Monday, August 3, 2020

Arroyo Grande, California

August 3, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in our novitiate all this past week giving lessons to the six novices. I will be here til the 11th, which is good because that fills out my two weeks of self-isolation requested at the airport when I arrived. No problems so far, although I do admit that I have bought a thermometer and have gotten in the practice of measuring my temperature twice a day, no matter what. The lessons are going very well. I covered major topics in the Gospels this past week, and will look at the Psalms this coming week. The novices are very interested, and they have great questions (which I always like, because even if I don't know the answer, it forces me to investigate and further my own knowledge). The weather is incredibly beautiful. We are not all that far from the ocean, so there is the marine layer which moderates the temperature. The mornings are wonderfully cool. I went into town (Grover Beach) to go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I found out that during the crisis they only have take out. I went to another restaurant which only has out of doors service. It was such an odd feeling that I ended up going home to eat lunch. It was almost dystopian. I can't wait til things are settled out (although I do have a lot of worries that they are rushing the vaccine too much for political reasons). I have finished some reading: Saint Augustine by Hourly History This is a short overview of the life and work of St. Augustine. It is well done, without any of the anti-Catholic prejudice that I often find in the Captivating History series. Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods This is a series of essays on various methodologies used to study the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of them have to do with the process of reconstructing the original text from a series of disjointed fragments. Others deal with sociological and historical studies which, while on the surface don’t exactly have a lot to do with the scrolls, nevertheless offer insight into the meaning of the texts. Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World by Tom Zoellner This is an audio book that I listened to concerning the element uranium including its discovery, mining, use and misuse. It deals with those who would like to use it to provide energy, as well as those who consider it to be too dangerous to use extensively. It also deals with the difficulties its mining has caused to indigenous populations such as the Aborigines of Australia. While it presents some of the science behind its use (both for energy and weapons), it does such in a way that is not overwhelming. A Devil is Waiting by Jack Higgins This is one of several books by Higgins that I have read. The premise of most of them is that there is a team of soldiers and ex-IRA provos who are working for the Prime Minister of Great Britain (directly) to fight against communism, which often involves Islamists, ex-IRA members who have not given up the fight, and Russian oligarchs. I have to admit that I liked his first books better for now the formula is starting to get a bit old. How do Empires WorK? By OpenLearn This is a short course that describes the difference between the Chinese empire of the last centuries and the British Empire and their collision during the Opium Wars. American Colossus by HW Brand This is the history of the US from the time of the Civil War up to the First World War. It especially deals with the growth in economic power in the States, but it also deals with social problems like the plight of African-Americans in the south, the labor movement, immigration, etc. It is a very well written book with an immense amount of information which is well delivered. Patrice Lumumba by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of one of the leaders of post-colonial Congo. The Belgian king Leopold exploited the colony for his own purposes, allowing the murder and torture of so many people. The Belgian government eventually took the colony away from the king, but never prepared the people for independence. When it did become independent, a civil war broke out almost immediately (often fostered by the economic interests of rich investors in the mining industry. Lumumba was a civil servant who tried to govern the country as it was falling apart. He applied for assistance to the Soviet Union and China (largely because the US and Great Britain would not help the new country because of their ties to those businessmen who were destroying the country). He was labeled as a communist, and was assassinated by Congolese rebels with the complicit approval of the CIA. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rome - Arroyo Grande, CA

July 28, 2020 Peace and Good, Yesterday I flew in from Europe to be at our novitiate in Arroyo Grande, California ( just outside of San Luis Obispo). There are six novices this year. I will be here until August 11th, presenting lessons on the Gospels and the Psalms and just sharing information about the Order. Travelling these days is no fun. There is a lot of paperwork and checkups along the way. I flew from Rome to Munich, there to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. I flew Lufthansa this time. The flight to Los Angeles was at most 1/6th full. Very few people are flying. The airports are all but empty. Everyone is wearing masks, although some are wearing them the wrong way and some take them off a lot in public. Arriving in the States was not bad. There was a form to fill out, they took our temperature, and gave us a brochure on self-isolation. The weather out here is perfect. The marine layer comes in at this time every year, so the temperature is about 70 during the day. It was much, much hotter in Rome. I finished some reading: Hangman by Faye Kellerman This is the first book I have read by Kellerman. She writes about a detective who is a practicing Jew (which enters often into the book). It is a good story. In this case, the story is about two mass murderers who are tracked down by the detective’s team. I intend to read other books by her. Ivan the Terrible by Captivating History This is the outline of the life and madness of Ivan. The title terrible is really a mistranslation of his title, for he was considered to be Ivan the Awesome, but he was also terrible, especially as he descended into murderous paranoia. The book speaks of the good he did, but also of the terrible massacres he committed with his accomplices. The author goes out of his way to excuse Ivan for this due to the murderous atmosphere in which he was raised. Wall Street Wars by Richard Farley This book deals with the attempt by the FDR administration to deal with the monetary difficulties during the depression. It included dealing with the stock market, the banks, and the gold standard. It deals with the various debates in the Congress and the lobby techniques of the moneyed class. The most interesting section deals with the work of Joseph Kennedy as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. This was the father of JFK, and the author is very complementary concerning his efforts. The Texas Revolution by Charles River Editors This is the story of the settlement of Anglos in Texas after the time of the American Revolutionary War which meant that they outnumbered the Hispanic settlers. It speaks of the tensions among them and the Native Americans. The Americans eventually broke away from Mexico which had gained its independence. The book speaks of the siege at the Alamo. It also speaks of the eventual annexation of Texas into the US. JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke This book deals with the last few months of JFK’s life before his assassination in Dallas. It has an enormous amount of inside information. The author is honest about what he knows and what he does not know. What is interesting is that Kennedy was doing an internal review of the US relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba, as well as rethinking our involvement in Vietnam. The book covers the assassination of the President of Vietnam in a coup approved by the US. The book also deals with the relationship between Jack and Jackie, which seems to have been improving in these months. The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon in 1950 by Bill Sloan This is a long and good treatment of the first year of the Korean War from the invasion by the North Koreans to the entrance of the Chinese into the struggle to countermand the invasion of ally troops into the far north of North Korea (along the border with China). It necessarily deals with the various military leaders for the Americans, including the always temperamental and sometimes unhinged MacArthur. The book gives extensive remembrances from the troops who fought. It is well done. Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Hourly History This is a short biography of the heroic Lutheran Church pastor who opposed the Nazi’s in his homeland. It speaks about his insights, his attempts to influence policy during the time of the Nazi’s, his insistence that he belonged in Germany (and his refusal to flee to safety) and finally his execution in the closing days of the war. One would have wished for a bit more insight into his personal struggle with his decisions and the dynamics of his faith life. Keep Safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 20, 2020


July 21, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope you all are well. I finished my quarantine in Rome and am now free to go around. Most of the people do not wear masks on the street, but it is required in mass transit. I still like to put mine on whenever I go out. We have our definitory meeting this week. Every morning is our usual business, and then in the afternoon we have a Zoom meeting with the presidents of the various federations throughout the world (7 of them). This kept the presidents from having to travel to Rome in this uncertain times. The rules of various countries seem to change by the hour. Spain and France have now closed their borders due to a new outbreak. I am able to be in Italy because of our meeting. I will be leaving Italy on Monday, heading to our novitiate in California. On the one part, California is not doing that well with Covid, on the other I will be in the novitiate which is fairly isolated. The weather here has gotten hot, hot, hot. This is normal for the end of July and August. It is strange to see so few tourists in the city. The Europeans tend to come here in the late Spring and the early Fall, while the Americans come during the summer. There are no Americans around this year. I finished some reading: Influenza: A Case Study by OpenLearn This is one of those free university courses on an individual topic from OpenLearn. This one tends to be highly technical and really only serves someone who has studied the dynamics of disease transmission and control. World War II: D-Day by Hourly History This is a short account of the planning, execution and aftermath of the D Day invasion. The author gives a good amount of information in a very short format. The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology by Edward Kilmartin, SJ This is the study produced by Edward Kilmartin and edited after his death by another Jesuit. It is highly complicated and intense, but had a wealth of information. I had to read it slowly and carefully, but it gave me a series of insights into various topics about the Eucharist and the celebration of the Mass. Anglo-Saxons by Captivating History This is a short account of the settlement and kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons, Germanic settlers in England. It offers too much information about individual kings, leading to a confusing mix that is not all that helpful. The Abbey by James Martin, SJ This is a short but very nicely written book about a custodian of an abbey and his landlady and their relationship to a couple of the monks of the abbey near Philadelphia. It is not the best book I have read on a topic like this, but it is good. Especially good is the author’s attempt to recognize the need for a difficult and complicated faith journey in the characters. Werewolves by Charles River Editors This is a short book on the various traditions and myths concerning werewolves throughout Europe. Much of what we know from films and TV programs is a later development in the legends. Sometimes the legends have the werewolf an accomplice of the devil, other times not. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


July 14, 2020 Peace and Good, Today marks the 43rd anniversary of when I first set out for Europe to begin my studies there with my classmate, fr. Robert Twele. I have only a couple of days left in my quarantine. These days have been very productive. I have finished my daily reflections on scripture up to the end of August, and I have finished all of my articles for the Messenger of St. Anthony until the end of next year. Next week we have a meeting of our definitory, and after that I will head to California to spend some time with our novices. After that I will head to Ellicott City for some doctor's and dentist's visits, and then back here again. The way things are going in the States, I will most probably have another two week period of quarantine. Needless to say, I have gotten quite a bit of reading done in these days: Bunker Hill by Nathanael Philbrick All that Philbrick has written is well done, and that is especially true of this book. It deals with what preceded the battle, the battle itself, and its aftermath. It gives a good insight into some of the major characters involved, and provides ample background information on the whole period. This is a book that I can easily recommend. Trail of Tears by Captivating History This is an account of the ethnic cleansing decision by President Andrew Jackson to exile all of the native Americans in the Southeast US to Oklahoma. Although they signed a fraudulent treaty, the US authorities never kept the provisions of their own agreement. Thousands died along the way from North Carolina and its environs to Oklahoma. The author goes a little overboard in declaiming the blatant racism of this (which it was), but the story needs to be told. Halicarnassus by Charles River Editors This is a major city in Asia Minor that played a major role in various wars and advances and retreats of world empires. It was the birthplace of Herodotus, the famous Greek historian. It was also the site of the famous tomb of King Masalaus, which gave the name to the structure known as the Mausoleum. Gene Manipulation in Plants by OpenLearn This speaks about the techniques of gene manipulation in plants used for agriculture. It gives two major examples: to resist the effects of herbicides and antibiotics, and to add nutritive value to the crop. It also deals with some of the questions raised by those who are deeply suspicious of genetically altered crops. The Dark Ages by Captivating History This is a short account of the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire in the West until the coming of the Renaissance. The author of this series tends to be anti-Catholic and anti-Church, but other than that, his information is interesting. The Battle of Kursk by Hourly History This is the story of a great tank battle that occurred in the Ukraine in the summer after the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad. This was an attempt by Hitler to regain the initiative, but the Soviets knew about the coming battle and prepared well for it. The German loses during the battle meant that they were henceforth on the defensive until the end of the war. I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter This is a fictional account of the career of Jack the Ripper told from three perspectives: that of a diary written by Jack himself, that of the memoirs of a reporter who followed the story, and that of a series of letters written by a prostitute in this era. The book is not intended to be the official solution to the mystery, but simply a take on the story. It is well done. Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests that History Forgot by Joseph Cummins We tend to know about the Boston Tea Party, but we often don’t realize that this was only one of the many forms of resistance involving the tea trade that took place in the colonies around the same time as the affair in Boston. This book goes through the various stories of other episodes, asking at times how historic the accounts are. Managing Coastal Environments by OpenLearn This is a very short course on the dynamics of dealing with estuary and marshland maintenance. It deals with human manipulation of the environment (for agriculture, for seaside houses, etc.) as well as the mega-effect of global warming and the rise in sea levels In precarious areas. It speaks of efforts to rehab some coastal environments as well. The short course is quite informative. Keep Safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Seoul, South Korea - Rome

July 5, 2020 Peace and Good, Well, I made it back to Italy. The trip was long, going from Korea to Doha, Qatar, and then from there to Rome. The first plane was almost empty, but the second was packed to the gills. There was absolutely no social distancing. We had to wear face masks and shields the whole way. I did not know if I would get into Italy because of Coronavirus restrictions. In Seoul, they had to call Italian immigration to make sure they would accept me. That took about an hour and a half to get an answer, and I was really starting to get nervous. Then the thumbs up came and I flew out. In Rome, there was absolutely no difficulty. I do have to make another two weeks of self-isolation, but that is in my own room in Santi Apostoli. Furthermore, I have a beautiful terraza outside my room, so I can do my daily walk there. It has gotten hot in Rome, much more so than in Korea. I will be here in Rome until the end of the month, and then head out again to California. All of my travel plans are tenuous, though, because of rules that change every other day. I have to admit that we Americans don't look that good around the world right now because of our poor response to Covid 19. Korea worked very hard at their infections, and they are down to 20 to 30 per day in the whole country. I have finished some reading: Madamn de Pompadour by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the famous mistress of King Louis XV of France. Although not glamorous nor of the nobility, she managed to become indispensable for the king for a long period of his life (even though he was also married). She used her power carefully, and also served as a procurer of younger and more beautiful women to amuse the king (without ever endangering her hold on his affections and attention). Loos 1915: the Unwanted Battle by George Carrigan This is one of the many pointless and hopelessly lethal battles of World War I. It has a lot of military detail, much more than the casual reader would be interested in considering. Yet, it is good as an example of how cheap life became when one’s goals were out of perspective during a time of crisis. The Fear Index by Robert Harris Robert Harris has become one of my favorite authors. He is the author of a trilogy upon Cicero, a novel about a Tony Blair like figure, of Alfred Dreyfus of the Dreyfus Affair. This novel is a bit different. A brilliant Artificial Intelligence scientist develops a plan to invest money in the stock market based on playing against the fears for some sort of turmoil that the market might be facing. Being an artificial intelligence, though, the machine begins to think and plan for itself. The book is very good. King Edward VI by Hourly History This is a short biography of the son of Henry VIII who took the throne after him. He died a very young man the throne passed to his half-sister Mary who tried to restore Catholicism to England, using considerable violence. The author is clearly prejudiced in his book, cheering every way that Edward worked to make England more Protestant. The Origin of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms by OpenLearn This is a short university course that speaks of the reign of Charles I and the origin of the wars that developed in Scotland, Ireland and England. Each of the rebellions had its own cause. Some of it was based on religion, while other aspects like Charles’ attitude toward his reign (believing in the divine right of kings) played a role, as did the party of Puritans who wanted to make England more clearly Protestant. Boudicca: Warrior Woman of Roman Britain by Caitlin Gillespie This was a warrior queen who rebelled against the power of Rome during the reign of Nero. She and her followers managed to burn three important Roman cities and they fought bravely against the legions of Rome. She died when she was defeated. Boudicca fought the Romans largely because her husband, the king, had left his inheritance to Nero in the hope that the Romans would protect and respect Boudicca and her daughters, but the Romans abused Boudicca and raped her daughters. Have a good and safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Seoul - Inchon - Busan - Ilgwang - Daegu - Seoul

June 29, 2020 The Feast of Ss Peter and Paul Peace and Good, I have entered into my last week in Korea. I will leave for Rome very early on Friday morning. As you can see, I have been travelling around the nation visiting the friars. When I took the train with another friar, there were no problems. The only thing is that one is supposed to wear a mask whenever one is in public. The friars have been most hospitable. Theoretically, after I write my report, I am supposed to travel back here to give the report at their chapter in October. I doubt that is going to happen given the requirements for quarantine. I will probably have to give it over Zoom. The weather is warming up. Korea can be very hot and humid in the summer. This week also begins the rainy season. I have finished some reading: Delphi Complete Works of Giotto This is the first of the Delphi collections that I have read. This is a series of books on various authors. It covers their major works, and also reprints major works by art critics on this particular artist. Giotto is famous for passing from the Byzantine style of art to a more modern form with different coloring, more life in the characters, and background rather than static formulas as in Byzantine icons. His work is especially evident in Padua (the Scrovegni Chapel), Assisi (St. Francis Basilica) and Florence. The Apache and Comanche by Charles River Editors This short book deals with these two famous and ferocious tribes from the American Southwest (especially in the area of Texas and New Mexico). It gives the history and major characteristics of the tribes as well as their eventual defeat by American or Mexican (or both) invaders. Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway by Walter Lord Walter Lord has written many good books on individual topics, such as the sinking of the Titanic (A Night to Remember). This book covers the miraculous victory of American aerial forces against a Japanese invasion of the island of Midway. Much of the victory was due to the fact that the Americans had broken the codes of the Japanese, but much of it was incredible luck for most of the waves of American bombers were shot down without doing any damage. Only a few of the last planes got through, and ultimately the Americans destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers for the loss of one American one. Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Glenn F Williams Governor Dunmore was the head of the colonial government of Virginia, and this is the story of how a series of Indian raids (which were often caused by settler encroachment upon their territory) led to an Indian war just before the War of Independence. In fact, news of Lexington and Concord reached the colonial troops during their battles. The book tries to give a balanced view of the events, but it does lean at times to an apologia of the Virginia forces. Patrick Kingsley by Audible Interviews This is an interview with a reporter who has written a book on the refugee crisis in Europe (The New Odyssey). He tries to understand the state of the problem from every viewpoint without being too judgmental. He tells the stories of various refugees whom he has met. Ann Morgan by Audible Interviews This is the author of a book about twins who decide to take each other’s place (Beside Myself), but one of them ends up suffering from mental illness. She hears voices in her head, and has manic and depressive moments in her life. As always, there is a difficult dynamic with members of her own family in dealing with this problem, especially “mother.” Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis Joseph J. Ellis is a good author of topics concerning the Revolutionary era of American history, and this book is a good example of that. It deals with the aftermath of the colonial victory at Boston and their defeat in the New York City area. It is honest about the missteps of both the British and American leadership. It is a good read. Have a good and safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Inchon - Seoul - Gangwa - Yahgpyeong -- South Korea

June 22, 2020 Peace and Good, I am out of quarantine and doing my visitation of the Korean province. There are about 65 friars, spread out in 8 friaries in Korea and one in the States. They are involved in many different apostolates (parish, care for handicapped children, care for the elderly, retreat house, etc.) Visiting the province is a bit of a challenge, because I must always remember not to apply my US or Roman way of judging. It is a very different culture. I will be in Korea until July 3rd when I head back to Rome. I don't know yet whether I will have a quarantine when I arrive there or not. The weather here is getting very hot. It is also quite humid here in Seoul for it runs along the Han River. The food is very good but you have to like it spicy because it always is. I finished some reading: 1861 Civil War Beginnings by Nick Vulich This is one of the worst books I have read in a long while. Vulich portrays himself as a new type of historian, but some of his writing borders on childish. This is the last book I will read by this author. Ernest Hemingway by Charles River Editors This is easily one of the best biographies that I have read from Charles River Editors. The life and works of Hemingway are treated honestly, showing the talent and the personal shortfalls of Hemingway. The author delves into some of Hemingway’s personal history to explain some of his plots and his self-destructive tendencies. I strongly recommend this particular treatment. Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler I read this book as part of a research for a talk I am giving in Romania in a short while. The author is a Jewish man who studies the story of Abraham and its treatment by Jewish, Christian and Islamic commentators. He sees this common figure in these three religions as a possible starting point in dialog. His treatment of the story is at times creative, and is always well studied and from the heart. Inheriting Abraham by John D. Levenson This is a book which I read as part of a research for a talk that I am giving in Romania. It speaks about Abraham from the perspective of Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources. Part of the premise of the book is that Abraham is not a figure to base an inter-religious dialog upon. He argues that the positions taken by authors of each of these religions has made that type of exercise futile and irrelevant. Many of his arguments are well taken, but some of them are made by taking the most extreme of possible interpreters and then positing that position as exemplary of the entire school of interpretation. Elizabeth and Essex: a Tragic History by Lytton Strachey Essex was a noble in the court of Queen Elizabeth during her last years. This book deals with the queen who could be both capricious and maddingly unable to make a decision, and Essex who was impetuous and sought glory at any cost. Although she madly loved him, she also did things that acted as a red flag in front of this vain and at times foolish man, until he finally chose to rebel against her and she executed him. Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower and a Dangerous World by William Lee Miller This is a comparison on these two important American figures. The author speaks of how contemporaries judged them (with Eisenhower more popular at the time) and how historians not judge them (with Truman seen as the better president). He deals with how they dealt with the Korean War, the McCarthy Red Scare, the Atomic Bomb, Civil Rights, etc. In all, Miller holds in favor of Truman, even if he is able to recognize his shortfalls. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Inchon, South Korea

June 14, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in quarantine in a hotel near the airport in Seoul, South Korea, but the end is in sight. I will be released on Wednesday morning, and yesterday they sent around a form to ask about my transportation needs. The food has been very good (brought to the room three times a day). The room is nice, although taking my 40 minute walk each day is a challenge. I have had a good amount of time for writing and have finished half of another book ( a children's Bible aimed at 5th and 6th graders). Once I am out of the hotel, I will be doing my visitation of the province. It is about 65 friars, and they have 8 or 9 friaries. I have already visited their friary in California, in Torrence, where they have a chapel to serve the needs of the Korean Catholic population in that region. The weather is nice, and summer is slowly arriving. I have finished some reading: The Rise and the Fall of the British Empire by Patrick Alitt This is a 36 lecture course on the growth and the demise of the British Empire. The professor, while British, is remarkable honest about the positive and negative dimensions of the empire’s treatment of its colonies. He is also entertaining, with a dry sense of humor that makes listening to the courses a joy. The Wonder of Birds by Jim Robbins This is an interesting account of what we can learn from birds, how we can celebrate them, and what we don’t know about them (e.g. how they navigate during migration – is it possible that they are conscious of magnetic or quantum forces that we cannot perceive). It also deals with the value of caring for birds both ecologically and for troubled people who are consoled by the beauty and majesty of birds in flight. World War II in the Arctic by Charles River Editor This is an account of the two wars fought in the Arctic during World War II: the Nazi and Finnish invasion of the far north of the Soviet Union, and the Japanese invasion of the two Aleutian islands of Attu and Kisha. It gives information of how the battles were fought, what the stakes were, and how both invasions ultimately failed. John Connolly by Audible Interviews This author speaks about his book on Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy fame. Laurel had been married five times with numerable affairs. His book is historical fiction. This is a bit of a change from his usual topic which is the Charlie Parker detective novels. What is Europe by OpenLearn This essay deals with the question of the identity of Europe and the Europeans. Is it to be a geographic definition, or a cultural one? How tightly united should Europe be, especially in the European Union? Should periferal areas be allowed into the definition, like Turkey or Georgia? The essay does not have many final solutions, but it does speak of unity in diversity as the best policy. Joan of Arc by Helen Castor This is the first book I have read by Castor, but it won’t be the last. The book is a brilliant presentation of the history of the times (the hundred years war). It presents a portrait of John of Arc in as much as we know about her. It is not saccharine or over negative, finding the proper balance in the presentation. It includes account of her two trials (the one the condemned her and a later, posthumous one that overturned that verdict) as well as her canonization. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the topic. Living in a Globalized World by OpenLearn This is a short course on how the globalized economy developed. The professor gives a good outline of the historic process and the pluses and negatives involved in the process. For a very short presentation, I feel as if I learned a lot. Aaron Burr by Captivating History This is a short account of this man, one of the Founding Fathers and the third vice-president of the country, who was always known for his blind ambition and very loose sexual morals. He is the one who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and also planned a treasonous act of conquering the western parts of the US and parts of Mexico to set up his own country. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, June 8, 2020

Ellicott City - Seoul, South Korea

June 9, 2020 Peace and Good, Well, I finally left Ellicott City. The friars there treated me wonderfully, but given the peripatetic life style that I have lived in these years, I found it strange to be in the same spot for so long. On the other hand, it was great not to be suffering from jet lag which is often the case with me. I flew to South Korea via Atlanta. It was a long, long flight, especially because there was a screaming young child behind me for almost 15 hours. When I arrived in Korea, I wanted to self-quarantine in our friary where the friars had set aside an isolated room. But the authorities told me that since they were not officially relatives, I would have to stay at the government center. This is actually a hotel that the government is using for quarantine. It is very comfortable, and the only problem with the food is that there is too much. The food is brought to your door three times a day. You open the door, take the food, and close it again. That is the only time you are even close to leaving the room. I will be here until the 17th. It is really not bad at all, and I am getting some work done on my next book, a children's bible for the fifth and sixth grade level. The weather is nice, warming up. Seoul can get very hot and humid during the summer, but it has not yet hit. When I finish the isolation, I will visit the friars in this province to prepare a report for their provincial chapter (this November). I have finished some reading: Misery by Stephen King I had seen the movie with Cathy Bates and James Caan. That was scary. The book is every more so. There are some events that the film could not possibly have recorded which appear in the book. King in an incredible author in painting a scene of absolute terror. I highly recommend this book (and all of his books, which I especially like for the richness of the language used). Gene Miller by Charles River Editors This is a pleasant, short history of the band leader from the 30’s and 40’s. The book speaks about his rise in the music world, his collaboration with other band greats, his success, and his untimely death in December of 1944 in a plane crash over the English Channel when he was serving his country by organizing entertainment for the troops. The Flavian Dynasty by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the dynasty that succeeded Nero (and his immediate, short-lived successors) to take over the Roman Empire. They included Vespasian and his sons Titus and Domitian. The first two are ranked as quite good emperors (especially after the madness of Nero), but the last, Domitian (who may or may not have poisoned his brother, Titus) turned out to be paranoid and murderous. Volcanic Hazards by OpenLearn This is a short university course from OpenLearn (which are free on kindle) concerning the various ways that volcanoes are dangerous with a definition of terms. This particular course is not all that profound in its treatment of the topic. David Baldacci by Audio Interviews This is an interview of the author concerning his new series which revolves around an FBI agent named Atlee Pine. She runs an independent office in the countryside in the West (which involves two Native American Reservations). Exploring a Romano-African City: Thugga by OpenLearn This is a short university course with audio-visual supplements on a particular ancient city in Africa near the border with Mauritania. It shows elements of Roman culture from the time it was incorporated into the empire, but these elements grew as time went by. It is interesting to see at first the imposition of Roman culture and then gradually the tendency of the local population to embrace it (although always retaining certain of their own cultural elements). Stay healthy. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ellicott City, MD

May 31, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope all is going well with you, and that you have been healthy. I have been in Ellicott City for the past few months. The friars here have been great, and made me feel very much at home. Tomorrow it is time to get on the road again. I will be travelling to South Korea for a month. The first two weeks I will be in quarantine in one of our friaries in Gangwa, not too far from the airport. There quarantine is interpreted not only as staying in one place, but actually being isolated in one room. Then I will be doing a visitation of the province as they prepare for their chapter this coming fall. On July 3rd I will head to Italy. I don't know at this time what the rules will be when I arrive there. I might have another two weeks of isolation. I have asked my publisher to give me a project to work on those days. I have already finished one book, a meditation book on Franciscan Spirituality. The new project will be to write another children's Bible, this one for fifth and sixth graders. I have finished some reading: Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of many books I have read by these authors. This one deals with zombies and a voodoo church located at the outskirts of New York City. Inspector Pendergast investigates the murder of one of his friends, which leads to more murders and a kidnapping. The action is well done, and the dialog is brilliant. I sometimes just enjoy hearing some of the vocabulary the authors have chosen. I would recommend any of the books of this series to anyone interested. The Devil’s Punchbowl by Greg Iles This is a story told in Natchez by the great novelist of that part of the south. It is about a gambling boat which is run by Chinese interest by some most unsavory characters. The narrator is the mayor of the city who tries to find out what is going on and stop it, in the meantime protecting his family and friends. The book is very well written. It can be a bit graphic in terms of the violence, so I would not recommend it for everyone. But it made me want to read more of Iles’ novels. Garibaldi and the making of Italy by George MacCaulay Trevelyan This is the story of the revolutionary leader of the forces of Sicily and southern Italy which helped to unite the country in the 1860’s. Garibaldi is presented more favorably in this account. Since this book is written by a British protestant, the view of the Catholic Church is almost universally negative. While the Church was reactionary in certain decisions, the author is non-stopping in his criticism. Overall, the book is interesting, told from a British point of view. Interestingly enough, President Lincoln offered to make Garibaldi the leader of the Union troops during the Civil War. Dunsmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era by Glenn Williams Just before the Revolutionary War, there was a series of attacks on settlers to the south of the Ohio River in what today is Kentucky and the western parts of Virginia. The native Americans of certain tribes went to war against settlers whom they believed were encroaching on their hunting grounds. There had been a treaty ceding those lands, but it had been signed only by some of the native groups. Governor Dunsmore organized a punishing expedition against the tribes with whom there were difficulties. It was not a war of conquest as such, for the borders remained the same after the war as before. But there were atrocities on both sides in this brutal episode. Ironically, the militias that went to war served as the core of the very troops that chased Dunsmore out of the colony when it declared its independence. Investigating American Presidents by Paul Rosenzweig This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company dealing with the history and application of the idea of investigating the actions of a president. It is a most timely topic, and gives much information on such topics as impeachment, investigations, presidential privilege, pardons, etc. The author is a constitutional lawyer, and his treatment of the topic is fair and very, very informative. The Battle of the Atlantic by Hourly History This is a sort overview of the Battle of the Atlantic (submarine and surface vessel warfare) during World War II. The information is good, but the treatment seemed a bit cavalier to me. Take care and keep well. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

May 9, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in Ellicott City awaiting permission to travel. I spoke with the Minister General this week, and I am planning to fly to Korea on June 1st. The schedule of this visit is arranged in such a way that even if I must spend two weeks in quarantine, I will still have enough time for the visit. Then I will be heading back to Italy, the first time that I will have been there in a long, long time. I have been working on a minute meditation book for Catholic Book Company. I have most of the text done, and will be editing it on Monday is all goes well. One of the things that I have found in these weeks in Audible which is a division of Amazon. Not only can you buy their books on audio, you can also acquire a good number of books and articles for free (e.g. articles from Foreign Affairs). There is plenty of space in this property to take long walks, which I really appreciate. I have finished some reading: The United States Camel Corps by Charles River Editors This is one of those short books put out by Charles River Editors to deal with a well-defined topic. In this case, the topic is the use of camels that was explored just before the Civil War. A good number of camels were brought over to the States, but the use of camels (for transport of goods, of soldiers, etc.) never really caught on here, and the advent of the Civil War sapped any energy for this type of experiment. Collapse by Jared Diamond This is a masterful treatment of the collapse of various societies throughout the ages. Diamond accumulates a wealth of information about particular societies, e.g. Easter Island, the Viking population of Greenland, Australia, etc. and speaks of how the group either degraded their environment or managed to deal with it in a way that allowed for the culture’s continuity. He then speaks of the modern era and lessons to learn from what we are doing today. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in anthropology, or environmental science, or sociology. It is so rich that it covers all of these areas well. Traitor to His Class by H. W. Brand This was a short biography of Franklin Roosevelt. I thought it would deal more with his relations with members of his social class, but in spirt of the title, it dealt mostly with what he did and how he decided to do it. While I consider Roosevelt to be a great president, I do not always like his character and his gamesmanship with those who sought to do his will. The Story Luke Tells: Luke’s Unique Witness to the Gospel by Justo Gonzalez I enjoyed this short overview of the Gospel of Luke. The author deals with the most important topics. Only occasionally does he allow his own interpretative background color his evaluation of the message of the text. It found this book useful as a meditation on what I mostly already knew, but which was useful to review. Nixon and Mao: the Week that Changed the World by Margaret Macmillan This book deals with the journey of Nixon (and Kissinger) to China during the closing years of Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Nixon had been known as a staunch anti-Communist, so he was a most unlikely character to open up relations between the two countries, but it was his very conservatism that allowed him to do it (since it quieted many of those who would have been opposed if he had been more liberal). This book brings out the duplicitousness of Kissinger and his incredible need for power (all but side-lining George Rogers, the Secretary of State). It also brings out the good and the bad of these initial negotiations (especially how they caught some of our most important allies by surprise). This is a very good account of that era. The Republic of Genoa by Charles River Editors The city of Genoa, a port city on the northwest coast of Italy, was a major force during the Middle Ages (and in fact was a major rival to Venice for many years). While not exactly the most beautiful city in Italy, the author of this book nevertheless speaks of it being a city worth the effort of visiting and exploring. The Marquis de Lafayette by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the Marquis de Lafayette. He arrived in this country to fight for our independence as a very young man. At first discounted, he eventually proved himself a good soldier as well as a constant friend of the cause of the American Revolution (intervening with the king of France to help our cause). After our revolution, he lived through the confusing time of the French Revolution (with which he sympathized at the beginning) and Napoleon. I am praying for all of you. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 20, 2020

Ellicott City

April 20, 2020 Peace and Good, Like just about everyone else in the US and almost around the world, we are still locked down. This has been a restful time, being in the same time zone for weeks on end. My heart is staying in rhythm, which is very good. I don't know when it will be possible to return to Rome. I have e mailed my travel agent this morning to see if he knows anything. In the meantime, I have started writing a book of minute meditations on Franciscan spirituality. I have done two other of these books on other topics, so I know the style. Spring keeps coming and going these days. One day it feels like summer, the next like winter. But the flowers and the birds are beautiful. I finished some reading: The Dust Bowl by Charles River Editors This is the account of the ecological disaster that occurred when large regions of the West were plowed under during a historic cycle of wet weather, to be followed by a long and severe drought. With the land plowed (and therefore the cover of vegetation removed), massive amounts of dust and dirt was carried into the air on windy days which travelled for hundreds of miles and destroyed crops and killed people through dust pneumonia). This short account gives a good account of the tragedy that so many families faced and their attempts to survive this disaster. Dynasty: the Rise and the Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland This is an excellent treatment of the Augustan dynasty from the time of Julius Caesar to the death of Nero. It gives a balanced account of what happened, informing the reader about rumors (such as the conduct of Livia, the wife of Augustus) without getting into gossip mongering. I would highly recommend this particular volume. The Philippines Campaign of World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the capture of the Philippines by the Japanese at the beginning of World War II (especially concentrating on the capture of Corregidor and the Bataan peninsula). It then treats the recapture of the islands by allied forces in 1944 and 1945. The latter part of the book is a tedious account of the various battles fought in this campaign. Island of Vice by Richard Zachs This is the story of the two years that Teddy Roosevelt served as a commissioner of police in New York City. At that time, New York was under the control of a very corrupt administration. Roosevelt attempted to clean up the police force, but he also proved to be a pedantic enforcer of the laws against selling alcohol on Sundays (which was especially detested by many of the immigrants who were used to enjoying their Sundays at beer gardens in their home countries). The author is able to show the whole picture of Teddy, both his good intention but also his stubborn intransigence. The Vicksburg Campaign by Charles River Editors This is a quick version of the story of the siege of Vicksburg, the last city along the Mississippi that was in the hands of the Confederates during the Civil War. It was conquered by Grant, although after a series of frustrated attempts. The Olmec and Toltec by Charles River Editors This is the story of two early Meso-American cultures which were antecedents to the Mayans and the Aztecs. The story of the Olmec’s is somewhat clearer, even though there is very little written documentation. That of the Toltec is not quite as clear because much that was written about them was produced by the Aztec, and they tended to rewrite history (including the supposed story of the Toltecs) to make their own culture more important. Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer and Paul Boehm This is the incredible story of the attempt to preserve a large trove of scholarly documents from the ravages of El Qaida which had captured the ancient city of Timbuktu in the country of Mali. Many of the manuscripts had been kept by families for decades to keep them out of the hands of those who would destroy them (including an Islamist invasion in the 19th century). The man especially responsible for this intervention also received funds from the West for the conservation of the documents which had not been treated kindly for a long time. The manuscripts give evidence to an incredible flourishing academic tradition in this desert city for centuries, an interesting story in itself. The Berlin Airlift and the Berlin Wall by Charles River Editors This is an account both of the Berlin Airlift to bring assistance to the city of Berlin when the Soviets cut of surface access to the city shortly after World War II, and the construction and maintenance of the Berlin Wall in the 80’s, and then the fall of the wall in 1989. It gives a good, balanced version of the events. Stay well! You're in my prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Ellicott City

April 11, 2020 Peace and Good, I continue to stay in place at our provincialate in Ellicott City. It has been a peaceful time with a lot of reading, some study, and the beginning of a new book on daily meditations from Franciscan Saints. I am collecting sayings right now from the various saints and blessed throughout the ages. Spring has arrived down here in fits and starts. One day it almost feels like summer, and the next you need a winter coat. The flowers blooming are magnificent, especially the cherry trees. Audible has made a good number of books available for free streaming, and I am listening to the first Harry Potter book again. It really is well written. I know that some people find a book about witches to be dangerous, but I never saw it that way. I have finished some books: Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen This is the account of two explorers, one English and one American, who travelled to Central America in the 19th century and discovered the ruins of ancient Mayan cities. Stevens and Catherwood faced enormous difficulties in their task, partly due to the jungle nature of the area in which the cities were located, and partly due to the political instability of the area in those years. Their published accounts on their travels were enormously popular and led to much greater interest in this topic. The Hundred Years War by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the hundred years war fought between England and France in the 14th century. It actually was a series of wars fought over questions of how the king of England might also serve as a vassal of the king of France for those territories over which he had control on the continent. At a certain point, the king of England also claimed to be the king of France and fought for that right. This book also includes the story of Joan of Arc who rallied the French in order to allow the coronation of the dauphin of France. The Cambridge Five by Captivating History Captivating History is a series similar to the Charles River Editors books. They are short accounts of various historic topics. This book speaks about five Cambridge University students who became secret agent of the KBG during the 30’s, some of whom served the Soviets into the 60’s. Kim Philby was the most famous of all of them. They were responsible for the loss of many secrets throughout their careers, including the names of many Western agents and even Catholic activists in Nazi Germany who were killed by the Soviet secret services. Blue Mauritius: The Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Stamps by Helen Morgan The blue Mauritius is a stamp that was one of the first issued in this island colony of Great Britain. It was a blue stamp with the image of Queen Victoria. It became a famous and very, very expensive stamp due to its rarity and the fact that there was a variance in its printed title in its first version. The book gives a history of stamp collecting as well as stamp frauds. It is quite good, but definitely a book that would be more enjoyed by someone who is involved in this hobby. Surrounded by Love: 7 teachings from St. Francis by Murray Bodo Murray Bodo is a Friar Minor who is also a poet. I read one of his works when I first became a friar and was quite inspired by his ideas. I recently came across this book on sale on Kindle and purchased it. It was well worth it. It gives a good overview of Francis’ spirituality without being overly scholastic. Great Battles of the Ancient World by Garrett Fagan Fagan is a great presenter of various ancient topics, and this is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company on great battles of the ancient world. It deals with the various societies, the causes of war, and the way that battles were fought. He gives good insights into how this topic is important to us today. The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon The is a type of Utopia story when a ship comes to a unknown country. There the people live their Christianity faithfully (for it was revealed to them by a supernatural revelation). Bacon, being an amateur scientist, describes how the sages of the country apply their energy to all types of practical science. Happy Easter fr. Jude

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ellicott City

April 7, 2020 Peace and Good, I certainly did not expect to be at Ellicott City all this time, which is what a lot of us are saying. This time has helped me get way ahead on daily reflections, and even to begin a new meditation book that the publisher asked me to consider. The community here is very good, and very supportive. My health problems seem to have been solved, at least for now. Spring has arrived in Maryland, and there is plenty of land to walk at the friary. I have finished some books: Beastly Things by Donna Leon I love the books written by Donna Leon. She writes about a police Commisario in Venice. Her read of Venetian society is perfect, and there are many hidden jokes and insinuations that can be understood only by someone who has lived in Italy. The Commisario is a decent man with a good family who treats others with respect, even when he has to face the maddening politics of Italy. The Spy and the Traitor by Ben McIntyre I have read a number of books by McIntyre, and this is one of his best. He writes especially about spy (true) stories. This one is about a KGB officer who defected to serve the British Secret Service. The most exciting part of the story is how the British were able to smuggle Oleg Gordiev out of the Soviet Union in the trunk of a car. He was eventually betrayed by a CIA traitor, Aldrich Aimes, who sold the KG the names of all those Russians who were serving the West. Haile Sailaise by Charles River Editors This is the story of the last emperor of Ethiopia. He is famous for his defense of his country during the invasion of it by the Italians just before World War II. He is also considered to be a God by the Rustifarians (their name being a version of a title that he bore, the Rustifar, which more or less means the Marshal). He started out as a reformer, but by his death he was an autocrat surrounded by his servants who failed to inform him of the real situation in his country (which included a famine which killed millions). Watergate: the Scandal that brought down a President by Charles River Editors This is an overview of the scandal of the Watergate. Ironically, Nixon did not need his dirty tricks to win the election over McGovern. Furthermore, the worst thing he did was not even the original crime as much as the cover-up. While some of the things that he did were already done by others before him (and after), nevertheless Nixon’s personality did not lend to sympathy. Catherine the Great by Robert Massie Massie has been a biographer of a number of important Russian figures such as Peter the Great. This biography is filled with important information. It explains the motivation of how someone who supported enlightenment ideas would end up being a sometimes cruel autocrat. While she supposedly supported a higher morality, she certainly did not live it in her personal life, having one lover after another. The book is well done. The Rosicrucians by Charles River Editors This is a short history of this secret mystical society founded in Europe in the early 17th century. It is an amalgam of Jewish, Christian and hermetical mystical ideas. At times, it has been associated with Freemasonry. It is difficult to say exactly what it is given its secret character. Some would associate it with famous modern figures. Anthony and Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy This is a masterful account of the lives and times of the Roman Marcus Antonius and the Hellenistic Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Goldsworthy is a very good historian, and he uses all of his talent to outline what happened and why in these two figures. He deals with the fate of the decline of the Roman Republic and the murderous, incestuous death of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt. I would highly recommend this particular book. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ellicott City

March 31, 2020 Peace and Good, Like many of you, I have been closed in at our house in Ellicott City. This has been a great time to get a lot of work written, especially the daily reflections. The friars here have been very welcoming. It has also given me a good chance to read and listen to a number of books. The weather here is changing. The cherry trees are all in bloom, and it is really beautiful. I suspect that I will be here til at least a couple of weeks after Easter. It depends not only on the situation here, but also in Italy which was hit so, so hard in the pandemic. My heart rhythm has been good in these days ever since the last cardioversion. I have finished a number of books: Enemy in the Shadows: the World of Spies by Norman Gelb This is a short history of the use of spy craft during war and outside of war. I have read a book by Gelb on Dunkirk, and have found his style very good. This is not a comprehensive study, but it is more anecdotal and at times entertaining. The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor Beevor is a great author of the history of warfare, and this is one of a number of his books that I have read, including books on the Spanish Civil War and on the siege of Stalingrad. He is very thorough, giving not only details but also background information about the people involved. His account is very long and very involved, but also very well done. Main Fleet to Singapore by Russell Grenfell This book, written by a British mariner, speaks of the tactical mistakes made by Great Britain before and during the outbreak of World War II concerning the defense of Singapore. It outlines the naval disasters which were largely the result of a lack of preparation for a war which would have a large air component. The author is an outspoken proponent of Empire, and his treatment of Churchill might be stilted by his lack of perspective concerning the need to balance the needs of one theater of warfare against another, but the account is good. The Last Tsar and Tsarina by Virginia Cowles This is a relatively short account of the lives and careers (especially the mistakes) of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The book is not as academic and extensive as the books done by Robert Massie, but it does give sufficient information on the topic. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal This is a highly artistic account of an attempt by a British artist who works in ceramics and pottery to investigate the travels and careers of his family which began as Russian Jewish traders in grain from Odessa, Russia. They ended up as bankers and businessmen in Paris, London, Vienna, etc. The premise of the book is a reflection upon a collection of netsuke, small carved figures from Japan which the author inherited from his uncle who had settled in Japan. The story includes information on the plight of Jewish families in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially his branch of the family which resided in Vienna when Hitler came to power. The author’s language is elevated and his reflections serve as a source of meditation on art, politics, family, etc. World War II – 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 by History by the Hour This is a series of short accounts of the years of World War II. None of them provide deep insight, but they give a good outline of what happened in a particular year and why. Majestie: the Man Behind the King James Bible by David Teems This is the story of King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. It deals with the horrific circumstances of his early years (father killed, possibly in a plot hatched by his mother, Queen Mary of the Scots, and mother beheaded by Queen Elizabeth of England after a series of failed attempts to escape and possibly overthrow Elizabeth). The major part of the book centers on King James’ most important project: the sponsoring of the King James Bible. This bible was produced in an especially fertile era of literary production (Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.). It was also produced at a time of increasing tension between the Anglican element of the Church of England and that of the Puritans. The author obviously has great affection for the figure of King James, but that never allows him to paper over his almost constant imprudence and decadence. Walt Disney by Charles River Editors This is the story of the famed cartoonist and amusement park mogul from his earliest days up to his death. In his earliest days, he was often in debt and surviving from one cartoon to the next. It was only after Mickey Mouse was invented, and even more when his feature films were issued that he had the money to dream into life his Disneyland. He was not exactly the most attentive of husbands, always being caught up with his projects. Furthermore, he comes across as a distant and at time abusive boss. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 20, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

March 20, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope you are well and are keeping safe. I have been in Ellicott City for about a month now, and given all the travel restrictions, I will probably be here for quite a while. I am trying to self-isolate as much as possible, given my health problems lately. I had another procedure done on Wednesday, a cardioversion, and the cardiologist has finally gotten my heart in its proper rhythm. I do not know if this will last, but it is good that I have arrived at this point. I was in Atrial Fibrilation so long that I didn't even know what not being in it felt like. I can notice the difference now, and it feels good. I have another meeting this coming week with the cardiologist. I have to admit that I am not sorry not to be in Italy in these weeks. The poor people there. There have been so many deaths, largely because of the elderly population there as well as the hospital system which I do not think is up to par. I finished some reading: The First Battle of Kiev by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the conquest of Kiev by the German troops during World War II. At this point, the Germans were all but invincible, while the Soviets were saddled by the interference of Stalin who refused to allow his troops to make judicious retreats in order to save them from utter destruction. The Fall of Constantinople by Charles River Editors This account gives a short history of the city that the emperor Constantine made into the capitol of his empire, and eventually became the capitol of the Eastern Byzantine empire from its origin to its fall to the Turks in 1453. Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy This is an account of the building and maintenance of the defensive wall built between England under the Romans and Scotland under the local tribes. Goldsworthy, along with many other authors, argues that the wall itself would not hold out the invaders. It was intended as an early warning device so that local troops could slow the invader down while other troops could be collected and advanced to the threatened positions. Furthermore, through much of its history, it was used to regulate trade (and taxes upon such trade) between the north and the Roman south. As always, Goldsworthy’s treatment is scholarly without being boring. America at War by Terence Finn This is a book which covers the various wars (and policing actions) which America has fought. Each chapter covers another war, and the author gives a good treatment of why the war developed, what were the major actions during the war, what were the right and wrong choices made by civil and military leaders during the war, and what the aftermath of the war was. The author is not a gung ho militarist. He gives reasoned arguments to show why this or that decision led to victory or failure. Medical School for Everyone: Emergency Medicine by Dr. Roy Benaroch This is a teaching company course on dealing with emergency situations in hospitals. After numerous disclaimers concerning this not being intended to diagnose medical situations, it gives a case by case account of diagnosing and then treating patients who come into the emergency room. Benaroch insists that the most important diagnostic tool is listening to the patient. Their information is not always clear and ordered, but it is the best source of information to make a diagnosis. The Irish Identity: Independence, History and Literature by Marc Conner This is a Teaching Company course on the resurrection of Irish culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. The author gives a good account of the various authors (and some politicians) who played a role in the renaissance of Irish culture and the Irish state. Some works (books and/or plays) are covered in detail. The work is quite good. The Afghan Wars by Rupert Colley This is a short account of the numerous wars that have been fought in this corner of the world. This has been a terribly troubled area since ancient times, as it continues to be up to this day. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 13, 2020

Ellicott City

March 13, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for these past few weeks. At one of my recent cardiologist appointments, they discovered that I was in atrial fibrillation and my cardiologist has been working with various medicines to try to get the heart beat back in synch. So far, it has not worked, but we continue to work on it. In the meantime, I feel great. I am still doing my 40 minute vigorous walk each day without any difficulty. Obviously, I am trying to be very careful about exposure to the coronavirus because what I have would be considered to be a pre-existent condition. I am glad that this was all found while I was near my regular doctors (as opposed to somewhere in Asia or Africa). I am working on a couple of projects. One of the nice things I am doing is a series of short podcasts for the Companions' website. I have been doing 6 a day for the past couple of weeks, so we have built up a very nice library of topics. I am also working on the translation of a book from Italian to English on spiritual direction for priests. I have finished some reading: The Taj Mahal by Charles River Editors This is a quick historical overview of the great Indian monument to the love of a Mughal leader toward his wife. It was also a massive edifice to demonstrate the power of that empire, placed at a key point along a river so that all the merchants passing by would be reminded of who was in charge. It is a mixture of Hindu, Persian and other Islamic influences. The book gives a good rendering of why the building is so impressive. Discovering Genesis by Iain Provan This is an interesting overview of the book of Genesis by a Protestant author. Even though the background of the author is not what I normally read, I found the book enlightening with some insights which I had never considered. I had obtained this book when it was on sale by Kindle, and I will keep my looking for other volumes in the series to notice when they are on sale. The Swamp Fox by John Oller and Joe Barrett This is a biography of Francis Marion, the militia leader who led troops against the British during the Revolutionary War in South Carolina. He has become a mythic figure, and this biography is largely a paean to his greatness. The book is well written, not quite objective (but making no pretenses that it is). Stalin by Ian Grey This is a biography of this unusual and frankly frightening figure. Some of the chapters in the book are quite honest and forthright on the pluses and minuses of Stalin, while others are sadly simply a mouthing of communist propaganda on certain topics (such of the arrest of resistance figures by the NKVD when Poland was being conquered, the reason why Stalin installed communist governments in Eastern Europe and his techniques, etc.). 36 Books that changed the World by The Teaching Company This is a series of lectures by multiple professors on what are considered to be some of the most important books published throughout the centuries. It is a mixed bag of presentations. Some fit better into the format of an overview of a book, while others present only one aspect of that work (since they are taken out of context from a much longer presentation). Nevertheless, as always with the Teaching Company courses, it provides a lot of useful information. Discernment by Henri Nouwen This is a series of lectures by Nouwen and edited by his followers concerning discerning the will of God in our lives. As with his other books, it centers upon the idea that God loves us and wants what is best for us. This is part of a series of books on Nouwen’s thought that are relatively short, but very meaningful. I am praying for your health and that of your family. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ellicott City

February 26, 2020 Peace and Good, I have unexpectedly hit a bit of a road block. I am in Ellicott City, and I have to take care of a medical problem before I get back on the road. It is not super serious, but it is better to take care of things here before something happens in the middle of Asia or Africa. I got to the doctor tomorrow to get marching orders and will probably put something about it all in the next page of this blog. This has given me a chance to catch up on a couple of small projects. One of them is to do some filming for the Companions web site. I have done about 30 short segments in these weeks that will be edited and posted at various times. The other is to begin a translation of a book on spiritual discernment for my publisher. I had intended to work on it after Easter when I was going to be in Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, for five weeks, but it seems as if that trip has been scrapped. I finished some books: The Republic of Venice by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history of the Venetian Republic. It was founded as a refuge for those fleeing from the barbarians at the end of the Roman Empire. It gradually grew to be a center for trade in the Mediterranean Sea. Its downfall was due to the discovery of other trade routes, the series of defeats at the hands of other powers, especially the Ottomans, and a failure to keep up with modern developments. The republic was abolished under Napoleon, and after his wars given to Austria, only coming to be part of Italy after more warfare between it and Austria. The Vikings by Kenneth Harl This is a Teaching Company course that speaks of the Vikings from their earliest days until the time that they became the modern states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The presenter is excellent, and he gives both the history and indications on culture and the international influence of the peoples we call the Vikings. The Cambridge Medieval History: Book 1 Part 2 From the Rise of Constantine to the Death of Julian This is a series of essays about the latter part of the end of the Roman Empire and the rise of the power of the Church. The topics are academic, and thus at times a bit dense, but the information they contain is invaluable. The Mycenaeans by Charles River Editors This is a short book on the history of the Mycenaeans, the predecessors of the Minoans and the ancestors of the classical Greek civilization (along with various tribes that moved into Greece over the centuries). They lived around the time that Homer wrote about in his epic the Iliad. The Franco-Prussian War by Charles River Editors This is a short but thorough overview of the Franco-Prussian war, especially dealing with the unification of Germany under Bismarck (who used war as a tool to bring together the many German states). It deals a bit with the French side of the story, but not at length. This war in 1870 ended the reign of Napoleon III and brought in the republic which lasted until World War II. Pandemic by Robin Cook This is a very good book about a quirky but brilliant Medical Investigator who is looking into a sudden death due to a total pulmonary collapse of a woman on a subway (who had entered the subway healthy). It also has to do with genetic engineering, etc. The medical investigator’s wife is the chief of that department. Cook also deals with the family situation and the inner turmoil of the hero of the story. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Peoria - Ellicott City

February 18, 2020 Peace and Good, I finished the retreat with the Sisters of the Third Order in Peoria. I flew back to Baltimore and am staying in Ellicott City for some days for some medical tests. The weather here has been very cold, but seems now to be becoming warmer. I will use this week to catch up with some projects. It is good not to have to travel too much these days, and to be in the same time zone for a while. I have finished some reading: December 1941 by Craig Shirley This is a day by day overview of the month which brought the US into World War II through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most of the information is fairly neutral, but toward the end, the author begins to make some strange value judgments about various generals and presidents that just don’t belong in a book like this. State of Fear by Michael Crichton This book reminds me of a saying by Grant concerning Robert E. Lee – never had such a good man fought in such a bad cause. Crichton is generally a good author, but this book is a sad screed against those who speak about global warming. The only thing that got me to read it to the end is that while I firmly hold for global warming and the effect of human activity in causing it, I nevertheless like to hear the other side of the argument. What might have been worthwhile was his presentation on some of the sloppy science by some (not all) of the scientists and the hysteria with which some ecologist present their message. Overall, though, this work was poorly done, and I would never recommend it to anyone. The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson This is a highly complex story of a detective in Seville who is strangely moved by the murder of one of his father’s old acquaintances. This leads him to look into his own father’s past, and he finds things he wishes he had never seen. The book is good, I would say very good, but it takes a commitment to get through it. All Roads Lead to Rome by Charles River Editors This is a short book on road building in the Roman republic and empire and in particular on the Appian way, the road that leads from Rome to the southern Adriatic coast after meandering through the fertile lands around Naples. The Underground Railroad by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the underground railroad, emphasizing the role of blacks in the establishment and maintenance of the network of people who helped escaped slaves to reach freedom, often in Canada The best part of the book is the stories about Harriet Tubman, whose role in the railroad was so significant that she was given the nickname Moses for she led her people to freedom. Mary Surratt by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the first woman who was executed for a crime by the federal government. In this case, she is said to have been involved in the murder of President Lincoln. She knew and hosted a number of the conspirators in her Washington DC lodging house. There is quite a bit of controversy over whether she was given a fair trial (for she was brought before a court-martial court and not a civilian court), but it does seem as if there is adequate evidence that she was somewhat involved in the plan. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 10, 2020


February 10, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in East Peoria preaching a retreat to a group of Franciscan sisters. I finish at lunch tomorrow, and I will drive back to Chicago and fly out to Baltimore on Wednesday. The retreat has gone very well. It is on the Gospels and their lessons to Franciscan life. This is only a small community, around 19 sisters, but they have an enormous influence for the Health Care Network that they manage. It includes several hospitals and hospices, two schools of nursing, and it has just merged with the Little Company of Mary Health Care System. The property of the Mother House is incredibly beautiful. It is over 30 acres of ponds and rolling countryside. I have finished some reading: The Golden Saying of Epictetus Epictetus was a Roman slave from the second century AD who was also a Stoic philosopher. He wrote a series of saying concerning living a life of indifference to the vicissitudes of life and trusting in the plan of the almighty. I had always heard about these sayings, but had never actually read them. Now I fully intend to reread them every once in a while. They are very good. The Mysteries of Mithras: the History and Legacy of Ancient Rome’s Most Mysterious Religious Cult by Charles River Editors This is a short book on one of the most famous mystery cults in ancient times. Many Romans stopped believing in the power of the traditional Roman gods for they were not pictured as intercessors who could assist one in need. A number of mystery religions (called this for they had secret rites) came from the Mideast and Egypt in the early centuries of the first millennium. Among these was the cult of Mithra, a Persian deity. He was especially popular with soldiers, which probably explains how the faith spread from Persia all the way to Rome. Vincent Van Gogh by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous artist. It gives a good insight into his life and career. It made me want to read a longer biography in the future. America’s Deadliest Hurricanes by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of three of the major hurricanes to hit the US in the past century: Galveston, Okeechobee, and Katrina. The reporting is good, and there are a number of touching remembrances by people who were involved in the disaster. The Last Tsar by Donald Crawford This is the story of Tsar Michael, the brother of Tsar Nicholas II who became the last tsar of the Russian empire when Nicholas abdicated the throne for himself and his son Alexis. Michael was a decent man, and a war hero. Unlike the other Grand Dukes who remained behind in safety during battles, Michel was courageous. He was much loved by his troops, a band of Muslim horsemen whom nobody thought could be trained to be soldiers. He was rejected by his brother and Alexandra, the tsaress, because he married a common woman who had been twice divorced. Alexandra comes across looking petty and prudish. The read is very good. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie This is a short story of Hercule Poirot who seeks a stolen ruby in order to spare an Indian price of embarrassment. He finds it attending a traditional Christmas celebration, something that he had sworn never to do. As always, the story is well performed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rome - Chicago - Baltimore - Chicago - Peoria

February 3, 2020 Peace and Good, From Rome, I travelled to Chicago to give a series of lectures to the postulants. The topic was the Letters of St. Paul. There is a lot of spiritual information in those letters which are valuable for those considering religious life. There are four postulants this year: two from Our Lady of Angels Province, one from St. Bonaventure and one from St. Joseph of Cupertino Province. They are a bit older, from 30 to 40 years old, and quite mature. I had a very good time sharing with them. In mid week, they had their apostolates, so I scooted over to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines in order to have my ordinary cardiology visit, and a couple of other appointments. I flew back to Chicago on Thursday and finished my classes. Then yesterday I travelled to East Peoria. I am giving a one week retreat to a group of sisters here who run a group of hospitals throughout the MidWest. I will begin the retreat tomorrow evening. The weather in Chicago was incredibly dreary until Sunday. It felt like being in London during winter. I finished some reading: Hannibal by Theodore Ayrault Dodge This is a rather long, quite detailed story of the life and adventures of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who invaded Italy and remained a threat to the forces of Rome all throughout his long occupation of the southern part of the peninsula. He continuously defeated the forces of Rome. His greatest enemy, however, was not even the Romans. It was the Carthaginian senators who refused to back him up with troops and supplies and funds. The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of the volumes in which Aloysius Pendergast, the FBI agent, must fight the evil plans of his deranged brother, Diogenes. The action takes place in New York at one of the famous museums. It involves the opening of a long lost tomb of an Egyptian dignitary and the curse laid upon said tomb. The greatest difficulty is that Aloysius has been imprisoned because he has been framed for murder by his brother. Like all of the volumes by these authors, the action is very well developed, even if details at times are a bit farfetched. Nevertheless, the authors have a talent for making even those details believable. Mr. Lincoln: the Life of Abraham Lincoln by Professor Allen Guelzo This is a teaching company course (12 lectures) on the life and career of Abraham Lincoln. The professor who presents this material is more than a fan of Lincoln. He is often laudatory to the point of obsequisness. Yet, the material is good and insightful. Ancient Pergamun by Charles River Editors This is a short outline of the history of Pergamum. This city is famous for two things. First of all, its library rivalled that of Alexandria, but unlike the latter, the scrolls prepared and conserved there were done on Pergamum (which is named after the city). The legend is that there was an embargo on the exportation of papyrus to Pergamum because the Pharaoh was jealous of the library that was being prepared there. The second claim to fame was the altar to Apollos and the temple to Asclepius, the pagan god of healing. History’s Greatest Mysteries: The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Charles River Editors This is the story of one of the earlier attempts at colonialization of the New World, in this case that of England in North Carolina. The major purpose of this colony was to provide a site for the refurnishing of privateers sent from England to harass the ships that Spain sent with treasure from the New World back to Spain. The colonists were not experts in agriculture, and certainly not in intercultural relations with the native Americans. A group of them left in Roanoke disappeared and have never been located in times since then. The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures by Philip Mould This is an enjoyable account of an art dealer (British, dealing in portraits) and his adventures in finding authentic but unknown works of art, as well as disproving frauds. He goes through the process used before one would buy one of these works, the history of the painting as much as is known, and then the process of restoring the work to its original state as much as is possible (especially after many of the works have suffered damage due to amateur attempts at restoration). The author works on the BBC program roadshow (which was the original patterns for the PBS version). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Castro Valey, CA - Clifton, NJ - Troy, NY - Rome

January 23, 2020 Peace and Good, After my visit with the provincial and secretary of the California province, I flew out to New Jersey. I stayed overnight at the parish of St. John Kanty, a parish run by the friars of the Montreal Custody (for most of the people in the parish are Polish immigrants). The next morning I had a good meeting with my publisher, Catholic Book Publishing Company. I do not have a lot of time to write in these days, but they gave me a couple of possible works that I could try over these next months. On Friday evening I drove up to Troy, NY for the memorial mass of Bishop Elias Manning, a friar from Troy who served in Brazil for over 60 years and died there recently. I was representing the Minister General there. Then Saturday evening I flew back to Rome. I lucked out, for both in Neward and in London they were able to transfer me to an earlier flight, which meant I got back to Rome earlier than had originally been planned. Early Monday morning I and the rest of the definitory headed out to the Seraphicum, our seminary on the outskirts of Rome, for a workshop with the new Ministers Provincial, Custodes and secretaries who have been elected in these past few months. This is a course on how to run the provinces and what paper work and procedures must be followed. I will be flying out again on Sunday, this time to Chicago to present a workshop to our postulants. I finished some reading: American Military: from Colonials to Counterinsurgents by Wesley Clark This is a quick history of the American military, especially in its interventions in times of war. Wesley Clark, who was part of the Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia, and who served as the head of NATO for a number of years, is the presenter. His insights are good, but not genius. He comes from his own military background, so he tends to defend military interventions even when other scholars might question them. One good thing is that he is able to situate various intervention in their historic background, explaining why certain things were said (even when those saying them knew them to be untrue, e.g. the insistence on the Iraqis possessing weapons of mass destruction when we knew that, if they did, they were not that important). Flinders Petrie: the Life and Legacy of the Father of Modern Egyptology by Charles River Editors This was one of the most famous British archaeologists. He basically invented the modern system of archaeology. Instead of digging up mounds to find the big objects that would then be shipped off to museums in one’s home country, Petrie taught that the excavations should be done slowly, carefully, and with meticulous documentation. Even small broken objects can be of importance in reconstructing the era and culture of the people one is studying. This book deals a lot more with the finds in Egypt than with Petrie’s life, but it is nevertheless good. Don’t Know Much About the Civil War by Kenneth Davis This is an overview of the times leading up to the Civil War and the war itself. It is written in a folksy style, with numerous references to what various main characters said or wrote. The author spends much time insisting that slavery was the only important cause of the war. In general, the book is good, but not the best I have read on the topic. The Great Siege of Malta by Ernie Bradford In 1565, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire tried to conquer Malta. This was to extinguish the Knights of Malta who were a religious order stationed there and who continuously harassed commerce among the Islamic states, but also to establish a foothold in Europe to use for invasion of Sicily and Italy. In spite of the overwhelming military supremacy of the Ottomans, they were unable the island due to the heroic struggle of the knights and the native Maltese. The book is very well told and an enjoyable read. De Gaulle by Aidan Crawley This is a long but thorough biography of Charles De Gaulle, the hero of World War II. The author presents his personality with all of its prickliness. In his second coming after the Algerian Revolt, he is presented as a bit of an egomaniac. Oddly, the author does not really deal with De Gaulle after his resignation from office until the time of his death. It is a good book, but an investment in time and in frustration at the ways at which De Gaulle was at times self-destructive. A Case of Need by Michael Crichton The book is very good, but the topic is unfortunate. It deals with a doctor accused of performing an abortion in Boston before the laws were changed. Crichton defends the idea of free access to abortion all throughout the book. The good part of the book is the investigation into the details of the problem by a friend of the doctor, a doctor who performs medical pathological studies. The Postwar Occupation of Japan by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of this particular topic. It shows that the US occupation was rather enlightened, even when those in charge of it didn’t know what they were doing. It speaks about the deconstruction of the military dictatorship and the growth of democracy. It also speaks about the horrible difficulties in the early years of the occupation with food, work, etc. This changed radically at the outset of the Korean War when Japanese industry was called upon to provide much of the war materials. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Rome - Los Angeles - Castro Valley, CA

January 15, 2020 Peace and Good, This past Saturday we finished our definitory, and Sunday I headed out to Los Angeles. It was a good trip, but very long - 2 1/2 hours to London and then another 11 hours to LA. The weather here is cool. Tonight we are supposed to get some rain. I rested on Monday after the trip, and on Tuesday I went to our Korean friars' friary in Torrence for their canonical visitation. I will be visiting the Korean province in June, and this is the first of the friars living outside of the province that I have visited. This morning I flew into Oakland to visit our friars in Castro Valley. I met with the provincial and the secretary of the province to talk about a number of different situations. I find it is so useful to speak face to face. You get so much done. Tomorrow I will fly out to Clifton, NJ. I will stay with some of our friars there who work with an immigrant Polish population. Then on Friday morning I will head into Totowa (which is nearby) to visit with my publisher. I finished some reading: Killing England by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard This is part of the “killing” series of Bill O’Reilly. It is well done, informative, but here at there a bit spotty (overlooking inconvenient details that do not mesh well with Bill O’Reilly’s personal politics). Overall, I would rate it a good book to read. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz This is possibly my favorite series of books. Dean Koontz is a good author, using words as an artist would colors. His hero is a young fry cook who sees ghosts whom he helps to continue on to the other side. In this volume, he has sought refuge and peace in a monastery in the Cascades. There is a hospice there for severely handicapped children, often victims of violence. Odd (that is his name) must discover the looming threat that hovers over this place of peace and recovery. The character Odd is kind and generous, and a bit of a smart a.., but always in a gentle way. The Unification of Germany by Charles River Editors This short book deals with the process by which many, many small German states united under the leadership of the Prussians. The genius (some would say evil genius) behind this was Otto Von Bismarck, the Prime Minister of Prussia. He used war as a tool for his diplomatic endeavors. The book covers the period running from the Congress of Vienna until the resignation of Bismarck. The Phaedo by Plato This is another one of those classics which I have read about, but had never read. It purports to me the dialog between Socrates and his friends the last day of his life. It deals with questions about the immortality of the soul, etc. It is always difficult to determine how much is Socrates and how much is Plato, but the dialog is well worth reading (even if some of the arguments presented are not all that convincing since they are tightly tethered to Platonic philosophy). A Gallery of Poisoners by Adrian Vincent This is a collection of stories about people who were convicted or at least accused of poisoning others from the US and Great Britain between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The information is interesting, but the style of writing is highly Victorian. Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson This is a suspense novel set in a resort town in Colorado. There is a mysterious theft, which only leads to more difficulties. The sheriff is the hero of the story. The action is well done. I would not say it was my favorite read, but it was mildly entertaining. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


January 8, 2020 Peace and Good, I am coming to the end of spending almost a month here in Rome. It has been a quiet time until this week when we began a new definitory. We will be meeting until this coming Saturday, and then Sunday I head out to California. Rome has been very cold, near freezing every morning. It has not been raining all that much, but a bit grey. The friars are all cautioning me (half joking and half not) about future travel plans considering that I am a US citizen and Iran is not happy with us at all. I will try to avoid taking the Gulf airlines for the next couple of months until things calm down. Furthermore, my schedule calls for me to be at a friary on the West Bank of the Jordan in Palestinian territory right after Easter. We will have to play this by ear. I finished some reading: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick This is the story of the suffering of ordinary people in North Korea and the attempt of some of them to flee to the South (which is the source of these stories, for no one could have gotten this information except through someone who had already fled). The reach of the totalitarian state is incredible, and their wild disregard for the good of their own people sickening. It is well worth reading an account like this in a time that we are negotiating with this unreliable and evil regime. Kashmir, Gujarat and the Punjab by Charles River Editors This is a short account of these three troubled regions of northern India from ancient times to the present. They have had a mix of different religious populations (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian). This has led to interminable conflict between Pakistan and India. The British Museum by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history of the British Museum. It has sometimes been called the largest collection of stolen goods in the world. I visited the museum a few years back, and it is wonderful. But it faces the usual questions of an institution like this: finances, what should be exhibited, what should be repatriated, etc. The Medici by Paul Strathern This is a very, very good history of the Medici family from its origins as a banking clan to its downfall in decadence at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. The book speaks of Lorenzo the Magnificent, of the artists who worked for the family, of their role in the Renaissance, of the two Medici popes, of their marriages into European royal families, especially France, etc. The author gives tons of information, but never overloads the account. He gives his opinion on controversies, but never in a judgmental way. I highly recommend this account. Ancient Empires Before Alexander by Robert Dise This is a series of 36 lectures from the teaching company about ancient empires from Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Near East, etc. The lecturer is very talented, and gives a good, balanced account of what happened throughout this era. This is one of the Teaching Company’s better courses. Defending Jacob by William Landay This is the account of the trial of a young boy who is accused of stabbing to death his brutal classmate. The father is an assistant district attorney while the mother is a caring teacher. The boy himself comes across as detached, troubled. He is their only son. The account is painful to read, but in the best sense of the word. A very good book! Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude