empire by Michelle Pacelle and Dan Cashman This is an interesting, short book about the sale of the Empire State building. It is an involved story, with the building in unknown hands for quite a while. It also includes appearances by Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley, two of the great moguls of real estate in New York. There is family intrigue in a Japanese family of a very dishonest businessman and his sons and his illegitimate daughter (the last of whom tried to steal the building for herself). Frank Lloyd Wright by Charles River Editors When Frank Lloyd Wright was starting out, the great architect, he said that he had to choose between a hypocritical humility and arrogance, and so he chose the latter. The book speaks of his life and his career. It is open on his incredibly messy relationship with his three wives. It speaks of the buildings he designed in the US and Japan and why he made particular choices. I come from Buffalo which has some of his buildings, so I was interested in him. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tagaytay, Philippines - Rome

March 13, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome for a three day definitory meeting. I flew into Rome from the Philippines on Sunday afternoon. It is a long, long journey. It is ten hours from Manila to Doha, a four hour layover, and then another six hours from there to Rome. There is a seven hour difference in time between Manila and Rome, so I have a bit of jet lag (but it is not as bad as it sometimes is). Tagaytay was mercifully temperate throughout the week I spent there. Philippines tends to be hot and humid, but Tagaytay is on the side of a mountain so it is cooler than Manila. Actually, the mountain is an active vulcano, but it is quiet right now (for the past century or so). I had a week of conferences with the novices and postulants. It went very, very well. It is great to see the enthusiasm of the young men when you begin to unpack the meaning of the Gospels. By the end of the week, you could see their minds reaching out to try to apply some of the lessons to other texts, which is great. In a week, you can present only so much, but if you can make them hungry to learn more, then you have done your job. I will be in Rome until Saturday, attending some more meetings and hopefully catching up on some projects. Then I am off to London for a few days. I finished some reading: Poets and Saints: Eternal Insight, extravagant love. Ordinary People by Jamie George I enjoyed this book. It is a bit of a travelogue of a family’s trip to Europe along with a pilgrimage testimony. The author is a Protestant minister, and he visits a number of sites that are connected with Protestantism, but he also visits Catholic sites. One of those sites was Assisi where he met one of our American friars who is now serving in Turkey, Andrew. He was very kind in his treatment. This is a light volume, but it has some very good spiritual insights. Hitler’s War by Harry Turtledove When I got this book, I thought it would be about World War II. In a way, it was, but with a couple of details slightly changed. It ask what would have happened if Franco had not become the leader of the Spanish fascists, if the Munich accord on Czechoslovakia had not taken place, etc. It gives the account from the point of view of the soldiers of the various countries. It was not half bad. To Kingdom Come: An Epic Saga of Survival in the War over Germany by Robert Mrazek These are personal stories of the participants in the war against Germany by the US 8th Air Force stationed in Great Britain. It gives a good account of who they were, of their background, and of their missions. A number of them were shot down, and it gives accounts of those who were able to find their way to freedom through the activities of the French underground. It is a really good story, giving the good and the bad of what happened. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen This short book was not directly written by Nouwen, but it is a collection of essays and talks that he had given over the years on the topic of spiritual direction. I found the book excellent, with insights that I know I will carry with me for a long time. Two ideas in particular struck me – the constant topic that God loves each one of us, a reality that does not need to be earned, and the idea that each of us, as Christians, is called to downward mobility. We are not called to success by the definition of the world, but to surrender and emptying out of oneself. French Indochina by Charles River Editors This is one of the short account from Charles River Editors, this one dealing with the limited topic of how the French came to Indochina, what they did while they were there, and how they were expelled from ii in the 1950’s. As always, the account was informative and worth reading. Vikings by Hourly History This is a short account of the history of the Vikings from the period in which they developed writing (and by definition passed from the prehistoric to the historic era). I found that the author gave a revisionist point of view in terms of the raids that the Vikings exacted upon Great Britain and Ireland (implying that they were revenge raids, but without a lot of outside proof). The end of the account is the development of the nation states of Scandinavia. There is also a good section on the age of exploration (Iceland, Greenland, and the coast of North America). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Tagaytay, Philippines

March 4, 2019 Peace and Good, I spent a few days in Ellicott City. On Monday morning, I was able to video some presentations for our development office on the Sacred Scriptures. Then in the evening I met with a Scripture group. It was a nice day, reminding me of when I was able to teach and do parish missions. Tuesday evening I flew out to Ho Chi Minh. I arrived on Thursday morning. I was there for the dedication of a new postulancy house. The building is three stories high with 24 rooms (with bathrooms). It was well, well done. The celebration was a good moment to mark the growth of the jurisdiction. Sunday afternoon I flew into Manila and drove up to our novitiate of Tagaytay. This is built on the side of an active vulcano which has not erupted for a century and a half. We have our international novitiate here (friars from the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka). I will be here until Saturday giving a workshop on the Gospels. I have finished some reading: John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger This was one topic about which I had never read, and the book is very good. It presents the 6th president of the US as an academic and diplomat who was poorly suited for the presidency, but who nevertheless became a success by being a fly in the ointment when it came to the question of slavery. He was one of the lawyers who defended the blacks from Africa on the Amistead. He is not presented as an especially loveable character (much like his father), but the author is able to give a rounded picture of who he was and what he did. The Portrait of an Artist by Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon, the agent from the Mossad, is able to track down and eliminate a danger from the Islamic movement. This one was recruited by the CIA, but then turned against them to begin a war of terror. The twist in the story is that he is able to do all this with the help of the daughter of a rich Saudi whom he assassinated a number of years before, for she had turned against the extremists whom her father had been financing. As always with Daniel Silva’s books, the story is well told. The Great and Holy War: How World War I became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins This book deals with the religious aspect of World War I. There was the tendency during the war to see it as a hold Crusade against the godless forces of the enemy. It also deals with the religious consequences of the war around the world such as the rise of Islamic movement (first a nationalist movement and later more than that), the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East, the rise of Zionism, and the explosion of various Christian/Pentecostal movements throughout the continent of Africa. The General vs. the President by H.W. Brands This is the story of the interaction of General McArthur and President Truman. McArthur is a larger than life figure who had an enormous ego. He could easily have become a dictator if he had had the possibility, for he only lightly respected the democratic structures of our country. Truman had to find a way to fight the Korean War without starting World War III. He was not helped in this by the general, whom he eventually had to fire. This book gives a good account of the relationship between the two. Vikings by Hourly History This is a short presentation on the history of the Vikings. The author tries to be very sympathetic to them, rationalizing some of their outrages throughout history. The book starts in the late early Christian era, and goes up to the age of exploration in Iceland and Greenland, the conquests in Ireland, England and Normandy, and the rise of the modern nation states of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Tulip Mania: The History and Legacy of the World’s First Speculative Bubble during the Dutch Golden Age by Charles River Editors The title more or less gives away what the book is all about. During the Golden Age of Holland, when its vessels were travelling throughout the world and it was making fabulous profits on trade, people began to buy tulip bulbs (which were a recent introduction from Turkey) for fabulous amounts of money. This was a classic speculative bubble, and it crashed suddenly, leading to the downfall of many fortunes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 25, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City

February 25, 2019 Peace and Good, Last week was a full week of definitory meetings. We went from Monday to Friday. As we approach our General Chater in mid May, we are addressing more and more attention to that and less to the day to day running of the Order. That is not a bad thing, but it is changing the tempo of our meetings a bit. On Saturday I flew to BAltimore, but there was terrible weather in London so our flight from Rome to London was delayed enough that I missed the flight to Baltimore. BA put me up for the night, but I am disappointed in their service in these weeks. This is the second time in a month that they have messed up my flight, and both times the response from their help lines and their personnel has been less that I would expect. I will be flying out to Vietnam tomorrow for the dedication of our new postulancy. They have a lot of vocations, and the only thing holding it back was a lack of space. Then on Sunday I will fly to Manila to give a week workshop to the novices there. I finished some reading: Medical Rounds for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases by Roy Benaroch This is a Teaching Company series. This deals with 24 different cases that a doctor has to diagnose and treat. The presenter is extremely clear both in his presentation and in the process of reasoning that led to a diagnosis. I found this series very informative, both in detail and in the realization of how difficult it can be for a doctor to find the right diagnosis at times. It brought me to a greater respect for my own doctors. The Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhyme series. This one deals with a man who appears to be a mass murderer. There is a side story of police corruption. As with the other volumes, this paraplegic detective and his team are brilliant in unraveling the clues which other police often miss. What is so good about the series is that these come across as real people with their normal personality flaws. I would recommend this book and the others in the series. The Mahdi: the History of the Prophesized Figure Muslims believe will redeem Islam and Bring about the End Times by Charles River Editors This is a very short presentation on the idea of the Mahdi, the promised one who would lead Islam in the right path. This is especially important among the Shia Muslims, much less so among the Sunni. It has often led to figures claiming to be the Mahdi, such as the one in the Sudan who killed General Gordon in the 19th century. Today, among ISIS and among some Iranian clerics, one hears some of these ideas expressed again. Cut and Run by Ridley Pearson An agent with the witness protection agency falls in love with a woman who is on the run from drug bosses for whom she worked. The list of all people in protection along with their addresses is endangered when the scientist who worked up the encoding system disappears and some of the people on the list end up dead. The book is not exactly a great work, but it has a certain suspense and a lot of action. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory This is a well done account of the captivity of Queen Mary of Scotland under Queen Elizabeth of England. Elizabeth has her farmed out to Lord Shrewsbery and his wife Bess. This couple has only recently been married. Bess is a simple upbringing, and more a businesswoman than a wife. She is also a secret spy of Cecil, the advisor and spy master of the queen. The story is told in three voices, Queen Mary, Lord Shrewsberry who secretly falls in love with Mary, and Bess who seethes on the sideline at the disloyalty of her husband and the loss of finances in the upkeep of the queen. This fictional history is well done. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude