Monday, April 30, 2018

Castro Valley, CA - Mt. St. Francis, IN - Ellicott City, MD - Buffalo, NY - Chicago, IL

May 30, 2018 Peace and Good, Sorry I have not written anything lately, but this month has been constant movement. I have been at the various provincial chapters of the four US provinces. I am now in Chicago for the last of the chapters. After this, I will be getting some time off in Ellicott City, MD before I start the circuit again for the various chapters. These weeks have gone quite well. Until this past Thursday, I have been with the Minister General. Thursday he flew back to Rome to get ready for a two week trip to Russia. Yesterday the Vicar General arrived and he will be in charge of the chapter this week. This week is the chapter for St. Bonaventure Province centered in Chicago. The weather is turning nice, after having been quite cool for the past couple of weeks. Flights have been good and on time. I like flying with Southwest. There is always a good spirit among the crew and even those flying. Security has not been bad at the airports. Ever since the TSA agent was killed in LA, I make it a point to go back and thank the TSA agents for keeping us safe. They really seem to appreciate it. I am sure that they face a lot of griping all day long. I have finished some books: Spy by Ted Bell This is the story of a plot by jihadists and South American terrorists to attack the United States. The hero is a British Lord who is incredibly rich, and he leads an attack on the evil forces. The problem in this book is that the author presents a quite racist view of the people who cross the Mexican-US border to seek refuge (either political or economic) in the US. The premise of the story is quite unrealistic and the story is not all that well put together. Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts its Legacy as the Largest Salve-Trading Dynasty in US History by Thomas DeWolf This is a very interesting project by an extended family that realizes that one of their ancestors was a slave trader. They travel to his home town in Rhode Island, then Ghana where the slaves were bought, and then Cuba where they often worked on the sugar plantations. Parts of the book sound like a travellogue, but then the author becomes reflective about different form of oppression which we still see in our society today. That part of the book is excellent and served as a great reflection for me. The History of Ancient Egypt by Prof. Bob Brier This is a rather long series on ancient Egypt from prehistoric times to the death of Cleopatra. The professor is quite entertaining and informative. I found his lectures excellent, but there are 48 of them so that this is quite a commitment. I would highly recommend this particular series from the Teaching Company. The Marlboro Men of Chernivtsi by Andrew Jones This is an essay on how people in Ukraine and Kaliningrad smuggle cigarettes into Europe to profit on the price differential and the lack of taxes. The author speaks of taking a bus across the Romanian border with women who have packed tons of illegal cigarettes all over their bodies. It is quite good. Attack of the Killer Beetles by Maddie Oatman This is a scientific essay on beetles that have infested pine forests all through the West of the United States. An ecologist argues that maybe it is good to let them have their way, even though they are killing many trees, for they are sorting out those trees which have the strongest genetic makeup. This is contrary to government tendency to thin forests which does not seem to be all that successful. The Winter Fortress by Neal Bascomb This is the story of a group of Norwegian freedom fighters during World War II who first of all sabatoge the factory where heavy water is being manufactured, and then later sink a ferry which has most of the available supply on its way to Germany. Heavy water was used in nuclear research, so its destruction put the atomic research in wartime Germany way behind schedule, which proved to be a God sent in this war. The Black Widow by Daniel Silva I very much like Silva’s books about the fight between the Mossad (Israeli secret service) and terrorist groups. This one is a battle against the forces of recent Muslim terrorists. I liked most of the book, but at a certain point the author almost makes the survival on one Israeli agent as more important than the death of hundreds of American civilians. I found I was quite offended by this tendency. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 9, 2018

Arroyo Grande, CA - Castro Valley, CA

April 9, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been in California since last Monday. This past week I presented a workshop to our seven novices for the States. I really enjoyed working with them. We had about three and a half hours of presentation a day from Tuesday until Friday. Yesterday, Sunday, I drove up from there to Castro Valley which is just outside of Oakland for the Provincial Chapter which begins this evening. It will go on through Thursday. On Friday, the Minister General, fr. Benedict Baek (the Asian Assistant General) and I will head back down to Arroyo Grande to visit the novices. Then off to Louisville for the next provincial chapter, this one of Our Lady of Consolation Province. I finished some reading: Day of Judgment by Jack Higgins Most of Higgins’ books are about spies, but this one has to do with the Berlin Wall and the attempt to smuggle refugees through the wall. It is rather well written, as are most of Higgins’ books. The action takes place in the early 1960’s with President Kennedy involved in the drama. He also includes some Catholic and Lutheran religious figures in quite a favorable light. Assassin by Ted Bell A large number of American diplomats are assassinated within a short period of time. A group of investigators tried to get to the bottom of the threat. They come up with an Arab leader who has sponsored a group of women assassins who are about to commit a major act of terror. The personifications in the book are a little weak, and I considered the narator (for I listened to this book) to be rather racist in his characterization. A Murder of Quality by John le Carre This is one of le Carre’s first books. It is about a murder in a university town in Great Britain. The wife of a tutor is killed, and George Smiley, the spy in many of le Carre’s books, is asked by a friend to investigate it a bit since the woman was a faithful contributor to a religious newspaper. Smiley discovers that the woman was not what she wanted others to think she was, and Smiley has to journey through a complicated set of details to get to the truth. The Copper Bracelet by Jeffrey Deaver et al This is an experiment in which each chapter of this thriller is written by a different famous author. There is no problem with continuity, but it is one of those books that probably tries to do a bit too much. It resembles one of those Russian dolls which are egg shaped, with one inside the other, inside the other, etc. The authors try to establish a complicated structure of a plot within a plot, etc. The heroes of the story are a bit too heroic. The whole thing comes across a bit unbelievable. The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a Pandemic Age by Nathan Wolfe This is the story of possible pandemics which could strike the world either through natural or through terrorist means. The author is a scientist himself who has worked to predict and react to various pandemics and other dangers. The author speaks about possible future dangers by showing how past dangers could be repeated. He gives a good amount of scientific knowledge in the course of his narratives. It is quite informative and well written. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Monte Argintario - Rome - Assisi - Rome -Arroyo Grande (CA)

April 4, 2018 Peace and Good, A Happy Easter to all. I finished the retreat in Monte Argintario and we travelled to Rome for the Triduum. Good Friday I had to take a quick trip up to Assisi for a couple of meeting with our English novices and their Novice Director. The three novices from the custody of Great Britain/Ireland are in Assisi for the year, and I went up to see how things were going. The Easter Vigil was well done this year. It lasted about two and a half hours, but everything was well organized. The Exultet was sung with guitar accompagnment, and it was really beautiful. We had a baptism and confirmation of an adult during the Mass. On Easter Monday I flew to California to give a workshop to our novices in Arroyo Grande. I flew from Rome to Munich, then to San Francisco, and then finally on to San Luis Obispo. When I got into Munich I saw that the connection to San Francisco was going to be three hours late. San Francisco is a large and somewhat complicated airport, and I thought I would never make the connection. The United Airline representative was on the jetway and gave me a coupon to get an expedited passport control. The security people let me take a fast track on security. Someone, both I and my luggage made the flight. When I got to the gate for the San Luis Obispo flight, it was already boarded, and the man checking the tickets even said that they never expected me to make the connection. I finished some reading: Poland by James Michener This is typical of Michener’s books – it is enormous. It gives stories about people all throughout the history of Poland, with the largest section dedicated to the Nazi period. It is very well written, and it gives a good insight into the Polish personality – a grandiose hopeful people who are generous in their service to their nation. I would always recommend Michener’s books as long as you have the time to read them. 1924: The Year that Made Hitler by Peter Ross Range This is an account of the events of 1923 and 1924 in the life of Adolph Hitler. In 1923 he organized the Beer Hall Puntch, and then in 1924 he was tried and imprisoned. He used his imprisonment to write his infamous memoir Mein Kampf. The Beer Hall Punch comes across as a comic opera rebellion, but Hitler used the subsequent trial as a stage to publicize his theories. It didn’t help that the judge and the whole judicial system of Bavaria were most sympathetic to the rightist movement. They treated Hitler with kid gloves, and released him long before he should have been (in clear contrast with how they treated Communists or Socialists). The book is good. The Cossacks: The History and Legacy of the Legendary Slavic Warriors by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the Cossacks, a group of ex-slaves and ex-serfs who escaped to the plains of southern Ukraine to produce a new people who were famous for the warlike disposition. They were often used by the Czars to put down rebellions with extreme violence. They were strong defenders of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Communists hated and did not trust them, and persecuted them throughout their regime. Stalin, for example, deported many of them to the Muslim republics during World War II. The account is well done. The Freemasons: the history of Freemasonry and the world’s most famous secret society by Charles River Editors I very much enjoy most of Charles River Editors, but this one is an exception. The scholarship in the book is very poor, and come across much more as a book of propaganda in favor of the Masons. The author takes all sort of founding legends proposed by the Masons and accepts them uncritically. I would not recommend this book at all. The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory This is the story of Margaret Pole, one of the last of the Plantaganets during the days of Henry VIII. She and her family opposed the reforms of Henry in regard to the Church, and she was executed late in her life for supposed rebellion. Philippa Gregory tries to portray a very favorable picture of Margaret Pole and I am not sure that she was quite as innocent as she would protray her. Nevertheless, Gregory does show the decline in the mental balance of the king and the murderous consequences of this. Midnight by Dean Koontz This is a horror story of a scientific genius who has created a type of nanotube that programs people to be a “higher race.” The problem lies both with the definition of what a higher race might be. To that scientist, it meant a lack of emotion as well as incredible healing power. Unfortunately, the nanotubes also give people the possibility of regressing to a lower form of humanity – becoming savage beasts that kill others. An FBI agent, a sister of a murder victim and a young girl who is running away from her now savage parents team up with a terribly wounded Vietnam veteran to fight this plague. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude