Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chicago - Rome - Assisi

May 10, 2017 Peace and Good, I returned to Rome from Chicago on Monday, a week ago. The weather is changing and is quite nice right now. Thursday of this past week I went up to Assisi for a meeting of Franciscans International. I am on the Board of Directors of this organization. It is a lobbying group for all of the Franciscan families at the United Nations. They have offices in Geneva and New York. They do a lot of work fighting for human rights and for peace and against poverty. Every time I go to Assisi, it is like going home again. It is a beautiful town, and I would recommend that if anyone is coming to Italy, that person include it on his/her list of must sees. I often tell people that one could be lost in the allies of Assisi for five hours and never be afraid. I returned from Assisi yesterday and will be here in Rome until the beginning of June. Next week we have our definitory, and then I have a week with nothing scheduled. I will be able to catch up on some of my paperwork, with reports, daily reflections, and magazine articles. I finished some books: Without Mercy by Jack Higgins This is an account of the British secret department that battles the enemies of democracy with British, ex-IRA and American forces. In this volume of the series, the team battles an attempt by Putin in Russia to gain control of an oil empire by having an impersonator take the place of an assassinated oligarch. A sub-plot is the attempt of the Russian team to kill the members of this team who has foiled their plots in the past. Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander This is the account of a near death experience by a neuro-surgeon who had a massive bacterial infection that stopped his brain activity for a week. He had always been a skeptic before when his own patients had recounted these types of events, but following his, he investigated reports of other near death experiences and found a remarkable similarity to what he experienced. He feels that this had to be real for there was absolutely no brain activity during his illness. The fact that he awoke from it after a week and that his memory and facilities returned slowly is a miracle in itself for people who are in a coma for that amount of time always suffer massive brain damage, which he did not. It is a good account which makes one think. Test-Tube Burgers by Michael Specter What if we could produce meat which did not come directly from animals. This article examines the attempt to find a technique to produce meat protein at a level that could eliminate much of the raising of animals (and their often cruel slaughter) by growing meat in the test tube. Right now this technique, while possible, is outrageously expensive. But with further research, it might be possible to do. One has to ask whether this technique, though, will ever reach the point in the near future that it will be used extensively. The Assassins by Alan Bardos This is the story of a young Englishman who is brash and is having an affair with his boss. The boss finds out and exiles him to a back waters – the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. He ends up spying upon the assassins and almost saves the Archduke. This is very much written in the style of a number of spy and adventure novels written around 1900. The coincidences and the incredible talent (linguistic) of the Englishman are not believable. It is not a bad read, but not all that serious either. The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece, from Utopia to Crisis and Collapse by Paul Cartledge This is the history of the marshal race in southern Greece which managed to stop or slow down the Persians at the pass in Thermopylae and who eventually defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War. They lived a life of preparation for war, treating their neighbors as slaves who had no rights, even that of life (for one of the things a young Spartan would do was to blood himself by going out and killing one of the so-called Helots at his whim. Cartledge gives the positive aspects of their culture (e.g. being ruled by two kings who balanced each other) and their negative. The City Solution by Robert Kunzig We usually think of urban planning as getting as much green and recreation space within the city. We view life in the countryside as more positive than that in the city (less crime, cleaner air, more space, etc. The author of this study challenges these assumptions. He speaks of the advantages of living in close proximity to the communication of ideas, commerce, using less energy for less travel is required to arrive here or there, the greater use of mass transit. It gives an interesting perspective. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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