Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mount St. Francis, IN - Clarksville, IN - Louisville, IN - Terre Haute, IN

July 15, 2017 Peace and Good, All is well in the heartland. I have been travelling around southern Indiana and northern Kentucky visiting the friars of Our Lady of Consolation Province. They are good men who really try to live a simple life style. The greatest difficulty is that the friars are growing older quickly. Their average age is over 72, and that has consequences on the number of ministries they can handle, etc. The friars are very open to discussing the various needs that they face now and those they will face in the near future. It has been hot, and unusually raining for mid July. There has even been minor flooding in this area. Today I fly on to Minnesota to continue the visitation there. Then early in the week another trip out to California. I have finished some books: The Eruption of Mount St. Helens by Charles River Editors This is another of the Charles River Editors studies of various events and people. These are excellent short overviews of the topics. This one speaks of the time before and during the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I visited the site about five years after the event, and was incredibly impressed by the destruction caused by this eruption. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army by Paul Lockhart This is the story of a German general who came to the US during the revolutionary war and trained the American troops in French and Prussian military drills. This added a great amount of stability to a flatering army, especially during the days of Valley Forge. He remained with the army until the end of the revolutionary war, but continued to live in penury due to his own spending habits but especially due to the lack of gratitude on the part of the Continental Congress (who, to be fair, were sinking under the debts of the revolution with no way to address their need for money). Emma Goldman: The Life and Legacy of the Famous Feminist Icon by Charles River Editors I have always been interested in this unusual figure. Born a Russian Jew, she emigrated to the States and worked with the anarchist movement. She was the girlfriend of Alexander Berkman who tried to assassinate the head of US Steel. She fought for feminist rights and against the involvement of the US in World War I (for which she served time in prison). She was deported along with a shipload of other communist sympathizers to Russia, but quickly left there when she became disenchanted with what she saw of the establishment of the Bolshivik government. She died in France at the beginning of World War I. The Ruins of the Roman Empire by James O’Donnell This is a rambling account of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. Rather than falling to a series of barbarian invasions, the author presents the fall as gradual and due to the continuous migration of various Germanic tribes into the territory of the Romans. Rather than being total barbarians, many of them were partially assimilated allies of the Romans who simply went from mercenary status to that of taking over control of the situation. He also speaks of the situation in Byzantium and the moves of Justinian to re-establish the empire (which he soundly condemns). He also covers the weakness of the eastern empire due to religious controversies among Christians which left that part of the empire open to the Arab invasion. Overall, the book is good, but the author has some very strong opinions here and there. The English Civil War by Hourly History Limited This is an overview of the various wars that were fought to overthrow the Stuart regime in Great Britain in the late 17th century and the rise of Oliver Cromwell. It is one of the short versions of the story, not unlike the books produced by the Charles River Editors. These endeavors give a good overview of the material in a form that allows for a quick study. The Sea Peoples: The Mysterious Nomads who Ushered in the Iron Age by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Sea Peoples who seems to have been a mix of nomads (by sea and land) who were the early Greeks. They are most famous to us by the fact that they included the Philistines who were such a bane to the early Israelites. They conquered many lands including the Hittite Empire, largely through their advanced military tactics. They were eventually defeated by the forces of the Pharaoh in Egypt, but not before they caused great destruction throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rome - Mount St. Francis, IN

July 4, 2017 Peace and Good, Happy Independence Day! I spent the past week in Rome at our definitory. We actually finished a bit early, so I was able to work on a couple of projects. One was to get ahead in daily podcast reflections since I will be travelling a lot this month. I was quite successful on that. The other was to do some editing for an Asian Christian magazine that is being published by our Theological Faculty in Rome. I am the English editor of the magazine, and some of the authors really don't know English grammar all that well. On Saturday I was able to finish the second last article for a publication coming out later this year. In these next weeks, I must finish the last one. On Sunday I flew from Rome to Dallas and then on to Louisville. In June I did a visitation of the houses of Our Lady of Consolation Province in the Southwest. Now I am starting the Midwest portion of the province. I will be in the States until the end of the month when I then head back to Rome. The weather in Rome has been uncommonly hot and humid until the last day I was there. Then suddenly the humidity broke and we had a great day. That evening we had a cook out on the fourth floor terrazza of our friary, and it was a glorious evening. I finished some reading in these days: Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons This is the true story of a ship wreck in the islands off Australia in the 17th century The boat was a treasure boat on its way to Jakarta to bring money to buy the spices that were so important for the Dutch East India Company. While the admiral in charge of the boat takes sailors on a four week trip to seek assistance in Jakarta, a band of unscrupulous pirate like mutineers seizes control and begin to cull men, women and children in order to cut down the numbers so that those who remain might survive. The murders take on their own logic, however, as the band becomes more tyranical and murderous. It is an awful story that leaves one truly shaken. Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn This is the first novel by Vince Flynn that I have read. I have seen his name and titles for his books, so I was interested in reading this book. It is about an American anti-terrorist Rambo type figure who is fighting against the Islamic attack on this country. The evil figure in the book is the minister of cult in Saudi Arabia who is secretly funding an attempt to assassinate the hero. As a spy novel, it was quite good and avoids some of the more egregious mistakes of some of the other authors in this genre. Deng Ziaoping: A Revolutionary Life by Alexander Pantsov This is an extensive biography of the leader of China after Mao. It gives an honest appraisal of the figure, including the good elements as well as the bad (which verge on the evil). It shows how he manages to survive a number of falls from grace, and how he tried to balance his life and his politics in order to survive in the Kafkaesque era of Mao. The book gives a good overview of the infighting before, during and after the Maoist communist era. A Case of Need by Michael Crichton This is an older novel, written when Abortion was illegal in most states. It takes place in Boston, and a pathologist at a hospital investigates the accusation against a fellow doctor that he performed an abortion that resulted in the death of a young woman. The doctor blamed does perform secret abortions, but he is not the one who performed this abortion. The complicating factor is that the young woman is the daughter of an old Boston family who have considerable pull in the city. Roman Britain by Henry Freeman This book speaks of the inhabitants and culture of the inhabitants of Roman Britain before the invasions of Julius Caesar (unsuccessful) and that of Claudius Caesar (successful). It tries to identify the inhabitants of Britain before the arrival of the Romans (which is quite difficult), it speaks of how Roman culture was already quite present even before the Romans arrived, and it deals with how the Romans did and did not affect the culture of the British Isles. Insomnia by Stephen King This is a rather long book which deals with an elderly man and woman who are suffering from insomnia. This leads them to be able to see the auras that surround people around them. They also encounter three mysterious figures who are like the Fates of Greek myths. Two of them are neutral harvesters of those who are dying, but one is evil and capricious. The novel is intertwined with the story of an abortion proponent who is coming to Darey to give a speech, and the attempt of radical anti-abortionists to stop her at any cost. The book presupposes other levels of reality which the two elderly heroes are able to enter due to their gifts received as recompense for the insomnia. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude