Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Chicago - Rome - Ndola, Zambia

October 25, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished my workshop on the Letter of St. Paul with the postulants in Chicago and flew back to Rome last Friday. I arrived in Rome on Saturday morning, and just had enough time to rest up a bit, repack, and head out to Zambia to give a workshop. I am in Ndola to give a workshop to those who are out of formation from 9 to 5 years. This is a critical point in the formation of the friars for they are just getting out of formation houses and entering into friaries where the life is quite different. The young men are very idealistic, but there is always the danger that this will create two groups in the province: the young vs. the old. My job this week is to encourage them to continue to be idealistic and to challenge the status quo, but to try to do that without creating divisions. I am also here to help the friars take stock of where they are. This is the point of the friars' life when they develop good or bad habits that will follow them all throughout their lives. I am very impressed with the 12 young men on this workshop. I give some presentations from scripture, but I also open it up a lot to let them talk about their experiences. Theoretically we do this in our monthly house chapters, but it does not happen all that often. Thus, I hope that we are modelling what can be in the future. I have finished some reading: Washington Burning by Les Standford This is the account of the building and then the burning of Washington DC during the War of 1812. It dwells upon the career of the chief architect, Pierre L’Enfant. While he was probably a genius, he was also a very difficult man with whom one had to work. The choice of Washington as the site of the federal government was controversial, even after its official buildings were burned down. The book gives a good history of the events. The Polish Officer by Alan Furst This is one of the books on spy craft in the period just before the beginning of World War II and during the early days of the war. This one deals with a Polish officer who is called upon to spy first in Poland, then in France, and finally back in Poland. The books are realistic, with and incredibly good psychological insight into the people involved. They are not James Bond stories, but rather real people who are involved in incredibly difficult circumstances. I would highly recommend any of Furst’s books (this being the fifth or sixth that I have read). The Bozeman Trail: the History and Legacy of the Exploration Route that Let to Red Cloud’s War by Charles River Editors This is the history of one of the major trails used by early settlers in the West, this one running through the Powder River territory. It caused a major Indian War to arise with the Sioux, during which the Crow tried to remain neutral. Eventually, with the transcontinental railroad, the trail was abandoned. Then Sings My Soul by Robert Morgan This is the history of 150 of the religious songs used throughout the English speaking world, especially England and the US. Most of the songs are Protestant, but many would be recognized by a Catholic community as well. There is a short biography of each of the song’s authors, and a bit of why the song meant so much to that individual. Map Thief by Michael Blanding This is the story of a map vendor who eventually became a map thief, E. Forbes Smiley. As part of the background material, there is a good description of the practice of map collecting. There are those who buy old maps for wall decorations, and there are the more academically intentioned collectors who build their map collection upon a theme (e.g. early colonial maps of a particular area, world maps during a certain era, etc.). The vendor tried to live a life style beyond his means, and to finance it began to steal maps from libraries and rare map collections, thereby betraying the very people who had supported him in his research. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 15, 2018

London - San Antonio, Texas - Chicago

October 15, 2018 Peace and Good, I finished off my trip to London and flew out to San Antonio to visit the house of formation there. I was only there for abour 48 hours, but it was a very good visit. I had some nice discussions with a couple of friars there. Then I flew into Chicago on Friday. I will be giving a week workshop to the postulants (8 of them) on the Letters of St. Paul. I enjoy doing this every year. It gives me the opportunity to get to know the men in formation a bit. Saturday, I was able to be at a 25th anniversary of the ordination of fr. Brad Milunski. He was one of my students at Granby many years ago. He is now the director of the formation program here. I have finally finished with my bronchitis. I am usually very healthy, but when I get a bad cold it almost always becomes bronchitis. I will have to mention that to the doctor on my next visit there in November. I have finished some reading: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the convention that led to the production of the constitution. It started as an attempt to revise the Articles of Confederation that had been the unifying principle for the US right after the War of Independence. Madison and Hamilton worked to make the revision more substantial, giving rise to what we today know as our constitution. The short book records the series of compromises between big states and small, slave and free states, those who wanted a central authority and those who wanted more states’ rights, etc. Hadrian’s Wall: the History and Construction of Ancient Rome’s Most Famous Defensive Fortification by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River account of the construction and history of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England/Scotland. Hadrian had decided that the Roman Empire was large enough, and instead of setting out on new conquests, he decided to build barriers in those places where barbarians might threaten settlements. The wall seems also to have been built to regulate trade (and taxes) between the Picts of Scotland and settlements farther south. A Canticle for Lebowitz by Walter Miller This is a book that I had read in high school many years ago, and I enjoyed it as much this time around. It is about a post-nuclear war period in which a monastery of monks dedicated to Lebowitz, an engineer become monk who protected books during an anti-intellectual rebellion and who died a martyr to the cause tries to revive civilization. It tells the story at a number of historic periods after the initial event. The author has a sense of humor, and asks important philosophic questions about progress and responsibility, etc. Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain and the Fateful Summer of 1940 by Norman Moss This book covers the period at the beginning of the Second World War, especially dealing with what was happening in Great Britain and the reaction to events in the US. It is well written, if at times a bit hard on the US for not getting involved early enough. I could easily recommend it to others. Jason and the Argonauts: the Origins and History of the Ancient Greek’s Most Famous Mythological Hero by Andrew Scott and Charles River Editors This book is an overview of the story of Jason and tells of its importance in Greek culture and also of its historic resonances. Like all of the Charles River books, it is short and really only gives an overview, but it does that very well. The Life and Legacy of the Prophet Jeremiah by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of the life and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. I found the scholarship below the level of many of the other books in this series. The actual ministry of Jeremiah is handled well, but the author accepts as unconditional truth what is really just a theory, at times a theory that does not have widespread belief. I was disappointed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 8, 2018

Rome - London - Oxford - London

October 8, 2018 Peace and Good, I have finished my time in Rome for a while. In the last couple of days, I have been working on a little project and finally made some progress on it. I want to transcribe all of the homilies that I preached during the Extraordinary Chapter (at the request of some friars and the Minister General). While I was recovering from bronchitis, I just did not have the energy. Now that I am feeling better, I finished about a third of the project. I hope to have it completed by the end of the month. I flew to London on the 5th and had some meetings with the custos and his vicar. We were able to get a lot of business done in a relatively short amount of time. Saturday I headed up to Oxford to visit our formation community, and came back Sunday evening. Now I will be in London until Wednesday when I will fly out to San Antonio, Texas to another of our houses of formation. The weather here is cool and overcast, a normal British fall. I have spent many, many hours in conversation with a number of friars here, which is always good. I have finished some reading: The Storm of the Century by Al Roker This is an account of the hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. I had already read another book on this topic called Isaac’s Storm, and this book was as good if not better than that one. This is the Al Roker who is the meteorologist on TV. He has a lot of good quotes from people who lived through the storm. The final toll of this disaster was somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 when the storm surge from a very powerful hurricane that the weather bureau had not forecast completely covered the island on which Galveston was built. The FBI by RJ Parker Vol 1 This is a series of stories about some of the FBI’s most infamous cases. One or two of the cases is treated in a very defensive manner, but the rest are simply reporting what happened with cases like the mobster cases in the 1930’s and some of the more recent cases in the recent decades. William Penn: The Life and Legacy of the English Quaker who Founded Pennsylvania by Charles River Editors This short book on the life of William Penn is quite well done with a number of long quotes from Penn’s own writings. He was a convert to being a Quaker, a choice that landed him in prison a number of times. He was at times favored by the court (especially as being the son of a war hero), and at other times ignored or even persecuted. He was the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania which was one of the most respectful colonies toward other religions and toward Native Americans. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson This was a very, very good book on the life and career of this incredible man. I found the treatment as good as that of Ross King who has written a series of very good books on the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo, on the dome of the cathedral in Florence by Brunelleschi, on the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, etc. The author does not delve into some of the more strange theories on Leonardo’s art. He describes his creative process which was the product of an insatiable curiosity. I highly recommend this book. The Cathars: The History and Legacy of the Gnostic Christian Sect During the Middle Ages by Charles River Editors The Cathars, also known as the Albigensians, were a heresy that developed in southern France in the 12th century AD. It was an offshoot of a heresy that developed in the Balkans known as the Bogomils. This religion was very dualistic seeing the earth as evil and not a product of God’s goodness. They were highly persecuted by the Catholic Church. The author of this book is not objective in any way, not even treating those moments when the Cathars did terrible things to Catholics. He also does not treat many of the political questions that had an influence on how they were treated (e.g. the attempt of the French king to gain political power in this part of France). The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War by Mark Stille The beginning of this book is an outline of the history of the Japanese navy during the Second World War. Then the author goes into an evaluation and examination of each type of naval vessel that the Japanese built and used. This speaks about various classes of ships, but then goes on to speak of the history of each ship in that class. It is a little more information than I really wanted to handle. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude