Saturday, November 24, 2018

Chicago - Ellicott City - Durham, NC - Burlington, NC - Winston Salem, NC - Pittsboro, NC - Ellicott City

November 24, 2018 Peace and Good, After our meeting in Chicago, I flew into Baltimore and took off an a trip to North Carolina to visit four of our friaries. I had never seen them before, and it was great to spend time with the friars. In Durham, our friars are the chaplains at North Carolina University and Duke, as well as taking care of an African-American parish. In Burlington, they take care of a large parish (anglo and hispanic) and are chaplains at Elon University. At Winston Salem they take care of a large parish (anglo and hispanic). In Pittsboro, they take care of a small Hispanic and Anglo parish. The last setting, however, is about to change, for there are plans to build housing for about 60,000 people, along with a center for high tech industries. These past few days I have been in Ellicott City. I got to visit our friars in formation in Silver Spring, especially for the Thanksgiving meal. I took care of a few other meetings as well. Today, Saturday, I am heading back to Rome. This week I will have time to catch up my writing projects. Then we have two weeks of definitory. I finished some reading: Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor I have read a number of books by Beevor. He is an unparalleled war historian. This one deals with the Battle of the Bulge at the end of World War II. He gives a tremendous amount of information in a way that is not overwhelming. He tries to mildly defend Montgomery (who, like himself, was British), but he is merciless against General Bradley (which is odd, considering his high reputation among many army people). The book is well worth reading. Water, the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization by Steven Solomon This book deals with the use of water for transportation, trade, growing crops, sanitation, manufacturing, etc. It speaks of the exploitation of water in dams, streams and rivers, underground sources, etc. It covers over 3,000 years of history and the whole world. It really is a monumental work, and its last section dealing with the challenges of water policy in the modern world is worth reading even by itself. This is an important book for anyone interested in the use of water and its misuse. Lenin’s Brother: the Origins of the October Revolution by Philip Pomper The older brother of Lenin, Sasha, was arrested in a plot to assassinate the Tsar. He and his band were convicted and he was executed. This book speaks of Sasha’s life and character and his conversion to revolution. It compares and contrasts Sasha with Lenin, and delves into the question of whether this execution hardened the character of Lenin so that he would later become a merciless executioner of his enemies. Catilina’s Riddle by Steven Saylor Catalina is usually seen as a revel in the Republican period of Rome, defeated by the famous Cicero who was counsel at that time. This book which centers on this particular period of history from the viewpoint of a type of Roman detective who is known as Gordianus the Seeker questions whether the portrayal of either Catalina or Cicero is completely valid. It also presents some aspects of Roman life that we would consider horrible and explains how they were simply accepted as what was normal. It deals a bit with the question of class struggle that led to the eventual destruction of the Republic. I did not find this volume quite as good as Saylor’s others, but it was good enough to enjoy. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kimeade and Don Yaeger This is a short account of the small war that the young US navy fought against Barbary pirates during the days of President Jefferson. It was not an unmitigated success until the last days of the war when the dedication of the US forces to their mission managed to force the various Barbary (North African) emirates to accede to the demands of the Us (without the US having to pay any ransom money or having to bribe the not to attack US ships). The authors use this as an object lesson in how to fight for our rights when we are endangered by outlaw (and especially Muslim) forces. The 47th Samurai by Stephen Hunter This is a book which speaks about a valuable sword that a US ex-marine gives to a Japanese family in honor of their father, but who are then murdered by a mobster (Jakuza). The American studies how to fight like a Samurai and defends the rights of the family who were treated so badly. It is a bit of a swashbuckler story, but not all that bad. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, November 5, 2018

Ndola, Zambia - Rome - Assisi - Rome - Chicago

November 5, 2018 Peace and Good, The zero to five workshop for friars who had recently finished their formation programs in Zambia went quite well. I always find that these workshops are a challenge because I must bridge the cultural divisions, but it was well worth it. The men are very idealistic, which is good in the young. My job was to encourage their enthusiasm but also to help them to balance it with prudence. This is always a challenge for the young friars. My trip back from Zambia was good. I stopped off in Addis Ababa on the way back (which was just a stop over of a few hours). The airport is much improved over what I remember from previous trips. Let's hope that they keep working at it. This past week I was in Rome for our definitory. This meeting was a bit shorter than normal for we did not meet on Monday afternoon, Thursday (because of the Feast of All Saint's Day) and Saturday. Yet, the meeting itself was quite full. We got good news. The constitutions that we produced at our Extraordinary Chapter were approved by the Vatican. They will be promulgated at the end of the month. Now we have to keep working to get ready for our next General Chapter, the Ordinary one, starting this May. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Chicago for a meeting of our federation. That will last until Thursday, and I head out to Baltimore on Friday. I finished some reading: 1939: Countdown to War by Richard Overy This book deals with the months before the German attack on Poland during World War II. It speaks of the negotiations, the various motives of the parties involved, and the sad ending to the story which plunged the Polish people into a hellish existence for the next several years. The account is well written. The Psalms by Artur Weiser This is a masterful and long treatment of each of the psalms, giving the main message, some cultural background, the spiritual significance of the message, etc. It is not a book that should be used by someone who wants a short and understandable outline of the psalms. It is much more involved, but a valuable research resource. Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier This speaks of the career of President Eisenhower, but especially of his last days in the presidency and his concerns about the accession of the relatively inexperienced President Kennedy. The author goes into length speaking about the last address to the nation that Eisenhower made, especially how he warned of the dangers of the nation being directed by the Military-Industrial Complex. The author shows how this most military man actually fought to keep the nation out of conflict. It is a good treatment. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly This is one of the killing series that Bill O’Reilly and his collaborators produced. There are parts of this book which are worthwhile, but the scholarship is not great all the way through. There are some facts he mentions which a just wrong, and others are oddly stated (e.g. presenting the Roman Senate in the last days of the Republic as a democracy when it clearly was an aristocracy that was no longer functioning for the good of the republic). The book is good as a meditation, as long as one realizes that the author has a bit of an ax to grind at times, and is a bit loose with the history at other times (inventing dialogues and intentions that are not documented in the available sources). The First Man in Rome by Coleen McCullough This is the story of the careers of Marius and Sulla, two important generals of Rome in the generation before the accession of Julius Caesar. It is surprisingly good. This is a historic fiction, but the characters are presented as three dimensional and one can develop a sense of their motivations (which were not always all that honorable). Madam President by William Hazelgrove This is an excellent treatment of how Edith Wilson hid the illness (severe stroke) of President Wilson along with the aid of his doctor. Even cabinet officials were often not allowed to see the president. Edith Wilson, in effect, was the acting president of the US. She was more concerned with the health of her husband than of the good of the nation (which is exactly what she said at times). I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude