Friday, March 24, 2023

Silver Spring, MD - Rome

March 24, 2023 Peace and Good, I have returned to Rome for a month or so. This week we have had our General Definitory. Inlike last month's meeting, this one has relatively little material to cover. We are still talking about the four corners of the earth, but we did most of the heavy lifting in our last meeting. The weather here is Rome has turned very nice. It is in the high 60's most days. Spring has arrived. We finish our meeting today. Then on Monday we will head off on retreat for several days. Our retreat is being led by a historian who will speak to us about the Rule of St. Francis (the instructions given to the friars when he founded the Order). I will be here in Rome until the Tuesday after Easter when I will head back to the States. I ask you to keep in your prayers a number of my friends who are going through a difficult time right now. I finished some reading: Lithobolia by Richard Chamberlayne This is the story of a haunting of a property by a demon summoned by a neighbor who was angry over a division of property. That neighbor stated that the new owner might take possession of that property, but he would never enjoy it. The title refers to the thrower of stones, and that is how the demon manifested itself over a few months. The Ottoman Empire by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. Different from the Arabs, but nevertheless Muslim, the Ottomans rose in the Middle Ages as a migrant nomadic people who settled in Turkey and eventually became its masters. The 15th and 16th centuries marked its nadir, but it sank into discrepancy by the late 19th and early 20th century, disappearing totally after World War I. The British Colonization of New Zealand by Charles River Editors This is just a short history of New Zealand from its European discovery until the present. The book points out the differences between it and Australia and why they were never united into one nation. It deals with how the Maori were treated differently than the Aborigine. It speaks of the coming to age of the Dominion on the battle fields of World War I. No Man’s Land by John Toland This is a very thorough account of the last year of World War I. It begins with a desperate offensive by the Germans before the US forces could be well trained and enter the battle fully. The offensive was blunted by the extreme sacrifice of French and British forces, and the entrance of some of the first American soldiers to arrive in France. By the fall, it was obvious that Germany had lost, but the General Staff and the Kaiser had to be convinced of this by painful defeats. Impact by Douglas Preston Douglas Preston is one of my favorite authors, especially in his collaboration with Lincoln Child. This book, written only by Preston, is good and presents two very unlikely heroes who literally save the earth. There is only one section in it that I actually found offensive – the treatment of an Indian (Kashmir) professor who is betraying the US to foster the scientific excellence of Pakistan – I found the scene racist and poorly written. Otherwise, the book is quite good. The 4 Great Prayers: the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be by Nicholas Ayo This is a very, very good presentation on these most central prayers in our faith. Fr. Ayo is down to earth, and yet shows a profound understanding of the implications of the various petitions and statements made in these prayers. This is part of the Learn25 series, and I could highly recommend it. Reimagining Boundaries: Jewish and Christian Identity in Late Antiquity by Juan Bargos Bejarano Gutierrez This book is intended to be a short study on the flexibility of definitions concerning Jewish and Christian in the early centuries A.D. The only problem is that the author is very short on details. He uses the Clementine Dialogs to prove his point with very occasional references to sayings in the writings of the Fathers of the Churches. The book doesn’t exactly prove its case, but it does raise some interesting questions of how separate Jews were from Christians and whether there were those who tried to find middle ground between the two faiths. Kashmir: History of its Causes and Consequences by Kelly Mass This short book gives a historic overview of this very troubled part of India/Pakistan. Although the majority of its inhabitants are Muslin, its shah decided to go with India at the partition of India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the Chinese fought a war in the north to take certain critical passes through the Himalaya Mountain. The Mongolian Empire by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the rise and the eventual dissolution of the Mongolian Empire into its constitutive parts. In such a short book, there are a jumble of names and historic events and it can be difficult to keep them in track. Overall, I have not been thrilled with this series by Kelly Mass. It covers an incredible width of topics, but none in depth. Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovich Aaronovich is one of my favorite authors. This is the second in his series of books about Peter Grant, a mixed race Londoner who is recruited into a department which investigates the misuse of magic. The whole department is made up of him and his mentor. This volume involves music vampires (people who draw magical energy from music but slowly kill the musicians), a woman whose private parts are a set of teeth (with the obvious painful results), and a faceless master magician. The whole series is great, and this one was very, very good. Have a good week. You are in my prayers as we approach Holy Week. Shalom fr. Jude

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