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