Thursday, May 27, 2021


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


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