Monday, October 3, 2022

Arroyo Grande, California - Chicago - Rome

October 4, 2022 Happy Feastday of St. Francis Peace and Good, I finished my presentations in Arroyo Grande on the Gospels and Psalms to the novices. The week went very well. I especially enjoyed the day we spent with the Capuchin novices studying the Gospel of Matthew which we will be using in the liturgy beginning with Advent. This past week I spent in Chicago giving a workshop on the Letters of St. Paul to our postulants. There are three of them this year, two for Our Lady of Angels Province and one for St. Bonaventure Province. I feel very much at home in Chicago. I was able to get my Pho soup (Vietnamese) a couple of times. While I was there, I got my annual flu shot and my latest covid booster (which is more effectice against the Omega variant). I returned to Rome by American Airlines so it was a direct flight from Chicago to Rome. It took 9 hours and was not all that bad of a flight. The planes are full these days. It is getting easier and easier to fly. The weather in Rome is nice. It is no longer very hot, but not yet rainy as it can get during the Autumn. I am trying to get through my jet lag, but this time it seems worse than others. I only have a few more months of this. I still am not sure what I will be doing this coming year. I should know more by the end of this month. I finished some books: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson This is the classic novella of a decent man who discovers a way to become a fiend who can fulfill all of his darkest desires. The line between the two becomes confusing as the doctor discovers he no longer needs to take his drugs to switch from one state to the other. The story is told from the point of view of a friend of the doctor who slowly discovers what is happening to the doctor. Caligula’s Nemi Ships by Charles River Editors This is the account of two massive boats that were built during the time of Caligula on a lake at Nemi, a small town near a volcanic lake outside of Rome (near Castel Gandolfo, the lake resort for the Pope). The author describes how they were built and the most probable reason why they were built, and then scuttled in the lake. He also describes how they rediscovered and why Mussolini had them excavated during his reign. Robert E Lee and His High Command by Gary Gallagher This is a teaching company course on the officers of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The author is a good scholar and gives an honest, balance review of the leaders of the Southern side of the war. He also provides some background into the tendency to canonize the southern cause and especially Robert E. Lee. Overall, it was quite good. Written in Blood by Michael Lister This is the account of a man who doubles as a prison chaplain and a detective (a continuation of his former profession). This is part of a series of novels based on the same character which was discounted from Chirp Books (an audiobook outlet which does not let you download its product but which allows you to listen to them online). The story was interesting, and I will probably try out another of Lister’s books, but he is not yet one of my favorites. Six Frigates by Ian Toll This is the story of the founding of the US navy from the days of the Revolutionary War up to the end of the War of 1812, including the navy’s service in the Barbary Wars against pirate states in North Africa. The author is a good war writer (having already read a couple of his other books). This is not a short, quickly flowing account of the topic, but rather a detailed, involved account which is nevertheless enjoyable. History of Bali by Captivating History This is a long treatment of the exotic island of Bali in Indonesia and its history. The author insists on giving mind numbing detail about one king, one dynasty after another. It was interesting in its larger details, but is a difficult read. The Roman Army by Charles River Editors This is the second half of a two part treatment on ancient armies. The former part dealt with the army of Sparta and it dealt with the battles they fought. This one death with more organizational issues. It was helpful, but only touched on battle actions of the armies themselves. Florence Nightingale by Hourly History This is a short presentation on the life of the famous nurse in England who helped to reform the treatment of injured soldiers during the Crimean War (and whose reforms had an enormous impact in other countries as well). Coming from a rather wealthy background, Florence had a difficult time convincing her family that she should practice nursing (which was considered to be a disreputable occupation). She was eventually to be honored by Queen Victoria for her work. The book also points out the less attractive dimensions of her personality (e.g. a crotchety personality). Polynesian Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a very short presentation on some of the figures and beliefs of the religions of Polynesia. While these beliefs differ from island to island, there are some basic ideas that are consistent. The short presentation does not go into depth into anything, and just presents the content of the myths that form the basis for Polynesian religious beliefs. Saint Augustine by Hourly History This is one of those short biographies of the lives and careers of important historical figures. This one is well done, presenting both the events of his life and some of the major philosophical and theological ideas in his teaching. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Montreal - Arroyo Grande, CA

September 24, 2022 Peace and Good, This past week I have been in our novitiate in Arroyo Grande, California, just outside of Pismo Beach (halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco). This is a yearly workshop that I give the novices on the Gospels and the Psalms. Tuesday we also invited the Capuchin novices who live about an hour and a half away for a day on the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel we will be using next year in the liturgy. I always enjoy these types of presentations. I open it up to questions on anything in the Bible or in the Order, and it creates a very good environment for discussion. I often find that the questions asked make me think about my own ideas on a topic. I hope that when I finish up in Rome, I can do more of this. The weather has been beautiful, in the 70's all week long. Even the day of rain we had on Monday was a soft rain that is a real blessing in a part of the country suffering from severe drought. This morning I fly out to Chicago to give another workshop to the postulants. I finished some books: Joan of Arc by Hourly History This is a short, well written biography of St. Joan of Arc. The author treats her visions with respect, neither denying nor confirming them. This is a good book if someone wants an outline of her life and deeds. The Most Notorious Art Thefts of the 20th Century by Charles River Editors This is an overview of some of the more notorious art thefts in this past century. Obviously, the Nazi looting of art all over Europe is high on the list, but it also includes the theft of individual works of art. The general rule of thumb is that it is relatively easy to rob art from museums (due to sometimes poor security due to budgetary constraints) but difficult to sell the works since they are so well known. The Ash Tree by M. R. James This is a novella that deals with the superstition of having an Ash Tree near a building being unlucky. This belief seems to be confirmed in the death of a woman accused of witchcraft, and of two of the owners of the house. The eventual discovery of the true cause of the difficulties only comes at the end. Medieval Science by Jack Sanders This is a quick overview of the state of science during the Middle Ages. It is not all that deep of a treatment, and it gets into a bit of Catholic and Church basing, but there is some good information in the overall perspective. The Battle of New Orleans by Raymond Todd This is an audible book to which I listened which dealt with the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. The author is a bit too obsequious toward Andrew Jackson for his story is really a bit more complicated than he would present it (e.g. occasional violations of the constitution, genocide and racial cleansing of the Native Americans each of the Mississippi, etc.), but overall it is a good book. Rising Sun by John Toland This is a long, very thorough study of the Japanese involvement in the Second World War. Toland is able to tell the story both from an American and a Japanese point of view. He is respectful throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed this large (1500 pages) book. Murder, Suicide by Keith Ablow This is a murder mystery novel concerning a genius who was about to have an operation which would cure his epilepsy but leave him without any of his former memories, and the seeming suicide of his lover. There are twists and turns which involve national security issues and corporate greed. Powerful Women Who Ruled the Ancient World by Kara Cooney This is a course from the Great Courses that deals with some of the well known women of ancient times as well as some of the largely unknown women who nevertheless shaped the history of their nations. The presenter is unfortunately so tied to the feminist interpretation that she at times ignores any other reason why events might have happened. It think that this weakens her valid argumentation which is a shame because she has a lot to say. 1491 by Charles Mann This is the story of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and those who followed him. The author speaks of the various cultures that developed through the New World. He speaks of customs, food, animals associated with these peoples, etc. He draws distinctions based on climate and geographical consideration. The book is well done. Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio This book deals with the life and career of the Marquis de Lafayette. The first part mostly deals with his arrival and military career in America during the Revolutionary War, and especially his relationship with George Washington. The second part deals with his return to France and his role in overthrowing the monarchy and his subsequent persecution (both by radical and by reactionary forces). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

London - Wales - London - Montreal

September 14, 2022 Peace and Good, I was in Wales last week for the chapter of the custody of Great Britain/Ireland. It went extremely well. I was still there when news came that the Queen had died. It was interesting to see how people reacted. Some were deeply moved, while others took things in stride. These days I am in Montreal, visiting the friars there. This past Sunday I celebrated the English Mass at one of our parishes and had a question and answer session with the parishioners. I love doing that sort of thing. This evening I will have another Mass and session. Then early tomorrow morning I head out to our novitiate in California. The weather in England was not bad, while that in Montreal was very warm until last night. I finished some reading: Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson This is a tour of various European cities with a constant outlook for the humorous and unusual. Bryson tends to stereotype people and their cultures. At times he is very funny, at other times he is cruel and offensive. The more I read of him the more I see that negative dimension of his personality. I have to admit I am also concerned with his frequent references to how much he drank and how drunk he got, almost as if he had never grown up from being an adolescent. The Ninja by Charles River Editors The Ninja was bands of secretive agents who would spy and assassinate for their masters. They were not Samurai who were often mortally opposed to them. This short book outlines some of their training and their techniques. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: First Enoch by Daniel Olson I have often been interested in this apocryphal book of the Old Testament, but this is the first time that I actually studied it. It is named after Enoch, the man who walked with God and then was no more. It purports to be a series of revelations made to Enoch about good and evil angelic spirits, their role in the history of the world, the consequences of their actions, etc. It is very, very apocalyptic and symbolic in tone. It is the type of book that will require further study, but this was a good start. Hudson Taylor by Hourly History This is the story of an English missionary to China. He made several voyages there, and he was ceaseless in his preaching in England to obtain finances for the mission and more missionaries. He tried to enculturate his message by dressing in Chinese clothes and respecting the local culture. Ada Lovelace by Hourly History This is a short biography of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. She was a genius in mathematics and dedicated her life to helping to perfect a machine which was actually a type of computer. She invented algorithms which are still in use today in computer science. The Supreme Court by Alison Gash This is a One Day University Course on the Supreme Court, but it is much more a screed on the question of the role of the Supreme Court and the danger to democracy from recent developments. The professor did give some good insights, but I did not find the entire work balanced or greatly helpful. Carnacki the Ghost Finder: Gateway of the Monster by William Hope Hodgson This is a short novella about a room which is haunted and a man who attempts to find the ghost and counter it. The solution depends upon a ring which belonged to the first man murdered by a ghost and what it represents. Ethical Dilemmas and Modern Medicine by Jacob Appel This is a short course from the One Day University on medical ethics. The professor gives a few examples of ethical dilemmas, but it is not a profound treatment in any way. I could not say that I would recommend it. The Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara Frale This is a history of the history of the monastic/warrior order that started to protect and aid pilgrims to the Holy Land and eventually became too important in the financial world. They originally guaranteed transfer of funds from a pilgrim’s homeland to the Holy Land so that he would not have to carry the money with him that might be robbed, but it became a banking empire that was tempting to the king of France who desperately needed funds. He outlawed it and persecuted the Templars and stole their funds. The author is a bit too ready to accept certain of the stories that were extracted from the Templars under torture. A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon This is a book that speaks of the Roman attitude toward murder, which was not considered to be a state affair as much as a private matter to be settled between or within families. The father of the family could even kill his wife, children or slaves without any legal recourse. The author is good in terms of research, but this being the second book I have written by her, I am surprised that someone that educated would have such a potty mouth. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Ellicott City - Rome - London

September 4, 2022 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Ellicott City. The doctors are concerned about a weakness in my legs, but they do not yet know what is causing it. I did not yet get the results of my last tests. I flew back to Rome. It is still quite warm there. There are tons of tourists. We had a few days of meetings there, and then I flew to London to get ready for a meeting starting tomorrow morning. These past few days I have been attending the definitory meeting with zoom. One of the topics at this definitory was a request for me to resign as Assistant General. All the travel has really worn me out, and now with my leg problems, it makes travel all the more difficult. The definitory accepted the request, so I will leave the job on January 1st. I don't yet know where I will be heading. That is to be worked out over the next couple of months. The weather here in London is typical weather. Overcast, a bit of rain, in the low 70's, but really not all that bad. The friary is near the river (right around where you see the Eye, the big ferris wheel). I love walking along the river. I finished some books: The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad I read this classic many years ago, and I fully enjoyed reading it again. It is about a man who travels to Africa where he will serve as a boat captain. He hears of a mysterious agent upriver who has obtained more ivory than any other agent. He end up finding an almost mythic, almost divine figure who is terribly ill and is dying. Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record and Our Place in Nature by Brian Switek This is a history of some fossil discoveries and their treatment of them by scholars. It especially deals with the evolution of birds, the whale, the horse and humans, using these cases as examples of evolution in a particular line of descent. It is a bit technical, and therefore would not be enjoyable by all readers. Dynasty by Tom Holland This is an excellent treatment of the Caesar family, beginning with Augustus (actually Julius), and ending with Nero. He deals with the emperor, society at that time, the Senate’s role, etc. I would highly recommend Holland’s book given how well told this book is. St. Thomas of Aquinas by Hourly History This is a short account of the life of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great pre-renaissance theologian of the Dominicans. The author is quite respectful, speaking of extraordinary events with a critical yet not cynical approach. This is almost an extended Wikipedia article. The Great Revolutions of Modern History by Lynne Ann Hartnett This is a Teaching Company course of 24 episodes which deal with some of the most important revolutions since the 17th century. Some of them are to be expected (American, French, Russian) while some of them interpret the word revolution in a more expansive manner (Civil Rights, anti-colonialism, the influence of TV). The professor is well prepared, and the lectures are good. I could easily recommend this course. Star Spangle Men: America’s Ten Worst Presidents by Nathan Miller This is a historians account of the careers of whom he considers to be the ten worst presidents. He includes many of those one would expect (Buchanan, Taft, Harrison) but also a few who are a bit of a surprise (Grant, Carter, etc.). He is honest and not polemic in his approach. The book is really rather good and I would recommend it. The Roman Forum by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the Roman Forum which was a mix of a governmental center, religious site and market place. It give the chronology of the various important sites located there. The account is not all that well written and thus not all that informative. Agrippa Hull by Charles River Editors This is a biography of an African American from Massachusetts (Sturbridge) who fought in the American army during the Revolutionary War and who was an esteemed and financially successful member of his community. Antiogonus the One-Eyed by Jeff Champion This is an account of the life and career of one of the Generals of Alexander the Great who became one of the powers that fought for supremacy after the death of their leader. The author, unfortunately, cites a myriad of combatants and battles, making this more of a scientific study than a book which one could read at a leisure pace. The Chernobyl Disaster by Hourly History This is a short account of the Chernobyl disaster, the explosion of a nuclear reactor that released radioactivity into the atmosphere which was carried by prevailing winds to neighboring countries. The author speaks of the clumsy attempts of the dying Soviet government to deal with the crisis and its press coverage. Having read other account, I found this one somewhat superficial, but this series of studies is not intended to be much more than that. The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir This is a good account of the fall and death of Ann Boleyn. I thought that this was going to be a historical novel, but it turned out to be a thoughtful true history of what happened. Weir goes through the various theories about who brought her fall about, how likely she was to have been guilty of the thing of which she was accused, the role of King Henry in all of this, etc. The book is very well done. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ellicott City

August 23, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been in the area of Ellicott City for the past 10 days. Almost every day has involved a visit to some doctor or dentist. It is hard to get them in when I am on the road almost all the time. I have been having a bit of trouble with my legs, and so I had a few MRI's to see if the doctors could figure things out. They have not found anything serious, but they arestill looking. In the meantime, I have caught up with my daily reflections and have worked on a translation of a document for the Order (a bit over 60 pages) on formation. I finished it this afternoon, and will edit it when I return to Rome. Given that the due date was November, I am happy to have it almost finished. I will be heading back to Rome tomorrow, and then on to London on the 31st. I finished some books: The Ancient Spartan Army by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the birth of Sparta and its army. Unlike most societies which have an army, this, like Prussia, was an army that happened to have a society. The book speaks of how successful the army was in its many wars, but also of the negative dimensions (lack of respect for the individual, the horrible treatment of the Helots, etc. 8 Books That Changed the World by Joseph Luzzi This is a short course on literature that made a significant contribution to society, including the Bible, the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, The Invisible Man (James Baldwin), etc. The professor is insightful without being esoteric. It was part of a series of short courses (an hour or two), but this gave much more detail and things upon which one could reflect for quite some time. Hitler’s Secret Army by Tim Tate This is the story of those British men and women who supported the Nazi’s during World War II, either by promoting their cause and supporting a peace with Germany, or who actually tried to spy for and assist in other ways the German war effort. The author points out the difficulties of balancing the need to control security but at the same time protect civil rights. He also points out how prejudiced the authorities were in terms of class distinctions, protecting the nobility and punishing severely the lower classes. Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz This is the first of series of books about a man who was trained to be an assassin from his youth (for he was an orphan). The program started as a government agency, but Orphan X broke off and sought to help people in disastrous situations. In this volume, he is attacked by others who were part of the program and it is not clear whether this is a government attempt to clean up the mess or a power grab by one of the former members. How 1954 Changed History by Michael Flamm This is a Teaching Company course sponsored by Audible which speaks of the important events in politics, science, sports, civil rights, etc. which occurred in 1954. The presentation is well done and entertaining. Operation Paperclip by Annie Jacobsen This is the story of the US effort to use Nazi scientists in order to work upon jet airplanes, biological weapons, atomic work, and other projects. There was a sense of urgency after the war because of the dawning of the Cold War, and the fear that if we did not use their expertise, then the Communists would. Yet, this project white washed the highly criminal background of many of the scientists shipped to the States. Probably the most famous of them was Werner Von Braun, who worked upon the space program. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch This is another contribution to the Rivers of London series which deal with a couple of detectives who work in a semi-secret department which investigates offenses that involve the misuse of magic. The author is brilliant in his presentation, making his hero, Peter Grant, a half white and half African, has a great sense of humor as he slowly learns to use magic in his work. Hitler, God and the Bible by Ray Comfort This is a short book that deals with how Hitler twisted the idea of religion to serve his notorious plans. The first half of the book is a short historic outline of the Third Reich, while the second half deals more specifically with Hitler’s attitude toward the faith, including setting up a false national church in Nazi Germany that would be at his bidding. Unfortunately, because the author is evangelical, he cannot stop himself at taking aim at Catholicism. The Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri This is part of a very clever series on a Sicilian detective who has to solve crime in the face of a bureaucratic government that not only does not help his work, but at times actually fights against him. In this volume, the hero has to solve the murder of a woman who is found nude in a house which she was having built. The entire series is entertaining. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 12, 2022

Palermo - Rome - Ellicott City

August 12, 2022 Peace and Good, I truly enjoyed the trip to Palermo. We celebrated the opening of a friary for hte care of older friars. The friars also showed me the beauty of Montreale (the most magnificent presentation of medieval mosaics) and Agrigento (a series of Greek temple ruins) and a few other places. I then flew to Rome and took care of finishing off a series of articles on the prophets that I was writing for one of our magazines in Kenya. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Baltimore through London. The first part of the trip was not bad, but the part from London left around 3 1/2 hours late. This has been the pattern all throughout these past few months. I am back in Ellicott City for a series of doctors' and dentist appointments. I will be flying back to Rome on the 24th. It has been hot, hot, hot wherever I go. Italy has been having a terrible drought, as has France. I finished some books: Ripper: the Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell This is a book that outlines Cornwell’s proposal that Jack the Ripper was really an artist named Walter Sickert, an artist who studied under James Whistler. Many of the points are well made, but Cornwell becomes repetitive in attacking the forensic inability of the investigators and her tendency to go from “it could have been” to “it must have been.” Washington’s End by Jonathan Horn This is a book that covers the period of Washington’s life from the end of his second term until the time that he died. It deals with his life at Mt. Vernon, and also about his relationship with President Adams (which was not always the best, given Adams’ tendency toward jealousy). The account is rather well developed and organized. The Reislauffer by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Swiss troops that fought throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance as mercenaries. They were incredibly successful in many of the battles they fought, especially in Italy. There is still a vestige of this group in the Swiss Guard who are the ceremonial guard of the Holy Father. James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal by Andy Weir This is a clever short novel about Moriarty, the archfiend whom Sherlock Holmes fought. Moriarty uses the same deductive techniques as Holmes, but he uses them to further his criminal efforts to become the most powerful criminal in London. Odessa by Charles River Editors This is a short study of the group that is said to be formed after World War II to permit Nazi war criminals to escape from Europe to South America and the Arab world. The author admits that it is not entirely clear that this group actually existed, but given the rather large number of Nazis who escaped, it would appear that they received help from someone. The author also emphasizes how Nazi scientists helped Arabs develop weapons and aircraft to fight against Israel. The Great Mortality by John Kelly This is an excellent treatment of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. The author treats the subject from many different angles. He speaks of the actual plague and what it was (probably a mix of Bubonic and Pneumonic plague. He deals with the literature that was written as a reaction to the event (e.g. that of Boccaccio and Chaucer). He speaks of the anti-Jewish persecution. He deals with the societal effects of the plague. Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Hourly History This is a short account of the life and career of the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a pastor in the Evangelical faith who became a major critic of the Hitler regime. He was eventually executed right before the end of the war. Perhaps his most famous book was the Cost of Discipleship, a treatise which describes how following Jesus is not easy. It requires all one is and has. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat by John Kovacs This is an account of Churchill and his speeches at the very beginning of his taking over as Prime Minister in Great Britain and the time of its greatest danger. The author, who is an expert in this period of history, gives good insights into what Churchill said and why he said it. He traces the transition of Churchill from being a little appreciated fool to a great leader. The Martian by Andy Weir I thoroughly enjoyed this particular book about an astronaut who is accidentally left on Mars and who finds ways to survive and eventually to be rescued. The science and engineering described is fascinating. In a course I listened to, the premise of the book is off track a bit (if there were a wind storm on Mars, the atmosphere is so weak that it would not tear things apart and cause a part of the apparatus to impale the astronaut. Nevertheless, the book is very good and I am looking forward to reading more of Weir’s writing. Books that Cook: Food and Fiction by Jennifer Cognard-Black This is a Great Courses series of lectures on the treatment of food and its preparation and earing in literature. The professor is good, but possibly a bit too excited by her topic. She also becomes speculative in her interpretation of various scenes in the books and even the films which she describes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ellicott City - Palermo

August 2, 2022 Peace and Good, I flew to Sicily this past Sunday for the dedication of a friary for the elderly friars in this province. It is very, very hot here in Palermo. Yesterday, the provincial, fr. Gaspare, took us to a few of the major sites for tourism. The first was the cave site where the patron saint of the city, St. Rosalia, stayed during her career as a hermit. Then, we went to the Cathedral of Montreal. The image of Christ the Pantocrator is famous for it was used in Fellini's scene in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It is the building with the most extensive use of mosaic in the world. It was truly magnificent. Finally, we visited our church of St. Francis. I did not know that the friars has such a beautiful church here in Palermo. It was great. This evening we have the dedication of the friary. Then tomorrow one of the friars is taking me to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento (on the southern coast of Sicily). It is one of the best collections of Greek temples in the world (for quite a bit of Sicily was settled by the Greeks in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. On the 5th, I will be flying back to Rome. I finished some reading and listening: Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy I have read a number of Goldsworth’s history books on the Roman empire, and he is excellent. I thought that this book was going to be another history, but it turned out to be a novel about a group of Roman soldiers (from various backgrounds) fighting engagements in northern England during the early 2nd century AD. It was good to read this and know that the details were probably most accurate given the learning of the author. History’s Great Plagues by Christopher Fee This series of lectures through Learn25 was not quite what I expected. I thought it would be a history of the world’s greatest plagues, and it turned out to be a review of what literature said about those plagues. In a sense, this was even better. It explained certain reactions to the disasters and how they changed society. I have acquired a number of short courses by Christopher Fee, and I look forward to listerning to them. The Burning of the White House by Jane Hampton Cook During the War of 1812, the British landed troops and burned the capital city of Washington DC (at least the public buildings such as the White House and the Congress). This book portrays the British involved as well as the politicians on the American side such as President Madison and Representative King. It also gives an endearing portrait of Dolly Madison and her role in supporting her husband, the president. The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton This is the story of a train robbery in England during the Crimean War (and, in fact, it was the payroll of the soldiers fighting that war that was robbed from a train). The organizer of the robbery was a genius who take of every possibility, including what to do in the case that they were caught. The book is well written and quite interesting. The Tractate Middoth by M.R. James This is a short novella about an obscure book written in what seems to be Hebrew that has drawn the interest of various people, and which contains a secret about money that would never have been expected. Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy This is a masterful presentation on the history of Julius Caesar and his influence upon Rome and the world of his time. Goldsworthy is a good historian, and an excellent author. He sorts out fable from actual history, an especially important task given that many of the sources were written to push a particular agenda. I could easily recommend any of his books to anyone interested in the topic. Sherlock Holmes: Beyond the Elementary by James Krasner This is a short course by the Great Courses on the person of Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but especially on Holmes himself. The professor speaks of the personality of the character, who is at times almost appears to be a person on the authistic spectrum. He speaks of his relationship with Dr. Watson. The course is quite well done, and it was one of the free presentations from Audible. El Greco by Delphi Masters of Art This is a biography of El Greco, the Greek artist who ended up in Italy first and then especially in Spain. The author explains his artistic influences and how he used or rejected them. The book gives a catalog of most of the works attributed to El Greco. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Mesilla Rark, New Mexico - Ellicott City, MD

July 24, 2022 Peace and Good, I finished up a very hot week in New Mexico. It reached 106 degrees some day. It was a dry heat, but when it gets that hot, it feels like an oven. The Provincial Chapter of Our Lady of Consolation Province went very well. There was very much a family environment. Their province is one of the most committed to social justice of the four in the county. They made a commitment to study and live the lessons of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si (which speaks of how we use/abuse/honor the environment. They also recommitted themselves to planning for their most important site, Mount St Francis. I am now in Ellicott City for the week, but it is going to be quite busy. I have a series of doctors and dentist appointments. Then on the 30th I head back to Europe, to Palermo in Sicily. I finished some reading: Poland, 1939 by Roger Moorhouse This is a book that records the history of the Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. This is probably one of the most painful books that I have read, but it was well worth reading. The author speaks especially from a Polish point of view, showing how the Poles fought bravely but were outclassed by both the Nazis and the Soviets (who invaded later in the process and claimed to be liberators, which was never their intention). The Soong Sisters by Emily Hahn This is the story of three sisters who all had important roles in China. One was the widow of Sun Yat-Sen. The second was the wife of a rich industrialist. The third was the wife of Chaing Kai-Shek. While this is the theory of the book, it actually turns into a fawning biography of the third women. It is an apologia as to the goodness of Soong Mai-ling, this third woman, up to the end of World War II. I would not exactly recommend this book for a good read. Leyte 1944 by Nathan Prefer This is an extensive account of the American invasion of Leyte during World War II. It goes into great detail, so it would be the sort of book that would please only those who want to know all the story (at a larger level and the individual level). Stay Tuned by Jeffery Deaver This is a short novel about a woman who is endangered by her fiancĂ©e. This occurred many years after an incident at the same lake where this event happened. She lost a good friend to a murderer. The question becomes whether the deceased girl actually helped the protagonist escape danger. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz This is the first of a series of books about a young man named Odd who has the gift/curse of seeing ghosts who wish him to help them on some task before they go to the other side. The whole series is incredibly well written. Odd shows a humility and a sense of service that is astounding. This volume deals with his attempt to stop a mass killing by a Satanic group. The Rise of the Rome by Gregory Aldrete This is a series of 24 lectures on the rise of Rome from its founding until the end of the Republic under Augustus. This is not the first course by Aldrete that I have heard, and he is quite good. He presents quite enough information without being overwhelming. The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir This is a series of nine short stories by the author who wrote the Martian. Each of the stories leads one to think one thing and then ends with a turn that one did not in any way expect. These stories made me want to read more of his writings. War Beneath the Sea by Peter Padfield This is a long and very detailed account of submarine war during the Second World War (German, Japanese, British and American). It is quite long and it probably would not be of interest to anyone who is not fascinated with this particular period of history and this particular topic. In spite of this, the book is well done. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake by Captivating History This is a short account of the earthquake that all but destroyed the city of San Francesco and also spawned a fire which destroyed even more of it. It deals with the initial disaster, of the response of those responsible for the city (local and national), the plights of the refugees, etc. The Great Divorce by Ilyon Woo This is a story that takes place in the early days of the 19th century in New York and New England. A man who has a history of alcoholism and visiting prostitutes decides to convert and join the Shakers. He wants his wife and three children to join him. She does not want this. Although she wants a divorce, it is all but impossible for her to obtain it. Furthermore, the Shakers help the husband hide her children for her (for at this time, the husband had total rights over children during a separation or divorce). A major topic is the fight for women’s rights. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 18, 2022

Los Angeles - Baltimore - El Paso and New Mexico

July 18, 2022 Peace and Good, I finally tested negative for covid and was able to travel back to Baltimore for the provincial chpater of OLA province. The week I was in quarantine, I attended the St. Bonaventure Chapter in Chicago by zoom. The chapter in Baltimore was held in the Maritime Center, a former Merchant Marine Academy which is now a convention center. The spirit of the chapter was very positive. Many of the younger friars made significant contributions during the week, and a number of them were named as guardians for their friaries. The main topic was the need for a spiritual rebirth, and the friars responded to it well. Saturday I flew into El Paso and travelled to Mesilla Park, just across the border in New Mexico. It is very hot, beyond 100 today. The humidity is very low, but it is still hot. We begin the chapter this afternoon and go on to lunch on Friday. I will fly back to Baltimore on Friday for a long series of doctor and dentist appointments next week. Then at the end of the week I fly to Palermo, Sicily, for the dedication of a building for the senior friars of that province. These weeks have been very productive for writing. A friar who is charge of a magazine in Kenya asked me to do a series of articles for them, and in the past six weeks I have been able to finish 14 of them. I finished some reading: American Monsters by Adam Jortner This is a Great Courses series. It deals with the question of why certain manifestations of the abnormal surfaced at particular times of our history. The professor shows how these were heavily influences by social and political developments at particular eras. The course covers witches, ghosts, sasquatch, aliens, etc. I was not too sure when I first saw the title, but I was most pleasantly surprised as I listened to the lectures. Verdict on Vichy by Michael Curtis This is an account of the actions of the Vichy government in France during World War II. It is especially interested in the governments involvement in the persecution of Jews (sometimes following Nazi orders, sometimes establishing policies which were more severe than theirs. Yet, after the initial trials of collaborators, little was done to bring people to justice for what they had done (some even entered into subsequent French governments). Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith I have read a couple of books by this author in the past. This volume is as good, if not better, than those. It is about a KGB plot and its effects on a family of a former agent. It goes from the early days of the 60’s to the war in Afghanistan. The story is exciting, filled with action and suspense. I could easily recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense novels. Ancient Skies by David Weston Marshall This is an account of the ancient (and some modern) names of the constellations of stars in the night sky. It gives the stories of the various mythic figures who are said to be depicted in the form that one sees. It is not a book on astrophysics as much as a light account of how people connect the heavens with their lives. Jeff Shaara’s Civil War Battlefields by Jeff Shaara Jeff Shaara is a famous popular historian. He has written on Civil War and World War II topics. This account is an overview of the major battlefields of the civil war. He tells what happened during the battles. He then speaks of what is left of those battlefields, giving suggestions on how best to tour the sights. Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization by Iain Gately This is the history of the use of tobacco, from its use among Amer-Indian cultures to the modern days. It deals with the acceptance of the use of tobacco in various countries, the invention of cigars and cigarettes, the big companies and their advertising campaigns, and the anti-tobacco movement. 1967 by Tom Segev This is the story of Israel during this climatic moment in the history of Israel. The main event that year was the six day war in which Israel defeated the forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. This book goes much further than just dealing with that battle. It gives an account of the situation in Israel before the war (recession, discrimination against the Jews born in Arab countries, a flight of Jews leaving the country) and after the war ( a new sense of being the chosen, pride in their accomplishments, new immigration, but also an arrogance due to their victories). It also deals with the personalities that lead the country, as well as what was happening at the grass roots. This book is very well done. The Battle of the Tanks by Lloyd Clark This is the story of the great battle of Kursk in which the Germans tried to regain the initiative in the summer following the loss they had suffered at Stalingrad. They gathered an enormous tank army with which they hoped to crush the Soviet resistance. Unknown to them, the Soviets had gathered an enormous defensive army for they knew that this attack was coming. They had also built layers upon layers of mines, strong points, etc. The German attacked and attacked, and their loses were much smaller than those of the Soviets, but nevertheless they were losses they could not afford. This was the last great attack by the Nazis on this front. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Los Angeles

July 6, 2022 Peace and Good, Well, I got through my covid experience. It took me 11 days to test negative. I really only had bay symptoms at the start (like a very bad cold). The last few days there were no symptoms, but I kept testing positive. Finally Saturday I got a negative test. I was supposed to fly to Baltimore last Sunday, but I had to cancel it because of the covid. I am lucky I did, for my flight called me to change planes in Chicago, and with all the delays and cancellations, I doubt that I would have made it. Today's flight is direct to Baltimore, so I hope things will go well. The weather here has been magnificent. Even when it climbs to the low 80's, it is with a very low humidity. I have been doing a lot of zooming in these days to get the work done that could not wait. I finished some reading: The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan This is the story of the relationship between a Chinese woman and her daughter, but it is really the story of the horrible life of the mother when she married her first husband who was cruel and brutal. That marriage occurred in the early days of the Japanese invasion of China during the Second World War. The story speaks of how women were treated as objects, expected to expect anything that their husbands or the husband’s mother dished out to them. The book is well done, if a bit painful to read. The Dragon Seekers by Christopher McGowan This deals with the first discoveries of dinosaur skeletons in Great Britain. An unsung hero of this movement was Mary Anning. She made her living digging up the skeletons long before others even realized their meaning. She is the woman behind the saying, “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” The book especially with the question of the scientists dating of the materials and the question of evolution vs. creationism. A Storm in Flanders by Winston Groom Winston Groom is the author of Forrest Gump. He has also written a series of history books, mostly dealing with topics concerning war from the Revolutionary War up to the days of World War II. He manages to deal with the larger issues while still given accounts from the words of individual soldiers. It deals with the horrible battlefield in Flanders that led to the death of thousands and thousands of Germans and Brits. Both, at times, fought a 20th century war with 19th century tactics. Great Ideas of Classical Physics by Steven Pollack This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company dealing with physics from the days of Isaac Newton to the beginning of the 20th century. The professor is informative and the lectures, in spite of the fact that it deals with a heavy topic, is understandable. The Rise of Athens by Anthony Everitt Everitt is a tremendous historian of the ancient world, and this book is one of his masterpieces. It goes from the founding to the city to the period when it became irrelevant except as an education center. He gives an enormous amount of detail in an entertaining manner. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The American Revolution by Robert McDonald This is a Learn25 course. It deals with the causes, major occurrences, and effects of the American Revolution. The professor who offers the course is well informed, but he does not pile on more detail than is needed. I would recommend this course. A Faint Heart by Fyodor Dostoevsky This is the story of two young men in St. Petersburg. It takes place around the middle of the 19th century. One is a scribe who is contracted to do a large job copying documents. He has just gotten engaged, but he is far behind on his project. It eventually causes him to have a nervous breakdown. The story is filled with dialog, typical of Dostoevsky’s style. China’s Long March by Jean Fritz This is the story of the long march of the communists (and specifically the group that followed Mao) from southern to northern China when war broke out between the communists and the forces of Chang Kai-Shek. It is a bit fawning, making the communists into great heroes and all but ignoring their atrocities (e.g. the starvation of millions during the Great Leap Forward). 10 Women who rule the Renaissance by Joyce Salisbury This is a series of accounts about famous women from throughout the world during the time of the Renaissance. It is an odd choice. Some of the women lived what could be called very disreputable lives (violence against others) and yet they are presented as heroes of feminism. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the fawning approach toward these particular women. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Los Angeles

June 29, 2022 Peace and Good, I am still in Los Angeles (Hermosa Beach to be exact). The chapter for the California province went very well. The only problem was that I came down with Covid toward the end of the week, and I am still positive today. I had to cancel a series of trips (which actually was a relief because it meants I would stay in one place longer than a week). I am attending the chapter of the Chicago province by zoom in these days, and if I get a negative result, will be travelling to Baltimore this coming Sunday. I will have a week there before the next provincial chapter begins. The weather here could not be better. We are about a kilometer from the ocean, and we get the ocean breeze, the temperature being in the 70's most of the day. Now that I feel a bit better, I have been working on a series of articles on the prophets for one of our magazines in Kenya. I have finished 11 so far, and I foresee at least another 9. The friars here have been great, as much as I have seen them. I finished some reading and listening: Delphi Complete Words of Pieter Bruegel the Elder by Peter Russell This book shows and comments upon many of the most important works of the artist, deals with the story of his life, and shows how many of the images that he used were a commentary upon his times. Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady This is a dramatic presentation of the Susan Day murder of her children, especially in terms of her blaming an unidentified black man for taking her car and her children when she, herself, had killed the children by drowning them in a lake. God’s Spies by Juan Gomez Jurado This is a book in the league of the writings of Dan Brown. It deals with the murder of three cardinals after the death of Pope John Paul II. An Italian inspector who is an expert on crime analysic and profiling works with her department, but especially with an American priest who has worked for the CIA as well as other undefined groups. There are some good moments, but then it trails off into fantasy. Edgar Allen Poe by Hourly History This is a short biography of the life and genius of this sad author. He lived at a time when writing, and especially the genre in which he excelled, short stories, were recompensed very poorly. He lived a rebel life style, often offending other authors with the savage critiques of their works. He was probably and alcoholic, but the author insists that there is no evidence of his being a drug addict as well. For his unconventional life style, he nevertheless is considered the father of the detective novel with his Murder at the Rue Morgue and he wrote one of the most famous poems of American Literature, the raven. Homer by Barbara Graziosi This is a treatment of the identify of Homer (which is not resolved) and his writings, especially how he develops his characters and how he used the saga style (similar to that used in many primitive societies). The study is not comprehensive, but it does give a good overview of the topic. The Battle of the Persian Gates by Charles River Editors In theory this is an overview of the Battle of the Persian Gates, one of the last major battles fought to conquer Persia, but in reality the author has expanded the topic to include all of the battles from the time that Alexander entered into Asia Minor until he reached the Ganges in India. The writing style is quite good. The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth This is a masterful novel in the style of Shakespeare in love. It posits that William Shakespeare, before he became famous, was part of a diplomatic trip to the city of Venice so that England and Venice might conspire against the power of the papacy. The style is very playful, and the reading is quite enjoyable. I could easily recommend this book. Secret Weapons of World War II by William Breuer This is the story of the various secret weapons that were developed both by the Allies and the Axis during World War II and how the affected the battles in which they were used. The author is quite comprehensive, so it includes airplanes, submarines, radar, code interpretation, etc. It is presented as a series of short histories of the development and use of each of these instruments of war. A Warning to the Curious by M.R. James A man discovers a crown, one of three that had buried in England to prevent the invasion of foreigners. He has dug it up, but he is being followed by a mysterious person/force which seems to be the ghost form of the last guardian of the secret of where the crown was buried. The story is well told and enjoyable. The Parthenon by Mary Beard Mary Beard is a classicist at Cambridge, England. She has written on Rome as well as other ancient topics. This book on the purpose and history of the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to Athena, the god patron of the city of Athens. She describes its use during the pagan, then Christian, then Islamic eras. She gets into the controversy of the fact that the Elgin marbles from the temple are still being kept in London. The book is well done and informative. Have a good week and a good Fourth of July. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Rome - Assisi - Los Angeles

June 21, 2022 Peace and Good, I spent two weeks in Rome for a series of meetings. The first week we had our usual General Definitory. We work very well together, and the discussions are almost always very helpful. The second week was a meeting with the presidents of the various local federations of friars throughout the world. There are seven of them, and the presidents came to share their viewpoint of where the Order should be going in these years. A lot of time is spent informing them of the whole situation (in the definitory, we sometimes forget that we hear these things every month, but they do not). But it was also very good to get a fresh perspective on what the friars are thinking and doing. On Saturday we made a short pilgrimage to Assisi, and then returned that evening. On Sunday morning, I flew out to Los Angeles to be present at the second part of the provincial chapter for the St. Joseph of Cupertino Province. We are meeting in these days at a retreat house just outside of Los Angeles. Flying out of Rome was chaotic. I have never seen the airport so crowded, and the back up for security so long. Fortunately, since I am a frequent flyer, I was able to go through the fast track line. London was just as crowded. They say that a lot of flights have been cancelled in these days. I finished some reading: Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux Theroux is famous for his travel books. This one has him travelling from London throughout Asia and back again. His word pictures are entertaining, and they give insight into various cultures and historic events (e.g. the Central Asian republics and their oppressive governments, Cambodia and the massacre under Pol Pot, Japan and its ultra modern society. This particular trip is 30 years after his original voyage into Asia which gave rise to his first travel book. Viruses, Plagues, and History by Michael Oldstone This is an extensive study of the mechanism of viruses causing infection and of ways to combat them. It speaks of the main infections over the ages, e.g. Smallpox, Polio, Measles, Ebola, Sars, HIV. It also speaks of the strange mechanism that causes Mad Cow Disease, prions. The book is good, but it could have used a good editor for a number of phrases and arguments are repeated ad verbum throughout the book. The Mysterious Case of Agatha Christie by Maureen Corrigan This is a Teaching Company course on the life and writings of Agatha Christie. Corrigan is one of her great fanes, but she is also honest into some of Christie’s idiosyncrasies. This is a light listen, but it does give insight into why Christie wrote the way she did and into some of her main characters, i.e. Miss Marple, Hercoul Poirot, Tuppence, etc. The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton A while ago I had read the Roman Way by the same author. This book is just as good, describing the Greek culture and society and way of thinking. She distinguishes it from Roman culture as well as Medieval and Modern culture. She speaks of the simplicity of expression, the care put into their buildings and their surroundings, the tension between the idea of society as a while and the individual (the latter, she claims, is more an invention of a Christian way of thinking). Her writing is masterful, and the book very, very informative. The Taiping Rebellion by Hourly History This was a rebellion in China during the 19th century. It was led by a man who said that he was the brother of Jesus, and it had some Christian elements to its philosophy (but in a very garbled manner). This was a time when the Qing Dynasty was reeling from its wars with the Western Powers, especially the two Opium Wars with Great Britain. The Taiping were remarkably effective for a while before the Qings were able to find the right general to lead their forces. Queen Zenobia of Palmyra by Charles River Editors This was a queen of the trade city of Palmyra who shortly established an empire between Rome and the Parthians. She ruled in the name of her son, but she was the one really in power. She capitalized on the weakness of the Roman Empire at that moment due to succession difficulties among its emperors. Once the situation stabilized, Rome was able to reconquer what she had taken. The Battle of Kursk by Charles River Editors This was a tank battle fought in the Soviet Union. It represented the last time in World War II that the Germans could take the offensive against the Soviets. The losses on both sides were incredible, but the Soviets fought so tenaciously that they bled the Germans white. This short book gives a good amount of information without being too academic. Dante by R.W.B. Lewis I listened to this book about the life and writings of Dante Alighieri. The portion that presents his life is more complete than that of his works, but this book serves as a good introduction to both. The Werewolf of Bamberg by Oliver Potsch This is a rather long book which deals with the family of an executioner in Germany in the period just after the 30 years war. This volume deals with the possible appearance of a werewolf, and the danger that this will lead to a witch hunt such as occurred in the town of Bamberg some years before. The family must try to save those who are endangered by this occurrence with a mix of detective work, medical research, and pure bravery. It is very well written, but quite long so reading it is a bit of a commitment. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, June 12, 2022

San Juan Bautista, CA - Rome

June 13, 2022 The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua Peace and Good, Our provincial chapter in California went very well. I flew back to Rome the Saturday after the chapter, flying from San Francisco to London and then on to Rome. The was the easiest transit that I have had in the past couple of years. There are no more forms to fill out, no more covid tests to take. Even passport control was remarkably easy. I hope it continues like this. This past week we held our definitory. There was quite a bit to do since we had not met since before Easter. As always, we dealt with topics from all over the world. One of the new items on the agenda is the fact that the Holy Father has given us a decree that allows us to elect Religious Brothers as major superiors (provincials, custodes and vicars). California did this, so we approved the election and sent it on to the Decastery of Religious for their final approval. It is very hot these days, and Rome is packed with tourists. After the past few years with very disappointing tourist seasons, this has to be a tremendous relief to those who own stores and restaurants here in Rome. This week we have a meeting with the Presidents of the various federations of the Order (there are seven). Then on Sunday I will be flying to Los Angeles for the second part of their provincial chapter. I finished some reading: Genesis by James McKeown This is one of the best commentaries on Genesis that I have ever read. The author is from an Evangelical background, but while not being fundamentalistic, he respects and addresses the concerns raised by them. He has a good way of linking what is being written in Genesis with what was occurring in Israel at the time that the book was written, probably around the time of the exile. He links the various allusions within the book and outside of it. He deals with the larger spirituality of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. The First Frontier: the Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America by Scott Wiedensaul This is an account of the meeting of native Americans and colonial settlers in the era that ran from the first entrance of those colonists up to the time of the American Revolution. It is thorough, and speaks of the many wars and treaties made between the two groups. One of the things that is significant is that each of the groups really did not consider the other to be fully human, and they treated them that way. It gives a lot of information, but the writing style of the author is not all that good. The information is not engaging. Medieval Art: From Beginning to the end by T. Silva This is a very short overview of the art of the post-Roman era, the Carolingian era and the early Renaissance. It is very incomplete and sketchy at best, but it does give a little good information Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch Aaronovitch is one of my favorite authors. This series of books called the Rivers of London is based on the career of a young half black detective who has been singled out to be part of a squad that deals with violations of magic. In this volume, there is a plot to kill one of the ancient spirits of London to gain the power from that entity (but possibly also to create a totalitarian state ruled by the miscreant who is formulating the plot. The books in this series are fun, a bit cheeky. A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman This is a novel about murders and possible kidnappings of those who are seeking ancient pottery in the Navaho reservation. There are two tribal policemen who are trying to solve a number of strange occurrences. The author seeks to bring the reader into the Navaho mindset, which I believe he does very well. I would recommend any of Hillerman’s books. The Red Prince: The Life of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster by Helen Carr This is the story of the founder of the house of Lancaster which was represented by a red rose and which would be one of two houses involved in the War of the Roses. Carr is a good historian, giving tons of information in a very pleasant presentation. I could easily recommend this book for someone interested in the pre-Tudor period of history in England. Easter Island by Charles River Editors This is a short outline of the island known as Easter Island but also by its original name, Rapa Nui. It is a lone island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The most famous thing on the island is the statues that have been set up by the various groups of natives called Maoi. The island is also famous for the ecological disaster that occurred when the population grew without resources to supply for their needs, something that is noted in Jared Diamond’s books. Caravaggio by Delphi Art Classics This particular volume of the Delphi Art series gives an overview of Caravaggio’s most important works with some critical notes. It also gives a short biography. However, it is a bit scarce on information. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Baltimore - Castro Valley (CA) - San Juan Bautista, CA

June 4, 2022 Peace and Good, We finished the chapter for Our Lady of Angels Province which was held at the Maratime Center in Baltimore. Right after it ended, fr. Carlos, the Minister General, and I headed out to San Francisco, actually a town named Castro Valley just outside of Oakland. We held the chapter of St. Joseph of Cupertino Province in the Franciscan Retreat House in San Juan Bautista. This is about an hour and a half south of San Francisco. The weather was perfect - nicely warm with almost no humidity. Having returned to Castro Valley, there is a marine layer (clouds and fog which has rolled in from the sea) and they expect some rain tonight and tomorrow, which would be very, very welcome in a state so racked by drought. All four of the chapters have gone very, very well. There was a spirit of cooperation, and no factionalism. The second sessions of the chapters begin in about two weeks, starting in Los Angeles. In the meantime, I am flying back to Rome for a meeting of our General Definitory. Checking in this morning was the first time in these past two years that I could check in on line for an international flight. When I get back to Rome, I have to work on more daily reflections and a series of articles for a magazine in Kenya. I finished some reading: The Lost Books of the Old Testament by Charles River Editors This is a short treatment of those books which were written in ancient times but never made it into the Old Testament. There are the books which Protestants consider to be Apocrypha and Catholics call Pseudo-Epigrapha, e.g. 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Baruch, etc. There are the books which Protestants consider to be Pseudepigrapha and Catholics call Apocryphal, such as the Book of Jubilees and the Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs. There are also books from Qumran and from Gnostic communities. Haile Selassie by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the last emperor of Ethiopia. He gained power through palace machinations, fought Mussolini during World War II, became a cult figure to Rastafarians (their name based on one of his titles, the Rastafa), and was overthrown by a Marxist coup. The book gives the basic information, but never really delves into him as a person (which would probably have been difficult given his times and the lack of information in his own homeland). King John by Marc Morris This is a masterful account of the life and career of King John, the brother of King Richard the Lionhearted and the signer of the Magna Carta. He comes across very poorly, constantly abusing the people he ruled and almost constantly having to fight rebellions (many of which he caused due to his poor reign). Morris is a good story teller and his account finds the proper balance between fact and development of the figures involved. Gustavus Adolphus by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the life of the famous Swedish king who caused his kingdom to pass from being a third rate state to being a powerhouse of military and diplomatic power. He was involved in multiple wars, not always winning them but always learning from them. He was a religious man (Lutheran) who took the side of Christian non-Catholics against the Catholic Church. 1913: the Eve of War by Paul Ham This is an account of the status of the European powers in the year before the beginning of World War I. Rather than blame one side or another for the war, the author puts the blame on all of the parties for their effort to prepare for war but not to preserve peace. Only a couple of diplomats come out looking good, while the usual figures (the leaders of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia, etc.) all come out looking very bad, negligent in their duties to their people. Pablo Picasso by Hourly History This short biography gives an overview of the life and painting career of Picasso. He was a prodigy at an earliest age. He did much of his work in France once he left his native Spain. He was much more devoted to his painting than he was to his wife or children. One could almost say that he was a true genius, but not a very nice person. Ancient Jericho by Charles River Editors This is supposed to be an account of the city of Jericho, but the author spreads a much wider net to include some of the influences on the city by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. Some of the material is well presented, but not all of it. Operation Gunnerside by Charles River Editors This is the story of the SAS attempt to destroy the heavy water plant in Norway during World War II (due to its use in Atomic research). The atomic program in Germany did not really get off the ground (due to budgetary restraints and the emigration of so many talented, Jewish scientists). The plan to destroy the heavy water facilities depended much upon Norwegian saboteurs who were both brave and brilliant in their work. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Ellicott City, Md - Louisville, KY - Linthicum, MD

May 25, 2022 Peace and Good, After my dental work in the Baltimore area, I travelled to Mt. St. Francis just outside of Louisville. There we held the first part of the provincial chapter of Our Lady of Consolation Province (which stretches from Minnesota to New Mexico). The chapter went very well. There was a very good atmosphere among the friars. I then travelled back to Baltimore where we began the chapter of Our Lady of Angels Province in Linthicum at a place called the Maratime Center. This is a very large chapter with around 70 participants. We have finished the first part of the chapter (reports, discussion) and tomorrow we have a whole series of elections to choose the counselors for the next four years (the provincial had already been chosen by mail ballot). This chapter goes til Friday, and then Saturday fr. Carlos and I fly to San Francisco for the chapter of the California Province. The friars have been very honest in their discussions. We will have a second part to this chapter in July which is when we address a series of motions which the friars will offer in these coming weeks. I finished some reading: Mary Baker Eddy by Hourly History This is a short biography of the Christian Science movement. She comes across as a somewhat odd person, often ill until she met a healer who presented himself as a vehicle of the wisdom of the ages, but whom Eddy thought of as a representative of Christ the healer. The book doesn’t really get into the inner personality of Eddy, but it gives enough information to develop a sense of the woman. The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton I had read this book many, many years ago, in novitiate (1971-1972). I am sure this read of it was very different in tone. The book is sadly dated, diffused with a pre-Vatican theology which Merton himself questioned in his latter years. He comes across as so judgmental of both himself and of others. I can honestly say that after listening to his presentation on prayer and reading this book, I don’t really want to read anything by him in the near future. Agrippina by Emma Southon This is an account of the granddaughter of Augustus, the wife of Claudius and the mother of Nero. She was a powerful woman who, at times, tried to rule in her own name. She was eventually murdered by her son. The book is good, but the author seems to have an adolescent need to use vulgar terms when describing the various relationships. Barons of the Sea by Steven Ujifusa This is an account of the buildings, owners, and captains of the great cargo ships that travelled from China to London, London to New York, and New York to San Francisco (among other places). The author gives a tremendous insight into the background of these merchants. He does not ignore their shortfalls (such as dealing in opium), but he tries to explain the situation in light of the times. The book is well done. Books that Matter: the Decameron by Kristina Olsen This is an overview of the famous work by Boccacio of ten people fleeing Florence during the plague meeting and telling a story each for ten straight nights. Each of the ten is given the opportunity to name a topic for the stories. Olsen describes both the surface level of the stories and their deeper meaning in light of the society of those days. This is a Great Courses selection. Under Occupation by Alan Furst By far, Furst is my favorite author. He writes novels that take place in Europe around the time of the Nazi takeover of Germany and during the Second World War. This one describes how an author becomes a spy for the underground, along with a Polish young women who is his assistant. Furst has the touch, able to transport one back into those times and into the minds of the characters involved. This was one of his better works. Nameless Series: Volume Two by Dean Koontz This is a six volume series (novellas) concerning a billionaire whose wife and daughter die in a terrorist incident. He is so overwrought by grief and guilt that he has his memory wiped and he serves as an avenger to promote justice in a crazy world. I read the first series last year, and this year’s selections bring the story to a conclusion. To tell the truth, I found last year’s works superior in quality to those of this year. Pierre-Auguste Renoir by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous French impressionistic artist. He rose from poverty early in his career to become a rich artist (especially because of the popularity of this paintings in America). The account speaks of his relationships with other artists, and also with women in his life (relationships which were not always laudable). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Montreal - Toronto - Louisville - Ellicott City

May 14, 2022 Peace and Good, This has been another couple of weeks of extensive travelling. One of the friars from Montreal drove us to Toronto via a place called Kashube (which is a lakeside resort that the friars run in northern Ontario). In Toronto, we visited the various apostolates run by the friars. Last Saturday we flew to Louisville. Sunday I celebrated the Mass at Mount St. Francis. It is great to celebrate with lay people, because most of the time I am involved with itnernal ministry to the friars. fr. Carlos was driven to Gethsemane, the monastery where Thomas Merton lived, for a week of prayer. I flew to Ellicott City for some dental care (a root canal, some oral surgery). I also used this time to get my second booster shot. Today I fly back to Louisville for the opening of the provincial chapter of Our Lady of Consolation Province on Monday afternoon. I will be there with fr. Carlos until next Saturday when we fly back to Baltimore for the opening of the chapter of Our Lady of Angels Province. I finished some reading: The Republic of Finland by Charles River Editors This is an account of the development of Finland from being a province of Sweden and Russia to being an independent nation. It especially deals with the Winter War, a war provoked by the Soviet Union in which Finland, although the loser, managed to bloody the Soviet Union so much that Hitler saw them as an impotent opponent, leading to his invasion of the Soviet Union later that year. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the Republic of Turkey by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the father of the modern Turkish nation. It covers his rise from a rather insignificant army officer to the president of the nation who led Turkey into modernity (even if he did so with an iron fist at times). 20 Great Military Disasters of the Middle Ages by Anthony Holland This is a short account of twenty of the worst defeats experienced by various nations and peoples during the Middle Ages. None of the accounts are that profound, either for the causes of the war or the conduct of the war or its consequences, but the accounts do give enough information to get a general sense of what happened. Burying the Dead in Ancient Egypt by Charles River Editors Unlike most of Charles River Editors’ books, this one is an extensive coverage of the burial customs (the mummification, the tombs, the gods worshipped who were associated with death and the afterlife, etc.) in ancient Egypt, from its earliest days to the Roman period. It has enormous amounts of information, almost too much if one is not interested in diving into the topic profoundly. Michelangelo by Hourly History This is a relatively short biography of the artist Michelangelo, part of a series of artists by Hourly History. It gives an overview of his career as a sculptor and painter (a role that he never really wanted). The book does not go all that deep into his person and psychology, but it is a good overview. 1942: the Year that Tried Men’s Souls by Winston Groom In the beginning of 1942, the allies were losing the war all over the place. By the end of the year, the allies had scored their first victories and the axis powers were beginning to retreat (e.g. the Battle of Midway, North Africa, etc.). Groom has a good way of telling a story, including many stories of individuals within the context of the larger narrative. St. Theresa of Avila by Hourly History This is quite a pleasant biography of St. Theresa. While mentioning the doubts concerning her ecstatic phenomena, the author admits that we cannot be sure and that one’s final judgment is often determined by one’s starting point. I found the book informative and respectful. Critical Mass by Sara Peretsky This is the story of a family that started out as Jewish inhabitants in pre-war Vienna, and how a great scholar escapes to the US after the war. Her secrets are stolen by a man who makes a fortune off her ideas which lead to an early computer. The detective, V.I Warshawsky, has to sort through layers of identities and lies. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Ellicott City - San Antonio - Chicago - Syracuse - Montreal

May 3, 2022 There will be a lot of travelling these next few months. I was in San Antonio for the blessing of an addition to the house of studies there. The friars who were behind the construction did a great job. It provides added space for the program which is badly needed. I met the Minister General there, fr. Carlos. We then flew up to Chicago for the provincial chapter of St. Bonaventure Province. It went very well. The friars were in great spirits. We heard the reports, met in small groups to discuss the province and its future, and then elected the definitory (counsel). The Minister Provincial had already been elected by postal ballot. Then on Saturday fr Carlos and I flew to Syracuse to visit the friars there. They have a good parish which also has a soup kitchen, a good pantry, a medical service, etc. There are tons of volunteers, and in fact the parish is an intentional parish for those interested in social action. On Monday we drove up to Montreal so that fr. Carlos could visit the friars of the custody here (who serve Polish immigrants). The friars here take care of three parishes (two Polish and one a mixture of Polish and English), as well as three Polish parishes in the US. We will be here til Thursday when we drive to Toronto to visit the friars there. I finished some reading: Thomas Merton on Prayer This is a series of tapes made by Thomas Merton himself. It comes down to a stream of consciousness of his various thoughts. I can’t say that I really liked it. It tends toward the dogmatic in which he sees himself to be the judge of all practices and ideas around him (something that I have noticed in a number of his writings). The best part is a conclusion which is compendium of the ideas presented throughout the tapes. The Mongol Empire by Craig Benjamin This is a rather long (24 lectures) overview of the history of the Mongol empire. It especially deals with the great emperors Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. It also speaks of the culture and religion of this people. It speaks of their predecessors on the Mongolian Plain, as well as the ultimate importance of the empire and its conquests. It is well done, although probably containing a bit too much information for those who are terribly interested in the fraternal wars of succession. Jewish Comedy: a Serious History by Jeremy Dauber This is a overview of Jewish Comedy throughout the ages by a University professor. In spite of the fact that he gives a detailed overview of the topic, he manages to do it in a respectful and entertaining manner. It is interesting how he speaks about the self-hating (or at least self-complaining) of much of Jewish humor, and also the response of the Jewish world to persecution with a joke and a laugh. The humor tends to be quite earthy. He carries the topic to the 20th century with an overview of Jewish comics, especially those who appeared in Las Vegas and the Borst Belt on New York State. Typee by Herman Melville This is a book that I had wanted to read for a long, long time. It deals with a sailor who jumps ship in the Pacific Islands near Tahiti and who eventually is taken in by a tribe of natives who, even though they have a reputation for being cannibals, nevertheless treat him with great care and concern. The difficulty is that once they have adopted him, they never want him to leave them. Melville, who was a sailor, describes the natives with great respect, almost admiration at times. This book was the first introduction for many Americans in the 19th century to the South Seas. American’s Musical Heritage by Anthony Seeger This is a joint Audible/Teaching Company production on the distinctive musical heritage of the United States. Anthony Seeger is the nephew of Paul Seeger, from Peter, Paul and Mary fame. He is also the curator of the Smithsonian collection of American music. In these lectures, he draws upon the expertise of other scholars of American music. The course is well done. The Civil War by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This book is part of a longer Audible Productions series on US history, written in a way that does not overwhelm the reader/listener with unwanted details. The authors managed their task quite well, producing a relatively short, but very informative volume on this topic. The Golden Triangle by Bertil Lintner This is an audible production of the history and difficulties of the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand and Myanmar). The book is especially centered upon the complicated politics and ethnicity of the area, and the fact that it is a major producer of opium. A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch This is a novel of a member of parliament who is also a part time detective and his trip to Egypt on one of her Majesty’s navy ships. Two members of the crew are murdered, and he is asked to investigate the cases. The language is quaint, but enjoyable. There is also a side story of his responsibilities in Egypt (official and hidden). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Rome - Ellicott City

April 21, 2022 Peace and Good, I travelled from Rome to Ellicott City on Easter Sunday. I would have like to travel the next day, but the US requires a covid test within 24 hours of one's trip (and it would have impossible to obtain it in Rome on Easter Sunday). It is getting easier to travel, though, and the flights are more and more full. I have been in Ellicott City for a couple of appointments (eyes and teeth). As is common at my age, this has caused another couple of appointments in a month or so. I am surprised at how much cooler Baltimore is compared to Rome where it is high Spring. Rome was packed with tourists for Easter, and most of them are foreigners. These days I have been able to finish two major reports and do two weeks of daily reflections. That was very good, for tomorrow I head to San Antonio and I will be one the road for the next couple of months. I have finished some reading: The Luddites by Charles River Editors This is an historical outline of the movement in England during the 18th and 19th century of people who opposed the modern machines in the cloth mills that put so many people out of work and which created an environment of oppression for many of the workers (e.g. the small children who worked in those mills and were often horribly injured by the machines). The term Luddite is still used today to signify someone who opposes modernization. The French Revolution by Hourly History This short account speaks of the major events of the French Revolution and its significance in Europe and around the world. It deals well with the mob violence which killed thousands, and the fact that the original idealism of many of the participants was crushed under the gradual degradation of the movement until it all ended with the rise of Napoleon. The Maccabean Revolt by Charles River Editors This is an outline of the Maccabean rebellion against the forces of the Seleucid Empire, especially those of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The author points up that at times this was more of a civil war between the traditionalists of the Jewish faith and those who were willing to accommodate themselves to new, Greek ways (even when they opposed some of the major tenets of the faith). The Battle of Stalingrad by Hourly History This is a short description of the rise of Nazi Germany, it opposition to Communism, its attack on the Soviet Union, the battle for Stalingrad and the importance of that particular city (symbolic and material). Because of the length of the book, the author could not go into great detail, but this particular volume of the productions of Hourly History is well done. Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch I truly like all the books I have read by Ben Aaronovitch. His stories are about an older detective who trains a young detective in the arcane area of magic. He heads a special unit that investigates and responds to magical occurrences. The younger detective is the main figure in this volume about a kidnaping of two young girls and their eventual return (although even this is filled with mystery and odd facts). If one likes modern detective/magical stories, then there should certainly be on one’s list. Understanding Russia: A Cultural History by Lynne Ann Hartnett This is one of the Great Courses with 24 lectures on Russia. The emphasis tends to be on the period before the fall of the Romanov dynasty. The lecturer is informative and insightful. I especially liked the lectures on cultural issues. I could recommend this, as well as most other Great Courses series, for anyone who wants more knowledge about this topic. The Pilgrims’ Way by John Adair This is a short overview of many of the most important (and a number of more obscure) pilgrimage sites in Great Britain and Ireland. Many of the shrines were sadly desecrated either in the time of Henry VIII or of the Puritanical movement, but the author describes what was there and what still can be seen. Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War by Thomas and Roger Allen This is the story of how President Lincoln and the Union and Confederate forces used new technology during the Civil War. This includes the telegraph, the railroad, ironside boats, submarines, new types of firearms, etc. The author presents Lincoln who was fascinated with new inventions, much like Churchill during the Second World War. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 11, 2022

Rome - La Verna - Rome

April 11, 2022 Peace and Good, We started our definitory a week ago Saturday, and then on Sunday we headed up to La Verna for our annual retreat. La Verna is in Toscany, and it is a site on a mountain side. This is the place where St. Francis received the stigmata a couple of years before his death. The OFM friars have a beautiful shrine there, and this is the third time that I have had a retreat there. The friars have done one very good thing - they have begun to heat the rooms so that they are no longer uncomfortably cold. In the past one froze outside and inside the friary. Now it is much better. When we arrived there was still snow on the ground, but over the course of the week it melted (even if the weather remained cloudy and windy). We have two different retreat presenters, one of our friars who is the rector of the Basilica in Padua and one of the friars from La Verna who lives in the hermitage there. Saturday we returned to Rome and this afternoon we will begin our definitory again. It will go until Wednesday evening, and then we will spend the Triduum in prayer. Sunday I head back to the States where I will be travelling from one city to the next until the beginning of June. I have finished some reading: The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris This is a biography of the life and career of Joseph Lister and his crusade to establish antiseptic conditions in his operating rooms. He surprisingly faced much opposition, including in the United States. Yet, the success of his procedures in comparison to those of others became obvious over time, and by the time of his death he was recognized as a pioneer in the practice of antiseptic surgery. Roman Hispania by Charles River Editors This is a history that speaks of the lands of Spain and Portugal under the local Celtic tribes, under the Greeks and the Carthaginians, and then finally under the Romans until the land was conquered by Visigothic invaders and later by Islamic invaders. The author necessarily covers the career of Hannibal who began his invasion of Italy from Spain. Rules of Prey by John Sanford This is a novel about a serial killer in Minnesota and how a brilliant policeman is slowly able to track him down, more by accident than anything. The detective is presented as a flawed individual whose relationships with women are damaged (both due to him and to them). He is also the friend of a nun who helps him to sort out the profound dimension of what the killer was doing (as she and some others play the computer games which the detective had developed). Beginner’s Mind by Yo-Yo Ma This is a short audible book which speaks of how Yo-yo Ma learned to play the cello, and especially how he developed his talents so that his playing might be an honest communication of culture. He especially emphasized the need to work with fellow musicians in a partnership. The book is well done, showing how the background and studies of Ma became the raw material of his artistic endeavors. Revelations by Elaine Pagels This is an investigation into the content and the effect of the Book of Revelation. Pagels is an expert on Gnostic Literature, and she brings some of that knowledge into this study. She has a very strange theory concerning those whom the community opposed (positing that they were fellow Christians of the Pauline variety and not the pagans and Gnostics of that era). Yet, some of her treatment of the eventual reception of the book by the community is very well done. King, Kaiser and Tsar by Catrine Clay This is an overview of the lives and actions of King Edward VII of England, Kaiser William of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas of Russia. Only the first survived the disruptions of World War I. The three were cousins who often communicated, especially in light of their descendance from Queen Victoria. William is presented as an unbalanced autocrat who desperately needed good advisors but did not have them. The Age of Tyrants by Charles River Editors This speaks of the tyrants of ancient Greece. Today we use the word for cruel autocrats, and a few of the ancient tyrants were in fact this. But most of the tyrants were individuals who seized power to displace the autocrats who normally ruled Greek cities. They were opposed by those autocrats because they threatened their privilege. The Search for the Green River Killer by Charlton Smith and Tomas Guillen This is the account of the mass murderer known as the Green River Killer (in the state of Washington). It speaks of the attempts of the police to discover who was killing so many women and leaving their bodies in isolated fields. The killer was eventually discovered, although almost by accident. This investigation gave rise to many of the reforms in police departments and the FBI to use more scientific means of discovery. Gunpowder by Charles River Editors This is a history of the invention of gunpowder and then of instruments in which it could be used (fireworks, guns, canons, etc.). The book speaks of the spread of knowledge about this substance from China to the Arab world and then to Europe. May you have a prayerful Holy Week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, April 1, 2022

Louisville - Ellicott City - Rome

May 1, 2022 Peace and Good, Well, I am back in Rome. I stopped off at Ellicott City for a couple of days for the re-dedication of Carrollton Hall, a house built by Charles Carroll of Carrollton (the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) for his grandaughter. It dates to 1830, and the friars obtained it in the 1920's. It has at times been neglected, and fr. James, the provincial, worked with a committee to raise funds to renovate it. It will be used as a museum of Catholicity in Maryland, a meeting center, etc. On Tuesday I flew out of Dulles and arrived in London ahead of schedule. That is when the difficulties started. There was no gate open for us, and we waited on the tarmack so long that I missed my connection to Rome. They booked me for the next flight, but then the computer system for British Air crashed (I wonder if the Russians had anything to do with it). I was originally set to arrive in Rome around 3 PM, but didn't get in until around 10:30 PM. The weather here is rainy and windy, but not really all that cold. From what I have been told, this has been a dry winter, so the farmers really want as much rain as possible. On Sunday I will be going up to La Verna, the place where St. Francis received the stigmata, for our annual retreat. It should be about a three hour ride. We will be coming back a week from Saturday. I finished some reading: Leonardo da Vinci by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famed artist and scientist who was part of the Renaissance in Italy. The book speaks of his life and his works. It is a bit to insistent on praising him for whatever he did. John Wycliffe by Hourly History This is a short biography of the proto-Protestant preacher who translated the Bible into English and who attacked the abuses practiced by the Catholic hierarchy. While doing this, he also attacked some of the dogmas of the faith, especially those concerning the Eucharist. The Tonkin Gulf Incident by Charles River Editors This is an overview of the attack on American ships by the forces of North Vietnam. The events are somewhat questionable even now. It is not clear that there was an actual attack. Furthermore, the North Vietnamese had been attacked by South Vietnamese forces in the area in those days, so the North Vietnamese might have thought that they were defending themselves. Whichever, President Johnson used the event as the excuse for expanding the war. Congress went along with his efforts, passing the Tonkin Gulf resolution which abdicated their responsibility to declare war. Istanbul by Thomas Madden This is an extensive account of the city known as Constantinople or Istanbul. It deals with the early era of the city before the emperor Constantine, then the Byzantine period up to 1453, and the city after its conquest by the Turks and its becoming the capitol of the Ottoman Empire. The author presents an entertaining picture with enough information without becoming tedious. Midtown Manhattan’s Most Famous Buildings by Charles River Editors This is an overview of some of the most famous landmarks of New York City such as the Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building. The author of this particular volume gives a lot of information about the construction of these sites and also about the reaction of critics and the public to them. Unfortunately, containing so many accounts makes the book a bit tedious at times. Vincent van Gogh by Hourly History This is a short account of the life and work of Van Gogh. There are not any spectacular discoveries in the book, but it does present a good overview of his tortured life and how it affected the art that he produced. The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo by Edward Shepherd Creasy This is a classical study of battles throughout history. It is weighted toward the British (for the author is British). A while ago I read a study by Keegan on battle, and specifically referenced this volume. It is good, but a bit Victorian in its writing style. The Sixth Extinction by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin Leakey is the son of the famous archaeologist Richard Leakey senior. He and his co-author deal with the five natural extinctions throughout the history of life on Earth. They speak of the coming extinction, due to over population, loss of environment, change in climate. One of the most important details was the study of how one species depends on another for an acceptable environment, so that if one animal or plant disappears, others are affected adversely. The book is well done, but runs on a bit long. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Louisville, KY - Albuquerque, NM - Angola, IN - Carey, OH - Louisville, KY

March 23, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been travelling in these days to finish off the visitation to Our Lady of Consolation Province in the Midwest. One of the trips in these days was to visit fr. Charles McCarthy who works at Laguna Pueblo, a native American reservation, in New Mexico. He takes care of a number of small churches in the immediate area. I was very impressed with his ability to know the local culture without becoming obsessed with knowing everything. At times, knowing what the boundaries are and respecting them is a very important part of dealing with others. We, fr. Wayne and myself, visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio. It is a parish church with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation which draws people from all around, especially during the summer. I will be heading off to Baltimore this coming Saturday for a re-dedication of Carrollton Manor, a house built by Charles Carroll of Carrollton as a wedding present for his niece. Carroll was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his cousin was the first bishop in the country. The building has been refurbished to bring it back to some of its original beauty, and it will serve as a museum, meeting hall, etc. I have finished some reading: The First World War by Peter Simkins, Geoffrey Jukes and Michael Hickey This is an account of the war from the beginning to the end. It is written by British authors, so it is heavily bent in their favor. It does a good job on the Western front, a little less so on the Eastern front, but a disastrous job on the war around the world (e.g. the Pacific, Africa). The British Bulldog and the French Poodle in Africa by Charles River Editors In spite of the title of this short book, it is a quite good account of the grab for colonies in Africa, especially during the 19th century. Both colonial powers were looking for a continuous line of colonies from one side of Africa to the other (the British from north to south, the French from east to west). Obviously, only one of them would win. The final breaking point was the encounter between the French and British in an out of the way place named Fashoda. The account also deals with the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon. Raphael: Painter in Rome by Stephanie Storey This is an entertaining historical fiction account of the artist Raphael (along with his rival Michelangelo). The author is playful in the presentation of dialog and of the artists quirks (as well as those who surrounded the papal court). When I first started the book, I was worried that it might be too colloquial, but it is the type of book that deals with important issues without allowing itself to be bogged down with facts and details). The author has written other books about the era which I now intend to read. The Eternal City by Ferdinand Addis This is a very fine book that covers the city of Rome from ancient times up to the present day. It deals with some topics of which I had heard but had never received much information about. The tone of the book is respectful, even when dealing with issues such of the papacy during the very bad years in the Middle Ages and even the Renaissance. I would recommend this book. American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White This is a well written, comprehensive biography of General/President Grant. It deals with his successes and his failures. It shows Grant to be a humble, simple man with his flaws like anyone else. He was often underestimated by those around him, which was a big mistake. The author does not cover up the disastrous corruption during his presidential administration, nor his bankruptcy in the following years. I especially enjoyed the author’s treatment of the period in which Grant wrote his memoirs (which were then published by Mark Twain). The Great American Rascal: The Turbulent Life of Aaron Burr by Noel Gerson This is a biography of a man who was both a hero and a villain. He was incredibly ambitious, but not always cognizant of the folly of his outlandish plans (e.g. to conquer Mexico and make it his own personal empire). He was the Vice-President under Jefferson, but even that he handled so poorly that there was a permanent enmity between the two men. He was the model for the short story, “The Man Without a Country,” for after he was tried for treason, he fled to England (followed by Sweden, then Germany, then France, then back to England). He borrowed money wherever he went, rarely paying it back. He was certainly a man who moved to his own drummer, a drummer who was often out of beat of the rest of society. Edgar Allen Poe: Master of Horror by Mark Canada This is a production of the Teaching Company in collaboration with Audible Books. It is the product of a professor of literature who has studied Edgar Allen Poe extensively. I found a couple of his theories strange, but overall the course gives a good insight into this strange man and author. His greatest fame for his poetry, mystery novels and even detective novels came after his death. He is seen to have been a terribly tortured man who man self-destructive choices (and not only with his use of drink and drugs). The Hubble Space Telescope by Charles River Editors This is one of the productions of Charles River Editors who produce short but thorough presentations on particular topics. In this case, the book is about the Hubble Space Telescope. Besides the history of the telescope itself, there is a mind-numbing catalog of its discoveries and of various astronomical theories. I really can’t say that I would recommend this book except to someone who is desperately interested in the topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude