Sunday, March 12, 2023

Silver Spring, Md - Priestfield, WV - Silver Spring, MD

March 12, 2023 Peace and Good, I gave a retreat to our post-novitiate students this past week in Priestfield, WV. This is a beautiful retreat house not too far from Harper's Ferry. The topic of the retreat was the Prophets and Lent. This was the first time I presented this particular topic, and I enjoyed preparing and presenting it. The weather was cool but sunny most of the week, and the grounds are beautiful. We came back on Friday and I will be flying back to Rome tomorrow night. Next Monday we being our definitory meeting. It will go for a week, and then we have a week of retreat in a friary not too far from Rome. The week after that is Holy Week, and then Easter Week I will be back in the States. I finished some books: Catholic and Protestant Reformation: the Key to Understanding the Reformation Movement by Fr. Henry Wanbrough This is a series of lectures from the Learning Company which deals with various attempts at reform among Protestants and Catholics in the centuries since the Protestant Reformation. Although each lecture was very good, I found the whole series to be a bit disjointed. It dealt much, much more with the Catholic attempt at renewal than the Protestant one. Louisa May Alcott by Hourly History This is a part of a series on American authors. The author goes into depth on the influences of Alcott’s family members on her writing, especially a father who favored her sister, often scolded her, and could never earn a living. Alcott was forced to earn a living for the family through her writing. The book speaks of her time serving as a nurse during the Civil War (a short time) and how it affected her health for the rest of her life. American Civil War by Hourly History This is a very quick overview of the history of the American Civil War. It is the first of a series of short books on the war, the rest of which are about individual topics and not as generic as this book. Spies of the Congo by Susan Williams This is the story of the American effort to control the exportation of uranium from a mine in what was then Belgian Congo during World War II. It was an abundant supply of very high-grade ore, so everyone wanted access to it. Belgium was conquered by the Nazis, so they made efforts to obtain the ore, but the United States set up an organization which fostered exportation to the States and hindered its exportation to Germany. How the Medici Shaped the Renaissance by William Landon This is a history of the Medici family and its influence upon the cultural awakening called the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. They gained power as a banking family, but eventually their influence was through political connections (both with the Vatican, which was governed by two Popes from this family, and foreign powers such as France and the Holy Roman Empire). The author presenting this account is honest in his appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the various members of the family who gained ascendency in Florence over the centuries. The Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II by Charles River Editors This is the story of the internment of most of the Japanese population of the West Coast during the Second World War. This was done to prevent collaboration with the Japanese empire, but even when it was being carried out, there were serious critics to a policy which was clearly racist (and based upon information that some in the army had fabricated). The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles This is a nicely written account of the 300 years of Romanov rule in Russia. This is an enormous sweep of time, so the account is not as detailed as would be one by Massie or another author of the period, but it gives both the basic story and quite a bit of background information. Vlad the Impaler by Kelly Mass This is a short account of Vlad who was the figure used to form the fictional character Dracula. He was a prince in southern Romania and he played his forces between the Turkish army and the army of the Hungarian Empire. His title is due to his immense cruelty in impaling his enemy, including women and children. Scipio Africanus: Greater than Napoleon by B.H. Liddell Hart This is the biography and history of the great Roman general Scipio Africanus, the general who defeated the Carthaginian forces in Spain before continuing to North Africa where he defeated the forces of Hannibal. The author is a famous military historian from Great Britain. He unfortunately oversells his case a bit, portraying Scipio as the greatest general who ever lives (and therefore having to denigrate the accomplishments of other general such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Caesar. The Mauryan Empire by Kelly Mass This is an Indian empire that preceded the conquests of Alexander the Great. Not a lot is known about this particular civilization, but recent archaeologists are discovering more detail to add to the picture of this local culture (Indian and not Hellenized). Genghis Khan by Kelly Mass This short book was contained in a series which presented a series of mass murderers. The account gives a good biography of Genghis Khan, a history of his conquests, and a bit of information on what happened to his empire after his death. Have a good St. Patrick's Day. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Rome - Chicago - Silver Spring

March 5, 2023 Peace and Good, I flew to Chicago last Sunday and spent the week with the friar who will succeed me in my job as Assistant General, fr. Joseph Wood. He is currently the Novice Director, and he will finish that responsibility on July 15th when he will travel to Rome to take over. We spent a number of hours going through the day to day living in Rome as well as the situations he will confront in our Federation and around the world. Yesterday I flew to Baltimore. Tomorrow I will begin preaching a retreat to the post-Novitiate student friars living in Silver Spring. It will be upon the prophets in light of Lent. I am looking forward to this week. I will fly back to Rome a week from tomorrow. In Chicago, we got some cold weather but we missed out on the predicted snow. I got to visit my favorite Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. We will be conducting the retreat in Priestfield, West Virginia (not too far from Harper's Ferry, Maryland. I have given a number of retreats there over the years, and I am looking forward to being back there. I finished some reading: The Byzantine Empire by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the Byzantine Empire arranged by century. The author gives the basic information with a little bit of background, but not all that much. World War II: Impossible Choices and Deeds that Changed History by Michael Bess This is a course for Learn 25 concerning the morality of various choices made by both sides in the Second World War. Bess is tremendous for he is able to see both sides of the story. Unlike many authors of these matters, he does not slip into easy answers, but is brutally honest concerning the difficulties of making a decision when every choice seemed to be evil. The Fall of Rome: Lead Poisoning and Other Myths by Ingrid de Haas This book is a refutation of a number of theories that caused the decline of the Roman Empire. While the authors theories are credible, they miss an entire aspect of the question. Maybe there is not just one reason why the empire fell – maybe it was a combination of a number of reasons that are already mentioned in de Hass’ book. The Battle of Bunker Hill by Hourly History This short book is part of a short series on the Revolutionary War. The author speaks of what preceded the battle, of the battle itself, and the consequences of the battle. The author holds that this was the ultimate event that actually caused the war, and furthermore the event which taught the British that they could not easily defeat the colonials. The Legend of Sleepy Hallow by Washington Irving This is the story of the headless horseman who seems to have captured and/or killed a school teacher in a Dutch town during the colonial era. I had not heard it for many years, and it was a joy to listen to it again. Lexington and Concord by Hourly History This is the story contained in a book on the Revolutionary War concerning the battle that arose when the British marched into a Massachusetts town in order to confiscate weapons that they thought were stockpiled there (but they had been hidden elsewhere before the British arrived). The battle was not intended, but it showed the British that the colonials were ready to fight, and in fact, fight in a way that the British did not fully know how to counteract. Krakatoa by Simon Winchester Winchester writes books about tremendous natural phenomena, such as the explosion of the volcano Krakatoa in Indonesia and the San Francisco earthquake. Winchester is a very good author, and this book covers a remarkable width of study, from plate tectonics, colonial politics, Islamic revival, climate changes, etc. I could well recommend this book. Short Stories by C.S. Lewis This is a collection of unpublished (and mostly unfinished) stories written by C.S. Lewis. I have to admit that it was probably best that they were not published, for I did not find them all that good nor even all that meaningful. Quarrel with the King by Adam Nicolson This is the story of the Pembroke family from the days of Queen Elizabeth to that of the Stuart dynasty. They represent the landed aristocracy that was at odds with the centralizing power of the British government. They believed that they could live in a type of rural utopia, which was far from that considering how their underlings suffered under them. Assassinations that changed the World by Nigel Cawthorne This is an odd collection of the stories of assassinations throughout the ages from ancient times to the most recent times. The stories are actually well written, and they offer a series of lessons on the consequences of these murders. Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovich Aaronovich is one of my favorite authors. This book is early in the series about Michael Brown, a policeman in London who belongs to a unit that investigates offenses to the law that were performed by magic. In this book, an American student is found murdered by a sherd from an ancient pot. Brown must deal with a series of adventures to discover who the murderer is (and save a group of people who live underground, under London). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, February 24, 2023


February 24, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome for the past ten days or so. Last week we had a long definitory which was a bit more taxing than most of them. This week I have spent time doing daily reflections (I have finished up to Holy Thursday) and today and tomorrow I intend to do some writing for the Messenger Magazine. Sunday I take off for Chicago to meet with the friar who will be my successor in this work, fr. Joseph Wood. He will take over at the beginning of July. The weather is Roman winter weather. The temperature gets into the low 60's most days, but there are a lot of clouds (but not a lot of rain). The other day I had lunch with one of our friars from the Penitenzeria. These are the confessors at the Vatican. We visited the Church of St. Louis the King. In one of the side chapel there are some Carravaggio paintings. He is such an incredible artist, an expert with the use of light and shadows. It is a shame that he was such a wretch of a person. Each day as I move around my room, I decide what I want to keep and ship back to the States and what I would like either to give away or throw away. This has been a very good exercise to teach me detachment. My folks moved three times in their last years, and each time they moved they got rid of 2/3's of what they had. I have finished some reading: Planet Simpson by Chris Turner This is the history of the Simpson show, especially in its golden era. Turner also deals at length with the sociological importance of the show’s observations. Some of the findings are hilarious, and they are always insightful. Devil of Black Creek by Victor Methos This is a novella about two sisters and the boyfriend of one of them who go into the countryside with the home of discovering a savage hominid who has been murdering settlers and visitors to a certain area of the country. Even when they find it and one of them is killed, they cannot prove its existence to others. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore This is the story of the women who were hired to paint radium dials on watches before and after the First World War. At the beginning, little was known of the effects of radium poisoning. Even when the dangerous effects of this poison were discovered, the companies which hired the women fought to keep the information quiet and fought against any type of monetary settlement to aid the stricken women. The book is well done. Ireland in the 1990’s: the Path to Peace by Ed Lengel This is a history of the troubles in Ireland from the time of the First World War til the eventual peace agreements which have largely quieted down the terrible sectarian fighting between Catholics and Protestants. The professor is not afraid to lay blame where it lies. He especially deals with the negotiations which led to a relatively peaceful period. Attila the Hun by Kelly Mass There is relatively short presentation of the life and deeds of this terrible person (at least from the point of view of those who suffered due to his invasions). There is relatively little information known about him, and most of that information was collected by his enemies. Akkadian Empire by Kelly Mass This is a short presentation of the Akkadian civilization in Mesopotamia in the early days of settlement there. It is the first of a few books on ancient empires written by Kelly Mass. She produces a short but quite sparce presentation. The Real Sherlock by Lucinda Hawksley This is a short study of Arthur Conan Doyle. It draws information from a number of sources from the family of Doyle. This is a very good first presentation of the life and writings of the author who produced the Sherlock Holmes books and stories as well as a number of other books as well. Medical Mysteries across History: Part II by Roy Benaroch I have listened to a number of courses by Benaroch from the Great Courses. This is really not one of his best presentations. It is an attempt to diagnose historic figures from the information provided by various sources. 2,000 Years of Papal History by John O’Malley This is a Learning25 course dealing with the history of the papacy over its 2,000 years. The professor presenting the material emphasizes that it is not the history of the Church, but rather an overview of some of the popes, their lives, and their accomplishments. O’Malley is a good presenter, and he is not afraid to be honest in his evaluations. I would highly recommend this presentation and others by this professor (I have already read his history of the Council of Trent). Syria and the Assad Family by Charles River Editors This is the story of the rise of the Syrian state after World War II and of the rise of the Assad family. They belong to a minority group (not Sunni) called the Alawites. That has given them a loyal power base which has controlled both the government and the army for many years (even now after the incredibly disastrous Syrian civil war). The Final Days of Jesus by Shimon Gibson This is a book written by an archaeologist concerning the last days of Jesus in Jerusalem. The author is way too self-referential, showing how his discoveries changed the way people thought about this or that. Nevertheless, the book does contain some interesting details. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Baltimore - Rome

February 15, 2023 Peace and Good, I flew back to Rome this past Saturday evening. The flight was supposed to be on Friday evening, but at the last minute it was cancelled. I think they cancelled it because there were not enought people, because the next evening the flight was only about 40% full. Yet, I do not understand how they get away with this without being fined by the government. Rome is cool but the weather is quite nice. You can already see plants growing in the fields and the birds are getting ready to build their nests. We started our definitory yesterday (Monday) afternoon, and it will continue until Saturday evening. February is always a touch meeting because we have to deal with finances for the Order but also for the friaries in Rome that are under our authority. This will be the meeting that we vote upon my successor as Assistant General. Then, at the end of the month, I will meet with him to spend a few days sharing information with him. I have finished some reading: The Boston Tea Party by Hourly History This is part of series of books on the American Revolution. This volume deals with the Boston Tea Party (its origin, what happened, and the long-term consequences of this action). One of the most interesting things I discovered is that many of the richer American were very embarrassed by the destruction of private property, and they tended to downplay this particular action. Origins of the Universe by Jack Arnold This is a short account of the history of astrophysics and the various theories of how the universe began. This is part of a series of short scientific books and it is well prepared and presented. The Tet Offensive by Charles River Editors This is a short but thorough account of the 1968 offensive organized by the Vietcong, but especially the North Vietnamese forces. The goal of the offensive was to overthrow the government of South Vietnam. The communists did not achieve their objectives, but they did win in the long run for they so discouraged the American public and government that they no longer had the will to continue the fight. The Wars of Scottish Independence by Hourly History This short book gives information about the various wars between Scottish and English forces in the late Middle Ages. It especially deals with the Scottish heroes Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, as well as Edward I. Stalin by Ronald Grigor Suny This is a long and detailed book about Stalin from his birth til the time when the Communists seized control of the government in Russia and Stalin grasped power from the hands of his movement. While the book gives an incredible amount of information, much of it is in terms of interparty disagreements. It is a good book, but I would only recommend it to someone who wanted to study this topic at length. The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris Marc Morris is a genius of historical works. This one deals with the Norman conquest (before, during and especially after). It is one of his better books. He is honest in his treatment of the characters of the various people involved. He is very careful to evaluate the trustworthiness of the sources (especially when they are clearly from either an Anglo Saxon or Norman point of view). The book is long, but definitely worthshile. Aphrodite by Charles River Editors This is part of a series on important historic figures and events. It is like a very long Wikipedia article. This book presents a good overview of the complicated cult of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and desire (among other things) in the Greek pantheon. It is well done, and presents the best archaeological evidence concerning the myths and devotion to her. Pablo Picasso by Kelly Mass This short book is a part of a series of biographies of major figures by Kelly Mass. The author presents the bare bones of who the figure is and what he/she did, but not much more. It left me wanting to read something substantial about this controversial artist. Tenskwatawa: The Life of the Shawnee Prophet and Tecumseh’s Brother by Charles River Editors This is the story of the brother of Tecumseh who organized a war against American settlers in the Mideast in the late part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century. Part of this war was a purification of the lives of the native Americans led by Tenskwatawa, an ecstatic Shawnee prophet. The Bar Kokhba Revolt by Captivating History This is the history of the Jewish rebellion against Roman forces in the early 2nd century A.D., during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. The Jewish people of Palestine were hoping that they could entice the Parthians (Persia) to use this as an opportunity to invade, but it never happened. The new rules against Judaism after the rebellion were draconian, but they only lasted a short while (until the reign of the next emperor, Antoninus Pius). Oscar Wilde by Kelly Mass This is a short biography and overview of this controversial literary figure. He really did not enormous amounts of material, but those things he did write served as a challenge to his society. He died shortly after he was released from prison for homosexual activities. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Ocean City

February 7, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been on the shore in Ocean City for the past ten days. The friars have a condo here which we can use for vacations, and this time of year it is most often empty. The weather has cooperated nicely because even if it is cool, it has not rained all that much. There is a lot of silence here, it is very peaceful. I head back to Baltimore on Thursday, and then on Friday back to Rome for another meeting. I will be there for a couple of weeks. I have finished some reading: The Lost Kingdom by Julia Flynn Siler This is the story of the final years of the monarchy of Hawaii and how it was overthrown by American businessmen who wanted it to be annexed to the United States. The author is honest about the short falls of the last kings and queens, and is equally honest about the greed of many of those who overthrew the government (many of them being descendants of the Protestant missionaries to the islands). 12 Women who Shaped America: 1619 to 1920 by Allison Lange This is a Teaching Company course which deals with the contribution of women (white, black and native American) over the course of our history. The choice of women after a certain period depends entirely upon their feminist credentials. Overall, the course is well done, and one can truly get to know these women. The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman This is a classic which I read decades ago. It deals with the first month of World War I, especially the German onslaught on the Western Front and the Russian invasion of Prussia on the Eastern Front. The Germans all but won, but they allowed a certain hubris to enter into the moves and thus were surprised by a French and English counterattack. Tuchman also deals with the politics of the countries involved in the fighting. It is well, well done. Aztec Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a short presentation of the mythologies that were invented or borrowed by the Aztec population of Mexico. The author outlines the myths, but never really enters into any detail concerning the meaning of their ideas. Alexander the Great by Christopher Bellitto This is a Learn25 dealing with the person, the conquests, and the talents and flaws of the great conqueror Alexander the Great. What I especially liked about the presentation is that the author/professor was not star struck, only seeing the positive in Alexander. Bellitto is a very good presenter, and I am going to look for more courses produced by him. Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn This is a mythic tale of about kingship and sorcery and betrayal taking place in the Shogunate Japan. It deals with magic (both white and black) as well as what amounts to the Bushido code. It was really quite entertaining. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon Wood Gordon Wood is an incredible scholar of the early history of the country. He speaks of how the Revolutionary War changed the way that people dealt with each other, what they thought of privilege, what they thought of work, what they thought of politics, etc. The book is very, very done, and I would recommend it to anyone. Empire of Blue Water by Stephen Talty This is the story of the pirates who called Jamaica their home and who pillaged Spanish ships and towns throughout the Caribbean. The author especially speaks of the career of Henry Morgan, easily one of the most ruthless pirates who transformed himself into a governmental figure responsible for the control of pirates. There are moments in which the author tells the story of the horrific atrocities of the pirates almost as if they could call them victories, a very distasteful tendency. Anonymous by Uzodinma Iweala This is a short story of an African Muslim immigrant who has a job which carries him throughout the world. This raises the suspicions of the border control who seize him and send him to a center for terrorists. Eventually, when they cannot find any evidence of wrongdoing, he is released without any apology. The story is one that I would recommend anyone to read. I have often seen how people of color are treated differently at border controls, and this story confirms many of my suspicions. Alexander the Great: Journey to the End of the Earth by Norman Cantor This is a short outline of the life and career of Alexander. Norman Cantor is an extraordinary history author, but this is not one of his masterpieces. It is worth reading, but not the best I have seen. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Rome - Baltimore

January 29, 2023 Peace and Good, I flew back to the States this past Saturday and early this week I had a number of doctors' appointments. Overall, nothing new and I have to arrange for some more follow ups when I am back in town, but that seems to be where things are right now. On Monday I spent some time with a prayer group. I love doing adult formation, and this was a long question and answer period. I am staying at a condo that the friars have in Ocean City, MD. The weather is cool, but so far there has been very little rain. I have been listening to tapes, and reading books, and resting, and walking. These days have been very good, and I will be here until the 9th when I head back to Rome. I have finished some reading: Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Roy Jenkins This is a short biography and account of the career of Roosevelt from his birth to his death. It speaks of his tendency to waffle on decisions, his highly political personality, his struggles during the Depression and World War II, etc. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen This is the first book that I have read by a Vietnamese author. The story begins with the evacuation of members of the Republic of Vietnam’s army. One of those evacuated is a communist spy who is to report to the Vietnamese government on the activities of the refugee community in the States. He does this, but is eventually sent by them to invade Vietnam where he is captured. Instead of being welcomed, he is sent to a re-education camp because they feel he has been corrupted by western society. This is one of those few books that caused me to think profoundly, to go beyond my cultural assumptions. Caesar Chavez by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the civil rights worker and how he fought for the protection and dignity of farm workers, especially in the southwest of the US. The author speaks of how he worked so hard to identify the needs of that community. He speaks of his allies and enemies. Six Impossible Things by John Gribbin This was one of those books which was impossible to understand because it deals with quantum physics. Yet, the author intended one to be confused, for the topic is confusing even to those who are studying the issue. What I found useful was to see an area of study which goes beyond my ability to conceive. I often say that the true scholar is the one who knows what he does not know. The History of the Vikings by Christopher Fee This is a Learn25 course on the history of the Vikings. It includes information about whom they were, where they went, why they pillaged other countries, what their religion was, their mythology, why they are still a matter of interest to the present day. The course is very well organized, and I would like to read as many of Christopher Fee’s presentations as possible. Hemingway’s France by Winston Conrad This is an account of Hemingway’s formative years as a writer when he and many other American exiles spent time in Paris. Conrad speaks of the influences from art, sport and other writers. The presentation is sympathetic to his eccentricities, and tends to overlook some of his cruelties (e.g. his relationships with his wives). A Mind of Her Own by Paula McLain This short book amounts to a short play on the early years of Madame Curie’s studies and experimentation in Paris, especially how she met her husband. She was a woman married to science and was afraid to open her heart to Curie when she first met him, but slowly through a respectful and slow courtship and through their mutual interests, they formed a strong bond of love and partnership. Alexandra Feodorovna by Hourly History This is a short biography of the last empress of Russia, the wife of Nicholas II. Even more than Nicholas, she fought to retain the rights of the autocracy against anyone who even suggested democratic reform. She is seen as a loving, and even doting mother. Her political influence, especially under the guidance of Rasputin, is seen as disastrously destructive. Whirlwind: War in the Pacific by Richard Freeman This is an account of the early naval battles between the Japanese Empire and the US during World War II: Pearl Harbor, the Coral Sea and Midway. The author tries to give the overview but then also enters into great detail at technical issues that can sometimes be confusing and boring. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, January 19, 2023


January 19, 2023 Peace and Good, I am still in Rome. We are reaching the end of two weeks of meetings. The first week was for the new provincials, custodes and secretaries in the Order (sort of a how to course). The second week was a meeting with half of all the provincials and custodes throughout the world. Our terms are six years long, and we are halfway through the current mandate. This meeting was a kind of halfway meeting to take stock of what has been accomplished, and what still needs to be addressed. Both of these meetings are taking place at the Seraphicum, our seminary in the southwestern corner of the city. The friars have been very hospitable. Tomorrow I head home to Santi Apostoli to pack for my next trip. I am heading to Ellicott City to visit some doctors and to have a few weeks of vacation. Winter has finally arrived in Rome. It is cooler with a lot of rain, which is badly needed here in Rome (for there has been a bad drought throughout this past summer). I finished some reading: Persian Fire by Tom Holland Tom Holland has written a series of books on ancient history, and this is one of his best. It is the history of Persia, especially in respect to its wars with the Greek city states. Holland is able to describe the history, culture, religion, military tactics, etc. of the two entities without ever becoming boring. I would highly recommend this particular book. Uprising by Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly This is the story of the Attica prison riot told from the point of view of one of the men who was brought into the prison to serve as a mediator. It also examines the question of the imprisonment of blacks in our society and how that creates a permanent underclass, comparing what is happening to a new form of slavery. I am not sure I buy into his theories on imprisonment, but he certainly gives one something to think about. The Men Who Lost America by Andrew O’Shaughnessy This is an overview of the British king, military leaders and political leaders who led Great Britain before, during and after the American War of Independence. The author does not resort to stereotypic portraits of the characters involved, but rather he goes into depth in his presentation. The end result is a very, very good book in which one feels that one has come to know some of these people much better, and in which one comes to understand why they made the decisions that they made. Human Errors by Nathan Lents This author speaks of the marvel of how the human body works, but he also speaks of the natural flaws in the design of the human body. Why, for example, are we not able to provide certain amino acids on our own, but must ingest them in our diets? Why are there genetic flaws that plague people? Why are our synesis arranged in a way in which they often have infections? The author is never mocking of the miracle that our body is, but he puts it into perspective in terms of its positive and negative dimensions. The Early Cast of Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie This is a collection of Hercule Poirot stories written by Agatha Christie. I have read one or another of the stories over the years, but this anthology gives one a good sense of the personality of the dandy Belgium who is never embarrassed to tell everyone of his genius. The Saratoga Campaign by Charles River Editors This is an overview of one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War. The American forces had been defeated in Philadelphia, and there was every chance that the revolution would fail. By bad planning and jealous failure to support each other, the British were able to turn victory into defeat. The battle was not only great in itself, but it allowed France and eventually Spain to enter into the war on America’s side. Korean Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a short but also confusing account of various Shamanistic and Buddhist legends in Korea. It gives a very short account of these elements, but it is poorly organized, more like a Wikipedia article than a book. Conspirata by Robert Harris Harris is one of my favorite authors. This is the first volume of a three volume set on the life and career of Cicero. It is told by Tiro, Cicero’s faithful secretary (first a slave, then freed by Cicero). The great Roman sage who was not one of the ancestral “best” families, but he was elected as council. He was able to save Rome from a plot to overthrow the government led by Catalina. At the end of this volume, we hear of the low point of his career when he set himself against the triumvirate of Caesar, Cassius and Pompey. The Council of Trent by John O’Malley This is a thoughtful account of the Council of Trent by a professor of Church history at Catholic University. Unlike what one would think, the council was a long term, frequently halted affair. It involved politics of the various countries (France, Germany, etc.) as well as the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, all in the shadow of the Protestant Reformation. The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness by Anthony Goodman This is one of the Great Courses. It is by a nutritionist and expert on the effects of serious exercise. Goodman speaks of the danger of overdoing it (whether nutrition or exercise). He speaks of nutritional mistakes and fad cure-alls. The presentation is quite good. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, January 8, 2023


January 8, 2023 Peace and Good, I thas been great to be in one place for almost a month. This week has been very quiet in the friary, but Rome is like an ant hill with all of the tourists swarming in for the holidays. There were already a lot of people, but Pope Benedict's funeral has made it even busier. I am sure that the restaurant owners and souvenir shops are thrilled, given their poor showing in these past couple of years with covid. The weather is cool but nice. The rains are supposed to start later today and we should have a few days of steady rain, which is normal for winter in Rome. Tomorrow we start a week of meetings with the new provincials, custodes and secretaries. We call it "baby provincial" school. It gives them a vision into the Order beyond their jurisdictions, and especially with the secretaries, it helps them with the documents they will have to produce in these years. Next week we will have another meeting with half of the major superiors of the Order (meeting the other half in June). The purpose of the meeting is to take stock of where things stand at the half way point in this six year term. Right after the meeting I will be heading to the States for some vacation. I am really looking forward to it. I have not had an extended (four week) vacation, nor even more than one week, in many years. I finished some books: The Bourne Objective by Robert Ludlum This episode in the spy novels about Jason Bourne, a man trained to be an assassin in a super-secret program run by the CIA called the Treadstone Program. In this volume, he is working against the remnants of Treadstone, a secret organization that is seeking ancient secrets concerning the treasure of King Solomon, and a group of Russian mafia as well as drug Lords. I have to admit that the plot was a bit too twisted and convoluted, difficult to keep the pieces in place. Heaven’s Gate by Charles River Editors This is a short history of a suicidal cult founded by a man and woman who claimed to have contact with extraterrestrials. They led their people to prepare to leave their current vessels (bodies) to be able to travel to some paradise after they had been properly cleansed of the shortfalls of this world. The Boston Massacre by Charles River Editors This short presentation is part of a series of short books on the American Revolution. They are all well prepared, and they give the background on what happened, the reasons that it happened, and the aftermath after it was over. This book covers the Boston Massacre (the title given to the death of five men killed by British soldiers after a mob had tormented the soldiers with snowballs and stones. The Battle of Tsushima by Charles River Editors At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia and Japan went to war over control of some ports in China and eventually over control of Korea. The Japanese unexpectedly attacked the Russia fleet in Port Arthur, their base in China, without having declared war on China. The Czar sent his Baltic Fleet from their home base all the way to China, and this book speaks of the catastrophic defeat of said fleet, causing Russia to definitively lose the war (and setting off protests and a near revolution in Russia). The Body of David Hayes by Ridley Pearson This is a suspense novel about the attempt to force a woman who is an executive at a bank to transfer funds that had been placed and hidden somehow in the bank by criminal elements. The husband of the woman is a cop who must protect her not only from physical danger, but also from the blackmail of the criminals having a sex tape of the woman which they are threatening to release if she does not cooperate. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy This is the story of how one man volunteered to teach on an offshore island in South Carolina. He was one of two teachers in a small school house to African-American children who had no knowledge of the outside world, who were often illiterate, and some of whom spoke the local dialect (Gullah) better than English. The author presents himself as a great hero and savior, and there is no doubt that he did good things in the year he taught there. Vigilante Wars by Cecelia Holland This short presentation speaks of the development of a civilian vigilante movement in San Francisco in the 19th century, and how what started as a defense force to help the all but powerless police force grew into a danger to itself and the citizens of a city in the midst of the gold rush. Ninth and Nowhere by Jeffery Deaver This is the story of one street corner where the lives of a number of different people came together in a disastrous manner, and how the survivors to these incidents fared in the aftermath. Alcibiades: the Anti-Hero of Ancient Greece by In60Learning This is a short biography of the original bad boy of ancient Athens. He was handsome and vain, and he was a crowd pleaser. Yet, he had great enemies, and he made himself the enemy of various nations as he travelled from one power to another, always betraying the previous patron. The Bill of Rights by David Hudson This is a Learn25 course on the first 10 amendments of the US constitution and how they have been interpreted throughout our history. The presenter is clear and thorough, going through quite a bit of case history in describing how these rights developed and how they changed. I could easily recommend this particular course. Roman History 101 by Christopher Bellitto This is a course offered by the Learn25 (previously knows as Now You Know). Belitto is a very good presenter, and I intend to listen to as many of his courses as I can find. A presentation of 5 hours can’t go into great depth on any of the topics, but it does give a good outline of the history of Rome as the Republic thrived, and then slowly fell apart. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude