Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rome - Cherso (Croatia)

August 24, 2017 Peace and Good, My time baby sitting the Curia in Rome has come to an end. This Monday the entire General Definitory drove from Rome to Cherso, an island off the coast of Croatia, where there is a large friary. We are spending a week here together. It is very relaxing, and the weather is so much better than Rome. The weather in Rome has been incredibly hot and humid. Here we are only a couple of blocks from the sea (the Adriatic) and there is a breeze coming off the water almost the entire day, and the night gets so cool that one actually needs a blanket. It has been very restful, and I have been able to pray well here. We will be here until next Monday. Then it will be back to Rome for a week where we will have a definitory meeting. I have finished some reading: The British Empire by Stephen Sears This is a long series of essays dealing with the rise and fall of the British Empire. They are written from a British perspective. I find that even when the author tries to be impartial, he almost always slips into a pro-English viewpoint concerning various issues. Nevertheless, it was worth reading. Back to the Land by Chelsea Diondolillo This is an odd very short short story. It tells of the arrival at a body farm in Texas where the custodians are doing two experiments: seeing how long it takes for the sun to mumify a body and seeing what vultures do to a body left to their devices. As gruesome as the scene is, the author finds a bit of beauty in the image of the ground covered with migrating monarch butterflies as it is every spring. Caesar is Dead by Jack Lindsay This is the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar and his eventual succession by Octavian, his nephew. This is a historical fiction which paints the various figures in large strokes. Some of the action is melodramatical, but overall it makes the drama more realistic (instead of simply giving a bunch of dates and events). Doctors: The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed Through Biography by Professor Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D. This was a series of twelve lectures from the Teaching Company to outline the growth in scientific medicine throughout the centuries by presenting the biographies of major figures in the history of medicine. This includes people such as Hypocritus, Gallen in ancient times, and more modern figures such as the inventor of antisceptic surgery, anesthesis, and pediatric cardiac care. Overall, the presentations were informative and thorough. They included not only the developments credited to each particular figure, but also a bit of that person’s life story. It was a good way to present the overall message. Phelps, M. William Nathan Hale by M. William Phelps This is the story of the famous patriot in George Washington’s army who was captured by the British and hung as a spy. He is quoted as saying that he regreted that he had only one life to give for his country. That is probably not exactly what he said, but it is close enough. His biographer paints him as a highly religious man from Connecticut. He was a graduate of Yale and a school teacher who responded to the call to duty immediately at the beginning of the war for indipendence. He became a Captain, and volunteered for reconnaissance work behind the British lines (even though this type of work was looked down upon by colonials). Captured by a famous and vicious Tory, he was quickly put to death for his services to his country. Pirates: the Golden Age of Piracy by Hourly History Limited This is a series of books that I obtained either for free for for a small charge on my Kindle about history. This particular one is not all that well written. It tries to outline thousands of years of the history of piracy in a few pages, and does not treat any given topic with the attention that it deserves. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


August 16, 2017 Peace and Good, I has been a quiet couple of weeks here in Rome. I am at Santi Apostoli to babysit the General Curia. Most of the friars are away on vacation and someone has to be here to respond to any official request that we receive, such as a call from the Vatican. So far there have only been a couple of phone calls from various parties that needed my attention. The weather is hot, hot, hot. This is true every year in August, and most Italians try to get out of the city to go either to the shore or to the mountains. A number of restaurants and stores even close down for holidays in these weeks. We had a little excitement this past week. Some people squatted in our basilica. They had been kicked out of the building where they had been living illegally, so they chose our basilica to publicize their need. They are mostly immigrants from various countries including Romania and Bolivia. When they first arrived, there was a shouting match between the police and the organizers. Since then, they have pitched their tents in the atrium of the Basilica. Fr. Bruno, who is a real saint, has been providing them with coffee and cookies. We don't want to give them too much lest they become too comfortable there, but we want to show them sympathy and help a little. The city is supposed to be taking care of the situation, but most of the city workers are away these weeks on vacation, so everything is draggin on. I will be here in Rome another week, and then the General Definitory is going together to an island off of Croatia named Cherso in Italian where we will spend a week vacation together. I have finished some reading: Gamal Adel Nasser: The Life and Legacy of Egypt’s Second President by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the life of Nasser, the father of Pan-Arabism and the leader of his country’s path to independence. While not truly a democratic person, for he persecuted any opposition in his own country, he nevertheless tried to modernize his country as much as he could (given the almost inate tendency in Egypt for corruption at every level of the government). He had a vicious hatred for the State of Israel, and led his country in an ill fated war against the Jewish state in 1967 that led to utter defeat in only a few days. The Roman Pantheon: the History and Legacy of Rome’s Famous Landmark by Charles River Editors I have often visited the Pantheon, and have never been all that impressed with the building. I knew that Agrippa, the friend of Augustus Caesar, began its construction, but this book told me its subsequent history. It is the largest unsupported dome built up to the Renaissance. This construction was possible due to an important Roman discovery: cement. It was completely rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian, who was a devout follower of the Greek philosophy of Pythagorus. This is why there are any number of significant structures in the building based upon numbers which the Phthagorians considered to be important. I will look upon the building with much more attention and respect in the future. The History of Ancient Rome by Garrett Fagan This is a 36 lecture series upon the history of Rome from its foundation until the reign of Constantine the Great. Garrett Fagan is a good and entertaining lecturer. He presents a clear portrait of the material without inserting his own opinion in too often. If he does voice his preferences, he backs his argument up sufficiently. The series includes lectures on periods of time, on individuals and on institutions and classes of society during the Roman days. I would highly recommend this series. Dead Irish by John Lescroat A young man in the prime of his life is murdered or commits suicide in Boston. An investigator, whose full time occupation is bartender, agrees to try to prove that this was murder to assist the widow in receiving her life insurance payment. There are a number of twists and turns in the story. This is the first book by Lescroat that I have read. It was an abridged edition, and one of the few abridged versions that I have read or listened to that showed some bad editing. Furthermore, being a priest, I did not like his treatment of a main character who is the parish priest. I found his treatment pedestrian and shallow. I will give him another try, but… The Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 by Charles River Editors This is an account of the rebellion of Indian troops in India just as the East India Company which actually controlled the country was getting ready to hand authority over to the British crown. Both sides exacted terrible punishment on the other. It was during this rebellion that the famous black hole of Calcutta affair took place. The British were not above massacuring entire villages: men, women and children. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Terre Haute, IN - Minneapolis, MN - Arroyo Grande, CA - Carey, OH - Ellicott City, MD - Rome

August 3, 2017 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. These past couple of weeks I finished off the visitation of Our Lady of Consolation Province in the MidWest. I also visited California to be present for the investiture of our new novices. Investiture means the day when the new novices first put on their habit. The Ellicott City stop was almost an overnight to visit my dentist. I am midway in the process of having a dental implant, and my dentist has done a great job to fit my schedule into the treatment plan. Rome has been very, very hot these days. It is making the jet lag worse, and I suspect it will take a bit of time to get over it this time.. The visitation is a great process. I get to speak with all of the friars and find out how things are going with them. At the end of the visitation, I make a report for us here in Rome and for the friars in the province as they get ready for their provincial chapter. I am baby sitting at the Curia right now. Most of the friars are out on vacation, and someone from the definitory has to be around just in case there is a call from the Vatican. There is little chance of this because almost everyone at the Vatican is on vacation as well. I have finished some books: The 1918 Spanish Fly Pandemic: The History and Legacy of the World’s Deadliest Influenza Outbreak by Charles River Editors This was one of the most deadly outbreaks of flu in the history of mankind. It must be admitted that it cannot even compare with the lethality of outbreaks of smallpox or Ebola, but nevertheless it wrecked havoc at the end of World War I. In fact, it is believed that more people died from this illness than were killed during the war itself. There have been constant scientific debates over the cause of its lethality. Was it because the population was weakened by hunger due to the war, or was it an especially virulent strain? We are still not sure. Testimony by Anita Shreve This is a very good book which is presented as a series of reports by witnesses to a scandal at a boarding school. It is seen from the point of view of the perpetrators of what amounts to a rape, the victim, the school headmaster, the family of one of the rapists, etc. The story is tragic, and has a number of twists and turns that leave one stunned. It is not a book to read when one is feeling down. It is a painful story, but not gratuitously so. Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ by Alfred Edersheim This is a very good treatment of the world of Israel in the days of Jesus. It is a very dated book, and many of the proposals would have to be updated. Yet there are gems of information contained here and there in the book. It was worth reading, but with the understanding that a more recent book would probably be more useful. Those who held Bastogne by Peter Schrijvers This is a thorough retelling of the siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. It gives a large amount of detail about the attitudes of both the American troops and the Germans (although the author tends to show much less sympathy toward the Germans, which is understandable). A very good dimension of the book is his treatment of the plight of the civilians during the battle. The book probably gives a bit more detail than most people would appreciate, unless one were really into the topic. The Virgin of Guadalupe by Gustavo Vazquez Lozano and Charles River Editors This is a short study of the immage of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the story of its origin. The authors are fair in their telling of the story, without being overly credulous or skeptical. I appreciated this approach. While there are no contemporary written accounts of the events, the accounts written many years later are consistent with traces of information that are available. While the image might have been touched up and slightly changed later in its history, it nevertheless is remarkable and considered to be miraculous by so many of those who have visited its basilica. A number of years ago I had that opportunity, and I was very, very impressed by the faith of the people there. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude