Monday, February 25, 2019

Rome - Ellicott City

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ellicott City - Rome

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

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

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