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