Friday, September 18, 2020

Cortina

September 18, 2020 The Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino Peace and Good, We have been in the north of Italy, in a valley in the Dolomites, all this week. We have tried to balance work (our definitories) with time in the country. This area is incredibly beautiful. We are surrounded by medium size mountains. The weather here has been magnificent, compared to Rome where we hear there is a heat wave. Tomorrow we head back to Rome, and then on Sunday I head out to Chicago for a province assembly. I have finished some reading: Patrick Henry by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the famous author of the saying, “Give me liberty or give me death,” a line that he probably stole from another author. It follows his career, coming out of nowhere to become a patriot of the first order. It also deals shortly with his opposition to the constitution of our country, for he felt that it produced a government that was too centralized and too powerful. Interestingly enough, he fought against the proposal of a couple of states that would have allowed them to negate federal laws whenever individual states did not agree with them. The Han Dynasty by Charles River Editors This is one of the short books on a particular topic by Charles River. Unfortunately, this one is packed with so much detail about the intrigues of various emperors and their courts that is all but unintelligible except for an expert on the topic. Carl von Clausewitz by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the famous author of a course book on how to wage warfare (compiled by Carl and then edited and published by his faithful wife). While he was never in charge of great numbers of troops, he studied the various aspects of fighting and produced a work that is still considered a classic on the topic. The Tree of Life by Roland Murphy This is a very good overview of the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. It is a book that I intend to read over and over again every couple of years, for it was packed with good information about the books themselves and also other wisdom literature from ancient Mideastern cultures. Soapy Smith by Charles River Editors This is a short account of a flim flam man in the West. His career was mainly in the mining towns of the West, such as Denver and Skagway, Alaska where he met his end. He set up an entire gang which controlled the towns in which he dwelt. Wilberforce by OpenLearn This is a short account of the career of Wilberforce, the great hero of the battle against the slave trade in Great Britain. The course centers on his initiative to purify the morals of the country. He wrote a compendium of the spiritual life from a Methodist point of view in order to address the lack of religiosity that he found in society. The Fall of Saigon by Charles River Editors This is an account of the final battle of the Vietnam between the forces of the North and those of the dying republic in the South. It goes into great detail, more than I would have wished to read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Rome - Cortina

September 13, 2020 Peace and Good, I have finally finished my third isolation (of two weeks each). At least two of these were in my own room, so it was actually quite comfortable. The friars were great in bringing me whatever I needed. I was able to get some good work done. I finished the daily reflections until the end of October. I also was able to write 11 articles for the Messenger magazine printed in Padua in English (and distributed throughout the world). I am set with them up to the end of 2022. Yesterday, the definitory travelled up to Cortina, a town in north Italy, for a bit of time among the mountains (the Dolomites). We will be working here, but also take a couple of days off to enjoy the surroundings. We return to Rome this coming Saturday, and then on Sunday I fly off to Chicago. I am healthy. My heart problem of earlier this year has not bothered me since I received treatment in the States. Granted, I am taking a boat load of medicine every day, but that is part of the price of getting older. I am 66 years old right now, and the only serious complaint I have is that it takes me longer and longer to get over jet lag. It used to be one day for each hour difference, but now that has come closer to two days for each hour. On our way here, we stopped in Padua and had lunch with the friars. We then went into the Basilica to pray at the tomb of St. Anthony. It is such a prayerful place. The basilica in Assisi has a lot of beautiful artwork, so it often feels like a museum. That in Padua is not all that great, so people come to it to pray. They took a poll years ago asking Italian to whom they pray when they need something. St. Anthony won by huge margins. A distant second was Mary. The a very distant third was Jesus. I am not saying this is good, only that this is the way it is. I finished some reading: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde This is a very funny account of a group of police who work for the fable investigation squad. They are searching for the killer of Goldilocks, as well as trying to apprehend the Gingerbread Man who has escaped from a mental health facility. It is almost silly at times, but rescues itself by creating a world in which all of the action makes sense. I was surprised at how much I got into the book and enjoyed it. The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver This is an excellent police story. It takes place in a small town in the Midwest, and the hero of the story is a small town detective, Bryn, who has good police techniques. The side story is how she fails in her relationship with her husband, and how that relationship goes. There are many twists and turns, as I have come to expect in Deaver’s books. Birth of a Drug by OpenLearn This course offers an outline of the work and research that must be done to find a new medicinal drug and to bring it to market. The specific study involves finding a high blood pressure that has few side effects and was longer lasting than those on the market at that time (which required a few doses a day). Hadrian’s Rome by OpenLearn This is like the other OpenLearns courses, a quick account of how the Emperor Hadrian changed the landscape of Rome. Among his most famous constructions was the renovation of the Pantheon, redone with a massive amount of numerical and symbolic content. Unlike the other courses in this series, this one also offers translations of firsthand accounts of his reign from various ancient historians. The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans This is the first volume of a three volume production on the Nazi era. The author is very balanced, giving the historic, political, sociological, etc. reasons for the victory of the Nazis over the other political movements during the Weimar Republic and then for the initial activities of the Nazis once they came to power. The next volume covers the period from their taking of power to the beginning of the second World War, and then the third volume covers the time until their ultimate defeat. The books are very, very well written. I would recommend them to anyone. David Farragut by Charles River Editors This is an account of the life and activities of the first Admiral of the US Navy. This was an office that was not used until his time. He led the conquest of New Orleans and Mobile Bay (where he is famous for uttering to D..m the torpedoes – which were sea mines in those days – full speed ahead. Edith Stein by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Jewish phenomenologist who converted to the Catholic faith and joined the Carmelite cloister. Her community shipped her to the Netherlands when it became too dangerous to live in Germany, but even there she was not safe. After the Nazi conquest of that country, she was arrested with other Jewish converts and she was sent to Auschwitz where she died. She is one of the martyrs of Auschwitz who has been canonized by the Church. Have a good week and stay safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 31, 2020

Rome

September 1, 2020 I have returned to Rome after spending a couple of weeks in Ellicott City going from one doctor's office to another. These were mostly just annual checkups, but I have to get them all in at one time because I am so rarely in the area. For the first time I had a couple of web visits with the doctors. I was not sure how that would go, but I was very pleased with the result. I am now in isolation for two weeks. I am in my own room, and there is a terraza outside my room upon which I can take my daily walks. It is actually quite comfortable. The friars bring food to my room, and I get to see or talk to them at a distance. After the isolation, we will have another definitory meeting. This time we are going up to the mountains in the north for a bit of time together. These months have been so strange that we are rarely in the same place at the same time. The weather is quite nice in these days - the 80's pretty much every day. The summer heat seems to be over for at least a while. I have finished some reading: The Making of the President 1972 by Theodore White This is an extensive account of the second election of Richard Nixon to be president. The book concentrates on the mistakes of George McGovern and the Democratic Party. They allowed themselves to be high jacked by interest groups which then controlled the process. The actual election campaign proved to be chaotic and contradictory. Nixon’s campaign, on the other hand, proved to be highly professional and successful in fund raising. That makes the irony of their having gotten involved in the Watergate break ins all the more inexplicable. They simply did not need to do it for they would have won no matter what. The Lakota Way by Joseph M Marshall, II This is an interesting book which contains some of the legends of the Lakota people. Each of the stories contains a message which invites the listener to a particular virtue, such as compassion or hospitality or courage. The presentation is well done. This is a book I listened to through a new service I found called chirpbooks.com. The Good Spy by Kai Bird This is an account of the career of Robert Aimes who served in the CIA, the Mid-East division for a long time. He was known for his openness to the cause of the Arabs, and he secretly established lines of communication with the PLO. He was killed in the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut. The book is well written, and gives one an insight to methods of spying as well as the influence of political turns in the environment of the country and their effect upon the work of those working for the government. Uluru by Charles River Editors This is the history of Ayers Rock in Australia, a place of great interest to tourists, but a sacred site to the Aboriginal population. This short books gives a geologic explanation for the rock, as well as a series of the Aboriginal legends concerning various events that occurred there. The French Revolution: From Enlightenment to Tyranny by Ian Davidson This is a very good, very thorough presentation of the history of the French Revolution. The author’s premise is that the revolution started out as a revolt of the middle class which was burdened under a very unfair taxation system. Only later did it develop into a class revolution with the onset of the Terror. There are many, many names of those involved, and it is easy to lose tract, but the book is never boring. Binary by Michael Crichton This is a story of a mad internal terrorist who wants to set off a poison gas attack during the Republican National Convention in San Diego. An investigator of the State Department must track down the terrorist and figure out his plans. The story is well written with a good amount of intrigue. The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts This is a very good presentation of World War II, but as is often true on books about World War II, from a particular point of view (British). It is quite long, but never boring or overly detailed. I could easily recommend this book to anyone. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Ellicott City

August 22, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for the past ten days or so for a series of doctors and dentist appointments. I have to admit that after all these visits, I am a bit tired of being poked and prodded. I have one more appointment and that will be it. I am heading back to Rome on the 26th. I have a letter saying that my presence is required for a meeting of our business. That is a reference to our next definitory meeting in a couple of weeks. I will still have to do a two week quarantine in my room. This will be the third one that I have done. I have finished some reading: Famous Romans by J. Rufus Fears This is a course with the Teaching Company that follows the example of Livy to produce a list of famous Romans. The information in the course is very good, but the presentation by Rufus Fears is much to dramatic, almost comical. The Etruscans by Charles River Editors Like all of the Charles River Editors books, this gives good information concerning the civilization in central Italy that preceded Rome. It speaks of the many elements of the Etruscan culture that Rome later borrowed (e.g. roads, augury, etc.). The Oceans by OpenLearn This is one of the free courses from the Open Learn company concerning the oceans (what type of water, salinity, currents, weather, etc.). It is highly technical and, in spite of the fact that it presents a good amount of information, difficult to understand at times. The First Italian War by Charles River Editors This book speaks about the intervention of France and Spain in the politics of Italy during the 15th century which involved the battles in Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples. It took a very bad situation of warfare between various city states and made the situation much worse. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Paris by Charles River Editors This is the story of the basilica on Mont Marte in Paris. The story is well told, but it is very odd that the author spends the whole first third of the book speaking about Celtic worship on the hill where the basilica was built. It was built after the war between France and Prussia, a disastrous affair for France. It thus came to be identified with the religious right in France against the left (following the establishment and the destruction of the Commune in Paris at the end of the war). There was also a bit of controversy in the design of the Basilica, but it has grown to be a significant site for tourists in the city. History of Havana by Captivating History This is a short account of the history of the city of Havana from the days of its foundation early in the Spanish colonial days up to the present. The story is well told, with all the invasions and hurricanes and internal rebellions. Be safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 10, 2020

Arroyo Grande, California

August 10, 2020 Peace and Good, I have beenout at our Novitiate in Arroyo Grande for the past two weeks. This is located mid way between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a rather rural area, not all that far from the ocean. The weather has been great with the marine layer (morning fog) cooling off the temperature to the 70's each day. I have been giving conferences to the novices on Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Book of Revelation and the Psalms. There are six novices, and they are a good group of young men. The novice director is Br. Joseph Wood, and the assistant is fr. Maurice Richard. They are both very good in their service to the novices. We also have an elderly friar here (as we try to have in each house of formation). This is fr. Julian Zambinini who served in Rome and Assisi for many years. While here, I have a covid 19 test. I have to say that the service offered here was tremendous. The people on the internet site were helpful, the test itself was quick, and the results took only four days (which is much, much better than many other sites). I needed the test because I am heading out to the East Coast in these days and have a series of medical check ups, and they all require one to have had the test. I am negative at this point. I will be heading out to Baltimore tomorrow. I am not thrilled to pass through a couple of airports, but.... The flight from San Francisco is only about 5 1/2 hours, which is not bad considering some of the flights I have been on in these months. I have finished some reading: Biofuels by OpenLearn This is a short account of the various forms of biofuels and their possible environmental impact. The presentation is not all that extensive, but it does give quite a bit of information that is useful. Caligula by Hourly History This is an account of the emperor who followed Tiberias and preceded Claudius. He actually started out quite well, especially after the absentee and capricious and cruel reign of Tiberias. Only shortly into his reign, however, he suffered from a near fatal illness, and he seems to have become unhinged afterward. This account speaks of some of his cruelty and the horrific manner in which he treated his subjects. He was assassinated in a plot to end the madness of his reign. George Patton by Captivating History This is the story of the famous World War II general whose battle tactics were incredibly successful against the Germans. As good as he was in battle, he was that unsuccessful in his actions and speech which were at times disastrous. This account gives a good overview of his life. Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery and the Genius of the Royal Society by Bill Bryson This is a series of essays by members of the Royal Society on topics that deal with science and its impact upon the world today. This is an unusual book by Bryson who usually writes humorous accounts of his travels. The essays are on various topics and they vary in density of content (a few being quite dense). The Kingmaker’s Daughters by Philippa Gregory Philippa Gregory has written a number of novels set in the pre-Tudor and the Tudor era. They are from the point of view of the women who were involved. From what I can see, they are very well researched. The characters are believable, and the action is well laid out. This particular volume deals with the daughters of Warwick, the kingmaker (putting Edward IV on the throne and deposing Henry VI). I truly enjoy listening to these books. Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem This is a very odd collection of short stories, many of which involve super heroes (but often not of the first grade of importance, e.g. Goat Man. It is entertaining, and some of them make one think. The Black Death by Captivating History This is an account of the great plague which hit Europe during the Middle Ages. Typical of a number of the captivating history productions that I have read, it is very down on the Catholic Church, blaming it for the poor response to the plague. Furthermore, it is incredibly judgmental of society for not responding with more rapidity when they heard that plague had broken out in China, etc. This charge is absurd, given the poor communication between Europe and East Asia at the time. I am not sure how many more of the captivating histories I even want to read. The Greek and Persian Wars by John Hale This is a series of lectures on the relationship between the great Persian Empire and the city states of Greece from the foundation of these states to the end of the reign of Alexander the Great. Like almost all of the Great Courses lectures, this presentation is well done and I could easily recommend it to others. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 3, 2020

Arroyo Grande, California

August 3, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in our novitiate all this past week giving lessons to the six novices. I will be here til the 11th, which is good because that fills out my two weeks of self-isolation requested at the airport when I arrived. No problems so far, although I do admit that I have bought a thermometer and have gotten in the practice of measuring my temperature twice a day, no matter what. The lessons are going very well. I covered major topics in the Gospels this past week, and will look at the Psalms this coming week. The novices are very interested, and they have great questions (which I always like, because even if I don't know the answer, it forces me to investigate and further my own knowledge). The weather is incredibly beautiful. We are not all that far from the ocean, so there is the marine layer which moderates the temperature. The mornings are wonderfully cool. I went into town (Grover Beach) to go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I found out that during the crisis they only have take out. I went to another restaurant which only has out of doors service. It was such an odd feeling that I ended up going home to eat lunch. It was almost dystopian. I can't wait til things are settled out (although I do have a lot of worries that they are rushing the vaccine too much for political reasons). I have finished some reading: Saint Augustine by Hourly History This is a short overview of the life and work of St. Augustine. It is well done, without any of the anti-Catholic prejudice that I often find in the Captivating History series. Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods This is a series of essays on various methodologies used to study the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of them have to do with the process of reconstructing the original text from a series of disjointed fragments. Others deal with sociological and historical studies which, while on the surface don’t exactly have a lot to do with the scrolls, nevertheless offer insight into the meaning of the texts. Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World by Tom Zoellner This is an audio book that I listened to concerning the element uranium including its discovery, mining, use and misuse. It deals with those who would like to use it to provide energy, as well as those who consider it to be too dangerous to use extensively. It also deals with the difficulties its mining has caused to indigenous populations such as the Aborigines of Australia. While it presents some of the science behind its use (both for energy and weapons), it does such in a way that is not overwhelming. A Devil is Waiting by Jack Higgins This is one of several books by Higgins that I have read. The premise of most of them is that there is a team of soldiers and ex-IRA provos who are working for the Prime Minister of Great Britain (directly) to fight against communism, which often involves Islamists, ex-IRA members who have not given up the fight, and Russian oligarchs. I have to admit that I liked his first books better for now the formula is starting to get a bit old. How do Empires WorK? By OpenLearn This is a short course that describes the difference between the Chinese empire of the last centuries and the British Empire and their collision during the Opium Wars. American Colossus by HW Brand This is the history of the US from the time of the Civil War up to the First World War. It especially deals with the growth in economic power in the States, but it also deals with social problems like the plight of African-Americans in the south, the labor movement, immigration, etc. It is a very well written book with an immense amount of information which is well delivered. Patrice Lumumba by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of one of the leaders of post-colonial Congo. The Belgian king Leopold exploited the colony for his own purposes, allowing the murder and torture of so many people. The Belgian government eventually took the colony away from the king, but never prepared the people for independence. When it did become independent, a civil war broke out almost immediately (often fostered by the economic interests of rich investors in the mining industry. Lumumba was a civil servant who tried to govern the country as it was falling apart. He applied for assistance to the Soviet Union and China (largely because the US and Great Britain would not help the new country because of their ties to those businessmen who were destroying the country). He was labeled as a communist, and was assassinated by Congolese rebels with the complicit approval of the CIA. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rome - Arroyo Grande, CA

July 28, 2020 Peace and Good, Yesterday I flew in from Europe to be at our novitiate in Arroyo Grande, California ( just outside of San Luis Obispo). There are six novices this year. I will be here until August 11th, presenting lessons on the Gospels and the Psalms and just sharing information about the Order. Travelling these days is no fun. There is a lot of paperwork and checkups along the way. I flew from Rome to Munich, there to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. I flew Lufthansa this time. The flight to Los Angeles was at most 1/6th full. Very few people are flying. The airports are all but empty. Everyone is wearing masks, although some are wearing them the wrong way and some take them off a lot in public. Arriving in the States was not bad. There was a form to fill out, they took our temperature, and gave us a brochure on self-isolation. The weather out here is perfect. The marine layer comes in at this time every year, so the temperature is about 70 during the day. It was much, much hotter in Rome. I finished some reading: Hangman by Faye Kellerman This is the first book I have read by Kellerman. She writes about a detective who is a practicing Jew (which enters often into the book). It is a good story. In this case, the story is about two mass murderers who are tracked down by the detective’s team. I intend to read other books by her. Ivan the Terrible by Captivating History This is the outline of the life and madness of Ivan. The title terrible is really a mistranslation of his title, for he was considered to be Ivan the Awesome, but he was also terrible, especially as he descended into murderous paranoia. The book speaks of the good he did, but also of the terrible massacres he committed with his accomplices. The author goes out of his way to excuse Ivan for this due to the murderous atmosphere in which he was raised. Wall Street Wars by Richard Farley This book deals with the attempt by the FDR administration to deal with the monetary difficulties during the depression. It included dealing with the stock market, the banks, and the gold standard. It deals with the various debates in the Congress and the lobby techniques of the moneyed class. The most interesting section deals with the work of Joseph Kennedy as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. This was the father of JFK, and the author is very complementary concerning his efforts. The Texas Revolution by Charles River Editors This is the story of the settlement of Anglos in Texas after the time of the American Revolutionary War which meant that they outnumbered the Hispanic settlers. It speaks of the tensions among them and the Native Americans. The Americans eventually broke away from Mexico which had gained its independence. The book speaks of the siege at the Alamo. It also speaks of the eventual annexation of Texas into the US. JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke This book deals with the last few months of JFK’s life before his assassination in Dallas. It has an enormous amount of inside information. The author is honest about what he knows and what he does not know. What is interesting is that Kennedy was doing an internal review of the US relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba, as well as rethinking our involvement in Vietnam. The book covers the assassination of the President of Vietnam in a coup approved by the US. The book also deals with the relationship between Jack and Jackie, which seems to have been improving in these months. The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon in 1950 by Bill Sloan This is a long and good treatment of the first year of the Korean War from the invasion by the North Koreans to the entrance of the Chinese into the struggle to countermand the invasion of ally troops into the far north of North Korea (along the border with China). It necessarily deals with the various military leaders for the Americans, including the always temperamental and sometimes unhinged MacArthur. The book gives extensive remembrances from the troops who fought. It is well done. Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Hourly History This is a short biography of the heroic Lutheran Church pastor who opposed the Nazi’s in his homeland. It speaks about his insights, his attempts to influence policy during the time of the Nazi’s, his insistence that he belonged in Germany (and his refusal to flee to safety) and finally his execution in the closing days of the war. One would have wished for a bit more insight into his personal struggle with his decisions and the dynamics of his faith life. Keep Safe. Shalom fr. Jude