Monday, December 24, 2018

Rome - Arroyo Grande, CA - Rome

December 24, 2018 Peace and Good, This week I have been out in Arroyo Grande, our joint novitiate in California (mid way between Los Angeles and San Francisco). Monday I gave a Day of Recollection upon the Gospel of Luke which is the Gospel we are using in the liturgy this year. Our own novices participated, as did the novices of the Friars Minor (whose novitiate is in Santa Barbara) and the Friars Minor Capuchin (whose novitiate is in St. Ynez). Tuesday through Friday I continued with our own novices talking about the other Gospels and the Psalms. It is a good group of novices. There are six of them, two from Great Britain/Ireland, one from St. Bonaventure Province and three from Our Lady of Angels Province. fr. Joe Wood and Maurice Richard are doing a great job. Fr. Alexander Cymerman is the senior friar there. We feel it is always good to have one or two older friars with the men in formation to give them some background concerning our life from a practical point of view. I flew back on Saturday evening, arriving yesterday evening in Rome. It is a long, long trip. I will be in Rome for a bit now. This week I will baby sit the Curia. The others are off on vacation, and I will stay home in case there are any emergencies or official calls from the Vatican. (We always have to have someone available for that.) I finished some reading: Hiemdallr: the Origins and History of the Norse God who keeps watch for Ragnarok by Charles River Editors This is a strange paper on Hiemdallr, a Germanic god. It is not quite clear what this god was supposed to have done and why one would seek his assistance. He was associated with Ragnarok, sort of a Germanic end of the world, but other than this not much is known about him. The author presents a number of fragmentary prayers and inscriptions on him which are confusing and not well explained. This was not one of the better Charles River presentations. The Roman Province of Judea by Charles River Editors This is a quick overview of Judea, the southern part of Israel, from the time of its origins until its destruction under the Romans in the series of rebellions that led to the Roman decree banning Jews from Jerusalem and all but destroying the practice of their faith (under Hadrian). It gives a good amount of information in a quick format, like all of the Charles River presentations. The Astro-Prussian War by Charles River Editors This was the war which crushed the suppositions of the Astro-Hungarian Empire in its desire to lead the Germanic people. Prussia was wildly successful (because of weaponry, organization, etc.). It thus became the natural head of the movement to unify Germany as one nation, something that would happen within a decade of this war. What was interesting to me was that the Prime Minister of Prussia, Bismarck, went out of his way to defeat the Austrians without crushing them for he wanted to put them in their place without making them into an eternal enemy. The Decisive Battles of World History by Gregory Aldrete This is a Teaching Company course on many of the decisive battles over the centuries and across various cultures on the earth. Each lesson is well prepared, introducing both the parties and the main protagonists. It deals with the importance of the battle in terms of how it changed history. The presenter is a bit too enthused over the topic for my taste, but the information he presented was valuable. The Anger of Achilles by Robert Grant This is a new translation of the Iliad. I had often heard about the Iliad and read about it, but I had never actually read the saga itself. This offered a great opportunity for that. Grant is known as a popularizer of ancient topics, and I really did not know what to expect when I started the book. I was pleasantly surprised. It raises all sorts of questions in my mind and heart about the mentality of the people who received this saga and preserved it, but that is good. Merry Christmas. fr. Jude

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


December 13, 2018 Peace and Good, I have been at home in Rome for the past couple of weeks. In December we have a two week Definitory meeting, and we are reaching the end of the second week. There hasn't been as much business as usual for the term is winding down. We have our General Chapter in May when all of the offices are up for grabs, so a lot of our time now is spent in getting ready for that meeting. The weather has turned cold, at least for Rome. It is close to freezing each morning. It is overcast a good amount of time, which is normal December weather. I head out to California this coming Saturday to give a workshop to our Novices on the Gospels and the Psalms. I finished some reading: Churchill’s Empire by Richard Toye This was an excellent treatment on how Churchill viewed the British Empire. He is famously quoted as saying that he did not become Prime Minister to oversee the dissolution of the empire. While he fought for home rule in Ireland, he fought against its independence and that of India with vehemence. He was racist – not in the sense of being unsympathetic toward those who suffered under colonialism, but in the sense of seeing the white person as being the natural ruler of the universe. He was in many ways Victorian or Edwardian, a man whose services in World War II was indispensable, but who outlived his times. Uxmal: the History of the Ancient Mayan City by Jesse Harasta and Charles River Editors This is a short report on the city of Uxmal in the Yucatan Peninsula which was important during the Mayan period. It deals with the politics of the city and the surrounding area. It examines the archaeological remains of the city which were found at a later date than many of the other Mayan ruins. Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome by Anthony Everitt Anthony Everitt is a masterful author of the Roman Empire. This book deals with the emperor who reigned at the time when the empire decided that it was large enough and it went from an aggressive imperialism to trying to rule that which it already controlled. It deals with the personality of Hadrian, which was a bit of a mixed bag. It deals with the politics of Rome when it was ruled by someone whom it considered to be a newcomer who did not have the noble pedigree of many of the families of Rome. The book is very informative and worthwhile to read. Meander by Jeremy Seal The English word meander means to wander here and there. It comes from a river in Asia Minor which does exactly that. This is a travel book about a man who travelled on the Meander River from its source down to the sea by canoe. It tells of the many people he met along the way, as well as the fate of the river which is used for agricultural and industrial purposes which has greatly degraded the quality of the water contained therein. It is really quite a good travel book. The Royal Air Force in World War II by Charles Rive Editors The history of the English Air Force is famous for the way that it defended England during the Battle of Britain. This book covers the history of the air force before the war as well, speaking why it was not all that well prepared when war came. Furthermore, it deals with the question of the type of bombing it did during the war, going from precise target bombing to area bombing of cities. Mining for Michigan by Charles River Editors The northern peninsula of Michigan is quite famous for its mineral deposits. The most important for much of its history was copper which was mined and used even in prehistoric times. There is also gold and silver in small quantities and iron ore in much larger quantities. As always with Charles River Editors books, this presentation is not all that long, but it is quite informative. Have a good week, especially as we draw close to Christmas. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ellicott City, Md - Rome

December 3, 2018 Peace and Good, I have returned to Rome following the North Carolina visitations. Last week was a chance to catch up with some writing projects. This week and next we will be meeting in definitory. I think that the definitory will not be full days throughout the week because there is not a lot to finish these days. We have already done a lot of work preparing for the coming General Chapter this coming May and June. The weather is quite rainy here in Rome. When I arrived last Sunday, in fact, there was quite a bit of flooding in the streets. This is typical of this time of year. I have finished the following reading: The Great Famine: the History of the Irish Potato Famine during the Mid-19th Century by Charles River Editors This is the story of the great potato famine in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century. It speaks of the reason why Irish were so dependent on potatoes (because their lands had been divided and sub-divided among the owner’s sons). It deals with the political question of whether this was a subtle genocide on the part of the English to reduce the population of Ireland (probably not that culpable, but negligent all the same). It deals with the migration of millions of Irish to Australia, America and Canada to escape the disaster. Liberty’s First Crisis by Charles Slack This is the story of the enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts during the reign of President John Adams. These acts were intended to silence the opponents of the administration (which was Federalist) and their use was a dangerous attack on the freedom of speech. The book covers why they were enacted, what their consequences were, and how they were allowed to expire when Jefferson won the presidency. One insight that I received from the book is the idea that the founding fathers considered party politics to be a form of rebellion. They wanted everyone to be housed under one big tent of common interest. It was only with the rise of Jefferson and his band of followers that the leaders of the country accepted the idea of political parties as a necessary corrective to the body politic of the country (that one party would correct the excesses of the other through elections). The Election of 1828 by Charles River Editors This is the story of how Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Adams had won the election of 1824 by winning the approval of Henry Clay whom he then appointed his Secretary of State. Many saw this a dirty deal, for Jackson had actually won the most votes. The rematch of 1828 proved that the people agreed with the assessment, besides the fact that the election was pitting a popular war hero against a quiet diplomat. Jackson’s victory led to the rise of political power for the western states (western for those days were states like Kentucky and Tennessee). And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov This is the story of a group of Cossocks right before World War I and in the early days of the war. Sholokhov was seen as a great reporter of an all but lost culture. The Cossocks were a mixed group of Russian and other Slavic run away serfs and of others who married into their race. They lived in the southern steppes, and often served as the cavalry force of the Tsars, even against his own people when they rebelled against him. Mutiny: the history and legacy of the mutinies about the HMS Wager, the HMS Bounty, the Amistad and the Battleship Potemkin by Charles River Editors This is one of the combination books that Charles River is putting out which combines a series of their smaller books in one larger collection. This one deals with a rebellion aboard the Wager which involved a ship whose crew left their officers to die off the coast of Chile, the famous mutiny of the Bounty, the Amistad which was the story of a group of slaves from Africa whom had been carried to Cuba (where the slave trade had been outlawed) and who won their freedom, and the Potemkin which had a mutiny during 1905 when there was a rising against the Tsar. Top Cases of the FBI volume 2 by RJ Parker This is a very strange collection of poorly put together stories about the FBI and its war against terrorism, white collared crime, etc. The first volume was much better. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude