Friday, September 28, 2018

Rome - Nisiporesti, Romania - Rome

September 28, 2019 Peace and Good, Over these past couple of weeks I have been showing some friends and acquaintances around Rome. This is the one time that I get to see some of the sites, so I really enjoyed it all. The last guest left this Tuesday morning, so it is back to the normal schedule. Furthermore, on Friday a group of us flew to Romania for the beatification of Veronica Antal. She was a consecrated lay woman who was murdered during the days of communism. Her cause has been proposed since I first taught in Romania in the 1990's, and it was finally approved this past year. There were over 12,000 people and over 300 priests present. Her village is not all that big, but the church is very large. In fact, when the previous pastor rebuilt it, he was accused of overbuilding, of making something way too large. Now it is clear that he was prudent for there will be many pilgrims to her tomb in these coming years. Sunday we came back to Rome, and these past days we have been meeting in definitory. This was a bit shorter than most meetings, for we finished at Friday lunch (while we usually go through to Saturday lunch). I will be here in Rome until the day after St. Francis Day, October 5th. Then I head out on one of my usual journies: London, Oxford, San Antonio, Texas, Chicago, Rome and Ndola, Zambia. I have finished some reading: Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty by Kate Hennessy Kate Hennessy is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, so this biography is an insider story of who Dorothy was and especially her relationship with her daughter Tamar. We hear a love/hate sort of relationship in which Dorothy was asking something of Tamar (to live as a faithful Catholic) which just wasn’t in her. We see Dorothy torn between acting as a mother and serving the ever growing needs of her Catholic Worker movement. This book presents Dorothy as a real person and not as a saint on a pedestal. Lagash and Eridu: the History and the Legacy of the Sumerian City by Charles River Editors These are actually two short books on Sumerian cities and the archaeological evidence that remains of their cultures, especially their religious devotional practices. They are a bit technical for the average reader, but they do provide a good amount of information for consideration of this culture that existed in Mesopotamia before the arrival of the Semitic cultures of the following generations. The Panic of 1907 by Sean Carr This is a financial crisis that I had never heard about. It was the crisis that led to the foundation of the Federal Reserve Bank. J.P. Morgan, rather than the tyrant and villain he is often portrayed as being, turns out to be the elder statesman who manages to limit the damage caused by the financial situation which began due to the failure of a financial scheme by some investors. The author gives a good analysis of what factors go into the origin and possible control of a crisis such as this. Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly This is one of O’Reilly’s historic studies. This one deals with the closing months of the war in the Pacific during the Second World War. He gives a lot of detail and valuable information. I just wish that he did not have to be so polemic in his attack on Obama. It is as if he has to blame Obama for everything, even the Second World War. At the same time, this book and the one that I read on the death of General Patton are worth considering. Shakespeare: the World as a Stage by Bill Bryson This is a rather good biography of Shakespeare, with a long section at the end which debunks the many theories that propose that someone else wrote his plays or that he never even existed. The book does not go into the plays in any depth, but does give some good background information (admitting that there is not much information available on who Shakespeare was, where he lived, what he did for long stretches of time, etc.). Bill Bryson usually write humorous travel books, but he handled this particular topic quite well. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This is volume two of what must be intended to be a three or four volume series on the secretary to King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell. It is a sympathetic portrait, where I have seen other versions of the story which portray him in a darker light. The first volume treated his dealings with the divorce of Henry from Katherine of Aragon. This one deals more with what happened to the marriage of Henry with Ann Boleyn. The author does a good job of creating a scene. Henry comes across as a spoiled egomaniac, which is probably not all that far off the mark. It was good reading. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Seoul, South Korea - Rome

September 16, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Seoul where I met with the definitory of the South Korean Province. I had been the visitator twice in a row, and this visit was halfway between the last chapter and the next one. It was a visit to see how things were going, and they are going quite well. I then travelled back to Rome. This week I have been hosting a friend, a priest from Ghana whom I know from when he stayed at our friary in Ellicott City while he was studying. I have given a retreat at the seminary where he was teaching, and also to the diocescan priests of his diocese. It is good when I have guests like this, for I get to see the sites of Rome that I don't see otherwise. My favorite church is of St. Clement, not all that far from the Colosseum. It is an 11th century church built upon a 4th century church built upon a series of appartments which it is believed to be the dwelling place of the fourth pope. The weather in Seoul was quite nice, but I was told that it had just broken a bit for it had been quite hot in previous weeks. The weather here in Rome is still summerlike. I have finished some books: The Cambridge Five: the History of the Notorious Soviet Spy Ring during World War II by Charles River Editors This is a quick account of the five Cambridge students during the inter-war period who agreed to spy for the Soviet Union. I have read a more complete account of Kim Philby lately, and this version is in agreement with the details of the other book. Typical of Charles River books, it is short and to the point (which has both advantages and disadvantages). Chernobyl and Three Mile Island by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River account of two separate nuclear disasters. It is really just a cobbling together of two related topics. The Three Mile Island accident was serious enough, but does not even have the slightest similarity to the seriousness of the Chernobyl disaster. The account gives both a good amount of information as well as first hand reactions to what happened and how it affected the lives of those involved. Antoni Gaudi the Life and Legacy of the Architect of Catalan Modernism by Charles River Editors Gaudi is a great architect from the Barcelona area who designed the long anticipated Church of the Holy Family. His style was decidedly unusual, and it marked a whole type of architecture that became famous between the two World Wars. He lived an ascetical life, and is now being proposed for beatification. There is no question that he was dedicated to his faith, but there was also a certain strangeness in him toward the end of his life. The League of Nations by Charles River Editors This is the story of the establishment and the short duration of the League of Nations. The short book goes into the developments before and during World War I which showed the world leaders the need for some sort of international organization to short circuit the mechanism of the march to war. Unfortunately, the US never joined the organization, and the economy of the world disintegrated during the Great Depression. Furthermore, many nations turned to autocratic governments that all but ignored the rulings of the league, while the democratic governments put up with the decisions of those governments in order to practice appeasement and keep the peace, eventually destroying the league. The History of the Goths by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths, two eastern tribes that invaded both the Eastern and the Western Roman Empires. They were responsible, in fact, for the fall of the Western empire, the king of the Goths overthrowing the last Roman Emperor. It also deals with the attempts of the Eastern Emperor to invade the West and reestablish the empire. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, September 3, 2018

Rome - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Seoul, South Korea

September 4, 2018 Peace and Good, After a couple of days of rest following the General Chapter, I went out on the road again. The first trip was to Saigon in Vietnam. I had asked the Minister General to stop there on my way to Korea to attend the ordination to the priesthood of three of our friars and to the diaconate of two of the other friars. The delegation there is doing very well. The friars have a wonderful spirit, a real joyful attitude. There is a sense of hope and future possibilites. They are at an important point right now in their developement, for the first friars to complete formation are now leaving the seminary and the friars there have to find a number of new apostolates for them. Furthermore, the numbers in formation continue to be good, so I can see them becoming a custody at the end of four years or so. I travelled to Vietnam with fr. Louis. P, who is the Secretary for Formation for the Order. This was his first time there, while I have visited four or five times already. The friars there are building a new seminary for their postulants (the first stage for those coming into the Order). They only began a couple of months ago, but it is already well along. The Vietnamese are quite industrious, and they tend to finish projects beforetime and under budget. On Sunday I flew to Seoul which was about five and a half hours from Saigon. I am here to do a half term visit to a province that I have visited canonically twice already. At the end of a visitation, we give a series of recommendations, and I am here to see how they are doing with what was suggested. I have finished some reading: The Enthusiast by Jon Sweeney This is the story of Brother Elias, one of the early companions of St. Francis. He was one of the first Minister Generals of the Order, but after the death of Francis he seems to have betrayed the charism of the Order’s founder. He even ended up being excommunicated for his siding with the Holy Roman Empire against the Pope. The book is supposed to be about Elias, but it really is more about Francis with Elias thrown in until after Francis’ death. World War II Biographies by Hourly History This is a series of short biographies on such figures as Ernst Rommel, Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, George Patton and Joseph Stalin. The presentations are a quick overview, but they nevertheless provide some good information on each of these people and how they influenced the outcome of the war. Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child I have read a number of books by the team of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston which includes the Special Agent Prendergast series. This one is by Lincoln Child alone and it deals with an Artic expedition to find traces of previous eras in the melting ice (due to global warming) of a glacier. The team comes across a frozen animal, possibly a saber tooth tiger. The TV firm that is funding the expedition decides to defrost the animal live on TV. They send a team for this TV special. The animal, though disappears. It has defrosted itself and it turns out to be a much more dangerous animal than expected. The rest of the book is about the team’s hunting it and its hunting them. It is quite well done. The Khufra Run by Jack Higgins A nun is looking for a plane full of treasure that her family tried to carry out of Algeria around the time of independence. She finds two disreputable but nevertheless not that bad characters who assist her in the hunt, the proceeds of which will be used to build a hospital for the needy. An evil Algerian colonel seeks to steal the treasure. This particular volume by Higgins bears a remarkable similarity to another of his books in which the treasure is hidden in a delta in Vietnam. The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis This is a two part book. The first part is an extended interview of Pope Francis on the topic of mercy. The second part is the text of the document that he wrote to inaugurate the Holy Year of Mercy that we celebrated a couple of years ago. There is nothing new here, but it is good to hear what it contains. Wolfgand Amadeus Mozart by Hourly History This is one of the short biographies that speaks of the life and times of Mozart. It gives an honest appraisal of his life and influences, especially that of his father. It shows how he learned from previous masters and was a source of learning for those who followed. It speaks of some of the misconceptions contained in the famous movie Amadeus. This is well done. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude