Monday, August 31, 2020


September 1, 2020 I have returned to Rome after spending a couple of weeks in Ellicott City going from one doctor's office to another. These were mostly just annual checkups, but I have to get them all in at one time because I am so rarely in the area. For the first time I had a couple of web visits with the doctors. I was not sure how that would go, but I was very pleased with the result. I am now in isolation for two weeks. I am in my own room, and there is a terraza outside my room upon which I can take my daily walks. It is actually quite comfortable. The friars bring food to my room, and I get to see or talk to them at a distance. After the isolation, we will have another definitory meeting. This time we are going up to the mountains in the north for a bit of time together. These months have been so strange that we are rarely in the same place at the same time. The weather is quite nice in these days - the 80's pretty much every day. The summer heat seems to be over for at least a while. I have finished some reading: The Making of the President 1972 by Theodore White This is an extensive account of the second election of Richard Nixon to be president. The book concentrates on the mistakes of George McGovern and the Democratic Party. They allowed themselves to be high jacked by interest groups which then controlled the process. The actual election campaign proved to be chaotic and contradictory. Nixon’s campaign, on the other hand, proved to be highly professional and successful in fund raising. That makes the irony of their having gotten involved in the Watergate break ins all the more inexplicable. They simply did not need to do it for they would have won no matter what. The Lakota Way by Joseph M Marshall, II This is an interesting book which contains some of the legends of the Lakota people. Each of the stories contains a message which invites the listener to a particular virtue, such as compassion or hospitality or courage. The presentation is well done. This is a book I listened to through a new service I found called The Good Spy by Kai Bird This is an account of the career of Robert Aimes who served in the CIA, the Mid-East division for a long time. He was known for his openness to the cause of the Arabs, and he secretly established lines of communication with the PLO. He was killed in the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut. The book is well written, and gives one an insight to methods of spying as well as the influence of political turns in the environment of the country and their effect upon the work of those working for the government. Uluru by Charles River Editors This is the history of Ayers Rock in Australia, a place of great interest to tourists, but a sacred site to the Aboriginal population. This short books gives a geologic explanation for the rock, as well as a series of the Aboriginal legends concerning various events that occurred there. The French Revolution: From Enlightenment to Tyranny by Ian Davidson This is a very good, very thorough presentation of the history of the French Revolution. The author’s premise is that the revolution started out as a revolt of the middle class which was burdened under a very unfair taxation system. Only later did it develop into a class revolution with the onset of the Terror. There are many, many names of those involved, and it is easy to lose tract, but the book is never boring. Binary by Michael Crichton This is a story of a mad internal terrorist who wants to set off a poison gas attack during the Republican National Convention in San Diego. An investigator of the State Department must track down the terrorist and figure out his plans. The story is well written with a good amount of intrigue. The Storm of War by Andrew Roberts This is a very good presentation of World War II, but as is often true on books about World War II, from a particular point of view (British). It is quite long, but never boring or overly detailed. I could easily recommend this book to anyone. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Ellicott City

August 22, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for the past ten days or so for a series of doctors and dentist appointments. I have to admit that after all these visits, I am a bit tired of being poked and prodded. I have one more appointment and that will be it. I am heading back to Rome on the 26th. I have a letter saying that my presence is required for a meeting of our business. That is a reference to our next definitory meeting in a couple of weeks. I will still have to do a two week quarantine in my room. This will be the third one that I have done. I have finished some reading: Famous Romans by J. Rufus Fears This is a course with the Teaching Company that follows the example of Livy to produce a list of famous Romans. The information in the course is very good, but the presentation by Rufus Fears is much to dramatic, almost comical. The Etruscans by Charles River Editors Like all of the Charles River Editors books, this gives good information concerning the civilization in central Italy that preceded Rome. It speaks of the many elements of the Etruscan culture that Rome later borrowed (e.g. roads, augury, etc.). The Oceans by OpenLearn This is one of the free courses from the Open Learn company concerning the oceans (what type of water, salinity, currents, weather, etc.). It is highly technical and, in spite of the fact that it presents a good amount of information, difficult to understand at times. The First Italian War by Charles River Editors This book speaks about the intervention of France and Spain in the politics of Italy during the 15th century which involved the battles in Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples. It took a very bad situation of warfare between various city states and made the situation much worse. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Paris by Charles River Editors This is the story of the basilica on Mont Marte in Paris. The story is well told, but it is very odd that the author spends the whole first third of the book speaking about Celtic worship on the hill where the basilica was built. It was built after the war between France and Prussia, a disastrous affair for France. It thus came to be identified with the religious right in France against the left (following the establishment and the destruction of the Commune in Paris at the end of the war). There was also a bit of controversy in the design of the Basilica, but it has grown to be a significant site for tourists in the city. History of Havana by Captivating History This is a short account of the history of the city of Havana from the days of its foundation early in the Spanish colonial days up to the present. The story is well told, with all the invasions and hurricanes and internal rebellions. Be safe. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 10, 2020

Arroyo Grande, California

August 10, 2020 Peace and Good, I have beenout at our Novitiate in Arroyo Grande for the past two weeks. This is located mid way between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a rather rural area, not all that far from the ocean. The weather has been great with the marine layer (morning fog) cooling off the temperature to the 70's each day. I have been giving conferences to the novices on Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Book of Revelation and the Psalms. There are six novices, and they are a good group of young men. The novice director is Br. Joseph Wood, and the assistant is fr. Maurice Richard. They are both very good in their service to the novices. We also have an elderly friar here (as we try to have in each house of formation). This is fr. Julian Zambinini who served in Rome and Assisi for many years. While here, I have a covid 19 test. I have to say that the service offered here was tremendous. The people on the internet site were helpful, the test itself was quick, and the results took only four days (which is much, much better than many other sites). I needed the test because I am heading out to the East Coast in these days and have a series of medical check ups, and they all require one to have had the test. I am negative at this point. I will be heading out to Baltimore tomorrow. I am not thrilled to pass through a couple of airports, but.... The flight from San Francisco is only about 5 1/2 hours, which is not bad considering some of the flights I have been on in these months. I have finished some reading: Biofuels by OpenLearn This is a short account of the various forms of biofuels and their possible environmental impact. The presentation is not all that extensive, but it does give quite a bit of information that is useful. Caligula by Hourly History This is an account of the emperor who followed Tiberias and preceded Claudius. He actually started out quite well, especially after the absentee and capricious and cruel reign of Tiberias. Only shortly into his reign, however, he suffered from a near fatal illness, and he seems to have become unhinged afterward. This account speaks of some of his cruelty and the horrific manner in which he treated his subjects. He was assassinated in a plot to end the madness of his reign. George Patton by Captivating History This is the story of the famous World War II general whose battle tactics were incredibly successful against the Germans. As good as he was in battle, he was that unsuccessful in his actions and speech which were at times disastrous. This account gives a good overview of his life. Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery and the Genius of the Royal Society by Bill Bryson This is a series of essays by members of the Royal Society on topics that deal with science and its impact upon the world today. This is an unusual book by Bryson who usually writes humorous accounts of his travels. The essays are on various topics and they vary in density of content (a few being quite dense). The Kingmaker’s Daughters by Philippa Gregory Philippa Gregory has written a number of novels set in the pre-Tudor and the Tudor era. They are from the point of view of the women who were involved. From what I can see, they are very well researched. The characters are believable, and the action is well laid out. This particular volume deals with the daughters of Warwick, the kingmaker (putting Edward IV on the throne and deposing Henry VI). I truly enjoy listening to these books. Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Lethem This is a very odd collection of short stories, many of which involve super heroes (but often not of the first grade of importance, e.g. Goat Man. It is entertaining, and some of them make one think. The Black Death by Captivating History This is an account of the great plague which hit Europe during the Middle Ages. Typical of a number of the captivating history productions that I have read, it is very down on the Catholic Church, blaming it for the poor response to the plague. Furthermore, it is incredibly judgmental of society for not responding with more rapidity when they heard that plague had broken out in China, etc. This charge is absurd, given the poor communication between Europe and East Asia at the time. I am not sure how many more of the captivating histories I even want to read. The Greek and Persian Wars by John Hale This is a series of lectures on the relationship between the great Persian Empire and the city states of Greece from the foundation of these states to the end of the reign of Alexander the Great. Like almost all of the Great Courses lectures, this presentation is well done and I could easily recommend it to others. I hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

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