Monday, March 27, 2017

Reno, NV - Hermosa Beach, CA - Ellicott City, MD - Rome, Italy

March 28, 2017 Peace and Good, I have been on the go for quite some time now, finishing off my visitation to the California province and then having a long meeting in Ellicott City with the heads of the various jurisdictions in our federation (Australia, Canada, US, Great Britain and Ireland). The visitation in California went quite well. I was able to give a couple of talks in the parish in Hermosa Beach and celebrated a couple of Masses on the weekend. I always feel very much at home when I visit that parish. Our meeting of the federation also went well, but by the end of the week I could feel that the batteries were drained. I am trying to take it slow for these first couple of days back in Rome to recharge things a bit. When I am out on visitation, I don't really feel that tired until towards the end for the effect seems to be cumulative. There were a lot of extremes in weather throughout the trip as well, and that tends to have an effect. I am in Rome for a week to catch up on some of my paperwork, and then we have a week of definitory. I will be heading back to the States on Palm Sunday and will be in the US for three weeks (two in Ellicott City and one in Chicago). On the trip over here from Baltimore, my seating was messed up on one flight and I missed the other flight due to delays in the arrival of the first flight to London. I was very impressed at the way that British Air resolved the problems. They tend to be very efficient. I finished some books: End of War: Europe, 1945 by Charles Whiting This account deals with the last months of the war, especially from the point of view of the war in northern Germany. We hear about Montgomery’s attack against the Germans in a push to the Baltic so that the English could block the Russians from the route to Denmark. We then hear of the end of the Nazi regime and of their surrender to the allied forces. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo This is a tragic account of families living in a slum outside of the Mumbai airport and how they struggle to survive. You hear about the constant bribery for everything that people want or need. This is especially true because the very people who want the bribes the most are those who should be protecting them (police, members of the justice system, etc.). One is left with a feeling of the pointlessness of the struggle, and yet many people hold on and not only survive but even find a way to thrive. The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill by Dominique Enright This is a collection of the witticisms of Churchill. He was brilliant and used language both for the good and for other purposes. He was able to disarm his opponents with clever expressions. He was not always kind but almost always funny. Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd This is an impressive account of the history and culture and politics of the city of Venice. It is presented as the ultimate city built upon water. The author over and over again shows how this fact influenced the life and thought of those who were found there. This was theoretically a republic, but was actually much more of an aristocracy. The needs of the city were considered to be much more important than the rights of the individual. This was a center of great beauty, but also a closed, very mercantile society. The account is quite poetic and is quite elegant in its description. The World of Byzantium by Kenneth Harl This is one of the Teaching Company’s courses. This one covers the history of the Roman Empire in the East from the time of Constantine the emperor until the fall of Constantinople which became Istanbul. It covers both the history and the culture and politics of this empire. Some of it is extraordinarily magnificent, while other episodes are sadly decadent and sordid. The course is well done and well worth the effort. St. Paul: The Traveler and the Roman Citizen by William Ramsay This is a dated study of St. Paul from the Acts of Apostles. Ramsay did his work in the 19th century, so he was not familiar with much of the archaeological information that has been discovered since his time. He is filled with details, however, which, even if I did not necessarily agree with all of his conclusions, nevertheless offered good raw material for a better understanding of Paul and Luke who wrote Acts. Overall, I would recommend this book as long as one knew from the start that it is dated. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ellicott City, MD - Reno, NV

March 14, 2017 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. This past week I had a couple of meetings with the definitory of Our Lady of Angels Province and its provincial. This is my home province, and it extends all along the East coast of the US. I also preached a retreat to the post-novitiate students from our house in Silver Spring. This is an interprovincial house, and there were students from all four US provinces on retreat. The topic of the retreat was the Letter to the Hebrews. I did a lot of preaching on this book earlier in the year, so the topic was fresh in my mind. On Friday evening I also gave a talk at the shrine in Ellicott City on the Passion Narratives in the four Gospels. There were over 100 people there, which was a great turnout. Sunday I flew into Reno to do my visitation here. The friars have been serving in the Cathedral for the past 30 years, although they just announced that this will be their last year here. There are three friars serving here. This afternoon I fly out to Los Angeles where I will visit our friary in Hermosa Beach. I will then meet with the California definitory, and that will complete my visitation here. It has gone quite well. I have one more province in the Mid-West to visit this year. The shift in the weather has been something. When I left Baltimore, it was freezing, literally. Here in Reno it is around 70 during the day. I have finished some reading: Beautiful Brains by David Dobbs Why is it that teenagers have such a tendency to take unreasonable risks. This scientific study speaks of the fact that during the adolescent years, the brain goes through a series of processes which could be compared to a rewiring of the circuits. Many of the stop gaps that are present in older brains are just not yet developed in the teenage brain. Thus, when we accuse a teenager of not thinking something through, it is not as if the teenager has not tried. Still, speaking in terms of evolution, what would have been the advantage of going through a process such as this? The author explains that it would have been most helpful occurring in the period when the young adult was expected to fend for himself/herself. This ability to take risks would be most useful as that person separated him/herself from the tribe. Furthermore, the author explains that scientists have discovered that the teenage brain sets the teenager up to need more contact with peers than people of another age group. The teenager draws his/her cues on conduct from the people that surround him/her, and that those people are preferably peers. The Mask by Dean Koontz This is a horror story involving a young woman who is the victim of some form of reincarnation in which the tragedy of her death is repeated over and over again in succeeding generations. Some ghosts who are good and loving try to forestall the latest repeat of this tragedy by warning those involved of the impending danger. As always, Koontz is an expert both in language skills and the ability to build a spirit of terror. Pope Francis Encountering Truth This is a collection of notes taken upon 186 of Pope Francis’ daily homilies at the chapel in the St. Martha residence where he lives. His Masses there are celebrated for those staying at the residence as well as for a small group of those who have received invitations. The homilies are down to earth, and reveal many of the central messages of his pontificate. I have to admit that I don’t especially like the style of his preaching (it is a bit too repetitive for me, and the examples used don’t speak to me), while I very much enjoy the message. Fisherman’s Bend by Linda Greenlaw This is the story of a policewoman from Miami who gives up the big city to work as a deputy sheriff and insurance investigator in seaside Maine. The story is fairly well told, but I would not say it is the best written book that I have ever read. It is the kind of book that one might read for relaxation and not having to think all that much. What You Don’t Know Can Kill You by Jason Daley This is a fascinating study on why people seem to panic about certain possibilities that are very rare (e.g. radiation poisoning, airplane accidents) when they don’t about probabilities that are very high (e.g. high cholesterol, lack of exercise, car accidents). What is the mechanism that causes this disconnect and this failure to judge things objectively? Rule Number One by Bev Vincent A policeman takes a ride along for a trip around his beat. The ride along is a beautiful woman who is writing an novel about police work, or at least that is what she has told him. What she really is is a plant who wants to learn about police procedure so that she and her accomplices might rob a jewelry store. They story is well written. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Castro Valley, CA - San Pablo, CA - Coalinga, CA - Arroyo Grande, CA

March 2, 2017 Peace and Good, I hope that you Lent has begun well. I am at our novitiate now in Arroyo Grande. It is a combination of continuing my visitation of the California province and offering my annual workshop to the novices. Right now there are six novices: three from Our Lady of Consolation Province, two from St. Joseph of Cupertino Province, and one from my home province, Our Lady of Angels. fr. Giles is the novice director, and fr. Maurice, one of my former students, is the assistant. Arroyo Grande is a small town a bit inland from Pismo Beach, half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I will be here til early Sunday morning when I fly out to Baltimore to preach another retreat and give a presentation at the definitory of Our Lady of Angels Province. This past weekend I visited and helped out at a parish in Coalinga. There are two friars there: one works in the parish and the other works in one of the State Prisons not far away. They are both doing great work. On Friday I had visited one of our parish in San Pablo, not far from Oakland. This is an incredibly diverse community with Masses in English, Spanish, Tagalog (from the Philippines), Vietnamese and Kmu (from Cambodia). The workshop this week is on the Gospels and the Psalms. It is just five mornings, so it is a cursory overview with some applications to our religious life. I am trying to get over a heavy cold that I caught in Rome. During our definitory, we all caught the cold that the Minister General had when the meeting began. I finished some reading: The Barbarian Empires of the Steppe by Kenneth Harl This is a 36 lecture in the Great Courses. The professor gives a great overview of the various barbarian invaders from Central Asia (the Huns, the Magyars, the Mongolian invasion, etc.). These invasions were famous for being ferocious, but they also allowed for a cross cultural communication between East Asia and the Arab world and even Europe. This course is very informative. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon This is one of the series on Commissario Guidi Brunetti, a police detective in Venice. A world famous conductor is killed by cyanide during a performance of an opera. He is an elderly German who has a mysterious past which might have involved Nazi connections. He presents himself as a paragon of virtue, but that is not really the case (as one sees as the investigation continues). Donna Leon has a masterful talent in tracing the Comissario as a real person with a real family. Her presentation of the city of Venice and its inhabitants is equally masterful. It was a real joy reading this book. Contact and Cover by Greg Rucka This is a short story concerning three policewomen who have had the same male partner fail them when he was supposed to provide them cover. It is obvious it is because he does not feel that they belong on the force. When they complain, their complain is revealed to them and he threatens them. They manage to get their revenge and teach him a violent lesson, filming what they do so that they might have cover if he every tries to bring them to charges. Unlikely Allies by Richard Paul This is the account of the first American representative of the revolutionary government of the 13 colonies who had just started their rebellion against Great Britain, Silas Deane. He preceded Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. There is also a French officer who many suspect of really being a woman, who confesses to being a woman and lives as one for many years, but who at death is discovered to really be a man. Finally, there is the author of the play The Barber of Seville and Figaro, which are then made into operas by Mozart. This is a true story, but it is incredibly convoluted. It shows that the portrait we have of our founding fathers as disinterested heroes of independence is a bit distorted. They were all too human, too fallible. This is a very good read. The Feedback Loop by Thomas Goetz This article is based on the idea that when there are signs which indicate the speed with which cars are travelling, and even if there is no threat of a fine or anything like that, the vast majority of cars will tend to slow down. This indicates that people will tend to do the right thing if there is enough information provided in the right way. This principle could easily be used in addressing various social problems (overeating, drinking, gambling, etc.) that don’t seem to respond to a more strident message. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude