Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Santa Cruz, California - Rome

October 26, 2022 Peace and Good We had a very good meeting of the federation of English speaking friars at Maria del Mar retreat house in Santa Cruz. It was right along the ocean, and during our stay I saw some seals and dolphins swimming just offshore. The food was great, as was the hospitality. There were many new members to the leadership of the federation, and this meeting allowed them to get to know each other better. They seem to work very well together. We elected the leadership of the federation, with fr. Michael Heine, the provincial of OLA province, being named the president. They have also nominated a replacement for me which will be voted upon later this week. The weather here in Rome is nice - fall weather. I just got in on Monday evening, so I am in the midst of jet lag. I swear it get worse and worse. I can't wait until I have finished with these transatlantic trips. I finished some reading: Celtic Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a short overview of the mythology of the Celtic people, both those in Great Britain and those in Asia Minor, France, Spain, etc. It also deals the question of those whom one would consider to be Celtic. Their extension is much more extensive than one would expect. America’s Weirdest Riots by Charles River Editors This is an account of some of the stranger riots that have occurred in the United Stats in the past couple of hundred years. There was, for example, the eggnog riot at West Point Academy. There was also the grave robber riots in which people attacked medical schools because it was thought that they were robbing bodies from the cemeteries for anatomy lessons. The Chicago Outfit by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the crime network that developed in Chicago (in fact, different gangs in the different parts of the city). It deals extensively with the career of Al Capone, but also deals with what one could call the Mafia mob and the Irish mob. The Life and the Writings of John Milton by Dr. Seth Leher This is an overview of the literature of John Milton, the most famous of whose writings was Paradise Lost. The professor is able to point out the literary patterns and allusions throughout the text of the various writings. He uses a bit of psychology to show why Milton shows a certain response whenever he deals with a father figure (based on his own difficulty to his own father). The treatment is too reverential, and it cannot truly be called objective. Images of St. Francis by Wayne Hellman This is an excellent course on the way that St. Francis has been imaged throughout the centuries, including seeing him as a prophet, a saint, a founder of a religious movement, etc. Wayne is one of our friars, the current provincial of OLC province, and he taught at St. Louis University for many years. Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman This is a novel which speaks about an Arabic interrogator working at the prison in Guantanamo for Arab prisoners after 9/11. There are a whole series of surprising developments. The author gives a good mystery/thriller. Many of those whom one would expect to be on the good side and seen to be less virtuous than one would have thought. The Fiery Trial by Eric Foner This is a very good treatment of the growing movement toward emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War. Foner traces the growth in Abraham Lincoln and his ability to do what he really wanted to do from the start (but did not yet have the political ability to do so). Lincoln is seen as opposed to slavery, but unsure how to respond to it due to his need to placate the border states that had not yet left the union, the opinions of many of the white people in the north who were not all that favorable toward blacks, and his own opinion that the solution to this problem would be creating colonies in foreign countries to expel blacks from this nation. Martin Luther by Hourly History This is a short biography of Martin Luther, one of the founders of the Protestant reformation. It deals with his theological background and reasonings, but also with his psychological motivations (including some of the negative factors of his personality). Although it is short, the study is well done. Gastronomy in Mesoamerica by Charles River Editors This is a short description of the normal diet of the people in Mesoamerica before the arrival of Columbus. It also deals with the crops that were exported to Europe and Asia and Africa, and those were imported from those continents in what was called the Columbian exchange. The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China by David Sibley This story of the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century which was a movement to destroy the influence of foreign powers and religions in China. It deals with the rebellion largely from the point of view of the Western powers which eventually crushed the rebellion. The author does recognize the imperialistic intentions of the various power who all claimed to be totally charitable in their intentions. I will actually be in Rome for a few weeks now, until I head to Australia in mid-November. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Llandundo, Wales - London - San Francisco - Santa Cruz

October 18, 2022 Peace and Good, The chapter in Great Britain/Ireland went very well. The friars were very realistic as to where they stood and what has to be done in the coming years. After the chapter I took a train to London (actually a train ride with three changes). Saturday I flew out to San Francisco, and today we begin a meeting at a retreat house in Santa Cruz (right on the ocean). It is a beautiful spot. I can hear the waves right from my bedroom, and that sound always has a way of calming me. The meeting this week is of the ministers of the various jurisdictions of the English speaking, first world establishment of friars (e.g. US, Canada, Australia and Great Britain/Ireland). We will meet until Friday evening, and then I head back to Rome on Sunday. The weather is nice, in the mid 60's. Most of the friars who are coming to the meeting are new in their job, so a lot of our work will be getting to know each other and what is expected of each one during these coming years. I finished some reading: Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire by Peter Wilson This is a very long, very detailed study of the Holy Roman Empire and its institutions. It is not an easy read, but it presents an enormous amount of information. Only someone who is really, really interested in this empire (at times a true empire, at others only an amalgamation of small states) should read this book. At the same time, it is a good study. Sermon on the Mount by Amy-Jill Levine This is an audiobook from Chirp books written by a professor of the New Testament who was raised in a Jewish family. She is able to draw information from the best of both of these worlds. There are times that I would exactly agree with her conclusions (e.g. she has a tendency to water down some of the more radical challenges of Jesus), her study is nevertheless quite valuable. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch This is one of my favorite author. He has written a series of books about Peter Grant, a mixed race detective in London who studies how to be a magician so that he can investigate and regulate magical occurrences in Great Britain. He is studying under a mentor (Nightingale) who is over 100 years old. This is the first book in the series in which Peter discovers his magical talents. What did St. Francis Teach: Interpreting the Admonitions of Francis of Assisi by Jay Hammond I listened to this audiobook/course on the Admonitions of St. Francis to prepare for a retreat that I was asked to preach to the post-novitiate friars in San Antonio. The retreat has gone very well, largely to the profound study of this topic. Some of the elements of the study are a bit technical (and they could easily be skipped by someone less interested in this element in the study), but Hammond has a profound insight into the thinking of St. Francis. I listened to it at least five times over the past couple of weeks, and found new insights every time I listened to it. Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva This is a book that deals with Gabriel Allon, a spy from the Mosad, the Israeli intelligence network. In this volume, he must sort out the complicated dealings of a Russian arms merchant who was now selling anti-aircraft missiles to terrorist states and groups. As always, Silva’s books are filled with action and insight. Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations by Kenneth Harl This is a Great Courses series on ancient civilizations of the Middle East. The professor is very informative, and his presentation is very palatable. I would gladly listen to any of this professor’s presentations. Wolves and Werewolves in History and Popular Culture by Shannon Scott This is a very strange, very entertaining production by Great Courses and Audible Originals. The author speaks of the human fascination with wolves and werewolves. She presents tales about them over the ages (along with a judgment of why the stories were presented in their particular form). I wouldn’t say that this is a high academic topic, but it was enjoyable to listen to it. The Best American Short Stories 2019 by Heidi Pitlor and Anthony Doerr This is a collection of modern short stories that vary in topic but which were judged to be some of the best productions of 2019. I found almost every story to be well worth listening to, and I would highly recommend this book and the annual version of it. Some of the topics covered were things that I would never even have considered, but that made them all the more valuable to me. The Khmer Empire by Charles River Editors This is a short but very intricate history of the empire that led to the birth of the modern state of Cambodia. The book is unfortunately filled with names and battles and material that overwhelms the reader. The best part of the book is the description of the temple at Angor Wat. Emperors of Rome by Garrett Fagan This is a Great Courses production about the rise and fall of the office of emperor in the Roman States, opening with the career of Julius Caesar and closing with the reign of Constantine. The author is both informative and entertaining. This is the second time over the years that I have listened to this course, and found it just as useful the second time as it was the first. Have a oood week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, October 10, 2022

Rome - London - Llandundo (Wales)

October 10, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome this past week. There were no meetings, so it was time to start a writing project (the articles I do for our Messenger magazine from Padua). This series will be on the apostles. The weather in Rome is cooling off, but is not yet rainy. Here in London (I flew here on Saturday) is a bit different. It is cooler than Rome, and today the rains have begun and will probably continue all this week. This week we will be in Llandundo, Wales. We are holding the second part of the chapter for the Great Britian/Ireland custody. We held the first part last month. Ths will be the last chapter I will attend as Assistant General. Then this coming Saturday I will head to California for a meeting of the major superiors of our federation (US, Canada, Australia and Great Britain/Ireland). I finished some reading: The Spartans by Paul Cartledge This is a well written account of the history of the Spartan people and their kingdom from its rise to its eventual decline. The author is not an apologist for this people, and honestly presents the positive and negative dimension of the unique society which they formed. The Burgundians by Charles River Editors This is a short but terribly boring account of the history of the Burgundian people (when they were a kingdom, part of the Carolingian empire, a duchy (especially during the 100 years war), etc. There are too many facts thrown out without producing a true connection. Blizzard: the Storm that Changed America by Jim Murphy This is the story of a great blizzard that hit the East coast in the 19th century. It changed the way that America looked at the weather. Previously, each individual was responsible for cleaning the sidewalks and streets in front of his house. This blizzard was so devastating that civil governments realizes that they were often the only entities capable of dealing with disasters such as horrendous weather events. Creating the Constitution: 1787 by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier This is part of a series of short books on American history. They are written by a team which feels that too many useless facts are thrown out in history classes and works. They work to give the essential and show the movements which led to certain choices. This is well done. More Twisted by Jeffery Deaver This is a series of short stories by the famous detective author. Each of the stories is well fashioned and always carries a surprise toward the end. It is an enjoyable read. Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix This is a very amusing, clever account of horror novels (especially short, paperback ones) from the 60’s to the present. As with other studies of horror, the author shows how many of the images are products of what is happening in the larger world. He also speaks of those authors who take an idea and go overboard on it, exaggerating it to a pornographic level. Ivan the Terrible by Ian Grey Ian Grey is a very good history writer. I have read a number of his books. This biography is a good presentation on the person and the times of Ivan the Terrible. A first consideration is that the Russian word “terrible” is actually something closer to “awesome.” There is no question that he was cruel and vindictive, but that could also describe much of what was happening in his days all throughout Russia as it tried to establish itself amidst numerous enemies which surrounded it. Tales from the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch Aaronovitch has turned into one of my favorite authors. He has written the Peter Grant series about a young mixed race detective in London who is recruited by a special branch of the police to investigate magical crimes. He is taught by an experienced wizard-policeman, Nightingale. This book is a series of short stories involving Peter Grant and other characters. As always, it is quite enjoyable. The Skeptic’s Guide to Alternative Medicine by Steven Novella This is a teaching company course on the scientific proof concerning alternative medicine regimes such as chiropractors, healing touch, acupuncture, etc. The professor is very careful concerning what he says, always backing it up with credible scientific proof. The course is very well done and answered a number of my questions. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

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