Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Ellicott City

June 12, 2024 Peace and Good, I have some very good news. I had my CT scan this past Monday, and the doctors who examined the results said that I am in remission with my lung cancer. They cannot be sure that everything is complete, so I will continue immunotherapy for the next nine month, with CT scans every three months to see how things are going. But this was a very positive development. I also had a bit of a setback when I developed vertigo last Friday. I was taken to the hospital. This is the first time that I have suffered from it, so it was very confusing and, given my history of cancer, frightening. It turns out that it does not seem to be related to the cancer. It is strange, but I feel that it has given me one more thing by which I can emphatize with people who are suffering from this ailment. I finished my translation of the Italian Children's New Testament stories. I am now working on a presentation for Saturday on prayer in the life of St. Anthony (whose feast is tomorrow). His feastday is tomorrow, but we have a day of recollection on Saturday when more people are free in St. Anthony's honor. This is the year of prayer in preparation for the Holy Year in 2025. I have finished some reading and listening: Thebes: the Forgotten City of Ancient Greece by Paul Cartledge Paul Cartledge is a tremendous author on ancient topics. This book which speaks of Thebes is a good example of his work. Not as famous as Athens or Sparta, Thebes nevertheless played an important role in the history of ancient Greece. It was the legendary birth place of Oedipus. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great for rebellion and to serve as an object lesson to other cities that might consider opposing him. It was considered to be a city that did not play the proper role during the invasion of the Persians. Shadows in the Jungle by Larry Alexander This is an account of the Alamo Scouts during World War II. They were specially trained forces who infiltrated behind enemy lines to spy on them, occasionally to attack certain installations, and even to liberate prisoners of war. They served in the islands of the South Pacific including Philippines. The story of these scouts is well told and inspiring. Empire of Mud: the Secret History of Washington, DC by J.D. Dickey This is a history of the origin of the city of Washington D.C. from its origin to the beginning of the 20th century. The author deals with practical questions (buildings, sewage, paving of roads, hygiene) and with political questions (how the city lost most of its local autonomy in the aftermath of a series of scandals, and also as a way to crush the influence of the African American population of the city). The account is very informative. The Fall of Europe by Fred Majdalany This is basically a history of World War II, but from a European point of view, and from a mostly western point of view (the Soviets are only rarely mentioned). Oddly, the account takes into considerable consideration the period before the war, but then concludes the account with the period around the time of the attempted assassination of Hitler in the Valkyrie affair. Smoke Signal by Marie Benedict This is a novella about Bletchley Park (the secret site in World War II where the enigma code of the Germans was broken). Agatha Christie makes one of the characters a man with the last name of Bletchley. The crew at the Park try to discover whether the name was chosen by accident or purposely chosen. It turns out that Agatha has discovered a band of Soviet spies by accident and is trying to get the attention of the Secret Services to investigate them. Alexander the Great by Kelly Mass This is part of the very short biographies of great figures throughout history. This edition gives good information in a presentation that doesn’t last much more than an hour. The Real History of Witches and Witch Hunts by Thomas Fudge This is a Learn25 course that deals with the phenomenon of people being accused of being witches and put to death. He carefully documents the various trials and tendencies, including such things as torture to force a confession, evidence given by young children, fantastic stories that seem to have been invented to stop the torture, etc. The research is well done. The professor shows how this was both a Catholic and Protestant phenomenon, and he correlates the periods of the worse persecution to other outside factors (religious warfare, famine, etc.) which probably influence the search for a scapegoat. The American Revolution by DK DK is a series of books that are extensive explorations of a topic with a hundred or so somewhat independent essays (but all with the same texture and format). This volume on the American Revolution gives ample information on the causes, conduct and consequences of that war. It is a must read (or listen) for those interested in the topic. The Fever of 1721 by Stephen Cross This is the story of an epidemic of smallpox in Boston in 1721, along with the controversy about the new experiments in inoculation (not yet with cowpox but with a hopefully limited amount of material taken from smallpox pustules). One of the men involved in this was Cotton Mather, the famous Congregationalist preacher who helped in the convictions of the Salem Witch trials. Another was a young Benjamin Franklin who worked in his brother’s press shop. The Cambodian Campaign during the Vietnam War by Charles River Editors This short book speaks about the invasion of Cambodia (and Laos) during the Vietnam War. The author feels that the military has been judged harshly by the press (which by this point of the war were hostile to the governments of the US and Vietnam and the military). The author points out that most of the supplies and reinforcements for the Vietcong were being transported along the Ho Chi Ming trail or were being shipped into the port of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and that the invasion cut off supplies of arms and food for many months. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Charles River Editors Eleanor is one of those historic figures who seems too sensational to be true. She was married to two kings: that of France and of England. She went on the crusades with her French husband, possibly committing incest with her uncle on the way. She ruled over a large territory in southern France. She rebelled against her husband (Henry) along with two of her sons. She was held under house arrest in a castle for much of the latter part of her life, eventually being freed when her son Richard the Lion hearted took the throne. The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman Tuchman is a great historical author. This book speaks of a number of episodes in history in which the people engaging in a warlike policy should have known better, but they blinded themselves to some obvious truths because of pride or arrogance or illusion. She speaks of the war with Troy, the wars fought be the Medieval Papacy, the American Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War. In each case, she shows how those involved did have options which they chose to ignore. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Ellicott City - Pittsburgh - Ellicott City

June 1, 2024 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I am slowly feeling better as time goes on. I have received my third immunotherapy treatment (nine more to go). On the 10th of this month, I will have a CT scan that will tell me how well the chemo and radiation worked. I was able to travel to Pittsburgh (a four hour drive) to visit family and one of my spiritual directees. The trip tired me out a bit, but no where near what it would have done in previous weeks. The next test of my strength will be a trip to Buffalo to visit family and friends. I have been working on my podcasts for the daily readings, and recently on a translation from Italian into English for an exposition in Assisi. Next week i have some work to do for my publisher (Catholic Book Publishing Company). There are nice projects for me for there is no rush to get them done. I am also helping out a bit at the Shrine. That came in handy this week, for many of the friars went down to Charlotte for the ordination and installation of Michael Martin as the bishop of Charlotte. I finished some reading and listening: The Great Schism and the Western Schism by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on the division of the Western from the Eastern Church (the Great Schism) and also the period in the Middle Ages when there were two, and then three men who claimed to be Pope (the Western Schism). Technically, the Great Schism was resolved when Paul VI and the Orthodox Patriarch renounced the mutual excommunications that marked the seemingly irreparable separation between East and West, and the Western Schism was resolved by a Church Council which convinced (with a bit of forceful persuasion) for all the popes to step down and to elect a new one. 1493 by Charles Mann This is the second volume in a two volume series. The first was 1491 which spoke about the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. This volume speaks about the after effects of his arrival, both within the Americas (e.g. indigenous slavery, the arrival of African slavery, etc.) and outside (the Columbian exchange which saw new crops like potatoes change diets across the world. The presentation is well done, but the topic possibly a bit to wide reaching. Charlemagne: Father of Europe by Philip Daileader This is a Great Courses presentation on the history of Charlemagne (both in terms of his reign and in terms of his influence upon later Europe). The author goes out of his way to separate fact from legend. Many of the questions asked about Charlemagne receive the answer “yes and no” for he was a complicated figure, and later authors and historians tend to overly simplify his meaning to history. Warfare by DK DK is a producer of long, extensive topics. It is almost that each book is an amalgamation of a hundred or so Wikipedia articles. The topics do not always precisely follow each other, but each provides insight to what was going on. Obviously, when the topic is as large as warfare from prehistoric to modern days, one is covering a lot of information. Yet, one never feels overwhelmed by the presentations. American Religious History by Patrick Alllitt This is a history of the main religious movements in the country from the time of the Puritans to the present day. Allitt treats both the original movements (e.g. the Mormons, some millennialist movements, etc.) and the traditional religions (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish). He speaks about how other religions are now spreading in the country (Hindu, Muslim). He is respectful to the various faiths and gives a balanced account of their positive and negative dimensions. Packing the Court by James MacGregor Burns This is a history of the Supreme Court and how presidents have used their appointments to shape the politics of their time (and for a considerable period afterwards, due to the fact that the appointments are for life). The term “packing the court” is usually applied to FDR who had a plan to expand the very conservative court which was blocking his New Deal reforms, yet Burns shows how this was done in slow motion by many of the presidents. The book is very, very interesting. Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature by David Schenker This is an excellent Modern Scholars treatment of the various forms of literature from the time of Homer (if he existed) up to the time of the Hellenists after the death of Alexander the Great. The professor describes both the author and his times and the content of his writings, whether it be comedy or tragedy or epic or poetry. I especially appreciated the historic background to help me understand why they ancient authors said things the way they did. The British Subjugation of Australia by Charles River Editors This is a history of the British discovery and settling of Australia. From being a penal colony, it because a place of settlement for many English who otherwise could not have afforded a plot of land. The gold rush led to rapid settlement. The sad side of the story is how the local Aborigines were treated. The Double Agents by W.E.B. Griffin This is basically the story of the plot of the English to dump a body off the coast of Spain with plans for a false invasion of Sardinia or Greece in order to take the Nazi attention off of Sicily. The author adds in other details about skullduggery both in Sicily and Britain. I don’t especially like Griffin’s other books, but this one was OK. The Early of Montenegro by Charles River Editors This is a history of the small land of Montenegro, along the Adriatic coast alongside of Serbia. The book delivers what it says, but in excruciating detail. There is story after story of invasion, overthrow of a king or a duke, etc. Unless one is very, very interested in the topic, I would suggest avoiding this book. Winston Churchill by Hourly History This is a short biography of Churchill. It is really not much more than an outline, but it is a good tool for remembering those parts of his life that are often not treated too well (e.g. his years in exile early in his career, his later years). Bogie and Betty by Charles River Editors This is the story of the lives, careers and love of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. They met on set after Bogart had already been married three times, all to women who had serious personal problems (especially drinking). Bacall was twenty-five years younger than Bogart, but the marriage was very successful. Furthermore the films in which they starred together proved to be magical for some of their real love for each other was transferred to the screen. Have a good week. Shalom fr.Jude

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Chicago - Ellicott City

May 23, 2024 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. Since I have been back from Chicago, I have been at home. I had my third immunotherapy treatment this past Monday. I have some small aches and pains, but none of them is serious and I bring all of them to the attention of my treatment team at the hospital. I cannot describe how kind and compassionate they have all been at Johns Hopkins. I really feel as if they see me as a person and not another anonymous patient to care for. I am beginning a translation of a short Italian children's New Testament for my publisher. It should only take a week or two to finish the text. I am now well ahead in daily scripture reflections (up to early July). I have been helping out more at the Shrine with confessions and Masses. I am still limited in what I can do in terms of energy. After an hour of confessions and celebrating a Mass, I have to rest for a while to do anything else. I am getting more and more concerned with the strange weather we have been experiencing over these past months. It is clearly a sign of climate change. One can argue whether it is a natural pattern or at least partially man made, but something is happening. While our country can probably deal with it for a while, some poorer countries will be devastated for they do not have the extra resources to tide them over. I have finished some reading/listening: Lex Talionis by Michael Prescott This is a novella about a man who loses his wife giving birth to a child, and then the child’s death at the hands of an inattentive driver. He is losing his mind until one night he meets a mysterious figure in his bedroom who promises to bring back his daughter if he kill someone in the next forty-eight hours. This leads to terrible qualms of conscience and a creative solution. Louis Pasteur by Charles River Editors This is the biography of the great French scientist Louis Pasteur. We still use his name in the term pasteurization which is used for the treatment of raw milk and beer. He invented the vaccine against rabbis, and worked on many practical problems that plagues French agriculture. The Kassites by Charles River Editors This is a little know people who conquered Mesopotamia and held it for around two hundred years in the period after the great Babylonian state and before the conquest of the Assyrians. I have often heard of this people but never knew much about them. This short book was very helpful. The Reconstruction Era by Hourly History This is the story, somewhat tragic, of the south from the end of the Civil War until a decade later when the federal troops were pulled out of those states. It especially deals with the problem of violence and intimidation against the blacks in the south which effectively prohibited them from voting and which subjected them to Jim Crow laws which established segregation. Myth in Human History by Grant Voth This is a Teaching Company Course of myths across the world. The professor establishes certain patterns that one would expect to see in myths. These, for example, include the stories of the jester who breaks all the rules, but who yet manages to assist humankind, even if that was not the jester’s main purpose. This overview provides some insight into the books of Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade. The Ancient Libyans by Charles River Editors The book speaks about the ancient tribes who came to be known collectively as the Libyans. They lived to the west of Egypt during the ancient era, almost ever as a danger and even invading and conquering the land for a while. Eventually, many of them became incorporated into Egyptians culture (as seen by the names of some Egyptian officials). The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz by Charles River Editors This is a short book on a church in Spain that was transformed into a Mosque, and then when the land was reconquered by Christians, remade into a Church. One of the most important elements in this story is the cross which had been hidden behind a wall during the time of the conquest, but which revealed itself by shining a light through a crack in the wall. Pet Sematary by Stephen King This is a typical Stephen King book, full of suspense and even horror, but also filled with tremendously good writing. The story is of a man who finds a cemetery which can bring pets back to life, but they are somehow changed in the process. His young son dies, and he buries him in the cemetery with horrific results. Brother of Jesus, Friend of God by Luke Timothy Johnson This is a series of essays collected by Luke Timothy Johnson on the Letter of James. Some deal with authorship and dating. Others deal with the literary form and the moral lessons found throughout the text. Some, unfortunately, are highly specific and not especially interesting except for those who are interested in a particular verse or two. Overall, it is a good resource. Defiance by C.J. Redwine This is the story of a large group of Jews who fled the ghettoes of Belarus and lived in the forests. The primary purpose was survival, but they also served as partisans, especially when they came under the authority of the Soviet government. Unlike other partisan groups, this one accepted the poor, the young and old, women, etc. – people who in general could not fight. The book is a bit repetitive at times, but the story is great. In Distant Lands by Lars Brownsworth This is an account of the various crusades in the Middle East. The author is very honest about the motivation of many of the crusaders (at times salvation, at times adventure, at times plunder). He is honest about the deviations that caused great scandal even in those days (the sack of Constantinople, the murder of Jews along the way, etc.). He shows how the hold on conquered territory was always tenuous due to the shortage of men and women who would settle there. He also speaks of some of the bone headed mistakes made by Christian and Muslim forces. The Modern Scholar: Hebrews, Greek and Romans: Foundations of Western Civilization by Timothy Shutt This is a quick overview of the influence of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman cultures upon our modern culture today. That is an incredibly large amount of material to cover in one single course, and the best the professor can do is give highlights here and there. The course is good, but superficial. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 6, 2024

Ellicott City - Chicago

May 6, 2024 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. As you can see above, I have travelled for the first ime in months. I am in Chicago until this afternoon, having offered a workshop on the writings of St. Paul to our postulants. (Postulancy is the first year in the process of becoming a friar, and it is followed by novitiate.) I very much enjoyed this time, and was able to speak to some friars whom I had not seen for quite some time. The presentations went well, but I do feel a bit wiped by the effort of the travel, etc. It is clear to me that while I am getting better, it will be a while before I can give a retreat or a parish renewal. I have to take it step by step. I have been given a new project by my publisher, to translate an Italian children's Bible. I love doing that kind of work, and I can do it at my own pace. When I get back to Ellicott City, I will be helping out more with daily Mass and convessions at the shrine. It is only one more month before I get the big CT scan to see how the radiation and chemo worked. It will be good to know where I stand. I finished some reading, listening and viewing: The Modern Scholar: Six Months that Changed the World by Dr. Margaret MacMillan This is a truly tremendous coverage of the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I. The professor makes clear how complex the negotiations were (especially with the establishment of new nations and new borders). She speaks of the influence of the various main negotiators. She speaks of how an open conference became one held in small meetings with the major countries making decisions for everyone. She speaks of the successes and failures of the conference, especially of the fact that Germany was not even invited into the negotiations and thus considered the harsh conditions imposed upon it to be unfair (a slogan that was used in the leadup to World War II). Lincoln by Edwin Grosvenor This is an American Heritage short biography of Lincoln. The audio was only a couple of hours long, so the presentation is, at best, sketchy and rushed. The American Revolution: 1763-1783 by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier This is part of an American History series done by the Colliers to present history in a way that does not overwhelm students of these topics. The presentations are clear and incisive. Enough information is given to get a good sense of the topic without overwhelming those using the books. The Body and the Blood by Michael Lister This is the third volume by Lister I have read. His protagonist is a chaplain, former policeman who is in the 12 step program for alcoholism. He is a chaplain at a prison, and is often called upon to do law enforcement investigations as well. He is very introspective, and often speaks of how he is torn by the various elements of his complicated life. The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research by Dorsey Armstrong A few years ago, I listened to a Great Courses presentation by Dorsey Armstrong on the Black Death. This shorter course is a type of corrective of the original course based on the latest medical/archaeological/historic evidence. While most of Armstrong’s original theories were seen to be acceptable, some had to be corrected significantly. Also, since this course was taped during the covid pandemic, Armstrong was able to speak of how we could better identify with what happened in a pandemic which killed 80% of those infected – as opposed to covid that killed around 2 %). Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom This is an account of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Groom is a good author of war topics, and this book is well written and informative. Judges (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary) by David Beldman This is a tremendously good commentary. I had never studied the Book of Judges, and the superficial views I had on the stories contained therein were confronted to a much more profound treatment of the topics. The judges (leaders) of Israel proved to be very flawed men and women. Rather than being a book which approved of the coming monarchy, it proves to be a call to have Yahweh as the only king of Israel. This was especially important because it was written after the Babylonian exile when it appeared that the Jews would never again have their own king. Grave Descend by Michael Crichton This is a short book about a man who is hired to dive into a sunken boat to recover a couple of precious items. The hire is a set up that only slowly unfolds. The diver and his friend are put in a very, very dangerous position as they are being used as pawns to be sacrificed to the Mafia. The Judas Gate by Jack Higgins This is the first volume of a series by Higgins (his pen name – his real name is Henry Patterson). This one involves the IRA along with the Islamist movement in Afghanistan but also in Great Britain. His books are always entertaining, but not too deep. A Franciscan Retreat by Michael Crosby This is not the first course by Crosby that I have listened to, but I hope it is the last. He has many good things to say, but they are often couched in politically correct and relevant vocabulary. He is also an expert in economics, so he feels he has to use economic vocabulary all throughout his presentation. The Life of Moses by Stephen Reid This is a learn25 course on the life and career of Moses. It gives a good outline and deals with some critical moments and their importance, but it is not especially profound in its treatment of the topic. The War of Three Gods: Romans, Persians and the Rise of Islam by Peter Crawford This is the story of the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire and the rise of the Arabs. The Byzantines and Persians were wasting their energy on pointless wars between themselves and within each of the empires (usually having to do with succession issues). This book explains how the Arab invasion could be so spectacularly successful within such a short period of time. The Utah War by Charles River Editors This was an area about which I knew hardly anything. It speaks about the birth of the Mormon Church and how it was persecuted in its early days, having to flee when neighboring communities attacked them (because of their cultish status, and especially the practice of polygamy). Just before the Civil War, President Buchanan sent troops to attack them in Utah. Through some fortunate turns of fate and the good office of some men who risked their life to prevent a disaster, the possible war was stopped before it blew up. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ellicott City, MD

April 25, 2024 The Feast of St. Mark Peace and Good, I had my second immunotherapy this week. The effects are not as serious as the chemotherapy and radiation, but there are still some side effects (e.g. a bad cough). All things considered, not bad at all. I was able to celebrate Mass at the Shrine this past Sunday. I really enjoyed it. Fr. Jacob concelebrated with me, and I was glad of it, for by Communion time I began to feel wiped out. I just needed to sit for a few minutes while he and the others distributed communion. I wrote a short guide to our chapel at the Shrine. There are many interesting elements to the chapel, and they provide a great catechesis on the saints and our devotion to them. Next week, on May 1, I will be going to Chicago to give a series of conferences on the writings of St. Paul to the postulants. I do this every year, as well as giving an annual workshop at the Novitiate on the psalms and the Gomspels. I finished some reading and listening: Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis C.S. Lewis is not an exegete, but this short reflections speaks of some major dimensions of the psalms. He deals with questions such as violence and revenge, praise, gratitude, etc. It is worth reading if only to force one to rethink certain elements of the Jewish faith and how they fit in with the Christian message. TV’s New Golden Age by Eric Williams This is a Great Courses overview of an important change in TV during the period right before the rise of cable TV and its many, many new offerings. It deals with the techniques used to produce thoughtful and entertaining programs, both as episodes that had continuity and those which had episodes that stood alone. The Song of Songs 101: Understanding the Bible’s Most Unusual Book by Nicholas Ayo This is a learn25 course on the Song of Songs. I have listened to another course offered by Nicholas Ayo, and he is quite good. The treatment is not in depth, but it does give a good overview of the topics. What I especially appreciated is that most of the book is written from the point of the woman in the relationship. Ayo also speaks of the literal meaning and then of its spiritual reinterpretation. Mexico by Joseph Stomberg This is a part of a series of books which describe the characteristics and history of various countries throughout the world. The books are nowhere near an exhaustive approach, but they do provide a good overview and some good information. Modern Scholar: The Grandeur that was Rome by Jennifer Tobin This is a short history of Rome along with a study of its most important architectural remains. The professor does a good job of her overview. Such an extensive topic could never be covered in detail by a relatively short course, but Tobin manages to give enough information and insight to make the listen worthwhile. Is ESP Real? By Robert L. Kuhn This is part of a series of courses produced by Robert Kuhn which involve interviewing experts on a topic (pro and con) and evaluating their opinions about a topic, in this case ESP. There are no conclusive answers, but there are many good questions and insights. I have been very, very impressed with how much valuable information that Kuhn can include in his rather short presentations. Once a Spy by Keith Thomson This is a novel about a spy who knows critical secrets but who is suffering from dementia. He and his son (a good for nothing horse gambler) must escape the CIA forces that want to liquidate him to silence him lest he unknowingly reveal those secrets. The book is filled with action and adventure. The Modern Scholar: the Biology of Birds by John Kricher This course offers insights to various dimensions of the life and activities of birds including their diets, their territoriality, their breeding, their songs, etc. It speaks about the dangers birds face, and how they can be protected by conservationists. The professor clearly loves birds, and he shares his sense of childlike wonder with his listeners. The Siege of Masada by Charles River Editors Unlike Charles River’s other volumes, this book is told as a first hand account of a woman who lived in Masada with her family and who escaped the consequences of the mass suicide of the defenders when it was clear that they could not defeat the Romans who were besieging the fortress. It is good and informative, in an entertaining sort of way. Braddock’s Defeat by David Preston In the French and Indian War, General Braddock, a British commander, brought a British and colonial army to Pittsburg to attack the French fort there. He allowed his forces to be attacked and devastated by the French, and especially their Indian allies. George Washington, an aide to Braddock, is seen as playing a heroic role in saving many of the survivors to the original attack. The author of this book especially tries to defend Braddock, blaming the disaster on a series of coincidences for which he bore little blame. The defense is laid on a bit thick at times. The Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles River Editors This short volume tells the true story of the mutiny against Captain Bligh as he brought his ship to Tahiti to take on a cargo of plants (especially breadfruit) to bring them to the British Caribbean islands. It does not denigrate Captain Bligh nor his lieutenant Fletcher Christian. Call for the Dead by John le Carre This is a tremendous volume, the introduction of Smiley, a type of anti-hero, who is seen in many of John le Carre’s books. Smiley is a plump, short workaholic who is a genius at his work in the counter-espionage department of British secret services. In this volume he tracks down a group of east-German spies operating in London not to long after the war. Pierre-August Renoir by Charles River Editors This is a short biography into one of the most significant impressionist artists in France at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. We see Renoir as a journeyman who produced more and more artwork for sale, and who somewhat betrayed some of his earlier principals in his later days of work. The History of France under German Occupation During World War II by Charles River Editors This is a short account of Vichy France and the French Resistance, especially under Charles de Galle from the conquest of France to its liberation. I especially appreciated some of the viewpoints of the various factions fighting the Nazi’s, and also the insight into why some French felt that being obedient to the Vichy authorities was so important. Great Teachers of the Axial Age by Matthew Dillon The axial age is around 400 B.C., and around this time great scholars arose in China, India, Persia, Greece and Israel. It is remarkable what a flowering of intellectual and spiritual insight arose at almost the same time in these widely disparate cultures. The presenter gives a good representation of various beliefs and how some of these might have influenced other cultures as well. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Ellicott City

April 13, 2024 Peace and Good, Things continue to get a bit better each day with my health. I feel a bit stronger (although not yet back to normal) and I am more able to think clearly. I was suffering from a bit of chemo brain, a fuzziness in thought. This week I was able to tape and edit three weeks of daily reflections, which is a good sign. Furthermore, I am beginning to fill in a bit at the Shrine up the hill. I listened to confessions for an hour this past week, and it was great. After so many months being all but quaranteened, it was great to be with people again, especially in a pastoral manner. I have begun work on a short spiritual guide to our chapel in the shrine. There are so many beautiful things there, and I would like to share some ideas with the visiters coming to the Shrine. One of our old guides said of St. Francis Basilica in Assisi that even if they arrive as tourists, they should leave as pilgrims. That is the goal of what I am working on. I have my second dose of immunotherapy in about 10 days. There have not been too many side effects. I have a cough (not bad), but I don't know if it is from the treatment or hay fever (I think probably the latter). I finished some reading and listening: Orthodox Christian Spirituality: Glimpse of the Unknown by Stefanos Alexopoulos This course confirms something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time: that the Orthodox faith is especially centered upon and nourished by the liturgy. The presenter ties so many of the dimensions of everyday life and spirituality to this one font of grace and God-life. What I especially appreciated in this book is that it comes from a person deeply imbued with the spiritual life of our sister Church (and not from an outside expert). Thomas Merton: A spiritual guide for the 21st century by Anthony Ciorra This is a retreat from the Learn25 programs. The presenter gives a good account of various aspects of Merton’s spirituality which can be used in our life. This includes his commitment to social justice (with what Ciorra describes as a gentle anger), his ecumenism, his need for contemplation, his view that all people are children of God (discovered when he was on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville one day), etc. The material is well presented and significant. Independence by John Ferling This is an account of how the founding fathers arrived at the decision to declare independence from Great Britain. While the account deals quickly with the French and Indian War and the period of time between that event and the Boston Tea Party, it deals in detail with the time between the Tea Party and the vote to declare independence. It presents the personalities of the various founding fathers, the missteps of the British leaders (king and parliamentary leaders), the political and literary events that led up to the fateful decision, etc. Ferling is an expert on this period of our history, and this work is one of his masterpieces. The Holy or the Broken by Alan Light This is the history of a song, Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen. When it first came out, it was all but unknown, but it slowly built up fame and meaning for so many people. It is not a religious song as such (even though there are some Biblical allusions), but rather a song about the pain and elation that one feels when one is in love. I have often listened to Bon Jovi’s version of it on YouTube when I need a lift. The song reminds me of the cost and reward of giving oneself totally. The Savage Day by Jack Higgins This is the story of a British agent who is trying to recover a shipment of stolen gold that was going to be used to buy arms to continue the war between the IRA and the British troops in Northern Ireland. It is willed with action and twists and turns which keep the plot rolling along. Marcus Agrippa by Lindsay Powell Agrippa was a close friend (and toward the end of his life, the son in law) of Augustus Caesar. He performed all of his responsibilities well, but never called attention to himself. He was the most trusted general of Caesar’s troops, a civil engineer who improved life in Rome, a diplomat, etc. His name famously is inscribed on the Pantheon in Rome (although it was later totally rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian). A New History of the American South by Edward Ayers This is a teaching company course on the US south from the time of colonial settlement to the present. The professor obviously loves the south, but he is not blind to its difficulties. He deals well with slavery, the Civil War, the myth of the south (told after the war), civil rights, the plight of the poor (white and black) farmers, etc. The course is well organized and the professor is well spoken. The Mercy Brown Incident by Charles River Editors Theoretically this is the story of Mercy Brown, who died of tuberculosis, and whose family members soon suffered from the same disease. They thought she was causing it from the grave, as a type of vampire. The author uses her story as a pretext to speak about all forms of vampirism throughout the world and how people responded to it. The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower This books speaks about the history and cultures of the Balkans, especially their linguistic and religious cultures. The book started slowly, but by the end I was glad that I had read it. It deals with questions about the ferocity of the inhabitants (are they more so than other peoples?), about their tendency to be fervent believers even when they know relatively little about their own faith, about the tendency to take bits and pieces from other faiths and made them their own. The section dealing with the fight for independence and World War I, and the after Communist era are very well done. The Book of Genesis by Gary Rendsburg This is a brilliant study of the first book of the Bible by a Jewish professor. He speaks of the 3 (or 4) part theory of the book’s production, and he proposes that this theory is overdone and that the book was actually a literary unity. He draws from his extensive knowledge of ancient Middle Eastern cultures and texts as well as rabbinic productions to show why a text means one thing or another. While I did not necessarily agree with everything he said, it all made me think it over (which for me means that it was a great presentation). The Spanish American War by Charles River Editors This was a war fought initially as a way to liberate the Cubans from their Spanish colonial overlords. The author speaks of the politics involved, of how newspaper owners all but invented the war to increase their readership, and how the war caused a debate on how much the US should be involved in creating a colonial empire (e.g. Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam). The Judaisms of Jesus’ Followers by Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez This is a study of the ties between the early Christians and the Jewish faith, and how various groups who considered themselves to be Jewish nevertheless also identified themselves as being followers of Christ. Some of the insights are great, but others are based on an approach to texts in which the author goes from “it might mean” to “it does mean” to “therefore this proves”. The book is probably worth reading, but it is also spotty. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Ellicott City

April 3, 2024 Peace and Good, I am writing this as I watch the rain come down outside my window. This is part of the series of storms that has been hitting the country over the past week. I am beginning to feel better. Each day I feel a bit more strength come back, and also a bit more mental acuity. For the past coupld of weeks, I did not have the desire to do anything that required figuring things out. Suddenly yesterday morning, something snapped (for the better) and I was able to do a few projects which I had been putting off. If all goes well, I will begin helping out at the shrine next week. Last week I was feeling so poorly that I had to sit for most of the Mass. Yesterday I began to stand for the standing parts of the Mass. I had a good meeting with the doctor's assistant this past Monday, and she feels that I am on track with my various symptoms, etc. I have to admit that I have gotten through this all thus far very lightly. I know people who have had much more severe symptoms. I am truly grateful. I have to believe that all the people praying for me had a part of all of this. Thank you all who prayed for me during this time. I finished some reading and listening: Japanese Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a short account of the very complicated system of gods worshipped in Japan. It is an interesting presentation, but if I really wanted to understand it all (and the consequences of much of its symbolism), I would have to study this all in much greater depth. 3,000 Years of Judaism in 20 Days by Howard Lupovitch This is a series of lectures on the origins, history, customs, etc. of Judaism. The author covers the entire period from the time of Abraham to the present day. The lectures are well prepared and in no way polemic. I enjoyed listening to them and learned a lot. 62 Answers to Common Questions on the Mind by Scientific American This is a series of Scientific American articles on the functioning of the human mind. It deals with all sorts of phenomena such as dreaming and illusions of the mind, etc. Each of the articles presents the results of valid experiments. The authors show a humility in their approach, freely admitting that which they know and don’t know, and even that which we might never know. Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo by Michael Rizzo Since I was born in Buffalo, this book interested me. It deals with crime in the 20th century, and especially in the Mafia in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The book does not come across as an easy read, being more a compilation of one story after another with little to hold them together. Andrew Jackson’s America: 1824-1850 by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier This is one of a series of short books that deal with the history of the US. This one deals with the rise and the long-term effect of the rise of Andrew Jackson. He defined the presidency for a long time, strengthening the executive branch. Some of what he did was brilliant, some tragic (e.g. the expulsion of Native Americans from the East known as the Trail of Tears). How the Crusades Changed History by Philip Daileader This is a Great Courses presentation on the development, the history, and the aftermath of the numerous crusades (most in the Holy Land, but some fought in southern France, Spain, Germany and Lithuania). It speaks of personalities and their impact on what happened. It speaks of how, although the crusaders in the first crusade conquered the Holy Land, they never had enough European settlers to hold on to it, especially when the Muslims got past their internal battles. The Gentle Ax by Roger Morris This is a book that presents itself as if it were a detective novel written toward the end of the 19th century in Czarist Russia. One hears of the customs of the day, of a host of interesting figures, and of some brutal murders that the lead detective must solve. The Bookseller of Florence by Ross King Ross King is an author of art and history. I have read a number of his books, and they are always a joy. This one speaks of the Renaissance in Florence as well as the shift from hand copied manuscripts to printed books. One gets a sense of the excitement of discovering ancient texts, as well as the joy of handling a beautiful manuscript. Claude Monet by Charles River Editors This French impressionistic artist was part of a movement to depict one’s impression of a scene at a particular moment. He repeatedly painted the same subject over and over again, only distinguishing each portrait by the sunlight the object received at a particular time of the day. He is known as a difficult man, being friends only with his fellow artist Renoir. He was also a very successful businessman, receiving the very best prices for his many works. Justinian the Great by Charles River Editors This is an emperor of the Byzantine Empire. His goal was to reconquer what had originally been the Roman Empire. He met with success in the West, reconquering North Africa and for a time Italy, but he was less successful in the east where the Persians made inroads into Byzantine territory. He is also famous for his codification of Roman law which is still the basis of many European legal systems today. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre by Charles River Editors This is a short account of one of the military monastic orders that was founded around the time of the Crusades to protect the sites of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Once the Holy Land was conquered by the Turks, the order changed its purpose, eventually becoming an organization to raise funds for the preservation of the holy sites in Israel. The Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst This book is set in Paris right before World War II. The hero is a Hungarian who.besides earing a living, also performs some undercover actions for his uncle. They are working against Nazi Germany and the influence of the Fascists on the Hungarian government. Furst has an uncanny ability to portray this dangerous era and to develop characters that are believable and yet mysterious. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude