Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rome - Assisi - Rome - London - Canterbury - London

May 24, 2017 Peace and Good, The beginning of this week I was up in Assisi for a meeting of the definitory with the Presidents of the various federations of friars throughout the world (they are divided up into seven sections). I was there until noon on Wednesday when I took the train down to Rome so that I could catch a plane to London the next morning. I then went to Canterbury on Friday for the closing of the Theological Institute there. I had taught there a number of terms over the years. I got to see one of my classmates from the Biblicum where I graduated in 1984. The celebration was quite nice, and I have been able to talk with a number of the friars from the custody to get a read of what they are thinking as they prepare for their custodial chapter this September. I head back to Rome tomorrow afternoon where we start a week of Definitory. We had a couple of important decisions to make concerning our provincial in Naples. Things are not going very well there, so the General Definitory appointed a provincial to work on getting things in line with what they should be. We very, very rarely do this, but this was one case where an intervention was needed. Normally, we try to make our interventions in a less obtrusive manner (and I have been a member of the team to intervene over the past couple of years). I have finished some reading: The Hittites by Charles River Editors The Hittites were a great Middle Eastern civilization just before the Biblical era. They resided in Anatolia, what is today Turkey. Relatively little was known of them until relatively recently. What we do know is mostly from archeological remains that have been excavated. They were destroyed by various factors, but especially by the invasion of a Barbarian group known as the Sea Peoples. The Broken Window by Jeffrey Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhymes novels. This one involves a murderer who gets his information on his random victims from data entry and data farming companies. He is able to frame various innocent victims in his deluded quest. The thing that trips him up is that he frames Lincoln’s cousin for one of the murders, and Lincoln and his team are slowly able to sort it all out (but not without considerable danger for the murderer declares war on the members of the team. The Mohawk by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of the Mohawk tribe which, at the time of the colonies, resided in what is today upper New York State and southern Quebec and Ontario. They were part of the five (later six) nations of the Iroquois Federation (whose agreement of confederacy was used by the Founding Fathers as they developed our way of government. The presentation is an honest short overview of their history and culture. Blood Game by Iris Johansen This is a detective novel mixed with some paranormal phenomena such as communicating with ghosts and evil masterminds who think that they are vampires. The style is not all that bad, but I really can’t say that I would read a lot of her books in the future. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter This is a new translation of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) along with a literary, linguistic commentary on the material. The author has now translated most of the Hebrew Bible. His original job was literary critic, and he has used those skills along with a masterful knowledge of Hebrew and of the Jewish interpretation of Scripture throughout the centuries to give this new and insightful version of these books. I would recommend any of his books for those interested in Bible study at a higher level. If you want to start, the first book you could read by this author is the Art of Biblical Narrative. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mt. St. Francis, IN - Mesilla Park, NM - El Paso, TX - San Antonio, TX - Rome

June 12, 2017 Peace and Good, I have now returned for a whirlwind trip to the States. It began with my attendance at the funeral of one of our friars, Juniper Cummings. He was 92 years old, and had been an Assistant General, a Provincial, a Custos in Zambia, etc. His death was the end of an era for his province. I was glad that my travel agent was able to change my ticket and arrange for my travel there. On Saturday after the funeral I flew down to New Mexico to begin my canonical visitation of Our Lady of Consolation. Most of the province is located in the Midwest, but part of it is in the Southwest. There are three friaries scattered through New Mexico and Texas, and I visited them this past week. I will visit the rest of the province in July. I have been at all of these friaries a number of times over the years, so it is like coming home again. One of the friaries is a retreat house (with friars involved in other apostolates living there), one a parish for the Native American and Hispanic people in El Paso, and one a house of formation. The weather was very hot, which got me ready for the heat wave going on in Rome right now. I returned yesterday morning. I am still in the arms of jet lag, but that is pretty much par for the course. I finished some reading: E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton This is the fifth novel about a private detective who is investigating an arson. She is accused of trying to cover up the crime. One of the suspects is murdered by a bomb, and then another is killed in another way. The detective is almost killed twice during the course of the story. Grafton presents a very likeable character in the person of the detective, and the action in her stories is always well done. The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec This is a very strange, very good novel about an elderly woman who was born in Vienna before the war. There she met a mathematical genius who suffered from mental illness. The book outlines their lives together as it also tells the story of an archival researcher who is seeking the written records of her deceased husband. The woman is not the easiest person in the world, but a relationship develops which enriches both of them. The History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons This is a Teaching Company course on the history of the supreme court. The course is a set of 36 lectures, talking about judges, what is happening in the country, and the actual cases. The lecturer is an excellent presenter. He shows his prejudice here and there, but he is always clear to identify when that is taking place. This is a very good overview on the topic. Mind vs. Machine by Brian Christian This article speaks about the Turing test, a contest in which a group of people have conversations with real people and with computers which have been programmed with artificial intelligence. They then try to determine who was the real person and who was the computer. The computer programs are reaching the point where it is becoming more and more difficult to figure out which is which. Mount Dragon by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child I have read a few of the books produced by this team of authors. The others were either about a detective living in New York who was originally from New Orleans or a science fiction production. This one is about a genetic engineering project that goes array. These authors have a way of producing a riveting story with moments of genius in their forms of expression. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Rome - Mt. St. Francis, IN

June 1, 2017 Peace and Good, I hope that all of your are well. I spent the last few days in Rome doing some writing projects and getting caught up on paper work. I had intended on being there until this coming Saturday, but one of the friars in Our Lady of Consolation Province passed away and it was important for me to attend his funeral. His name was fr. Juniper Cumminngs, and he died in a nursing home in Minnesota at 92 years of age. He had been an Assistant General, the Provincial of his home province, the Custos of the Custody of St. Francis in Zambia, the Rector of the Seminary for their province, and the rector of the Shrine in Carey, Ohio. He was a kind and generous man, always joyful. I am attending his second funeral here in Mt. St. Francis, IN, just across the river from Louisville. Then, on Saturday, I will fly down to El Paso where I will spending a week doing a visitation of three friaries in that area in preparation for their provincial chapter next year. The trip yesterday was a bit of a jumble. When I got to the airport, the flight that was to take me to the States (Dallas) was already over two hours late. They booked me on another flight through Charlotte, but when I got there, I was three hours late because of thunder storms in the area. That is what happens with summer travel, especially later in the day. I got here, though, and tonight there is a wake service and tomorrow the funeral Mass. I finished some reading: The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the destruction of the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama by earthquake and fire in 1923. The Charles River authors are former MIT students who got together and have produced a series of short topic books. It is almost like a lengthened form of Wikopaedia. Zoo Station by David Downing This is a book about an English reported living in Berlin just before World War II. The end of the book coincides, in fact, with the takeover of the Czech republic by the Nazis. The reporter has a German ex-wife and son, and we hear about the strained relationship with his son was he is more and more nazified. In the meantime, the reporter risks everything to help a Jewish family get out of Germany. The topic reminded me a lot of the books of Alan Furst, one of my favorite authors. A Disposition to be Rich by Geoffrey Ward This is the story of the son of a Presbyterian missionary to India who became an investor on Wall Street. His partner in this enterprise was the son of ex-President Grant. Grant invested in his fund, and lost everything that he had. It turns out that the investor was a bit of a sociopath who created a big Ponzi scheme. He was eventually sent to prison for ten years. The whole time he was there, he played the martyr, blaming everyone but himself. The book is quite good, although the coverage of his parents years in India is longer than it really needed to be. The irony is that the book was written by the great grandson of the investor. The Crypto-Currency by Joshua Davis This is an article that speaks about the invention and use of Bitcoins, a currency that was invented by a computer programmer that does not have any authority, but which is traded and used for commerce throughout the world. Its only value is what it receives in its trades. The author tries unsuccessfully to identify its reclusive inventor. It is an interesting idea, but until some nation actually back up the currency, it is doubtful that it will have a lasting value. Dream Machine by Rivka Galchen This is the story of a theorist in Great Britain who has spoken of the possibility of inventing a quantum computer. Normal computers communicate in a series of choices between yes and no. This one would have a third choice, both yes and no at the same time. That would allow for an incredible number of possibilities to be evaluated at the same time, thus speeding up the process in an incredible manner. Some prototypes at a very primitive level are already being tried. Machiavelli in Context by William Cook This is a teaching company course on the writings of Machiavelli. He is best known for his work, “The Prince.” His name has given rise to the adjective “Machiavellian,” which means unscrupulous, conniving, etc. Yet, Cook shows that while one could question some of his conclusions, Machiavelli was at heart a republican. He places him in the context of his society (16th century Florence) in an Italy that was torn by divisions (especially after the invasion of the French army). Cook also studies Machiavelli’s other writings, including his history of Florence and his discourses upon the writings of Livi. Cook also produced a course on St. Francis, and both of these courses are enlightening. Have a good week Shalom fr. Jude Winkler