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