Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ellicott City, MD

May 31, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope all is going well with you, and that you have been healthy. I have been in Ellicott City for the past few months. The friars here have been great, and made me feel very much at home. Tomorrow it is time to get on the road again. I will be travelling to South Korea for a month. The first two weeks I will be in quarantine in one of our friaries in Gangwa, not too far from the airport. There quarantine is interpreted not only as staying in one place, but actually being isolated in one room. Then I will be doing a visitation of the province as they prepare for their chapter this coming fall. On July 3rd I will head to Italy. I don't know at this time what the rules will be when I arrive there. I might have another two weeks of isolation. I have asked my publisher to give me a project to work on those days. I have already finished one book, a meditation book on Franciscan Spirituality. The new project will be to write another children's Bible, this one for fifth and sixth graders. I have finished some reading: Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of many books I have read by these authors. This one deals with zombies and a voodoo church located at the outskirts of New York City. Inspector Pendergast investigates the murder of one of his friends, which leads to more murders and a kidnapping. The action is well done, and the dialog is brilliant. I sometimes just enjoy hearing some of the vocabulary the authors have chosen. I would recommend any of the books of this series to anyone interested. The Devil’s Punchbowl by Greg Iles This is a story told in Natchez by the great novelist of that part of the south. It is about a gambling boat which is run by Chinese interest by some most unsavory characters. The narrator is the mayor of the city who tries to find out what is going on and stop it, in the meantime protecting his family and friends. The book is very well written. It can be a bit graphic in terms of the violence, so I would not recommend it for everyone. But it made me want to read more of Iles’ novels. Garibaldi and the making of Italy by George MacCaulay Trevelyan This is the story of the revolutionary leader of the forces of Sicily and southern Italy which helped to unite the country in the 1860’s. Garibaldi is presented more favorably in this account. Since this book is written by a British protestant, the view of the Catholic Church is almost universally negative. While the Church was reactionary in certain decisions, the author is non-stopping in his criticism. Overall, the book is interesting, told from a British point of view. Interestingly enough, President Lincoln offered to make Garibaldi the leader of the Union troops during the Civil War. Dunsmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Glenn Williams Just before the Revolutionary War, there was a series of attacks on settlers to the south of the Ohio River in what today is Kentucky and the western parts of Virginia. The native Americans of certain tribes went to war against settlers whom they believed were encroaching on their hunting grounds. There had been a treaty ceding those lands, but it had been signed only by some of the native groups. Governor Dunsmore organized a punishing expedition against the tribes with whom there were difficulties. It was not a war of conquest as such, for the borders remained the same after the war as before. But there were atrocities on both sides in this brutal episode. Ironically, the militias that went to war served as the core of the very troops that chased Dunsmore out of the colony when it declared its independence. Investigating American Presidents by Paul Rosenzweig This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company dealing with the history and application of the idea of investigating the actions of a president. It is a most timely topic, and gives much information on such topics as impeachment, investigations, presidential privilege, pardons, etc. The author is a constitutional lawyer, and his treatment of the topic is fair and very, very informative. The Battle of the Atlantic by Hourly History This is a sort overview of the Battle of the Atlantic (submarine and surface vessel warfare) during World War II. The information is good, but the treatment seemed a bit cavalier to me. Take care and keep well. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

May 9, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in Ellicott City awaiting permission to travel. I spoke with the Minister General this week, and I am planning to fly to Korea on June 1st. The schedule of this visit is arranged in such a way that even if I must spend two weeks in quarantine, I will still have enough time for the visit. Then I will be heading back to Italy, the first time that I will have been there in a long, long time. I have been working on a minute meditation book for Catholic Book Company. I have most of the text done, and will be editing it on Monday is all goes well. One of the things that I have found in these weeks in Audible which is a division of Amazon. Not only can you buy their books on audio, you can also acquire a good number of books and articles for free (e.g. articles from Foreign Affairs). There is plenty of space in this property to take long walks, which I really appreciate. I have finished some reading: The United States Camel Corps by Charles River Editors This is one of those short books put out by Charles River Editors to deal with a well-defined topic. In this case, the topic is the use of camels that was explored just before the Civil War. A good number of camels were brought over to the States, but the use of camels (for transport of goods, of soldiers, etc.) never really caught on here, and the advent of the Civil War sapped any energy for this type of experiment. Collapse by Jared Diamond This is a masterful treatment of the collapse of various societies throughout the ages. Diamond accumulates a wealth of information about particular societies, e.g. Easter Island, the Viking population of Greenland, Australia, etc. and speaks of how the group either degraded their environment or managed to deal with it in a way that allowed for the culture’s continuity. He then speaks of the modern era and lessons to learn from what we are doing today. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in anthropology, or environmental science, or sociology. It is so rich that it covers all of these areas well. Traitor to His Class by H. W. Brand This was a short biography of Franklin Roosevelt. I thought it would deal more with his relations with members of his social class, but in spirt of the title, it dealt mostly with what he did and how he decided to do it. While I consider Roosevelt to be a great president, I do not always like his character and his gamesmanship with those who sought to do his will. The Story Luke Tells: Luke’s Unique Witness to the Gospel by Justo Gonzalez I enjoyed this short overview of the Gospel of Luke. The author deals with the most important topics. Only occasionally does he allow his own interpretative background color his evaluation of the message of the text. It found this book useful as a meditation on what I mostly already knew, but which was useful to review. Nixon and Mao: the Week that Changed the World by Margaret Macmillan This book deals with the journey of Nixon (and Kissinger) to China during the closing years of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Nixon had been known as a staunch anti-Communist, so he was a most unlikely character to open up relations between the two countries, but it was his very conservatism that allowed him to do it (since it quieted many of those who would have been opposed if he had been more liberal). This book brings out the duplicitousness of Kissinger and his incredible need for power (all but side-lining George Rogers, the Secretary of State). It also brings out the good and the bad of these initial negotiations (especially how they caught some of our most important allies by surprise). This is a very good account of that era. The Republic of Genoa by Charles River Editors The city of Genoa, a port city on the northwest coast of Italy, was a major force during the Middle Ages (and in fact was a major rival to Venice for many years). While not exactly the most beautiful city in Italy, the author of this book nevertheless speaks of it being a city worth the effort of visiting and exploring. The Marquis de Lafayette by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the Marquis de Lafayette. He arrived in this country to fight for our independence as a very young man. At first discounted, he eventually proved himself a good soldier as well as a constant friend of the cause of the American Revolution (intervening with the king of France to help our cause). After our revolution, he lived through the confusing time of the French Revolution (with which he sympathized at the beginning) and Napoleon. I am praying for all of you. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 20, 2020

Ellicott City

April 20, 2020 Peace and Good, Like just about everyone else in the US and almost around the world, we are still locked down. This has been a restful time, being in the same time zone for weeks on end. My heart is staying in rhythm, which is very good. I don't know when it will be possible to return to Rome. I have e mailed my travel agent this morning to see if he knows anything. In the meantime, I have started writing a book of minute meditations on Franciscan spirituality. I have done two other of these books on other topics, so I know the style. Spring keeps coming and going these days. One day it feels like summer, the next like winter. But the flowers and the birds are beautiful. I finished some reading: The Dust Bowl by Charles River Editors This is the account of the ecological disaster that occurred when large regions of the West were plowed under during a historic cycle of wet weather, to be followed by a long and severe drought. With the land plowed (and therefore the cover of vegetation removed), massive amounts of dust and dirt was carried into the air on windy days which travelled for hundreds of miles and destroyed crops and killed people through dust pneumonia). This short account gives a good account of the tragedy that so many families faced and their attempts to survive this disaster. Dynasty: the Rise and the Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland This is an excellent treatment of the Augustan dynasty from the time of Julius Caesar to the death of Nero. It gives a balanced account of what happened, informing the reader about rumors (such as the conduct of Livia, the wife of Augustus) without getting into gossip mongering. I would highly recommend this particular volume. The Philippines Campaign of World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the capture of the Philippines by the Japanese at the beginning of World War II (especially concentrating on the capture of Corregidor and the Bataan peninsula). It then treats the recapture of the islands by allied forces in 1944 and 1945. The latter part of the book is a tedious account of the various battles fought in this campaign. Island of Vice by Richard Zachs This is the story of the two years that Teddy Roosevelt served as a commissioner of police in New York City. At that time, New York was under the control of a very corrupt administration. Roosevelt attempted to clean up the police force, but he also proved to be a pedantic enforcer of the laws against selling alcohol on Sundays (which was especially detested by many of the immigrants who were used to enjoying their Sundays at beer gardens in their home countries). The author is able to show the whole picture of Teddy, both his good intention but also his stubborn intransigence. The Vicksburg Campaign by Charles River Editors This is a quick version of the story of the siege of Vicksburg, the last city along the Mississippi that was in the hands of the Confederates during the Civil War. It was conquered by Grant, although after a series of frustrated attempts. The Olmec and Toltec by Charles River Editors This is the story of two early Meso-American cultures which were antecedents to the Mayans and the Aztecs. The story of the Olmec’s is somewhat clearer, even though there is very little written documentation. That of the Toltec is not quite as clear because much that was written about them was produced by the Aztec, and they tended to rewrite history (including the supposed story of the Toltecs) to make their own culture more important. Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer and Paul Boehm This is the incredible story of the attempt to preserve a large trove of scholarly documents from the ravages of El Qaida which had captured the ancient city of Timbuktu in the country of Mali. Many of the manuscripts had been kept by families for decades to keep them out of the hands of those who would destroy them (including an Islamist invasion in the 19th century). The man especially responsible for this intervention also received funds from the West for the conservation of the documents which had not been treated kindly for a long time. The manuscripts give evidence to an incredible flourishing academic tradition in this desert city for centuries, an interesting story in itself. The Berlin Airlift and the Berlin Wall by Charles River Editors This is an account both of the Berlin Airlift to bring assistance to the city of Berlin when the Soviets cut of surface access to the city shortly after World War II, and the construction and maintenance of the Berlin Wall in the 80’s, and then the fall of the wall in 1989. It gives a good, balanced version of the events. Stay well! You're in my prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Ellicott City

April 11, 2020 Peace and Good, I continue to stay in place at our provincialate in Ellicott City. It has been a peaceful time with a lot of reading, some study, and the beginning of a new book on daily meditations from Franciscan Saints. I am collecting sayings right now from the various saints and blessed throughout the ages. Spring has arrived down here in fits and starts. One day it almost feels like summer, and the next you need a winter coat. The flowers blooming are magnificent, especially the cherry trees. Audible has made a good number of books available for free streaming, and I am listening to the first Harry Potter book again. It really is well written. I know that some people find a book about witches to be dangerous, but I never saw it that way. I have finished some books: Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen This is the account of two explorers, one English and one American, who travelled to Central America in the 19th century and discovered the ruins of ancient Mayan cities. Stevens and Catherwood faced enormous difficulties in their task, partly due to the jungle nature of the area in which the cities were located, and partly due to the political instability of the area in those years. Their published accounts on their travels were enormously popular and led to much greater interest in this topic. The Hundred Years War by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the hundred years war fought between England and France in the 14th century. It actually was a series of wars fought over questions of how the king of England might also serve as a vassal of the king of France for those territories over which he had control on the continent. At a certain point, the king of England also claimed to be the king of France and fought for that right. This book also includes the story of Joan of Arc who rallied the French in order to allow the coronation of the dauphin of France. The Cambridge Five by Captivating History Captivating History is a series similar to the Charles River Editors books. They are short accounts of various historic topics. This book speaks about five Cambridge University students who became secret agent of the KBG during the 30’s, some of whom served the Soviets into the 60’s. Kim Philby was the most famous of all of them. They were responsible for the loss of many secrets throughout their careers, including the names of many Western agents and even Catholic activists in Nazi Germany who were killed by the Soviet secret services. Blue Mauritius: The Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Stamps by Helen Morgan The blue Mauritius is a stamp that was one of the first issued in this island colony of Great Britain. It was a blue stamp with the image of Queen Victoria. It became a famous and very, very expensive stamp due to its rarity and the fact that there was a variance in its printed title in its first version. The book gives a history of stamp collecting as well as stamp frauds. It is quite good, but definitely a book that would be more enjoyed by someone who is involved in this hobby. Surrounded by Love: 7 teachings from St. Francis by Murray Bodo Murray Bodo is a Friar Minor who is also a poet. I read one of his works when I first became a friar and was quite inspired by his ideas. I recently came across this book on sale on Kindle and purchased it. It was well worth it. It gives a good overview of Francis’ spirituality without being overly scholastic. Great Battles of the Ancient World by Garrett Fagan Fagan is a great presenter of various ancient topics, and this is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company on great battles of the ancient world. It deals with the various societies, the causes of war, and the way that battles were fought. He gives good insights into how this topic is important to us today. The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon The is a type of Utopia story when a ship comes to a unknown country. There the people live their Christianity faithfully (for it was revealed to them by a supernatural revelation). Bacon, being an amateur scientist, describes how the sages of the country apply their energy to all types of practical science. Happy Easter fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ellicott City

April 7, 2020 Peace and Good, I certainly did not expect to be at Ellicott City all this time, which is what a lot of us are saying. This time has helped me get way ahead on daily reflections, and even to begin a new meditation book that the publisher asked me to consider. The community here is very good, and very supportive. My health problems seem to have been solved, at least for now. Spring has arrived in Maryland, and there is plenty of land to walk at the friary. I have finished some books: Beastly Things by Donna Leon I love the books written by Donna Leon. She writes about a police Commisario in Venice. Her read of Venetian society is perfect, and there are many hidden jokes and insinuations that can be understood only by someone who has lived in Italy. The Commisario is a decent man with a good family who treats others with respect, even when he has to face the maddening politics of Italy. The Spy and the Traitor by Ben McIntyre I have read a number of books by McIntyre, and this is one of his best. He writes especially about spy (true) stories. This one is about a KGB officer who defected to serve the British Secret Service. The most exciting part of the story is how the British were able to smuggle Oleg Gordiev out of the Soviet Union in the trunk of a car. He was eventually betrayed by a CIA traitor, Aldrich Aimes, who sold the KG the names of all those Russians who were serving the West. Haile Sailaise by Charles River Editors This is the story of the last emperor of Ethiopia. He is famous for his defense of his country during the invasion of it by the Italians just before World War II. He is also considered to be a God by the Rustifarians (their name being a version of a title that he bore, the Rustifar, which more or less means the Marshal). He started out as a reformer, but by his death he was an autocrat surrounded by his servants who failed to inform him of the real situation in his country (which included a famine which killed millions). Watergate: the Scandal that brought down a President by Charles River Editors This is an overview of the scandal of the Watergate. Ironically, Nixon did not need his dirty tricks to win the election over McGovern. Furthermore, the worst thing he did was not even the original crime as much as the cover-up. While some of the things that he did were already done by others before him (and after), nevertheless Nixon’s personality did not lend to sympathy. Catherine the Great by Robert Massie Massie has been a biographer of a number of important Russian figures such as Peter the Great. This biography is filled with important information. It explains the motivation of how someone who supported enlightenment ideas would end up being a sometimes cruel autocrat. While she supposedly supported a higher morality, she certainly did not live it in her personal life, having one lover after another. The book is well done. The Rosicrucians by Charles River Editors This is a short history of this secret mystical society founded in Europe in the early 17th century. It is an amalgam of Jewish, Christian and hermetical mystical ideas. At times, it has been associated with Freemasonry. It is difficult to say exactly what it is given its secret character. Some would associate it with famous modern figures. Anthony and Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy This is a masterful account of the lives and times of the Roman Marcus Antonius and the Hellenistic Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Goldsworthy is a very good historian, and he uses all of his talent to outline what happened and why in these two figures. He deals with the fate of the decline of the Roman Republic and the murderous, incestuous death of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt. I would highly recommend this particular book. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ellicott City

March 31, 2020 Peace and Good, Like many of you, I have been closed in at our house in Ellicott City. This has been a great time to get a lot of work written, especially the daily reflections. The friars here have been very welcoming. It has also given me a good chance to read and listen to a number of books. The weather here is changing. The cherry trees are all in bloom, and it is really beautiful. I suspect that I will be here til at least a couple of weeks after Easter. It depends not only on the situation here, but also in Italy which was hit so, so hard in the pandemic. My heart rhythm has been good in these days ever since the last cardioversion. I have finished a number of books: Enemy in the Shadows: the World of Spies by Norman Gelb This is a short history of the use of spy craft during war and outside of war. I have read a book by Gelb on Dunkirk, and have found his style very good. This is not a comprehensive study, but it is more anecdotal and at times entertaining. The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor Beevor is a great author of the history of warfare, and this is one of a number of his books that I have read, including books on the Spanish Civil War and on the siege of Stalingrad. He is very thorough, giving not only details but also background information about the people involved. His account is very long and very involved, but also very well done. Main Fleet to Singapore by Russell Grenfell This book, written by a British mariner, speaks of the tactical mistakes made by Great Britain before and during the outbreak of World War II concerning the defense of Singapore. It outlines the naval disasters which were largely the result of a lack of preparation for a war which would have a large air component. The author is an outspoken proponent of Empire, and his treatment of Churchill might be stilted by his lack of perspective concerning the need to balance the needs of one theater of warfare against another, but the account is good. The Last Tsar and Tsarina by Virginia Cowles This is a relatively short account of the lives and careers (especially the mistakes) of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The book is not as academic and extensive as the books done by Robert Massie, but it does give sufficient information on the topic. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal This is a highly artistic account of an attempt by a British artist who works in ceramics and pottery to investigate the travels and careers of his family which began as Russian Jewish traders in grain from Odessa, Russia. They ended up as bankers and businessmen in Paris, London, Vienna, etc. The premise of the book is a reflection upon a collection of netsuke, small carved figures from Japan which the author inherited from his uncle who had settled in Japan. The story includes information on the plight of Jewish families in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially his branch of the family which resided in Vienna when Hitler came to power. The author’s language is elevated and his reflections serve as a source of meditation on art, politics, family, etc. World War II – 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 by History by the Hour This is a series of short accounts of the years of World War II. None of them provide deep insight, but they give a good outline of what happened in a particular year and why. Majestie: the Man Behind the King James Bible by David Teems This is the story of King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. It deals with the horrific circumstances of his early years (father killed, possibly in a plot hatched by his mother, Queen Mary of the Scots, and mother beheaded by Queen Elizabeth of England after a series of failed attempts to escape and possibly overthrow Elizabeth). The major part of the book centers on King James’ most important project: the sponsoring of the King James Bible. This bible was produced in an especially fertile era of literary production (Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.). It was also produced at a time of increasing tension between the Anglican element of the Church of England and that of the Puritans. The author obviously has great affection for the figure of King James, but that never allows him to paper over his almost constant imprudence and decadence. Walt Disney by Charles River Editors This is the story of the famed cartoonist and amusement park mogul from his earliest days up to his death. In his earliest days, he was often in debt and surviving from one cartoon to the next. It was only after Mickey Mouse was invented, and even more when his feature films were issued that he had the money to dream into life his Disneyland. He was not exactly the most attentive of husbands, always being caught up with his projects. Furthermore, he comes across as a distant and at time abusive boss. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 20, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

March 20, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope you are well and are keeping safe. I have been in Ellicott City for about a month now, and given all the travel restrictions, I will probably be here for quite a while. I am trying to self-isolate as much as possible, given my health problems lately. I had another procedure done on Wednesday, a cardioversion, and the cardiologist has finally gotten my heart in its proper rhythm. I do not know if this will last, but it is good that I have arrived at this point. I was in Atrial Fibrilation so long that I didn't even know what not being in it felt like. I can notice the difference now, and it feels good. I have another meeting this coming week with the cardiologist. I have to admit that I am not sorry not to be in Italy in these weeks. The poor people there. There have been so many deaths, largely because of the elderly population there as well as the hospital system which I do not think is up to par. I finished some reading: The First Battle of Kiev by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the conquest of Kiev by the German troops during World War II. At this point, the Germans were all but invincible, while the Soviets were saddled by the interference of Stalin who refused to allow his troops to make judicious retreats in order to save them from utter destruction. The Fall of Constantinople by Charles River Editors This account gives a short history of the city that the emperor Constantine made into the capitol of his empire, and eventually became the capitol of the Eastern Byzantine empire from its origin to its fall to the Turks in 1453. Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy This is an account of the building and maintenance of the defensive wall built between England under the Romans and Scotland under the local tribes. Goldsworthy, along with many other authors, argues that the wall itself would not hold out the invaders. It was intended as an early warning device so that local troops could slow the invader down while other troops could be collected and advanced to the threatened positions. Furthermore, through much of its history, it was used to regulate trade (and taxes upon such trade) between the north and the Roman south. As always, Goldsworthy’s treatment is scholarly without being boring. America at War by Terence Finn This is a book which covers the various wars (and policing actions) which America has fought. Each chapter covers another war, and the author gives a good treatment of why the war developed, what were the major actions during the war, what were the right and wrong choices made by civil and military leaders during the war, and what the aftermath of the war was. The author is not a gung ho militarist. He gives reasoned arguments to show why this or that decision led to victory or failure. Medical School for Everyone: Emergency Medicine by Dr. Roy Benaroch This is a teaching company course on dealing with emergency situations in hospitals. After numerous disclaimers concerning this not being intended to diagnose medical situations, it gives a case by case account of diagnosing and then treating patients who come into the emergency room. Benaroch insists that the most important diagnostic tool is listening to the patient. Their information is not always clear and ordered, but it is the best source of information to make a diagnosis. The Irish Identity: Independence, History and Literature by Marc Conner This is a Teaching Company course on the resurrection of Irish culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. The author gives a good account of the various authors (and some politicians) who played a role in the renaissance of Irish culture and the Irish state. Some works (books and/or plays) are covered in detail. The work is quite good. The Afghan Wars by Rupert Colley This is a short account of the numerous wars that have been fought in this corner of the world. This has been a terribly troubled area since ancient times, as it continues to be up to this day. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude