Monday, January 31, 2022

Peoria - Chicago - Ellicott City

January 31, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City (Baltimore) for the past few days for some doctors' appointments. So far, so good. I have one more appointment later today, and then tomorrow I head out to Louisville to begin my visitation of Our Lady of Consolation Province. I finished the St. Bonaventure visitation this past week. I will be travelling in Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Texas in these next weeks. I have been lucky with the weather. I got out of Chicago just before they got 8 inches of snow, and here in Baltimore we largely escaped the worst of the weather coming up the coast. We had a couple of zoom meetings this past Friday. In the morning and early afternoon, I had a General Definitory. We do this every once in a while to take care of a backlog of cases that develops after a while. Then, in the afternoon, the federation had a zoom meeting to work on our slate of formators for our houses of formation after the coming chapters (April through July). I finished some reading: Medical Mysteries Across History by Dr. Roy Benaroch This is part of the audible original productions, and also of the Great Courses series. I have listened to a couple of courses offered by Dr. Benaroch in the past, and he gives a clear, thorough explanation of the various topics with which he is dealing. In this case, he gives the case history of certain historic figures (without fully identifying them) and tries to determine a modern diagnosis for their problems. It is well done. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Every once in a while I like to read or listen to a book that is pure entertainment. That is the case when I devour one of the Harry Potter books. I fully enjoy J.K. Rowling’s series of books, especially when I listen to them. Franklin and Washington by William Larson This is a study and comparison of the personalities and careers of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. It deals with how their lives intersected during the Revolutionary War. Toward the end, it deals with the painful subject of slavery, with Franklin opposing it and even presenting a petition to Congress to outlaw it, and Washington preferring not to deal with the matter (and at times defending it). The book is well written and it gives a fair overview of both men. The Psalms: Language of All Seasons of the Soul, ed. Andrew Schmutzer and David Howardi This is a series of studies produced by an evangelical/Calvinist group of scholars on the psalms. The early studies are quite well done and produce a lot of food for thought. They helped me ask questions about the psalms that had never before come into my head. Unfortunately, to fill out the book, the editors ended it with a series of homilies on the psalms which are neither all that good as homilies nor insightful in terms of academics. Overall, though, the book is worth the read. A Grown Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ellie Sans and Clare Chadburn This is a series of six podcasts presented by Audible on dinosaurs. It is a quite scholarly presentation, but developed in a way that is quite pleasant. I learned a lot about the rise and fall of dinosaurs, mass extinctions, the development of flight, the competition between reptiles and mammals, etc. I have found that many of the podcasts being produced are well worth listening to. Crete 1941 by Antony Beevor I have read a number of Beevor’s books. He is an author dealing with war topics, such as the siege of Stalingrad. This book deals with the period before the invasion of Crete, of the invasion, and of the aftermath until the time of the liberation of the island. The book is well written, filled with individual details. It is a bit Anglophilic, telling the story from a British point of view. Yet, it is well worth reading. The Storm before the Storm by Michael Duncan This is the story of the Roman Republic and the various machinations that eventually led up to the final crisis and civil war which destroyed it. It thus deals with the period of the Gracchi, Marius and Sula. The choices made by these men (and their opponents) led up to the disaster in the times of Julius Caesar, Crassus and Pompey. The book is very well researched and written. Hitler’s Spy Chief by Richard Bassett This is the story of Admiral Canaris, the head of army intelligence service for Germany during World War II. It cannot be definitively proved, but it would appear that he was a bit of a double agent. He was an absolute patriot of Germany, and he hated what Hitler was doing to the country. He therefore allowed various German lots to fail, and leaked other information to the allies. He was eventually arrested after the plot to kill Hitler failed, and he was executed in the last days of World War II. The Roman Way by Edith Hamilton This is one of two volumes (the other being the Greek Way) which speaks of the culture and literature and way of life of the Romans. Hamilton contrasts the Roman view of the world with that of the Greeks. It is well done, very informative. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, January 17, 2022

San Antonio - Chicago - Rockford - Milwaukee - Detroit - Peoria

January 17, 2022 Peace and Good, These have been busy days as I travel from friary to friary to conduct a canonical visitation. We have two friars in Milwaukee at our basilica, two at a parish in Rockford from which the province is retiring, three in the friary in the cemetary in Dearborn Heights (Detroit) and a number in our parish in Chicago and our house of studies there. The weather has cooperated so far. My flight from San Antonio to Chicago was unusual for Southwest changed my flight, giving me one an hour earlier, during the night. Thank God I checked my email first thing in the morning. I had a pleasant surprise when I received an apology and a $100 voucher. I really like Southwest. I attended an ordination to the diaconate this past Saturday in Peoria. It went well, but the bishop tested positive for covid that evening, so I am doing some quaranteening. I have been negative with the covid tests up to now. Let's hope all goes well. I have finished some reading: The Battle of Issus by Charles River Editors This was one of the critical battles of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian army against the forces of Persia. This short book (as all of the books are by this publisher) also gives a good amount of information before and after the battle. Chernobyl by Andrew Leatherbarrow This is a book on the nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukraine at the end of the Soviet Union. The coverage of the disaster is well done, but the book is also a travel log of the author’s trip to the reactor and city sites. That part of the book is a bit tedious. I found Midnight at Chernobyl much better written and more informative. The Life and Operas of Verdi by Robert Greenberg This is a 32 lecture Teaching Company course on the life and writings of Giuseppe Verdi. The presenter is a music scholar with a great sense of humor. I listened to this course to try to better understand opera. While I get the sense behind operas, I really cannot say that I appreciate it. Greenberg is good at explaining the movements in both the action and the music. Rise and Fall of the Borgias by William London This is a short Great Courses presentation on the Borgia family (the Pope, Cesare Borgia and Lucrecia Borgia in particular. The professor finds the middle road in his presentation. While he admits that the various family members, especially Cesare, did terrible things, he also argues that some of the worst things with which they are accused were really fabrications made up by their enemies. Top Secret Tales of World War II by William Breuer This is an interesting, amusing, and fascinating account of various events during World War II, especially associated with spy craft. It is a light read, but once in a while that is exactly what one sometimes needs. Modern Latvia by Charles River Editors This is an account of the Baltic state of Latvia which lies between Lithuania and Estonia. So much of its history was controlled by the local powers, including Russia, Poland, Sweden and Germany. While Latvia won independence after World War I, it was lost during the Second World War. It regained its independence with the fall of the Soviet Empire. The Great Famine by Hourly History This is the story of the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s. The potato blight caused the failure of the crop upon which most of the Irish population depended. The British government did the minimum to help the starving population, leading to the death of at least one million people and the emigration of at least twice that number. 1941 by Andrew Nagorski This is an account of what Nagorski calls the year in which the Nazi plan to conquer the world was damaged by Hitler to the point that the rest of the war was simply the consequences of the disasters that Hitler had caused (e.g. the invasion of Russia, the failure to aim at Moscow with his most powerful forces, the declaration of war on the United States, etc.). I have read other books by Nagorski (e.g. the battle of Moscow). He was an editor at Newsweek magazine. His accounts are filled with information presented in a very pleasing manner. Keep safe. fr. Jude

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Rome - Chicago - San Antonio

January 6, 2022 Peace and Good, Happy New Year to everyone, and happy Epiphany as well. I travelled from Rome to Chicago on the 29th. The 28th I had to get a PCR covid test, and waited 3 hours in line to get it. The flight from London to Chicago was delayed 3 hours, so it was a tough trip. I rested up in Chicago for a couple of days, and then flew down to San Antonio to preach a retreat to the post-novitiate students. The topic is on the Admonitions of St. Francis, 28 sayings attributed to him on how to live an everyday Franciscan life. This is a topic that I never presented before, so it required quite a bit of study and preparation, but it has been well worth it. The weather is uneven. It was very warm when I arrived, but a cold front has come in and now it goes between cold and warm throughout the day. We are on an Episcopanian camp about an hour outside of San Antonio. It is very nicely arranged, and we are all enjoying the property and the accomidations. It finish up tomorrow and head back to Chicago on Saturday. The retreat for the students in the Washington house of studies had to be cancelled because of covid. We were lucky so far. I finished some reading: The Kingdom of Alishiya by Charles River Editors This is a short study of the ancient kingdom of Alishiya. Most scholars believe it was on Cyprus. It is not clear whether it was the entire island or simply one portion of it. During its heyday, it traded with the most powerful empires in the area: Egypt, Mattan, the Hittites, etc. Their most valuable product was copper (which mixed with tin would make bronze). Its importance diminished in latter BC centuries, especially after the arrival of the Assyrians in that part of the world. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton This is a presentation on the meaning of contemplation and an explanation of what it is and especially what it is not. The information is valuable, although Merton’s style at times is annoying (calling things stupid and foolish, etc.). I had read this book many, many years ago, but I don’t even know what I would have understood in that earlier reading given how much I have had to learn in the meantime. Shroud for the Archbishop by Peter Tremayne This is a murder story solved by an Irish nun who visits Rome to seek approval of her community’s rule in the 7th century AD. The story is clever and I suspect most of the details are accurate, but I did find a few that were questionable. In the background is the difference between the Roman and the Irish rite in these times. The War of 1812 by Jeffrey Hummel This is an audio presentation of a couple of hours on the War of 1812. It gives the background to the war, placing it in the context of the war between England and France, and how their fighting overflowed to the neutral countries. This volume is narrated by George C. Scott, so it is a very familiar voice. Roman Slaves: Facts about prostitutes, revolution, Spartacus and Roman Citizens by Ron Carver This is an odd second volume of a study of the Roman Empire. It is totally disorganized and the grammar is at best questionable. Yet, it does provide some good information, although one has to be patient with the odd style of writing. Hispanic America, Texas, and the Mexican War 1835-1850 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is the history of those areas of the United States that were under the control of Mexico and were eventually conquered or bought by the US. It gives a good overview both from the point of the view of the Hispanic community as well as the Anglo US republic. The Philippines by Joseph Stromberg This is a short history of the Philippine Islands, from prehistoric times to the present. It deals especially with the time that the islands were under the control of the Spanish Empire and of the United States. It is not extensive, but it gives a good overview. Keep safe. fr. Jude