Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ellicott City - Chicago

April 27, 2017 This past week I finished off all of my doctors and dentist visits. All went well, so I am ready for another 50,000 miles. I always tell people that these are my 50,000 mile check ups, and unfortunately that is not all that far off the mark. On Sunday I travelled to Chicago to give a week workshop on the Letters of St. Paul to our postulants. This is the site for all of the men who are first entering our community. At the end of the program, if all goes well, they will enter novitiate which is also a year long program (held in Arroyo Grande, CA). At the end of that, they take their vows for a period of three years, etc. There are now 13 postulants, and they are a good group of men. We are covering one letter a day, and they have a million questions which I always like. I find I learn so much when I try to answer the questions, or at least have to research a bit to find an answer. I have also visited one of our Croatian friars who has been working in the diocese of Gary, IN. His name is Stefan, and I taught him many years ago in Rensselaer, NY. It was good to see him again. This stay is giving me the opportunity to catch up with a number of friars in the area. I finished some reading: Crowley, Roger Empires of the Sea by Roger Crowley This is a history of the interaction between the Christian world and the Ottoman Empire and its vassals in the Mediterranean during the 16th century. This includes the siege of Malta (which ended in a withdrawal by the Muslims) and the sea battle of Lepanto (which ended in a spectacular victory by the Christian forces which blunted the sea power of the Muslims and gave the rest of Europe breathing room to prepare their defense against the Muslim conquerors. The book is well written and actually exciting to read. The Writings of Francis of Assisi: Rules, Testament and Admonitions by Michael Blastic, Jay Hammond and Wayne Hellman This is a critical study of some of the writings of St. Francis. Our preparation for the writings of Francis was very poor when I was going through formation, and most of what I now know I have picked up along the way. This book uses many of the same techniques that I use in Bible study to examine the writings of Francis and what they meant to him and the friars reading them at his time. Mother Teresa: An Authorized Biography by Kathryn Spink I read this book in conjunction with the canonization of Mother Theresa. It is a well written account of the saint. The author tends to defend her positions, but is honest enough to admit that toward the end Mother suffered from the ravages of old age and some of her decisions might have been impetuous and poorly thought out. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to read about the heroic choice that Mother made initially in adopting this form of life, and how she lived it to the best of her ability right to the end. Ill Wind by David Kirby When we think about air pollution, we are usually thinking of factories and cars in the United States that occasionally produce the smog that troubles many of our cities. This author speaks of studies done to determine how much pollutions (especially toxic chemicals such as lead) come from the smoke stacks of China which is industrializing all the more. The scientists have found ways to measure it and to track the patterns that it travels around the world. The Chinese government is not always helpful in this analysis, but by taking wind samples from high altitudes (either mountains or planes) one can get a good read of what is really happening, and it is not comforting. The Second World War by Antony Beevoir Antony Beevor is a good English military historian. I have read a number of his books. This is a long overview of World War II. Most of it is from a European perspective, especially English at times. Nevertheless, it is a very good book, well worth the time and effort which such a long book requires. Hitlerland by Andrew Nagorski This is not the first book that I have read that was written by Nagorski. I previously read a book written by him on Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. This book is a collection of the remembrances of American citizens who lived in Germany during the years in which Hitler came to power up to the expulsion of Americans when Germany declared war on the United States in 1941. It is a fascinating account of how diplomats and journalists tried to come to grips with what was happening. They almost all considered some of the things that Hitler did to be helpful (full employment, a stable economy), but as they came to discover the dark side of what he was doing, they came to hate and even loath him. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, April 14, 2017

Rome - Ellicott City

April 14, 2017 Peace and Good, We finished our definitory meeting a day early in Rome, on Friday instead of Saturday. This was very good given that the past couple of meetings have been packed with things that took forever to resolve. Sunday I flew into Baltimore and have been in Ellicott City this week. I am here for medical check ups and a couple of small procedures. This happens when you reach a certain age. I tell people that you can tell the age of a tree by counting its rings, you can tell the age of a person by counting the medical referrals that the person receives at the annual check up. Doing all the travel I do, I was shocked by the incident on the United flight. I just don't see how the companies cannot guarantee that one can fly when one has made a reservation and paid for a ticket. That would be comparable to showing up at a hotel and being told that the reservation would not be honored. Something has to be done with all of this. Furthermore, I have experienced myself the indifference of United agents to the needs of their customers. I will fly up to Buffalo on Sunday to visit family for a couple of days, and then back to Baltimore to finish up the check ups. I finished some books: War, Peace and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000 by Vejas Liulevicius This is a Teaching Company course on the various initiatives on diplomacy on the European continent from the time of the Tudors and Medicis up to the present days. The professor is well verse and eloquent. With a course this long, one really only touches the various eras quickly, but this serves as a good overview course on this topic. Father’s Day by Michael Connelly This is a Harry Bosch story about the death of a small child in an overheated car. Was it an accident or was the child left in the car on purpose. It is complicated by the fact that both parents are driven real estate salespersons, and by the fact that the child suffered from some mental defect. Harry is able to sort out the truth from the lies, especially relying on natural tells in the way a person says something (body language that gives away whether a person is lying or not). 1775: A Good Year for Revolution by Kevin Phillips This is a truly exhaustive study of the year 1775 and, as the author explains over and over again, how it was more important to the revolution than 1776. He gives a mountain of details on religious movements, agriculture, trade, politics, slavery and indentured servants, etc. It is a monumental study which leaves one with a wealth of information, possibly more than one ever wanted. Nevertheless, it does not really bog down in the details. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in this period. Crush Point by John Seabrook This is a scientific study on the science of crowd control. The author speaks of various disasters in religious processions (Mecca, India, etc.), at rock concerts and even in the Black Friday sales at Walmart. He speaks of various actions that can be taken by the authorities to minimize the danger to those in the crowd. The Brain on Trial by David Eagleman This is a scientific analysis of how brain chemistry and structure can affect the conduct of people. It asks the question of whether it is right to put people in prison for something that was beyond their control. It gives some very good examples. The author is not against letting the people who have offended run loose on the streets. He favors treatment (medicine, compulse control exercises) so that the person then becomes responsible for his/her actions. Winning by Alafair Burke This is the story of a woman detective who had been impersonating a prostitute to lure men so that they might be arrested for soliciting. She is kidnapped by one who rapes her. She overpowers him and has him arrested, but he is set free on bail. Her husband is crushed by what has happened and murders the man. The rest of the story is how the detective places the blame on herself, knowing that the courts would sympathize with her and let her off lightly. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 3, 2017


April 4, 2017 Peace and Good, This past week I have been in Rome getting ready for our definitory meeting which began yesterday. The agenda for this week's meeting does not seem all that long, so we might even finish early. I will be heading back to the States this coming Sunday for some medical tests (nothing beg - just the usual tests and a small medical procedure which should not be all that important, but for which the doctor wants me in one place for 10 days to make sure there are no infections). For some reason, the jet lag from my last trip was just about the worst I have ever suffered. It might be the changing of the seasons, or my spring allergies, or just the fact that I am getting older. Whatever, I hope that this is not a sign of what is to come. The weather here in Rome is pleasant these days. We did have a thunder storm this past Sunday morning, which was unfortunate because it was the morning of the annual marathon. I have finished some reading: What a Wonderful World by Paul Guyot This is the story of a detective who goes off the deep end trying to investigate the murder of a hot dog vendor. She had caught his imagination by her zany antics and her unconquerable optimism. It is not that he was having an affair with her, but he certainly was smitten by her. When she is found murdered, he does everything in his power to find her killer, eventually even committing a crime to get even with the one responsible. Eye of the needle by Ken Follett One of the greatest tricks that the allies played on the Germans during World War II was to set up a fake army under the command of Patton right before the Normandy invasion. The placement of this virtual army was right across the channel from Brittany, which was one of the most likely landing sites for the invasion. This book proposes that there might have been one Nazi spy who had evaded the British Secret Service (which had captured most of the German spies and turned them into double agents) who visited the site of Patton’s army and found out the secret. Most of the book is the search for that agent by a small group of anti-espionage agents and his attempt to flee to a submarine to present evidence to the ever skeptical Hitler of his findings. Follett is not my favorite author, but this book is very, very well done. Pakistan on the Brink by Ahmed Rashid This is the third in a series of books on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The author speaks of how American policy has fallen short when dealing with Pakistan, especially during the Obama era (although he also traces many of the problems in the area to the presidency of Bush). He speaks of the role of the secret service in society, often all but running the state in secret. He speaks of the various insurgent groups and how Pakistan is all but falling apart as a nation. The book is a good primer on the situation there, even if reading or listening to it is terribly frustrating because it almost seems as if there is no way out of the mess. Great and Terrible King by Marc Morris This is the story of King Edward I of England who ruled at the end of the 13h century. You might remember him from the film Braveheart for he was Edward Longshanks (known this was because he was so tall). He was the first English monarch who conquered all of Scotland and Wales. He was good in certain ways (a legal system) but horrible in others (his conquests, his dishonesty, etc.). He lived a very long life for those times (68 years old). He was followed by a miserable son who lost much of what his father had conquered. The account is very well done and I would recommend it. The Korean Mind by Boye Lafayette Mente I read this book because I was doing the visitation of the Korean province. It has helped me understand how Koreans as a people think and why. As always, it is quite generic in the way it approaches this topic, but I was surprised how it explained certain things to me which puzzled me. One example is how courteous Koreans tend to be, unless they don’t know you. If you hail a cab on the street, it is not uncommon for a Korean to steal the cab, possibly even pushing you out of the way. They have long lived in close contact with others, so they developed a system in which your loyalties were owed to the family and not the outsider. The book was good, but also exhaustive. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude