Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ellicott City

February 26, 2020 Peace and Good, I have unexpectedly hit a bit of a road block. I am in Ellicott City, and I have to take care of a medical problem before I get back on the road. It is not super serious, but it is better to take care of things here before something happens in the middle of Asia or Africa. I got to the doctor tomorrow to get marching orders and will probably put something about it all in the next page of this blog. This has given me a chance to catch up on a couple of small projects. One of them is to do some filming for the Companions web site. I have done about 30 short segments in these weeks that will be edited and posted at various times. The other is to begin a translation of a book on spiritual discernment for my publisher. I had intended to work on it after Easter when I was going to be in Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, for five weeks, but it seems as if that trip has been scrapped. I finished some books: The Republic of Venice by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the history of the Venetian Republic. It was founded as a refuge for those fleeing from the barbarians at the end of the Roman Empire. It gradually grew to be a center for trade in the Mediterranean Sea. Its downfall was due to the discovery of other trade routes, the series of defeats at the hands of other powers, especially the Ottomans, and a failure to keep up with modern developments. The republic was abolished under Napoleon, and after his wars given to Austria, only coming to be part of Italy after more warfare between it and Austria. The Vikings by Kenneth Harl This is a Teaching Company course that speaks of the Vikings from their earliest days until the time that they became the modern states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The presenter is excellent, and he gives both the history and indications on culture and the international influence of the peoples we call the Vikings. The Cambridge Medieval History: Book 1 Part 2 From the Rise of Constantine to the Death of Julian This is a series of essays about the latter part of the end of the Roman Empire and the rise of the power of the Church. The topics are academic, and thus at times a bit dense, but the information they contain is invaluable. The Mycenaeans by Charles River Editors This is a short book on the history of the Mycenaeans, the predecessors of the Minoans and the ancestors of the classical Greek civilization (along with various tribes that moved into Greece over the centuries). They lived around the time that Homer wrote about in his epic the Iliad. The Franco-Prussian War by Charles River Editors This is a short but thorough overview of the Franco-Prussian war, especially dealing with the unification of Germany under Bismarck (who used war as a tool to bring together the many German states). It deals a bit with the French side of the story, but not at length. This war in 1870 ended the reign of Napoleon III and brought in the republic which lasted until World War II. Pandemic by Robin Cook This is a very good book about a quirky but brilliant Medical Investigator who is looking into a sudden death due to a total pulmonary collapse of a woman on a subway (who had entered the subway healthy). It also has to do with genetic engineering, etc. The medical investigator’s wife is the chief of that department. Cook also deals with the family situation and the inner turmoil of the hero of the story. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Peoria - Ellicott City

February 18, 2020 Peace and Good, I finished the retreat with the Sisters of the Third Order in Peoria. I flew back to Baltimore and am staying in Ellicott City for some days for some medical tests. The weather here has been very cold, but seems now to be becoming warmer. I will use this week to catch up with some projects. It is good not to have to travel too much these days, and to be in the same time zone for a while. I have finished some reading: December 1941 by Craig Shirley This is a day by day overview of the month which brought the US into World War II through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most of the information is fairly neutral, but toward the end, the author begins to make some strange value judgments about various generals and presidents that just don’t belong in a book like this. State of Fear by Michael Crichton This book reminds me of a saying by Grant concerning Robert E. Lee – never had such a good man fought in such a bad cause. Crichton is generally a good author, but this book is a sad screed against those who speak about global warming. The only thing that got me to read it to the end is that while I firmly hold for global warming and the effect of human activity in causing it, I nevertheless like to hear the other side of the argument. What might have been worthwhile was his presentation on some of the sloppy science by some (not all) of the scientists and the hysteria with which some ecologist present their message. Overall, though, this work was poorly done, and I would never recommend it to anyone. The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson This is a highly complex story of a detective in Seville who is strangely moved by the murder of one of his father’s old acquaintances. This leads him to look into his own father’s past, and he finds things he wishes he had never seen. The book is good, I would say very good, but it takes a commitment to get through it. All Roads Lead to Rome by Charles River Editors This is a short book on road building in the Roman republic and empire and in particular on the Appian way, the road that leads from Rome to the southern Adriatic coast after meandering through the fertile lands around Naples. The Underground Railroad by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the underground railroad, emphasizing the role of blacks in the establishment and maintenance of the network of people who helped escaped slaves to reach freedom, often in Canada The best part of the book is the stories about Harriet Tubman, whose role in the railroad was so significant that she was given the nickname Moses for she led her people to freedom. Mary Surratt by Charles River Editors This is a short book about the first woman who was executed for a crime by the federal government. In this case, she is said to have been involved in the murder of President Lincoln. She knew and hosted a number of the conspirators in her Washington DC lodging house. There is quite a bit of controversy over whether she was given a fair trial (for she was brought before a court-martial court and not a civilian court), but it does seem as if there is adequate evidence that she was somewhat involved in the plan. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 10, 2020


February 10, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in East Peoria preaching a retreat to a group of Franciscan sisters. I finish at lunch tomorrow, and I will drive back to Chicago and fly out to Baltimore on Wednesday. The retreat has gone very well. It is on the Gospels and their lessons to Franciscan life. This is only a small community, around 19 sisters, but they have an enormous influence for the Health Care Network that they manage. It includes several hospitals and hospices, two schools of nursing, and it has just merged with the Little Company of Mary Health Care System. The property of the Mother House is incredibly beautiful. It is over 30 acres of ponds and rolling countryside. I have finished some reading: The Golden Saying of Epictetus Epictetus was a Roman slave from the second century AD who was also a Stoic philosopher. He wrote a series of saying concerning living a life of indifference to the vicissitudes of life and trusting in the plan of the almighty. I had always heard about these sayings, but had never actually read them. Now I fully intend to reread them every once in a while. They are very good. The Mysteries of Mithras: the History and Legacy of Ancient Rome’s Most Mysterious Religious Cult by Charles River Editors This is a short book on one of the most famous mystery cults in ancient times. Many Romans stopped believing in the power of the traditional Roman gods for they were not pictured as intercessors who could assist one in need. A number of mystery religions (called this for they had secret rites) came from the Mideast and Egypt in the early centuries of the first millennium. Among these was the cult of Mithra, a Persian deity. He was especially popular with soldiers, which probably explains how the faith spread from Persia all the way to Rome. Vincent Van Gogh by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous artist. It gives a good insight into his life and career. It made me want to read a longer biography in the future. America’s Deadliest Hurricanes by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of three of the major hurricanes to hit the US in the past century: Galveston, Okeechobee, and Katrina. The reporting is good, and there are a number of touching remembrances by people who were involved in the disaster. The Last Tsar by Donald Crawford This is the story of Tsar Michael, the brother of Tsar Nicholas II who became the last tsar of the Russian empire when Nicholas abdicated the throne for himself and his son Alexis. Michael was a decent man, and a war hero. Unlike the other Grand Dukes who remained behind in safety during battles, Michel was courageous. He was much loved by his troops, a band of Muslim horsemen whom nobody thought could be trained to be soldiers. He was rejected by his brother and Alexandra, the tsaress, because he married a common woman who had been twice divorced. Alexandra comes across looking petty and prudish. The read is very good. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie This is a short story of Hercule Poirot who seeks a stolen ruby in order to spare an Indian price of embarrassment. He finds it attending a traditional Christmas celebration, something that he had sworn never to do. As always, the story is well performed. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rome - Chicago - Baltimore - Chicago - Peoria

February 3, 2020 Peace and Good, From Rome, I travelled to Chicago to give a series of lectures to the postulants. The topic was the Letters of St. Paul. There is a lot of spiritual information in those letters which are valuable for those considering religious life. There are four postulants this year: two from Our Lady of Angels Province, one from St. Bonaventure and one from St. Joseph of Cupertino Province. They are a bit older, from 30 to 40 years old, and quite mature. I had a very good time sharing with them. In mid week, they had their apostolates, so I scooted over to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines in order to have my ordinary cardiology visit, and a couple of other appointments. I flew back to Chicago on Thursday and finished my classes. Then yesterday I travelled to East Peoria. I am giving a one week retreat to a group of sisters here who run a group of hospitals throughout the MidWest. I will begin the retreat tomorrow evening. The weather in Chicago was incredibly dreary until Sunday. It felt like being in London during winter. I finished some reading: Hannibal by Theodore Ayrault Dodge This is a rather long, quite detailed story of the life and adventures of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who invaded Italy and remained a threat to the forces of Rome all throughout his long occupation of the southern part of the peninsula. He continuously defeated the forces of Rome. His greatest enemy, however, was not even the Romans. It was the Carthaginian senators who refused to back him up with troops and supplies and funds. The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child This is one of the volumes in which Aloysius Pendergast, the FBI agent, must fight the evil plans of his deranged brother, Diogenes. The action takes place in New York at one of the famous museums. It involves the opening of a long lost tomb of an Egyptian dignitary and the curse laid upon said tomb. The greatest difficulty is that Aloysius has been imprisoned because he has been framed for murder by his brother. Like all of the volumes by these authors, the action is very well developed, even if details at times are a bit farfetched. Nevertheless, the authors have a talent for making even those details believable. Mr. Lincoln: the Life of Abraham Lincoln by Professor Allen Guelzo This is a teaching company course (12 lectures) on the life and career of Abraham Lincoln. The professor who presents this material is more than a fan of Lincoln. He is often laudatory to the point of obsequisness. Yet, the material is good and insightful. Ancient Pergamun by Charles River Editors This is a short outline of the history of Pergamum. This city is famous for two things. First of all, its library rivalled that of Alexandria, but unlike the latter, the scrolls prepared and conserved there were done on Pergamum (which is named after the city). The legend is that there was an embargo on the exportation of papyrus to Pergamum because the Pharaoh was jealous of the library that was being prepared there. The second claim to fame was the altar to Apollos and the temple to Asclepius, the pagan god of healing. History’s Greatest Mysteries: The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Charles River Editors This is the story of one of the earlier attempts at colonialization of the New World, in this case that of England in North Carolina. The major purpose of this colony was to provide a site for the refurnishing of privateers sent from England to harass the ships that Spain sent with treasure from the New World back to Spain. The colonists were not experts in agriculture, and certainly not in intercultural relations with the native Americans. A group of them left in Roanoke disappeared and have never been located in times since then. The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures by Philip Mould This is an enjoyable account of an art dealer (British, dealing in portraits) and his adventures in finding authentic but unknown works of art, as well as disproving frauds. He goes through the process used before one would buy one of these works, the history of the painting as much as is known, and then the process of restoring the work to its original state as much as is possible (especially after many of the works have suffered damage due to amateur attempts at restoration). The author works on the BBC program roadshow (which was the original patterns for the PBS version). Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude