Wednesday, December 28, 2022


December 29, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome these past couple of weeks. It is mostly clear but cool (not cold). The city is packed with tourists. We finished our definitory meeting on Decmeber 23rd. I have not been doing a awful lot these past few days, just enjoying a bit of time without travel. Yesterday and today I have dedicated myself to a series of short jobs, mostly reports. Tomorrow I have to begin a research project for a presentation to the meeting of new provincials here in Rome. We are keeping Pope Emiritus Benedict in our prayers. When the Vatican announces that someone is very sick, it means at the point of death. I have finished some reading and listening: Meeting Manson by Erik Hedegaard This is an audible book presentation by a journalist who did a series of phone interviews with Charles Manson. The story is as strange as was Manson, and the author never quite gets beyond his fascination with his subject (almost strangely hypnotic in his appeal). I would not recommend this particular book. How to be a Tudor: A Dusk to Dawn Guide to Tudor Life by Ruth Goodman This is a “how to” book on life in Tudor England. The author speaks of food, dress, marriage, morality, hierarchy, etc. She is quite thorough. It is obvious that she is a bit obsessed by the topic, but that actually makes the presentation better. She is entertaining and informative. A Mystic’s Work: Julian of Norwich by Christina Carlson This is a very good presentation on the life and teachings of Julian of Norwich, an English anchorite from the 14th century. Anchorites lived in small cells attached to churches, dependent on the charity of people in that region. Julian had mystical revelations, the most famous of which is, “All will be well, and all will be well.” She had an incredibly optimistic view of God’s rapport with humans, especially in an age where guilt and punishment were often emphasized. The author is a bit of a feminist and sometimes the teachings and phrased in that key of understanding, but overall she is quite objective and helpful. Three More Jack Reacher Novellas by Lee Child This is a series of short stories of novellas about Jack Reacher, a former military policeman who is now dedicated to a life of wandering and adventures in which he tries to help those who most need his assistance. He has a remarkable sense of observation and deduction. The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch Most of Aaronovich’s books occur in London, dealing with Peter Grant, an apprentice practice of magic (for the purpose of maintaining peace in magical circles). Occasionally the books mention that this is also occurring in Germany. This book deals with the parallel team in Germany and their attempt to solve a series of murders in Trier tied to vinelands and wine production in the area. It is very good. The Branch Davidians by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Branch Davidian movement led by David Koresh and especially of their tragic downfall in the raid by the FBI which resulted in the conflagration which destroyed their compound and killed so many of their members. The account shows how some of this was all but inevitable as Koresh became more and more messianic and apocalyptic. World War II: Dunkirk by Hourly History As Churchill said, an evacuation is not a won battle, but it certainly was an event which permitted Great Britain to fight on during the Second World War. While the heads of the army expected to be able to evacuate only a small number of troops, with the cooperation of almost any ship afloat in Great Britain, but by the end of the operation, over 200,000 British and allied troops had been brought to England. Famous Dirigibles by Charles River Editors This is an account of some of the major hot air (hydrogen or helium) balloons from the 18th century to the present. It speaks of experimentation with the balloons, of their use in war and in transport, and of their eventual replacement with fixed aircraft and drones. The Siege of Vicksburg by Hourly History Like all of hourly history’s presentations, this short account of the battle of Vicksburg is informative and useful. It deals with various aspects of the army of the union and the confederacy, of the strategic importance of the city of Vicksburg, of the various troop movements and counter- movements during the long and confusing battle. A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod This is a short series of lectures on various aspects of dinosaurs. It is not an ordered presentation, but rather topics here and there which nevertheless give one some good information. Have a Happy New Year fr. Jude

Tuesday, December 20, 2022


December 20, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome for the past couple of week (except for a day trip to Assisi). The weather has changed, and it is cool and a bit rainy. The Italians are thrilled about the rain for they have been suffering from a drought all summer. We have a long definitory meeting in December - about two weeks. This one is that long, but with a number of gaps in the schedule because some of the members of the definitory have other important meetings, etc. We will finish it up on the 23rd. We have two big meetings in January, the week of the 9th and the week of the 16th. After the second meeting, I will be flying to Baltimore for some vacation. I have not really had a decent vacation for about 10 years, so it is time to slow down and rest a bit. I have finished some reading: We Put the Spring in Springfield by Justin Sedgwick This is a humorous account of the best years of the Simpsons, at least according to this author. He considers their willingness to deal with edgy topics, their use of guest stars, their willingness to portray movements in society, etc. The account is well done and entertaining, but also thought provoking. A History of France by John Julius Norwich This is a rather long, brilliant overview of the history of France from its pre-Roman days up to the end of the Second World War. This is not the first book by Norwich which I have read, but it is one of the best. He has some ties to the country, having a father who served as ambassador to it right after the Second World War, and having vacationed there often. One can hear his love for the country in the account, without becoming dreamy or obsequious. Czar Nicholas II by Hourly History Like all of the hourly history biographies, this is a short, well-written account of the life and the career of Russia’s last czar. There are no great discoveries, but it is a pleasant read. Uxmal by Charles River Editors This is the history of the rise and the fall of the ancient Mayan city Uxmal. Not a lot is known about the people who lived there, but from some of the archaeological evidence, the author was able to discuss the monarchy, theology, and social relations of the people. What continues to be a mystery is why it and other Mayan cities in its area suddenly ceased to be occupied. Charles Dickens by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the famous 19th century English author who portrayed the true situation of the common people. He became wildly famous both in Great Britain and the United States. His marriage history is a bit mixed, having divorced his first wife. Kelly Mass has an odd way of telling the story, for she attempts almost to enter into a dialog with some of the major characters of his books, which can be a bit confusing. Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall This is an historic re-reading of the battle of Midway, one of the turning points of the war between Japan and the United States during the Second World War. The author gives a very good account of what led up to the battle and the battle itself. He is very good at speaking of the battle from the Japanese point of view. The only difficulty with the book is that he goes out of his way to disprove other people’s theories, and then glories for page after page on how his account is more historic than theirs. The Crusades by Abigail Archer This is a medium size book which goes through the history of the crusades. Archer gives all of the pertinent information, and her account is well done. It is not a book for those who wish to go into the topic in depth, but it is good for an overall vision of things. Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger This is the account of the first NASA flight to circle the moon. The author deals with the choice of the crew, the previous history of Apollo flights (including the tragic accident of Apollo 1 which killed three astronauts), the strengths and weakness of the individual astronauts on this particular flight, the reaction of their families, and the reaction of people around the world. It was a very good listen. The History of Rum by John Donoghue This is a course from the Teaching Company concerning this particular liquor which served as an easy way to ship the end product of sugar production, but which also gave rise to a slave culture that was most deadly. Donoghue deals with rum in the context of its use by pirates, native Americans, colonial Americans, etc. The course is quite informative. The Battle of Fort Sumpter by Captivating History This is a quick history of the siege of Fort Sumpter, a battle that turned the Civil War from a possibility into an active conflict. The author gives a good background into what led up to the war, why the fort was so important (both in strategic and symbolic ways), and how the battle actually was fought. It was certainly not one of the deadliest battles of the war (only one man died in an accident after the battle had actually ended), but it was one of the most meaningful. The Battle of Stalingrad: Hitler vs. Stalin by Francis Hayes This is a book which speaks of the climatic battle between the forces of Hitler and Stalin at Stalingrad. It goes into the personalities and histories of the two main protagonists, the beginning of the war, the battle itself, and the aftermath. Merry Christmas fr. Jude

Friday, December 9, 2022

Baltimore - Louisville - Baltimore

December 9, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been in the States for a couple of weeks now. The main purpose of my trip was to meet with the friars from India who are working in our federation. Some of them have been here for quite some time already. Their province is preparing for a chapter this coming year, and we try to visit all of the friars belonging to the province all throughout the world. The meetings with the Indian friars went very well. They show an incredible hospitality. This evening I am going back to Rome for a couple weeks of our definitory meeting. I have begun to bring my things back from Rome and am storing them at the provincialate until I get a permanent assignment. I finish up on June 30. I have also been visiting doctors in these days. They have diagnosed neuropathy. I have been having a bit of a problem with balance every now and then. I am going to start practicing Tai Chi to see if that helps. I finished some reading: Churchill by Paul Johnson This is a biography by the famous history author Paul Johnson of one of his favorite characters, Winston Churchill. It is a bit obsequious, but not so much that it is unusable. This is only a mid-sized book, but it presents quite a bit of useful information. Anais Nin by Hourly History This is the biography of a very strange author who fought for a feminist perspective but who lived a very avant-guard lifestyle. She was actually a bigamist for many years, having one husband on each side of the county (USA). Her books and her biographies were banned for many years because of their blatant eroticism (including more than a hint that she had an incestuous affair with her father). This story in no way made me want to ever read anything she had written. Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustine to Constantine by Barry Strauss Barry Strauss is an ancient historian, and all of his books are well done. This account of the monarchy from its inauguration up until its fundamental reinvention in the days of Constantine is well done and filled with useful information. I could recommend this book and anything which he has written to anyone interested in ancient Roman or Greek history. Astronomy by Jack Arnold This is a medium size presentation of the history of astronomy from ancient times to the renaissance. The book is well organized, and the lectures well presented. Suleiman the Magnificent by Kelly Mass This is a very short presentation on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent (or the Lawgiver as he is known in Turkic countries). He was mostly successful in his wars, except for his attempt to conquer Malta. His was the greatest of the reign of the Turkish sultans, and after him the empire slowly went downhill. Hedy Lamar by Charles River Editors This is an honest short biography of the actress Hedy Lamar. She came from Austria from a family with a Jewish background. She was known as a beautiful but not particularly talented actress (at least in terms of her ability to express emption). What she is not known for is the fact that she made a number of inventions, including a process to shift broadcasting frequencies, something which is used in wifi today. The People’s Temple by Charles River Editors This is the story of Jim Jones and the group of his followers who committed suicide in Guyana after it was discovered that he was holding many of them there by force. He was a champion of civil rights and other social action movements, but he was also an insidious controller of those who joined him, making himself into a godlike figure who could do anything to women or men. Long Way Home by Jonathan Maberry This is a short horror story of a man who comes back from combat in Afghanistan to investigate the mayhem left by a rightest movement which slaughtered thousands of people because they thought that they were vampires. Needless to say, things are not quite what they seem to be, as this man discovers to his horror. The Axis Power’s Nuclear Weapons Programs by Charles River Editors This is an account of the German and Japanese attempts to develop nuclear weapons during World War II. The German side was handicapped by the expulsion of so many world class nuclear scientists by Hitler as well as by budgetary constraints. The Japanese never really funded their project as much as would be needed (and were probably incapable of doing it because of the enormous expenditures that the US used to develop their weapons). Silence by Shusaku Endo This book tells the story of a Jesuit missionary who sneaks into Japan during the persecution of Christians. He is captured and the Japanese authorities try every technique to make him recant his beliefs (so that the lay believers would realize that their attempt to remain Christian was futile). The greatest weapon the authorities use against him is the suffering of others for their faith. The question which is not explicitly asked, but which is in the background, is whether it takes more faith to be willing to die for the faith, or to deny the faith and believe that God would still forgive one. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Melbourne, Australia - Rome - Baltimore

December 1, 2022 Peace and Good, I finished my visit to our friars in Australia, and on Saturday flew overnight to Rome. The trip is so incredibly long (13 hours to Doha, 5 hour layover, 5 1/2 hours from there to Rome) Overall, the visit went very well. We had a three day meeting at a retreat house, and there was a good sense of fraternity and honesty. We need to find a way to support the friars, especially since some of them are ill and can no longer serve full time. The weather in Rome was quite cool and the winter rains have begun, which is a very good thing considering the drought from which Italy has been suffering. Tuesday I travelled from there to Baltimore. I have been visiting doctors these days. I go to Louisville on Saturday to visit some of our friars from India. Their province is getting ready for their chapter, and I am visiting the Indian friars who are living in our federation. I finished some reading: The Battle of Manzikert by Charles River Editors This was a climatic battle between the Turks and the Byzantine empire which led to the loss of the Anatolian peninsula, what we today call mainland Turkey (for the Turks were originally nomads who came from the area around Mongolia). This crippled the empire for they were dependent upon the area for many of their army recruits and for much of their food and wealth. Communism in Power: From Stalin to Mao by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius This is a series of lectures from the teaching company that outlines the history of communism from the days of its early triumphs to the later stage of its development. This was the second of a series of three courses on communism (its rise, its development, and its fall) presented by this lecturer who is very, very good. Gutenberg the Geek by Jeff Jarvis This is a somewhat comical overview of the invention of the printing press and how Gutenberg did not fully benefit from it because of some of the debts that he owed those who financed his project. The author draws the parallel between this and the found up companies in the Silicon Valley. The short book is clever and a bit informative. The Battle of Saipan by Charles River Editors This is the story of the conquest of the island of Saipan by the US marines and army during the Second World War. It deals with strategy (why this island), plans preceding the invasion, the invasion itself both from the American and Japanese sides, and the long term consequences of the conquest (which meant that B-24 planes could take off from its airports and bomb the islands of Japan. Americas in the Revolutionary Era by Marshall Eakins This is a very good overview of the revolutionary movements throughout the Americans in the late 18th and early 19th century. The course (The Great Courses) is well done, speaking initially of the US and Haitian rebellions, and then those of Latin America. The professor also explains why there was not a major rebellion in certain countries (Paraguay, Cuba, Puerto Rica, and the Dominican Republic). He speaks of the heroes of the various wars, as well as their shortfalls. The course is very well done. What we Know about the Brain (and what we don’t) by Jessica Payne This is a one hour examination of some of the myths of the brain. Payne speaks of how we always use all of the brain, even in sleeping (and not only a small percentage of it). She speaks of the left brain and right brain thesis (which she holds is only partially true). She deals with the need for sleep and the benefits of meditation. Although it is very short, the lecture is informative. King Arthur by Christopher Fee This is a longer presentation by Learn25 (a company similar to the Teaching Company) on the story of King Arthur. Fee is a very good scholar and presenter. He deals with the historic origin for the Arthur legend (especially in Wales, England and France). He deals with the reason for certain turns and twists in the plot in various retellings. He speaks of later works on Arthur, and even theatrical and movie presentations. Small Wars by Lee Child An officer in the War Planning staff is murdered, and Reacher must find her murderer. She presents herself as rich, and she was involved in the Middle Eastern planning section. This story involves Reacher’s brother, who is also in the army. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson This is an overview of Bryson’s trips throughout England and Scotland, some decades after the publication of his book Notes from a Small Island. He goes from the most southern tip to the most northern island of England, and comically tells of his adventures. I don’t know if it is because he is getting older, but he has a tendency to be crabby at times and highly sarcastic, something he presents thinking it is just funny. Buried Treasure by Charles River Editors This is the story of various episodes of buried treasures and their discovery, from pirate gold to silver and gold mines, from Nazi plunder to other cases of war booty. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude