Monday, October 30, 2017

Rome - Ellicott City - Sante Fe - Ellicott City

October 30, 2017 Peace and Good, After the Congress on the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe at our college which is called the Seraphicum at the outskirts of Rome, I flew to Baltimore for a day. This was just a break in the journey, for I and the provincial, fr. James, and the custos of Great Britain/Ireland all arrived on Saturday, and on Monday we headed off to a meeting of the provincials of the States in Sante Fe. This is the first time I was there. It has a very Franciscan history, having been founded by the Friars in 1610. The actual name of the city if the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. There are no high or ultra modern buildings in the city. Yet, it is beautiful in its own way. There are many, many shops with artwork and crafts, and many, many restaurants. The speciality is Mexican food with a southwest flavor. Yet, there are many different types of food available. In the days that we were there, we never had a bad meal. It is a very peaceful place, with so many beautiful things to see. One day, when we had finished the meetings, we took a side trip to Taos. This is a much smaller place than Sante Fe. Along the way we stopped at a couple of beautiful churches including a shrine that was very, very beautiful as well. I have to say that if anyone were to ask me to recommend Sante Fe, I would do it in an instant. On Friday we travelled back to Ellicott City. Tomorrow I participate in a definitory meeting of Our Lady of Angels Province. There are a couple of things that must be decided, and I have been asked to share the viewpoint of the Minister General on them. Then on the 1st I head out to Chicago for about 10 days. I will be giving a talk at a workshop to about 100 friars, and then I will spend a week with the postulants presenting another workshop to them. (Postulancy is the first year that candidates spend with us as they discern their vocation.) I finished some reading: Rose George A Very Naughty Little Girl This is the story of Janet Vaughan who was responsible for many of the techniques used in storing the blood supply for those who would need transfusions. Before the outbreak of World War II, blood was generally donated from another person who was present. With the outbreak of the war, this would no longer be possible, especially given the many casualties resulting from the Nazi bombing of England. She and her colleagues developed the bottles to use, the tubing, the right mix of chemicals, etc. that have since become standard fare. The title of this essay is that she was not afraid to challenge the powers that be, something that offended the titled class in Great Britain. The Terracotta Army: the History of Ancient China and Famous Terracotta Warriors and Horses by Charles River Editors This is an account of the first emperor of a unified China who ordered that a massive army be built and buried with him to accompany him to the afterlife. The author explains how this was a great advance in culture for previously the king’s courts would accompany him in death by being killed and buried with him. This emperor had thousands of soldiers and horses built from clay and painted and arranged in order in his burial plot. This ceramic army was only discovered late in the 20th century by a family that was digging a well during a drought. The Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River overview of the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, Guam and Palau, all islands that the allies conquered late in the Second World War. These islands served as centers for the air fleets that then attacked Japan and destroyed most of their major cities. Tinian, in fact, was the island from which the airplanes that had the atomic bombs flew. The Battle of Antietam by Hourly History Limited This is a short outline of the bloodiest battle to be fought on American soil in history. In one day over 20,000 men were killed (with many more dying in the following months due to the poor medical treatment available at the time. This is the first battle in which photos were taken after to show people the horror of war. The book is the shortest of outlines and does not give a lot of background information, but it is enough, especially if one intends to visit the site sometime in the future. Bunker Hill by Thomas Fleming This is a masterful account of the battle of Bunker Hill (which actually occurred on Breeds Hill nearby). It gives insight into the characters involved, into the strategy of both sides, and into the consequences of the British victory which proved to be quite pyrric (for they lost so many of their good troops that General Howe, their commander, was very hisitant to attack American troops headon in the future, leading to some miraculous escapes of the American forces when they found themselves in untenable situations. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

La Verna, Italy - Rome - Assisi - Rome

October 19, 2017 Peace and Good, We returned from our retreat in La Verna. It was good to be back in Rome, for La Verna was freezing, both day and night. Here in Rome it is Autumn, and has actually been quite warm in these days. Last week we had a full week of definitory. As usual, we spoke about the presence of friars all throughout the world. Mixed in with our regular meetings, there are always smaller group meetings on various topics. All of that went very well. The meeting finished on Friday, so Saturday I took the train up to Assisi. It is only about two and a half hours to get there. I went up to visit two of the friars from my province, and three other friars who are in their novitiate this year. Novitiate is a year of prayer and discernment when one first enters the Order. Normally, these friars who are from England would have done their novitiate at the common novitiate in California, but this year they were sent to Assisi instead. They are thrilled to be there - to be in the place where our founder, St. Francis, lived and died. I came back to Rome on Monday. Today we head over to the Seraphicum, our International College, for a couple of days of workshop on the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Then on Saturday I head out to the States. I have finished the following: Major John Andre: The Life and Death of the Famous Spymaster during the Revolutionary War by Charles River Editor Major John Andre was the British officer who was to negotiate with Benedict Arnold for the betrayal of West Point to the British during the Revolutionay War. He was arrested on his way back from his mission, carrying plans for the fort hidden on his person. He had wanted to return to British lines on the ship that had brought him up the Hudson, but that ship had been forced to move and he had to seek British lines dressed in civilian clothes (which branded him a spy). In spite of the fact that everyone considered him to be a gentleman of high quality, he was executed by being hung (in a conscious parallel to the execution of Nathan Hale). Killers of the King: the Men who dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer This is an outline of the fate of those who executed King Charles I of England (a Stuart). A number of those most responsible were arrested, tried for treason and regicide, and hung, drawn and quartered ( a medieval horrendous form of execution). Some fled to Holland or Switzerland or America. Of these, some were found and killed or brought back for punishment. What complicated all of this is that the king had originally called upon the executioners of his father to give themselves, implying some form of amnesty. When it comes down to it, the king’s decision to find and try the killers of his father was no more brutal than the techniques used by those men (who often mouthed pious platitudes for their deeds). The Man who tried to redeem the World With Logic by Amanda Gefter This is the story of two men who tried to create an analytic map of the brain. They never succeeded because the brain functions in a much more complicated way than they expected. Nevertheless, their theoretical work was valuable for it helped create the logic network that shaped the creation of the modern computer. Moving On by Diane Cook This is an unusual story about a place where houses are set up for widows and widowers to mourn and be prepared for a future marriage. It is almost a dystopic world in which it seems to be illegal to be single. The houses are described as minimum security prisons. Yet, the woman who is the subject of the story mannages to survive and move on so that she is ready for a new marriage. American Legends: the Life of the Kingfish, Huey Long by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century. He was a populist politician from Lousiana who was both governor and senator (for a while both at the same time). He promised to make every man a king, equaling out the wealth of the people through social outreaches. Some thought him to be a dictator, others a savior. He did manage to quelch much of the corruption of the state, although others claimed (possibly falsely) that he simply funneled it into the pockets of his own supporters. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 9, 2017

Newark, NJ - Rome - La Verna - Italy

October 9, 2017 Peace and Good, I attended the funeral in Brooklyn of our friar Justin Biase. He died after a triple by-pass operation, and many friars attended his funeral (over 80). It was sad because Justin was beloved and also because we all felt that he died too soon. I came back to Rome and tried to work off my jet lag. This time it was very bad because I had crossed the Atlantic back and forth twice within three weeks. This past week the General Definitory went up to La Verna for a retreat with the definitories of the Friars Minor, the Capuchins and the TOR (all the groups of Franciscans). The preacher was Jean-Paul Vesco, a Dominican who is the bishop of Oran in Algeria. He spoke of a Christian approach to evangelization in countries where Christians are a small and sometimes persecuted minority. He based his apostolic approach on friendship with others. It was very good. Yesterday we came back to Rome for our General Definitory which we began after lunch today. We will continue until Friday evening. The morning was spent in writing reports. The weather has broken here in Rome and it is beginning to become cool. In La Verna (which is the mountain upon which St. Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ) was very cold (as it almost always is). I finished some reading: The Punic Wars: the History of the Conflict that Destroyed Carthage and Made Rome a Global Power by Charles River Editors This is the history of the wars between Carthage and Rome (three of them before the destruction of the city). It speaks quite a bit about Hannibal, a great general for the Carthiginians. The Romans come across poorly in this account, which they should. They eventually won the war simply because they stubbornly refused to understand that they had lost, and they continued to raise new armies and fleets even when one after another was destroyed and sometime annihilated. Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz This is a modern remake of the Frankenstein. The doctor still lives and is producing a race of new beings who he intends as an army to take over the world. He is being thwarted by the New Orleans police department, by Deucaleon, the first of his creatures which has rebelled against him, and by some of the other creatures he has created which are no longer doing his bidding. This is one of a series of books with similar themes from Koontz. The History of Cuba in 50 Events (History by Country Time) This is a short history of the island/country with 50 episodes that give an outline of what happened there throughout the ages. It is a short presentation, but it gives a good amount of information in a very compact format. The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux Paul Theroux is famous as a travel author. This was not his first trip to Africa. He lived there teaching for several years. In this book, he is already 70 years old, and he sees it as his last trip to Africa. He intends to travel from South Africa to the north, possibly as far as Timbuktu. This is not his final destination, however, for reasons of wars and terrorism farther north. He goes as far as Angola, which for him is a bitter disappointment, given the ravages of war that one still sees everywhere and the blatant corruption that lives so many on the edge of life and others fabulously rich. His book ends with a chapter full of anger and disillusionment. The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami by Charles River Editors This is one of the Charles River books, all under 100 pages. This one deals with the famous Boxing Day tsunami that killed so many people from Indonesia to the coast of Africa. Unlike most of the other Charles River books, this one is mostly personal remembrances of the terrible events, which in this case works very well. One Summer, America, 1927 by Bill Bryson This book is the story of the history of one year (especially from an American perspective). This was the year that Lindberg flew from New York to Paris non-stop and became a great hero in the States and also in Europe. It is the year when the Sacco and Vanzetti trial for terrorism went on. It is when Babe Ruth was at the peak of his fame and energy, as well as Lou Gerick. This was also the year that a group of international bankers made some decisions that led to the great depression. The story is well told, as are all of Bryson’s books. It is well worth reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude