Friday, December 29, 2017

Melbourne, Australia - Rome, Italy

December 30, 2017 Peace and Good, I returned from Australia the evening of the 23rd, arriving around noon on the 24th. The trip was unending. There was a 16 hour flight from Melbourne to Doha in the Gulf States, a three hour layover, and another 6 and one-half flight to Rome. The jet lag from Melbourne to Rome is 10 hours, which means that these past few days have meant laying low and trying to get over the jet lag. The weather here is Rome is a bit unusual. It has cooled off quite a bit, but the first couple of days back were rainy with thunder storms (which don't happen all that often in Rome). This is good because we had a very dry summer, and the winter crops need the moisture. I am heading to the States this morning for a week. I have a number of doctors' visits this coming week - normal stuff for a man of my age. Then back to Rome for a couple of weeks of meetings. The first week will be our definitory, and then the second week will be a school for the new provincials in the Order. We do this every year or so for the provincials and custodes who have been elected in the meantime. I have finished some reading: The Seminole by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history and culture of the Native Americans who grouped together with run away slaves in the southern US, and eventually in Florida and Oklahoma, to become the Seminole people. They were not treated all that well by the US government. Many of them were forced to leave their homelands under Andrew Jackson and travel the trail of tears, the ethnic cleansing of the lands each of the Mississippi by the government of whatever native Americans were resident there. The Fugue by Arna Hemenway This is a very odd story of a man nicknamed Wild Turkey (more after an episode in which he obtained a number of wild turkies for a Thanksgiving meal for his band of soldiers rather than after the drink). It travels from here to there as his memory, which is suffering from post tramatic stress syndrome after a particularly horrific episode while on patrol in Iraq, seeks to find its footing. The messiness of the telling of the story well matches the messiness of the ex-soldier’s messed up mind. The Bed-Rest Hoax by Aleandra Kleeman This is a scientific essay in which the author takes to bed for a number of days to experience what women who are running a high risk pregnancy are told to do by many doctors. She uses her own experience and especially scientific studies to show that complete bed rest is actually more harmful to these women than a regiment of limited activity. How Can We Find More People Like You by Sara Borbett This is a travel essay on the attempt of some agents of AIRBNB to find more people in Japan who would host travelers. They find that the ones who would be most likely to allow strangers into their homes are those who already march to a different drummer. That is a little difficult to find in Japan where there is an intense sense of privacy in addition to the need to conform. Salvador Dali by Charles River Editors This is a short version of the life story of the great surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The author of this account is honest in the appraisal and Dali was both a great artist and an even greater promoter of his own talents. This account gives a very fine study of some of the most important pieces of art produced by Dali. I am glad I went through it. Black Cross by Greg Iles This is a fictional story of a secret British plot to infiltrate two specially chosen commandoes (one an American scientist and the other a German Jew from Palestine) into Germany to set off a set of bombs with neurotoxins to prove to Hitler that the allies possessed the poisons and would use them if the Germans attacked the invading troops in Normandy with their supply of poison gasses. It is set in the spy mode, and the author pushes credibility a bit (which is common in this genre), but it is a good book. Happy New Year Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Boston - San Jose, Costa Rica - San Francisco - Sydney, Australia - Melbourne, Australia

December 21, 2017 Peace and Good, It has been a very busy couple of weeks, both in terms of travel and in terms of cultural background. After the Minister General and I dropped fr. Donald off into the care of fr. James, the provincial, we continued on to Costa Rica for the inaugural chapter of a new custody. This custody was formed by the merger of a delegation in Costa Rica and a custody in Honduras. We have been working on this union for seven years, and it is a joy that we finally saw it occur. We had the official union on December 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day after that celebration, I flew up to San Francisco. This was just a stopping off point, for I was then flying out to Australia. It took me eight hours of flight to get to San Francisco, so I decided to stay the night in a hotel and then fly out the next day rather than trying to fly the whole way that same night. This was a good choice, for the flight from San Francisco to Australia was 14 hours in itself. I visited the friars in Kellyville and Warrawong which are near Sydney, and yesterday I flew south (only about an hour flight) to visit our friars in the Melbourne area (Springvale and Dingley). We have about 15 friars here, including two from the States, one from the Philippines, and one from India. This is a delegation of the Chicago Province (St. Bonaventure), and the visit is a preparation for the provincial chapter in Chicago which will take place right after Easter. I will be heading back to Rome on the evening of the 23rd, arriving in Rome around noon on the 24th. I have finished some reading: The Book of Jubilees by R.H Charles I have often heard about the Book of Jubilees, but I had never read it. This is a book that did not make it into the Bible, but which had a considerable influence in its days (just before the birth of Jesus). It is a type of rewriting of the Book of Genesis with the elements of the story favored by the intellectual background of the author’s school of thought emphasized. It is longer than I expected, but well worth going through at least once. William Wallace by Charles River Editors This is a short life story of the famous Scottsman who was portraayed by Mel Gibson in the film Braveheart. It is a sad story of rebellions, betrayals (often by his own Scotts), the relentless pressure exerted by King Edward I (known as Edward Longshanks). It was a brutal time, and both side used war techniques that would be considered cruel and outragerous today. How the Dog became the Dog: From Wolves to our Best Friends by Mark Derr This is a book that speaks about how dogs evolved from wolves (and possibly with a bit of jackal and/or fox). One can see in the book that the author is head over heals in love with dogs, and sometimes his retoric becomes a bit overly canine centered. He talks about how packs of wolves probably travelled along with packs of the first humans and that somehow they began to interact (maybe even learning hunting techniques from each other). He bemoans the limited breeding of dogs today because it forces attributes on dogs and lead to genectic abnormalities. It is not a bad bood, but not a great one either. Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt and the Supreme Court by Jeff Shesol This is the account of how FDR had a running battle with the Supreme Court which outlawed a number of his New Deal laws and organizations. The court was rather old, and five of the justices were quite conservative. FDR came up with the proposal to add members to the court, up to fifteen. This took various forms, either adding a member for each justice over 70 (and later over 75) or just adding members, etc. The Congress which was overwhelmingly Democratic after the 1936 election nevertheless turned down his proposal. In spite of this, the proposal seems to have frightened some members of the court who then changed their stance on a number of controversial cases to be in favor of FDR’s position. In a sense, he lost the battle but won the war. Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea by Antonia Juhasz This is the account of a dive near the oil well platform that blew up in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago and what the scientists found on the bottom of the gulf. The oil that had been dumped there was largely still there. The micro-organisms which ate the oil at first seem to have eaten only parts of it, leaving some of the most toxic elements still there. Furthermore, those elements are entering the food chain which could cause serious health problems in the future. The Night of the Long Knives by Charles River Editors Shortly after Hitler took power in Germany, he turned on the SA led by a brutal thug named Ernst Rohm. The industrialists who financed the Nazis and the leaders of the army demanded that Hitler do something about the SA who were street thugs and who were causing chaos in the land. Hitler along with Goering and Himmler led a purge against the SA in what has long been called the night of the long knives in which many of the SA leaders (along with other enemies of Hitler) were killed. I hope you have a good week as you prepare for Christmas. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Rome - Boston

December 10, 2017 Peace and Good, I was in Rome this past couple of weeks. We had a very long definitory, meeting with some of the men who work with the causes of Blesseds and Saints, with our office of Justice and Peace, and with our office for Ecumenism. We also met with the definitories of some of our Italian provinces. After the meetings finished, I worked on a series of daily reflections to get ahead of the game because I will be travelling extensively these next few weeks. I also finished a series of articles for our magazine in Kenya and a couple of articles for our magazine in Padua. Then we had our big celebration on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During the novena, we have a different cardinal each day. On the feast itself, it was Cardinal Re. Yesterday I travelled with our Minister General, fr. Benedict Baek, fr. Donald Kos to Boston. We were stopping off in Boston to drop Donald off. He had lived in Rome for 59 years in service to the Order and the Church. His health is failing a bit now, and so we brought him home to be in the Old Friars home in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Today the General and I take off for San Jose, Costa Rica where we will be celebrating a custodial chapter which marks the union of two jurisdictions (something we have been working toward for over seven years). I have finished some reading: You’ll Apologize If You Have to by Ben Fowlkes This is a short story of a professional octagon fighter who loses a battle and end up unconscious and with a huge bruise on his face. He returns home, and has a bad meeting with his ex-wife and child, and another bad meeting with a stranger whom he encounters while walking on the beach. He had just smoked a joint, and the man objects to what he did. The protagonist pushes him to sit down where he is, in the sand and the mud. He later goes back to apologize because he is afraid that the man will call the police on him, and he meets the man’s wife who is much older than he and welcomes the fighter into here home. White Guy in a Djelleba by Michael Chabon This is a travel story about how Michael Chabon is on a trip in Morocco with his family. He is going to a particular village, and his driver goes off track, causing everyone a bit of anxiety. It turns out that the family had asked for lunch somewhere where they served more than couscous, for they were already getting sick of it. The driver had taken them to a market/barbacue place where they get the best meal they were to have while in Morocco. It is a nice story of typical tourist anxiety with a happy ending. How Chance and Stupidity have Changed History: the Hinge Factor by Erik Durschmied This is a good book on a series of battles and historic events in which plain dumb luck or plain stupidity played a major role in the ultimate result. It speaks of battles all throughout history as well as things such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. The author gives enough datail to picture what was happening as well as a bit of speculation concerning the “what if” this or that had happened. Gabrielle Glaser The False Gospel of Alcoholics Anonymous This is an essay in a collection of scientific articles. AA has been considered to be the only way to fight alcoholism, but this article challenges this belief. It speaks of attempts to treat alcoholics in Finland with a mix of medication and counseling which can result in total abstinence or a much lower level of drinking. This is an interesting detail in the article, for AA takes it as a given truth that alcoholics can never drink again, a truth that this article challenges. I am not sure I buy all of its conclusions, but it certainly gives one much to think about. The Big Cat by Louise Erdich This is a strange little story about a man who marries into a family in which all of the women snore incessantly. He speaks of family get togethers as torture during which he rarely slept. He eventually divorces his wife, has an affair with her, and then remarries her. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude Winkler

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Ottawa - Rome

December 3, 2017 Peace and Good, I returned from Ottawa to Rome where we are holding a marathon definitory meeting. It is planned to go from Monday of this past week up to the vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. There are two reasons for the longer meeting this time. The first is that December is when we get the reports of the General Secretaries of our staff. These are the friars who are in charge of various offices which deal with the Secular Franciscans, the Poor Clares, the promotion of the causes of Blesseds and Saints, etc. We are also meeting with the provincials and definitories of the provinces of Italy. They have not been doing all that well in these years, so we want to continue to have a dialog with them to help them in any way we can The weather here has been rainy, which is very good because there was a bad drought all throughout the summer. It is cool, but not really terribly cold. I will be here until December 9th when I begin a long trip (Boston, San Jose, Costa Rica, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne and back to Rome. I finished some books: Outlaw by Ted Dekker Ted Dekker is a child of missionaries in Iryan Java, the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea. He recounts a story of a woman missionary and her infant son who are captured by a savage band of natives. They suffer untold indignities and are at times tortured and almost put to death. The woman had originally intended to share the faith with these people, but she comes to share it in a way that she would never have expected. Her love and that of her son in the face of violence create a new way of seeing reality in the Tulim Valley where they found themselves. The Dutch East India Company by Charles River Editors The Dutch East India company was a great trading empire founded by the Dutch traders and centered in the Indonesian Islands. It was not founded for the advance of civilization, but rather for the accumulation of riches. This was not all that favorable for the inhabitants of this area. The Dutch played on divided loyalties here much as the English did in India. They were certainly guilty of what today would be called war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even though the Dutch remained masters of Indonesia until after World War II, the company’s importance slowly faded as time went on. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Charles River Editors This was long considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world, even in ancient times. The problem is that while there are some inconsistent descriptions of its layout, there is no archaeological evidence that it every existed in Babylon. One of the possibilities that the author posits is that it really existed in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, which was occasionally also called Babylon. There is a lot of theory in this treatment but not a lot of firm information. Hades: The History, Origins and Evolution of the Greek God by Charkes River Editors This is an overview of the Greek treatment of the god Hades. While this god was a brother of Zeus and one of the Greek pantheon, it was nevertheless different from the other gods. It did not reside, for example, on Mt. Olympus. It resided in the underworld. Greeks did not perform the same type of sacrifices to this particular god. This god was not one whom one would adore to ask for favors, but rather one whom one tried to placate so that it would not do something bad to one. The Greek treatment of Hades and the underworld was eventually mirrored in Livy’s Aeneid and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Tyre by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the great trading city of Type on the shore of what today is Lebanon. While it formed a sea borne empire that stretched from Spain to Palestine, it was nevertheless subject to the great powers that surrounded it for all of its history (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc.). It was the motherland for settlers who ended up in Carthage and who created first a dependant entity and then eventually an empire in its own right. How Rome Fell by Adrian Goldsworthy I listened to this book about the fall of the Roman empire from the first moments in which there were difficulties up to its eventual dissolution. Goldsworthy is a good scholar and is fair in his treatment of causes and effects. This is a fairly long treatment of the topic, but every bit of it is worth reading. I certainly intend to search for more books by Goldsworthy. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude