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