Monday, December 30, 2019


December 31, 2019 Peace and Good I am still in Rome. It has gotten quite cool here. The heat is on in the buildings, which is not as common as it would be in the States. There are even laws here which regulate how many hours you can heat your buildings based on how far south you are and at what altitude you find yourself (because of the scarcity of oil, etc. here in Italy). I will be here until the 12th of January, when I fly out for a week of travel in the States. The week before my departure is another definitory. The last one went quite well. We have a good mix of friars on the counsel who are willing to share their opinions and work to find a consensus on the issues with which we deal. New Year's Eve is this evening. I always stay inside here for that, given the tendency to throw things out one's window. In Naples, that can include old furniture, etc. I have finished some reading: Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel by Adrian Graham-Dixon This is an overview of the history and message of the ceiling (and Last Judgment scene) in the Sistine Chapel. The book gives a very good artistic and religious reading of the images. The author is not quite as good as Ross King in art history, but this book comes close. Tinkler, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Caree John Le Caree is an expert of the spy story, especially told from the approach of the British decline after World War II. In this one, George Smiley is looking for a double agent in the organization. The story is well told, with great humanity. I always enjoy Le Caree’s books. Amor vs Roma by Bob Chelmick This is an account of the history of the Catheri or the Albigensian movement in Southern France in the 13th century and their destruction by Church and State authorities. The experts cited are all highly prejudiced in favor of the Catheri, so nowhere is there a balanced approach to the story. I am not saying that the Church was innocent in the affair, but it would have been good for the author to research the story a bit more evenly. The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert Cargill This is an interesting treatment of the cities that contributed to the production of the Bible. It is a good archaeological treatment, but the author has two short falls. First of all, he is a name dropper, insisting on speaking of all the important people who are his fans. The second short fall is that he is very disrespectful of things that go beyond the normal. He mocks the miraculous, which is odd in someone who wants to deal with Biblical topics. In spite of this, however, the book is well worth reading. Susa: the history and legacy of the Elamite Capital in the Ancient Near East by Charles River Editors This is one of the Charles River Editors books, this one speaking about a city that was important in the area east of Mesopotamia for thousands of years. It was the Elamite capital, conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, an important city during the time of the Persians and Alexander the Great, etc. The book describes the history, architecture, and archaeology of the city. The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War by Walter Lord This is a collection of stories in a year by year pattern dealing with great events or tendencies between the year 1900 and the beginning of the First World War. This is the same author who produced a number of famous history books, including A Night to Remember which speaks about the sinking of the Titanic. His style is good and entertaining, while he is quite honest about messy details. I would recommend this book. Happy New Year fr. Jude

Monday, December 23, 2019


December 23, 2019 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome all throughout this week. The weather is turning cooler and more rainy. This is typical weather for Rome at this time of year. We have been in definitory all this week. There is still a lot that must be prepared after our General Chapter this past summer. We managed to get quite a bit of that work done at this definitory. I will be in Rome until January 12th. The days after Christmas tend to be very quiet here which I look forward to. I have finished some reading: The Apostolic Fathers by Moody Classics I have so often read passages from the Apostolic Fathers, those authors who wrote in the period right after the production of the New Testament but whose works did not make the cut to be included in that collection. When I saw this book on sale on Kindle, I decided it was time to read the books themselves. Some of them are very beautiful, but I was greatly disappointed in one of them: the Shepherd of Hermes. I had always read descriptions of this book and thought it would be an edifying tome, but it turned out to be a strange series of very judgmental and hypercritical visions. This is one book that I am glad did not make it into the canon of the Bible. Vlad the Impaler by Hourly History This is a short account of the historic figure who was the basis for Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel of the 19th century. Vlad was a prince in southern Romania who fought the Turks to maintain the independence of his reign. He was incredibly cruel to both his own citizens and to captured enemies. His favorite form of execution was impaling people – somuchso that accounts speak of forests of poles in fields with impaled victims on them. The author deals with the question of whether Vlad actually was the inspiration to the Bram Stoker novel (there are arguments pro and contra). Leningrad: the Epic Story of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid This is a horrific account of the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War. It speaks of the incalculable suffering of the people from famine (due to the siege but also to the incompetence of the Soviet leaders). He speaks of the continuing suffering of the people by the KGB (the arrests, the murders, etc.). Most of the book presents stories of individuals who wrote or spoke about their experiences. Max Planck: the Life and Legacy of the Influential German Physicist who Pioneered Quantum Theory by Charles River Editors Max Planck was a brilliant mathematician who came up with the theory of Quantums, opening up the whole field of quantum mechanics. He lived in Germany from the late 19th century and died shortly after World War II. He hated the Nazis, but as with many people in significant positions, had to compromise in certain things (although he fought hard to protect Jewish intellectuals whom he knew). He invented (discovered) the concept of quantums when he was trying to describe light and the energy contained in it. The Pharaoh Key by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child I have read quite a number of book by these two authors. Their work is always good, and that includes this volume. Two of the characters appeared in other editions, including a certain Gideon who worked for a magnate in adventurous projects. The two are fired by the magnate and they decide to get their revenge by discovering a hidden treasure under his nose. There are a number of adventures involving their trip to the hidden valley in southern Egypt and what they encounter there. Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez This is an interesting book on nature, especially human treatment of wolves. The author gives a number of good points that wolves have often been demonized in the past. The problem is that he canonizes wolves as holy martyrs that are being persecuted for being themselves. He adds a mystical sense to the story. Nevertheless, it gives some ideas that are well worth reflecting upon. Merry Christmas fr. Jude

Saturday, December 14, 2019


December 14, 2019 Peace and Good, This is one of those rare times when there is only one city in my byline. I will be in Rome from now until January 12th, which is a good time to catch my breath after some quick travelling in these past couple of months. The weather here has gotten cool. The city is all decorated for Christmas. We have a huge tree in Piazza Venezia. A couple of years ago, there was a tree there that was so pathetic, a real Charlie Brown Christmas tree, that it got international attention. This year is is both a nice tree and nicely decorated (even though there is not a strong tradition here in Italy for Christmas trees). We begin our definitory this coming Monday, and will be meeting all week long. I do have one morning event at the Seraphicum (our international faculty here in Rome) where we will have a symposium on Asia (and since I am the editor of our Asian Christian magazine, I should be there). I have finished some reading: Manhunt: the 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson This is the story of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and those who collaborated in his murder of Abraham Lincoln and tried to kill other members of his government. It presents an honest evaluation of those who were actively involved, and those who got involved by accident. The author tries to build up the drama in his presentation, but overall it is a good read. Mount Athos and Meteora: the History of the Greek Landmarks that became Orthodox Christian Monasteries by Charles River Editors This is the account of two monastery sites in Greece: one a peninsula and the other a set of natural columns upon which a series of monastic communities (of groups and individuals). IT gives the history of the movement and their rationale. Eugene V. Debs: the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Famous Socialist Political Leader by Charles River Editors This is the story of a socialist who worked for a social revolution in the country around the turn of the century. He ran for president four times. He fought for the rights of union men and women, and then in frustration, turned to the idea of a revolution to throw over the capitalist system. He was often demonized, so it was worthwhile reading this story from a different point of view. Russia at War: 1941-1945, a History by Alexander Werth This is a very long account of the war in the Soviet Union from the point of view of a journalist who was stationed in the Soviet Union during the war. For the most part, the author tries to be objective, but some of the rationalizations that he mouths concerning the conduct of Soviet troops (especially in Poland) are sickening. Yet, the book was worth reading. Last to Die by Stephen Harding This is the story of the death of the last person to die by combat during World War II. He was a member of a crew that was taking photos of Japanese air bases in preparation for the allied occupation. His plane was attacked by a group of Japanese fliers who wanted to reject the surrender of Japan by the emperor. MacArthur’s response (not a great fan of the man) was measured and prevented a return to hostilities. The Tudors by G.J. Meyer This is an overview of the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queens Mary and Elizabeth. The author is clearly Catholic, and he is scathing in his attack on the hypocritical attacks on religion during these reigns. He is also brutally honest in terms of torture, autocracy, violation of human rights, etc. The story is well researched and I learned quite a bit by listening to it. The History of China in 50 Events by Henry Freeman This is a very quick study of the history of China. It is not very deep, but it gives a short view of the history of this great nation. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City - Rome

December 7, 2019 Peace and Good, This past week I have been in Ellicott City for a series of mendical appointments - just the usual annual check up. All went well. I also visited a phyical therapist for a problem with a muscle in my neck which has given me a lot of trouble in these past months. He recommended a series of isometric exercises, and they seem to be having a good effect. I will be in Rome now for the next months or so. The weather is cooling off, but is not as cool at it was in Ellicott City. This week I have some work to do with preparing a couple of projects, and then the week of the 16th we have a definitory meeting. I have finished some reading: The Epistle of Paul the apostle to the Philippians by Fr. Tadros Malaty This is a running commentary by a Greek Orthodox source. I enjoyed this, for it was well worth examining the study of scripture from another point of view. It is not necessarily that I have learned anything new, but it does give a nuance that makes one think outside of the box. Eye of the God by Ariel Allison This is a novel about a group of professional thieves who steal great works of art on contract from a broker who then auctions them off to the highest bidder. A young woman who works for the Smithsonian is drawn into the action. This is actually a Christian novel, but unlike some of the ones that I have read in the past, it is not Christianity in your face. It is well done, if a bit fantastic. The greatest question it offers is what is it that one lives for, a good question. Earthly Remains by Donna Leon This is part of the Commissario Brunetti series by Donna Leon. She is a very good author who captures the spirit of the Italians and especially of the city of Venice in which her novels are set. In this episode, Commissario Brunetti takes a vacation because of stress and ends up on an island where he meets a local caretaker who takes him under his wing. The caretaker is found dead, and the Commissario must investigate his death, which could be an accident or a suicide. As always, the plot is well developed, the characters well drawn out. The Crito by Plato This is one of Plato’s works which revolve around the death of Socrates. In this one, Crito, Socrates’ friend, tries to convince him to run away into exile so that he might avoid the death sentence which has been imposed upon him. Socrates argues that this would be a violation of his duty to the state and to his friends. Even if the state is treating him unfairly, he must not resort to its intrigues and dishonesty. He had to be a man of integrity, even if that would carry him to death. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 by Gerald Horne This is a book which speaks about the whole slavery issue in the 18th century before the American Revolution. This is a topic which the author repeats over and over again, saying more or less that the American Revolution was something that was called to defend the institution of slavery when the British Empire was about to outlaw it. There is a good amount of speculation based upon events that had not yet happened (the outlawing of commerce in slaves and then the outlawing of slavery). The good element in the book is that it deals with a topic that is often overlooked in this particular era. The Church Fathers as Spiritual Mentors by Michael Haykin This book is written by an evangelical author. It is interesting, for they often deal only with Sacred Scripture and overlook the development of doctrine throughout the history of the Church. The author deals with some of the topics very well, while others he tends to cherry pick his quotations to argue the conclusion which he has already reached. Overall, it is quite good. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, November 25, 2019

Lusaka - Ndola - Garnerton - St. Joseph Mission - Rome

November 26, 2019 Peace and Good, I have finished my weeks in Zambia and returned to Rome. The primary reason for my stay in Zambia was to preach a retreat to the National Conference of Bishops. That went very well. I covered two Gospels: Matthew because that is what we will be using in this coming liturgical year, and John for some spiritual insights for the bishops. There were 11 in all. We were at Mt. Zion retreat house just outside of Lusaka. Zambia is having a terrible problem with electricity. They use mostly Hydro power, and they have been suffering from a drought. They are just now entering rainy season. At the retreat house, we had power from midnight to 4 AM. All throughout my travels in Zambia, the power was very restricted, and there was hardly any internet connection. After the retreat, I flew to Ndola. On Sunday I celebrated Mass in our parish in Kitwe, and then Monday through Wednesday I had conferences for the novices (6 of them). Then I went to St. Joseph's Mission for two days of conferences with the postulants. There are 19 of them, 4 in the second year and 15 of them in the first year (14 from Zambia and 1 from Angola). It was very hot, and the bugs were more than abundant except for St. Joseph Mission which is blessed with many swallows which love to eat the mosquitos. I am back in Rome to change my suitcase, for tomorrow I head out to the States for a week (mostly routine doctor's exams). I finished some reading: The Black List by Brad Thor The hero of the story is part of a secret group which works under contract with the government for the elimination of the country’s worst enemies. The problem is that his own group has been put on the black list, fated for elimination themselves. He has to uncover the reason for this condemnation and reverse its effects. The author is a bit to the right of what I am comfortable, but one only sees this in comments here and there. The Apology of Socrates by Plato This is the first time that I have read this particular work. It was part of a masterpieces of literature collection that I got on my Kindle. So often I have heard about this, but had never actually picked it up. I am very glad that I read this version of Socrates’ defense as reported by Plato. Instead of denying what he said and did or begging for mercy, Socrates simply shows that he was in the right and that the Athenians would be condemning themselves by condemning him. This is the work in which he speaks of the necessity to live an examined life. It is well worth reading. Alfred Nobel: the Life and Legacy of the Famous Scientist and the Nobel Prizes by Charles River Editors This is a quick biography of Alfred Nobel, the man who invented dynamite and who dedicated much of his fortune to the awarding of prizes for various services to humanity (peace, literature, economics, science, etc.). A Vast Conspiracy by Jeffrey Toobin This is a full report on the Clinton scandals and impeachement procedure. It is very well done, and Toobin does not try to take sides. It turns out that both sides have more than enough to apologize for having done. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about what happened, as long as they can stomach the sleeze. Ludwig van Beethoven: The Classic Romantic by The History Hour This is one of those short biographies. This one is a bit strange for it goes into quite great detail about the music, using a lot of terminology with which I was not familiar. It also deals a lot with who the eternal beloved, the love figure of Beethoven, might have been (without giving a definitive answer). It was not all that good. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz I very much like this series by Dean Koontz. Odd can see ghosts (who do not speak to him). He works to help them find peace and to go to the other side. This particular volume deals with a woman who is very strange and who is fascinated with ghosts. She tries to force Odd to conjure up some ghosts for her. There is some very good spirituality in each of the stories (even though that is not the stated goal of the series). Happy Thanksgiving fr. Jude

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Rome - Lusaka, Zambia

November 6, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished the week of definitory in Rome. The weather is starting to change with more cloudy conditions and a bit of rain. Our definitory finished on Friday morning and then on Sunday I flew out to Zambia. I am in Lusaka to give a retreat to the National Conference of Zambian Bishops. I begin that tomorrow morning. Then, when I finish, I will fly up to Ndola to give a workshop to our novices and saome talks to our postulants. When I finish that, I will be flying back to Rome. The days are quite hot here, around 90 degrees. The evenings cool off quite quickly, so sleeping is not all that much of a problem. There are blackouts each evening for the country depends on hydro-power, and the water levels are very low. This is the rainy season, but the rains have not really begun yet. I have finished some reading: The Roman Provinces of North Africa by Charles River Editors This is a short account of North Africa before the arrival of the Romans, its status under the Carthaginians, under the Romans, and then the loss of Roman power due to the Barbarian invasions in the 4th century AD. Where Serpents Lie by T. Jefferson Parker This is the story of a man on the squad that hunts child molesters and his squad. He is searching for someone who might be on his way to becoming a serial killer (at least due to his current conduct of kidnapping children and dressing them in other clothes). The twist in the story is when pictures are found which show the head of the squad in very compromising conditions with underage children. The action in the story is OK, but not a classic. Petra: the History of the Rose City by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of the pre-history, history in ancient times, and modern discoveries in the beautiful city carved out of rock in the Southern region of Jordan. It served as an entrepot for travel and commerce between the Arabian peninsula and Mesopotamia. It was the home of the people known as the Nabateans. God is not Afraid of New Things by Pope Francis, ed Josh Beckley This is a collection of quick sayings of the Holy Father. As the editor states, some edify, some inspire, and some even challenge and possibly confuse. They are not exactly profound, but they are very helpful. America’s Secret War by George Friedman This books deals with the war against Al Qaida and also the American invasion of Iraq under George W Bush. The book is well written, and gives political insights on the Iraq war that I had never considered. It is an honest presentation of the various points of view, including those that we as Americans would rather not hear. I highly recommend this book to give further insight to the mentality of the people with whom we are dealing in the Middle East. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Kindle offers collections of famous masterpieces of literature at a very reduced price, and this is the first presentation in one of those volumes. It is Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. It is not a masterful presentation, but rather a book written to encourage young people to a spirit of entrepreneurialism and adventure (as evidenced in the life of Franklin who opened the first public library in Philadelphia, the first philosophical discussion society, the first fire brigade, the first militia, etc.). The Lost City of Heraklion by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on one of the cities at the mouth of the Nile delta that served as a commercial center in the days before the creation of the city of Alexandria by Alexander the Great. In subsequent years, it was damaged by earthquakes and eventually subsided into the waters until it was discovered by underwater archaeologists. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pismo Beach, CA - Arroyo Grande, CA - Rome

October 29, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished the parish retreat at Pismo Beach. It is a very good parish community, and I thorougly enjoyed my time there. The topic was the Gospel of Matthew. There are a lot of people there who are truly working on their spiritufal lives. Last week I was at our novitiate which is just down the street from the parish. We have five novices this year. I gave four days of presentations on the Gospels and the Psalms. Then on Saturday I gave a day of reflection to the novices of all three Franciscan Friars (Friars Minor, Capuchins and Conventuals) on the Gospel of Matthew, the gospel we are using in the liturgy this coming Church year. I flew back from California yesterday. It is a long, long journey. I am back in Rome for our definitory until Friday. I will be heading out next week to do some things in Zambia. I finished some reading: The Cambridge Medieval History: From the Rise of Constantine to the Death of Julian This is a series of presentations on the beginning of what we would call the Middle Ages. It is the first volume of many that were available at a very reduced price by Kindle. The essays are good, if somewhat technical. Some deal more with the history, while others deals with background information on the era. The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver I thing that this is the first of Deaver’s books in the Lincoln Rhymes series. The detective is paralyzed and preparing to have someone assist him in suicide. He is challenged to assist finding and stopping a serial killer. He and his team are able to deduce the clues left by a killer and eventually track down the killer. The whole series is well done, and I would recommend this book and the others in the series. The Great Terror by Robert Conquest This is a very extensive treatment of the Great Terror of Stalin in the late 1930’s in which millions and millions of people were arrested and many of them killed or sent to prison camps in which many of them died. The details are abundant. The stories are horrific. One wishes that it were a horrible novel, but it is a true story. Like the holocaust, there are many who say that it is too incredible to believe, but Conquest has documented the whole affair well. The book is well worth reading, but it leaves one breathless. The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagen This is a very, very thorough account of the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta in the 4th century BC. The war went on for a long, long time and left both powers all but broken. Worse, the only way that Sparta was able to triumph was to ally itself with the enemy of the Greeks: the Persians. Athens eventually lost the war, but even more they lost their moral compass (abandoning their republican values for empire). The book is very good, but it would be a bit too much for most readers because of the level of detail in the book. Pacific Glory by PT Deutermann This is a novel about a group of people who are serving in the armed forced during the early and middle years of World War II. The author tries of give an accurate picture of what life was like for these characters, but the author is only partly successful. Hark Evidence by John Lescroat This is a murder mystery in which an attorney is called upon to defend his former father in law who is a famous judge from the charge of murdering a man who was about to marry the judge’s former courtesan. The book is OK, but not much more than that. D Day: A Captivating Guide to the Battle for Normandy by Captivating History This is a short account of the D Day invasion during World War II. Like the Charles River Editors books, it is not a book that gives great detail, but it is a good overview presentation. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Castro Valley, CA - Pismo Beach, CA

October 20, 2019 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Castro Valley which is just outside of Oakland. The representatives of our various jurisdictions of the CFF (Australia, US, Canada, England, and Ireland) were present, and we had a very good series of discussions. The topics were formation, justice and peace, our presence on the web, etc. I think we made quite a bit of progress. This past week I have been preaching a parish mission in one of our parishes in central California. The pastor had asked me a couple of years ago to preach a mission, but I have not been able to do it until now. I had the commitment in Castro Valley for the CFF meeting, then a week off, and then a workshop in Arroyo Grande, our novitiate. I was able to fit the mission into the off week. It is an older parish, and the parishioners are great. I really enjoyed my time here. This afternoon I head out to Arroyo Grande, which is only about twenty minutes from here. I will be there until next Sunday when I head back to Rome. Monday to Thursday I will be working with the novices on the Gospels and the Psalms, and then Saturday I will be giving a day of reflection to the members of all three novitiates here in California (the Friars Minor, the Capuchins and ourselves). I finished some reading: Dictator by Robert Harris This is the third of a series on the Roman orator Cicero. Harris is an excellent author, and this book is a fitting end to the story. I would highly recommend both all three books of the series as well as anything that Harris has written. Leif Erikson by Captivating History This is the story of the explorer Leif Erikson, the first European to discover North America. The account gives both the critical information as well as the legends concerning this figure. It is a bit repetitious, but worth reading. The Apocrypha and the Bible by Gustavo Vasquez-Lozano and Charles River Editors This is a very good overview of the apocrypha of the Bible (those books which did not make it into the Old and New Testament). The research was very well done, and I could recommend it to anyone who wanted an overview of the topic. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson I like Bryson’s travel books. He is humorous and interesting. The only thing I have noticed in his accounts is that he at times descends to an adolescent, cruel way of dealing with people who annoy him. I wish he could avoid this, for otherwise his accounts would be hilarious. Fatherland by Robert Harris This is a short account of a detective in 1960’s Germany trying to investigate some murders/suicides. The interesting twist is that in this account Hitler had won World War II. The account is well done and is filled with exciting twists and turns. Marie Antoinette by Captivating History This short account of the life of Marie Antoinette is well done. It does not present her as a horrible person (as much of the propaganda of the era did), but rather as a not well informed, somewhat shallow person caught up in a drama beyond her understanding. Her major concern was to fit in in the somewhat catty environment of the court. She excelled in demonstrating the latest fashion. She and her husband tried to perform works of charity, but it was too little and too late. The regime was corrupt and bankrupt, and only a strong and decisive leader could have saved it (which neither Louis nor Marie were). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Nairobi, Kenya - Rome - Roman, Romania - Rome - Castro Valley, CA

October 9, 2019 Peace and Good, This has been a very busy week with travel here and there. My last Sunday in Nairobi was the celebration of the solemn profession of five of the Kenyan friars. The Mass lasted three hours and twenty minutes. It was a beautiful celebration, especially with all the singing and dancing. My trip back from Nairobi was unfortunately a bit eventful. After I had arrived at the airport, the flight to London was "postponed." What astounds me is that the posponement was for 24 hours. There was not a lot I could do, for even to go to a hotel for the night would have meant that I would have to pay for another visa. I kept searching for a member of the British Air personnel at the gate, but after 10 minutes, the only representative did not reappear for well over an hour. I called traveler services in London, but they claimed they could do nothing. Finally, after two hours, a representative appeared and rebooked me on a Qatar Airline flight that got me back to Rome. I arrived in Rome on Monday afternoon, and then headed over to Romania on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning I had a presentation at a symposium celebrating the opening of the school year at the school of theology where I taught for a number of years. Thursday I flew back to Rome and celebrted the Feast of St. Francis (with the celebration of the solemn profession of two of our Indian friars who are studying in Rome). On Sunday I flew out to San Francisco for a meeting of our federation in Castro Valley, a friary just outside of Oakland. We will be meeting here until Thursday evening, and then I will drive down to Pismo Beach where I will be preaching a parish mission in one of our parishes. I have finished some reading: African Kaiser by Robert Gaudi This is a well written account of the leader of the German forces in German East Africa (Tanganyika), General von Lettow-Vorbeck. He was a brilliant leader of men (both German and African), and he was a tremendous thorn in the side to the British, not surrendering until after the armistice of 1918. He was also a man of honor, and was respected even by his adversaries. As he fought alongside the Africans, he came to realize the absurdity of much of the basis for colonialism. Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser This is an account of the lives and careers of two cousins, Alice Longworth Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. The former was the daughter of TR, while the later his niece and the wife of FDR. Both were famous in their own right, and they did not especially like each other all that much. Alice is famous for having a pillow which said that if you did not have anything nice to say about others, you should sit right down next to her. Eleanor was a liberal do-gooder, who actually did an incredibly large amount of good. Abuse of Power by Stanley Kutler This is a series of transcripts of the Nixon office tapes that led to the Watergate scandal and the eventual resignation of the president. It proves that Nixon was an incredible liar, possibly even eventually deceiving himself with his lies. His office discussion was also petty and profane and conspiratorial, caring only about his presidency and willing to sacrifice anyone who got in the way of that goal. Francisco Franco by Charles River Editors This is a short but thorough study of the career of Francisco Franco, the dictator who ran Spain for decades following the Spanish Civil War. We see how he changed from a ruthless character to one who was more willing to compromise (at least in economic questions). The book also presents a good picture of why the Spanish Civil War began, begin honest about the part that each of the parties played in this disaster. The Punjab: the History of the Punjabis and the Contested Region on the Border Between India and Pakistan by Charles River Editors This is an historic picture of the Punjab, the region of the five rivers, in India. This is a territory which has a mixed population of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. It was thus a place of terrible suffering in the division of India at its independence leading to the nations of India and Pakistan. The book presents a bit about the Sikhs, a religion which has bred into its followers a martial spirit (which is why so many of them served in the army of the Raj under British occupation, and even today so many serve in the British army. Havana by Stephen Hunter This book is about the CIA and the mobs attempt to assassinate Castro at the beginning of his career. The two main protagonists are an honest State Trooper who served well in World War II and is expected to assassinate Castro, and a KGB agent who is sent to Cuba to mentor him. In spite of the topic, it is actually quite humorous, but the language at times is a bit rough (for a good part of the story takes place in the area of Havana where the prostitutes ply their business. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude Winkler

Friday, September 27, 2019

Montreal - London - Nairobi - Sabukia, Kenya - Nairobi

September 28, 2019 Peace and Good, I have just finished two weeks in Kenya for the first provincial chapter of the province of Kenya. I have done two visitations in Kenya, and I helped a bit in the process of working to make the custody into a province. The old custos asked me to preach each morning at the Masses of the chapter. Then, one of our friars, fr. Robert, who had been asked to preach a morning of recollection at the beginning of the chapter, found out he could not attend due to other obligations. He asked me to give that as well, which I did. The topic was on the Order (and the province) as a family. It went very well. This is the rainy season, and we got quite a bit of it at the site of the chapter, Sabukia. This is the national Marian shrine, and it was entrusted to our friars by the national conference of bishops. The friars there are doing a great job, including building a basilica size church for the pilgrims. They are depending only on funds collected in Kenya. Not a penny of money for the church has come from outside the country, which is a very good thing for it creates a sense of ownership to all the people of Kenya. The facilities in the retreat house there were quite comfortable. Our trip up and back to Sabukia led us along the Rift Valley. The country is beautiful, especially because everything is green now due to the weather. I am back in Nairobi and tomorrow morning we have the solemn profession of vows for five of our men. Then tomorrow night I fly back to Rome. I have finished some reading: Legends of the Bible: Prophets and Prophecy in Ancient Israel and the Middle East by Charles River Editors This is a very good short treatise on the topic of prophecy in Israel and the ancient Mid-East. It is well researched, and can serve as a primer on the topic. Before the Bear: the History of California before it joined the United States by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of California in the period before it became a states: thus, under the Spanish, then Mexico, and then eventually under the US. It deals with the topics of Spanish exploration (but strangely giving much more notice to the role of the Jesuits in this than of the Franciscans). It speaks of the rapport between whites and native Americans. It deals with the topic of the gold rush and what that meant for the growth of the state. 1947 Where Now Begins by Elisabeth Asbrink This is a book which deals with this critical year, two years after the end of the World War II. At first I was a bit perplexed by the very Jewish overtone, but then I realized that it was written by a survivor. It deals with the birth of Israel, with the attempts of ex-Nazis to relaunch their movement in Sweden, the rest of Europe and Argentina. It speaks quite a bit about Simone Beauvoir and George Orwell. It is good, but not as good as some of the other treatments of an individual year that I have read in the recent past. Arnold Rothstein: the Life and the Legacy of the Notorious Mob Kingpin who was Accused of Fixing the World Series by Charles River Editors This was one of the famous mobsters in the 1920’s, a type of protégée to Bugsy Seagal and Myer Lansky. He was very involved in gambling, rejecting the advice of his Jewish religious father. He was eventually assassinated, probably because he had had another mobster’s friend killed. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metexas Metaxas has written a series of religious biographies. This one is a laudatory biography of the man who pushed through the bill to end the slave trade in the British Empire, and eventually to suppress slavery in the British West Indies (for it had already been suppressed by a judge’s decision some time before). Wilberforce based his policies upon his Methodist background, and he tended to be an energetic, sincere and humble figure. The book is certainly a praise fest, and although Metaxas mentioned some for the criticism that was leveled against Wilberforce during his life, it is always in terms of denouncing those who spread what he considered to be base calumnies. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein This is a rather old book about science fiction. One of the first missions to Mars all but fails, but a child is born from one of the couples who is then raised by the Martians. He is found by later Earth explorers and brought back to Earth. He has great difficulties adjusting to the new environment. Heinlein emphasizes a bit too much his sexual growth and practices. He also has subtle and not so subtle digs at religion. But much of the book is entertaining and even makes one think about greater ideas. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, September 19, 2019


September 19, 2019 Peace and Good I have been in Montreal for these past two weeks for the custodial chapter of the friars here. It is a small custody, and the friars get along quite well. During our discussions we dealt with the fact that their ministry (which is to Polish immigrants in Canada and the Northeast US) is slowly dying, for the emigration has largely dried up. Poles tend to go to Germany or the British Isles if they are seeking work nowadays. The weather here has been cool but nice. It is fall weather. I have had the opportunity to take some long walks, listening to my books on tape. I have gotten ahead with my daily reflections, and later today I hope to finish a couple of other projects. I fly out to London tonight where I will spend the day tomorrow. Then the next day I fly into Kenya for the first provincial chapter of the new province there. I have finished some reading: The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder This is a disturbing book which speak about two situations: the first was the inhuman conquest and destruction (with terrible human rights violations) of Nanking during World War II. The other is the story of a young, unbalanced woman who travels to Tokyo to ascertain the truth of something she had read and believed about what happened during this disaster. There are many images that are violent and disturbing, which the author fully intends given the topic that is covered by the book. The Great Swindle: the History of the South Sea Bubble by Virginia Cowles This is the story of the stock fraud called the South Seas bubble. The people at this time (in England and France) did not yet understand credit and stock bubbles. They were taken in by a scene to reap ever greater riches from the stock of a company that was effectively producing nothing. It all but destroyed the credit of France (which eventually led to the French Revolution). While the stock fraud was equally serious in England, the government there handled the mess better so that most people did not suffer as much as they did in France. Martin Van Buren by Hourly History While he would never be considered to be a great president, Martin Van Buren was important for the fact that he was the father of the modern political machine (with its spoiled system of political patronage). A one term president, he was able to settle some dangerous political situations with diplomacy both in his service as the secretary of state and later as president. Hell is Always Today by Jack Higgins This is one of Higgins’ many books. This one deals with a serial killer of women who strikes during rain storms in London. A woman is killed, but she is not the victim of this murderer. Nevertheless, in the investigation into her murder, clues surface that help in the apprehension of the serial murderer. The style of the books is dates, but it is nevertheless good, light reading. The History of Britain in 50 Events by Stephan Weaver This is one of those short books that goes through several thousands of years of history in 50 pages. It is not intended to be a serious study. It is more a pot porri that offers short bullet points of important events throughout the history of the nation they are presenting. Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky: the Controversial Mobsters who Worked with Lucky Luciano to Form the Notional Crime Syndicate by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of these two mobster figures who were deeply involved with organized crime in the New York area (branching out to Los Angeles, Los Vegas and Cuba). Siegel was the force man and Lansky was the economic genius who ran his operations as if they were a normal industry. The biography is not an encomium of these figures, speaking openly of their evil tendencies and acts. Have a good week.' Shalom fr. Jude

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


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


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


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