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