Friday, December 23, 2016

Rome - Geneva - Rome

December 23, 2016 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome for these past couple of weeks for our definitory meeting. The meeting in December always seems to go on forever, and this year was no exception. It seems as if things develop over the fall, and they have to be decided before the end of the year. The meeting went well, but it was very, very long. As I have written before, every time one of us takes a trip, we give a report on it - so the discussion involves all of the situations all over the world. On Wednesday I took a quick trip up to Geneva to help write several documents for Franciscans International. In theory, this could probably have done by e mail or by skype, but I always find it best to do it face to face when that is possible. I have the notes now on what has to be in the documents, and I will be working on them over the next few weeks. It should not take all that long. I will be here in Rome until Sunday. That evening I fly out to London where I will overnight. (It is a frequent flyer ticket, so you have to take the connections they give you.) I will fly into Baltimore on Monday and will be in the States until January 5th. I have finished some books: How to Hatch a Dinosaur by Thomas Hayden This is a science essay which talks about the attempt of scientists to reverse engineer the chicken to develop more of its dinosaur characteristics. Very often the DNA necessary for various traits is still present, but it is being controlled by various stopper DNA which short circuits the ability of the organism to develop in a certain way (e.g. growing teeth). The scientists plan to cancel the effect of that blocker DNA to see how much like a dinosaur they can make the offspring of chickens. Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World by Thomas Evan This is basically a presentation of President Eisenhower’s years as a president. These were not easy years for Ike who much more preferred his status as a war hero. Yet, he managed to guide the US through some very difficult years, especially in regards to its atomic policies. Ike was an ardent card player, and he knew how to bluff. He would constantly talk tough (or use one of his underlings to play tough cop to his nice cop). Yet, he never revealed whether he would actually use nuclear arms. There are indications that he knew what a worldwide disaster their use would have been, but he allowed for their continued development (although he limited their growth which was being proposed by some rather paranoid members of the military and his advisors). This book also nicely covers the development of the U2 and its use and its being shot down. This is a very nice, fair portrait of President Eisenhower. Made in China by Tony Perrottet This is a travel essay on the attempt of various Chinese entrepreneurs to develop an industry of fine food and wine in China. The Chinese have managed to establish wineries and make wines that are capable of winning international honors. They are making fine cheeses (even though most of the Chinese population is lactose intolerant) and caviar. Many of their products are not yet accepted by connoisseurs, but they are slowly being embraced by both the Chinese and even outsiders. The Girl from Krakow by Alex Rosenberg This is the story of a young woman from Krakow who is Jewish. She studies law just before World War II. Even then, she suffers prejudice for being Jewish, but then when the Nazis arrive it becomes much, much worse. She is married and has a child, but things go very wrong. She also has an affair with another man and a woman. The tale is twisted and at times improbable. The gentile characters are often demonized a bit too much. I didn’t especially like this book. Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist by Br. Guy Consolmagno This is the story of an astronomer who works at the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gondolfo. He speaks of his vocation to the Jesuits and his choice to work at the Vatican. He strongly argues that the Church does not oppose science, but that faith and science each have their own territory. Nevertheless, science can lead one to faith, and God wanted us to discover this world as an act of praise to Him as creator. He speaks of his work with meteorites and especially the discovery of the source of many of them. He closes with his work on a sabbatical in Antarctica with others to find meteorites in the ice down there. The Long, Curious, Extravagant Evolution of Feathers by Carl Zimmer This essay speaks about the question of how feathers evolved. There are certain bud tissues that give rise to skin at times, and protrusions on the skin such as scales at times. Scientists ask whether they might be the source of feathers. Furthermore, Chinese archaeologists have discovered dinosaurs that seem to be covered by pin feathers, even though they do not seem to have been able to fly. Could that be a major clue as to how feathers evolved? Merry Christmas fr. Jude

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

London - Mesilla Park - Rome

December 6, 2016 The Memorial of St. Nicholas Peace and Good, This past week I travelled back across the Atlantic to attend a meeting of the three definitories (councils) of the three provinces in the Mid-West and California. I was just an interested spectator at this meeting as the friars spoke about how they could collaborate in their ministries and other activities. There was a very good spirit at the meeting which was the first of what we hope will be a continuous dialogue. The three definitories then met individually, and I was able to attend a part of each of the meetings for different reasons. The meetings took place at Mesilla Park, New Mexico. This is about a half hour west of El Paso, and we have a very nice retreat house there where the friars are always incredibly hospitable. Friday I flew back to Europe, arriving on Saturday, two days before my luggage. It actually arrived a couple of hours after me, but the local company that was supposed to deliver it was very remiss in getting it to me. They called three times, morning, afternoon and evening, each time giving an expected arrival time. I will be here in Rome now until Christmas day (with a probably two day trip up to Geneva to take care of some business). This is a good chance to catch up with my jet lag. I finished some books: Berlin Nights by Nick Paumgarten This is a troubling travel article on a visit to the night life in what used to be East Berlin. It gives the word decadence a new meaning. The music heard at the clubs visited is mostly techno rock, but it is not the music that attracts the crowds that visit the clubs. It is sex and drugs and drink, etc. It speaks of a society that has lost all sense of its values and lives to be entertained (but in a sad, confused manner). The Sages by Charles Morris This is an account of three famous financiers: George Soros, Warren Buffett and Paul Voelker. The first two were investors and the last was the head of the FED during a period of inflation which his policies gradually broke. Soros is famous for his international investments which include currency trading (and possibly manipulation) while Buffett is famous for investing in companies which he trusts (and his tendency to treat the companies with respect and not use them for his own profit). The book gives a short biography of each figure and an overview of his financial strategies. It is quite informative. Big Russ and Me by Tim Russert This is a bit of a biography of the father of Tim Russert, big Russ, who taught Tim Russert many of the values that led him to be a tremendous success on the Sunday morning press interview programs. Russert was known as a fundamentally decent man who was always well prepared for his interviews. He would ask the tough questions, but in a respectful way. An added plus to this book is that he is from Buffalo, my home town. He referred to many of the places and foods which I knew growing up. This is a warm and wise presentation. Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie This is a volume in the Medicus series. They speak about a doctor in one of the Roman legions who is stationed in Britain and is married to a native Britain named Tillie. They are called upon to investigate various mysteries. In this case, one of the doctor’s assistants disappears. In the meantime, a British child sees someone burying a person in the construction project that would become Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain. Finally, a native child disappears and the locals blame the Romans for the kidnapping. The action is well written, the dialog quite good, and the Medicus and his wife are likeable. I recommend this series of anyone who wants to get a sense of life in the Roman legions. The Peanut Puzzle by Jerome Groopman This is a study of the cause of food allergies in small children. The common wisdom had been that it was better not to expose very small children to possibly allergic elements (milk, peanuts, etc.) until the child has developed his/her immunity at around six months old. Now the current seems to be heading in the opposite direction – that it is better that the child be exposed early so that the child might develop a normal reaction to these allergens. Furthermore, studies have been conducted on how to desensitize children who are allergic. Scientists have found that eating cooked foods that have the allergens tends to change the form of the allergens sufficiently that the child might not have a reaction. Then, if the child continues to eat those cooked allergens, that child might very well develop the ability to digest normally even uncooked forms of the same allergen. Our Body the ecosystem by Virginia Hughes This is an essay which concerns experiments done on the bacteria that grow upon the skin of people with asthma and eczema. They are trying to figure out whether the make-up of those suffering more or less matches that of those who do not. Furthermore, they want to know if the make-up changes when someone is about to suffer from an attack of the disease. They do this all by taking small tissue samples and checking for a particular gene marker on the DNA to see which bacteria are present. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wexford - Dublin - Palo Alto - New York - London - Oxford - London

November 26, 2016 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I have been on the road quite a bit these past couple of weeks. After my time in Wexford, I headed over to a session on continuing formation held in Palo Alto just outside of San Francisco. I had been at the very last part of an earlier offering of the same workshop in January in Florida. This time I got to hear the central portion of the workshop offered by Br. Ed Coglin, the president of Sienna University. He was very good, offering insight on the artwork of St. Francis, the writings of St. Bonaventure that influenced the writings, and their implications to our religious life today. Over the course of my stay there, I had numerous meetings with friars about various situations. These events are always great to catch up with what is going on with the friars from various places. From there I flew to New York for the semi-annual meeting of Franciscans International. I am on the Board of Directors and it is an NGO that lobbies at the UN in New York and Geneva for Human Rights based on Franciscan values. We have been working on an evaluation and a strategy for the near future and were able to bring a lot of that work to a completion. Then on to London and Oxford for a continuation of the visitation of the custody of Great Britain and Ireland. These have been days filled with meetings with various friars. The visitation is going well, and I will be back in Scotland and England in January to complete it. Right now I have to fly out to El Paso tomorrow for another meeting of the definitories (governing councils) of three of the US provinces. I am just there as an observer to see what is going on. From there I will finally be headed back to Rome for a few weeks. I have finished some readings: The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller I have been really fortunate to find a couple of excellent history books in these months. The first was the Sleepwalkers about the origin of the conflict in World War I. This book is about the assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo during the Pan-American Exposition there. The book gives a good overview of the presidency of McKinley up to that point (for he was at the beginning of his second term). This includes the Spanish-American War and the conquest of Cuba and the Philippines. It also covers the development of the Anarchist movement in the States. This was a topic which has always interested me. I highly recommend this particular book – it is a true masterpiece of historic writing. Friday Night Luck by Edward Hoch A man who wants to be a policeman ends up not being hired as such, and so he becomes a member of a volunteer watch. His day job is working for a company that cleans crime scenes. He and his crew must clean a site where there is one dead body, but way too much blood. It turns out to be from another man who has disappeared. Even though he should not be doing anything on this, he investigates and gets to the bottom of the story, almost getting killed in the process. My Timbuktu by Adriana Paramo This is an interesting story about a couple who go to a music festival in the Tuareg section of northern Mali. The wife and author then contrasts what she saw with what she was later watching on the news a few years later which showed the destruction of medieval monuments by fundamentalist Muslims who had conquered the area. She tells of various encounters with the local Tuareg which makes them into real people (both virtuous and flawed). Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson is a hilarious travel author. This is about a trip he takes through Europe around 1990, right at the end of the end of communism in Eastern Europe. Some of his observations are very funny, but I found others a bit cruel and over the top. He just doesn’t seem to strike his rhythm in this book. It is nevertheless a fairly good read. Such a Lucky, Pretty Girl by Persia Walker This is a sad story about a detective who was sexually abused by her stepfather and who is then called upon to investigate the death of a young, 15 year old beautiful young woman. It turns out that the whole situation is more complicated than it would appear at first. It becomes seamy, and while some of the detectives presumptions are right on, others demand a bit of revision. I hope you have a good Advent. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Rome - Lisbon - Porto - Viseu - Coimbra - Fatima - Lisbon - Dublin - Wexford

November 9, 2016 Peace and Good, Sorry that this blog is a bit late, but the past week my computer was down for the count, sidelined by a bad virus. I use two anti-virus programs each day, but I travel so much that a virus is always a bad possibility. Fortunately, I didn't lost anything, so other than being off the net for a week, there was no big harm. We have been in Portugal for the past two weeks. The first week we did some tourism to sites where our friars are located. Porto is where Port wine originates. Coimbra is the city where St. Anthony joined our Order. This is also the place where the relics of the first five martyrs of the Franciscan Order are housed. We were at Fatima for a meeting to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Milita of Mary Immaculate, a movement founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe. This past week we had our usual definitory in Fatima. We took a bit of time out to see the sites around the city. Most of the friars were very impressed by Fatima, but I was not all that moved. It is not that I didn't like it, but I did not find myself drawn to it (as I very much was in Guadalupe in Mexico). This Sunday I flew into Ireland to do a canonical visitation here. We have two friaries: in Dublin we have a parish and in the Southeast, Wexford, we have a shrine church. The friars here are doing a great job. The weather is pretty much what you would expect in Ireland at this time of year. I will be leaving for San Francisco this coming Friday. I have finished some books: The Herald by Leslie Glass A reporter from the Herald comes to the site of a crime which appears to be a murder-suicide. He arrogantly tries to interview the presumed widow of the deceased married man even before she has been informed about her husband’s death. In the meantime, a detective is trying to sort out what really happened, especially since everyone had assumed that it was a love affair gone bad and the woman who was killed turns out to be the step-sister of the deceased. The story is well written with a few good twists and turns. The Defector by Daniel Silva I usually don’t reread books, but those by Silva are almost as good the second time through A Russian defector is kidnapped from the streets of London, and Gabriel Alon, who brought the defector to the west, has to sort it all out with his team. In the meantime, his own wife is kidnapped and held for ransom (the return of the children of a Russian arms merchant-oligarch who is living in the States. All of Silva’s books are well written. The Great Pleasure Project by Tim Neville This is the story of two men who travel to North Korea to try out the ski slops of a new mega-resort built by the present dictator of the country. There is a tremendous disconnect between the luxury of the resort and the way normal people live There is a constant sense of being watched and controlled by the communist minders. While the slopes are fine, the whole experience leaves both the author and the reader distinctly uncomfortable. Cities of the Ancient World by Steven Tuck This is a 24 lesson series on various cities of the ancient world from the Teaching Company. It is a thorough examination of the phenomenon of city life from the earliest ancient city Catal Hayuk in Turkey up to Rome and Constantinople. It speaks of the various city plans, spaces for commerce, residential houses and central administration (which includes both civil government and religious shrines). It speaks of defenses of the city and why they were needed. It also tries to draw lessons from ancient cities that might be applied to the cities of our own day. It is well done. A Tale of a Tub by Patricia Marx This is the account of a travel author who takes a trip from the States to Hamburg, Germany in a commercial freighter. Unlike what one would expect, it is not all that much cheaper than a cruise boat. The food is forgettable, the amusements minimal, the accomadations are sufficient but not much more than that. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Seoul - Rome

October 23, 2016 I spent most of last week in Seoul with our friars at their provincial chapter. I had been the visitator for this province since the Assistant General for Asia comes for Korea and he could not do the visitation in his own province. I had a presentation that went less than an hour, but there is something about being present for the discussions that shows the local friars that we, in Rome, care about what is going on there. The General and Benedict, the Assistant General for Asia were also there. I was also present on Wednesday for a discussion on the future of our Philippine custody. We have been looking at the situation for some time, and would like Korea to take a more active role in guiding the Philippines so that they could be better prepared to become a province. There will be a proposal at the second session of their chapter in November that says this. I arrived back in Rome on Thursday evening. I had a few meetings on Friday, and yesterday I was trying to catch up on rest and sleep. This has been a bad jet lag time since I did an around the world trip in about ten days. It will probably take more than a week for me to catch up. Later this morning the General Definitory heads out to Portugal. It is only about a two hour trip. We have a congress there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Militia of Mary Immaculate, a group founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe. Then we will also have a definitory there. From there I will head to Dublin for a visitation of the Irish part of the Great Britain/Ireland custody. I will not be back in Rome until early December. I have finished some books: Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by Julian Thompson The story of the mass evacuation of most of the British Expeditionary Force from northern France where they were trapped at the beginning of World War II has always fascinated me. This is not the book to read about this topic. It delves mostly into land defences as the pocket which held the Brits collapsed around them. It speaks at length of the names and identify of various groups of soldiers. It only quickly covers the actual evacuation. A Change in His Heart by Jack Gredrickson This is a very good story about a beaten down detective in a small city who seeks to survive numerous indignities throughout a snow storm. In the meantime, a discount store owner and his assistant are selling cheap, fire damaged boots to a multitude of customers. These stories collide when the detective buys a pair of boots which smell of smoke, have a purple dye that runs, and are uncomfortable. The owners assistant discovers both that his boss has been setting him up to be charged with sales tax violations, and that he sabotoged his romantic interest. It has a very good ending. Seven Women by Eric Metaxis This is a companion volume to Metaxis’ book on seven men. These are important women who, by their faith, managed to change the world. They include Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, St. Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. This is a nice mix of the Christian tradition,, including two Catholics, one Orthodox and four Protestant. Three are from previous centuries while the other four are recent, including two who gave their witness saving people during World War II. This is the author of a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and another one on William Wilberforce who fought for an end to the slave trade at the beginning of the 19th century The book is a series of short biographies, and is an inspiring read Rocks with Wings by Anne Hillerman This is one of the books written by the daughter of Tony Hillerman. He has written a long series of books of police enforcement on the Navaho reservation. His books give a wonderful insight into modern day Navaho culture Anne Hillerman is successful on that insight as well, but the plot of her detective story leaves something to be desired. She seems desperate at the end of the book to put everything in at once, and she has characters saying things that are unlikely just so that she can tie the plot together. I hope that her future books are as good on the cultural elements but improve on the detective part of the story. Hail Dayton by Rachel Maddux This is the story of visiting a small town in Tennessee, Dayton, in which the famous Scopes Evolution Trial took place. There is nothing much there, but a few years ago the town fathers arranged for an annual commemoration of the event with a series of plays and other events. The author comes from up the road a bit in Tennessee, and Dayton had often been used as a mock term for a hick town. After visiting Dayton, the author finds that much more difficult to do. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rome - Montreal

October 13, 2016 Peace and Good, The last few days of last week were spent in Rome. There I had the joy of showing my niece from Chicago, Christine, and her husband, Reid, around Rome. They arrived on the 4th and left on Saturday morning. Even though I have theoretically lived in Rome for the past six years, I get very few opportunities to see the city. It is sort of like what happened growing up in Buffalo which is just down the road from Niagara Falls. The only time that we really got to see it was when relatives were in Buffalo to visit us. Likewise, when I am in Rome, I am usually there for meetings and don't get to see the sights. So it was great to see my relatives, and it was great to see the city as well. One of the things that we did was go to an audience with the Holy Father. It is funny that until recently I have not gotten to see him up close, and just in the past two months I have seen him three times: in Cracow, in Assisi and at St. Peter's Basilica. He looked tired this past Wednesday, as he did in Assisi. I have to keep remembering that he is around 80 years old, and that is really a lot to ask of someone at that age. On Sunday I flew out to Montreal where we have been having meetings for the past few days with the provincials of our federation. This is a beautiful city, and the friars here have been incredibly hospitable. They are Polish friars, and the Poles show hospitality with food. That has been the case, and I think we all put on 10 pounds in the past few days. Tomorrow I head on to the next city: Seoul. I will be there to give my report on the visitation that I did there to the friars present at their provincial chapter. I will arrive on Saturday and leave on Thursday. I have finished some books: A Certain Recollection by John Buentello This is the story of a police officer who responds to being awakened in the night by passing police cruisers by getting up and going to the scene of the crime. The only problem is that he is not an acting officer. He is retired and is suffering from dimentia. Yet, his natural instincts are powerful and he is able to solve the crime before the other officers sufle him off the scene. Hitler’s Scientists by John Cornwall This is an overview of science in medicine from the end of World War I up to the end of World War II. The author speaks of how many of the scientists did terrible things, some because they wanted to but others because they were afraid of losing their privilege or status. He contrasts the many failed research projects in Germany because of lack of organization (with various offices fighting for projects and refusing to share their findings with others) with the more centralized research projects in Great Britain. He sounds a warning at the end concerning scientists (e.g. geneticists, virologists) who feel that they can do whatever they want because they are only trying to learn (without examining the possible terrible consequences of their choices). Tales of the Trash by Peter Hessler This is a really fine short story of an ex-patriot living in Cairo and his trash collector. Although those who collect trash seem to be at the bottom of society, it is actually a very developed system of work and bribes and rights which regulates trash collection better than most modern companies could ever devise. The trash collector becomes a type of friend with this man, sharing beers in the evening and the trash collector even asking the man’s advice with medical matters. Rival Rails: the race to build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad by Walter Borneman This is the story of the quest to build transcontinental railroads (not just the first one) and all the machinations what various rail barons went through to get their rails down and to try to keep others from doing the same. One get the sense that most of those building up their railroad chains (either through construction or through purchase of pre-existing railroads) didn’t really consider the cost and profit question, nor did most of them have as their first priority the service that they were going to offer to their customers. There is an interesting aside about a Fred Harvey who set up the first decent railroad restaurants and then also the best dining cars available. Serial Killer by Jon Breen A couple of police detectives go to a creative writing class to share their experiences of policing with those who want to write detective novels. One of the students asks whether they have ever dealt with a serial killer. They recount how a man feeding the birds in a park became so upset with another man who tried to stop him because of the harm he was doing to the birds that he eventually killed him. There is a clever twist when they are asked why the detectives would consider him to be a serial killer when he only killed one man. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rome - Assisi - Rome

September 27, 2016 Peace and Good, This past week was quite busy. It began with a meeting with provincials and custodes from all over the world. We had a first meeting with half of them in January, and this was the second meeting. Then on Tuesday we went up to Assisi to be with the Pope as he greeted an ecumenical meeting. On Wednesday we went up to Mt. LaVerna where St. Francis received the stigmata, the wounds that Jesus had. Then on Wednesday night we returned to Assisi and were there until Saturday. On Saturday morning we drove down to Rome. On Sunday morning, I went out to our school in the suburbs, the Seraphicum, where I studied as a student. There I gave a conference to the provincials and custodes who are in charge of our jurisdictions in Africa. All throughout the week I preached in Italian and English to all the friars at the meeting. The homily was only about five minutes in each language, but it took all day to prepare for the next day's homily. I will be heading out to Geneva tomorrow morning and will get back to Rome on Friday afternoon. I have a meeting up in Geneva with the staff of Franciscans International which works as an NGO at the UN office there. We got to see the Pope quite close this past week. From the friars who saw him when he first arrived in Assisi in the morning, they said he was in good shape. Later in the day, however, he looked and acted very, very tired. He is around 80 years old, and he only has only lung because of a disease from which he suffered many years ago, so no wonder he was tired. I have finished some books: White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Paul Clayton I thought that this was going to be an archaeological study of the settlement in Roanoke which had been settled by colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh, but which then disappeared before a relief ship arrived with supplies. Instead this is a reconstruction on a fictional and a little meladramatic level of what the colonists encountered between the time they were dropped ashore and when the relief arrived (but too late). Like many historical fiction accounts, it is not bad, but not really great. Divine Droplets by WLG Enterprises The title of this story is from a particular type of Sake that the main character likes to drink before he goes out to kill a young woman. He has just escaped justice because of a police error, and he now feels invincible. The policeman who planted a bit of evidence confronts the lawyer who got this evil but rich man off, and she “accidentally” drops a sketch book in front of him which will certainly convict the man of some murders for which he had not originally been charged. Daughters of the Springs by Lauren Groff This is a cute story about the female divers at Wekki Wachi in Florda. It is a hokey old fashioned show of mermaids, but somehow it works. The writer, who is a bit of a feminist, was nevertheless impressed by the beauty of the divers and their movements while underwater. She had arrived expecting to see something that would annoy her, and yet the reaction was the opposite. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark This is easily one of the best history books I have ever written. So many historians speak of the causes leading up to World War I as being the fault of one country or another. Clark shows the complexity of the relationships and motivations of various countries in this period. He delves into why a relatively minor event in the Balkans would lead to a world war. He exploded various pet theories of historians with concrete evidence. His work is remarkably well researched, but one never gets the feeling that he is simply throwing out quotations simple to use them. I cannot recommend this book enough. The Drought by James Born This is a very well written short story about a police detective on the homicide squad in Florida. The title refers to the idea that there was a period in which there were few murders. The detectives have little to do. Then one of the detectives is called to investigate a police shooting of a civilian. He does his investigation in a methodical, professional manner. He is pressured by the assistant state’s district attorney who wants to blame the policeman for this shooting for political reasons, but he resists this temptation, even if it means he would be transferred out of homicide to a less “attractive” police division. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

San Antonio - Rome

September 14, 2016 The Feast of the Exultation of the Cross Peace and Good, This past week I left San Antonio for Rome on Tuesday and arrived at noon on Wednesday. This was a frequent flyer ticket, so you sort of have to take what is available. I ended up flying from San Antonio to Nashville to Philadelphia to Frankfort to Rome. Fortunately, all the connections went perfectly and my luggage did not get lost anywhere along the way. The weather in Rome is a bit warmer than when I left, and unusually we have had a few thunder storms. That is really not that common here in Rome. Please keep the mom of my former assistant, Linda Johnson, in your prayers. She passed away this past week. Linda's mom's name is Margaret Carver. She died in her home town of Dundee, Scotland. We began our definitory on Monday morning and will go until lunch on Friday. Fortunately, there is not that much on the agenda this week. Next week we have a meeting here in Rome and in Assisi with half of the provincials from throughout the Order. We met the other half in January, and this is sort of a check up on how things are going half way through our six year term. I will be preaching at the Masses throughout the week (in Italian and English). I found out that this week we will be going to Assisi a bit earlier than we had thought to attend a session offered by Pope Francis so we will get to be close to him. I had not seen him in the first few years that he was Pope, and now I get to see him twice within a few weeks. I have finished some reading: Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire by Peter Stark In the early 1800’s, John Jacob Astor launches a plan to establish a settlement on the Columbia River in Oregon so that he might trade various goods for furs that he would then ship to China where they were most valuable. He would then buy goods there and ship them back to the States. He sent two expeditions, one overland and one by ship. Those going overland had a very rough time of it, and many of them died along the way. Those going by ship arrived, but when they got there, it was a very difficult proposal. The expedition ended when it had to be sold to the British during the War of 1812. It was an audacious proposal, but even though it failed, it laid claim to the northwest and led to the settlement by which Oregon and Washington became part of the Union. Six Women of Salem by Marilynne Roach This is the account of the Salem witch trails. It seems as if much of the material is drawn from the trial records, but then the author invents the thoughts of the main characters even if they are not elsewhere recorded. There is no psychological assessment of the hysteria which led to this tragedy. Rather, it is simply a record of what happened, repeating certain reactions among the young girls supposedly tormented by the witches over and over again. It makes for difficult reading because of the highly repetitive nature of the account. Ashes to Ashes by David Farley An American visits the place in India which is considered to be the navel of creation and which in modern times is used for the cremation of many Hindu people. He describes the process of cremation and his interviews with the untouchables who do this work. He himself, because of difficulties, had considered killing himself. This trip was to investigate a place highly associated with the dead so that he might reflect on his own possible death. It is interesting that the trip seems to bring him to a certain peace in which he was able to accept what life visited upon him. The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester This is the story of a heroic and tragic figure who was the first to chart the various geological layers of strata under England. He was from a commoners family, and was thus poorly received by the founders of a geologic association which was made up of titled participants. He squandered his resources on various houses and enterprises and ended up in debtors prison. After that episode, though, he simplified his life and eventually his work was recognized by those who be and he was given a modest pension by the government. His finding proved to be controversial for they challenged the idea of creationism held by most believers in his time (for he was able to date various fossils and layers of rock to their various ages). Sack o’Woe by John Harvey This is the story of a policeman who watches over sex offenders in England. His wife and children leave him because he spends so much time with those difficult people. It is as their hurt has been contagious and been brought home. One of the men who he watches moves in with a young woman who has small children. It does not turn out all that well. The title comes from a blues song that the policeman first heard when he received a record from his father. Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen This is a short account of the search for the cause of the Ebola disease, including the attempt to find the host that hides the virus between outbreaks. It has an epilogue which speaks of the recent outbreak in Western Africa. It is more of a popular overview, but it does give enough information to have a good sense of what doctors are dealing with. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ellicott City - Austin - San Antonio

September 5, 2016 Peace and Good, This past week has been in the States. Tomorrow I head back to Rome for some meetings. I finished my doctors' visits. All went well. I then flew down to Austin for a meeting with the provincial of our Mid-Western province and Mexico. These two provincials have a lot on which they could work together, and this meeting was an initial encounter to speak about the possibilities. I am very pleased with the results, and both of the provinces will spend the next year discussing the possibilities and presenting their determinations to their provinces. I then went down to San Antonio. There is a formation house here, and one of the friars, fr. Don Barassa, whom I know since his earliest days in the Order, made his solemn profession of vows on Saturday. These days have allowed me to share with these friars what is going on in the larger Order, especially in terms of the fight for justice and peace. I was very pleased with their questions and the discussions we had. I was able to finish a project this morning of editing a prayer book for our friars in Padua. The prayer book is in English, and it is especially intended for pilgrims to Padua. I have finished some reading: The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng This is a most unusual story that is set in Malaya at the beginning of the Second World War. A young man, half English and half Chinese, the son of a shipping magnate, finds a Japanese friend who teaches him the martial arts. The Japanese man was using the boy to find out information needed for the coming Japanese invasion. When it comes, the boy is caught between serving the Japanese in the hope of saving his family and fighting against the Japanese. It is an incredibly ambiguous story told from the point of view of someone whom most would classify as a collaborator. It is well done. Skinhead Central by T. Jefferson Parker This is a well written short story about a policeman and his wife who move to Idaho upon retiring. Not too far away is a group of skinheads, one of whom steals something from the couple. We also hear about the son of the couple who was shot while on duty as a policeman. In a very short space, the author manages to paint a touching and not trite picture of loss and redemption (although not exactly a whole new start for the thief). The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adreinne Mayor This is the story of a king from Asia Minor who challenged the growing power of the Roman republic. He was famous for his use of poison and his remedies to prevent poisoning (which makes sense given that his father was killed after having been poisoned by Mithradetes’ own mother). He was remarkably successful in his battles, but then faced a series of defeats because of bad luck, poor training, etc. This book is very good, but it tries to demonized the Romans a bit too much. Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt Hannah Arendt was a correspondent from the New Yorker who was a Jewish woman born in Germany. She fled and practiced her journalistic career in the States after the war. She went to the trial of Adolph Eichmann in the 1960’s. Her observations are very good. She sees Eichmann as a not too intelligent bureaucrat who probably never thought through the consequences of his choices. She speaks of the banality of evil. The Jewish government of Israel were hoping that they might portray Eichmann as a historic evil figure, and he turned out to be quite different. This is a good reflection on the issue. The Thirteen Colonies by Louis Wright This is an overview of the history of the English colonies in North America from the time of its discovery until the time of the American Revolution. Although I have studies these topics a number of times, it was good to get an overview of the history. The book is not terribly insightful, but it does give a good portrait of the issue. The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarril This is a thorough study of the Inca Empire at its inception and then during its conquest by the troops of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish Conquistador. How is it that so few troops were able to conquer a mighty empire of millions of people. The Spanish soldiers do not come out looking all that good. For all their protestations that they were doing this for the spread of Christianity, they proved to be incredibly greedy and cruel. They certainly didn’t act like Christians. The book also treats of the discovery of Inca ruins, including the famous remains of Machu Pichu. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rome - Ellicott City

August 27, 2016 Peace and Good, After I returned to Rome from the definitory's trip to the Dolomites, I minded the store while the other Assistants and the General were off on the road. Then last Sunday I flew into Baltimore for a series of medical and dental examinations. All went well, but I have a couple of small follow ups to schedule at the beginning of next year. It has been a quiet week at Ellicott City. I have been running to and from doctor's offices, but I managed to get them all in within a week. On Tuesday I have a short trip to take to Hartford (just for the day) and then on Thursday I head off to Austin, Texas for a meeting with the provincial of that part of the country and the provincial of our Mexican province. We are trying to develop some sort of partnership in that part of the country to help us in the Hispanic ministry. I have finished some books: The Happiness Metric by Madeline Drexler This is the story of a trip to Bhutan, a country in the Himalayan Mountains. They have established a national index to measure happiness. While that sounds silly at the surface, it does measure the impact on policies upon the citizens of the country and not just the amount of money to be earned by a few. In some ways, it is very successful, but in others it has proven most difficult to get an accurate read of what would make the people happier. For example, in a profoundly Buddhist country, what is the consequence of the growth of consumerism. This is a good reflection on some of these issues. Today is Better Than Tomorrow by Benjamin Busch This is a travel story of a retired army officer who travels back to the Iraqi province where he once served as a military governor after the US invasion of that country. This part of the country has continued to deteriorate and is now all but hopeless. That is the reason for the title of the story, for the inhabitants are sure that things will only get worse. The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston This is the same author who wrote the Hot Zone. His specialty is stories about the danger of infectious diseases. This one deals with the Anthrax scare immediately after 911 and how the same event could have involved the spread of a genetically engineered smallpox virus. We know that this was investigated in the Soviet Union and now in Russia. We don’t know, however, the exact details of how dangerous this all is. East of Desolation by Jack Higgins This is the story of a bush pilate who files in Greenland. He is asked by the authorities to aid in the investigation of a plane crash. It turns out that there is much more involved in the story than a simple plane crash. There is a question of smuggling and murder. One of the main characters is an over the hill action actor. It is a good story, although not the best that Higgins has written. America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era by Edward O’Donnell This is a Teaching Company course dealing with the United States from between around 1880 to 1920. It was a time when Robber Barons manages to gain control of much of the industrial production of the country, but also of a movement to bring more social justice to workers and the poor. This course speaks of industrial, political and social movements during the era. It is quite well done and worth listening to. Encountering the Manuscripts by Philip Comfort This is a study of the evaluation of manuscripts of the New Testament text. There are approximately 5,000 important manuscripts, mostly in Greek although some of them are early translations in other languages. There are also quotation contained in the writings of the Fathers of the Church All of these have to be taken into account when one is trying to establish a critical edition of the original New Testament text (or at least as close as we can hope to arrive at it). The book is not for the casual reader for it is highly technical in detail. I had studied some of this when I was a student at the Biblicum many years ago, so this was a good refresher course for me. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 19, 2016


August 19, 2016 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome since we came down from the Dolomites (the Italian southern Alps). Rome is usually unbearably hot at this time of year, but this is one of the most pleasant Augusts that anyone here can recall. There are a lot of tourists in town, but many of the Italians have abandoned the city for the months, going either to the sea or to the mountains. Yesterday I traveled up to Padua for the day for the funeral of one of our friars, fr. Enzo Poiana. He was the rector of the Basilica of the Santo (St. Anthony). He was only 57 years old and died of a heart attack while on vacation. The basilica was packed, and there were many bishops, priests, dignitaries. He was very well liked by the people, very down to earth. Before he joined the friars, he was a member of the Alpinisti, the Alpine Italian troops, and there was a very large contingent of them there as well. The day before yesterday word came out that the Pope had named a new rector to the Office for Family Life. We have been expecting major shake ups in the offices, and this seems to be the first out of the bag. We'll have to wait to see what other jobs and shuffled. Sunday I will be heading out to the States for my annual 50,000 mile check up with the doctors. There are multiple visits throughout the week. I finished some books: Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton This is a manuscript of a completed work that was found in his files upon his death. It is about a freebooter in Jamaica during the 17th century who hears about the presence of a Spanish treasure ship in a harbor of a Spanish island not too far away. He decides to capture this ship and its treasure, but he must gather a most unlikely crew of briggands, and then he and his crew must undergo incedible adventures in capturing and holding the ship. It is a fun read, not too serious but not intended to be. Bridge of Spies by Giles Whittell This is the story of the shooting down of the U2 flight flown by Gary Powers as well as the attempt to bring him back from the Soviet Union. He was traded for a KGB spy who had been arrested after making some dumb mistakes. The man, in fact, was a rather horrible spy. Furthermore, there was a graduate student who had been arrested for doing research into the economy of East Germany which was considered to be a form of spying. The author tries to give an objective account of what happened, even showing how deeply flawed many of those involved in the story were. Suez: The Forgotten Invasion by Robert Jackson In 1956, Nasser, the president of Egypt, nationalized the Suez Canal. The Brits and the French were furious, and they plotted with Israel to invade. Israel first captured the Sinai, and then the British and French invaded under the guise of serving as a peacekeeper force to separate the Israelis from the Egyptians. The United Nations (led by President Eisenhower who was furious at this move) ordered a proper cease fire and the evacuation of the invaded territories with the establishment of a neutral peace keeping force. This book is very much written from the British point of view, and although it fully recognizes the military mistakes made by the Brits, it is slow to recognize the diplomatic mistakes (all but blaming the Americans for not joining them in the game). Death Trade by Jack Higgins I always like Jack Higgins’ book. This is not his best, but it is still enjoyable. It is about a secret service in Great Britain under the direct authority of the Prime Minister. They are trying to help an Iranian scientist escape from Iran where he has been coopted to invent a new type of atomic bomb. This involves both Iran and Al Quaida. The dialog is a bit corny, but as a light read, it is quite enjoyable. The Shroud by Ian Wilson This is a historical and somewhat scientific account of the Shroud of Turin. The author has done a remarkable amount of research on the topic. He reaches certain conclusions that are not common to all scholars of the shroud, but his findings are most creditable. He, for example, identifies the shroud with the mandelion of Edessa ( a city in Asia Minor where a cloth containing the image of the face of Jesus was preserved for the first few centuries of the Church. Other scholars sometimes hold that this was a separate cloth mentioned in the Gospel of John while the shroud was kept somewhere else.) I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cracow - the Dolomites - Rome

August 10, 2016 Peace and Good, After World Youth Day in Cracow, a group of us from the General Definitory drove down to the Dolomites in northern Italy. This is the lower extension of the Alps in Italy, and there is a series of valley cultures throughout the region. It was a fascinating trip, and very relaxing. We don't often get time to spend together for we are always on the road from one place to another. There are miles and miles of paths through the forest and along the mountains. We returned to Rome yesterday where it is much warmer. August is always a hot, hot time in Rome, and it appears as if this month will be no exception. I will be here until the 21st and then head out to the States for my 50,000 check up with various doctors. I have finished some reading: Run to the Mountain by Thomas Merton This is the first volume of Merton’s personal journal which has now been published. This was written in the period in which he was teaching at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York. He had considered joining the Franciscans, but given his past (an illegitimate child), he was discouraged from applying to that order. Instead, he decided to choose between a social ministry in New York’s Harlem and the Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky. This volume ends with his choice more of less made for the Trappists but Merton not being sure that they would accept him and also not sure that he would not be drafted (the the volume ends at the middle of December, 1941). I found Merton insightful, but very judgmental and categorical in what he knows about the faith. I will slowly make my way through the other volumes of his journal in these next couple of years. The Cortes Enigma by John Paul Davis This is a mystery story of a professor and his nephew who are searching for lost treasure, a ship that had gone down which carried some of the Aztec gold that Cortes had sent back to Spain. The ship went down near the southwestern islands off of England. There is a strange group of people there, all of whom would like to know where the treasure is. I have to admit that I found the story a bit jumbled and did not really enjoy it all that much. 21st Century Limited by Kevin Baker This is a travel story of traveling on the rail system in the United States. Much of the book is a lament that the government and especially the Republican Party have allowed the passenger part of our rail system to deteriorate so much, especially as compared to the high speed rail system that one finds in Japan, China and Europe. Land of the Lost by Stephen Connely Benz I very much enjoyed this travel story for I can identify with it so much. It is about a Fullbright Scholar who is teaching in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova (just across the border with Romania). Much of what he describes is exactly what I found when I first traveled to Romania, although things in Romania have gotten quite a bit better while those in Moldova have actually deteriorated. There was a grayness to everything, and nothing really worked. Yet the people were most hospitable, and they were also desperate to leave, much as those of Moldova today. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris I have read a couple of books written by Harris on Cicero as well as one named Ghost which is about a ghost writer for a retired Prime Minister of Great Britain. I have always liked his writing style of historical fiction. This book deals with the Dreyfus Affair in France at the end of the 19th century. A captain in the French Army is convicted of espionage and treason for passing secrets to the Germans. Much of the evidence is trumped up because the high command wants to convict the man since he is a Jew. He is sent to solitary confinement on Devil’s Island off the coast of South America. This book is written from the point of view of the Coronel who discovers the plot and eventually publicizes it, at the cost of his own career. The book is very well written. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Los Angeles - Rome - Cracow

July 31, 2016 Peace and Good, About ten days ago I finished my trip to California where I witnessed the investiture (receiving the habits) and the simple profession (friars taking their first,temporary vows) of the incoming novitiate class and the outgoing class. There were seven in each group. I then flew out of Los Angeles for Rome. I was only there for about 16 hours before I flew out again to Cracow for World Youth Day. There are well over one million young people here for this celebration. The Pope arrived early in the week, and he has been staying on the other side of the piazza from where we were staying (at our friary here in Cracow). Yesterday we got to see him in a small group when he came to our Church for a short prayer service. I was asked to give a talk to one of the small groups for catechism instructions for the English speaking group on Friday. There were about one hundred who came to the talk on Maximilian Kolbe and it went quite well. I attended two days of the full group of catechesis for English speakers. It was in an arena that holds 20,000, and they estimated there were around 18,000 each day. It was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, and they did a great job. Tomorrow the whole definitory will drive out of Cracow, staying in Vienna for the night at our friary. Then on Tuesday we continue on to the Alps in Italy where we will spend a week of vacation together. This will be great for we are all a bit worn out from travel, etc. I finished some books: The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton This book deals with the idea that FDR exercised his role as Commander in Chief, especially during the first full year of World War II. While he listened to his military advisors, he was not afraid to make his own decisions, even in contrast to their recommendations. A good example of this is to go ahead with the invasion of North Africa, a move that his Secretary of Defense and most of his Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed, even somewhat violently. His laid back style sometimes led people to underestimate how much he was in charge, but that he was. Furthermore, his jovial style led some who were natural enemies of his policies to nevertheless like the man who paid so much personal attention to them. Out of Eden Walk by Paul Salopek This is the account of a multi-year on foot adventure to travel from the cradle of humanity in the Rift Valley in Africa to the tow of the South American continent in Tierra del Fuego. The idea is that the author was following the dissemination of the human race as they spread across the various continents. Deep Intellect by Sy Montgomery One would not expect to think of an octopus as an intelligent animal, but that is exactly what researchers have discovered. They seem to be able to recognize certain people whom they either like (shown by the fact that they let themselves be picked up without difficulty) or dislike (shown by the fact that they either hide from that person or even attack the person with water jets that they shoot out). It is difficult to measure the intelligence of the animal given that many of the tests that would be applied to vertebrate animals cannot be used for one that is invertebrate, but there are clear signs that the octopus is smarter than one would think. Behind Closed Doors at Hotels by Gary Shteyngart This is a short, humorous travel essay about getting stuck in a hotel room with a loud, amorous couple in the next room or the next rooms. He goes on about how this only happens when he is travelling alone, almost as if the couple next door are mocking his aloneness. The essay is nothing earth shaking, even if the experience next door seems to be. Ants and the Art of War by Mark Moffett This is a science article on how colonies of ants go to war and the comparison between their techniques and those of human armies. The most expendable ants are usually thrown into the front line, while the truly powerful champions are horded in back until their presence makes all the difference. Some ant colonies establish a modus operandi with other neighbor communities, but others just wander wherever they want. The author describes the horrifying intensity and savageness of the attacks. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rio de Janeiro

July 18, 2016 Peace and Good, All this week I have been at two meetings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first was a meeting of the major superiors of the various Latin American jurisdictions. I was here to listen to what they are doing and to get some ideas I could share with the major superiors of my own federation. I was able to follow almost everything spoken in Spanish, but Portuguese was a real challenge. By the end of the week, though, I was picking up a lot more of it. The weather has been quite pleasant. It was warm most of the week, with a couple days of really cool weather. Then the second meeting was a congress to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the presence of the Conventual Franciscans in Latin America. We did not arrive earlier because we had been forbidden by the chancellor of the Spanish Empire, Cardinal Ximenes, to be in any of the Hapsburg dominions. That included all of Latin America, Portugal and Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and the Philippines. He belonged to the other branch of Franciscans and there were a lot of hard feelings. There are around 600 friars now in Latin America, and they in almost all of the countries. The congress presented a history of the friars here, and also talked about the challenges in the years to come. Yesterday we went up to the statue of Christ that overlooks the city. The view was incredible. Today I fly out to Los Angeles for the opening of the new year for the novitiate in Arroyo Grande (half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco). Then later in the week I will fly out to Rome and on to Cracow for the World Youth Day I have finished the following: Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel by John Guy This is a masterful, complete biography of Thomas a Becket who became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was murdered by knights of King Henry II. From a middle class birth, Thomas rose to become chancellor of England and then the most important bishop of the English Catholic Church. His attempts to protect the rights of the church ran head long into the autocratic rule of Henry. Thomas had to flee and was exiled to France for some two years before they were reconciled. But the peace lasted only a short while, and eventually Henry uttered some angry words that were interpreted by four of his knights as an invitation to kill Becket. This account gives a good picture both of Becket and Henry. It is not sparing in pointing out the faults and the talents of both men. I highly recommend this biography for anyone interested in this topic and for the topic in general of standing up for the right, even at the cost of one’s very life. Woodrow Wilson by John Cooper This is a extensive biography of the president who led the United States during World War I. He was the president of Princeton University and governor of the State of New Jersey before he assumed office. He portrayed himself as a progressive in the line with Teddy Roosevelt. He carried out a series of important work reforms and helped many groups of people such as farmers. One blind side, however, was his total failure to address civil rights. His fourteen points during World War I in which he fought to respect the rights of peoples where an insightful contribution to history which won him the Nobel Prize for Peace. His failure after the war was his stubbornness in fighting for the peace treaty and the League of Nations which did not allow for compromise and thus doomed his efforts (a stubbornness which was probably partly due to the damage done when he suffered a serious stroke during his presidency). The Bad Place by Dean Koontz Koontz is a very good author, both of stories such as the Odd Thomas series which is only lightly filled with horror and other stories which are quite horrific, such as this one. The bad place is death, and this tells the story of an evil figure who brings death to all whom he touches. He is the product of genetic damage and inbreeding which gives him supernatural powers, as the ability to teleport. His nemesis is his brother who killed their mother. The brother, Frank, seeks the help of a couple who are detectives. They and the wive’s brother Thomas who has Down’s Syndrome, fight the evil figure. This is not a story where everything ends well, but it is a very good tale. Victorian Britain by Patrick Alitt This is one of the Great Courses Series. This one deals with Great Britain during he reign of Queen Victoria. A bit of it is simple history, what happened when. Some of it is a description of movements and tendencies during the era, e.g. how women were treated, the working class, leisure, etc. The instructor is entertaining and the courses fly along with a great amount of good material being shared. The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean This is a truly beautiful book about a woman who is elderly and has Alzheimer's. She grew up in Leningrad and worked in the Hermitage Museum during the siege of the city during World War II (with all the horror that this involves). As she slowly loses her grip on reality, her mind travels back and forth between a present time that she does not fully comprehend and her time in the museum when she would wander the rooms. The curators had taken down the paintings, but she memorized which painting went where to create a type of memory castle which is now more real to her than the world in which she now lives. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Chicago - Rio de Janiero

July 9, 2016 Peace and Good, Last Sunday I flew to Chicago to be present for the opening of the postulancy located there. I have been at that friary so often over the years that it feels a lot like home. This is the first year that all four US provinces are participating in this program. It took a lot of work to get here, but I am pleased that it is going well. I presided at the opening ceremony. There are 18 young men in the program, which is way up from previous years. Let's hope it is the beginning of a trend. On Thursday evening I flew down to Rio. It is quite cool here. This is winter below the equator. The temperature during the day is in the low 60's. I am hoping that keeps the mosquito's sleeping. I will be here for about 10 days to a set of meetings and the 70th anniversary celebration of the presence of our friars in Latin America. This is the first time I am in Brazil. Last night there were fireworks in part of the town. I asked one of the friars if it was a celebration. He explained that sometimes the drug lords bring their drugs to a neighborhood and set off fireworks to let the people know. This morning they had a huge celebration in the parking lot of the church for the children of the neighborhood. It was like carnival all morning with loud music and dancing. I like the spirit of the people down here. I have finished some books: Lawrence’s Arabia by Scott Anderson This is a short journey to a few places which were significant in the life of Lawrence of Arabia, including some of what we could call archaeological sites in Jordan and Saudi Arabia where he led the Arabs to blow up the railroads that were supplying the Turks in those countries during World War I. We hear some of the tragedy of Lawrence – how he tried to be faithful and honest with the Arabs even while his government was secretly negotiating with the French to double cross the Arabs. He died a lonely, disappointed man. Fallen Founder by Nancy Isenburg This is a biography of Aaron Burr which is written to show that he was not such a bad character. It is clearly revisionist history, re-reading the original sources. The difficulty of the book is the author’s a priori stance that Burr is really a hero and a virtuous person. Every person who declaims him is a lier and a political hack. Every thing that Burr does is for the good of those around him. Even his flaws are not as bad as others. At one point the author even implies that he was attacked because he was a budding feminist. The scholarship seems terribly flawed and I find it difficult to believe anything the author posits (or creates from whole cloth). The Sound of Silence by Lisa Abend This is a pleasant short story of a traveler who goes to an isolated Scottish village by hiking in the hope of running away from humanity for a while. What she finds when she arrives is that it was not humanity that caused her annui, as much as technology. Being out of range of any wifi signal helped her find her balance among the villagers and other hikers in the inn in which she was staying. Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature’s Most Fantastic Works by Eric Rabkin This is a Great Courses treatment of literature which features the fantastic. This includes fairy tales and myths, utopian literature, early horror fiction (Frankenstein, the works of Edgar Allen Poe), early science fiction (Jules Verne, Edgar Bouroughs), more modern science fiction (Heinlein, Asimov, etc.) and even punk rock science fiction. The science fiction part is quite good, speaking not only of what is there but also why. Some of the earlier lectures get a bit too much into the literary study of Semiotics for me, a science that has always seemed a bit too contrived for me. Overall, the course presents a good amount of valuable information. Along the Bosphorus by Orhan Pamuk This is a short excerpt from Pamuk’s book Istanbul about the city of his birth. He deeply loves his home city, but he recognizes an annui in its citizens from the fact that they are living in an imperial city that has lost its empire. Unlike Vienna which is kept up and looks like an empty museum for imperial might, Istanbul has lost its glitter. Pamuk speaks of the draw the people of this city have to its waterway, the Bosphorus. They recreate there, find their meaning there. Even the ship accidents seem to draw them to gaze and wonder. The book is filled with antique photographs of the Bosphorus and its shores. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, July 1, 2016

Nairobi - Rome

July 1, 2016 Peace and Good, I am here in Rome for our definitory. We are meeting all week, and as usual talking about every corner of the earth. I presented my report on the Korean province and have now sent it off to Korea for their correction. By the end of this month it should be made public to the friars of the province. It will certainly give them something to discuss as they prepare for their chapter in October. Getting here to Rome was a bit of an adventure. I flew from Nairobi to London on British Air without any difficulty. The problems started in London. I boarded the flight to Rome, but they could not fuel the airplane, so we had to deplane. There was very little guidance on what to do at that point. They finally got another airplane, but when it was time to board, they could not find a crew. They rescheduled us for later in the afternoon. They were late in boarding us, and it took us about an hour to get air traffic control permission to leave. In all, I arrived in Rome nine hours late. I really like British Air, but their entire performance that day was horrendous. They still have not gotten back to me about my complaint. I have finished some books: Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914 by Prit Buttar So mush has been written about the first six month of World War I on the Western Front, on how the Germans all but overran the defenses of the French and were stopped at the Battle on the Marne, resulting in four years of trench warfare. This book deals with the battles fought on the Eastern Front, in Prussia, Poland, Serbia and the edges of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The battles were enormous and bloody. The Germans were the best organized and suffered the least from these conflicts. The Russians were terribly led by generals who hated each other and at times purposely sabotaged the activities of their own forces led by another general. The Austro-Hungardians were terribly led, believed in the force of the offence, which might have worked well before the invention of the machine gun and modern artillery, but which only led to butchery afterwards. The book is well written and worth of a read for those interested in the First World War. How Paris became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean This is the story of how the city of Paris came to be the center of culture that we recognize it to be today. King Henri IV began the transformation of the city. Many of the things which we associate with a great city: boulevards, sidewalks, parks, street lighting, haut coutoure, etc. were invented in Paris. The Pont Neuf became a center of city life when most cities were still closed in upon themselves. City planning at a grand scale occurred again and again in the history of the city. We hear of investors and financiers who became the nouveau riche. This is a very good book that describes how simple changes in architecture and planning changed the city from a medieval warren of alleys into a grand city. The Secret History of Mongul Queens by Jack Weatherford This is a study of the role that women played in the governance of the Mongolian empire and people. The daughters of Genghis Khan were married off to the rulers of various neighboring tribes and nations. Those rulers were then expected to join Genghis Khan in his invasions, while the daughters remained in those kingdoms and ruled them. We hear of the role of the queen mother which was very important among the Mongolians. We also hear of various queens who stood out in importance over the centuries. A History of Eastern Europe by Vejas Liulevicius This is a Teaching Company course. Despite the interesting name of the professor, he was born in the States (of Lithuanian background). He is very informative, and this course traces the history of Eastern Europe from the Middle Ages to the present. It is well done and very informative. Who Put the Butter in Butterfly by David Feldman This is a clever book that traces the etymology of words and expressions that seem a bit odd. It is actually a collection of individual studies done by many people over the years. Some of the expressions are more interesting than others, but it is still entertaining to read where these things came from. Hope you have a good week. I am off to Chicago this coming Sunday. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bangkok - Nairobi

June 21, 2016 Peace and Good, I am coming to the end of my long journey. Last week I was in Bangkok to close up the office of Franciscans International there. It only took one day of work, but it was the kind of work that you had to be present to do. The day after I finished the work, one of the friars took me and some others to see the local Catholic Church (there are about 700,000 Catholics in Thailand) which has the walls and ceiling covered with the art work from the Sistine Chapel, and the local Buddhist temple which is called the Path to Heaven (which is narrow and difficult) and the Path to Hell (which is wide and easy). Thursday evening I flew from there to Nairobi, arriving the next morning. The flights were good - I was on Qatar Airlines. I am here in Nairobi to present the report of the visitation that I did of the custody back in October and November. I was very impressed with what the friars are doing here. I gave the report yesterday, as well as preaching at Mass and then giving a one hour talk to begin the chapter. Now I am free for the rest of the week to sit and listen to the various reports and discussions. I will be flying to Rome on Friday evening and next week we have a definitory there. I hope to finish writing and translating my visitation report to Korea in the next few days. I finished some books: The Edge by Jeffrey Deever This has to be one of the best written books that I have read in a long while. Deever manages to give so many twists and turns that one does not know until the end who is responsible for various crimes. His hero is a “shepherd,” the one who cares for people in federal protection who are in danger of being killed or kidnapped by a professional murderer with whom he has been battling for a decade (for the murderer killed his mentor). He plays his role based on what he has learned from game theory playing board and other games over the years. I highly recommend this volume. The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda by Yaroslav Trofimov Back in 1979, a large group of Saudi rebels took over the grand mosque in Mecca and successfully defended it against the attempts of the Saudi government to retake it for a long time. They wanted the overthrow of the Saudi kings and a return to a fundamentalistic interpretation of Islam. They proved to be the ancestors of many of the Muslim terrorist movements in later days. The book explores the incompetence of the government in dealing with this crisis, and then the long term consequences both of the rebellion and the attempts of the Saudi government to placate the more traditionalistic element in their society. The Pirattes Laffite by William Davis This tells the story of the pirates Jean and Pierre Lafitte. Born in France, they traveled to the New World where they took up a career as privateers/pirates. The former means that they had received letters of marque from some government that permitted them to prey upon ships of some foreign power. They were never too particular in which letters they used. Their claim to fame came when they aided General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans from the British. After the war, they spent another decade in one plot after another, both dying within a relatively short time of each other. Bucholz, Robert London: A Short History of the Greatest City of the Western World This is one of the teaching company courses. This one covers the history of London, dealing both with its successes and failures. Bucholz is an excellent professor, giving enough material to make the presentation very lively without over-burdening the listener to details that would just bore him/her. London is a fascinating history for its long history and its ties with the British government. The White Queen: A Novel by Philippa Gregory This is the story of one of the York queen, Elizabeth, towards the end of the war of the roses. She was a widow when she secretly married Edward IV. He was in the process of overthrowing Henry VI, a king who had inherited the mental disability of some of his French ancestors. When Edward died, his brother captured and probably killed the two sons of Edward and Elizabeth (the princes in the tower). It is believed that Richard III killed the princes, but Philippa Gregory lays the blame at the feet of Henry VII and his mother. Elizabeth shamelessly promoted the cause of her family, infuriating many of their opponents and those overlooked for honors in their favor. She is portrayed favorably in this book, but from history she seems to be a much more ambiguous character. The Thin Man by Dashiel Hammett This is one of the first big detective novels of the 20th century. It was written by the partner of Lillian Hellman who is famous for her testimony before the McCarthy hearings in the Senate. I wanted to read this because I had never read any of his works. This will probably be the only one I end up reading. The dialog is forced and it is often not quite clear who is saying what. Everyone in the story seems to be one drink away from drunk. It is just not a very pleasant read. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Seoul - Bangkok

June 16, 2016 Peace and Good, I finished my visitation in Korea with a meeting with the provincial and his definitory to present the preliminary results. I must reflect upon it a bit and then write it down to be presented to all of the friars in the province. On Monday I flew down to Bangkok to do a few days of work for Franciscans International. For five years there was an office down here, but it closed in 2012 and there were six boxes of records and about two meters of binders to sort through to see what was worth carrying to the archives in Geneva. There was really very, very little. Most of the records were for travel and lunches, etc. Although one normally keeps the records for a full five years, these results had already been audited and there was no reason to carry worthless documents all the way to Switzerland. So the big job turned out to be to sort out those documents that were to be thrown away, and those which had to be burned. The friars here have been very hospitable. They run a retreat house and also an AIDS hospice. I visited the hospice yesterday. There are about 25 patients here, and the staff does a great job taking care of them. We also visited the local Catholic church and the local Buddhist temple. The Catholic Church has a reproduction of the paintings of Michaelangelo at the Sistine Chapel on its walls. It is quite impressive. The Buddhist temple has a structure that is called the path to heaven and hell. It reminds me of those Halloween productions by the evangelicals to show the wages of sin, but with much, much more detail. The climate here is very, very hot and humid. It is over 90 each day, and I am very grateful that there is air conditioning in my bedroom. There is also a Gecko, but he does not bother me and I don't bother him. He is busy eating the insects, and so far there have been none to bother me in the night. I am just worried that at sometime he will decide to try to sell me some insurance. I head out to Nairobi this evening and will arrive at 8 AM tomorrow morning. Then I will be there for a week for the custodial chapter (for I did the visitation there last November). I finished some books: Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child I have read several of these authors books and have enjoyed every one of them. They are about a detective from New Orleans, Pendergast, who is an FBI agent. In this story, he comes to New York to investigate a series of gruesome murders at the Museum of Natural History. His investigation is inhibited by the museum director who is worried about the effect of the publicity on the grand opening of a huge show on superstition. The culprit turns out to be not quite human and is tied to an expedition done by one of the scholars at the museum some years back in the Amazon. Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes say about the Jews by Joseph Telushkin The author has written a series of books about Jewish culture. This one is more light hearted than many of the others, but nevertheless valuable for the insights it gives to Jewish culture (or rather, its cultures, for a Reform, Orthodox or Conservative Jews are all different). He speaks of the persecution that the Jews have suffered throughout the centuries and how their response was often an ironic humor. One of my favorites was the discussion of three Jewish mothers. The first one speaks of how much her son loves her; on her 80th he gave her a trip around the world. The second says that her son gave her a big party in a fancy hotel and invited all her friends. The third says that her son goes to the psychiatrist three times a week, at $150 every visit, and all he speaks about is her. Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni This is the story of the great Stoic philosopher and politician Cato who was the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar. He so hated him that when his forces were finally defeated, he committed suicide rather than surrender to Caesar to receive what would probably have been a pardon. He became a hero of those who fought for freedom in the British empire and the US, in spite of the fact that he was a very conservative aristocrat who fought against the rights of the poor. He is not all that nice of a person, but he had enormous influence in his teachings and even more in his life. His greatest problem is that he just could not compromise in anything. His attitude, more than anything else, probably led to the beginning of the Roman Civil War. Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly Harry Bosch, the detective, investigates a murder that seems to have been caused by the Chinese mafia. In the meantime, his daughter is kidnapped in Hong Kong. He knows that she is being held to insure his cooperation in the investigation. There are any number of twists and turns in the story. Like all of Connelly’s stories, this one is well worth reading. The name comes from the English meaning of Kowloon, a part of Hong Kong, where Bosch searches for his daughter. Trotsky by Robert Service This is an exhaustive treatment of one of the founders of the Soviet system in the Soviet Union. He does not come across as that nice of a person, ready to commit what we would call atrocities in order to establish revolutionary terror during the Russian Civil War right after the communist revolution. He hides his Jewish background for he considered it to be unimportant in comparison with his revolutionary credentials. The Cortes Enigma by John Paul David This is one of a series of mysteries in a collection which deals with the gold that was brought back from the New World and shipwrecked off the coast of some of the islands in the south of England. A man is murdered at the beginning of the 20th century, and then his relatives come looking for the reason why he was killed and possibly to find the hidden treasure. It is not too bad of a story. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Seoul - Incheon - Gangwha - Tongin - Yahgpyeong - Daeyeon - Ilgwang - Daegu (all in South Korea)

June 8, 2016 Peace and Good, As you can see by the blog title, I have been travelling all throughout the Republic of South Korea, visiting our friars in their various friaries. In Incheon, we have a parish and a small home for the elderly. In Gangwha there is the house of formation. In Tongin we have a house for the mentally challenged. In Yahgpyeong there is a center for the Militia of Mary Immaculate, a retreat house, an internet apostolate, and a production facility for a tradition herbal drink. In Daeyeon, which is a district of Pusan, there is a parish and another house for the mentally and physically challenged. In Ilgwang, there is a chapel (originally for the local lepers) and a ministry in ceramics and the pressing of sesame seed oil. In Daegu we have a large parish and a ministry to the Secular Franciscans and the Militia of Mary Immaculate. The friars are involved in many different apostolates. They live a simple life style, and I especially admire their outreach to the poor and marginalized. Korea seems to be one big construction project. Most people live in large apartment buildings. They are building more and more every day. Next to Ilgwang they are putting in a project that will house 30,000 people. The transportation system is top notch. The internet is the fastest in the world. It is an incredibly technologically advanced nation. The Catholic here are fervent. At 6 AM Mass this morning in our chapel we had 80 lay people with us, a good number of whom stayed to pray the Divine Office with us. Today I head back to Seoul. On Saturday I meet with the provincial and his definitory to give my preliminary report, and then I head out to Bangkok on Monday to do some work for Franciscans International. I finished some books: Calypso by Ed McBain I have read a number of Ed McBain’s books. They are all quite good. This one is about a musician who is gunned down in the street for no apparent reason. The detectives follow the lead, but a few other people are killed in the meantime. It turns out that the murders are tied to the disappearance of the musician’s brother a number of years ago and the rantings of a woman who is severely unbalanced. Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Life by Paul Collins This is a short biography of the brief life of the tragic author Edgar Allen Poe. While he was brilliant in his writing which influenced many authors after him, he was incapable of living a normal life. He barely survived on what little he earned from his writings and from his work as an editor at various newspapers and magazines (almost always being fired for his drunkenness). He married a very young cousin who died early of tuberculosis. He died after briefly achieving sobriety and planning to marry his high school sweetheart. Rising ’44 by Norman Davies Norman Davies is probably the most informed British author on the history of Poland. He is widely respected there. This book speaks about the rebellion of the home army of Poland against the Germans in 1944. The Soviets had encouraged the rebellion over their radio, but then when it broke out, they stood in place so that the leaders of the Poles might be killed, making their takeover of the country easier. Davies also deals with the malicious lies told by the Soviets about the leaders of the rebellion whom they imprisoned and killed after the war. The book is well written, but a bit exhaustive. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory The author has made a cottage industry of writing historical fiction about the Tudors and the period of time right before their reign. This is the story of Mary Boleyn. She was Henry VIII’s lover before her sister married Henry and became queen. The author is not all that kind to Henry (which is fair) nor to Anne, Mary’s sister. We see the sister rivalry, and the eventual flight from the court of Mary to escape the intrigues of her sister and her uncle. As always, the author gives a good portrait of this troubled woman. The Persian Empire by John W. Lee This is one of the Great Courses from the Teaching Company. This course presents the history and culture of Persia from the time of Cyrus the Great to the end of the empire after the conquest of Alexander the Great. It tries to be fair to the Persians, especially considering that the majority of histories of the empire were written by the Greeks, the enemies of the Persians. The professor does a great job of presenting new information from archaeology and other sources that balance his approach. Rather than presenting the Persians as some kind of barbarians, it shows that they had a very developed culture, religion, and government. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rome - Seoul

May 31, 2016 The Feast of the Visitation Peace and Good, This past week I have been in South Korea visiting the friars there. Each four years we have a provincial chapter to decide how things should be run for the next years. Theirs is coming up, and before they have it, the Assistant General of the area has to do a visitation, visiting each friar and each friary to see how things are going. There is a rule, though, that an Assistant cannot visit his own province. Our Assistant for Asia if from Korea, so I am taking his place in this visitation. We have around 80 friars in this province, and it is quite stable. They are involved in parishes, social work with the elderly and the handicapped, and working with the Secular Franciscans. This mission was founded by the Italian friars, and one of them is doing the translating for me when the Korean friar cannot speak either Italian or English. I will be here until June 13th. The weather has been nice, but there is a fog (or smog) that covers Seoul each day. Some of the friars say it is dust from the deserts of China, while others claim that a good part of it is pollution. The food is as spicy as I remember, but this time I seem to be handling it a bit better. I have finished some books: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert This is a classic that I had never read before. A woman in 19th century France marries a doctor who turns out to be totally devoted to her but terribly boring. She longs for a romantic relationship similar to those she has read about in trashy novels. She has two affairs while spending money like crazy, driving the family into bankruptcy. She is not a very likable figure, always concerned with her own needs and never with those of people around her, including her own daughter. Five Chiefs by John Paul Stevens This is an account of Justice John Paul Stevens’ and the Supreme Court upon which he served. It is a mix between homey reminiscenses and a study of various court decisions made during his time on the court. He speaks quite a bit of why he thought certain decisions were right or wrong. He is ruthless on some of his views concerning recent decisions made on the death penalty, gun control, and political financing. Overall, this is quite a good book. Mojado by R. Allen Chappell This is the story of a legal representative on the Navaho reservation who is called with two of his friends to hunt for a fugitive from Mexico who has been killing people on the reservation. The fugitive is a heartless person who is incredibly dangerous for all whom he meets. There is a lot of information about Navaho ways and attitudes. This is a very good read. The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly This is one of the books in the Harry Bosch series. The books are well done. The hero, Harry, is very human, but also a genius at solving crime. He has some very confusing relationships with women, largely because of his damaged background. This book deals with a civil trial. Harry has killed a man who he thought was a serial killer. He is being sued by the man’s widow for depriving her husband of his civil rights. In the meantime, a new murder has occurred after the death of this man which fits the details of the crime perfectly. This is a very good who done it. Backfire by Catherine Coulter This is the first book by Coulter that I have read. It deals with a judge who has been shot by someone who appears to be tied to a spy from China who is stealing data on electronic serveillance systems. There are a lot of twists and turns in the book. I have to admit that I will probably not read too many of her books in the future. Her plot development is not that good, her character development is poor, and her dialog is ludicrous. Someone should tell the author to try something else for a living. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 21, 2016


May 22, 2016 Happy Trinity Sunday I have been in Rome this past two weeks. The first week was spent on catching up after jet lag and working on my writing (I managed to complete a few articles) and daily reflections. This past week we have been meeting in definitory. This one went quite long, for there were a number of situations that needed our attention. We finished late afternoon yesterday, and today I head out for Seoul, South Korea, to do a visitation of our province there. The weather here in Rome has been slowly improving. The last couple of days have been quite sunny, if not a bit cool. On Friday evening, we had a nice cook out on the Terrazzo with over 20 of our OFM friar brothers from their General Curia. One of our friars, an Argentinian, prepared the meat. I thought that we Americans ate a lot of meat, but compared to the Argentinians, we look like vegetarians. Yesterday and today our basilica has been busy with the community from Sri Lanka that is hosted here. About 30 years ago, the cardinal vicar of Rome asked each Basilica in Rome to host one of these ex-patriot communities, and we have been hosting the Sri Lankans ever since. They are a Sinhalese group which uses the Western Rite. I have finished some books and short stories: The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan This is a masterful narrative as it describes the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Long known as the sick man of Europe, the empire lost more and more territory in Africa and the Balkan peninsula. Then, with the beginning of World War I, the Turks decided to side with Germany and Austria. This was a disastrous mistake. The book deals with the massacre of the Armenians and Assyrian Christians which could and should be described as a holocaust. The deals with the battles in Arabia, Palestine and Iraq, as well as the disastrous attempt to conquer the Dardanelles and Bosporus at Gallipoli. The book is a good read and very informative. The King’s Speech: How one man saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue This book is not exactly the text for the movie by the same name. It is a biography about the speech therapist who treated King George VI. This is written by a grandson of the therapist, so it has the adulatory style of a relative of a subject of a biography. It is largely written from the diaries and letters that the grandson found, so many of the comments are a bit trite. Nevertheless, it is a decent book. The Early Works of John Dos Passos I have often seen the name of this author who wrote at the beginning of the 20th century. I wanted to read one of his works to see what his writing was all about. The commentators on this author speak of how he wrote from the point of view of the common man, especially about their experiences during World War I. His writing seems dated to me, and it is often difficult to understand because he insists on having his characters speak in the accent of their birth places (or at least what he thinks their accent was). Not my favorite author! Three Empires on the Nile by Dominic Green This is a book that speaks of how Great Britain slowly pushed the Ottomans out of Egypt and subverted the local Egyptian government to make Egypt their protectorate. It deals with the rising Muslim movement which fought against the colonial powers. One of the major events was the rising of the Mahdi in the Sudan and the death of General Gordon. It is interesting to see how the colonizing movement often used other events in the world as opportunities to seize power in Africa and Asia. King Arthur: History and Legend by Dorsey Armstrong This was one of the great courses. I cannot believe that the professor found enough material for 24 lectures of one-half hour each, but she did it (and most of the material was well worth listening to). She begins with the historic roots of the King Arthur legend, and then covers its treatment throughout the 1500 years from the time he lived until today. She deals with his treatment in Cornish, Welsh, French (Brittany), German, Scandinavian, Italian, etc literature. She even covers modern treatments such as films and video games. She is a very informative lecturer. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ellicott City - Rome

May 13, 2016 Peace and Good, This past week I got to visit some of my family down in Norfolk where I baptized my grand nephew, Luke Henry Winkler. It was good to see them all, since I rarely have time to get in contact with them. I was surprised when I met the pastor of my nephew's church. I taught him scripture back in the 90's. Saturday evening I flew back to Rome. The weather here is much more pleasant than it was on the east coast these past couple of weeks. This is a week to catch up on various things (for me, daily reflections, articles for the Messenger magazine, etc.) so that I can be ready for the meeting of the definitory next week. It is also a good time for me to get over jet lag. Sometimes it is not all that bad, but this time it really hit me. I have two weeks to get back on schedule before I head out to Korea on the 22nd. I finished some books: Israel’s Praise: Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology by Walter Brueggemann I have been using this book for spiritual reading. Brueggemann’s thesis is that Israel’s words of praise were not only a subversive act during times of persecution, they also helped to create a new world of understanding in which God reigned. He warns, though, that words of praise can be misused by those in authority to placate the crowd so that they accept the status quo. Words of praise, according to Brueggemann, should always be tied to expressions of pain and disaster from which God has delivered us. Otherwise, we are in danger of positing of God who is a passive observer of what is going on but who does not get involved. Furthermore, the liturgy should be a moment of challenge for those in authority to be instruments of God’s deliverance instead of trying to protect their power and privilege. This book has given me many ideas to think about over these coming months. Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster by Paul Ingrassia This is the story of how the big three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) lost their lead of some of the most important companies in the country. They were poorly led and the unions managed to receive benefits that were unsustainable. In the 60’s through the 90’s they went through periods of boom and bust, but they never seem to have learned the important lessons from the leaner periods (nor those what they should have learned from the Japanese makers of cars who made inroad after inroad into their sales). The account is one of a clearly frustrated author who cannot understand how the managers of the car companies could make such foolish mistakes. Into the Storm by Reed Timmer This is the story of a self-confessed weather geek who loves chasing tornadoes. At times, his story descends into an apologia as to why he takes risks that other storm chasers try to avoid. Overall, though, there are many beautiful descriptions of weather fronts and the consequences of severe weather. Timmer starts out as a student of weather at the University of Oklahoma in Norman and continues through his career as an undergraduate and then graduate student, until after his graduation he has designed his own equipment for the chase. Throughout the book there is a childlike wonder at nature, mixed at times with a childish carelessness. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir This is a very long account of King Henry VIII’s relationship with his six wives. It gives an enormous amount of detail, almost all of it interesting. It shows each of the wives as a real person. It is not apologetic for Henry’s personality which was not always the kindest or more reasonable. He, in fact, is shown as moody (especially in his later illnesses) and always suspicious (possibly because he was always dissembling himself in politics and his personal relationships). The book is worth a read, but it is quite a commitment, not unlike Michener’s novels. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island by Lawrence Durrell This is the account of how a British author comes to Cyprus to find his inspiration. He buys a small house which he fixes up. Up to this point, the story reminds one quite a bit of books like A Year in Tuscany. He comes to know the villagers and become part of their world. Eventually he gets a job in the press office of the British governor. Around this time, the Cypriot Greeks begin to militate for independence from Great Britain and union with Greece. The Cypriot Turks, on the other hand, are dead set against this. Violence begins. First, it is simply slogans on walls and stones thrown at riot police. Eventually it evolves into bombs and assassinations. The account is well written, with much time spent on the natural beauty of the island and the character of the people living there. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude