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