Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cardiff, Wales - London - Montreal

September 10, 2019 Peace and Good, The retreat went very well in Wales. There were 14 friars from the custody who participated, and the topic was the prophets. We had a lot of good discussions. We finished the retreat on Friday after breakfast, so I spent the day until Saturday afternoon in London. I was able to get my tripe noodle soup in Chinatown. The weather was quite cool and cloudy. I flew to Montreal on Saturday evening. Our plane raced just in front of Hurricane Dorian, and we felt a bit of the bumps from the first winds of the storm system. There was a lot of damage in Halifax which is in Nova Scotia. I will be here in Montreal until the 19th. Today we begin the custodial chapter. There are around 15 friars in the custody, and they serve the Polish immigrants up here and in the Northeast of the States. The problem is that the emigration from Poland to the US and Canada has largely dried up because Poles would now prefer to go to Germany or England or Ireland. We will have to discuss the short term and long term future of the friars' presence here. The weather here is nice. It is like early fall. I finished some reading: The Evolution of Christmas by Gustavo Vazquez-Lozano and Charles River Editors This gives a decent outline of how Christmas has been celebrated through Christian history. It speaks of what really happened at the first Christmas, who was there, and the date of when it happened. It deals with the tendency among many Protestant groups to de-emphasize its celebration, and then the rebirth of its importance in the 19th century (one of the sources of its rebirth being Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol). Markus Garvey by Charles River Editors Garvey was born in Jamaica, but most of his work was done in the States. He formed a black rights program that proposed black separation and the establishment of a black republic all throughout Africa (seeing himself as the head of that country). He founded various black enterprises which mostly failed shortly after their founding due to lack of experience and secret opposition by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. He was attacked by other civil rights advocated for his separatist tendencies. Blaise Pascal by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the polymath Blaise Pascal. I had always heard of Pascal’s wager – that one might as well believe in God, for if he exists, then it would go well with one, and if he did not exist, nothing lost. This biography showed how ill he always was right from his early childhood. He was educated by his father who tried to keep him away from mathematics since he knew that once he found that field, it would obsess him. However, Pascal found the subject himself and exactly what his father worried about happened. He was absolutely brilliant, something recognized even by brilliant contemporaries. Toward the end of his life, he dallied with the tendency toward Jansenism, an extreme form of asceticism. The Akkadian Empire from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is a short account of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia around the year 2200 BC. It was one of the first multi-national empires. It had a standing army and well developed cultural resources. It seems to have faded from the scene due to two major factors: a catastrophic centuries long drought due to changing climatic conditions in the north Atlantic which changed the climates of vast parts of the globe and the invasion of the Gutian nomadic peoples. The Enemy by Lee Child A military investigator is asked to look into the sudden death of a General who is on his way to a military conference. There is some initial suspicion about a missing briefcase, but the case takes on its own momentum when the general’s wife is murdered, as well as a couple of other army men. What complicates it all is that the new head of the investigator’s department tries to force him to drop the investigation. The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz Koontz has become one of my favorite authors. This book is about an FBI agent whose husband suddenly and inexplicably commits suicide. She investigates the whole thing, and finds that there are many more suicides occurring. She eventually finds that this is all a result of a terrible conspiracy to control society by a rich and hidden group of people. St. Clement of Rome by Greg Gordon This is a short introduction and the First Letter of Clement to the community in Corinth. He was writing at the end of the First Century AD, and addressing some of the same problems that Paul addressed in his letters to the community in Corinth. I especially like St. Clement because his church in Rome is built on three layers: a medieval church on top, an early Christian church (post-Constantine) below, and still father below, the appartments where St. Clement was believed to have lived. Dolores Clabourne by Stephen King I have always like King’s style of writing, but this book was a real masterpiece. It is the story of a down Easter woman from an island off of Maine who is accused of murdering the woman whom she had cared for over a long period of time. The reason why she is suspected is especially the fact that she was thought to have been possibly responsible for the death of her husband. She does through the whole story in an interrogation by the police. She is foul mouthed, tough, but basically a good woman who tried to do what was right in her life. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rome - Cardiff, Wales

September 3, 2019 Peace and Good, My time in Rome, a month in all, is now over. I will be away from the city for most of a month and a half. My first stop along the way is Cardiff, Wales, where I am preaching a retreat to the friars of the Great Britain/Ireland custody. From here I will be headed to Montreal at the end of the week. I have travelled from 90 degree weather to 60 degree weather. The city is cloudy and with often periods of light rain. The retreat house where we are staying is quite comfortable, and I am busy doing research for the various talks and homilies. I have finished lots of daily reflections and articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua in this past month. The last project I had to complete is a talk I will be giving in Romania on October 2nd for the opening of the academic year for our theological faculty in Roman (where I taught for many years on a part time basis). The British friars are tense today because there will be big vote in the Parliament on the Brexit question. We celebrated our Mass today with the intention of seeking divine guidance on a messy situation. I finished some reading: Tried by War by James McPherson This is an account of the career of Abraham Lincoln for the point of view of his responsibility as commander in chief during the Civil War. It deals with his relationship with his generals and how he often had to step in to force them into action. The author has done a good job of outline the problem and giving an honest evaluation of his successes and failures. The First Sino-Japanese War by Charles River Editors This is a short account of a war fought between Japan and China at the end of the 19th century as Japan was rapidly industrializing and China falling more and more into decadence. In this war, Japan was able to wrest control of Taiwan and Korea from China. Korea was at first treated as a protectorate, and later was invaded and treated as a colony. Crowned Cousins: The Anglo-German Royal Connection by Alan Palmer This book deals with the relationship between the English monarchy from the time of George I till the present with the German royal families. It deals with marriages, feuds, etc. One of the most disturbing parts for me was how the British royal family tried to protect various members of the German families who had collaborated with the Nazis. There is also a lot of information who Queen Victoria intervened in numerous situations dealing with Germany and especially Prussia (for her daughter was the queen mother of the Kaiser). Lincoln: the Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan This book deals with the life and career of Lincoln seen from a literary point of view. Some of the author’s opinions are a bit forced, but most of it is quite good. He evaluates his debates, his speeches and his most important pronouncements. The Dawn of Innovation by Charles Morris This is the story of how the US began developing its native industries during and immediately after the War of 1812, and how the “American method” gradually overtook the industrial production of Great Britain by the end of the 19th century. This was especially true with the manufacture of arms and the development of precision manufacturing which allowed interchangeability of parts in machines. Nathan Hale and the Culper Ring by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the life and career of the spy Nathan Hale (I regret that I have only one life to give for my country) and an account of the spy ring that Washington was able to develop in the New York City area to obtain information about the intentions of the British during the War for Independence. Richard Nixon: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History The Hourly History accounts are similar to the Charles River Editors accounts. They are short but thoroughly investigated accounts of various figures and situations. This one is an honest account of the life and career of Nixon. It explains without defending. It gives credit where that is due, but also speaks of Nixon’s shortcomings and gradually increasing paranoia. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rome

August 23, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in Rome, which is a bit of a miracle. I think that this is the longest that I have been at home for many years. Once I begin to travel again at the end of the month, it will mean that I will be out for almost two months. This means that I am trying to get by taping of daily reflections and my writing of articles and talks done for the next few months. I have done that with the daily reflections, finishing them up to mid-October. I have just finished writing all 11 articles I need for the Messenger magazine from Padua for 2020, so I am done til December of next year. Now I have some editing to do on some projects, and a couple of new projects to get off the ground. I should be able to finished them by the end of next week. The weather is hot and humid, as it always is this time of year. The city is packed with tourists. I feel sorry for them, for when you walk down the street, you often see them sitting down on curbs with a look of exhaustion on their faces. I have finished some reading: The Night of the Long Knives by Charles River Editors This is the story of the rise of Hitler in Germany and his vendetta against some of his own followers. The Brown Shirts, the SA, had grown powerful, and like the Revolutionary Guards in Iran after the revolution which overthrew the Shah, they wanted to take over the army. The old Prussian guard and the rich businessmen who were financing the Nazis expressed their horror to Hitler at this idea. The SA were nothing but thugs who had no real plan for the future. Hitler decapitated their leadership by killing or imprisoning most of them, leaving the lower ranks to fade away. Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of the many book that this team has written. Some of them are science fiction, others detective stories, others a mix of both. This one is steeped in Southwest Native American culture. A group of archaeologists find a lost city which contains dangerous mysteries that probably shouldn’t be discovered. There is also a group of skin walkers, the Native American version of werewolves, in the mix. It is quite a good, event filled book. Easter Rising: a History from Beginning to End by Hourly History This short book speaks of the Irish Rebellion at Easter time in 1916. The country had already been promised home rule when World War I would end, but given that there was no end in sight, and that many of the Irish did not want home rule but rather wanted total independence, they decided to do something extreme. The rebellion was not all that organized with one major faction withdrawing from it at the last minute. While with wasn’t totally successful, it nevertheless sparked a violent backlash from the British who over reacted, creating such a bad feeling among the Irish that many who would not have thought of rebellion now favored its cause. The Early Church From Ignatius to Augustine by George Hodges This is a short history of some of the Fathers of the Church. It was written a while ago, but it still is worth reading to get an overview of the topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude William the Conqueror: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is a short biography of the man who conquered England in 1066. The Hourly History series is very similar to the Charles River Editors series, providing a good amount of information in a relatively short format. I compare their books to extended Wikipedia articles. The Bear River Massacre by Charles River Editors This book speaks about one of the Indian Wars in the Northwest at the end of the 19th century. This one deals with the war against the Shoshone People and their almost total extermination during one of those wars. The only ones who reached out to them were the Mormon settles who had moved up north from Utah to southern Idaho (where they are still very numerous). The Bloody Shirt: Terror after the Civil War by Stephen Budiansky This was one of the most difficult books that I have read in years, not because it wasn’t good. It was a very good presentation of the topic. It was just painful because of what it speaks. It deals with the white backlash against the reconstruction in the South after the Civil War. It was racist and violent. The national government didn’t want to get too involved lest the war begin again. But this negligence left the African American population of the South all enslaved with the Jim Crow Laws and the successful effort to disenfranchise them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rome

August 13, 2019 Peace and Good, We have begun our regular definitory meetings here in Rome. We met yesterday, and will meet again today and tomorrow. Then a number of the definitors have to be off on the road again. I will be staying here in Rome until the end of the month. Then, a long series of trips will begin. It has been hot, hot, hot here in Rome. August has to be the worst month of the year to visit Rome, but the city is packed with tourists. I went to lunch with a couple of friars on Saturday, by foot, and I thought I would get heat stroke. For the first time in my life, I bought a Panama hat. I usually don't wear any type of hat. The government is chaotic, and it seems as if it is ready to fall. The push is from Salviati, a minister from the right who is against immigration. I can really understand a bit of it for the country is much more populated than our own, and there are many, many migrants coming in from all over. But the speeches of the right sound a bit too fascist for my taste. I have finished some reading: All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer This is the story of how the British and American governments conspired to overthrow the legitimately elected Prime Minister of Iran during the 1950’s. He was accused of being a friend of the Communists. His real crime was that he was a nationalist who took over the oil production in the country previously owned by the British. It is true that some of the reaction was due to a panic lest the Soviet Union get a foothold in this terribly important petroleum rich country. The book leaves one feeling ashamed for what we sometimes did to other peoples for our own purposes. The People from Here: the History and Legacy of the Washoe by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the Washaw people in the Northwestern part of the country. Unlike most other tribes, they were never that organized. Part of this was their choice, and it was partly due to the depredations of other tribes which had adopted horse warfare (for the Washaw never really used the horse). They were a simple, peace-loving people. The latter part of the book deals with their difficulties in being recognized as an authentic tribe by our government. Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott This is an amalgam of stories about certain women who worked as spies during the Civil War, two Confederates and two Union. The two Confederates acted as spies against the union forces, crossing the no man land between the two armies to present their information to the Confederate army. One of the union spies was a woman who dressed like a man to serve in the army. The other was a spy in Richmond who obtained information through a slave she sent to work in the house of Jefferson Davies, and she also shielded union soldiers who has escaped from prison. Niels Bohr: the Life and Legacy of the Influential Atomic Scientist by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the famous nuclear scientist from Denmark who was part of the team that developed the idea of the atom that we now use and who worked for the production of the atom bomb. He later fought the use of the bomb. The story is not spectacular, but it is interesting. Bloodwork by Michael Connelly This is a detective story of an FBI agent who retired for health reasons. He needs a heart transplant which he received. The sister of the heart donor asks him to investigate the murder of her sister. As he does this, he discovers a series of murders of people having the same blood type, which happens to be his as well. This brings on the accusation that he himself had killed the sister to obtain her heart. The story has a number of interesting twists and turns. Pacific by Simon Winchester This is almost an anthology of unconnected stories and issues concerning areas in and around the Pacific Ocean. Winchester is a very good author, and he presents an abundance of information. The topics treated include the situation in North Korea, the loss of the coral reefs, the situation in Australia, a Hawaiian attempt to reproduce a voyage made in a traditional method of the Polynesians, etc. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 2, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Rome

August 3, 2019 Peace and Good, I have returned from my vacation in the States. The trip was as good as can be expected, although the departure from Baltimore was almost two hours late. (Thanksfully, I had a long layover in London, so I did not miss my connection. I have learned that the layover in London is better for summer travel which often gets delayed.) The weather here is hot and surprisingly there was quite a bit of rain yesterday. It is rare to have rain in August here since we have the classical Mediterranean climate. The next few days are dedicated to recovery after my usual jet lag. Then on the 12th we begin a definitory. August in Rome is usually quite slow since many of the locals clear out of town because of the heat. They either go to the sea or the mountains. A number of restaurants even close up for the month. In the early afternoon, there is the saying that the only people walking around are mad dogs and Englishmen. I finished some reading: The City by Dean Koontz This is a very interesting, very entertaining book about a young African-American boy who has an incredible talent playing piano. He has a sainted mother, and a listless father who abandons the family. This is the late 60’s, and there is a plot by some people living in the same apartment block to rob and commit terrorist acts. There is also an interesting figure in the story, the city, who is represented as a woman who intervenes occasionally in the story. I highly recommend this book. It has much the same spirit as the Odd Thomas series written by this same author. Ancient Rome: the Rise and Fall by Simon Baker It seems as if British scholars do an incredible job on ancient Roman history, from Gibbons on. This book is no exception. It is well done, contains enormous amounts of information, and is entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. The Song of Songs: Interpreted by Early Christians and Medieval Commentaries by Richard Norris This is a collection of commentaries on the Song of Songs. This poem which celebrated matrimonial love (possibly as a marriage song) which came to be interpreted in spiritual terms. The interpretation of early Christians and medieval commentators are very imaginative in the school of Origen, the North African exegete. They are not the easiest read, but they are worth seeing at least once in one’s life. Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal by Teofilo Ruiz This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company on the period of history in Europe from around 1300 to 1500, dealing especially with the changes in government and society throughout this time. This is not the first series of lectures by Ruiz that I have followed. He has some good information, but he often produces a revisionist history which is based on the latest politically correct ideas. The one thing which I do not appreciate is the fact that he tends to be highly anti-clerical whenever he gets a chance. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot This is a history of the involvement of Dulles in the CIA and American intelligence efforts (and efforts at overthrowing governments along the way. The portrait presented is not all that complementary. Dulles is seen as a tool of the military industrial complex who would stop at nothing to further the needs of his rich friends. In the early days, that involved moments of what seemed to be collaboration with the Nazi’s magnates, and then protection of war criminals. Later, it would involve the overthrow of the president of Guatemala and the prime minister of Iran during the 50’s. The author makes a good argument that Dulles was somehow involved with the assassination of JFK and his brother. It is worth reading, even if the conspiracy theory presented is sometimes a bit difficult to accept (or accepted, a bit shocking). Anubis: the History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the Afterlife by Markus Carabas and Charles River Editors This is a highly technical account of Anubis, one of the Egyptian gods of the dead. The author shows how his legend grew, and also how it was borrowed by other societies in the ancient world. The account quotes ancient sources extensively, which makes the narrative difficult to follow. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ellicott City - Castro Valley, CA - Arroyo Grande, CA - Ellicott City

July 23, 2019 Peace and Good, This past week I travelled out to California to be present for the investiture of our new novices. The novitiate in the first official year of being a friar, and we had five young men begin their year of prayer and discernment. At the same time, we had three make their first profession of vows in Ellicott City yesterday, which was also the celebration of the jubilee of profesison of vows and ordination of a good number of our friars. That celebration was well done with beautiful music by the choir of one of our local high schools. I will continue to be in Ellicott City for a week before heading back to Rome. This week I am also doing some short videos for the Companions web site on Bible study. I finished some reading: The Astors: the History and Legacy of One of the World’s Wealthiest Families by Charles River Editors The Astors were one of the richest families in New York society. They made their initial fortune on fur trading and property speculation. The various generations did not always do well either financially but also in terms of the quality of their lives. The Anzac: the History and Legacy of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during the 20th Century by Charles River Editors This is the story of how Australia and New Zealand passed from colonial possessions which has to be garrisoned by British troops, to the point where they were autonomous dominions with their own armed forces. They especially came into combat in Gallipoli in Turkey during the First World War, and then in various Pacific invasions during the Second World War. Jay Gould: the Life and Legacy of the Railroad Executive who became America’s Most Notorious Robber Baron by Charles River Editors This is the life story of a 19th century investor who built up and bought up a number of important railroads while he made himself rich. The account is actually a bit respectful for his accomplishment, although he did mistreat many of his workers. He was involved in a plot to corner the gold market which ended in a financial crisis during the presidency of President Grant. God’s Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson This is a very good account of the production of the King James Bible. It was done to give the king (who resented the power of the Calvinist reformers in England) the ability to control the translation of a new version of a Bible. This was done in contrast to the Bishop’s Bible (which was not well done) and the Geneva Bible (whose translations were often done as propaganda against the monarchy). The author goes through the various personalities (which range from holy to scoundrels). He explains how this royal Bible was adopted by the Pilgrims (which is the exact opposite of what one would have expected since they were Calvinists and one would have expected them to favor the Geneva Bible). This book was informative and helpful. World War I: the Great War by Prof. Velas Liliutevicius This is a 24 lecture course on World War I, including what led up to the war, why it happened, how it was fought, how it got out of hand (especially the new technologies for killing), and the ultimate consequences of the war. This is not the first time that I have listened to courses prepared by this professor, and I have been impressed by all of his work. A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin and His Son by William Randall This is the story of the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his illegitimate son who became the royal governor of New Jersey. They became estranged because the elder Franklin supported the patriots cause while the son supported the royal cause. There had been a strange relationship between the two even before this due to Benjamin’s tendency to treat his son with less respect than one would have expected. The story is quite good, although it leaves one a bit uncomfortable. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 15, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Ocean City, MD - Ellicott City, MD

July 15, 2019 Peace and Good, I am on vacation these weeks. The first week back in the States I spent some time at Ellicott City at our provincialate. This past week I have been staying at the friars' condo in Ocean City. I feel myself relaxing quite a bit which is good because this past year was a bit too busy. Today I will be flying out to California for the investiture of our new novice class (this is the beginning of the novitiate year and the reception of the habit). I will be flying back to Ellicott City on Saturday morning. I have finished some reading: The Macedonian Dynasty by Albert Vogt This is the story of a dynasty that rules the Byzantine empire for a couple of centuries. Reading the story makes one realize why the word Byzantine came to be applied to messy situations, for that was exactly what this dynasty experienced. There are tons of names and situations that are not all that interesting, but the general story does give one a sense of how a royal family can come to ruin. Trusting God with St. Therese by Connie Rossini This is a book based on the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux which speaks about learning to trust in God’s providence. The author is quite traditional in her approach, but her spirituality his quite advanced. I was impressed on her realization that she could not rely upon external platitudes, but rather had to learn to surrender to God’s will in her life and that of her family. I would (and already have) recommend this book to others (even if at times the vocabulary makes me cringe a bit). The Kingdom of Yugoslavia by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the Serbian kingdom which became the base state for the establishment of Yugoslavia between the two world wars. The minorities were often mistreated, and that led to estrangement during the war (with horrible war atrocities) and the need for a figure like Tito after the war to hold the nation together (which lasted only until his death). The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis This is the story of how four American patriots led the process for the production and approval of the Constitution. They were George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. The Articles of Confederation were not working. The government had no way to pay its bills, there was no central authority to mediate between different factions and there was no way to establish a federal army or navy. The convention which produced the constitution was not quite legal, for the delegates had been told to revise the articles and not write a new document, but they had to do it or condemn the new nation to impotence. The last part of the book speaks about the Bill of Rights. The book is very well done, and I would highly recommend it. The Great Voyages by Prof. Velas Liliutevicius This is a Great Courses series of 24 lectures on various voyages of exploration from ancient times to the modern attempt to explore the depths of the oceans and the limitless heights of the skies. The professor who did this course is very informative and has a good narrative style. He speaks of how an initial voyage often led to others which dared even larger risks. St. Peter: the Life and Legacy of Jesus Christ’s Most Important Disciple by Gustavo Lozano and Charles River Editors This is a very good and quick presentation of the life and ministry of St. Peter. Unlike most treatments such as this, the treatment of scripture is really quite good. The author is very respective of the Church and its spirituality. I enjoyed this treatment. Munich by Robert Harris This is a fictional account of the negotiations between Chamberlain and Hitler to “solve” the Czechoslovakia “problem” in 1938 which became a synonym for appeasement. The story revolves around two men, an Englishmen and a German, who work in their respective foreign offices and who were friends in university days. I have read a number of Harris’ books and all of them are well developed and written. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City, MD

July 6, 2019 Peace and Good, I arrived home in Ellicott City this past Monday and I will be in the States until the end of the month (taking one side trip to California for the opening of the year for the new novices). I came from a very, very hot Rome (with the temperature reaching 100 this past week - which is more like August than June) to a hot and humid Baltimore. The week before coming to the States was a good catch up week for me. I have finished all my articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua til the end of the year. This past week I wrote six new articles for our magazine in Kenya (I have been writing for them for the past few years). I also caught up on daily reflections, so this month I can take it easy. I have finished some reading: The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates by Prof. John Hawks This is a great courses series on the development of hominids upon the earth up to very recent times. Some of the lectures and quite technical and speculative so this is not necessarily a course for everyone. I remember coming in from a walk and telling someone I had just been listening to a lecture on DNA evidence in the mitochondria of Neanderthals. Yet, I learned a lot from this course. John Muir: the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Famous Conservationist by Charles River Editors This is a biography by the Scottish environmentalists who was responsible for much of the conservationist movement in the West of the US, especially leading to the development of Yoshimite National Park. He began his career as a handyman but also wrote beautifully poetic accounts of his observations. The books gained him fame, but also led to the development of a movement to esteem the beauty and at times fragility of nature. The Thugee by Charles River Editors We have the expression, “a thug,” implying a brutal person who does not follow any rules. The thugees were actually a band of highly secretive assassins in India who dedicated their lives to the worship of Kali, an ambiguous goddess who is seen as both creative and destructive. They would ambush their victims and rob and kill them, giving part of the booty to the goddess and keeping a large part of it. The power was only broken by the British army after years of investigation. The Most Famous Battles of the Ancient World: Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis; Cannae and the Teutenbourg Forest by Charles River Editors This is one of the books by Charles River Editors which is a collection of their other offerings. In this case, it deals with the five battles spoken of in the title. All five of the offerings in this collection were well written. They all speak about the general situation before the battle, of the various combatants, of the battle itself and of the consequences. Day of Infamy by Walter Lord This is an account of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Walter Lord has written a number of this type of books. In this one he tries to examine exactly what happened, giving a large number of eye-witness accounts. It is a bit dated considering what has been discovered in archives in the past few years, but it is still a good read. Wicked Plants: the Weed that killed Lincoln’s Mother and other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart I read the companion volume wicked bugs a while ago. These accounts are very informative with good examples. Sort of makes you want to stay indoor all the time, without any house plants around. It, in a strange way, is entertaining. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, June 21, 2019

Rome

June 22, 2019 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome since the end of the General Chapter which was held in Collevalenza, a shrine about 70 km from Assisi. I had preached all throughout the chapter, so by the end of it I was all talked out. This week has been good to catch up with some projects, but also just to rest a bit. I am working on daily reflections to get as far ahead as possible in these slower weeks. Once summer comes, there is usually a lot of travel here and there and they can be more difficult to do. The weather went from a very cool, very long Spring to Summer almost overnight. The heat is as bad as it usually is in mid-August (with the exception that the evenings are still quite pleasant). Most of the chapter friars have gone home in these days. The new definitors must pack up and travel to Rome in these days. We will have our first big definitory meeting in mid-August. On Monday, the General Chapter had a private audience with the Holy Father. This is the first time that I had met him. It was a very nice event. I have finished some reading: The White Nile by Alan Moorehead This is the companion volume to the Blue Nile which I read a bit back. It is really the history of British exploration and conquest on the Nile River from Egypt down to Uganda. It presents the history well, but for a euro-centric, or I should say anglo-centric point of view. It covers the history of the various explorers and their strengths and their weaknesses (even their strangeness) well. The Great Wall of Gorgan: the History of the Ancient Near East’s Longest Defensive Wall by Charles River Editors This is the story of the building of a protection wall around the Caspian Sea to protect Iran from the barbaric invaders from the north. The author gives a lot of information on the Sassanid dynasty which ruled this country in the early Christian era until the arrival of the Arabs. It gives a lot of information about a topic which is a bit obscure. China, India and the United States: the Future of Economic Supremacy by Peter Rodriguez This Is a relatively short course from the Great Courses Company. It speaks of the incredible growth of India and China. India has grown largely because many of the pre-existing conditions which controlled the growth of the economy by blocking outside influence have been loosened. The economy can grow if the government addresses the urgent question of the infrastructure. China has grown because its leaders have largely abandoned their communist principles. It now has the second largest economy in the world. The US, by contrast, has grown slowly in the past decades. Yet, it is still the largest economy of the world. The professor who presented this course says that the US must accept the fact that their economy will not be the only powerful economy, but this does not mean that it will lose its status as important. Carcassonne: the History and Legacy of the Castles, Campaigns and Crimes in France’s Fabled Walled City by Charles River Editors This is the history of the city that was at the center of the Albigensian heresy during the Middle Ages. This was a dualistic religion which ran into controversy with the Roman Catholic Church. Part of the story not greatly emphasized in this account is the political dimension of the fight (for the king in Paris was trying to steal power from the local nobility). The author is quite prejudiced against the Catholic Church. While it is true that the institution of the Church was often brutal, it was not the only one. It would have been better if the author gave evidence and let the judgment stand where it would. Kraken by China Mieville This is a very, very strange book which takes place in the modern era. A kraken, a giant squid, is stolen from a museum. This leads to an investigation in which it is discovered that the theft is part of a greater plot to bring the end of the world. There are very,, very strange cults and criminals. This book reminded me a bit of the rivers in London series in which a police officer practices magic, but it is a much, much more excited dialog. Overall I liked it, but not everyone would. Great Zimbabwe: the History and Legacy of the Medieval Kingdom of Zimbabwe’s Capital by Charles River Editors This is the story of a great edifice constructed in central southern Africa many centuries ago. There seems to have been a rather large empire in this region. When whites first found these ruins, they naturally assumed that they had to have been created by some other culture (for to admit that locals built them would make them admit that Africans could do great things). This was especially true under the racist government right after independence. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Assisi - Collevalenza

June 9, 2019 Peace and Good, I have been at the General Chapter for three weeks now. We started out in Assisi where we elected our Minister General and the General Definitory. I have been asked to stay on for another term, so it will be another six years on the road. On the 28th we moved to a shrine around 70 km from Assisi called Collevalenza. It is a shrine to Divine Mercy, and there is a massive pilgrimage center here (with over 200 rooms). The shrine receives quite a few pilgrims, along with our 120 chapter delegates. The weather this Spring has been cool and rainy. It is only now warming up (considerably). We will be here until the end of this week. The chapter will have lasted a month. We have our most important business already accomplished, and we just have some odds and ends to take care of this week. I have been preaching each morning at Mass in Italian and English. Since we are meeting all day long, the friars prefer a short and to the point homily - 3 minutes or so. I have the ability to do that, so it has been working well. I have finished some reading: Grover Cleveland by Henry Graff This is a relatively short biography of the life and career of Grover Cleveland, the only president in the history of the country to serve two non-consecutive sessions as president. He is presented as a good, honest, but not overly imaginative man. He sided with business over the worker. He helped guide the US through some difficult years, but was certainly a man of his times. After his presidency he opposed the push for empire under McKinley and Roosevelt. Not exactly a great president, but not a bad man either (especially after the incredible corruption during the presidency of Grant.) Native Peoples of North America by Daniel Cobb This is a teaching company course on Native Americans from a Native American perspective. It is an unusual version of revisionist history. Much of the information is very good, but some of it is so stilted that it is almost ludicrous. For example, the professor speaks of how the Anglo’s are guilty of rights violations against the Apache and Comanche because they hindered their raiding of other tribes. Another example is how he blames the Office of Indian Affairs (which has a sordid history) for the looting of their main office in Washington during a demonstration. As If In An Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of the Revolution by Richard Archer This is the account of Britain’s first occupation of Boston in the early days of the colonies’ rejection of British rule. The occupation was intended to bring the Bostonians into line after their fight against taxes imposed on various products, but it had the exact opposite effect. The presence of a large number of troops in a city with too much free time on their hands brought a continuous growth in resentment, leading to the point that the colonials began to question whether they had become something else than British, leading to the American Revolution. Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn Scott Hahn is a convert from a Presbyterian background where there is very little devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This volume is a type of apology for his previous attitude and gives a good scriptural and patristic defense of our devotion to Mary. There are a couple of places where he uses sources in a bit of an uncritical manner, but overall it is very well done. I found it informative and enjoyable. The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy I had read this book a long, long time ago, but I did not remember how good it was. It deals with the era at the end of Communism as well as the machinations to develop an arms accord agreement. The first part is very, very good, while the later part gets a bit preachy. It was well worth reading. Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion: The History and Legacy of America’s First Domestic Insurrections by Charles River Editors This is a short account of Shay’s Rebellion in Western Massachusetts that occurred during the days of the Articles of Confederation and was one of the events that led the countries leaders to realize that they needed a more developed centralized federal government and the Whiskey Rebellion fought in Western Pennsylvania which was fought over the establishment of excise duties on the production and sale of whiskey (given the location of these settlers over the mountains, whiskey was the only practicable way to bring the excess of their grain harvest to sale in the cities). Both of them did not amount to much, but both showed that the spirit of rebellion that fueled the War of Independence had not yet died out. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Rome - Assisi - Collevalenza

May 28, 2019 Peace and Good, We have begun our General Chapter. The first ten days were in Assisi, and now we will be in Collevalenza (a shrine about 70 km from Assisi) until May 27th. The new Minister General, fr. Carlos Trovarelli, a friar from Argentina, asked me to continue on as the Assistant General for the English speaking countries and I said that I would. This is another six year term, but we can evaluate things periodically given that I am now 65 years old. I am preaching each day at the chapter. I give a very short (usually around 3 minutes) homily first in Italian, and then in English. The friars appreciate that it is to the point, and yet it gives them one or two things about which they can reflect over the day. I will continue to do this until the end of the chapter. We have a good number of new members on the definitory - seven out of ten. fr. Carlos, fr Benedict (from Korea) and I are the only ones to remain. The weather has been miserable. It has been very, very rainy throughout these days. This is the most miserable May that I ever remember in Italy. I finished some reading: March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution by William Englund This is a very good coverage of the drift into war of the US during the First World War and the Russian Revolution and how it was perceived in the US and European states. The author gives a good, inviting story and this should be listed among those good treatments of a limited period of time (often a particular year or decade, in this case a single month). Claudius: the Life and Legacy of the Emperor who Stabilized the Ancient Roman Empire after Caligula by Charles River Editors Claudius was the successor of Caligula and the predecessor of Nero. He was considered to be a bit of a dolt by the imperial family, but when he became emperor he enacted a number of good, lasting reforms. The later stage of his reign, unfortunately, was not as successful, a bit marked by a growing paranoia and vicious reaction toward the Senate and other nobles. He is believed to have been murdered by his wife and the mother of Nero. The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead This is the first of a two set series on the Nile River that I have read. This one deals with the branch of the Nile that comes from Ethiopia and joins the White Nile around Khartoum in Sudan. The author is really dealing with British involvement in this part of the Nile during most of the 19th century, the period of exploration and imperial invasion. The account is very British, at times highly prejudiced, but nevertheless well worth reading if only for entertainment value. The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky Mark Kurlansky has written a series of monographs on singular topics such as the cod fish and salt and paper. This volume deals with the exploitation and destruction of the incredibly fertile oyster beds just off the coast of New York City. During Dutch days, British days and the early days of the republic, New York was famous throughout the world for the quality and quantity of its oysters. But a combination of overfishing and pollution destroyed these rich beds. In the course of the story, Kurlansky gives a number of recipes as well as an overview of the social and political history of New York from the time of the Dutch until the end of the 19th century. Alger Hiss and the Battle for History by Susan Jacoby Alger Hiss was the low level employee of the State Department who was accused of being a communist by Joseph McCarthy in his hearings and was eventually convicted of perjury for his statement concerning his relationship with Whittaker Chambers, a repented communist who also testified before the House committee on Un-American Activities. The author never doubts Hiss’ guilt both on having been a communist spy and having committed perjury, but she also attacks the techniques of the right in their attacks, positing that much of their wrath was really directed at old New-Dealers. She is especially vicious in her treatment of Richard Nixon who at that time was a congressman on the committee. Alfred Lord Tennyson: the Life and Legacy of Great Britain’s Most Famous Poet Laureate by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of the life and poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I had often heard the name, but knew little about him, so I read this volume. It gave me enough information, and I have to admit that I would probably never want to read anything about him again (not out of dislike, but more because of the feeling that it just was not worth it.) Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Rome - Bacau, Romania - Rome

May 15, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome after heading over to Romania for a long weekend. The Missionary Sisters of Assisi were celebrating their 100th anniversary of their presence in Romania and I went over as a representative of the Minister General to participate. I used to give many retreats and conferences to the sisters in the early years of their rebirth after communism. During communism they were not allowed to live openly as sisters, but many continued to keep contact with their fellow sisters and even invite young women to join them in the underground network they had set up. The weather in Romania has not yet warmed up significantly. Every spring they have a low pressure front that stalls over the country til toward the end of May. Then suddenly, it passes from a rainy and overcast time to summertime in one day. I will be going up to Assisi this Saturday for our General Chapter. That day officially marks the end of my term. We will have to see whether I continue on in Rome or head somewhere else. I am ready for whatever happens. I finished some books: Letters from Berlin: A Story of War, Survival and the Redeeming Power of Love and Friendship by Margarete Dos and Kerstin Lieff This is a very interesting volume that tells part of the life story of a young woman who grew up in Berlin just before and during the war years (World War II). Her foster father was a functionary in the Navy Department. She tells of the destruction of her city and country, of her imprisonment in a Soviet work camp after the war, and of her eventual liberation and her attempt to start a new life. It is so rare to hear the story told from the other side, and I especially appreciated this book to give me a greater perspective on what German civilians must have gone through during the war and in its aftermath. St. Paul: the Apostle We Love to Hate by Karen Armstrong Karen Armstrong is a current theologian, and this treatment of St. Paul is a brief but good overview of his life and theology. She has one or two theories that I think are totally unproven (e.g. such as the idea that Apollos was the leader of the revels in Corinth, something that has no documentary evidence), but for the most part her volume is balanced. She especially tries to show that Paul was not a misogynist, but that rather many of the statements that can be interpreted in that light were either interpolations (a theory of which I am always wary because that allows one to take out anything with which one is uncomfortable) or the product of the later Church (such as in Ephesians or Colossians, something with which I am in agreement). Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage This is an overview of the growth and consumption of food throughout the centuries. It gives good technical knowledge as well as folk information. It weighs the pluses and minuses of various strategies (e.g. only eating thing grown nearby, the green revolution, etc.). It is similar to Mark Kurlansky’s books on Cod, Salt and Paper in which the author takes one topic and views it from a number of different angles. I would recommend this book. Conclave by Robert Harris I have read a number of Harris’ books, and this is one of his best. It deals with the death of an unnamed Pope (but clearly based on Pope Francis) and the election of his successor. The story is told from the point of view of the Dean of Cardinals who is running the conclave. The facts seems to be essentially accurate. Much of the drama is the subtle fighting and campaigning among the various lobbies: the traditionalists, the Italians, the Africans, the ambitious, etc. The ending is a bit strange, but overall it is well written with a good insight to some of the spiritual matters. The Titanic: the History and Legacy of the World’s Most Famous Ship from 1907 to Today by Charles River Editors This is an extensive treatment of the construction, sailing, and sinking of the Titanic as well as some of the aftermath (the survivors, the ships that assisted and those that did not, the hearings in the US and Great Britain which examined the cause of the disaster and established some remedies for future voyages. It even brings in the search for the wreck of the ship in the last century. The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of the American Empire by Stephen Kinzer This is an overview of the rise of the movement in the US to expand our horizons to foreign colonies favored by Theodore Roosevelt and others, and fought by some such as Mark Twain. This is especially seen in the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands after a coup which overthrew the legitimate government, and after the conquest of Cuba and the Philippines. It deals with the horrible war fought in the latter in which the independence fighters were crushed with cruel and clearly illegal means. The author presents some ideas and incidents which could clearly be applied to our modern situation. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 6, 2019

Montreal - Rome

May 6, 2019 Peace and Good, My visit to Montreal concluded last Wednesday, and I flew back to Rome. These days have been the usual slow recovery from jet lag. It seems it takes longer and longer to get over it. The weather here is actually quite cool. I think a cold front must have passed through yesterday. It was the windiest that I ever remember it here. This week I will be home until Friday when I head out to Romania for the weekend. The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Assisi are celebrating their 100th anniversary there, and I know quite a few of them. Whenever I went over to Romania to teach in our seminary, I would give workshops to the sisters on the weekends. I hope to get ahead in some writing projects and taping for the daily reflections these days since our General Chapter will start on May 18th. Please keep us all in your prayers. I will be preaching again each day at the chapter so I have to work on those homilies as well. I finished some reading: Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell This is a rather short biography of the painting genius. It is one that leaves one troubled, as the painter himself was. While we cannot identify the exact cause of his mental difficulties, it is painful to read of his struggle to find himself, and of his gradual loss of himself due to his difficulties. Bethlehem: The History and Legacy of the Birthplace of Jesus by Charles River Editors This is one of those short books on an individual topic produced by Charles River Editors. This, however, was one of the first that I have read that should have been edited much better. There are factual errors in a number of places that left me disturbed. Furthermore, the material presented has an uneven feeling, too much information about non-significant things and too little about relatively important topics. Hamilton: the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda This book was not about the man Hamilton. It is the story of the rap presentation of Hamilton on Broadway. It comes across almost as a personal memoir, and it gives a good account of the creation of the play and its phenomenal success. It deals with the major actors and writers. It speaks of the importance of this play for African Americans and other minorities. A History of Some of London’s Most Famous Landmarks by Charles River Editors This is a quick overview of some of the most famous sites in London, including the Westminster Abbey, the London Tower Bridge, the London Tower, the Buckingham Palace, etc. The book gives a bit too much detail and it can become tedious at times. Mademoiselle Boleyn by Robin Maxwell This is a fictional account of Anne Boleyn while she served at the court of the French queen. She was only a young girl when she travelled there with her sister who eventually became the mistress of the French King Francis. The story tells of how the two sisters were used unmercifully by their calculating father who only considered them to be economic possibilities. Anne slowly grows in knowledge of the ways of the world and of court love, lessons that would be used in her courting of King Henry VIII. Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is a follow up volume to an earlier story called the Ice Limit. A group of experts travel to a site off the coast of Chile in the hopes of destroying a meteor at the bottom of the sea which turned out to be the seed of an extraterrestrial creature that had spawned and endangered the earth. Preston and Child have a remarkable partnership in authoring these books. Some are detective novels (Agent Prendergast), others are more science fiction. They all are well worth reading. I think you can see above how ecclectic my reading habits are. I have to confess that a lot of what I read nowadays is either listening to books checked out for free from the public library or reading those books which are free or discounted by Kindle. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Rome - Montreal

April 28, 2019 Peace and Good, After spending a bit of time in Rome, I travelled to Montreal on Easter Monday. The purpose of the trip is two fold. First of all, there was a meeting of the members of the English speaking federation in preparation for our upcoming General Chapter (May 28-June 27). We especially had to go over our revised General Statues. That took a couple of days. We then discussed a number of other matters, especially questions dealing with formation (both initial and continuing). Then on Friday, I began the canonical visitation of our houses in Montreal is preparation for their upcoming Custodial Chapter (this coming September). I already visited the houses in the States (three of them in Clifton, NJ; Bridgeport, CT, and South Boston, MA). Now I am visiting the four sites in Montreal. There is a lot of rain and flooding in the area right near the rivers, much as there has been along the Mississippi and its tributaries this Spring. Their Spring here begins a few weeks later than most of the States. I fly out on Wednesday to return to Rome for 10 days. I finished some reading: Hidden: Reilly Steel Series by Casey Hill This is the third of a series concerning Reilly Steel, and American forensic expert who is part of a team working in Dublin on strange cases. This volume is about children who disappear. When two of them are found dead, they are seen to have angel wings tattooed on their backs. The story turns out to be not quite what one would have expected. Spain: the Center of the World 1519-1682 by Robert Goodwin This is a very good overview of the world of Spain in its golden age. The author speaks of the monarchy, its court, the artists, authors, poets, etc. Goodwin does an incredibly good job at drawing a full picture of what was happening in Spain and in the other domains under its control. I would highly recommend this volume. Fr. Charles Coughlin: the Life of the Controversial Catholic Priest who Revolutionized Radio by Charles River Editors This is the story of a very controversial radio priest who pitched his message for social justice during the depression. The early years, he highly supported FDR, but eventually his politics changed. He began to espouse anti-Semitic messages, and was eventually silenced by Church authorities. Russia House by John le Carre I listened to this volume as a dramatic presentation of this volume. A mysterious woman comes up to a book vender at a book fair in Moscow, asking him to pass on a manuscript written by a Russian arms expert which outlines the arms capability of the Soviet Union. British and American spies conspire with the help of a boozy low life who has to act as the intermediary in this process. Typical of le Carre’s books, there are very few heroes in the story, all the characters are very fallible. America’s Most Notorious Natural Disasters by Charles River Editors This is a compilation of accounts of the Great Chicago Fire, the Johnstown Flood, the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane and Hurricane Katrina. Each of the accounts includes objective information about the disaster along with multiple firsthand accounts of those who survived the crisis. Operation Paperclip: the History of the Secret Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America During and After World War II by Charles River Editors At the end of the Second World War, the US and the Soviets (as well as to a lesser degree the British and French) set up networks to capture information on Nazi scientific programs that might assist them in their own research (e.g. nuclear, aircraft, missile, etc.). This gives an account of how the US sought paperwork, scientific equipment and most of all experts whom they could carry back to the States. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rome

April 18, 2019 Happy Holy Thursday I have been in Rome since the definitory returned from Croatia this past week. The weather is slowly becomming nicer. Spring has begun. There have been no meetings this week, so I am using the time to get caught up with daily reflections and articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua. This coming Monday, Easter Monday, I will be flying out to Montreal for a meeting with the Provincials of our federation (US, Canada, Australia and Great Britain/Ireland). Then I will be doing a canonical visitation to the three friaries in Montreal. I have finished some reading: Operation Whisper: the Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen by Barnes Carr This is the story of the careers of two Soviet spies during World War II and after. Their lives and careers began in the US, but after near discovery, they fled and reestablished their spying network in Great Britain. They were only slowly ferreted out by the British secret services and tried and jailed for their activities. United States and the Middle East: 1914-9/11 by Salim Yaqub This is a series of 24 lectures on the history of the rapport of the US to the Middle East from the time of World War I up to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The professor gives a balanced evaluation of the attitudes and policies both of the US and of their Middle Eastern partners/enemies. In a time of hysterical rantings by politicians, this is a good, well researched presentation. El Escorial: the History and Legacy of Spain’s Most Famous Royal Site by Charles River Editors This is one of the most famous of the palaces of the Spanish royal family, built under the reign of Philip II. It was an incredibly extensive palace (and monastery complex). IT is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture. While the religious part of the complex are intricately ornamented, the living quarters were much simpler, marking the religious tendencies of the king. Emperors of Rome by Garrett Fagan This is a very informative and entertaining series of 24 lectures by the Teaching Company on the history of the Roman emperors from the time of the Caesars up to the time of Constantine. The professor is Irish and peppers his lectures with gems of his Irish humor. He gives enough detail both historically and also socially to get a good picture of what was happening. He is not afraid to give his own opinion on controversies, but he clearly states that this is what it is, and he back up his arguments with good reasoning. It would highly recommend this series. Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian: The Lives and Career’s of Nazi Germany’s Legendary Tank Commanders by Charles River Editors This is one of those short biographies of two of the most important army commanders for Germany during the Second World War. Both were involved in the blitzkrieg attacks on Poland and France. Guderian then was sent off into the Soviet Union while Rommel ended up fighting with the Afrikacorp in North Africa where he obtained a reputation for incredible daring. The careers of both figures were fated for failure due to the interventions of Hitler in the fighting order and the lack of supplies reaching the North African front. Eventually Rommel was implicated for some involvement in the plot to kill Hitler and was forced to commit suicide Tiwanaku and Puma Punka: the History and Legacy of South America’s Most Famous Ancient Holy Site by Charles River Editors This is the story of an archaeological ruin outside of La Paz in Bolivia, near the shore of Lake Titicaca. It is from a civilization that preceded the Inca, and the purpose of the site seems to have been a cross between the Vatican and Disneyland. The walls of the structure were constantly being moved from one place to another. This does not seem to have been an administrative center but rather some sort of site for a mystery religion in which people descended into the depths of a structure to be reborn into the light. Have a Blessed Easter Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Rome - Vepric, Croatia

April 9, 2019 Peace and Good, These past days have been quite unusual for the entire General Definitory travelled to a Marian shrine on the coast in Croatia, Vepric. The first week of this trip was our annual retreat. I gave daily reflections for the friars, and the rest of the retreat was quiet time. On Saturday we visited Medjugorie. This was my first visit to the site. I was impressed by the faith of the people, but I cannot say that I was deeply moved by it. The one Marian shrine that I truely felt moved was Guadalupe in Mexico. We have also visited the friars and the cities of Split and Sibenik. They are both on the coast. Split is beautiful and well developed for tourism. It has an ancient town center that in part dates back to the end of the 3rd century A.D. (for it contains parts of a palace of the emperor Diocletian). Sibenik is a lovely little town, but it has not yet been fully prepared for tourism (although they are working to that end). This week we have a couple of days of definitory, our last one. Then Friday we will be heading back to Rome. We have hit a bit of rain here, but it has always been in times that we were travelling or meeting, so we still had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The place where we are staying is right near the coast, which is backed up with mountains. I finished some reading: A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer This is the story of how the massacre of the Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda happened. It gives information about the colonial past which led to many of the tensions between the tribes. It gives an accurate picture of the months leading up to the disaster. There is also the story of Paul Kagame, who led the rebellion against the government that had sponsored the murder, and is now the autocratic president of the country. Kinzer does not defend all of Kagame’s policies, but he does put them in perspective (speaking extensively about the need for stability and healing). It then deals with the question of how the present government is working on reconciliation along with economic development. Kinzer is very much in favor of Kagame’s policies without being blinded to the difficulties. Dance between Flames: Berlin Between the Wars by Anton Gill This is the story of what went on in Berlin between the two world wars. The city became a byword for decadence. Yet, there were great cultural developments in painting, writing, music, drama, etc. Gill speaks about the political developments and the terrible economic disaster (with incredible rates of inflation) in the Weimar Republic. Gill paints a picture in which one can almost understand why so many rejected the decadence while choosing the disastrous alternative of autocratic government under the Nazi’s. He also speaks of the beginning of the persecution of the Jews and leftist by the Nazi’s. The Opium Wars by Charles River Editors In the 19th century Great Britain suffered a terrible deficit with China. They bought silk and tea and ceramics from China, but the Chinese bought very little from Great Britain. This meant that silver was being sent to China and not returning. The British tried to address this issue by shipping opium to China to addict the population there. They fought two wars with China in order to force it to open up to trade with the West, but especially to ship their drugs to them. There is no way that these horrible wars could be rationalized. Thermopylae: The Battle that Changed the World by Paul Cartledge The story of the 300 Spartan troops has been told over and over again throughout history. The blocked the Persian invasion of possibly up to a million troops for far longer than anyone would have expected at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. This book speaks of the cultures of Greece and Persia, of the reasons for the invasion, and of the significance (in their times and up to the present times) of this battle which technically was a defeat but which was truly a victory of spirit. Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart This clever little book speaks of how certain insects cause so much pain and damage to people and vegetation. It speaks of the specific insect, how it works, where it was found, which bugs it is related to, etc. It gives a lot of information in a very short format. Gaudete et Esultate by Pope Francis This apostolic exhortation by the Holy Father speaks of everyday holiness. The pope tries to get people to avoid excesses of theory or practice. It speaks of how to apply the Beatitudes to everyday life. It speaks of how to avoid sin through penitential practices. This pope writes in a style that is very approachable, understandable. It would highly recommend it to anyone. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Buffalo - Rome

March 30, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome after having travelled to Buffalo for the funeral of one of our friars, fr. Canice Connors. The trip back was long, especially since I had to travel from Buffalo to Baltimore where I had an eight hour layover, and then to London where there was another five hour layover. All went well, but a trip like that takes a lot of wear and care on the body. It was good to be in Buffalo for a few days and to be able to see relatives. I don't get to see them often because I am always on the road in other parts of the world. I have been working on a translation from Italian to English for some documents for our General Chapter. I finished the work this morning, so tomorrow I will dedicate to doing some daily reflections for the podcast site. Monday I and the other definitors are heading out to Croatia for a couple of weeks: for our annual retreat and a meeting of our definitory. The weather has warmed up nicely. I was able to walk outside today without a sweater. Spring is here. I finished some reading: The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War by Charles River Editors This is a double book which deals first with the six day war when the Israelis defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and then the war which occurred a decade later in which Israel again won when Egypt invaded it, but just barely. Even though the treatment is not all that long, it nevertheless gives good information about the politics, the actual fighting and the consequences of choices made by the various countries and their leaders. Munich, 1938 by David Faber This has to be one of the books that has most disgusted me in recent years. It is not the book itself that bothered me, but rather the story it tells. It gives the account of how Chamberlain, the British prime minister, caved in to Hitler’s demands to allow the Anschluss uniting Germany with Austria and also the invasion of Czechoslovakia, taking the Sudetenland. The British wanted to maintain peace, and treated the Czechs with incredible disdain while they claimed to be honest brokers in the process. One can clearly see the dangers of appeasement which inevitably led to the Second World War. 1920: The Year that made the Decade Roar by Eric Burns Over these past few years, I have read a series of books that speak about a particular year. All of them are interesting, but this particular book is one of the best. It speaks about all sorts of dimensions of what was going on in America right after World War I. It speaks of the corruption of the Harding administration. It presents information on the women’s right movement, especially to get the vote. It also speaks about the prohibition which began that year. Burns presents tons of information in a very pleasant way. The Fall of Constantinople by Captivating History This is a short history of the city of Constantinople (today Istanbul). It also deals with its decline after its sacking by the crusaders of the 4th crusade in which the crusaders attacked fellow Christians and not the Muslims who they had vowed to conquer. In the latter years, the city was a small enclave without any hinterland from which it could draw forces. It was finally conquered when the Islamic forces brought many cannons with them which could breach the considerable walls of its fortress. Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan This is a history of the invasion of Normandy from the inception of its planning up to the conquest of Paris. John Keegan is a famous military historian, and again this book is an example of his skill. He grew up in one of the staging areas for the invasion, and the first chapter is filled with remembrances of the interaction of his family with the soldiers about to go into battle. The six armies include the Brits, the Americans, the Canadians, the Poles, the Germans and the French. The book is filled with interesting detail. The author is British, and at times he tries to defend Montgomery a bit too much, but overall he is fair in his treatment of the topic. The Lord by Romano Guardini This is a book that I have long wanted to read for I have seen its author’s name time and time again. The opportunity finally came and I am glad I delved into it. It is a long treatment of the person of Jesus and his mission. The use of Sacred Scripture is extensive but not always critical. It served as good spiritual reading, but not really as a source I would quote for a study paper. Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury This is the story of King George VI and his three brothers, one of whom was King Edward VIII who resigned to marry the woman he loved. This book treats George VI rather well, speaking of how a shy and stuttering (he was the subject of the film the King’s Speech) man and who stepped up to his responsibilities. Edward, on the other hand, comes across as vain and petty, controlled by his wife. This story spans from just before World War II through to the 1950’s. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 22, 2019

Rome - London - Buffalo

March 22, 2019 Peace and Good, I went to London this past weekend to do a visitation of two of our friars from Malta who are working there as chaplains for the sick. The Maltese government sends a number of sick Maltese citizens there each year because Malta, being a small island, cannot provide the modern medical techniques that are available in London. (Sometimes up to a hundred a month). They have also hired two of our friars to serve as Catholic chaplains for those patients. The friars in London do a great job in this. When I did a visitation in Malta, people on the street would tell me this. Since Malta is preparing for a chapter this coming September, I visited the two friars to see how they are doing. Then on Sunday I heard that one of our ex-provincials, fr. Canice Connors, passed away in Buffalo, NY. I checked with our Vicar General, and travelled to Buffalo on Tuesday to attend the funeral today. fr. Canice was a provincial, rector of a seminary, head of two treatment institutes for priests and religious who had serious phychological problems, etc. I knew him a bit, and he was a good, good man. I will be in Buffalo until this coming Tuesday when I will head back to Rome. I finished some reading: The Hittites and the Lydians: the History and Legacy of Ancient Anatolia’s Most Influential Civilizations by Charles River Editors This is actually a combination of two books about peoples who settled in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey. Each is well done. The Hittites actually conquered a rather large empire in that area, although they disappeared from the scene around the time of Abraham or just before. The Lydians are famous as the first people to produce an actual currency (coins) and not just weights of precious metals. The Letter to the Galatians: the Bible in Medieval Tradition by Ian Christopher Levy This is a combination of commentaries which speak about the Letter to the Galatians. It is interesting to note how at times they are so similar to what we know today, and how at times they are so dissimilar. It was a bit of work getting through it, but well worth it. Easter Rising by Hourly History This is a quick history of the rebellion of the Irish against the British during the First World War. Hourly History produces a series of books similar to those of Charles River Editors, but a bit more folksy. The book speaks of how the rebellion failed, but nevertheless the brutal suppression after its failure led to an independence movement which led to freedom. War of 1812: A History from Beginning to End by Hourly History This is the story of what some call the second war of independence. It was a war that the Americans did not want to fight, but which they almost backed into due to the treatment of American sailors by the British during their war with Napoleon. It was a war without many concrete results, but it did give some self-confidence to the newly formed US because now they felt they did not have to bow down to every threat that they faced. Empire by Michelle Pacelle and Dan Cashman This is an interesting, short book about the sale of the Empire State building. It is an involved story, with the building in unknown hands for quite a while. It also includes appearances by Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley, two of the great moguls of real estate in New York. There is family intrigue in a Japanese family of a very dishonest businessman and his sons and his illegitimate daughter (the last of whom tried to steal the building for herself). Frank Lloyd Wright by Charles River Editors When Frank Lloyd Wright was starting out, the great architect, he said that he had to choose between a hypocritical humility and arrogance, and so he chose the latter. The book speaks of his life and his career. It is open on his incredibly messy relationship with his three wives. It speaks of the buildings he designed in the US and Japan and why he made particular choices. I come from Buffalo which has some of his buildings, so I was interested in him. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tagaytay, Philippines - Rome

March 13, 2019 Peace and Good, I am back in Rome for a three day definitory meeting. I flew into Rome from the Philippines on Sunday afternoon. It is a long, long journey. It is ten hours from Manila to Doha, a four hour layover, and then another six hours from there to Rome. There is a seven hour difference in time between Manila and Rome, so I have a bit of jet lag (but it is not as bad as it sometimes is). Tagaytay was mercifully temperate throughout the week I spent there. Philippines tends to be hot and humid, but Tagaytay is on the side of a mountain so it is cooler than Manila. Actually, the mountain is an active vulcano, but it is quiet right now (for the past century or so). I had a week of conferences with the novices and postulants. It went very, very well. It is great to see the enthusiasm of the young men when you begin to unpack the meaning of the Gospels. By the end of the week, you could see their minds reaching out to try to apply some of the lessons to other texts, which is great. In a week, you can present only so much, but if you can make them hungry to learn more, then you have done your job. I will be in Rome until Saturday, attending some more meetings and hopefully catching up on some projects. Then I am off to London for a few days. I finished some reading: Poets and Saints: Eternal Insight, extravagant love. Ordinary People by Jamie George I enjoyed this book. It is a bit of a travelogue of a family’s trip to Europe along with a pilgrimage testimony. The author is a Protestant minister, and he visits a number of sites that are connected with Protestantism, but he also visits Catholic sites. One of those sites was Assisi where he met one of our American friars who is now serving in Turkey, Andrew. He was very kind in his treatment. This is a light volume, but it has some very good spiritual insights. Hitler’s War by Harry Turtledove When I got this book, I thought it would be about World War II. In a way, it was, but with a couple of details slightly changed. It ask what would have happened if Franco had not become the leader of the Spanish fascists, if the Munich accord on Czechoslovakia had not taken place, etc. It gives the account from the point of view of the soldiers of the various countries. It was not half bad. To Kingdom Come: An Epic Saga of Survival in the War over Germany by Robert Mrazek These are personal stories of the participants in the war against Germany by the US 8th Air Force stationed in Great Britain. It gives a good account of who they were, of their background, and of their missions. A number of them were shot down, and it gives accounts of those who were able to find their way to freedom through the activities of the French underground. It is a really good story, giving the good and the bad of what happened. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen This short book was not directly written by Nouwen, but it is a collection of essays and talks that he had given over the years on the topic of spiritual direction. I found the book excellent, with insights that I know I will carry with me for a long time. Two ideas in particular struck me – the constant topic that God loves each one of us, a reality that does not need to be earned, and the idea that each of us, as Christians, is called to downward mobility. We are not called to success by the definition of the world, but to surrender and emptying out of oneself. French Indochina by Charles River Editors This is one of the short account from Charles River Editors, this one dealing with the limited topic of how the French came to Indochina, what they did while they were there, and how they were expelled from ii in the 1950’s. As always, the account was informative and worth reading. Vikings by Hourly History This is a short account of the history of the Vikings from the period in which they developed writing (and by definition passed from the prehistoric to the historic era). I found that the author gave a revisionist point of view in terms of the raids that the Vikings exacted upon Great Britain and Ireland (implying that they were revenge raids, but without a lot of outside proof). The end of the account is the development of the nation states of Scandinavia. There is also a good section on the age of exploration (Iceland, Greenland, and the coast of North America). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ellicott City, MD - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Tagaytay, Philippines

March 4, 2019 Peace and Good, I spent a few days in Ellicott City. On Monday morning, I was able to video some presentations for our development office on the Sacred Scriptures. Then in the evening I met with a Scripture group. It was a nice day, reminding me of when I was able to teach and do parish missions. Tuesday evening I flew out to Ho Chi Minh. I arrived on Thursday morning. I was there for the dedication of a new postulancy house. The building is three stories high with 24 rooms (with bathrooms). It was well, well done. The celebration was a good moment to mark the growth of the jurisdiction. Sunday afternoon I flew into Manila and drove up to our novitiate of Tagaytay. This is built on the side of an active vulcano which has not erupted for a century and a half. We have our international novitiate here (friars from the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka). I will be here until Saturday giving a workshop on the Gospels. I have finished some reading: John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger This was one topic about which I had never read, and the book is very good. It presents the 6th president of the US as an academic and diplomat who was poorly suited for the presidency, but who nevertheless became a success by being a fly in the ointment when it came to the question of slavery. He was one of the lawyers who defended the blacks from Africa on the Amistead. He is not presented as an especially loveable character (much like his father), but the author is able to give a rounded picture of who he was and what he did. The Portrait of an Artist by Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon, the agent from the Mossad, is able to track down and eliminate a danger from the Islamic movement. This one was recruited by the CIA, but then turned against them to begin a war of terror. The twist in the story is that he is able to do all this with the help of the daughter of a rich Saudi whom he assassinated a number of years before, for she had turned against the extremists whom her father had been financing. As always with Daniel Silva’s books, the story is well told. The Great and Holy War: How World War I became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins This book deals with the religious aspect of World War I. There was the tendency during the war to see it as a hold Crusade against the godless forces of the enemy. It also deals with the religious consequences of the war around the world such as the rise of Islamic movement (first a nationalist movement and later more than that), the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East, the rise of Zionism, and the explosion of various Christian/Pentecostal movements throughout the continent of Africa. The General vs. the President by H.W. Brands This is the story of the interaction of General McArthur and President Truman. McArthur is a larger than life figure who had an enormous ego. He could easily have become a dictator if he had had the possibility, for he only lightly respected the democratic structures of our country. Truman had to find a way to fight the Korean War without starting World War III. He was not helped in this by the general, whom he eventually had to fire. This book gives a good account of the relationship between the two. Vikings by Hourly History This is a short presentation on the history of the Vikings. The author tries to be very sympathetic to them, rationalizing some of their outrages throughout history. The book starts in the late early Christian era, and goes up to the age of exploration in Iceland and Greenland, the conquests in Ireland, England and Normandy, and the rise of the modern nation states of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Tulip Mania: The History and Legacy of the World’s First Speculative Bubble during the Dutch Golden Age by Charles River Editors The title more or less gives away what the book is all about. During the Golden Age of Holland, when its vessels were travelling throughout the world and it was making fabulous profits on trade, people began to buy tulip bulbs (which were a recent introduction from Turkey) for fabulous amounts of money. This was a classic speculative bubble, and it crashed suddenly, leading to the downfall of many fortunes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 25, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City

February 25, 2019 Peace and Good, Last week was a full week of definitory meetings. We went from Monday to Friday. As we approach our General Chater in mid May, we are addressing more and more attention to that and less to the day to day running of the Order. That is not a bad thing, but it is changing the tempo of our meetings a bit. On Saturday I flew to BAltimore, but there was terrible weather in London so our flight from Rome to London was delayed enough that I missed the flight to Baltimore. BA put me up for the night, but I am disappointed in their service in these weeks. This is the second time in a month that they have messed up my flight, and both times the response from their help lines and their personnel has been less that I would expect. I will be flying out to Vietnam tomorrow for the dedication of our new postulancy. They have a lot of vocations, and the only thing holding it back was a lack of space. Then on Sunday I will fly to Manila to give a week workshop to the novices there. I finished some reading: Medical Rounds for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases by Roy Benaroch This is a Teaching Company series. This deals with 24 different cases that a doctor has to diagnose and treat. The presenter is extremely clear both in his presentation and in the process of reasoning that led to a diagnosis. I found this series very informative, both in detail and in the realization of how difficult it can be for a doctor to find the right diagnosis at times. It brought me to a greater respect for my own doctors. The Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhyme series. This one deals with a man who appears to be a mass murderer. There is a side story of police corruption. As with the other volumes, this paraplegic detective and his team are brilliant in unraveling the clues which other police often miss. What is so good about the series is that these come across as real people with their normal personality flaws. I would recommend this book and the others in the series. The Mahdi: the History of the Prophesized Figure Muslims believe will redeem Islam and Bring about the End Times by Charles River Editors This is a very short presentation on the idea of the Mahdi, the promised one who would lead Islam in the right path. This is especially important among the Shia Muslims, much less so among the Sunni. It has often led to figures claiming to be the Mahdi, such as the one in the Sudan who killed General Gordon in the 19th century. Today, among ISIS and among some Iranian clerics, one hears some of these ideas expressed again. Cut and Run by Ridley Pearson An agent with the witness protection agency falls in love with a woman who is on the run from drug bosses for whom she worked. The list of all people in protection along with their addresses is endangered when the scientist who worked up the encoding system disappears and some of the people on the list end up dead. The book is not exactly a great work, but it has a certain suspense and a lot of action. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory This is a well done account of the captivity of Queen Mary of Scotland under Queen Elizabeth of England. Elizabeth has her farmed out to Lord Shrewsbery and his wife Bess. This couple has only recently been married. Bess is a simple upbringing, and more a businesswoman than a wife. She is also a secret spy of Cecil, the advisor and spy master of the queen. The story is told in three voices, Queen Mary, Lord Shrewsberry who secretly falls in love with Mary, and Bess who seethes on the sideline at the disloyalty of her husband and the loss of finances in the upkeep of the queen. This fictional history is well done. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ellicott City - Rome

February 18, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished off my visit to the States with several days at Ellicott City. I had a meeting with the definitory of my province which went very well. I was also able to film some presentations for our Development Office (which also has committed itself to producing materials for evangelization). I have been collaborating with them for quite a while with the daily scripture reflections, but now we have reached out into film as well. The trip back to Rome was less eventful than the trip out from Rome. I will be here for a week for a General Definitory meeting. Then on Saturday I will be heading back to the States. The weather here in Rome is cool but quite pleasant. It is not like the weather brought by the Polar Vortex in the States. I finished some reading: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan This is an account of the dust bowl during the 1930’s. This area of the country probably should never have been opened up to the plow. Its soil was such that if there were a drought, it would be carried aloft in any storm, creating massive dust storms. Yet, the huge price of wheat during World War I guaranteed that it would be used for agriculture. When the drought came, coupled with the Great Depression, it left this entire area desolate with people fleeing to find work and even food. This account gives much eye witness evidence of the suffering, and this is an excellent account of this horrendous time. The Mysterious Etruscans by Steven Tuck In spite of the fact that their civilization was quite advanced, and they were found in a part of the world that is not all remote (central Italy), the Etruscans are not all that well known. This Great Courses presentation speaks of the archeological evidence for them, their beliefs, their rise as a confederation of city states and their downfall under the power of the ever aggressive Rome, etc. It also speaks of many of the cultural artifacts that still show their influence on Italy and the world. Forgotten Patriots by Edwin Burrows The greatest number of those who died during the American Revolutionary world were the prisoners of the British, both in various on land centers and on prison ships. This book goes into great detail on the history of the treatment of prisoners by the British and by the rebel forces during the war. Much of what was done would be considered to be war crimes today, but was classified as almost normal treatment in those days, especially when the Americans were classified as rebels against the king who could have been executed for treason. The book also covers the reasons why tributes to the prisoners were so late in coming and so inadequate, somuchso that most Americans do not even know the extent of what happened in those years. Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich This is a narrative of the revelations received by the 14th century English mystic Julian of Norwich. She is famous for having said that all will be well, and all will be well. Her revelation is very, very positive in nature, but is enormously difficult to follow. I had heard about Julian, and I wanted to read something that she herself produced. The endeavor was worth the effort, but I don’t intend to read much more of what she wrote. It will stick to what was written about her. Bugsy Siegel: the life and legacy of the notorious gangster who helped develop Murder, Inc. and the Las Vegas Strip by Charles River Editors The title pretty much says what this small book from Charles River Editors is all about. It gives the biography of this mobster from his birth in the Jewish ghettoes of New York to his execution in Las Vegas, a city whose development he largely pioneered with the construction with mob funds of the casino the Flamingo. The History of Espionage by Velas Liulevicius This is a teaching company course on the history of espionage. I had previously listened to a course on Eastern Europe by this same professor. Both that first course and this one were filled with information and very interesting. This course is not a spy thriller, but rather a history from ancient times to today, including a lesson on how spy craft is treated in modern literature and film. It is quite good. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Clifton, NJ - Bridgeport, CT - Boston, MA - Ellicott City, MD - Staten Island, NY

February 10, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished off the visitation to the three friaries of the Montreal Custody of the Polish friars in Clifton, Bridgeport and Boston. There are two friars in each of these sites. They are mostly Polish parishes. All three of them are past their heyday for the Polish immigration has leveled off. If young Polish workers want to find work nowaday, they tend to go to Great Britain or Germany (for it is much easier for them to transfer their work benefits to their homeland and to visit family during the holidays). The friars are doing good work, but one has to wonder about the long term health of these communities. This past week I had my annual 50,000 mile check up - GP, cardiologist, dermatologist, hearing, sight and dentist. All of the appointments went very well. This was just a normal thing, but it is important given all the travel that I do all the time. Saturday I attended the funeral of fr. Philip Blaine, one of our friars who died this past week. He had been a missionary in Brazil for a number of years, and also an Assistant General for the missions. His main ministry was teaching spirituality and giving spiritual guidance. I will be in Ellicott City for a few more days, and then it is back to Rome. I finished some reading: Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr Years ago I read the first book by this author, The Alienist. It has been spun off into a TV series recently. This, as far as I know it, is his second and only other book. It is set in upstate New York, and it involves a series of deaths of what the book calls “throw away children.” This volumes is every bit as good as the author’s previous book. It involves detective, forensic work based on a theory in which one tries not to defend one’s theory but rather develop a theory from the evidence found. The hero is not an easy person, and there are a set of sometimes loveable, sometimes odd people around him. It is a very good read. 1177 B. C.: The Year that Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline This book chronicles the extensive international network of trade and diplomacy before the period around 1177 B.C. Then, after that time, there was a period of confusion and retrenchment. What caused it? There have been various theories: famine, civil war, invasion by the sea peoples, earthquake, etc. It is possible that all of these played a part in the downfall of civilization at that time. The author purposes that there was a systems failure. It might have been sparked by one calamity, but then snowballed as one part of the system after another failed, leading to a period that could be called a dark age. The book is good, but filled with theories that cannot be proved. The Brandenburg Gate by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. It was originally part of a wall built more for income purposes (to collect the tolls and taxes on imported goods) than for defensive purposes. It became a symbol of the rise of Prussia. During the Nazi era, it was used as a gathering point for various rallies. After the war, its pockmarked surface was a sign of the division between East and West Berlin. Finally, after the war, it was a symbol of the reunification of the city and the country. Peoples and Cultures of the World by Edward Fischer This is a study in anthropology on various societies throughout the world, including tribes and clans in Venezuela, the South Pacific, etc. It is one of the Teaching Company courses. It has a lot of good information, but I cannot say that it really came together all that well. Marie Curie by Charles River Editors This is a very good treatment of the Polish scientist Marie Curie who with her husband discovered radium and polonium. She was frequently discounted for being a woman scientist, but she proved herself to be a talented scholar all the same. She lived a simple life with her husband until his accidental death. She won the Nobel prize for her work, but even then was not allowed to speak to the assembled body. She eventually died from the effects of the radiation of the elements that she discovered. The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger This is an overview of the Hasidic movement in America (and somewhat in Israel). This movement was largely wiped out in Europe during World War II, but given the large number of children that Hasids tend to have, they now number a large percentage of Jews in the world. They do not interact very well with modern society in terms of assimilation, yet they tend to be rather successful in terms of business activities. They also have serious difficulty dealing with government regulations, not infrequently ending up on the wrong side of the law in questions of finance and government housing regulations. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude