Friday, October 23, 2020


October 23, 2020 Peace and Good, I am still in London. I did my two weeks of quarantine, and now I am allowed to leave the house. I take my daily walk along the shore of the Thames (on the south side of the river, not all that far from the ferris wheel called the Eye. It is strange, however, with many people wearing masks and everyone trying to avoid close contact. Coved has gotten worse in the UK in these days, especially in the western cities of Liverpool and Manchester. They are classified at the 3rd level of isolation, while London is only at the 2nd level. The weather has been horrible with it raining almost every day. I like to walk in this city, but between covid and the weather, I have not done too much outside. I have had a great opportunity to do some writing work. I have finished editing my meditation book on Franciscan Spirituality, and today I will finish the first draft on my new children's Bible. I leave tomorrow for Chicago where I will be for a couple of weeks. I have finished some reading: Pompei by Robert Harris This is one of many books by Robert Harris that I have read. It deals with the explosion of Mount Vesuvius toward the end of the first century AD. The hero of the story is an acquarius, a man responsible for the care and maintenance of the aqueduct that brings water into this part of Italy. The action is very well written, and the characters are memorable, as in all of Harris’ books. Death at Beggar’s Opera by Deryn Lake This is one of a series of books written about an apothecary working in London named John Rawlings during the 18th century. He works part time as a detective for a magistrate famous for his crime solving ability nicknamed the Blind Beak. The action takes place in a privileged society and is filled with attitudes which are better read within their historic context. The morality of that particular era, at least among the privileged class, seems loose at best. Yet, the book comes together well and was a pleasant read. The Battle of Berlin by Hourly History This is a short outline of the warfare that led up to the fall of Berlin during World War II and some of the episodes during the fall itself. It does not give anything new, but it is a good review of the topic. Winter Moon by Dean Koontz This is a science fiction story of how a family who flees the violence and insanity in Los Angeles (especially since the father is an injured police officer who lost two of his partners in the past couple of years). They end up in Montana where they come into contact with a horrible extra-terrestrial monster which threatens humanity. The story is well told. The Young Turks by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the movement that moved the Ottoman empire from being an inward looking, dying entity to the modern state of Turkey. It did not occur easily, and there were many twists and turns along the way. It was finally Ataturk who was able to suppress the Caliphate and to create a single culture (by suppressing many of the minorities) in today’s Turkey. Augustus by John Williams This is one of the books which I purchased from Chirp Books. It is a discount outfit which allows one to listen to books (but not download them). This biography is written in the form of a series of letters and memorials on the various topics. A lot of attention is given to Augustus’ relationship with his daughter Julia whom he had exiled because of her adulterous conduct. The book proposes that this was an attempt to save her life from Augustus’ successor (and her husband) who would have had her killed. The book is well done. Must History Repeat Itself: the Great Conflicts of this Century by Joseph Nye This series from the Teaching Company studies the great conflicts of the 20th century and gives insights into how to respond to the situation in which we find ourselves today. It is one of the older series for it deals with the fall of Communism but does not deal with the rise of militant Islam and terrorism throughout the world. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


October 13, 2020 Peace and Good, I have begun my second week of quarantine in London. I am staying at our friary not to far away from Waterloo Station. Here is Great Britain, the quarantine means that you cannot leave your house. For the first six days, that meant to stay mostly in my room and avoid the other friars when I went down to eat. Fortunately, there is a nice roof on which I can do my daily walk. Corona has spiked again here, but especially in the north of the country. The Prime Minister has established a three tier system according to how much danger there is, and each tier has a different level of restrictions. I have been editing my Franciscan meditation book. 2/3's of it is done, and I am awaiting the proofs of the last third in the next couple of weeks. The weather here has been atrocious. It has been raining almost every day. I will finish my quarantine this coming Saturday, and then I have a series of meetings. I will be leaving London for Chicago on the 24th. I have finished some reading: Archaeology: An Introduction to the World’s Greatest Sites by Eric Cline This is an excellent and entertaining series of courses from the Teaching Company. It deals with archaeological techniques and finds throughout the East and West (centering on the ancient civilizations of the Mid-East). The professor who gave this presentation has a witty and funny style that makes series a joy to hear. Mysterious Polynesia: the Myths, Legends and Mysteries of the Polynesians by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the various myths among the Polynesian people. The book spends quite a bit of time talking about the stone monuments found at Easter Island – why they were constructed, how, etc. While the myths of the Polynesians are often similar throughout the range of their settlement, one nevertheless finds quite a bit of individual content in each band of islands upon which they are found. Pearl Harbor: Hinge of War by Richard Freeman This is a short overview of what led up to and what happened on December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor. The book is not intended to be all inclusive, but does give a good synopsis of the situation. Postwar by Tony Judt This is an extensive treatment of Europe in the aftermath of World War II up to the present days. I deals with the period of reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the war, and then with the various movements that swept across Europe (both West and East), including labor agitation, industrialization, the failure of the soviet system, terrorism, etc.). The book is well written, and a source of an enormous amount of information, but its length requires a real commitment. The Battle of Tarawa by Hourly History This invasion of the small Pacific island during the early days of World War II by the marines was one of the bloodiest battles fought during the war. The island was small, but the Japanese were well prepared, and the US forces had not yet learned many important lessons about amphibious warfare that they were to learn and incorporate into the plans after this battle. Emperor Hirohito by Hourly History This is a short biography of Emperor Hirohito of Japan, especially in the years leading up to his reign and his role during World War II. The book, in fact, all but ignores what he did following the war, even though he continued to reign for another thirty years. It asks the question of whether he should have been indicted as a war criminal, given his acquiescence to many of the things his army and navy did during the war. Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is another of the Preston and Child books that I have read. I like the series very much. This involves FBI investigator Pendergast and the death of this wife by the hands of a group of renascent Nazi’s who have set up a secret human breeding program in Brazil. Some of the action is a bit more fantastic than the other volumes in the series, and I could say that this is not my favorite of their books, but even so it is good enough to recommend. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 5, 2020

Chicago - London

October 5, 2020 Peace and Good, This past week I have participated in a provincial assembly in Chicago for the St.Bonaventure Province. The meeting went well. Originally it was to be a provincial chapter, but they could not guarantee a quorum because this province is in charge of the delegation in Australia and the borders there are closed. There was a very fraternal discussion, and a couple of decisions were made which were painful but necessary. The flight to London was good, although again there were not more than 1/6th of the seats filled. The border control was very easy. I had to fill out a long form on the internet before I flew, but at the passport control it did not take more than 30 seconds. I will be quaranteened for the next two weeks in our friary near Waterloo Station. The friars here have already shown great hospitality. I am trying to stay in my room most of the time because a couple of the friars here are hospital chaplains. I would hate to give them the virus. I have to stay in my room for the first week, and in the house for the week after that. The weather here is pretty much what one would expect: cloudy and rainy. I finished the following reading: All that Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes by Sue Black This is the story of the life and work of a forensic pathologist. She speaks of the necessity of autopsies, both for the person involved and for the teaching of medical students. She deals with her work in crime cases, as well as in cases of crimes against humanity such as the massacres in Kosovo. She does not speak much about the afterlife, for she seems to be a skeptic in that, but she does speak about the need to respect the dignity of life and even of the dead. Deep Down by Lee Child This is a short Jack Reacher novella. He is presented as a type of macho, secret agent who is sent to investigate the leaking of secret munitions data to industrial spies during a Congressional hearing. It turns out that the mole is actually a secret Soviet agent who was gathering information on gun specifications to intuit Pentagon warfare plans. The Good Pope: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church – The Story of John XXIII and Vatican II by Greg Tobin This is a short, but finely written biography of Pope John XXIII, especially centering on his papacy. We see John as a traditionalist in many ways, but also someone who was so pastoral and so open to the movements of the Spirit that he was able to call the Second Vatican Council and steer it in the right direction. Firestorm by Marshall De Bruhl This is an overview of the air warfare fought by Britain and American against Germany, concentrating especially in the firebombing of the beautiful city of Dresden toward the end of the war. There has been a lot of judgment cast upon that decision, but De Bruhl tries to explain how the reasons for doing the bombing were actually more complicated than often notices (e.g. the specific request by the Soviets to destroy marshalling yards for railroads to prevent reinforcement of Nazi troops at the front, and the fact that Dresden was one of the major marshalling yards). Yet, the terror of the event leaves one breathless. King Henry VII by Hourly History This is a short biography of the founder of the Tudor dynasty. He was an unlikely heir to the throne, but he managed to invade England and defeat Richard III. There is a huge debate over whether Richard III was really as bad as he is sometimes portrayed to be, for most of what was written about him was written by authors working in the Tudor era, so naturally their portrait of him come out negative. Henry is portrayed as a good ruler and a tightwad (whose accumulated treasures were then squandered by his spendthrift son, Henry VIII). The Dissolution of Czechoslovakia by Charles River Editors This short book deals with the creation of the state of Czechoslovakia, its difficulties with the Nazis, its time under the soviet system, and its regaining of freedom which led to the dissolution of the state into the Czech republic and Slovakia. King Darius the Great by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the great emperor of Persia who managed to extend the boundaries of the empire to its widest extent. His one failure was his invasion of Greece when his troops were turned back at the Battle of Marathon. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude