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