Saturday, February 27, 2021

Accra, Ghana - Saltpond, Ghana

February 27, 2021 Peace and Good, I arrived here in Ghana at the beginning of the week. The early days were in Accra, the capital of the country. We have a house of studies there with 26 students froom 4 different countries. Wednesday I was driven to Saltpond, a couple of hours down the coast from Accra. Here we have a retreat house and a novitiate. In Accra and here in Saltpond I have given some talks to the men in formation. They have quite a few vocations here. Presently, Ghana is a custody of the Northern Italian Province, and eventually it will become a province (possibly as early as 2025). Monday evening I will begin preaching to a group of 26 friars from the custody. The topic is based on a document passed at the General Chapter called the six year plan, a guideline for conversion over the years between chapters. The main topic will be living in fraternity, a topic that fits in well with the encyclical Fratelli Tutti. The weather is hot, very hot. It is a real challenge to wear a mask in this heat, but Ghana is going through a second wave right now so it is the right choice. I have finished some reading: 1066 The Year of Five Kings by Ray Moore This is an account of the year in which Harold became king of England, when he defeated the Norwegian king who invaded the land to take the throne, and then had to fight William the Bastard (whom we now call William the Conqueror. It is based on the Saxon accounts of those years, but it is historical fiction. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley I read this book many, many years ago. It is now being offered for free by audible, so I decided to listen to it once again. I had forgotten how gothic the book was. It almost ignores the scientific aspects of the story. It is all about the responsibility of the creator, and the loneliness of being the only one of a type. Both the creature and Frankenstein feel betrayed by what has happened. The language is typical of the era in which the book was written, but the underlying premise makes one think. Museum Masterpieces: the Louvre by Richard Brittell I have watched another 24 session course on the Metropolitan Museum in New York. This is a 12 session course on the Louvre in Paris. It is a good presentation, but does not rise to the level of the other course. The Pagan World: Ancient Religions before Christianity by Hans-Friedrich Mueller This is a 24 lesson series on pagan religions before the triumph of Christianity. The presenter is very good, and the material is very useful. This is a course from the Teaching Company. I highly recommend this course for anyone who is interested in the topic. The Poison King: the Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adrienne Mayor This is an excellent account of Mithradates, the king of Pontus (in northern Turkey). It deals with the many battles he fought with the forces of Rome. It also deals with Mithradates’ fascination with poison. He was an incredible figure whose entire life was passed in one battle or another. The author presents an excellent portrait of the times and the man. This is a book I can highly recommend. Heather Morris by Audible Interviews This is an interview with the author of the Tattooist of Auschwitz. She speaks about her new volume, Cilka’s Journey. Her first book has now been published in over 50 countries. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling Audible has made a series of books available for free during this quarantine. I had listened to this book a long, long time ago. It was a joy listening to it again. JK Rowling is able to present a full picture of this imaginary world. I have reserved a number of her other books on hold at the local library so that I can go through the whole series. Keep safe fr. Jude

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Castro Valley, California - Rome

February 14, 2021 Peace and Good, I finished my visitation in California and have returned to Rome. The trip back was actually postponed a bit due to the fact that a visa I had applied for was not ready on time, so I only left Castro Valley this past Tuesday (and not the previous Thursday as was originally planned). The trip was not bad, but the paperwork is becoming more and more stringent. I would not advise anyone to travel these days unless it was essential. I am in quarantine right now. These periods in my room give me some time to catch up on projects, but I am getting tired of them. I hope to fly to the States at the beginning of April and will stay until I can get my vaccine. The weather here is cool and a bit rainy. There was snow in northern Italy yesterday, including Assisi. Yesterday, we began our General Definitory meeting. I am attending by zoom, even though the definitory is meeting just down the corridor. In Italy isolation doesn't only mean to stay at home, but also in one's room. I finished some reading: The Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956 by Charles River Editors This is a book that speaks of the history of Hungary from the time of the First World War until the Soviet invasion in 1956 that crushed an attempt by the people and even the government to break free of the crushing embrace of the Soviet system. Twenty-one Stories by Graham Greene This is a series of very interesting, entertaining short stories. They were mostly written between the two World Wars, although one can hear in some of them the drum beats of the coming conflict. The stories tend to be filled with irony, and often deal with sad relationships between parents and children. Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis I have always heard about this book, but I was able to listen to it in these days. Elmer is a professional preacher whose only goal is success, even if that means sinning against the very things that he preaches upon. Lewis was a bit of a socialist, and this book mocks many aspects of religion and its promulgation, but it is well, well done. It leaves one a bit sad, but it has something well worthwhile to say (and can serve as a good examine of conscience to ask myself why I am really doing certain things). My Philosophy by Woody Allen This is a short, comical approach to philosophy. Allen is able to use the right terms, and then twist it into something comical. This is only a short piece, originally a magazine article. Donna Leon by Audible Sessions Donna Leon is one of my favorite authors. She writes detective novels about an Italian Police Commissioner in Venice, and her Italian flavor in her books is perfect. Her hero is a decent man with a real family. His battle against the Italian political system rings so true. I have always recommended her books. This 15 minute interview was well, well done. Second Son by Lee Child This is the story of Jack Reacher as a young teenager who already shows his physical and mental prowess which would be seen in later periods of his life. He is the son of a Marine officer who has been transferred to Hawaii. He runs into difficulties with a local bully, but is able to put him in his place. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Castro Valley, CA

February 6, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Castro Valley this past week finishing up my visitation. I have met the friars in person, on skype, on zoom, by phone, by iternet email, etc. In spite of the limitations of the method, I feel that I have gotten a good picture of where the province is at this moment. There are two major decisions coming in these years. The first is to raise the delegation in Vietnam up to the status of a custody. The second has to do with the unification of the provinces of friars in the United States. I spoke with the provincial and his definitory this past week, and the meeting went well. I have to write up the preliminary report in the next few days, and then submit it to them for their comment. I will also present it to the General Definitory at the end of the month. When everyone is OK with it, then it will be sent out to the friars of the province. The weather has been excellent here. We had a bit of badly needed rain (which became blizzards as the front moved east). But it is mostly sunny and in the 60's and even the 70's. I was supposed to head back to Rome this past Thursday, but the Ghanian Embassy took a long time to give me a visa to Ghana and to return my passport, so I am now leaving this Tuesday. Later today I head out to get another covid test. I have finished some reading: The Other America by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a short speech which speaks about how the poor people in our country are not lazy or evil, but rather have to struggle against unconquerable obstacles. It is good to hear a different approach to many of the social problems about which we speak so easily. Roman Emperors by Ron Carver This is a medium size treatment of some of the major emperors of the Roman Empire. It is a bit odd in its organization (not being historic nor thematic). The material is basically accurate, but it is very superficial. British Covert Operations in World War I by Charles River Editors This is a short account of some of the secret diplomacy during World War I, including many of the agreements which led to so many difficulties during the rest of the 20th century (e.g. in the Middle East). It does not really go into the question of spy craft which I would have expected. Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City by Professor Steven Tuck This was a 24 lecture presentation on the city of Pompei (and life in a Roman city at the beginning of the first century AD. It deals with the foundation of the city, the economy practiced there, the buildings and what they tell us about life there, etc. Only the beginning and end really deal with its destruction by the explosion of Vesuvius. The rest deals with individual studies of topics about the life of the city, and especially of the normal people living there. The Third Reich in Power by Richard Evans This is the middle of a three book series on the Third Reich. Evans gives an incredibly thorough and good presentation of the many, many different social, political, economic, religious, etc. considerations of what happened between 1933 and 1939. I marvel at how well researched and written Evans’ books are. An Introduction to Infectious Diseases by Dr. Barry Fox This was a free gift from the Teaching Company due to the present Pandemic. It was a series of 24 lessons, and it was of the quality of the other Teaching Company courses. The most interesting lecture was that which dealt with possible future pandemics. The presenter was not all that far from what happened, although he sided with the idea of another version of influenza and not the coronavirus. The Origins of World War II by Keith Eubank This is one of the books which I purchased through Chirp books. The topic was well presented, but the reader did a terrible job of the pronunciation of names. All in all, it was worth the listen, but… Christian Eschatology by Charles River Editors This is a Charles River production, so it was a very quick study of a very complicated topic. Nevertheless, it gives a good outline of the topic. I was quite impressed. The author seems to be more affiliated with the evangelical approach to the question, but they have also written the most in the past century, especially the Pentecostals. Keep safe. fr. Jude