Sunday, August 29, 2021


August 29, 2021 Peace and Good There is only one city mentioned above, and that is a miracle. I am here in Rome for a few weeks. It is hot, but not as hot as it was earlier in the season. This is the end of the August holidays, when everyone who can runs off to the shore or the mountains. I have been translating a document which is around 64 pages long on formation. It is a big project, but I have been chipping away at it, doing about 2,000 words each day. I have til the end of September to finish it. Rome has a lot of tourists, but very few Americans. They are mostly Italians, although I have heard a bit of French and German in the streets. They have established a green passport for vaccinations. If you don't have it, you can eat outside but cannot enter restaurants, museums, offices, etc. I don't have it (even though I am fully vaccinated), but I don't really need it because I am pretty much being a home body in these days. I finished some reading: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling These are a set of folk tales told to young witches along with an extended commentary supposedly produced by Professor Dumbledore, the head master of Hogwarts, the school where Harry Potter studied. The Ottoman Conquest by JB Bury This is a comprehensive essay in the collection of Cambridge History on the conquests of the Ottoman empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. The writing style is technical and filled with so much detail that it is not really a pleasant read, but it is nevertheless informative. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough All of McCullough’s books are masterpieces, and this is no exception. It deals with the lives and careers of the Wright brothers, the inventors of the first motored, manned airplane. The Wright brothers come across as honest and humble Midwesterners who applied their lives and talents to the project of flying. They were the sons of a Protestant bishop. Their sister, Katharine, played a significant role in their lives and that of their father. By the end of the book, one feels that one has a good grasp of who they were and what their reputation was in their own times. The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman This is an overview of the use of poison throughout the years. Herman examines old cases and tries to determine whether the symptoms and deaths of those involved were due to natural factors or to actual poisoning. The Falklands War by Hourly History This is a short history of the war between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982 for the possession of these islands in the South Atlantic. Their possession had gone back and forth over the years, but by the 20th century almost all of its inhabitants were British who strongly wanted to stay in possession of the British. Their major industry was sheep pasturing, although there seems to be deposits of oil and natural gas in their coastal waters. The Science of Sci-Fi by Erin Macdonald This was a very entertaining course from the Teaching Company (although one of the free courses I obtained from Audible) concerning scientific concepts and their use and misuse in science fiction books, films and programs. The presenter has a great sense of humor, and she is able to present the material (which can be very complicated) in an understandable manner. The Ends of the World by Peter Brennen This is a book that deals with evidence found in the rock strata concerning the five earlier extinctions of much of the life upon the earth, and which then extrapolates the lessons to be learned from those events and applies them to our present circumstances. The style of the writing is inviting and not overly technical, and I found the author honest in his use of scientific facts. The Doolittle Raid by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the raid led by James Doolittle against Tokyo and other cities in April of 1942. The president and the military leaders were desperate to strike a blow against Japan in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The arranged for land planes to take off from an aircraft carrier, drop their bombs, and continue on to China where most of them crash landed. In one sense, the attack was a woeful failure, for they did relatively little damage. However, the trauma of the capital being attacked led to the imprudent attack on Midway Island in which four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, changing the course of the war. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 20, 2021

London - Rome - Assisi - Rome

August 21, 2021 Peace and Good, I hope you are all enjoying your summer. I finished my two weeks in London, during which I didn't see the sun more than five minutes. Travelling to Rome is itself no difficulty, but the paperwork is crazy. I had to fill out three internet forms, and another two forms on the plane and at Rome airport (the paper forms saying the same thing I had already registered on the internet forms). Rome is warm, but the friars tell me that it is much cooler than it has been in these days, with temperatures up to 100. August is always a slow, hot time, with many Romans fleeing to the beach or the mountains to get away from the heat. Many restaurants even close for a few weeks during this time of year. I went up to Assisi for a few meetings on Thursday and came back yesterday. The trains are not all that full yet, but when I got to Assisi I was shocked at the number of people visiting the Basilica. It is like all the Americans who flew when it was finally a bit safer. The Italians decided to get out of their houses and see a bit of their own country. The friars had to let people into the Basilica in batches, and the line waiting to get in had several hundred people. I will be in Rome until mid-September when I will fly back to Baltimore for our extraordinary chapter. I finished some reading: Sekigahara and Shiroyama by Charles River Editors This is the story of two major battles that involve thee Samurai. The first battle is that in which many of the war lords of Japan were defeated and one Samurai master is able to unify the kingdom. While the emperor was theoretically the leader of the country, he was only a figurehead. This situation lasted several centuries. Then, the second battle took place after the opening of the kingdom to outsiders. It was a battle between the newly organized army of the Meiji emperor and the rebellion led by the old and now disempowered Samurai. Stalingrad by Captivating History This is a short account of the siege of Stalingrad and the defeat of the German and allied forces by the Soviets. Oddly, most of the book is spent on background material, and relatively little on its main topic, that particular battle. It nevertheless is worth reading. African Mythologies by Captivating History This is only a short collection of various African myths (from all over the continent), but I found it fascinating. We rarely hear stories like this. I noticed that many of the stories were in praise of a figure called the trickster, someone who knows how to survive in the midst of difficult circumstances. Like all myths, the good tend to win and the bad tend to be punished, but that is not always true in these stories. The Spirit of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini This is a highly philosophical review of the theory behind the liturgy. It is well done, but it certainly takes considerable reflection in order to understand and apply what he is saying. He finds a balance between overly spiritualizing the liturgy and making it too mundane. Henry IV: the Righteous King by Ian Mortimer This is a rather long, but very good book on Henry IV who overthrew Richard II, and whose son was Henry V, the victor of Agincourt. He had tremendous difficulties with rebellions in his reign and attacks in Wales, Scotland and France. He had to fight his own parliament to receive adequate funds for his needs and his campaigns, and then was attacked by them for not doing enough. The author presents him as an honest, religious man who did the best he could in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. Frederick Chopin by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous Polish composer who spent most of his adult life in France. He was the lover of George Sands (despite the name, a woman). He eventually died of tuberculosis. He was a rather depressed character. He deeply loved his native Poland, but once he left it he never returned there. He needed money so now and then he would give concerts, but he suffered from a paralyzing tendency to stage fright. Mercia by Captivating History This is a rather complicated history of this kingdom in the center of England during the late Dark Ages, just before the invasion of the Danes and the establishment of the kingdom of England by Alfred the Great. The names are impossible and often so similar that reading this short work is torture. Have a good week. fr. Jude

Friday, August 13, 2021


August 12, 2021 Peace and Good, I have been in Great Britain since the beginning of the month, and will only be leaving here on the 17th. This week I took a quick trip to our friary in Barton, which is just outside of Manchester (only a couple of hours by train from London). I have been meeting with friars and talking. There is no special agenda, just giving the friars a chance to share with me whatever they would like. This is especially important given how closed we were during the pandemic. The weather has been miserable. There has not been one sunny day since I arrived. It has rained, at least for a while, every single day. I have been helping out a bit in our parish (very, very small) near our custodial office in London. It is good to have Mass with the people. That is something I don't often get when I am in Rome. The regulations concerning mask wearing have been somewhat lifted here, but many people are still wearing it inside of stores, and almost every on mass transit. A good number of people still wear them outside. I finished some reading: Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese This is a history of the use of coal from the earliest days of its exploitation in China and England to the present. The author deals with its mining, the pollution it causes, the problem of Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur Monoxide, etc. She speaks of its present use to generate electricity, especially in the US and China. The work is well presented, and somewhat balanced in its approach. A History of India by Michael Fisher This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company that runs from prehistoric times to the present day. It speaks of the Indian subcontinent, meaning the modern states of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. It speaks of the influence of the Hindu, Muslim and other faiths (e.g. Christianity, Jainism, Sikes, etc.). It deals with colonialization and the fight to obtain independence. The courses are very informative and well done. Nicholas II by Captivating History This is a short biography of the tragic figure of the last czar of Russia and his family. It deals with his desire to retain an autocratic system even when history was moving against that tendency. Of course, it also deals with the influence of Rasputin. Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines by Charles River Editors This short work is an overview of the lives and careers of two of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution at the beginning of the 19th century. The led what turned out to be an incredibly violent revolution, a reaction to an incredibly violent exercise of slavery. Toussaint comes across as a stabilizing factor, while Dessalines is much more violent and ruthless. Lincoln’s Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher This is the story of how Lincoln and Stephen Logan defended a young man on a charge of murder. He had been attacked by another man from the village along with his brother, and the much smaller young man defended himself with a knife, killing the man attacking him. The trial is one of the first cases to have a full transcript, produced by Robert Hitt. Lincoln is shown as clever, wise, personable and brilliant in his presentation. The book is very good. Nat Turner by Charles River Editors This is the story of a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831 led by a man named Nat Turner. It was especially brutal, both for what the slaves did to the whites and the revenge that the whites enacted upon the slaves. It was the nightmare of the slave owning class for the next decades. The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver This is one of the Lincoln Rhymes books. The paraplegic forensic investigator is called to investigate the assassination of an anti-American activist in the Bahama Islands. The assassin is from an obscure intelligence agency whose task is to kill dangerous enemies of the US. The book is filled with twists and turns. I especially like these books because they involve flawed characters, including Lincoln Rhymes. Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien This is an account of the role of the US women who were the pioneers of flight in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. This includes Amelia Earhart as well as other female flyers who faced terrible prejudice. This was a dangerous time to fly, and not a few women and men died in plane crashes in these days. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, August 2, 2021

Los Angeles - Ellicott City - London

August 2, 2021 The Feast of the Portiuncula Peace and Good, I flew out from LA to Baltimore so that I could participate in the simple profession and solemn profession of vows of some of our friars (four for simply profession and three for solemns). The simple profession took place in the chapel at our friary in Ellicott City, while the solemn profession was in the local church, St. Louis, in Clarksville. Both were beautiful. The solemn profession had a choir from Togo, since one of those professing was born there. After communion they played a vibrant song that had people dancing in the ailes. I was very moved. I have always felt an attraction to the African form of the liturgy which is filled with life and emotion. I flew from Dulles to London on Saturday. The flight was good. There was a considerable amount of paperwork to fill out before getting on the flight, but checking in at Washington and passing through passport control in London was easy. Today Great Britain declared that one who comes from the States does not have to quarantine any more. I had to take another covid test this morning, but that is all. Masks are not required, but they are recommended on public transport. The weather here the past couple of days was typical London - cool and rainy. Mark Twain once said that the worst winter he ever lived through was a July in London. Today, the sun has come out and it is really pleasant. I finished some reading: The Quiet Game by Greg Iles This is a story set in Natchez where a former district attorney and now an author, Penn Cage, arrives in his home town. He mentions an old murder of a black man many years before which she then puts in her newspaper. This begins a frightening series of events as the Penn Cage tries to solve the murder mystery (which seems to have been a racial crime). In the process, he and his family face incredible danger. The Aeneid of Virgil by Elizabeth Vandiver This was a twelve lecture course on the Aeneid by Virgil. This was an epic poem written toward the beginning of the reign of Augustus to give a mythic origin story for the now powerful Roman Empire. Vandiver is very good at presenting the material and the background. It is remarkable that Virgil actually wanted the text of the epic to be burned because he was dying before he could put the finishing touches on it. Augustus refused to do this, saving this masterpiece for Rome and for us. Megan Phelps-Roper by Audible Interviews This is an interview of a member of Westborough Baptist Church who left the Church and then wrote about her experience. This is the church which picketed at funerals, demonstrated at other Church functions to provoke others to violence so that they might sue them, etc. She explains why people interpreted scripture the way they did and how they actually thought that what they were doing was for other people’s benefit. Ugarit by Charles River Editors This short presentation is one of the better Charles River Editors productions. Ugarit was a city in the Mideast which was a trading center between Mesopotamia and Egypt and Greece. The population was Semitic. The ruins where not discovered until the 20th century. Among the important finds was a library of thousands of clay tablets written in a primitive cuneiform alphabet. Gideon’s Sword by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston Child and Preston are some of my favorite authors. They have written a long series of stories about a FBI inspector named Pendergast. This volume is part of another series. This one deals with a company that performs projects for the government and others which spies would normally do. The greatest tool of the company is a very intricate system of social manipulation and evaluation. In this book, Gideon, who has a condition that will kill him within a year, is sent out to discover the secrets of a Chinese scientist who was coming to the US. Sherman makes Georgia Howl by Charles River Editors This is the account of one of the most controversial actions of the Union army during the war. It speaks of Sherman’s conquest and destruction of the city of Atlanta, and then his march to the sea in which he left a path of destruction. He is still despised in the south for what he did. The excuse on the part of Sherman was that he had to destroy the backers of the rebellion, including their manufacturing and capacity to provide food for those who were fighting. The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner This is a fictional biography of Queen Juana la Loca, Juana the mad. The author speaks of her marriage to a Hapsburg heir who turns out to be unfaithful and power hungry. He treats her badly in many ways. She eventually poisons him. Her reign was clouded by the fact that Ferdinand (the husband of Isabella) closed her away and ruled in her stead. The author prefers to speak of her as totally innocent and manipulated by the men around her. She avoids speaking of the mental illness of some sort that does seem to have affected her. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude