Saturday, August 4, 2018

Nemi, Italy

August 4, 2018 Peace and Good, We have been in Nemi, not all that far from Castel Gondolfo, just outside of Italy, holding our General Chapter. We had to work out some growing pains during the first few days, but it is now going smoothly. Each morning I give a reflection at Mass in Italian and English. It is just a short thought to get the friars thinking, and so far it has gone very well. We meet six days a week, from morning to evening. It is a lot of work, but we just finished our 100th vote, with another 560 to come. I have finished some reading: Americanos by Charles River Editors This short book deals with many of the famous figures who fought for independence in Latin America from Spain and Portugal. The author shows how like our own revolution, it was not an easy struggle. Much, in fact, depended on the invasion of Napoleon into Spain and Portugal which was the spark that ignited the call for freedom. Like our own founding fathers, most of the figures in this story are a bit flawed. One sees this especially in the tendency to massacre the immigrants from Spain by those who were born in the new world and especially by those who had mixed ancestries. Away Off Shore by Nathaniel Philbrick This is a history of the rise and fall of Nantucket. It started out as a refuge from some people fleeing the authority of the Congregationalists in Boston. Eventually it made its riches first in fishing and then in hunting for and processing whales. For some time, many of the inhabitants embraced Quakerism (but of a very capitalist bent). This book also deals with the relationship between the inhabitants and the native Americans on the island, which started out quite good but ended in tragedy. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton This is a book on the concept and process of contemplation. Much of the work deals with what it is not rather than with what it is, which is necessary given that there are so many mistaken ideas on what it means to be a contemplative. He speaks of passing outside of one’s own little world into the fathomless reality of God which cannot be described or measured. This really is a fine book, something I could easily recommend to someone in spiritual direction of a certain maturity. I say this because I am glad I did not read it when I was younger for I am not sure that I would really have understood most of what he was saying. America Scoundrel by Thomas Keneally This is the story of John Sickles, a famous Civil War General. He started out as a pawn of the Tammany Hall group in New York. He was a congressman in the line of President Buchanan, ready to extend to southerners whatever they desired in terms of slavery in order to preserve the union. When the south broke away, however, he became a fervent unionist. His greatest battle was Gettysburg where he moved his troops in a very controversial manner, leaving them open to attack by General Longstreet of the rebels. He lost a leg in the war, and afterward served as an envoy of the government. Along with his eventful political and military life, there is a very controversial personal life. He was a constant philanderer, but had the nerve to kill his own wife’s lover. He reconciled with his wife, but then ignored her for years on end. He truly was a scoundrel. Maimonides by David Yellin and Israel Abrahams This is a famous philosopher and scholar from the Middle Ages who codified much of the Jewish legislation at the time. He also produced the vastly important philosophic work, A Guide for the Perplexed Mind. He helped guide his community through many difficulties, all the times serving as the physician for the Muslim leader of Egypt. Stonehenge by Jesse Harasta and Charles River Editors This is an overview of the site of Stonehenge in England and the various theories of its meaning and construction. It also deals with its use/misuse in the modern era, both in terms of archaeological discoveries and in terms of New Age religions, especially the revival of the Druid cult. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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