Thursday, September 19, 2019

Montreal

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