Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Los Angeles - Rome - Nemi

March 23, 2016 Peace and Good, I hope that you are all having a good Holy Week. I finished my days in Los Angeles after meeting with the definitory of the California Province and some Korean friars who have a friary in Torrence. I flew back to Rome on Friday which was a long, long flight - ten and one half hours from Los Angeles to London and two and one half hours from there to Rome. Saturday I met with the assistant generals for the OFM friars and the Capuchin Franciscans. We were coordinating programs and just getting to know each other. Sunday, after celebrating Mass in the Basilica of Santi Apostoli, the General Definitory travelled out the a retreat house in Nemi. That is just outside of Rome, and is near Castel Gondolfo where the popes spend their summers. We are getting a few days of rest and prayer before we begin the Triduum tomorrow. We have a beautiful view of the vulcanic lake just below us. Tomorrow we head back to Santi Apostoli where we will be for the Triduum. Then on Easter Sunday night I head out with two other friars for Zambia to give a series of talks in preparation for their provincial chapter. This is similar to what I did in the fall in Romania. I finished some books: Dark Justice by Jack Higgins This is a complicated terrorism story about a Russian oligarch who wishes to sew confusion in the West so that his oil income might rise. He has a local Imman in London send young Muslim men to Iraq for training in terrorism. The British secret services finds out about this and they send one of their agents, Dillon, a former IRA fighter, in to break up the plot. There is a considerable amount of travel and violence before the heroes save the day. Conquest of the Americas by Marshall Eakin This is a teaching company course with 24 half hour lectures which outlines the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch. Eakin speaks of the process as a cultural collision of three rivers of humanity: native American, European and African (the slaves). He speaks of the heroes of this process and also the villains. He is not afraid to speak of the destruction of wonderful cultures by often brutal conquerors. He eventually speaks of the formation of a new, complex American identity which is a mixture of the three cultures of origin. The course is quite informative. While most of the sources are those of the conquerors, Eakin tries to bring in individuals and exiting information about pre-Columbus situations. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey I bought this book because of the title. I wanted to know what it was all about. It turned out to be the story of a woman who suddenly contracted an auto-immune disease which left her so weak that she could not even sit up. Over the years she has recovered a bit only to have several serious relapses. She could do so little on her own. Her friend brought her a small plant from the woods, and on a lark she put a wild snail on it. The snail turned out to be the ill woman’s friend as she watched it slowly go about its business. She became fascinated with it, studying up on snails, etc. It is a good book which meditates on the busy-ness of life and what happens when all that busy-ness comes to a crashing halt. Dr. William Cook: Pope Francis, the Times are Changing This was a podcast presentation for the Great Courses Series on Serius Radio. William Cook is a professor of the State University of Geneseo who has produced a few courses on the Catholic Faith for the Great Courses Series. One can listen to the various presentations for free by googling Great Courses The Torch. He gave a wonderful overview of his background and theology. He also spoke about St. Francis whose names Pope Francis has taken. He then applies some of his insights to the ministry of Pope Francis. It is a very good presentation. Nixon and Kissinger by Robert Dallek This is an account of the relationship between Nixon and Kissinger and the story of their successes and failures. They come across as very insecure seekers for power. Nixon deeply resented whenever Kissinger was praised. Kissinger was willing to overlook Nixon’s anti-Jewish and other nationalities bigotry in order to be awarded the position of Secretary of State which he deeply lusted after. Neither of them comes out of this looking all that well. It is frightening how out of it Nixon was toward the end (drunkenness, irrationality, etc.). Kissinger is seen as making decisions himself that should only have been made by the president. It is a sad story. I hope you have a good Holy Week. Happy Easter! fr. Jude

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rome - Chicago

March 12, 2016 Peace and Good, I finished off the definitory in Rome this past week. Unlike our previous definitories which went two weeks, this one was only a week long - but oddly seemed to be two weeks worth of material. Then on Sunday I flew to Chicago. I have been here to present a workshop to the postulants of the three provinces of Our Lady of the Angels, St. Bonaventure and St. Joseph of Cupertino. There are four postulants this year, two from the East and two from California. Last month I was down in San Antonio where the other US province has their postulancy. This coming year the two postulancies will be united in Chicago, part of the overall program to unite all of the formation programs in the country. The weather at the beginning of this week was very warm, but the past couple of days it has settled back into more normal temperatures for March in Chicago. I head out this afternoon for Los Angeles where I will be attending a couple of meetings. I finished some books and short stories: Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations by Brian Fagan This is a 36 lecture series on the beginning of humanity from two and one half million years ago until the end of pre-history which actually occurred in the 20th century. Pre-history is defined as that which occurred before there was writing. The first chapters deal with the development of the human person through evolution. Then the author deals with the beginning of farming, organized social activities, religion, music, tools, weapons, etc. His final lecture draws time up to the present, but those immediately preceding deal with cultures in India, China, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas, etc. France 1940 by Philip Nord This is supposed to be a description of what led up to the horrendous defeat of the French in a very short time during World War II. It turns into a bit of apologia for the French, again and again saying that things were not all that organized, but neither were they for others such as the Soviets, the low countries, England and America. He blames the fall of the Third Republic on bad generals, who were the same villains who caused the downfall of the republic and the rise of Petain as a dictator who intended to refound the moral fabric of French society. There is a lot of information, but as said above, the authors continuous refrain that the French weren’t any worse than others becomes a bit monotonous. The Confessor by Daniel Silva I enjoy Silva’s books. They deal with Gabriel Allon, an Israeli Mossad agent who, when not working on a case, is engaged in art restoration. This is the volume where he meets his future wife in Venice. It is also the volume where he saves the life of the pope and forms a close relationship with him and his personal secretary. The book revolves around a secret organization in the Church which was involved in the holocaust and the hiding of Nazi war criminals after the war. The story is not entirely anti-Catholic, and in fact is quite positive at points. It is strongly against certain elements in the Church which view religion in a triumphalistic manner and which would use any means to revise “the glory of the papacy.” Dead Aim by Thomas Perry This is quite a good murder mystery. A man walking the beach in Santa Barbara sees a woman try to kill herself. He saves her, but she ends up dead a couple of days later. He is bothered by this and hires a private investigator to find out about her and her choice to kill herself. It turns out that she was connected to a survivalist camp that had branched out into murder. The private investigator is killed, and the man survives a number of murder attempts. He is only able to save himself by becoming the hunter instead of the hunted. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America by Edward Behr Prohibition was a vast social experiment to better society in the States. It turned out to be a horrendous failure, actually leading to an explosion of crime and corruption. The author gives a history of the temperance movement and how it eventually won and had an admendment to the constitution outlaw the production and sale of alcoholic drinks. He tells the story of some famous criminals and some honest people who just thought prohibition was a terrible idea. He then speaks of how it ended. The movement to end it ironically was financed by many of the people who pushed for it, men like Henry Ford. The rich realized that they were paying much higher taxes because the alcohol taxes were no longer being collected. He then asks questions about our country’s drug war and what lessons we could learn from prohibition about it. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


March 2, 2016 Peace and Good, I have been back in Rome all of last and this week. Last week was, as usual, spent in getting over jet lag and doing some smaller projects to get ready for our definitory meeting this week. We will be meeting all of this week and then I head out to Chicago on Sunday for a week workshop with our postulants in the house of formation there. The weather has changed here in Rome. It is still rainy a couple of days a week, but overall it is a bit warmer. It seems that winter is almost over. I am starting to get ready for a series of presentations that I will be making to our friars in Zambia the week after Easter. They are getting ready for their provincial chapter, and a few of us are coming down from Rome to present a workshop to them to help them in their preparations. I ask you all to pray for the repose of the soul of one of my friends who died last week in Baltimore: Daniel Schneider. I know him and his family well from the time that I helped out in his parish. He was a fine, good man and a good husband and father. I finished some books: Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre This is a fascinating account of a spy during the Second World War. He was a professional thief and con man who was arrested and imprisoned on the island of Jersey just before the beginning of World War II. He was caught on the island when the Nazis invaded (for the channel islands were the only part of Great Britain conquered by Germany during the war). He volunteered to be a spy for Germany and eventually was sent to a training camp in France. He then was returned to England where he immediately surrendered and offered to work for the British. He pretended to sabotoge an airplane factory (with a set designer faking the act). He then returned to Germany where he was awarded the iron cross. After some time in Norway, he was sent back to England where he served as a double agent. The man faithfully served the nation, but he was not honest or upright. He had many affairs with women, stole from both the Germans and the English, etc. He turned out to be a great spy, but the exact opposite of what the British would have chosen if it were up to them. Open Water by Sean Wilsey This is the last of the travel stories in a collection by Paul Theroux. This one is about a young man who is hopelessly lost in his life when he steals a motorbike. The man’s very rich father convinces the judge to send him to a reform camp in Florence, Italy. After his stay there, he drifts up to Venice where he learns to be a gondolier. Some twenty years after this he travels back to Venice to explore the lagoon and its many islands, many of which are now uninhabited. We hear of his adventures and misadventures on this trip. It is a good story of how a slacker finds some meaning in his life. Anthony of Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy This is the third book by Goldsworthy that I have read in the past few months. The other two were on Augustus Caesar and Julius Caesar. This one continues a pattern of being a great historic account of major figures of the Roman empire. This account is not covered with sappy romanticism, but rather tells as much of the story as we know. It helps us to know these two figures much better, especially Cleopatra who has suffered from blatant misrepresentations from the days of the Romans. I will certainly continue to read whatever he has written because I find the books insightful and entertaining. Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield by Kenneth Ackerman This is a truly excellent historical account of how James Garfield first won the nomination and election to be president and then how he faced fights within his own party to actually govern the nation. He did not run for president but was drafted when the other candidates could not win a majority at the convention. He barely won the election after dirty tricks during the campaign. Once elected, he had to face the demands for patronage from the party bosses of various states, especially R. Conkling in New York. He faced him down, but one of his followers who was mentally unbalanced shot and killed Garfield. Chester Arthur, a close friend of Conkling, then became president and instead of acting as a puppet of Conkling, he charted his own course to become a fairly decent president. Freedom of the Monsoon by Malika Gandhi This is a series of episodes in the lives of young Indians in the period of World War II and the independence movement and also in the time immediately before independence (during the massacres between Hindus and Muslims) and leading up to the day of independence. We see how these young people face the adversities of colonialism, poverty, cruelty due to casts and privilege, etc. The dialog is a bit idealistic, but I am not sure that it is wrong given that it is coming from a different culture. It was a good read. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude