Monday, December 27, 2021


December 27, 2021 Peace and Good, It has been quiet here in Rome the past several days. The covid omega variant is spreading quickly, so many people are staying at home. Masks are now required even outdoors. Our definitory meeting ended on the 23rd. It went very long, but we got a lot done, and we don't meet again here in Rome until the beginning of March. These next two months I will be in the States (the Midwest) doing two canonical visitations (if the pandemic allows). I will fly to Chicago on the 29th of December. Tomorrow I have to go and try to get a PCR test (Great Britain, through which I am passing, requires the PCR within 48 hours of taking off, the US requires at least a rapid test within 24 hours). Then tomorrow I will have to fill out some of the forms for flying. The weather here has been rainy these past few days, but not all that cold. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice, so I will walk to the clinic (c. 45 minutes) instead of getting a ride. On Wednesday I have to head to the airport at 4 AM (with two other friars who have an earlier flight, I leave at 8:05 AM). I am glad that the winter solstice is passed. I always have problems with light deprevation in December and early January. I should check out one of those light therapies for people with seasonly affect light disorder. I finished some reading: Pyrrhus of Epirus by Charles River Editors There is a phrase concerning victory which has left the victor badly damaged. It is called Pyrrhic victory. It is named after the general Epirus, from what today is Albania named Pyrrhus. This book is a biography of that general. He fought in Greece, the Romans and enemies in Sicily. After one of his victories over the Romans, he was congratulated by one of his generals. His response was that if he had very many more victories like that one, that he would be in real trouble. 10 Big Questions of the American Civil War by Caroline Janney This is a Teaching Company course marketed by Audible (for free) on some vexing questions concerning the Civil War (e.g. was it total war, was it fought over slavery, etc.). The professor is clear and gives a reasonable response to these questions. Her presentation was well done. Micro by Michael Crichton This is the story of a company in Hawaii which can shrink people to a very small level. The problem is that the head of the company has lost his perspective and possibly his mind. He kills a number of people who oppose him in any way, including sending a group of shrunken students out into the wild where they face a dangerous attempt to return to their normal size. Fratelli Tutti by Pope Francis I read this encyclical slowly to be a daily mediation. It is imbued with what we would call Franciscan values. I found the message a bit repetitive at times, but I believe that its message is essential in our times in which people so divided over so many issues. V2 by Robert Harris Harris is one of my favorite authors. He wrote a three volume series of historic fiction on the Roman Cicero. This book is about the V2 rocket attack on London, told both from a German and an English point of view. As with all his books, it is well done and pleasurable reading. He manages to tell a historic story with real people whose lives were changed by the events that occurred in their times. Nicholas II: The Fall of the Romanovs by B. R. Egginton This is a relatively short biography of Nicholas, the last czar of Russia, giving details of the history of his times and his family. The story is well told, without trying to find heroes or villains. Sue Perkins Earpedia Animals/Plants These are two of the podcasts that I have received from Audible. She tells the story of some unusual animals (such as the platypus, of the weasel, etc.)in the first series, and then unusual plants in the second. She has a tremendous light approach with a good sense of humor. It is just an enjoyable listen. Atlas of a Lost World by Craig Childs This is the account of the author’s trips to various desolate, out of the way sites in which he uncovers evidence of early human habitation (or at least experiences things which those inhabitants would have experienced. These trips include the regions of northern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the swamps of the southern US. Happy New Year fr. Jude

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Chicago - Rome

December 18, 2021 Peace and Good, The Minister General's trip to the States proved to be a very good experience. He returned to Italy on the 10th, while I stayed on for a couple of extra days to be present at the funeral of my niece's husband. Reid was a very good man, very involved in business, youth sports activities, the activities of the neighborhood, the Church, etc. The Church was packed, and there were five concelebrants at St. Clement Parish in Chicago. The trip back to Rome was uneventful, but the paperwork to travel is getting more and more burdensome. I have to have a letter of invitation, locator forms for both Great Britain and Italy, the covid certificate, the vaccination certificate, etc. The weather here in Rome is cool but clear. We are meeting in Definitory these days and will continue until Thursday of this week. December is always a longer definitory due to the buildup of tasks that have to be attended to at the end of the year. I have noticed that jet lag is taking me longer and longer to overcome. I arrived here on Monday, and last night was the first night that I really slept well. I finished some reading: Tocqueville and the American Experiment by William Cook This is a 24 lecture series from the Teaching Company about Baron de Tocqueville and his trip to America in the early 19th century and his observations upon American society. The presenter is a down to earth, even folksy professor from the State University system in New York State. I have listened to other courses presented by him, and he is always good. Many of the insights that de Tocqueville made prove to be relevant to our country today. Pyramid of Mud by Andrea Camilleri This is one of a series of books on a police commandant in Sicily and his investigations. There is a good bit of humor in the story, as well as clever insights. The protagonist of the story is presented with all of his flaws, but he comes across as someone who on balance is likeable and who is a good policeman. I liked the frequent mentions of food eaten at restaurants or at home, something one would certainly expect in an Italian story. Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger by Ken Perenyi This is a biographical account of a man who made his money be forging 17th century Dutch and 19th century American art. He speaks about his checkered life style as well as his artistic techniques. He gives an insight into the art world, and especially into the auction houses and art stores and their sometimes shady practices. Leningrad by Captivating History This is a short book on the history and especially on the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War. It is not as insightful as some of the books I have read on the topic, but that is to be expected given the short nature of these treatments (e.g. Captivating history, Charles River Editors, and Hourly History productions). Soldiers of Science by Alan Alda This is a podcast series (4 episodes) that speak about the young doctors who signed up with the National Institute for Health during the Vietnam War (sometimes to avoid being drafted into the war). The series speaks of the incredible discoveries that they made as they both researched and treated patients (thus never loosing track of why they were working). Nine of the doctors of that era won Noble Prizes, and incredible record of excellence and adventure. Alexander and the Macedonian Empire by Kenneth Harl This is one of the Teaching Company’s courses, with 36 lectures on Alexander, his father Philip, Greek and Macedonian culture, and the aftermath of Alexander’s conquests. The professor is filled with information, but never boring. He gives the various opinions on various topics (e.g. was Alexander a megalomaniac, a drunkard, a good general, etc.). I would highly recommend this series for anyone interested in the topic. The Day the World Ended: the Mount Pele Disaster May 7, 1902 by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts This is the story of the eruption of the volcano on the island of Martinique which destroyed the capital city on May 7, 1902. The author documents the attempts by the local governor and politicians to downplay the danger of the volcano because they were afraid it would affect the election due shortly. The local newspaper went along with the lies and half-truths told by the mayor of the capital and others. This resulted in an incredible disaster in which almost 30,000 people were killed due to a sudden pyroclastic flow upon the city. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre by Charles River Editors This is one of the medieval monastic/military orders founded in the Holy Land to protect and aid pilgrims and the holy places (others include the knights Templar and the hospitaliers, commonly known as the knights of Malta). They eventually transformed into a more ceremonial organization with fancy uniforms, but they still do collect and distribute funds to help finance the needs of the pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land. Merry Christmas fr. Jude

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Castro Valley, CA - Ellicott City, MD - Chicago, IL

December 8, 2021 Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception I am continuing my trip with the Minister General, fr. Carlos Trovarelli, in the United States. He would like to visit each province a bit to get a sense of what is going on in each place before we celebrate our provincial chapters this coming April and May. From Castro Valley (Oakland) we travelled to El Paso, then Baltimore, and we are now in Chicago. Each place we go we meet with the Ministers Provincial and with the friars who can come to a gathering to meet him. It has gone very well. There has only been one travel glitch, a mechanical problem, but that only lasted an hour. Travel back to Europe has become challenging due to the changing rules on covid tests. In El Paso, fr. Carlos got to meet with the local bishop and also with two of the leadership team of the local tribe, the Tigua, who worship at our parish there. In Baltimore, we attended Mass at St. Casimir's Church and at the end there was a quick Christmas pagent. The very small children played the angels, the shepherds, and even the animals (donkey, sheep and cows). I was surprised that the lady leading the event used by Christmas book for the test of the pagent. I even read one of the last pages of the book to close the event. It was great. The Minister General is heading back on the evening of the 10th, and I will leave on the evening of the 12th. I will be staying in Chicago to attend the funeral of my nieces's husband. Please keep him, Reid, in your prayers. Also, please pray for Chrissy and her three children. I finished some reading: Five Days in London: May, 1940 by John Lukacs This is an account of the discussions and decisions made in London by the new Prime Minister, Churchill, and his cabinet. Belgium was surrendering, France was on the precipice, and the allied forces had begun to evacuate Dunkirk. This book runs from May 24 to 28. It deals with suggestions that negotiations be opened with Hitler or Mussolini, that the British recognize that they could not win, etc. The account is well done and well documented. The Byzantine Empire and the Plague by Charles River Editors The emperor Justinian had just reconquered many of the lands in Italy and Africa that had been lost to barbarian invasions. At that point, plague hit and devastated his empire and his army. Ironically, the barbarians were not as affected due to the looser societal bonds. The Church in Rome had to step forward and take control of events in the surrounding areas, all but ignoring the exarch of the Byzantines who lived in Ravenna (for he could provide no assistance). This short account gives a good overview of the tremendous impact this pestilence had upon society, government and religion. Emperors of Rome by Ron Carver This is part of a series of overviews on Roman topics provided by this author. The series is oddly disjointed, with no real time line. The writing style is so conversational that it is at times embarrassing. Overall, though, the individual sections are worth reading. The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman This is a book that I had read a long time ago, and rereading it was a joy. Barbara Tuchman is an accomplished history author. This volume deals with a telegram that the German foreign minister sent to Mexico and Japan during World War I to gain their assistance in the war (even if it meant going to war against the United States). He promised Mexico the lost areas of the southwestern US, e.g. New Mexico, Arizona, California, etc. The British were able to decode the message and shared it with President Wilson who desperately did not want to go to war. This and the unfettered submarine warfare eventually convinced Wilson to ask for war in April of 1917. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown This is an account of the relations between native Americans and the government and army of the US and Mexico. It is definitely from a native American perspective. In that sense, it is one sided, but since the story is most often told from the perspective of the manifest destiny to take over the continent, this is a good balancing account. It is troubling and leaves one depressed, as it was intended to do. War at the End of the World by James P. Duffy General McArthur is not my favorite person because I find him arrogant and pompous, but this account of his campaigns in New Guinea during World War II gives a different picture of him and his work. It deals with the attempt first not to allow the Japanese to conquer the entire island (lest they then take Australia or at least cut off it supply lines from the US) and then to roll back the Japanese tide on the northern part of the island. It is well written. The Basques by Captivating History The Basques are an ancient people who live in the northeast of Spain and southwestern France. They have their own language and culture. This short book is an account of who they are and their interaction with the various invaders who entered their territory and often sought to assimilate them, often with violence. It goes from their earliest origins to the present when the Basque territories in Spain have the status of autonomous regions. May the rest of you Advent be blessed. fr. Jude