Friday, July 27, 2018

Rome - Nemi

July 27, 2018 Peace and Good, I returned from Nairobi just in time to get ready to head out to Nemi for our General Chapter. Nemi is not all that far from Castel Gondolfo, the residence where previous popes would spend their summer. It is in the hills outside of Rome (hills which are extinct vulcanoes). It is a bit cooler than Rome, usually around 8 degrees, which makes it very welcoming. In fact, many ancient figures had summer houses in this area. The chapter will last for five weeks. We are revising our constitutions which requires a lot of discussion and over 700 votes. I have been asked to preach each day in Italian and English. It is only a short homily each morning - an outline of the topics in the readings and an application to what we are doing in those days. At the end of the day, a taped version is placed on our Order's web site along with an outline of the homily in the four official languages of the Order (English, Italian, Spanish and Polish). It is just a spiritual shot in the arm before we face a day of discussion and debate. I have finished some reading: A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre This is an account of Kim Philby, one of the famous Oxford five, students at Oxford who became spies for the KGB and rose in status in the British Secret Services (especially MI6). Macintyre has written a number of true spy stories, and he is a good author. This version of the story deals especially with the friends whom Philby cultivated and how they defended him over the years in the numerous times that he was accused of being a double agent. It shows how the English upper class took care of their own, even at the cost of betraying the nation. The Fall of Dynasties by Edmond Taylor This book deals with World War I and the fall of four dynasties: that of Germany, that of Austro-Hungary, that of Russia, and that of the Ottoman Empire. It speaks of the inner rot in most of these dynasties, and the almost inevitable forces that led to their downfall. It also follows the story a bit after their downfall to speak of what happened to the newly independent fragments of the empires. It is quite good. The Edge of the World by Michael Pye This book is an epic history of civilization and especially trade in the North Sea for the earliest historic times to the beginning of the modern era. I had purchased it because I was especially interested in the history of the Hansiatic League, a loose federation of trading cities in Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany and Northern Poland and even Sweden and the Baltic States. It covered this topic well, but also many others such as the effects of the Black Death, the role of women in this society (surprisingly advanced), Learning in the Universities, the movement of the Beguines (a lay women movement of spirituality and mutual support), the Vikings, etc. The Death of Caesar by Barry Straus This is an account of the assassination plot and death of Caesar with the immediate effects upon the Roman Republic. Barry Straus paints a good picture of what was happening. His style reminded me of the writings of Anthony Everitt who is a very good author on this era. I would recommend this book. The Great Dissent by Thomas Healy This book deals with the friendships and influences upon Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a jurist at the beginning of the 20th century, whose opinion in a Freedom of Speech case was a minority opinion but which came to shape the way that the Supreme Court interprets the right of the freedom of speech. He invented or at least used the criterion that speech had to present a clear and present danger before it could be curtailed. He further argued that opposing speech, even that which one clearly disdains, can be helpful to develop a fuller sense of the truth. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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