Tuesday, October 13, 2020

London

October 13, 2020 Peace and Good, I have begun my second week of quarantine in London. I am staying at our friary not to far away from Waterloo Station. Here is Great Britain, the quarantine means that you cannot leave your house. For the first six days, that meant to stay mostly in my room and avoid the other friars when I went down to eat. Fortunately, there is a nice roof on which I can do my daily walk. Corona has spiked again here, but especially in the north of the country. The Prime Minister has established a three tier system according to how much danger there is, and each tier has a different level of restrictions. I have been editing my Franciscan meditation book. 2/3's of it is done, and I am awaiting the proofs of the last third in the next couple of weeks. The weather here has been atrocious. It has been raining almost every day. I will finish my quarantine this coming Saturday, and then I have a series of meetings. I will be leaving London for Chicago on the 24th. I have finished some reading: Archaeology: An Introduction to the World’s Greatest Sites by Eric Cline This is an excellent and entertaining series of courses from the Teaching Company. It deals with archaeological techniques and finds throughout the East and West (centering on the ancient civilizations of the Mid-East). The professor who gave this presentation has a witty and funny style that makes series a joy to hear. Mysterious Polynesia: the Myths, Legends and Mysteries of the Polynesians by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the various myths among the Polynesian people. The book spends quite a bit of time talking about the stone monuments found at Easter Island – why they were constructed, how, etc. While the myths of the Polynesians are often similar throughout the range of their settlement, one nevertheless finds quite a bit of individual content in each band of islands upon which they are found. Pearl Harbor: Hinge of War by Richard Freeman This is a short overview of what led up to and what happened on December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor. The book is not intended to be all inclusive, but does give a good synopsis of the situation. Postwar by Tony Judt This is an extensive treatment of Europe in the aftermath of World War II up to the present days. I deals with the period of reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the war, and then with the various movements that swept across Europe (both West and East), including labor agitation, industrialization, the failure of the soviet system, terrorism, etc.). The book is well written, and a source of an enormous amount of information, but its length requires a real commitment. The Battle of Tarawa by Hourly History This invasion of the small Pacific island during the early days of World War II by the marines was one of the bloodiest battles fought during the war. The island was small, but the Japanese were well prepared, and the US forces had not yet learned many important lessons about amphibious warfare that they were to learn and incorporate into the plans after this battle. Emperor Hirohito by Hourly History This is a short biography of Emperor Hirohito of Japan, especially in the years leading up to his reign and his role during World War II. The book, in fact, all but ignores what he did following the war, even though he continued to reign for another thirty years. It asks the question of whether he should have been indicted as a war criminal, given his acquiescence to many of the things his army and navy did during the war. Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is another of the Preston and Child books that I have read. I like the series very much. This involves FBI investigator Pendergast and the death of this wife by the hands of a group of renascent Nazi’s who have set up a secret human breeding program in Brazil. Some of the action is a bit more fantastic than the other volumes in the series, and I could say that this is not my favorite of their books, but even so it is good enough to recommend. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 5, 2020

Chicago - London

October 5, 2020 Peace and Good, This past week I have participated in a provincial assembly in Chicago for the St.Bonaventure Province. The meeting went well. Originally it was to be a provincial chapter, but they could not guarantee a quorum because this province is in charge of the delegation in Australia and the borders there are closed. There was a very fraternal discussion, and a couple of decisions were made which were painful but necessary. The flight to London was good, although again there were not more than 1/6th of the seats filled. The border control was very easy. I had to fill out a long form on the internet before I flew, but at the passport control it did not take more than 30 seconds. I will be quaranteened for the next two weeks in our friary near Waterloo Station. The friars here have already shown great hospitality. I am trying to stay in my room most of the time because a couple of the friars here are hospital chaplains. I would hate to give them the virus. I have to stay in my room for the first week, and in the house for the week after that. The weather here is pretty much what one would expect: cloudy and rainy. I finished the following reading: All that Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes by Sue Black This is the story of the life and work of a forensic pathologist. She speaks of the necessity of autopsies, both for the person involved and for the teaching of medical students. She deals with her work in crime cases, as well as in cases of crimes against humanity such as the massacres in Kosovo. She does not speak much about the afterlife, for she seems to be a skeptic in that, but she does speak about the need to respect the dignity of life and even of the dead. Deep Down by Lee Child This is a short Jack Reacher novella. He is presented as a type of macho, secret agent who is sent to investigate the leaking of secret munitions data to industrial spies during a Congressional hearing. It turns out that the mole is actually a secret Soviet agent who was gathering information on gun specifications to intuit Pentagon warfare plans. The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church – The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II by Greg Tobin This is a short, but finely written biography of Pope John XXIII, especially centering on his papacy. We see John as a traditionalist in many ways, but also someone who was so pastoral and so open to the movements of the Spirit that he was able to call the Second Vatican Council and steer it in the right direction. Firestorm by Marshall De Bruhl This is an overview of the air warfare fought by Britain and American against Germany, concentrating especially in the firebombing of the beautiful city of Dresden toward the end of the war. There has been a lot of judgment cast upon that decision, but De Bruhl tries to explain how the reasons for doing the bombing were actually more complicated than often notices (e.g. the specific request by the Soviets to destroy marshalling yards for railroads to prevent reinforcement of Nazi troops at the front, and the fact that Dresden was one of the major marshalling yards). Yet, the terror of the event leaves one breathless. King Henry VII by Hourly History This is a short biography of the founder of the Tudor dynasty. He was an unlikely heir to the throne, but he managed to invade England and defeat Richard III. There is a huge debate over whether Richard III was really as bad as he is sometimes portrayed to be, for most of what was written about him was written by authors working in the Tudor era, so naturally their portrait of him come out negative. Henry is portrayed as a good ruler and a tightwad (whose accumulated treasures were then squandered by his spendthrift son, Henry VIII). The Dissolution of Czechoslovakia by Charles River Editors This short book deals with the creation of the state of Czechoslovakia, its difficulties with the Nazis, its time under the soviet system, and its regaining of freedom which led to the dissolution of the state into the Czech republic and Slovakia. King Darius the Great by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the great emperor of Persia who managed to extend the boundaries of the empire to its widest extent. His one failure was his invasion of Greece when his troops were turned back at the Battle of Marathon. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, September 25, 2020

Chicago

September 25, 2020 Peace and Good, I arrived in Chicago this past Sunday. I flew from Rome to London, and then from London to Chicago. I was a bit worried about the connection in London, but I should not have been concerned. So few people are travelling that there was no problem making my way through the airport. The flight from London to Chicago could not have been more than 1/10th full. I fully understand why the airlines are asking for help. The flight from Rome to London was the only BA flight that day. Usually there are four or five flights a day. The weather here is wonderful. It is warm, but not super hot. One of the friars here is working on a series of podcasts for our vocation office. I did a who bunch of podcasts on peace (especially from the Bible) for him. What is good is that it can be difficult to get friars to do things on time, so he will not have a stockpile of possible podcasts (only between 2 and 3 minutes each) to use when needed. I always enjoy doing projects like that. Tomorrow morning I will write an article for one of the province's newsletters. I have come here for a province assembly which will be held this coming week. Then on Friday I will fly over to London for some meetings. I have finished some reading: Roosevelt by Edwin Grosvenor This is a series of essays by scholars and others on FDR, especially speaking about his role as president and commander in chief during the dual crisis of the Great Depression and World War II. The essays vary in value depending on the particular topic and the talent of the individual author. Nevertheless, some of the topics treated are valuable. Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin This is an extensive collection of short essays on topics of Jewish history and culture prepared by Rabbi Talushkin (this being the second book by this author which I have read). The information was collected to serve as a type of adult education for Jewish people who did not know enough about their faith. The book contains a ton of good information, and is well presented and documented. Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile This is the story of how a representative from a rural district in Texas who was addicted to womanizing and drink and who nevertheless plays a crucial role in the financing of the Mujahidin rebellion in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion. The author is very honest in his appraisal of both Charlie Wilson and the CIA during this time. The story is very, very good, and it leaves one wondering at the eventual unintended consequences of actions taken (e.g. the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Islamic terrorism, etc.). Colossus by Michael Hitzik This is the story of the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. It was begun at the beginning of the Great Depression. The project was so great that the only ones who could build it was a consortium of six construction companies. While the book praises the organizational ability of those who built the dam, it also deals extensively in the poor treatment of the workers, including the dangerous conditions in which the workers were forced to do their work. The Return of George Washington: Uniting the States 1983-1789 by Edward Larson This book deals with the period after the resignation of Washington as General in Chief of the US forces and his eventual assumption of the presidency of the republic after the ratification of the Constitution. It deals especially with Washington’s role in the production and acceptance of the constitution, which was far from a given considering the opposition of many to a more centralized form of government. Ndrangheta by Charles River Editors This is an outline of the formation and history of the Mafia which grew up in the southern Italian region of Calabria. It is one of the less known groups, and thus it was able to grow in importance and wealth in an almost stealth manner. Al Capone by Hourly History This short book gives an account of the life and career of the famous Chicago mobster. He made his money especially on illegal alcohol during the prohibition, but that did not stop him from getting into all sorts of other illegal activities. He was imprisoned for income tax evasion, and eventually ended up in Alcatraz. He was released in poor health because of his advanced case of syphilis, and died all but lost in dementia. Have a good week. Stay safe. Shalom fr. Jude

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