Saturday, November 19, 2022

Rome - Melbourne, Australia - Sydney, Australia

November 20, 2022 Peace and Good, This past Saturday I travelled to Australia for a canonical visitation. I actually arrived on Sunday, for the trip took about 22 hours. I used Qatar airlines, which I cannot praise enough (service, food, cleanliness, etc.) Yet, the trip goes on forever. I visited our friary in Springvale, which is near Melbourne. The friars have a parish there which has a very large Vietnamese population. The weather in Melbourne was terrible. It was quite cold, and very rainy. Furthermore, the rain comes suddenly. I would feel a few drops and see people running. I soon saw why, for the rain goes from sprinkle to downpour in seconds. On Thursday I flew up to Sydney, to the town of Kellyville. Here the weather is much nicer, mostly in the 70's. This parish has a large Philippino and Indian contingent. I celebrated Mass this morning in the parish. Tomorrow we hear to a retreat house for the assembly of the friars here. Then, on Friday I travel down to Melbourne again, and on Saturday night off to Rome again. Even here in Australia I have been hearing about the snow in Buffalo, especially Hamburg and Orchard Park which is where I grew up. I finished some books: Paul: A New Covenant Jew by Brant Pitre, Michael Barber and John Kinkaid This is a tremendous study of the theology of St. Paul. Pitre has proven to be one of my favorite theology authors. He studies all of the various manuscripts and Jewish writings to show that Paul is a Jew who believes that Jesus has come to establish a new covenant. This doesn’t sound like a tremendous discovery, but some scholars would propose that Paul was just making things up about Jesus and that his message and that of the historic Jesus were fundamentally different. The authors show that this is in no way true, and he traces the message of Paul to the Old Testament sources, showing how it is consistent with the rest of the New Testament. The Song of a Bird by Anthony de Mello This is a series of very short stories that are intended to make one reflect upon a mystical approach to God. My favorite was right at the start and it gives the title to the book. A master of theology tells his students that their ideas about God are all wrong. They ask him why they should even try, and he responds with a question, “Why does the bird sing?” The bird does not sing because it wants to make a statement, but rather because it has a song to share. Stoicism by Ferdinand Jives This is a short presentation on the origins and content of Stoic philosophy. Oddly, the author insists on throwing all sorts of unrelated material in this account, which makes it a bit confusing. Red November: Inside the Secret US-Soviet Submarine by W. Craig Reed The author dedicates his father who served in the submarine service. He also is a diver who works on a submarine during the Cold War to try to obtain secret information from the Soviet Union, often by diving into very dangerous places to tap their cables which carry information from one base to the next. The story is quite compelling. The Mind of Plato by AE Taylor This is a scholarly overview of the writings and teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Taylore deals with the question as to the relationship between Socrates and Plato, and since what we know about Socrates is through Plato’s writings, he also deals with the question of how much of his account is accurate. He speaks of the other writings of Plato, especially the Republic. Young Einstein and the story of E=mc2 by Robyn Arianhod This is a short account of the late studies of Einstein, his marriage (which ultimately failed), and his struggle to find meaningful work, ending up in the Swiss patent office while he wrote papers which changed the way we think about mater and energy, time, movement, etc. A World Undone by GJ Meyer This is a masterful account of the First World War, from just before its origins to its conclusions. All throughout the account there are very useful excursi about the individuals, movements and politics of the times. Although the author presents mountains of material, he does it in a way that is not overwhelming or boring. Saint Peter by Hourly History This is a short biography of St. Peter. It draws upon Sacred Scripture and does not use extra-biblical sources, which limits its treatment of the story. It is a nice outline, but not much more. Versailles by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the great palace outside of Paris built by King Louis XIV and adjusted by his successors. After the French Revolution there was danger that it would degenerate into a ruin, but some creative curators found ways to preserve it up to this day. 11 Days in December by Stanley Weintraub This is an overview of the battle of the Bulge fought in December of 1944 as a last effort of Hitler to throw back the allied forces on the Western Front. The allies were greatly surprised by the attack and thrown back, but they quickly recovered and actually caused much more damage to the German forces than they caused to theirs, especially due to the efforts of General Patton. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, November 11, 2022


November 11, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been here in Rome for the past couple of weeks. This past week we had a definitory meeting which began on Monday afternoon and ended on Saturday afternoon. One of the things that was decided is that I will remain here in Rome for another six months, until the end of June. The friar who will be my successor will not be able to free himself up until that time. The weather has been cooler but nice. The fall rains have not yet begun, which is not really a good thing. Italy has been suffering from a drought. Tomorrow I head off to Australia for two weeks. The first week will be a visit with all the friars in the delegation, and then we will hold an assembly the second week. This week has been great for writing and taping daily reflections. I have finished my articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua til May, and have finished my daily reflections til the week before Christmas. That is good since I will not have too much time for those projects when I am on the road. I finished some reading and listening: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura This is quite an odd but a very good book about a pickpocket in Tokyo and his involvement with a professional criminal. It also speaks of his effort to protect a small child who is being groomed by his mother to steal. Although the story was strange, it was entertaining. The Magna Carta by James Daugherty This is a short history of the conditions that led to the declaration of the Magna Carta, the struggle between the nobles and the King (John), the immediate aftereffects of the declaration, and finally of its eventual influence upon the various efforts to establish societies with greater freedom. The study is not all that serious, and eventually turns out superficial at some points. The Intruder by Jeffery Deaver This is a short novel on a man who believes that he is being staked by a murderer, the mentally ill brother of his deceased wife. It turns out that he has caused her death. There is signs around his house that someone is watching him and seeking to enter his house during the night. There is quite a surprise ending to the story. America’s Founding Women by Cassandra Good This is a teaching company course on some of the women who were important in the early era of the American Revolution and the American Republic. The course is very much a feminist history, which at times is very valuable and at other times a forced interpretation. Yet, I did feel that the course was worth its effort. The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 by Ian Kershaw This is a very good book that deals with the German side of the end of World War II. He deals with the governments, the armies, and the civilians. He shows why many Germans fought with everything they had long after it was clear that they had lost. He speaks of the terrible destruction, the terrible fear, the terrible suffering in those days. He deals with the question of the Soviet treatment of captured German towns and people. The book is very, very well written. Four Trials that Changed the World by Austin Sarat The presenter of this lecture deals with four major trials: the Scope Monkey Trial, the Nuremburg trial, the OJ Simpson Trial and finally the Clinton impeachment. It is an odd mix of trials, but Sarat uses each to show how judicial events can help to change society. South Africa by Joseph Stromberg This is a short history of the Republic of South Africa from its settlement by the Dutch (who would become the Boers) and the English. It deals with the battle between Europeans and native communities. It speaks of the discovery of gold and diamonds and the effect of this upon the country (and especially its international relations). A major part of the work deals with apartheid, and this book was written before the final destruction of this horrible system. The History and Archaeology of the Bible by by Jean-Pierre Isbouts This is a Great Courses production, speaking of the message of the Old and New Testament seen through the eyes of an archaeologist. He speaks of what can be proven by records (whether written which is rare and more commonly ruins). His view of religion is certainly a bit liberal (e.g. his theory of miracle healings), but this course does provide some valuable information. Erasmus by Ferdinand Jives This is an overview of the life and writings of Erasmus, the Dutch free thinker who produced an important critical edition of the Greek New Testament. He hated pietistic and hierarchical forms of religion, but he never broke with the Catholic Church (even though Luther urged him to do so). He also argued strongly for the proper education of children, judging a failure to do so as akin to child abuse. Although quite short, this book does give valuable information on the man and his times. Marie Antionette by Evelyne Lever This was a thorough treatment of the life and death of the queen of France during the French Revolution. The author gives good detail and provides an honest portrait of the good and not so good aspects of the queen. She deals with her naivete and her tendency to allow herself to be used by others, e.g., by her mother, the Empress of Austria, her mother. She also tried to use others, but she was not all that successful in her attempts. By the time of the revolution, she was hated as an agent of Austria and a woman whose spending helped bankrupt the country. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, November 4, 2022


November 4, 2022 Peace and Good, I really like it when the title of the blog has only one city to mention. I have been home in Rome this past week (when I caught up on some taping and writing projects) and this week (when we are holding a definitory) and next week (at the end of which I travel to Australia). These past few days have brought a chance to my calendar. Originally, I was to finish my job in Rome at the end of this year, but I will not be in Rome until the end of June. The man who will be taking my place will not finish his current assignment til then. The weather has cooled off and is a bit cloudy, but we have not yet begun the winter rains. That should be coming soon. I have fished some reading and listening: Too Much Time by Lee Child Reacher, a former army policeman, witnesses a robbery and helps the police stop the thief. When he is called in to give a statement, he is then accused of being part of the plot. He is able to escape and find the true culprit in the plot. The Tartars by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the Tartars, the descendants of the Mongols, who settled in the south of what today is Russia (including the Crimean Peninsula). They were highly successful in their early days, but then after the time of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, they slowly became less and less important. Their saddest days occurred when Stalin deported all of the Tartars he could find in revenge for their supposed support of the Nazi invasion. Animals in Ancient Rome by Charles River Editors This is an overview of the treatment of animals in the Roman Empire. This includes a fascination with certain animals (like wolves), a manipulation of other animals (such as the animals that were killed in the gladiator contests), and as service animals (such as horses used in the calvary). The Spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi by William Short This course from Learn25 is an excellent treatment of the spirituality of St. Francis himself and the Franciscan movement (including figures such as St. Clare and St. Bonaventure). William Short gives a profound overview of Francis’ view of his God, his world, and especially his Lord Jesus. I would recommend this audio course to everyone. The Grim Reaper by Katherine Ramsland This is a short story about an Italian woman who killed and then rendered down three of her friends to make soap and candles and cookies out of them. She thought that she would save the life of her son who was away at war by killing someone else. She proved to be a murderous psychopath who felt no true remorse for what she had done. Rampage by Harold Sthechrer This is the story of one of the first mass murderers in America. He was a World War II veteran who returned home and one day picked up his guns and began to kill his neighbors whom he thought were plotting against him. The Whirlwind: the X Files by Charles Grant This is one of a series of X file stories that have been offered by Audible Books. This particular volume is about how a group of native American shamans are able to develop a powerful force that seems to be killing people. Mulder and Scully have to determine why the particular victims had been attacked, and which of the shamans was actually directing the murderous force. Blitzkrieg by Lloyd Clark This is an overview of the military technique used by the Germans against Poland and especially against France. Clark is able to evaluate the German techniques honestly, showing the positive elements of the coordination of land and aerial forces, but also the negative dimensions of the attack (that the blitzkrieg attacks have been overestimated by a simplistic view of the techniques). There is a tremendous amount of information about troop movements that might be too much for most readers. Thomas Merton on Chinese and Greek Philosophy by Thomas Merton This is a course that Thomas Merton offered to young men in formation in his home monastery of Gethsemane. It does provide a good overview into some of the philosophical ideas of those two civilizations. I have to admit I don’t especially like Merton’s teaching style, which often is an attempt to show how much he knows as opposed to providing true information to his students. The Edge of the World by Michael Pye This is a historic overview of the civilizations that existed along the Baltic Sea from the earliest days of the Frisian traders to the events that followed the Protestant Reformation. He includes a study of the Hansa League, an association of trading cities along this sea. The author speaks of how the weather and the geography of the land influenced the peoples who lived there. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude