Monday, October 3, 2022

Arroyo Grande, California - Chicago - Rome

October 4, 2022 Happy Feastday of St. Francis Peace and Good, I finished my presentations in Arroyo Grande on the Gospels and Psalms to the novices. The week went very well. I especially enjoyed the day we spent with the Capuchin novices studying the Gospel of Matthew which we will be using in the liturgy beginning with Advent. This past week I spent in Chicago giving a workshop on the Letters of St. Paul to our postulants. There are three of them this year, two for Our Lady of Angels Province and one for St. Bonaventure Province. I feel very much at home in Chicago. I was able to get my Pho soup (Vietnamese) a couple of times. While I was there, I got my annual flu shot and my latest covid booster (which is more effectice against the Omega variant). I returned to Rome by American Airlines so it was a direct flight from Chicago to Rome. It took 9 hours and was not all that bad of a flight. The planes are full these days. It is getting easier and easier to fly. The weather in Rome is nice. It is no longer very hot, but not yet rainy as it can get during the Autumn. I am trying to get through my jet lag, but this time it seems worse than others. I only have a few more months of this. I still am not sure what I will be doing this coming year. I should know more by the end of this month. I finished some books: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson This is the classic novella of a decent man who discovers a way to become a fiend who can fulfill all of his darkest desires. The line between the two becomes confusing as the doctor discovers he no longer needs to take his drugs to switch from one state to the other. The story is told from the point of view of a friend of the doctor who slowly discovers what is happening to the doctor. Caligula’s Nemi Ships by Charles River Editors This is the account of two massive boats that were built during the time of Caligula on a lake at Nemi, a small town near a volcanic lake outside of Rome (near Castel Gandolfo, the lake resort for the Pope). The author describes how they were built and the most probable reason why they were built, and then scuttled in the lake. He also describes how they rediscovered and why Mussolini had them excavated during his reign. Robert E Lee and His High Command by Gary Gallagher This is a teaching company course on the officers of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The author is a good scholar and gives an honest, balance review of the leaders of the Southern side of the war. He also provides some background into the tendency to canonize the southern cause and especially Robert E. Lee. Overall, it was quite good. Written in Blood by Michael Lister This is the account of a man who doubles as a prison chaplain and a detective (a continuation of his former profession). This is part of a series of novels based on the same character which was discounted from Chirp Books (an audiobook outlet which does not let you download its product but which allows you to listen to them online). The story was interesting, and I will probably try out another of Lister’s books, but he is not yet one of my favorites. Six Frigates by Ian Toll This is the story of the founding of the US navy from the days of the Revolutionary War up to the end of the War of 1812, including the navy’s service in the Barbary Wars against pirate states in North Africa. The author is a good war writer (having already read a couple of his other books). This is not a short, quickly flowing account of the topic, but rather a detailed, involved account which is nevertheless enjoyable. History of Bali by Captivating History This is a long treatment of the exotic island of Bali in Indonesia and its history. The author insists on giving mind numbing detail about one king, one dynasty after another. It was interesting in its larger details, but is a difficult read. The Roman Army by Charles River Editors This is the second half of a two part treatment on ancient armies. The former part dealt with the army of Sparta and it dealt with the battles they fought. This one death with more organizational issues. It was helpful, but only touched on battle actions of the armies themselves. Florence Nightingale by Hourly History This is a short presentation on the life of the famous nurse in England who helped to reform the treatment of injured soldiers during the Crimean War (and whose reforms had an enormous impact in other countries as well). Coming from a rather wealthy background, Florence had a difficult time convincing her family that she should practice nursing (which was considered to be a disreputable occupation). She was eventually to be honored by Queen Victoria for her work. The book also points out the less attractive dimensions of her personality (e.g. a crotchety personality). Polynesian Mythology by Bernard Hayes This is a very short presentation on some of the figures and beliefs of the religions of Polynesia. While these beliefs differ from island to island, there are some basic ideas that are consistent. The short presentation does not go into depth into anything, and just presents the content of the myths that form the basis for Polynesian religious beliefs. Saint Augustine by Hourly History This is one of those short biographies of the lives and careers of important historical figures. This one is well done, presenting both the events of his life and some of the major philosophical and theological ideas in his teaching. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Montreal - Arroyo Grande, CA

September 24, 2022 Peace and Good, This past week I have been in our novitiate in Arroyo Grande, California, just outside of Pismo Beach (halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco). This is a yearly workshop that I give the novices on the Gospels and the Psalms. Tuesday we also invited the Capuchin novices who live about an hour and a half away for a day on the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel we will be using next year in the liturgy. I always enjoy these types of presentations. I open it up to questions on anything in the Bible or in the Order, and it creates a very good environment for discussion. I often find that the questions asked make me think about my own ideas on a topic. I hope that when I finish up in Rome, I can do more of this. The weather has been beautiful, in the 70's all week long. Even the day of rain we had on Monday was a soft rain that is a real blessing in a part of the country suffering from severe drought. This morning I fly out to Chicago to give another workshop to the postulants. I finished some books: Joan of Arc by Hourly History This is a short, well written biography of St. Joan of Arc. The author treats her visions with respect, neither denying nor confirming them. This is a good book if someone wants an outline of her life and deeds. The Most Notorious Art Thefts of the 20th Century by Charles River Editors This is an overview of some of the more notorious art thefts in this past century. Obviously, the Nazi looting of art all over Europe is high on the list, but it also includes the theft of individual works of art. The general rule of thumb is that it is relatively easy to rob art from museums (due to sometimes poor security due to budgetary constraints) but difficult to sell the works since they are so well known. The Ash Tree by M. R. James This is a novella that deals with the superstition of having an Ash Tree near a building being unlucky. This belief seems to be confirmed in the death of a woman accused of witchcraft, and of two of the owners of the house. The eventual discovery of the true cause of the difficulties only comes at the end. Medieval Science by Jack Sanders This is a quick overview of the state of science during the Middle Ages. It is not all that deep of a treatment, and it gets into a bit of Catholic and Church basing, but there is some good information in the overall perspective. The Battle of New Orleans by Raymond Todd This is an audible book to which I listened which dealt with the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. The author is a bit too obsequious toward Andrew Jackson for his story is really a bit more complicated than he would present it (e.g. occasional violations of the constitution, genocide and racial cleansing of the Native Americans each of the Mississippi, etc.), but overall it is a good book. Rising Sun by John Toland This is a long, very thorough study of the Japanese involvement in the Second World War. Toland is able to tell the story both from an American and a Japanese point of view. He is respectful throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed this large (1500 pages) book. Murder, Suicide by Keith Ablow This is a murder mystery novel concerning a genius who was about to have an operation which would cure his epilepsy but leave him without any of his former memories, and the seeming suicide of his lover. There are twists and turns which involve national security issues and corporate greed. Powerful Women Who Ruled the Ancient World by Kara Cooney This is a course from the Great Courses that deals with some of the well known women of ancient times as well as some of the largely unknown women who nevertheless shaped the history of their nations. The presenter is unfortunately so tied to the feminist interpretation that she at times ignores any other reason why events might have happened. It think that this weakens her valid argumentation which is a shame because she has a lot to say. 1491 by Charles Mann This is the story of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and those who followed him. The author speaks of the various cultures that developed through the New World. He speaks of customs, food, animals associated with these peoples, etc. He draws distinctions based on climate and geographical consideration. The book is well done. Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio This book deals with the life and career of the Marquis de Lafayette. The first part mostly deals with his arrival and military career in America during the Revolutionary War, and especially his relationship with George Washington. The second part deals with his return to France and his role in overthrowing the monarchy and his subsequent persecution (both by radical and by reactionary forces). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

London - Wales - London - Montreal

September 14, 2022 Peace and Good, I was in Wales last week for the chapter of the custody of Great Britain/Ireland. It went extremely well. I was still there when news came that the Queen had died. It was interesting to see how people reacted. Some were deeply moved, while others took things in stride. These days I am in Montreal, visiting the friars there. This past Sunday I celebrated the English Mass at one of our parishes and had a question and answer session with the parishioners. I love doing that sort of thing. This evening I will have another Mass and session. Then early tomorrow morning I head out to our novitiate in California. The weather in England was not bad, while that in Montreal was very warm until last night. I finished some reading: Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson This is a tour of various European cities with a constant outlook for the humorous and unusual. Bryson tends to stereotype people and their cultures. At times he is very funny, at other times he is cruel and offensive. The more I read of him the more I see that negative dimension of his personality. I have to admit I am also concerned with his frequent references to how much he drank and how drunk he got, almost as if he had never grown up from being an adolescent. The Ninja by Charles River Editors The Ninja was bands of secretive agents who would spy and assassinate for their masters. They were not Samurai who were often mortally opposed to them. This short book outlines some of their training and their techniques. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: First Enoch by Daniel Olson I have often been interested in this apocryphal book of the Old Testament, but this is the first time that I actually studied it. It is named after Enoch, the man who walked with God and then was no more. It purports to be a series of revelations made to Enoch about good and evil angelic spirits, their role in the history of the world, the consequences of their actions, etc. It is very, very apocalyptic and symbolic in tone. It is the type of book that will require further study, but this was a good start. Hudson Taylor by Hourly History This is the story of an English missionary to China. He made several voyages there, and he was ceaseless in his preaching in England to obtain finances for the mission and more missionaries. He tried to enculturate his message by dressing in Chinese clothes and respecting the local culture. Ada Lovelace by Hourly History This is a short biography of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. She was a genius in mathematics and dedicated her life to helping to perfect a machine which was actually a type of computer. She invented algorithms which are still in use today in computer science. The Supreme Court by Alison Gash This is a One Day University Course on the Supreme Court, but it is much more a screed on the question of the role of the Supreme Court and the danger to democracy from recent developments. The professor did give some good insights, but I did not find the entire work balanced or greatly helpful. Carnacki the Ghost Finder: Gateway of the Monster by William Hope Hodgson This is a short novella about a room which is haunted and a man who attempts to find the ghost and counter it. The solution depends upon a ring which belonged to the first man murdered by a ghost and what it represents. Ethical Dilemmas and Modern Medicine by Jacob Appel This is a short course from the One Day University on medical ethics. The professor gives a few examples of ethical dilemmas, but it is not a profound treatment in any way. I could not say that I would recommend it. The Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara Frale This is a history of the history of the monastic/warrior order that started to protect and aid pilgrims to the Holy Land and eventually became too important in the financial world. They originally guaranteed transfer of funds from a pilgrim’s homeland to the Holy Land so that he would not have to carry the money with him that might be robbed, but it became a banking empire that was tempting to the king of France who desperately needed funds. He outlawed it and persecuted the Templars and stole their funds. The author is a bit too ready to accept certain of the stories that were extracted from the Templars under torture. A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon This is a book that speaks of the Roman attitude toward murder, which was not considered to be a state affair as much as a private matter to be settled between or within families. The father of the family could even kill his wife, children or slaves without any legal recourse. The author is good in terms of research, but this being the second book I have written by her, I am surprised that someone that educated would have such a potty mouth. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Ellicott City - Rome - London

September 4, 2022 Peace and Good, I finished my time in Ellicott City. The doctors are concerned about a weakness in my legs, but they do not yet know what is causing it. I did not yet get the results of my last tests. I flew back to Rome. It is still quite warm there. There are tons of tourists. We had a few days of meetings there, and then I flew to London to get ready for a meeting starting tomorrow morning. These past few days I have been attending the definitory meeting with zoom. One of the topics at this definitory was a request for me to resign as Assistant General. All the travel has really worn me out, and now with my leg problems, it makes travel all the more difficult. The definitory accepted the request, so I will leave the job on January 1st. I don't yet know where I will be heading. That is to be worked out over the next couple of months. The weather here in London is typical weather. Overcast, a bit of rain, in the low 70's, but really not all that bad. The friary is near the river (right around where you see the Eye, the big ferris wheel). I love walking along the river. I finished some books: The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad I read this classic many years ago, and I fully enjoyed reading it again. It is about a man who travels to Africa where he will serve as a boat captain. He hears of a mysterious agent upriver who has obtained more ivory than any other agent. He end up finding an almost mythic, almost divine figure who is terribly ill and is dying. Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record and Our Place in Nature by Brian Switek This is a history of some fossil discoveries and their treatment of them by scholars. It especially deals with the evolution of birds, the whale, the horse and humans, using these cases as examples of evolution in a particular line of descent. It is a bit technical, and therefore would not be enjoyable by all readers. Dynasty by Tom Holland This is an excellent treatment of the Caesar family, beginning with Augustus (actually Julius), and ending with Nero. He deals with the emperor, society at that time, the Senate’s role, etc. I would highly recommend Holland’s book given how well told this book is. St. Thomas of Aquinas by Hourly History This is a short account of the life of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great pre-renaissance theologian of the Dominicans. The author is quite respectful, speaking of extraordinary events with a critical yet not cynical approach. This is almost an extended Wikipedia article. The Great Revolutions of Modern History by Lynne Ann Hartnett This is a Teaching Company course of 24 episodes which deal with some of the most important revolutions since the 17th century. Some of them are to be expected (American, French, Russian) while some of them interpret the word revolution in a more expansive manner (Civil Rights, anti-colonialism, the influence of TV). The professor is well prepared, and the lectures are good. I could easily recommend this course. Star Spangle Men: America’s Ten Worst Presidents by Nathan Miller This is a historians account of the careers of whom he considers to be the ten worst presidents. He includes many of those one would expect (Buchanan, Taft, Harrison) but also a few who are a bit of a surprise (Grant, Carter, etc.). He is honest and not polemic in his approach. The book is really rather good and I would recommend it. The Roman Forum by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the Roman Forum which was a mix of a governmental center, religious site and market place. It give the chronology of the various important sites located there. The account is not all that well written and thus not all that informative. Agrippa Hull by Charles River Editors This is a biography of an African American from Massachusetts (Sturbridge) who fought in the American army during the Revolutionary War and who was an esteemed and financially successful member of his community. Antiogonus the One-Eyed by Jeff Champion This is an account of the life and career of one of the Generals of Alexander the Great who became one of the powers that fought for supremacy after the death of their leader. The author, unfortunately, cites a myriad of combatants and battles, making this more of a scientific study than a book which one could read at a leisure pace. The Chernobyl Disaster by Hourly History This is a short account of the Chernobyl disaster, the explosion of a nuclear reactor that released radioactivity into the atmosphere which was carried by prevailing winds to neighboring countries. The author speaks of the clumsy attempts of the dying Soviet government to deal with the crisis and its press coverage. Having read other account, I found this one somewhat superficial, but this series of studies is not intended to be much more than that. The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir This is a good account of the fall and death of Ann Boleyn. I thought that this was going to be a historical novel, but it turned out to be a thoughtful true history of what happened. Weir goes through the various theories about who brought her fall about, how likely she was to have been guilty of the thing of which she was accused, the role of King Henry in all of this, etc. The book is very well done. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ellicott City

August 23, 2022 Peace and Good, I have been in the area of Ellicott City for the past 10 days. Almost every day has involved a visit to some doctor or dentist. It is hard to get them in when I am on the road almost all the time. I have been having a bit of trouble with my legs, and so I had a few MRI's to see if the doctors could figure things out. They have not found anything serious, but they arestill looking. In the meantime, I have caught up with my daily reflections and have worked on a translation of a document for the Order (a bit over 60 pages) on formation. I finished it this afternoon, and will edit it when I return to Rome. Given that the due date was November, I am happy to have it almost finished. I will be heading back to Rome tomorrow, and then on to London on the 31st. I finished some books: The Ancient Spartan Army by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the birth of Sparta and its army. Unlike most societies which have an army, this, like Prussia, was an army that happened to have a society. The book speaks of how successful the army was in its many wars, but also of the negative dimensions (lack of respect for the individual, the horrible treatment of the Helots, etc. 8 Books That Changed the World by Joseph Luzzi This is a short course on literature that made a significant contribution to society, including the Bible, the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, The Invisible Man (James Baldwin), etc. The professor is insightful without being esoteric. It was part of a series of short courses (an hour or two), but this gave much more detail and things upon which one could reflect for quite some time. Hitler’s Secret Army by Tim Tate This is the story of those British men and women who supported the Nazi’s during World War II, either by promoting their cause and supporting a peace with Germany, or who actually tried to spy for and assist in other ways the German war effort. The author points out the difficulties of balancing the need to control security but at the same time protect civil rights. He also points out how prejudiced the authorities were in terms of class distinctions, protecting the nobility and punishing severely the lower classes. Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz This is the first of series of books about a man who was trained to be an assassin from his youth (for he was an orphan). The program started as a government agency, but Orphan X broke off and sought to help people in disastrous situations. In this volume, he is attacked by others who were part of the program and it is not clear whether this is a government attempt to clean up the mess or a power grab by one of the former members. How 1954 Changed History by Michael Flamm This is a Teaching Company course sponsored by Audible which speaks of the important events in politics, science, sports, civil rights, etc. which occurred in 1954. The presentation is well done and entertaining. Operation Paperclip by Annie Jacobsen This is the story of the US effort to use Nazi scientists in order to work upon jet airplanes, biological weapons, atomic work, and other projects. There was a sense of urgency after the war because of the dawning of the Cold War, and the fear that if we did not use their expertise, then the Communists would. Yet, this project white washed the highly criminal background of many of the scientists shipped to the States. Probably the most famous of them was Werner Von Braun, who worked upon the space program. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch This is another contribution to the Rivers of London series which deal with a couple of detectives who work in a semi-secret department which investigates offenses that involve the misuse of magic. The author is brilliant in his presentation, making his hero, Peter Grant, a half white and half African, has a great sense of humor as he slowly learns to use magic in his work. Hitler, God and the Bible by Ray Comfort This is a short book that deals with how Hitler twisted the idea of religion to serve his notorious plans. The first half of the book is a short historic outline of the Third Reich, while the second half deals more specifically with Hitler’s attitude toward the faith, including setting up a false national church in Nazi Germany that would be at his bidding. Unfortunately, because the author is evangelical, he cannot stop himself at taking aim at Catholicism. The Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri This is part of a very clever series on a Sicilian detective who has to solve crime in the face of a bureaucratic government that not only does not help his work, but at times actually fights against him. In this volume, the hero has to solve the murder of a woman who is found nude in a house which she was having built. The entire series is entertaining. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 12, 2022

Palermo - Rome - Ellicott City

August 12, 2022 Peace and Good, I truly enjoyed the trip to Palermo. We celebrated the opening of a friary for hte care of older friars. The friars also showed me the beauty of Montreale (the most magnificent presentation of medieval mosaics) and Agrigento (a series of Greek temple ruins) and a few other places. I then flew to Rome and took care of finishing off a series of articles on the prophets that I was writing for one of our magazines in Kenya. Yesterday I flew from Rome to Baltimore through London. The first part of the trip was not bad, but the part from London left around 3 1/2 hours late. This has been the pattern all throughout these past few months. I am back in Ellicott City for a series of doctors' and dentist appointments. I will be flying back to Rome on the 24th. It has been hot, hot, hot wherever I go. Italy has been having a terrible drought, as has France. I finished some books: Ripper: the Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell This is a book that outlines Cornwell’s proposal that Jack the Ripper was really an artist named Walter Sickert, an artist who studied under James Whistler. Many of the points are well made, but Cornwell becomes repetitive in attacking the forensic inability of the investigators and her tendency to go from “it could have been” to “it must have been.” Washington’s End by Jonathan Horn This is a book that covers the period of Washington’s life from the end of his second term until the time that he died. It deals with his life at Mt. Vernon, and also about his relationship with President Adams (which was not always the best, given Adams’ tendency toward jealousy). The account is rather well developed and organized. The Reislauffer by Charles River Editors This is the story of the Swiss troops that fought throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance as mercenaries. They were incredibly successful in many of the battles they fought, especially in Italy. There is still a vestige of this group in the Swiss Guard who are the ceremonial guard of the Holy Father. James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal by Andy Weir This is a clever short novel about Moriarty, the archfiend whom Sherlock Holmes fought. Moriarty uses the same deductive techniques as Holmes, but he uses them to further his criminal efforts to become the most powerful criminal in London. Odessa by Charles River Editors This is a short study of the group that is said to be formed after World War II to permit Nazi war criminals to escape from Europe to South America and the Arab world. The author admits that it is not entirely clear that this group actually existed, but given the rather large number of Nazis who escaped, it would appear that they received help from someone. The author also emphasizes how Nazi scientists helped Arabs develop weapons and aircraft to fight against Israel. The Great Mortality by John Kelly This is an excellent treatment of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. The author treats the subject from many different angles. He speaks of the actual plague and what it was (probably a mix of Bubonic and Pneumonic plague. He deals with the literature that was written as a reaction to the event (e.g. that of Boccaccio and Chaucer). He speaks of the anti-Jewish persecution. He deals with the societal effects of the plague. Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Hourly History This is a short account of the life and career of the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a pastor in the Evangelical faith who became a major critic of the Hitler regime. He was eventually executed right before the end of the war. Perhaps his most famous book was the Cost of Discipleship, a treatise which describes how following Jesus is not easy. It requires all one is and has. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat by John Kovacs This is an account of Churchill and his speeches at the very beginning of his taking over as Prime Minister in Great Britain and the time of its greatest danger. The author, who is an expert in this period of history, gives good insights into what Churchill said and why he said it. He traces the transition of Churchill from being a little appreciated fool to a great leader. The Martian by Andy Weir I thoroughly enjoyed this particular book about an astronaut who is accidentally left on Mars and who finds ways to survive and eventually to be rescued. The science and engineering described is fascinating. In a course I listened to, the premise of the book is off track a bit (if there were a wind storm on Mars, the atmosphere is so weak that it would not tear things apart and cause a part of the apparatus to impale the astronaut. Nevertheless, the book is very good and I am looking forward to reading more of Weir’s writing. Books that Cook: Food and Fiction by Jennifer Cognard-Black This is a Great Courses series of lectures on the treatment of food and its preparation and earing in literature. The professor is good, but possibly a bit too excited by her topic. She also becomes speculative in her interpretation of various scenes in the books and even the films which she describes. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ellicott City - Palermo

August 2, 2022 Peace and Good, I flew to Sicily this past Sunday for the dedication of a friary for the elderly friars in this province. It is very, very hot here in Palermo. Yesterday, the provincial, fr. Gaspare, took us to a few of the major sites for tourism. The first was the cave site where the patron saint of the city, St. Rosalia, stayed during her career as a hermit. Then, we went to the Cathedral of Montreal. The image of Christ the Pantocrator is famous for it was used in Fellini's scene in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. It is the building with the most extensive use of mosaic in the world. It was truly magnificent. Finally, we visited our church of St. Francis. I did not know that the friars has such a beautiful church here in Palermo. It was great. This evening we have the dedication of the friary. Then tomorrow one of the friars is taking me to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento (on the southern coast of Sicily). It is one of the best collections of Greek temples in the world (for quite a bit of Sicily was settled by the Greeks in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. On the 5th, I will be flying back to Rome. I finished some reading and listening: Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy I have read a number of Goldsworth’s history books on the Roman empire, and he is excellent. I thought that this book was going to be another history, but it turned out to be a novel about a group of Roman soldiers (from various backgrounds) fighting engagements in northern England during the early 2nd century AD. It was good to read this and know that the details were probably most accurate given the learning of the author. History’s Great Plagues by Christopher Fee This series of lectures through Learn25 was not quite what I expected. I thought it would be a history of the world’s greatest plagues, and it turned out to be a review of what literature said about those plagues. In a sense, this was even better. It explained certain reactions to the disasters and how they changed society. I have acquired a number of short courses by Christopher Fee, and I look forward to listerning to them. The Burning of the White House by Jane Hampton Cook During the War of 1812, the British landed troops and burned the capital city of Washington DC (at least the public buildings such as the White House and the Congress). This book portrays the British involved as well as the politicians on the American side such as President Madison and Representative King. It also gives an endearing portrait of Dolly Madison and her role in supporting her husband, the president. The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton This is the story of a train robbery in England during the Crimean War (and, in fact, it was the payroll of the soldiers fighting that war that was robbed from a train). The organizer of the robbery was a genius who take of every possibility, including what to do in the case that they were caught. The book is well written and quite interesting. The Tractate Middoth by M.R. James This is a short novella about an obscure book written in what seems to be Hebrew that has drawn the interest of various people, and which contains a secret about money that would never have been expected. Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy This is a masterful presentation on the history of Julius Caesar and his influence upon Rome and the world of his time. Goldsworthy is a good historian, and an excellent author. He sorts out fable from actual history, an especially important task given that many of the sources were written to push a particular agenda. I could easily recommend any of his books to anyone interested in the topic. Sherlock Holmes: Beyond the Elementary by James Krasner This is a short course by the Great Courses on the person of Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but especially on Holmes himself. The professor speaks of the personality of the character, who is at times almost appears to be a person on the authistic spectrum. He speaks of his relationship with Dr. Watson. The course is quite well done, and it was one of the free presentations from Audible. El Greco by Delphi Masters of Art This is a biography of El Greco, the Greek artist who ended up in Italy first and then especially in Spain. The author explains his artistic influences and how he used or rejected them. The book gives a catalog of most of the works attributed to El Greco. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude