Saturday, January 30, 2021

Castro Valley - Coalinga - Arroyo Grande - Pismo Beach - Castro Valley

January 30, 2021 Peace and Good, I am completing my visitation of the California province. Last Sunday I went down to Coalinga which is in agricultural territory in the central valley of the state. I then went to the coast to visit our novices and to visit our parish along the coast in Pismo Beach. I will head back to Italy on the 4th if all works well. The one problem is that the Ghanian Embassy has my passport because I needed to send it to them for a visa request, and they have not yet sent it back. If needed, I could stay here a few extra days. The weather was very rainy for two days, something which is badly needed this year. Otherwise, it has been very nice, with the temperature between the mid 70's and mid 60's. I have been doing most of the visitation by phone due to covid. The rules for travel, etc. seem to change every 15 minutes. I have finished some reading: Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is another of the books by Preston and Child that I have read and enjoyed. They mostly involve mysteries in which the central figure, Inspector Pendergast, a ghostly genius who is incredibly eccentric, must resolve the difficulties. This volume involves a series of murders around a chapel where there is a strange cult meeting and performing animal sacrifices. There are possible zombies, a type of voodoo, etc. It is, as always with these authors, a book well worth reading. Canada is Awesome by Neil Pasricha This is a wonderful short book on how great Canada is. It is written and read by the son of an immigrant from India. The book shows the typical pride (always a humble pride) in the community nature of their country. The Seven Wonders by Steven Saylor I have read several books by Saylor on a figure in Rome in the days of Julius Caesar known as the finder (a type of detective). This book involves a trip taken by the son of the Finder to visit the seven wonders of the ancient world (the statue of Zeus at Olympus, the pyramids, the mausoleum in Halicarnassus, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the temple of Aphrodite in Ephesus, and the Lighthouse in Alexandria). In each stop, the young son of the finder and his mentor (a Greek poet) must solve certain mysteries and crimes. Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Metz This is an incredible book that deals with the humility of the human condition and how it is only through our embracing of that condition that we can find peace and reach our full destiny. It is one that I am sure to read and reread again and again! Why Gettysburg Matters by Allen Guelzo This is a short treatment of the topic by a major author who has written a vast study on the Battle of Gettysburg. It was produced by audible books, and is one of a set of interviews by the company. Cat and Mouse on the Niger by Charles River Editors This is a short book dealing with the rush for colonies in Africa by the British and the French, especially on the Niger River (Nigeria, Benin, etc.), but also reaching out to the source of the Nile and the near war that occurred in Fashoda when the French arrived there and the British sought to expel them. End of Days: the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson This is a very good treatment of the assassination of Kennedy. It mentions the various conspiracy theories and largely discounts them. It speaks of the strange personality of Oswald. It is generally favorable to the Kennedy’s and also the family of LBJ. I could recommend this book. The Devil’s Workshop: a Novel of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad by Alex Grecian This is a strange novel of a group of vigilantes in London who capture criminals such as Jack the Ripper and torture them to make them pay for their crimes. A group of prisoners escape (something planned by the group) and cause havoc in the city, especially among the police and their families. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Castro Valley, California

January 23, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in our friary in Castro Valley (just outside of Oakland) for a couple of weeks. After five days of strict quarantine, I began to associate with the friars a bit. However, I came down with some symptoms of chills, fever, muscle aches, etc. It didn't look good, so I had my Covid test. It turns out it was negative, so the symptoms must be a return of an infection I had a few weeks back. I have treated the infection with my supply of Cipro, a strong antiobiotic, but the Cipro was very old and must not have been totally effective. I am now treating it with some new Cipro from the Vatican Pharmacy (I wonder if it was blessed). Feeling better. I have been doing my visitation of the province, almost completely by skype or phone. I am not going to LA where we have a friary because the Corona Virus situation is so bad there. But I am going to the central coast tomorrow (Coalinga, Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach). I will be back here on Wednesday. The weather is tremendous. It has been in the 70's almost every day, and not too much rain (although the area does need some more lest there be another drought). I head back to Rome on the 4th, if they let me in. Travelling these days is always uncertain, with flights being cancelled and new regulations being established every 15 minutes. Can't wait to get my vaccine. I finished some reading: The Long 19th Century by Robert Weiner This is a series of 24 lectures on the 19th century in Europe from the French Revolution to the end of World War I. It deals with social issues (the effects of the industrial revolution, the growth of the labor movement, racial questions, etc.). It deals with nationalism and the unification of the German Empire and the kingdom of Italy. The professor giving the lectures has done a very good job of the many aspects of culture in all of the lands involved (especially Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, etc.). The Mongol Conquests by Captivating History This is a short history of the growth of the largest empire the world has ever seen. While the Mongols were often known for the horror of their conquests and pillaging of the land, they also allowed the development of the Silk Road (for merchants could now travel in safety through the large empire). They allowed a great amount of religious freedom. The book deals with the splitting of the empire among its various components, and its eventual demise. Meteorology by Prof. Robert Favell This was a video course that I obtained from the Great Courses Company. The presented is good, but the presentation is more technical than is easy to understand. I intend to listen to the whole thing again on some future date. Normally I don’t buy the video version of these courses, but I am glad I did so with this course for one could not have understood anything without seeing the charts and maps and radar presentations. Frederic Remington by Charles River Editors This is the story of the great sculpture of the Old West. It turns out that he was not really a western figure – more a wantabe. He did both drawings and sculpting. Furthermore, he was more than a bit of a racist, something that was all too common in the era of Theodore Roosevelt and Social Darwinism. Mad Anthony Wayne by Charles River Editors This is a quick biography of one of the generals during the Revolutionary War. The author of this edition has a tendency to include long passages from the letters of the characters, with their original spelling and form of expression. This makes reading this particular volume a bit tedious. Jane Austin by Hourly History This is a good, short biography of the English author Jane Austin. Being a woman author was very unusual at this time, but writing under an assumed name, she was somewhat successful during her lifetime. She only acquired her great popularity later, long after her death. Ben Aaronivitch: Audible Originals Interview I have only recently subscribed to Audible books, largely to obtain the Great Courses audio courses at a discount price. Aaronivitch is the author of the Rivers of London series, about a detective in London who learns magic and uses it in his work. This interview was free, and in its half hour gave a good idea of the personality of the author. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Rome - Castro Valley, CA

January 14, 2021 Peace and Good, I left Rome this past Monday to begin my canonical visitation in the province of California. Most of the visitation will probably be done by phone and skype, but at least I will be in the right time zone. The regulations concerning covid were not all that bad. I had had myself tested a few days before the flight even though it was not yet required. Now the rules have changed and flight to the US will require testing. The flight from Rome to Frankfurt was fairly full, but that from Frankfurt to San Francisco was only about 1/4 full. We hit some awful air turbunlence at the Canadian/US border, the worst I have every experienced (for intensity and length of time). I am at our friary in Castro Valley. I am quarantined to the friary for ten days, but the first five days I will even avoid contact with the other friars. I just don't want to get anyone sick. I finished some reading: Caffeine: How Caffeine created the Modern World by Michael Pollan This is an audible books presentation. It is one of their original productions, and in two hours the author is able to present his relationship with caffeine, as well as a scientific and social study of the substance. I was able to obtain it for free (they allow two free audible presentations per month as part of their purchase package). The presentation is quite well done. The Sun Dog by Stephen King I always like King’s books, for he is a master of language and symbolism. In this case, a young man receives a polaroid camera as a present, but the camera only produces a picture of a scene in which a wild dog slowly becomes aware of the picture taker and prepares to attack him. This story takes place in New England, and there is an elderly store owner who has an emporia where he sells just about everything (and also is involved in other not so favorable activities such as loan sharking). Splendid Solution by Jeffrey Kluger This is an account of how Dr. Jonas Salk and his team were able to develop a vaccine against polio in the 1950’s. Salk comes across as quite a favorable figure, while his opponent, Dr. Lou Sabin, comes across as a petty, vindictive person. The account gives quite a bit of detail without getting lost in the minutia of scientific topics. I quite enjoyed the book. 36 Revolutionary Figures by The Teaching Company This is a collection of quick biographies of important figures who changed history throughout the ages. Some of the presentations are better than others (for they are taken from different courses and at times are really not intended to be a presentation of a person’s life). Yet, it was worthwhile listening to this course. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens This is a book I had written in high school, but I had not touched since. It was a joy to listen to it. I had not remembered much of it at all. Dickens has his style which is a bit flowery, but pleasant. Rome: A History is Seven Sackings by Matthew Kneale This is a fine book which speaks about the history of the city of Rome throughout its history from its founding until the present day. It includes the attacks by various groups of barbarians and by medieval and renaissance invaders. Sometimes the defenders of Rome were more successful than others. Sometimes the defeat of the Roman forces led to a terrible sacking, other times it led only to a change of very often arrogant leaders. The author is rather good in his portraiture. Genghis Khan by Walter J. Scott This is a short account of the life of this great Mongol invader. It presents the history just before his arrival, what he did, and what followed his reign. Rather than creating an actual empire, he created more of a movement that only loosely ruled the domains which he conquered (at a horrible cost for those who resisted him). The Battle of Bunker Hill by Hourly History This a short account of the Battle of Bunker Hill when the British attacked the top of a hill outside of Boston. While it was technically a victory for the British, it was what is called a Pyrrhic victory – that it cost the British so much that they realized that it would be difficult if not impossible to defeat the Patriots. Keep safe, fr. Jude

Monday, January 4, 2021


January 4, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been at home this past week, feeling a bit under the weather. I had an infection, which is well on its way to being over right now. Fortunately I carry Cipro with me, and that is the indicated antiobotic for this type of infection. (When you travel as much as I do and to the places I do, it is good to be prepared.) I had forgotten how strong Cipro is and what it can do to the microbiotica of the intestine, so I had to start eating yogurt to help replace the bacteria that I had done in through the use of Cipro. All is now well. Rome was quiet. New Year's Eve is always explosive, with fireworks being shot all over the place. It is not safe to be on the streets, for some people will throw anything they want outside of the windows (especially in Naples). When I worked in Ostia Lido years ago, there would be a carpet of broken glass on the street on New Year's morning from the broken bottles hurled out of the windows. The weather is cool with a lot of rain. This is very good for the farmers, because they really depend on the winter rain for the success of their crops. There have been shutdowns of a few days duration around the Christmas and New Year's holidays. That is now over. I am here until the 11th, and then I fly out to California for an official visitation. I will be in our friary in Castro Valley. I suspect that a lot of the visitation will be done on zoom, given travel limitations out there. I have finished some reading: The Gullah by Charles River Editors This is an account of the black population on the Sea Isles off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. They developed this own language based in a form of Pigeon English and the local languages of Africa which the slaves had used before they were brought to the States. After the Civil War, they were allowed to develop their own culture, which lasted until the isles became a popular resort area. The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver This is a Lincoln Rhymes story in which the famous criminologist is chasing two evil figures: one called the watchmaker who is being chased in Mexico City, and the other is a worker for the electric power company and who is killing people with electric arcs as a means of getting revenge for the leukemia from which he is suffering. The story has the usual twists and turns, the usual list of characters who are all a bit flawed. It is a very good example of Deaver’s works. The Studebaker Brothers by Charles River Editors This is a biography of the Studebaker brothers who began their business by manufacturing wagons during and after the Civil War, and who eventually developed a business of making electric and internal combustion powered automobiles. The book speaks of their rise and the eventual downfall of their business. This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust This is an unusual account of how the dead were treated during the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, little preparation had been made either for the dead or even for the dying. Eventually, a system to deal with the deceased was developed. This included methods of embalming the deceased, of shipping their bodies to their homes for burial in family cemetery plots, for dealing with those who could not be identified, the development of spiritualism in the effort to contact the deceased, etc. The author speaks of how the deceased of the southern forces were treated in the north and vice versa. The book is an interesting study on this one dimension of the suffering of people. The Roma by Charles River Editors This is a history of the Roma people, the Gypsies. They were originally from India and were often welcomed into new territories by the people and rulers. Their welcome then ran out and they were chased to the next region. The book speaks of their customs, their communal organization, their taboo, etc. The Saint and the Sultan by Paul Moses This is a very good book which speaks about St. Francis and his trip to Damietta, Egypt to encounter the Sultan of Egypt during one the crusades. While the Christian forces were trying to kill the Muslims, Francis did all he could to convert the Sultan (not as a form of victory over him, but rather to offer him something so precious to him). The author studies the writings of Francis which speak of opposing evil and difficulties with love and patience. He also speaks of latter accounts of the story and how those accounts were affected by political and religious circumstances when the accounts were written. I highly recommend this book. Have a safe week. Shalom fr. Jude