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


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