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