Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ocean City, Maryland

September 25, 2021 Peace and Good, I have spent the week at the shore this past week. It has been a very restful time. There is something about the sound of the waves that calms me almost immediately. I finished a couple of projects in these days (including a long translation from Italian to English), but overall I had lots of time to read books and listen to them. The weather has been not all that bad. Even Thursday, which was supposed to be stormy, turned out quite well. I passed a CVS on my daily walks, and decided this was a good time to get my flu shot and my shingles vaccine. The Minute Clinic is a great idea. It makes it so conveninet to get this small things done, and the nurse practioner was tremendous in her care. I finish my vacation tomorrow and will head back to Ellicott City. This week I will dedicate especially to doing some filming for segments for the Companions of St. Anthony. I finished some reading: Canaletto by Delphi Classics This is a beautiful presentation of the Venetian artist whose works include both scenes of the canals of Venice and various British scenes (where he resided for a while). The academic background in minimal, but sufficient. The amount of detail in each of his painting is incredible. America’s Forgotten Wars by Charles River Editors This is an overview of various internal difficulties and external wars that America fought but which are largely forgotten today, e.g. the Philippine rebellion after the Spanish American War, a rebellion of Mexican-Americans after the Mexican American War, the Whiskey Rebellion, the war against the Barbary Pirates, etc. Egyptian Mythology by Matt Clayton This is an overview of the major gods of the Egyptian pantheon. It deals with the evolution of their cult, of their representation in art, of their centers of worship, of their influence in later versions of the Egyptian (and other) religion. The Varangian Guard by Charles River Editors The Varangian Guard were a personal body guard of the Byzantine Emperor. Originally they were from the Russ, being descendants of Scandinavian settlers in the Ukraine and Russia, and later were mostly English soldiers. In general, they defended the reigning emperor, although toward the end of their role they began to play king makers themselves. They were so ferocious that, at times, they were sent into battle against the enemies of the empire, including Muslims, Bulgarians, and invading barbarians. The Kingdom of Kush by Captivating History This is a short history of the kingdom of Kush, what we today would call the Sudan. It gives a great amount of information on the cultural links and discontinuities with Egypt during its history. The author shows Kush to be a culture which had a value for its own achievements. The Great Fire of Rome by Stephen Dando-Collins This is a short account of what happened during the great fire of Rome. It investigates the theory that Nero was behind it all. It deals with the conditions of living in Rome before and after the fire. It also speaks of the scapegoats who suffered after the fire, chosen to deflect the attention from Nero (whether he was guilty or not). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Rome - Baltimore - Ocean City

September 19, 2021 Peace and Good, I flew in from Rome this past Sunday. Things are getting a bit easier, or maybe I am just getting used to the craziness of travel these days. On Monday evening our province began its extraordinary chapter at the Maratine Center in Baltimore. It was good to see all the friars who were present. We were talking about our pastoral plan for the next few years. Wednesday morning I had a bit of a shock. I got an email from Rome that our Minister General and three other friars tested positive for covid. I immediately left the chapter and had myself tested. By 11 that morning, I was shown to be negative. I had been tested before I left Rome, and I had not been in the presence of three of the four positive friars for at least five days before Wednesday, but it was still a shock. I am now in Ocean City at an appartment owned by the friars. I love listening to the waves. Just a couple of minutes of that and I feel all the tension melt off. The only downside is that these days there is a motorcycle rally in Ocean City until today. Their cycles are loud, loud, loud. I think they adjust them to be louder. They leave today, which will make the town much quieter. I finished some books: Mother Teresa: Come be my Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk This is a beautiful collection of letters and remanences of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The major topic is the spiritual darkness from which she suffered for most of her life in the Missionaries of Charity. She came to understand that this was a sharing in the emptiness that Jesus suffered on the cross, as well as the emptiness that so many people experience in their own sufferings. He goal in life was to help respond to the thirst from which so many people suffer. Mary Todd Lincoln by Hourly History This is a short account of the story of the wife of Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln. A very ambitious woman who, unusually for her days, dabbled in politics, Mary Todd is presented as a grasper and someone who tried to live above her status. She eventually lost her senses, even being committed to a mental hospital by her son. She was not the nicest person, but she also lived a life that was filled with tragedy. Colombia and Panama by Joseph Stromberg This is part of a series on various countries of the world offered by Audible. This volume offers an overview of the states of Colombia and Panama from colonial days to the present. The presentation is not terribly academic, but it does give a good amount of useful information. After the Quake by Haruki Marakami This is a series of stories concerning people in Japan after the terrible earthquake in Kobe. It deals with situation in their own lives, but which have an impact on the people around them. The stories include good, heartwarming accounts, Buddhist philosophy stories, and even a bit of science fiction. The Fall of Troy by Peter Ackroyd This is a novel about a boisterous German archaeologist and his Greek wife who excavate the ruins of Troy. Herr Oberman has a tendency to look only for the treasures, and he effectively does great damage to anything else in his way. He is so obsessed with his theories that he is willing to harm anyone else who gets in the way. The Sicilian Vespers Wars by Charles River Editors This is the story of the rebellion of the people of Sicily against the occupying French authorities, and then of the series of wars that were fought with France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy in regard to the crown of Naples and Sicily (at times united and at times treated individually). Saint Odd by Dean Koontz This is the last in the series of the Odd Thomas books. Odd is a fry cook in a desert town in California who can see and help ghosts. In this volume, he must sabotage a plot to destroy his home town by a band of Satanists who know of his power and want to create mayhem. Odd come across as an honest, kind and generous young man who only desires to be with his beloved Stormy who died in the first volume of the series. Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar This is a fascinating story about a young Indian American woman who is looking for the perfect man. She is in constant contact with an over-protective mother in India. She suspects that the young man her daughter finds is dangerous, somehow associated with another man who was violent with her when she was a young woman. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Rome

September 11, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome this past week, but at our theological faculty where we were holding a seminar for the new officials of our provinces and custodies. It was good to meet the newest ones, and to see some old friends. I have also been involved in translating from Italian into English the document we call Franciscan Discipleship. This is the manual on formation (initial and continuing). It is about 75 pages in English. I have finished the first draft and now must go through it a couple of times to edit it. Whenever one is translating, he leaves vestiges of the original language and I have to work that our. I will be flying to the States tomorrow and will be travelling there and in Canada for almost a month. I have finished some reading: Darwin and the Origin of the Species by Josephine Bailey This is a short, well-done biography of the naturalist who wrote the book which proposed the survival of the fittest and evolution, Charles Darwin. The book gives a good personal biography as well as an overview of the production of his book and the eventual debate about its accuracy in later years, including how this theory has influenced scientific (and religious) reaction to the present. The Pied Piper by Harold Schecht This is the story of a young man in Tucson, Arizona who gathers other young people around himself and who murders three young women. He was a strange man who dressed in an outlandish manner, but who nevertheless had a magnetic appeal over a small group of young people, much as the pied piper of the famous fairy tale. The Persian Gulf States by Wendy McElroy and Sheldon Richman This is a short presentation by Audible Original Books on the history of the nations which surround the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. The book covers the ancient era of these areas, their status under colonial rule, and their present difficulties, especially since the religious revolution in Iran. The Original Watergate Stories by the Washington Post This is an amalgam of the articles that appeared in the Washington Post concerning Watergate from the days right after the break-in until the resignation of President Nixon. It is fascinating to hear the discoveries unroll as the press obtained a clearer and clearer idea of what was actually going on, especially by following the advice of their informant Deep Throat that they “follow the money.” The Robertson Panel by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on a commission that was established to study the UFO phenomenon. The material that the panel was given was limited, and their findings were superficial. The CIA went out of its way to hamper any serious investigation of the phenomenon, discrediting anyone who made a serious report of something in this regard. St. Brigid of Kildare by Charles River Editors At the beginning of this short biography, I was a bit nervous because the author went into the etymology of St. Bridgid’s name, which was that of a Celtic goddess. But the majority of the book is an honest study of what is accurately known about the saint, as well as some the legends that surround her and the cult of devotion that has developed over the ages. It is quite good. The Magyars by Charles River Editors This is a study of the Central Asian nomadic tribe which came to settle in the plains of central Europe and who slowly became the Hungarians. They started out in their present location as raiders of their surrounding nations, but they eventually settled down and became more and more Europeanized and a bulwark against the invasion of the Turks during the late Middle Ages. The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy This is the story of the gradual death of a man who serves in the Russian bureaucracy. He has a small accident which is the beginning of his decline. As he grows more ill, it is impossible for him to communicate his fears to his own family who slowly become outsiders to him, intruders who are just waiting for him to die and get it over with. The pace of the book is typical of Tolstoy, but the matter dealt with is profound and creates true pathos in the reader. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Rome

September 6, 2021 Peace and Good, This past week we met in definitory. During the week, we end up discussing events and needs from all over the world. Sometimes it makes your head spin when you have talked about situations in North America, Africa and Asia, all within a couple of hours. I have been translating a big project, a manual called Franciscan Discipleship (64 pages) over these past couple of weeks. I should finish the first draft this week, which puts me a bit ahead of schedule. I will be attending another meeting all this week. It is for the new provincials and secretaries of the provinces who were elected in this past year. We will be conducting this at the Seraphicum, our house of theology at the edge of the city. The weather has been warm. The European Community has just downgraded the status of the US again, making it a bit more difficult to enter. I am heading to the States this Sunday which will not be a problem, but coming back might be a bit tricky. I finished some reading: Great Masters: Tchaikovsky: His Life and Music by Robert Greenberg This is a Teaching Company course on the life and music of the great 19th century Russian composer Tchaikovsky. His personal life was strange. He married one of his groupies, but all but had a nervous breakdown when he moved in with her because he was gay and could not live as a heterosexual. He was also a pedophile who was forced to commit suicide because he had an affair with the son of a high ranking member of the royalty. His music well illustrates his profound psychological turmoil, as Greenberg well illustrates. Peoples and Cultures of the World by Edward Fisher This is a series of lectures by an anthropologist who gives some insights into the organization of various cultures and their economic systems. The professor goes here and there, from the Amazon to Polynesia to the US. Some of the insights are very valuable, others less so. The Korean Woman by John Altman This is the story of a North Korean woman who has been trained by the secret services of that country to be a sleeper spy in the United States. At the same time, there is an American secret service agent who is trying to launch a group of missiles against North Korea to catch them unprepared (in spite of the logical consequences to the South). The story is well developed. Blood Territory by Mark Whittaker This is the story of an investigator who travels to the northern territory of Australia to try to determine who had murdered a young man there. The police had arrested one of his former best friends and imprisoned him. Yet, there are other suspects, including the police themselves for the man murdered had submitted a lawsuit against the police for beating him up. Accidental Presidents by Jared Cohen This is the story of the various vice presidents who had taken over the presidency when their predecessors died in office (whether by illness or assassination). Some of them proved to be quite successful, e.g. Harry Truman. Others were non-entities who had been chosen for their office for political reasons. Probably the most successful of all had been Theodore Roosevelt who became president when McKinley had been killed in Buffalo, NY. This is a good book in the tradition of David McCullough. Odd Thomas: You are Destined to be Together Forever by Dean Koontz This is a novella in the Odd Thomas tradition. He is a fry cook in a California village who can see ghosts who come to him so that he might intervene on their behalf. The writing is great, and the reader is even better. Odd comes across as a decent young man who is doing the best he can in bewildering circumstances. The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton This is the book by Merton which has been compared with St. Augustine’s Confessions. It is the autobiographical story of how he went from a Bohemian family with no beliefs to a Trappist Monastery. It is written in Thomistic language so I found its terminology a bit dates, but overall it presents a good story of how Merton abandoned a meaningless life for something which responded to his deepest hunger. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Rome

August 29, 2021 Peace and Good There is only one city mentioned above, and that is a miracle. I am here in Rome for a few weeks. It is hot, but not as hot as it was earlier in the season. This is the end of the August holidays, when everyone who can runs off to the shore or the mountains. I have been translating a document which is around 64 pages long on formation. It is a big project, but I have been chipping away at it, doing about 2,000 words each day. I have til the end of September to finish it. Rome has a lot of tourists, but very few Americans. They are mostly Italians, although I have heard a bit of French and German in the streets. They have established a green passport for vaccinations. If you don't have it, you can eat outside but cannot enter restaurants, museums, offices, etc. I don't have it (even though I am fully vaccinated), but I don't really need it because I am pretty much being a home body in these days. I finished some reading: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling These are a set of folk tales told to young witches along with an extended commentary supposedly produced by Professor Dumbledore, the head master of Hogwarts, the school where Harry Potter studied. The Ottoman Conquest by JB Bury This is a comprehensive essay in the collection of Cambridge History on the conquests of the Ottoman empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. The writing style is technical and filled with so much detail that it is not really a pleasant read, but it is nevertheless informative. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough All of McCullough’s books are masterpieces, and this is no exception. It deals with the lives and careers of the Wright brothers, the inventors of the first motored, manned airplane. The Wright brothers come across as honest and humble Midwesterners who applied their lives and talents to the project of flying. They were the sons of a Protestant bishop. Their sister, Katharine, played a significant role in their lives and that of their father. By the end of the book, one feels that one has a good grasp of who they were and what their reputation was in their own times. The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman This is an overview of the use of poison throughout the years. Herman examines old cases and tries to determine whether the symptoms and deaths of those involved were due to natural factors or to actual poisoning. The Falklands War by Hourly History This is a short history of the war between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982 for the possession of these islands in the South Atlantic. Their possession had gone back and forth over the years, but by the 20th century almost all of its inhabitants were British who strongly wanted to stay in possession of the British. Their major industry was sheep pasturing, although there seems to be deposits of oil and natural gas in their coastal waters. The Science of Sci-Fi by Erin Macdonald This was a very entertaining course from the Teaching Company (although one of the free courses I obtained from Audible) concerning scientific concepts and their use and misuse in science fiction books, films and programs. The presenter has a great sense of humor, and she is able to present the material (which can be very complicated) in an understandable manner. The Ends of the World by Peter Brennen This is a book that deals with evidence found in the rock strata concerning the five earlier extinctions of much of the life upon the earth, and which then extrapolates the lessons to be learned from those events and applies them to our present circumstances. The style of the writing is inviting and not overly technical, and I found the author honest in his use of scientific facts. The Doolittle Raid by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the raid led by James Doolittle against Tokyo and other cities in April of 1942. The president and the military leaders were desperate to strike a blow against Japan in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The arranged for land planes to take off from an aircraft carrier, drop their bombs, and continue on to China where most of them crash landed. In one sense, the attack was a woeful failure, for they did relatively little damage. However, the trauma of the capital being attacked led to the imprudent attack on Midway Island in which four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, changing the course of the war. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 20, 2021

London - Rome - Assisi - Rome

August 21, 2021 Peace and Good, I hope you are all enjoying your summer. I finished my two weeks in London, during which I didn't see the sun more than five minutes. Travelling to Rome is itself no difficulty, but the paperwork is crazy. I had to fill out three internet forms, and another two forms on the plane and at Rome airport (the paper forms saying the same thing I had already registered on the internet forms). Rome is warm, but the friars tell me that it is much cooler than it has been in these days, with temperatures up to 100. August is always a slow, hot time, with many Romans fleeing to the beach or the mountains to get away from the heat. Many restaurants even close for a few weeks during this time of year. I went up to Assisi for a few meetings on Thursday and came back yesterday. The trains are not all that full yet, but when I got to Assisi I was shocked at the number of people visiting the Basilica. It is like all the Americans who flew when it was finally a bit safer. The Italians decided to get out of their houses and see a bit of their own country. The friars had to let people into the Basilica in batches, and the line waiting to get in had several hundred people. I will be in Rome until mid-September when I will fly back to Baltimore for our extraordinary chapter. I finished some reading: Sekigahara and Shiroyama by Charles River Editors This is the story of two major battles that involve thee Samurai. The first battle is that in which many of the war lords of Japan were defeated and one Samurai master is able to unify the kingdom. While the emperor was theoretically the leader of the country, he was only a figurehead. This situation lasted several centuries. Then, the second battle took place after the opening of the kingdom to outsiders. It was a battle between the newly organized army of the Meiji emperor and the rebellion led by the old and now disempowered Samurai. Stalingrad by Captivating History This is a short account of the siege of Stalingrad and the defeat of the German and allied forces by the Soviets. Oddly, most of the book is spent on background material, and relatively little on its main topic, that particular battle. It nevertheless is worth reading. African Mythologies by Captivating History This is only a short collection of various African myths (from all over the continent), but I found it fascinating. We rarely hear stories like this. I noticed that many of the stories were in praise of a figure called the trickster, someone who knows how to survive in the midst of difficult circumstances. Like all myths, the good tend to win and the bad tend to be punished, but that is not always true in these stories. The Spirit of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini This is a highly philosophical review of the theory behind the liturgy. It is well done, but it certainly takes considerable reflection in order to understand and apply what he is saying. He finds a balance between overly spiritualizing the liturgy and making it too mundane. Henry IV: the Righteous King by Ian Mortimer This is a rather long, but very good book on Henry IV who overthrew Richard II, and whose son was Henry V, the victor of Agincourt. He had tremendous difficulties with rebellions in his reign and attacks in Wales, Scotland and France. He had to fight his own parliament to receive adequate funds for his needs and his campaigns, and then was attacked by them for not doing enough. The author presents him as an honest, religious man who did the best he could in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. Frederick Chopin by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous Polish composer who spent most of his adult life in France. He was the lover of George Sands (despite the name, a woman). He eventually died of tuberculosis. He was a rather depressed character. He deeply loved his native Poland, but once he left it he never returned there. He needed money so now and then he would give concerts, but he suffered from a paralyzing tendency to stage fright. Mercia by Captivating History This is a rather complicated history of this kingdom in the center of England during the late Dark Ages, just before the invasion of the Danes and the establishment of the kingdom of England by Alfred the Great. The names are impossible and often so similar that reading this short work is torture. Have a good week. fr. Jude

Friday, August 13, 2021

London

August 12, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Great Britain since the beginning of the month, and will only be leaving here on the 17th. This week I took a quick trip to our friary in Barton, which is just outside of Manchester (only a couple of hours by train from London). I have been meeting with friars and talking. There is no special agenda, just giving the friars a chance to share with me whatever they would like. This is especially important given how closed we were during the pandemic. The weather has been miserable. There has not been one sunny day since I arrived. It has rained, at least for a while, every single day. I have been helping out a bit in our parish (very, very small) near our custodial office in London. It is good to have Mass with the people. That is something I don't often get when I am in Rome. The regulations concerning mask wearing have been somewhat lifted here, but many people are still wearing it inside of stores, and almost every on mass transit. A good number of people still wear them outside. I finished some reading: Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese This is a history of the use of coal from the earliest days of its exploitation in China and England to the present. The author deals with its mining, the pollution it causes, the problem of Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur Monoxide, etc. She speaks of its present use to generate electricity, especially in the US and China. The work is well presented, and somewhat balanced in its approach. A History of India by Michael Fisher This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company that runs from prehistoric times to the present day. It speaks of the Indian subcontinent, meaning the modern states of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. It speaks of the influence of the Hindu, Muslim and other faiths (e.g. Christianity, Jainism, Sikes, etc.). It deals with colonialization and the fight to obtain independence. The courses are very informative and well done. Nicholas II by Captivating History This is a short biography of the tragic figure of the last czar of Russia and his family. It deals with his desire to retain an autocratic system even when history was moving against that tendency. Of course, it also deals with the influence of Rasputin. Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines by Charles River Editors This short work is an overview of the lives and careers of two of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution at the beginning of the 19th century. The led what turned out to be an incredibly violent revolution, a reaction to an incredibly violent exercise of slavery. Toussaint comes across as a stabilizing factor, while Dessalines is much more violent and ruthless. Lincoln’s Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher This is the story of how Lincoln and Stephen Logan defended a young man on a charge of murder. He had been attacked by another man from the village along with his brother, and the much smaller young man defended himself with a knife, killing the man attacking him. The trial is one of the first cases to have a full transcript, produced by Robert Hitt. Lincoln is shown as clever, wise, personable and brilliant in his presentation. The book is very good. Nat Turner by Charles River Editors This is the story of a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831 led by a man named Nat Turner. It was especially brutal, both for what the slaves did to the whites and the revenge that the whites enacted upon the slaves. It was the nightmare of the slave owning class for the next decades. The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhymes books. The paraplegic forensic investigator is called to investigate the assassination of an anti-American activist in the Bahama Islands. The assassin is from an obscure intelligence agency whose task is to kill dangerous enemies of the US. The book is filled with twists and turns. I especially like these books because they involve flawed characters, including Lincoln Rhymes. Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien This is an account of the role of the US women who were the pioneers of flight in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. This includes Amelia Earhart as well as other female flyers who faced terrible prejudice. This was a dangerous time to fly, and not a few women and men died in plane crashes in these days. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 2, 2021

Los Angeles - Ellicott City - London

August 2, 2021 The Feast of the Portiuncula Peace and Good, I flew out from LA to Baltimore so that I could participate in the simple profession and solemn profession of vows of some of our friars (four for simply profession and three for solemns). The simple profession took place in the chapel at our friary in Ellicott City, while the solemn profession was in the local church, St. Louis, in Clarksville. Both were beautiful. The solemn profession had a choir from Togo, since one of those professing was born there. After communion they played a vibrant song that had people dancing in the ailes. I was very moved. I have always felt an attraction to the African form of the liturgy which is filled with life and emotion. I flew from Dulles to London on Saturday. The flight was good. There was a considerable amount of paperwork to fill out before getting on the flight, but checking in at Washington and passing through passport control in London was easy. Today Great Britain declared that one who comes from the States does not have to quarantine any more. I had to take another covid test this morning, but that is all. Masks are not required, but they are recommended on public transport. The weather here the past couple of days was typical London - cool and rainy. Mark Twain once said that the worst winter he ever lived through was a July in London. Today, the sun has come out and it is really pleasant. I finished some reading: The Quiet Game by Greg Iles This is a story set in Natchez where a former district attorney and now an author, Penn Cage, arrives in his home town. He mentions an old murder of a black man many years before which she then puts in her newspaper. This begins a frightening series of events as the Penn Cage tries to solve the murder mystery (which seems to have been a racial crime). In the process, he and his family face incredible danger. The Aeneid of Virgil by Elizabeth Vandiver This was a twelve lecture course on the Aeneid by Virgil. This was an epic poem written toward the beginning of the reign of Augustus to give a mythic origin story for the now powerful Roman Empire. Vandiver is very good at presenting the material and the background. It is remarkable that Virgil actually wanted the text of the epic to be burned because he was dying before he could put the finishing touches on it. Augustus refused to do this, saving this masterpiece for Rome and for us. Megan Phelps-Roper by Audible Interviews This is an interview of a member of Westborough Baptist Church who left the Church and then wrote about her experience. This is the church which picketed at funerals, demonstrated at other Church functions to provoke others to violence so that they might sue them, etc. She explains why people interpreted scripture the way they did and how they actually thought that what they were doing was for other people’s benefit. Ugarit by Charles River Editors This short presentation is one of the better Charles River Editors productions. Ugarit was a city in the Mideast which was a trading center between Mesopotamia and Egypt and Greece. The population was Semitic. The ruins where not discovered until the 20th century. Among the important finds was a library of thousands of clay tablets written in a primitive cuneiform alphabet. Gideon’s Sword by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston Child and Preston are some of my favorite authors. They have written a long series of stories about a FBI inspector named Pendergast. This volume is part of another series. This one deals with a company that performs projects for the government and others which spies would normally do. The greatest tool of the company is a very intricate system of social manipulation and evaluation. In this book, Gideon, who has a condition that will kill him within a year, is sent out to discover the secrets of a Chinese scientist who was coming to the US. Sherman makes Georgia Howl by Charles River Editors This is the account of one of the most controversial actions of the Union army during the war. It speaks of Sherman’s conquest and destruction of the city of Atlanta, and then his march to the sea in which he left a path of destruction. He is still despised in the south for what he did. The excuse on the part of Sherman was that he had to destroy the backers of the rebellion, including their manufacturing and capacity to provide food for those who were fighting. The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner This is a fictional biography of Queen Juana la Loca, Juana the mad. The author speaks of her marriage to a Hapsburg heir who turns out to be unfaithful and power hungry. He treats her badly in many ways. She eventually poisons him. Her reign was clouded by the fact that Ferdinand (the husband of Isabella) closed her away and ruled in her stead. The author prefers to speak of her as totally innocent and manipulated by the men around her. She avoids speaking of the mental illness of some sort that does seem to have affected her. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, July 23, 2021

Chicago - Los Angeles

July 23, 2021 Peace and Good, I spent about five days in Chicago visiting the friars and also participating in a friars' day (for the celebration of the patronal saint of the province, St. Bonaventure) and the simple profession of one of the friars. On Saturday I flew out to Los Angeles. I am staying in our parish in Hermosa Beach, about a half of a mile from the sea. It is a beautiful area, and the weather has been very nice. From Monday til yesterday I was with the friars of the province for their extraordinary chapter in Malibu. We staying at the retreat house run by the OFM Franciscan Friars. It has a beautiful view of the ocean, and is right next door to the home of Dick Van Dyke. The meeting went extremely well. There was a great spirit among the friars. The most important thing approved was the raising of the mission in Vietnam from the category of a delegation to that of a custody. It is now just below the level of a province. The mission has been going for about 18 years, and they have made incredible progress. We are very happy that they are now in this higher category which gives them quite a bit more autonomy. The only down side of my visit here is that LA county has reinstituted the requirement for masks when indoors. The covid rate is rising rapidly here. I will be here until Tuesday when I fly out to Baltimore for a couple more celebrations. Then a week from today I will heading over to London for a couple of weeks. I have finished some reading: Coney Island by Charles River Editors This is the story of the resort island which served the people of New York for so many decades. It deals with its low life origin, and then its transformation into a center of hotels and amusement parks. It was there that the hot dog was invented and named. This was also the location of the first Nathan’s red hots. The island suffered in the era in which travel became so much easier with the family car (and therefore freedom from the trains that would carry people to Coney Island. Washington’s Immortals: the Untold Story of an Elite Regiment that Changed the Course of the Revolution by Patrick O’Donnell This is the story of an elite group of soldiers from Maryland who accompanied the revolutionary forces from the early days of the revolution to the end of the war. They arrived in time for the battles in the New York area. They were always dependable forces for Washington throughout the war. The history is well done. LBJ in 1968 by Kyle Longley This is an account of the last hellish year for the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Among the difficulties he faced were the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the capture of the ship Pueblo by North Korea, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets and their allies, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, etc. The book presents the story in a sympathetic but not fawning manner. The author admits Johnson’s flaws, e.g. this stubbornness and refusal to admit having made mistakes, but he also presents him as a good leader who was most of all dedicated to the poor and downtrodden of society. A Different Drummer by Michael Deaver This is a fawning account of Ronald Reagan and his political career. Deaver was an advisor to Reagan beginning with his time as governor of California. There were ups and downs in the relationship. After Deaver’s last resignation, he formed a lobbying group that got him into trouble with the law. But his overall view of the Reagans, both Ronald and Nancy, is highly favorable. How Winston Churchill Changed the World by Michael Shelden This is a series of twelve lectures on the career of Winston Churchill from his early days in the military and politics up to his death at a very advanced age. The professor presenting these lectures sees Churchill as the right man at the right time. He recognizes his shortfalls, but also sees him as a prophetic figure in his ability to foresee the danger of the rise of the Nazis in Germany. The presentation is very favorable to Churchill. The Mahdist War by Hourly History This is the story of an Islamist rebellion in the Sudan that was fought against the forces of Egypt (and behind them Great Britain) and which was also a reform movement to purify the practices of Islam. The leader of the movement called himself a Mahdi, a messianic figure in Islam. When he died, much of what he did fell apart. Geronimo by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the famous Native American chief from the US Southwest (as well as Mexico). It especially deals with his capture and the way he was treated after that. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Rome - Chicago

July 13, 2021 Peace and Good, We finished out very long definitory last Friday. We had to examine two important documents in the course of the meeting, and it went quite well. On Sunday I flew to Chicago. I will be here until Saturday when I head out to Los Angeles. I am here just to be with the friars, and to meet the new novices. I am playing these days by ear. Fortunately, Thursday, which is the day of the patron saint of this province, St. Bonaventure, there will be a friars' day at Marytown so I will get to see a number of the friars. I have also had the opportunity to speak with a number of friars one on one in these days, which is always good. Sometimes, my most important work is just done listening to what friars have to say. The weather here is very, very humid and overcast. It is not all that hot, but the humidity is very uncomfortable. Our house is located at the northern part of the city, right near the lake and Loyolla University. The flight here was long. May flights have been cancelled, so you have to take a round about route. I flew from Rome to Dallas, and from Dallas to Chicago. The trip is a bit better than before, and a little of the paperwork has disappeared. I finished some reading: The New World by Edward John Payne This is an essay that deals with the explorations in the New World and the predominant attitudes toward this universe. There are those who saw the new world as a paradise not yet destroyed by civilization (Montaigne), and those who thought that it would take great effort to make the new world a place where a decent person could live (Francis Bacon). As is true of all of these essays from the Cambridge series, it is very anglophilic. Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman I have read many, many of Tony Hillerman’s books, and this is one of the better ones. Joe Leaphorn, an officer in the Navaho Tribal Police, must investigate the murder of one young boy and the disappearance of another. The case involves Leaphorn learning more about the Zuni traditions, especially the Cochina figures which seem to be involved in this case. There are a number of twists and turns in the story which, while unusual, prove to be very believable. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston This is the story of a mass murderer in the city of Florence, Italy, and the investigation performed by a newspaper reporter and the crime/thriller author, Douglas Preston. The murderer is killing couples in their cars after their trysts, and mutilating the young women. While the reporter and author seem to favor one solution, the local prosecutors choose a whole different path of inquiry and begin to prosecute the reporter and Preston for their beliefs. This book speaks about the diversity of Italian cultures, and also of the mess that their legal system has become. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley I had often heard of this book, and since Audible was offering it for free, I thought this might be a good time to listen to it. It tells of a dystopian future in which the only value is happiness, even if it is drug induced. A young man who seeks more in life is destroyed by the system. The book, published in 1932, still offers a good warning to an overly technological and overly systematized world. The Battle of Antietam by Captivating History This battle produced the bloodiest day of the Civil War. It was the clashing of the forces of the South led by Robert E. Lee, and those of the North led by the brilliant but reticent General McClennan. Neither of them fought all that well that particular day. That is especially true of the forces of the north which could have easily cut off and eliminated the southern army if they had only pursued it after the battle. Imitation of Christ by Tomas A Kempis This is a meditation book written in the 1400’s representing a spiritual movement in the Netherlands. Some of its insights are brilliant, but it also proves to be a bit Manichean (the belief that only the spiritual is good and the material is corrupt and evil). It was worth reading, but I am not sure that I would recommend to anyone in spiritual direction with me without warning that person of its one sided view of life. Artemis by Andrew Scott and Charles River Editors This is a short overview of the legends and liturgical hymns that honored Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wild and chastity. The author includes many long passages from original sources which, while interesting at first, bog one down with much unnecessary information. It is not as well done as many of the other editions of the Charles River productions. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 5, 2021

Mesilla Park - Rome

July 5, 2021 Peace and Good, I returned to Rome last Monday. I was originally supposed to return the previous Saturday, but my flight was cancelled at the last minute (American Airlines). Travelling is beginning to get easier. I still had to fill out a long form to get back into Italy, but once that was done, there were no difficulties. It was the check in agent who gave me the heads up about the form, and I am grateful that she mentioned it (for otherwise I would not have been allowed to board the plane). The weather here in Rome is quite hot (although not as hot as parts of the States in these days). We began our definitory on Thursday, and will continue to at least this coming Thursday. Part of our time in these days is a meeting (in person for some, by zoom for others) with the presidents of the federations. That will take place each afternoon this week. I will be here in Rome until Sunday when I fly back to the States. This trip will involve Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and London. I finished some reading: White House Connection by Jack Higgins This is part of a long series on a group of anti-terrorist experts under the direct authority of the Prime Minister of Great Britain who work in collaboration with a similar unit under the authority of the president of the US. In this episode, they are investigating the assassination of a group of pro-IRA activists in the US and London by an unknown figure. The Repute and Reality of Being a Roman Emperor by OpenLearn This short course deals with some of the symbols and activities of the Roman Emperors to be respected and honored throughout the Roman empire. Ironically, the signs of homage to the emperor were often more elaborate in the provinces than in Rome itself. This includes the deification of the emperor during his own lifetime. The Battle on the Ice by Charles River Editors This is the story of the successful defense of some of the Russian city states against the invasion of troops from Germany and the Baltic area during the 13th century. The leader of the troops of Novgorod was the famous Alexander Nevsky. The Winter War by Captivating History This is the story of the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Second World War. Although they were massively outnumbered, the Finns put up an incredible defense. The poor showing of the Soviet troops was one of the things that convinced Hitler to invade the Soviet Union in 1940. The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia This is easily one of the best books that I have read in a long time. It is the story of a family in Mexico around the time of World War I (with the pandemic of influenza at that time and the revolutionary governments). They adopt a child with a cleft pallet who has a miraculous union with nature, especially the bees. This is a translation into English from a Mexican author. I highly, highly recommend it. Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins and Mark Peckham This is the story of a murder trial in Manhattan around 1800. It is a true story, and what makes it fascinating are that two of the defense attorneys are Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. A young woman is found dead in a well which was dug by the Manhattan water company (run by Burr). A fellow boarder in her boarding house is accused. There are many twists and turns, along with a lot of background information. It is well presented. American Spring by Walter Borneman This is a book on the first months of the Revolutionary War, including especially the Lexington and Concord battle and the battle of Bunker Hill, along with the story of the Continental Congress held in Philadelphia. The characters are well presented, and there is a wealth of information. The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover by Anthony Summers This is a tell it all book on the life and career of J. Edgar Hoover. It goes into his hidden gay life style, his very questionable financial dealings, even with mobsters, his possible involvement with the assassination of JFK, his gathering of information on politicians to blackmail them, etc. I am not sure if it is all true, but if even a quarter of it is accurate, then this man was one of the most dangerous in the history of our country. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Atlanta - Louisville - Baltimore - Buffalo - El Paso (Mesilla Park, New Mexico)

June 24, 2021 Peace and Good As you can see by the title, I have been doing quite a bit of travelling in these days. Now that the covid pandemic is winding down, it is possible to visit the friars and others whom I have not seen for quite a while. The airports are incredibly busy in these days. I visited three of our friaries in Atlanta, and then went to Louisville (Mount St. Francis) which is the provincialate of Our Lady of Consolation Province. I was able to spend some good time with the provincial and the friars living there. While I was there, an artist who works in fabric, Penny Sisto, gave an exhibition. I was expecting some quilts, and the art that she displayed was breath-taking. Check our her site on the internet. I went to Baltimore for another doctor's appointment. The medicine I am taking for my heart can have side effects on the lungs, so I went to the Pulminologist. All is well. I got to go out with one of my classmates while I was there. I got to Buffalo and stayed with my brother and sister in law for a few days. Now I am in New Mexico at one of our retreat centers to be with the friars who are participating in a workshop for those who have been out of formation for less than five years. We have found that this time period is critical for the reinforcement of their vocation, so every year they meet to share some ideas (theirs and from others) on what is going on in their lives. Tomorrow I head back to Rome. A lot of the restrictions have been lifted in these days, so it will be good to see how things are going there. I finished some reading: Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations by Professor Kenneth Harl This is a series of lectures by the Teaching Company on various early civilizations of the ancient Mid-East. The professor gives good, accurate information in a pleasant way. This is one of the series from this company that I truly enjoyed. The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway This is a book that goes into the accusations against, the trial and the execution of Anne Boleyn. The author is very much a defender of Boleyn, so she always evaluates the information in the best light possible for her. Yet, it does seem as if the death of Boleyn was a set-up, probably instigated by Henry VIII who had become bored of her, especially since she had not been able to bear him a male heir. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen Platt This is an account of the Taiping Rebellion which occurred in China about the same time as the American Civil War. Millions and millions of people were killed through execution or starvation or disease because of this event. It was led by a man who had heard Christian preachers and who identified himself as Jesus’ brother, the son of God. A lot of the book deals with Britain’s involvement in one form or another with the event. Yet, the author does manage to show a respectful treatment of the Chinese as well. Killing the SS by Bill O’Reilly This is typical of the series of Bill O’Reilly’s books on Jesus, Kennedy, etc. There is a lot of good information. At times, there are overt judgments on people or activities. A very large part of the book is on the hunt, arrest and trial of Adolph Eichmann, but there is also information about the hunt for other criminals as well. The famous Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal, is not all that positive. He is presented as a publicity seeking, at times lying individual. Whirlwind by Barrett Tillman This is the story of the bombing campaign against Japan during World War II from the Doolittle Raid to the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The author is a staunch defender of what the bombers did all throughout the war. He is very honest about the shortcomings of various commanders and various techniques and of the interservice rivalry between the Army Air Corps (before the establishment of the Air Force) and the Navy fighters and bombers. Sky watching: Seeing and Understanding Cosmic Wonders by Alex Phillipenko This is a Teaching Company course on the various phenomena that one can detect in the day and night skies. It is taught be a professor who is incredibly enthused with his topic. He doesn’t always know how to dumb down the material so that those unacquainted with the material could still understand, but his joy and wonder at the topic makes up for that. Some of the topics include meteors, comets, aurora borealis, haloes around the sun and moon, the stars and constellations, etc. Have a good 4th of July and a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Atlanta

June 9, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in the Atlanta area since the 1st. We have three friaries in this area, one of which I had never seen before. The first friary I visited was in Columbus Georgia. It is about 2 hours southwest of Atlanta, on the Alabama border. We actually have three parishes there. One is a small African American parish, one a small Hispanic parish, and one a large Anglo/Hispanic parish with a grammar school and high school. All three are being run very, very well by the friars. The large parish also has a huge outreach to the poor (food, clothes, rental and utilities assistance, etc.). I was very impressed. The second friary I visited was in Jonesboro, just south of the city. It is an Anglo/African/African-American/Hispanic parish. I celebrated a couple of Masses there, which was great doing a bit of pastoral work. This was the first Sunday that they were wide open after the pandemic, and it was obvious that many people were coming back. The third friary, where I am now, is on the northeast side of Atlanta, Holy Cross Parish. It is Anglo/Hispanic. There are about 2700 registered families, but many of the Hispanics are not registered for various reasons. Yesterday I spend the morning on a zoom assembly for the friars in Canada. They have formed a new jurisdiction, and they are trying to get off the ground. Last week, on the 4th, I had another zoom meeting with the provincials of our federation. The zoom process is great, but it really tires one out after a couple of hours. Tomorrow I fly to Louisville where I will be for five days, just being available if any of the friars want to stop by and chat. I finished some reading: The History of Bourbon by Ken Albala This is a course from the Teaching Company. They have now joined with Audible, and the Audible company offers a series of free courses each month. This was one of them. The author is an expert on food and drinks at one of the universities. He speaks about the history of the making of bourbon and its popularity (or fall in popularity) in various eras. Greg Hurwitz by Audible Interviews In these two interviews, Hurwitz speak about his series, the Orphan X books. Even is orphan x, an orphan who was trained to be a killer. He escapes his minders and tries to put his life together while he is trying to right wrongs in society. The minders (and he doesn’t know who is behind them) try to eliminate him. He has to rely on a series of experts in various techniques to remain alive. The Rise of Communism by Professor Vejas Liulevicius This is a 12 lecture series on the beginnings of communism from the Teaching Company. The professor is very, very prepared, and his method of instruction is very good. While each lesson is packed with details and quotations, it is never overwhelming. I would recommend this course and others by him to anyone. Deadly Outbreaks by Alexandra Levitt This is a book that covers a series of outbreaks of mysterious illnesses that had to be investigated by the CDC over the years. They include hantavirus in the Southwest, Legionnaires’ Disease, an outbreak of Salmonella, etc. It is well written, and it shows the great difficulties that can be faced in trying to track down information and identify a cause for the various outbreaks. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz This is the second in the series about Odd Thomas. He is a fry cook in a desert California town who can see and help ghosts. Each of the volumes is an adventure in which he must defeat some of the forces of evil that attack him or his town or his friends. In this volume, he must rescue one of his friends who suffers from brittle bone disease for a mad enchantress and her minions. The English Sweating Sickness by Charles River Editors This is an account of a disease the periodically attacked England (and very few other areas) during the Tudor period. Henry VIII was deathly afraid of it, and even Anne Boleyn suffered from it. The book cannot fully identify exactly what the disease was, but it gives good information on how people reacted to it. 1861: the Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart This is one of the better historic books that I have read in a long time. The author deals with the first year of the war, but he also gives a good treatment to many of the people involved in the action and sociological background to why things happened the way they did. Although I have read quite a bit on the Civil War, there were a number of things that I had never heard about before. The style is pleasant. I highly recommend this book. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Rome ne

June 3, 2021 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Rome, and on Tuesday I travelled to Atlanta. The flight was on Delta. It was long, but reasonably comfortable. The number of people flying was still low, but it is starting to grow. The EU is supposed to scale back some of its Covid regulations shortly, which should help a bit with the tourism season (although this is probably too late this year to salvage the season). I found the people at Delta very helpful and friendly, and believe I could recommend flying with them to anyone. I am visiting three of our friaries in the Atlanta area. I am at the first of these in Columbus, Georgia (south of Atlanta and alongside the Alabama border). Here we take care of three parishes. One is small and mostly Hispanic, another small and African American, and the third large and mixed - having a grammar school and a high school). I am already quite impressed with the work the friars are doing here. There is a social outreach center who provide food, clothing, rent and utilities assistance, etc. The directors of the school and the outreach center are tremendous people. The staff here is very friendly. On Saturday, I will head to Jonesboro, and then on to Holy Cross Parish in Atlanta. I leave this area on the 10th. I finished some reading: High Heat by Lee Child This a novella about Jack Reacher when he was a teenager. He takes a trip to New York City the night of the great power outage in 1977. He runs into an FBI agent who is furloughed, and a mafia boss whom he antagonizes. He even runs across the Son of Sam killer. The story is farfetched and almost like a comic super hero, but yet it is entertaining. The odd thing is that the day after the blackout was when I went to New York to take off for Europe for the first time for my studies. Bill Bryson by Audible Interviews Bill Bryson has written a great variety of books, including science and travel. The book he is presenting in this interview is The Body. He speaks about how the body works, and the strange phenomena that one discovers concerning the body. Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory This is the story of the reign of King Arthur and his round table. I have often read that Malory’s books were often read and respected in the antebellum south. I really did not enjoy the book because it is filled with men and women who profess their faith while they go around sleeping with each other out of wedlock and killing each other for sport. The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre This is a very, very good book (as are most of le Carre’s). It deals with a young British actress who is recruited by the Mossad to play the role of a lover of a Palestinian terrorist whom they caught with the purpose of trapping his brother. The story is very believable. It is heart rending and heart stopping. Remarkably, it is able to treat both Israelis and Palestinians and their causes with respect. Saber Toothed Tigers by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of the saber toothed carnivore which ranged throughout much of the world during and shortly after the last ice age. Much of the book deals with archeological evidence of its body shape and speculation on what that meant for its hunting habits. The Great Influenza by John Barry This is a full treatment of the great influenza of 1918, the so-called Spanish flu. Barry gives the details of the disease as well as its treatment. He is very critical of the way that the government and the media treated the outbreak. This flu probably killed between fifty and one hundred million around the world. It probably originated in Kansas, and then spread to a training camp for the army. The movement of these troops spread it throughout the country which was then fighting World War I. One of the best aspects of the treatment is the description of how the medical profession changed from what amounted to near quackery to well trained professionals. St. Gregory the Great by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the great Holy Father Gregory who helped the Church survive in very confusing times. Barbarians were often at the gates, and the Byzantine Empire who were nominal rulers of Italy had largely abandoned it. Gregory had to take temporal rule into this hands. Gregory is presented as an unwilling monk who wanted anything but to be pope. The only problem with the book is that the introduction and the conclusion are filled with information that really has nothing to do with the main topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Rome

May 27, 2021 Peace and Good, I am still in Rome. We finished our General Definitory meeting this past Saturday. I did take a three day trip to Assisi to meet with some of the friars there. Going to Assisi is always like going home for a Franciscan. I spoke with all of the U.S. friars while I was there, along with the new Custos of Assisi (a man by the name of fr. Marco Moroni). The trains going to and coming from Assisi were all but empty. Going around Rome, I keep getting the sense that Italy is a few week behind the U.S. in its recovery. There is still a rule that only those over 50 can receive the vaccine. Furthermore, they are running into problems because instead of having to wait three weeks for the second dose, one has to wait six weeks (which is about the time when most Italians want to go on vacation). The weather here has been nice. It is not yet hot, but the rains have more or less ended. Next Tuesday I head to the States. I will start out in Atlanta, visiting three friaries in that area. Then I will go to Louisville, Baltimore, Buffalo and finally El Paso. I will head back to Rome at the end of the month of June. I hope by that time things have gotten better here. There was something in the news that the barriers for tourists in the EU were going to be relaxed for those vaccinated. I finished some books: Roman Arches by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of the topic of the various arches that the Romans built throughout the empire. Unfortunately the author goes into great detail about individual arches which leaves the reader overwhelmed with detail. Probably the most useful thing in the story is the fact that while arches began as a sign of the triumph of a general into a sign of the power of the empire and the emperor. The Rise and the Fall of Alexandria by Howard Reid and Justin Pollard This is a masterful history of the great city of Alexandria from its founding by Alexandria to its downfall many centuries later. It especially deals with the importance of the library and associated centers of learning which created an intellectual flowering in the ancient world. I would highly recommend this particular volume. Sulla: the Controversial Life and Legacy of the Roman Dictator by Charles River Editors Sulla is famous as being the lst century BC dictator who established prescriptions, list of people who could be killed at will and the person doing the killing would receive a reward. This short treatment gives a more complete picture of Sulla and the reason why he began such a violent purge. It doesn’t quite wash his hands of the guilt, but it does put things in context. The Woman who would be King by Kara Cooney This is the story of Hatshepsut, the daughter of a Pharaoh of Egypt during the 18th dynasty. When her husband, who was also her brother, died, she became the regent for a young boy who was also Pharaoh. Over time, she accumulated more and more power and eventually had herself proclaimed co-Pharaoh. She even had statues with clearly masculine features carved to commemorate her reign. Her co-reign seems to have been peaceful, but many years after she died, her co-ruler had most of her monuments destroyed (probably because of something that was going on in that time and not because she was a woman). The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro This is a novel about a Jewish painter who is sponsored for an abstract mural by the WPA and through the intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt. She is also trying to save most of her family in Nazi occupied France and the Netherlands. The second level of the story is that of a great niece who is trying to find out more about her great aunt who at a certain time disappeared and was never heard from again. It is a well-organized, well written story. The Great Barrier Reef by Charles River Editors This is a quick study of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of eastern Australia. It deals with its discovery by European explorers, its significance, and the danger it faces with pollution and other forms of destruction. Stephen Fry by Audible Interviews This is an interview that speaks about Stephen Fry’s new show, Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets. While the Victorian period presents itself as a cultured and moral era, there was a lot of hypocrisy just under the surface. His views on morality are very libertarian, but his observations nevertheless have something to offer. The Chrysler Building by Charles River Editors This is an account of the construction of the Chrysler art deco building in New York. Unlike buildings like the Sears building in Chicago, this one was built not for the car company but from the wealth of the founder of that company. It was part of an effort to build the highest building in the world, which this was for a few months until the Empire State Building topped it. Dutch Painting in the Golden Age by OpenLearn This course deals with the height of Dutch Art in the 17th and 18th century. There is a big debate whether the artists were attempting to produce realistic art which mirrored what they actually saw, or whether there were hidden, often spiritual, lessons hidden in the choice of objects and their location in the paintings. While the symbolic interpretation has something to offer, one has to wonder how much, at times, the critic is reading into the object that might not be there. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Rome

May 18, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome the past 10 days. I did a 5 day isolation in my room (even though I have received both doses of my vaccine) because of the rule here in the European Community which lags a few weeks behind the US. The weather is not quite late Spring yet. It is neither hot nor cold, and there still a bit of rain which should disappear in a few weeks. It is still required to wear masks, which most people observe. We began our definitory meeting yesterday morning. We go from Monday to Saturday this time. Then early next week I will be heading up to Assisi to visit our friars there. On June 1st I will be heading to Atlanta to see some of our friars there. I have gotten ahead in my daily reflections, finishing the work up to June 13, the feast of St. Anthony. It feels good not to have that to do. I have finished some reading: The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome by Prof. Gregory Aldrete This is a series of 24 lectures from the Teaching Company on the Roman Empire. The lectures are informative and balanced. The teaching style of the professor is a bit too dramatic, but that does not really damage a good presentation. The Third Reich at War by Richard Evans This is the third and last volume in a massive study of the Third Reich. It deals with the war years. According to the author, it is supposed to deal especially with the reaction of the German people during those years. He only partly succeeds, for he deals extensively with the holocaust (which is a most valid topic, but what the author said he was not going to make the center of his study). Nevertheless, the whole three volume series is incredibly informative both factually and from the point of individuals going through everything. The Potsdam Conference by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on the last of the great conferences during and after World War II. This one took place in a suburb of Berlin after the war. Roosevelt had just died, so Truman was present. During the conference, Britain held elections and Churchill lost, so Atlee took his place. Not a lot was done. This is the conference during which the US dropped the first atom bomb on Japan. Dark Voyage by Alan Furst I have read a number of book by Furst. He is one of my favorite authors, and this volume is not an exception. It tells of a Dutch commercial ship captain who performs secret tasks for the British in the early years of the war. His duty ranges from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. It is filled with excitement, but presented in a muted, everyday way. I highly recommend this book and this author. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rawlings A short while ago I decided to go through the Harry Potter books once again. This is the second volume in the series, and I enjoyed listening to it. All of the volumes are available on the overlook app at the local library. There is just an enjoyable interplay with the characters throughout the book. Typhoid Mary by Charles River Editors This tells the story of the Irish immigrant Mary Mallon who was a non-symptomatic carrier of typhoid. She was a cook for upper class families and wherever she went, people fell ill from the disease. The Health Department finally figured it out and placed her in indefinite quarantine. She was released eventually after promising that she would never work as a cook again, but then she changed her name and went back to the kitchen. The second time that she was caught, she was locked away on an isolation island til her death. Her story raises difficult questions of constitutional rights vs. the good of society. Keep well. fr. Jude

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Ellicott City, MD - Rome

May 10, 2021 Peace and Good, My time at Ellicott City has come to an end. I visited a number of doctors and the dentist in these weeks. This is the normal annual cycle of doctor's visits. They did not find any real problems. I am just getting older so there are the normal aches and pains. I travelled back from Baltimore to Rome through Chicago and Munich on United and Lufthansa. There were absolutely no problems in Rome or Munich, but a bit more paperwork and confusion in Baltimore and Chicago. The rules are changing so frequently that the airline agents have a difficult time keeping up with things. The flights from Baltimore to Chicago and Munich to Rome were fairly full, but that from Chicago to Munich was all but empty - 35 passengers on a flight that could hold at least 350. Rome is almost back to normal. The vaccination problem is what it was a few weeks ago in the States, so it is getting better. A lot of the restrictions that had been in place when I left here during Holy Week have been removed, but there is still a curfew. The weather here is quite nice. It is late Spring here now and the flowers are blooming everywhere. I finished some reading: A Way in the World by V.S. Naipaul I have often heard about this author, but this is the first time that I have read his work. This book is a series of stories which deal with his native land Trinidad, Venezuela and Africa. He is of Indian origin, but he is fully part of the Caribbean culture. It especially deals with the colonial experience. He also offers extended stories about Sir Walter Raleigh and Francesco de Miranda. I enjoyed his presentation and his point of view. Sun, Sand and Soap by H. Bedford-Jones This short story is about a man travelling in the desert, desperate for water. He sees someone in the distance, who turns out to be a dangerous figure. When he catches up to him, he finds him abusing a young man and woman, a brother and sister. He rescues them and they take care of him. They are searching for a site in the desert where there is a source of very good modeling clay. The Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker This is a series of stories about forensic investigations by an expert on the topic, dating from the days of Jack to Ripper and Lizzie Borden to modern day murders. Some are solved or at least seem to be, while others are left unsolved. One of the most problematic is probably that of JonBenet Ramsey which Douglas blames on an outsider and not a family member. The treatment of the various cases is good. The Age of Discovery by Edward John Payne This is an extended essay in the Cambridge Modern History Collection. It speaks especially of the role of Prince Henry the Navigator and his real intentions for sending out ships to explore to coast of Africa. The author puts that up to the fact that he wanted to evangelize, which is why he founded a religious association for the settlement of the Canary Islands. The essay also treats Columbus, Cabot and Amerigo Vespucci. Nothing new, but a good overview. The Dead Sea by Charles River Editors This is part of a series of short books on a particular topic. This one does give good information on the Dead Sea, but the majority of the book is dedicated to the history of the Holy Land, not necessarily in any way involved with the Dead Sea. I am surprised that the series editor allowed it to be written this way. The War Lovers by Evan Thomas This is the story of those who pushed (and did not push) for America to get involved in the Spanish American War. On the one side you have Teddy Roosevelt, Senator Lodge, William Randolph Hearst, etc., while on the other you have Mark Twain, William James and Representative Thomas Reed. It was a debate between invigorating the populace and avoiding imperialism. The side in favor of the war won, but there were terrible consequences to pay (especially in the Philippines where the freedom fighters against Spanish occupation turned on the Americans for having broken their promises, and a terrible, vicious war resulted between them and US troops – with atrocities committed on both sides). Keep safe. fr. Jude

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Ellicott City, Maryland

April 25, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for the past few weeks. I am here to get my covid vaccination, but also to visit a few doctors and dentists. I have been going to numerous appointments ever since I finished my quarantine. This Wednesday I will receive my second Pfizer shot. It would have been all but impossible for me to get it in Italy. I have been doing some zooming in these days (a scripture study group, and a series with the novices). I have also been doing quite a bit of filming for the Companions web site. I am filming a series on the psalms (a ten minute presentation on each psalm). I am also working on a short series on St. Joseph (for the holy year) and on the Eucharist (for the coming holy year in the archdiocese of Baltimore). Finally, I have to do some taping for the daily reflections in these days. I plan to go back to Rome on May 8th. I have finished some reading: The Risk Agent by Ridley Pearson This is the story of a kidnapping of an American and a Chinese agent of a construction company in China, and the attempt by an American and a Chinese (both former soldiers) to find and rescue them. There is abundant confusion, for there are actually many different parties involved in the drama. The story is well written, and there is plenty of action. I would recommend this book. I think that the author is respectful to cultural differences and to character development, which is not always true of swash buckling action authors. A Historian Goes to the Movies: Ancient Rome by Prof. Gregory Aldrete This is a series of lectures by the Teaching Company on movies made about ancient Rome. The professor speaks both of the accuracies and inaccuracies of the film, but also of the cultural context in which the films were made (for there is often a message in the various topics treated by the film maker). The professor is a bit overly dramatic in his presentation, but the information presented is very good. He even treats the sci fi genre and how some recent films (Rollerball, the Hunger Games, etc. are actually loosely based on the gladiator and bread and circus themes of the Roman Empire). The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert There have been five major extinctions since the beginning of life in the world. One of them was probably caused by an asteroid that hit the earth in the Gulf of Mexico. One was caused by the growth of proto-trees that ate up the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing a cooling that led to a great ice age (interesting that we are facing the exact phenomenon at this moment). The author explains the mechanisms of the various extinctions. What I found interesting is that most of them occurred in slow motion, over a long, long period of time according to human standards (but according to the standards of the age of the earth, not really so long). Kolbert speaks of the present situation of the earth. At the very least, humans are wiping out the diversity once found in the animal and plant world. At the very least, the Carbon Dioxide level in the atmosphere is exploding. What I like about the book is that the author does not try to be apocalyptic, but she presents the evidence as it is. Simon Schama by Audible Interviews This author wrote several volumes of Jewish history. He started out with the history of the Rothchilds in a period before Zionism. This led to a much more organized series, as well as a ton of other books on various topics (e.g. A History of Britain; The Bastille Falls; Rembrant’s Eyes, etc.) Catalonia by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the area between Spain and France now found in the northeastern section of Spain. The people there have their own language and culture, which is often a mix of the two countries which surround it. They have been part of Spain for centuries, but have tenaciously help on to their cultural identity, even at the cost of persecution. The author also treats the present situation in which the nation of Spain does not want them to leave the union, but it seems as if many of the inhabitants of the region want to do so. Weird Rome by Charles River Editors This is an odd little book in the Charles River Editors book series. It deals with the culture and religion and superstition of Rome, but it never seems to find a common focus. The author simply throws out details and expects them to coalesce on their own. I would not recommend this particular book. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Ellicott City, Maryland

April 14, 2021 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. My period of isolation has been completed, and I am able to interact with the local community here in Ellicott City. This time through I am staying in the old Novitiate building at the top of the hill and not in the Provincialate. I had my first vaccination. I was given Pfizer, and I have my second shot on the 28th. I only had a bit of a sore arm for a couple of days. No other reactions. I have been using my time here for some classes on zoom. I have met with a local group twice and I have one more session next Monday. I will be meeting with the novices in California through zoom next week. I am also taping a series of talks with the Companions for broadcast upon their website over the next few months. I finished editing a book. Over the course of the various quarantines that I have gone through in this year, I have written two books and edited another two. I have also had a series of meeting on zoom with friars from all over. I find that an hour and a half on zoom is about as much as I can take without a break. There is something in the zoom meetings that really takes a lot of energy. I finished some reading: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch I have listened to this book a number of years ago, and had enjoyed it tremendously. Reading it this time was even more fun. The story is of a special unit (only two policemen) in the London police force that deals with magic and other unusual phenomena in the city of London. The older, Nightingale, is hinted to be incredibly old, even if he does not look it. The younger, Peter Grant, is learning the trade. There are murders by mysterious characters, shape shifters, time travel, etc. Yet, in spite of all the unusual happenings, there is a verisimilitude in the story. I highly recommend it as an enjoyable read. The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman I have always been fascinated on how a handful of apostles and disciples managed to spread the faith to the point that most of the Roman Empire was Christian by the end of the fifth century. How did it happen? What difficulties did Christians face? Did Christianity answer a particular need in the pagan population? Were there pagan groups similar to Christianity in those days? How many Christians were there in the various eras? How quickly did the Church grow? All of these topics are treated in an objective and respectful manner. The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer This is a masterful account of the Medieval World from the days of Constantine the Emperor to the days of the crusades. The author is not terribly Eurocentric, for she speaks of Korea, China, India, the Muslim caliphate, etc. There is so, so much information, but it is presented in an interesting manner. I would highly recommend this book. Harun al-Rashid by Charles River Editors This is the story of an Islamic leader of the Abbasid Empire who was both the greatest of its leaders but also the one who set it on the course to ruin. He is often mentioned in the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights, and is a symbol in literature both of a powerful leader but one who tended toward decadence. A Personal Problem by H. Bedford-Jones A man who is a loyal district manager must host his boss, who framed him for a theft many years before and who stole the woman he was to marry. He gets his revenge by having him sleep in a bed which is surrounded by huge cockroaches and centipedes and hunting spiders, things that the boss hates for he has a pathological fear of insects. Robert Harris by Audible Interviews This is an interview with one of my favorite authors. He has written the Cicero trilogy, a book on Dreyfus, the Ghost Author roughly about Tony Blair, and Munich, an account of the four days that led to the compromise that destroyed Czechoslovakia. In the Ruins of Empire: the Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia by Ronald Spector This is a very well done book that speaks about the role of Britain, France, Netherlands and the US in countries formerly occupied by Japan. Many of the countries involved did not want to return to their former colonial status, such as Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. Then there is the role the US and Russia played in China right after the war. We see many of the tensions in these countries and the stated and implicit intentions of the parties involved. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Monday, April 5, 2021

Rome - Ellicott City, MD

April 5, 2021 Peace and Good, I hope you have all enjoyed a good Easter Sunday. I arrived in Ellicott City from Rome on Thursday. I hated travelling on Holy Thursday, but I am here to receive my vaccine and have a few doctor's appointments, and one has to quarantine before that is possible. I do have an appointment for the first shot of the vaccine now on April 7th, and I will be able to arrange the rest of the appointments shortly. In the meantime, I am in quarantine in Clare House, which is a guest room in the basement of the main house in Ellicott City. I will be editing a book this week as well as having a few zoom sessions with groups on Sacred Scripture. Then, when I am out of quarantine and before my second shot, I will be doing some filming for the Shrine internet site. The weather when I arrived was cold, but yesterday was wonderful. I usually take a 40 minute walk each day, but these days I am trying to do two of these walks because most of the rest of the day is spent in one room. I finished some reading: The Wheel of Darkness by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston I have already read a slew of books by these two authors. They center on an independent FBI agent from New Orleans who works from his new home in New York City. This one involves his trip with his ward, Constance Green, to Tibet for study and meditation. There they discover that a precious relic has been stolen from the monastery. This leads to a trip across the ocean on a new liner which is cursed by the demon behind the relic, and Pendergast’s, the agent, battle against its power. Watchers by Dean Koontz I like Koontz’s writing style, and this is an excellent example of his style. There is a government experiment to make smart dogs and wild, ferocious beasts, both of whom could be used by the army during war. Two of the animals escape. The smart dog finds its way to a lonely, cursed man and an incredible paranoid woman who are healed by their encounter. The action is well done, as is the character development. Soldiers of Science: An Interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci by Alan Alda This is an interview with the now well-known Dr. Anthony Fauci. He speaks of his early training in medical research and why he chose this particular field. He interned at the NIH, and there he worked with cancer patients undergoing chemo-therapy. Later, he was on the forefront of research concerning AIDS. How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England by Ruth Goodman This is an interesting and entertaining overview of habits and manners in Elizabethan England. Some of the messages are similar to what we would present today, but other passages and practices are totally different. Goodman is not afraid to tell the whole story, even when it is a bit gross. Moscow Sting by Alex Dryden This is a complicated story of a KGB colonel who has information about a very high level spy who is leaking material to the west. We see the venality of some of the spy networks even those of the west). The action is very well done. The KGB colonel is trying to pave her own way through a very confusing situation, all the while protecting her son from danger. The Life and Times of Prince Albert by Patrick Allitt This is a teaching company course about the life and career of Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. Always considered to be a foreigner, and therefore not always liked or trusted, he nevertheless helped to teach Victoria how to act like a queen. He also had great influence on the modernization of the army and the political system. He died rather early, and Victoria mourned him (excessively) for the rest of her life. Malcolm and Me by Ishmael Reed This is a short memoir of the author Ishmael Reed and how he came to understand his particular calling through Malcolm X. He met him while he was working at a radio station in Buffalo, NY. I liked this short story because it was a point of view that was totally foreign to me, and I felt as if I saw a new perspective. Have a good Easter week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rome

March 30, 2021 Peace and Good, I hope your Holy Week is going well. Just this morning the city of Rome cancelled the red zone for a while (until Holy Saturday). When you went out in the street, you had to have a written form where you were going and what you were doing. The weather is getting better. Spring has arrived, but it is still quite cool. I will be leaving for the States this Thursday and spend time in Ellicott City until I am able to get my vaccine and do a couple of visits to the doctors and dentist. I am flying out Lufthansa. I have already gotten three reminders to have my covid test before I get to the airport. Germany has closed down entry to anyone who has not gotten it. We are meeting in our definitory meeting. We will finish sometime tomorrow afternoon. I have finished some reading: Ice by Ed McBain This is one of the Ed McBain detective novels about a police headquarters and the detectives who work there. There is a series of murders committed with the same gun, and there seem to be connections with a cocaine ring. The story is very well done. Red Rain by Dean Koontz This is one of the novellas in the Nameless series. Nameless is a man who works for an unknown operation that tries to determine the truth of murders which are true evil. In this case, he finds an arsonist and his accomplices and sets them against each other. The story is well done. The Mercy of Snakes by Dean Koontz This is the fifth of the Nameless series. He is an avenger for those whose connections to people in power are protected and who do evil things against others. This issue deals with a doctor who owns a five star elderly facility. He hires a detective to discover those who have a relative who wouldn’t mind if the resident were to die early. He and his nurse/lover then kill that person and he get a share of the inheritance. Typical of the series, Nameless is able to engineer a falling out between the co-conspirators. Photographing the Dead by Dean Koontz This is an episode in a series called the Nameless series of an operative who seeks revenge upon notoriously evil characters. In this case, it is a rich young man who likes to kill anonymously simply for the joy of the kill. Koontz is a very, very good author. The History of Spain by Joyce Salisbury This is a Teaching Company course on Spain from ancient times to the present. The professor is good, but I found that she felt that the ancients, the Muslims and Jewish people were fine, while her treatment of Christianity is not all that good. Nevertheless, it is a good account, including many of the cultural elements of Spanish culture. Classics of American Literature by Arnold Weinstein This is a very, very long series from the Teaching Company by a literary critic from the time of the early republic up to the present. Some of the insights of the professor were quite interesting, others were very, very odd, almost as if they were the personal pet peeves of the author. There were 84 episodes in the series. Have a good Triduum. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, March 22, 2021

Rome

March 22, 2021 Peace and Good, I am still in Rome (for a little more than another week). The weather is slowly warming up. Spring hasn't quite arrived yet, but it is around the corner. Rome is considered to be in a red zone for covid. Most people are not allowed on the street. This will probably last at least until Easter. I finished my quarantine, and now I and the definitory are in retreat. We have a Sister from Padua preaching to us through zoom. She is very good, and she is speaking about Francis' intuitions from the two rules of 1221 and 1223 as well as the writings of St. Anthony. We finish the retreat on Wednesday, and then Friday we begin our definitory. I finished some reading: The Preying Mantis Bride by Dean Koontz This is a long (84 sessions) study of American Literature from its earliest moments to the present (the last book treated is Beloved by Toni Morrison). At times the professor is very insightful, at other times he is selling his own unusual theories on certain works. Rather than say that the whole series of lectures is good, I would have to say that it is spotty at best. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky These are the musings of a most misanthropic man, dealing with some of his many reasons for hating both himself and the rest of humanity. It is not an especially enjoyable book, but it is good to see the world through this character’s point of view. A Spy by Nature By Charles Cumming This the story of a young British man whose career is going nowhere fast. He is interviewed by the secret services, but not hired. He then begins to work for a British oil company with interests in the Caspian Sea, handing on secrets of a group of Americans who are sponsored by the CIA, in a type of sting operation. Jeffery Deaver by Audible Interviews Deaver is one of my favorite mystery authors, especially with the Lincoln Rhyme series, and this interview was actually quite informative on the development of this particular character. I enjoyed Deaver’s insights, especially in proposing a hero who is basically helpless (being a quadriplegic) and who must depend upon the agility of his assistants. In the Heart of the Fire by Dean Koontz This is the first of a six part series of novellas on a character named Nameless who travels around to right horrible wrongs which the legal system cannot handle. In this first book, he must stop a sheriff whose family basically owns the country and who is practicing murderous pedophilia. In spite of the fact that the book is relatively short, Koontz is an expert at character development, and by the end of the book one is a fan of this series. The Fall of Richard Nixon by Tom Brokow This is a relatively short account of Tom Brokow’s career during the fall of Richard Nixon. I originally thought it would center more on Nixon, but it definitely is not that. It deals much, much more with Brokow (which is not bad, but not quite what I thought it would be). Keep safe, fr. Jude

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Rome

March 14, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in quarantine this week in my room. As far as I can remember, this is the 12th this year. The friars here are incredible in being available to supply me with anything I need. Four days this week I participated in a zoom meeting of the members of the federation to which our US provinces belong. Here the meeting lasted from 8 to 12 PM. The meeting went very well with us finding good understandings on most matters. Today I exited my room. I will be here until this coming Saturday morning when the definitory leaves for our annual retreat (in the vicinity of Rome). Then, after the retreat, we will be holding a definitory meeting. Italy is still fairly well locked down. Restaurants must close at 6 PM, and there is a night curfew. I finished some reading: Robin Ince by Audible Interviews This is an interview of a comedian who has also studied mental illness among comedians and artists. He has found a correlation between those with a way of seeing outside of the box and those who suffer from various difficulties. Furthermore, he speaks of responses to bad thoughts that run through one’s mind (how everyone has them) and to death (that each person mourns in his/her own way). America’s War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich This is an overview of American policy in the Mid-East (including Afghanistan) over the past decades. The author is very critical of the American attitude of running in and thinking that one can solve all their problems, and then abandoning the effort when it proves to be more difficult than they thought. He also deals extensively with military strategy. He is ruthless in his honesty, which make this read so good. I also like the fact that he tries not to be partisan (Republican or Democrat), but basically says a pox on them all. Christ’s Descent into Hell by Lyra Pitstock This is a very technical book on the meaning of the phrase that Jesus descended into Hell after his death on the cross. The author is contrasting Von Balthassar’s position which interprets this descent symbolically with the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict. The book has some interesting points, but certainly reads like a doctoral thesis. A Rare Book of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch This is a short story based on the character of Peter Brown, a young London detective who works on the magic squad. There is a problem with a series of unusual incidents in the British Library, and Peter must solve this incident by discovering a book that is much more than a book. Aaronovitch has created a likeable character and is pitch perfect in dialog and plot development. The Cumans: the History of the Medieval Turkic Nomads by Charles River Editors This is a short account of a tribe of nomads from Asia who eventually settled in much of southern Russia and the Balkans, including Hungary and Bulgaria. They eventually melded into local cultures and the Mongol invaders. The History of Spain: a Land on the Crossroads by Joyce Salisbury This is one of the Teaching Company Courses on the history of Spain from prehistoric times to the present era. The professor is well read and prepared. I enjoy some of her insights, but I often get the impression that everything Muslim and Secular is seen as positive, while everything Catholic is viewed with great suspicion. The Kugelmass Episode by Woody Allen This is a strange little story which take place in Russia. It concerns a smuggling ring which the orator accidentally uncovers. He meets a blind boy who is able to travel around the town without difficulty, a beautiful young woman who is always singing, etc. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Monday, March 8, 2021

Saltpond, Ghana - Rome

March 8, 2021 Peace and Good, I finished my retreat in Saltpond. There were 16 friars on the retreat. We had to keep Covid restrictions, which included wearing masks (which in 95 degree heat was a challenge). The weather was hot, hot, hot. At the end of the month is the beginning of the rainy season so it should cool off a bit soon. The trip was filled with covid restrictions. Going and coming, I had to have five separate covid tests. There were tons of documents to fill out at every step along the way, some of which was never collected. Our trip to the airport was filled with a bit of tension. It is only about two and a half hours to get to the airport from Saltpond, but traffic was incredibly bad. It ended up taking about six hours. Then, at the airport, there was some question if they would let me travel. Fortunately, I had a letter inviting me to Rome by the Secretary General which did the trick. Getting into Rome was actually quite easy. I had filled out the right form and found the right table, and was through within a minute. I am in quarantine for a week or so. Then we will be going on retreat, and the week after we will have a definitory. After that, I head back to the States for the vaccine. I finished some reading: The History of Rome in 12 Buildings by Phillip Barlag This is a tour of some of the most important sites in Rome. It speaks about the history of the buildings and the Roman republic and empire. It is quite colloquial, but also for that reason enjoyable. Pirate Women by Laura Sook Duncombe This is an audible book that I listened to about women who were pirates throughout the ages, from ancient times to the present day. The descriptions depend upon written testimony, which is often not available (both because pirates did not often receive a lot of coverage, and because women were not always taken into consideration). I had some difficulty with the story because the author tries to present pirates as heroes, even when they robbed and murdered. This is the worst of a feminist approach to the topic. The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson This is a short play of the relationship between Marie Curie and a British suffragette named Hertha Ayrton. Much of it deals with the way that Curie was treated when she was discovered to be committing adultery with a married man after the death of her husband Pierre. There is also a subplot dealing with the radium that she carries, and its effect on her health. (She would eventually die from the effects of the radium she had discovered.) Experiencing America: a Smithsonian Tour through American History by Richard Kurin This is a 24 session course on the history of the US, using objects preserved in the Smithsonian as starting points on each lesson. The presenter works at the Smithsonian, and he is quite good in the way that he handles the topic. It is not exactly an in depth presentation, but it was enjoyable. John C Fremont by Charles River Editors This is the story of the great explorer of passages through the Rocky Mountain. He also served as a general in the Civil War (Missouri and West Virginia) and he was not all that successful. He ran for president in the Republican Party in 1854. He also served as governor in various territories. For all of this, his wife Jesse was a much better politician than he. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day This is an autobiographical presentation of some aspects of the life and work of Dorothy Day. It is very much centered on her ministry to the poor. As one reads it, one is impressed with her fervor, but one gets the feeling that one is only seeing the surface of who she was. Keep safe. fr. Jude