Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ellicott City

March 31, 2020 Peace and Good, Like many of you, I have been closed in at our house in Ellicott City. This has been a great time to get a lot of work written, especially the daily reflections. The friars here have been very welcoming. It has also given me a good chance to read and listen to a number of books. The weather here is changing. The cherry trees are all in bloom, and it is really beautiful. I suspect that I will be here til at least a couple of weeks after Easter. It depends not only on the situation here, but also in Italy which was hit so, so hard in the pandemic. My heart rhythm has been good in these days ever since the last cardioversion. I have finished a number of books: Enemy in the Shadows: the World of Spies by Norman Gelb This is a short history of the use of spy craft during war and outside of war. I have read a book by Gelb on Dunkirk, and have found his style very good. This is not a comprehensive study, but it is more anecdotal and at times entertaining. The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor Beevor is a great author of the history of warfare, and this is one of a number of his books that I have read, including books on the Spanish Civil War and on the siege of Stalingrad. He is very thorough, giving not only details but also background information about the people involved. His account is very long and very involved, but also very well done. Main Fleet to Singapore by Russell Grenfell This book, written by a British mariner, speaks of the tactical mistakes made by Great Britain before and during the outbreak of World War II concerning the defense of Singapore. It outlines the naval disasters which were largely the result of a lack of preparation for a war which would have a large air component. The author is an outspoken proponent of Empire, and his treatment of Churchill might be stilted by his lack of perspective concerning the need to balance the needs of one theater of warfare against another, but the account is good. The Last Tsar and Tsarina by Virginia Cowles This is a relatively short account of the lives and careers (especially the mistakes) of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The book is not as academic and extensive as the books done by Robert Massie, but it does give sufficient information on the topic. The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal This is a highly artistic account of an attempt by a British artist who works in ceramics and pottery to investigate the travels and careers of his family which began as Russian Jewish traders in grain from Odessa, Russia. They ended up as bankers and businessmen in Paris, London, Vienna, etc. The premise of the book is a reflection upon a collection of netsuke, small carved figures from Japan which the author inherited from his uncle who had settled in Japan. The story includes information on the plight of Jewish families in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially his branch of the family which resided in Vienna when Hitler came to power. The author’s language is elevated and his reflections serve as a source of meditation on art, politics, family, etc. World War II – 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 by History by the Hour This is a series of short accounts of the years of World War II. None of them provide deep insight, but they give a good outline of what happened in a particular year and why. Majestie: the Man Behind the King James Bible by David Teems This is the story of King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. It deals with the horrific circumstances of his early years (father killed, possibly in a plot hatched by his mother, Queen Mary of the Scots, and mother beheaded by Queen Elizabeth of England after a series of failed attempts to escape and possibly overthrow Elizabeth). The major part of the book centers on King James’ most important project: the sponsoring of the King James Bible. This bible was produced in an especially fertile era of literary production (Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.). It was also produced at a time of increasing tension between the Anglican element of the Church of England and that of the Puritans. The author obviously has great affection for the figure of King James, but that never allows him to paper over his almost constant imprudence and decadence. Walt Disney by Charles River Editors This is the story of the famed cartoonist and amusement park mogul from his earliest days up to his death. In his earliest days, he was often in debt and surviving from one cartoon to the next. It was only after Mickey Mouse was invented, and even more when his feature films were issued that he had the money to dream into life his Disneyland. He was not exactly the most attentive of husbands, always being caught up with his projects. Furthermore, he comes across as a distant and at time abusive boss. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 20, 2020

Ellicott City, Maryland

March 20, 2020 Peace and Good, I hope you are well and are keeping safe. I have been in Ellicott City for about a month now, and given all the travel restrictions, I will probably be here for quite a while. I am trying to self-isolate as much as possible, given my health problems lately. I had another procedure done on Wednesday, a cardioversion, and the cardiologist has finally gotten my heart in its proper rhythm. I do not know if this will last, but it is good that I have arrived at this point. I was in Atrial Fibrilation so long that I didn't even know what not being in it felt like. I can notice the difference now, and it feels good. I have another meeting this coming week with the cardiologist. I have to admit that I am not sorry not to be in Italy in these weeks. The poor people there. There have been so many deaths, largely because of the elderly population there as well as the hospital system which I do not think is up to par. I finished some reading: The First Battle of Kiev by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the conquest of Kiev by the German troops during World War II. At this point, the Germans were all but invincible, while the Soviets were saddled by the interference of Stalin who refused to allow his troops to make judicious retreats in order to save them from utter destruction. The Fall of Constantinople by Charles River Editors This account gives a short history of the city that the emperor Constantine made into the capitol of his empire, and eventually became the capitol of the Eastern Byzantine empire from its origin to its fall to the Turks in 1453. Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy This is an account of the building and maintenance of the defensive wall built between England under the Romans and Scotland under the local tribes. Goldsworthy, along with many other authors, argues that the wall itself would not hold out the invaders. It was intended as an early warning device so that local troops could slow the invader down while other troops could be collected and advanced to the threatened positions. Furthermore, through much of its history, it was used to regulate trade (and taxes upon such trade) between the north and the Roman south. As always, Goldsworthy’s treatment is scholarly without being boring. America at War by Terence Finn This is a book which covers the various wars (and policing actions) which America has fought. Each chapter covers another war, and the author gives a good treatment of why the war developed, what were the major actions during the war, what were the right and wrong choices made by civil and military leaders during the war, and what the aftermath of the war was. The author is not a gung ho militarist. He gives reasoned arguments to show why this or that decision led to victory or failure. Medical School for Everyone: Emergency Medicine by Dr. Roy Benaroch This is a teaching company course on dealing with emergency situations in hospitals. After numerous disclaimers concerning this not being intended to diagnose medical situations, it gives a case by case account of diagnosing and then treating patients who come into the emergency room. Benaroch insists that the most important diagnostic tool is listening to the patient. Their information is not always clear and ordered, but it is the best source of information to make a diagnosis. The Irish Identity: Independence, History and Literature by Marc Conner This is a Teaching Company course on the resurrection of Irish culture in the late 19th and early 20th century. The author gives a good account of the various authors (and some politicians) who played a role in the renaissance of Irish culture and the Irish state. Some works (books and/or plays) are covered in detail. The work is quite good. The Afghan Wars by Rupert Colley This is a short account of the numerous wars that have been fought in this corner of the world. This has been a terribly troubled area since ancient times, as it continues to be up to this day. I am praying for you and your families. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, March 13, 2020

Ellicott City

March 13, 2020 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for these past few weeks. At one of my recent cardiologist appointments, they discovered that I was in atrial fibrillation and my cardiologist has been working with various medicines to try to get the heart beat back in synch. So far, it has not worked, but we continue to work on it. In the meantime, I feel great. I am still doing my 40 minute vigorous walk each day without any difficulty. Obviously, I am trying to be very careful about exposure to the coronavirus because what I have would be considered to be a pre-existent condition. I am glad that this was all found while I was near my regular doctors (as opposed to somewhere in Asia or Africa). I am working on a couple of projects. One of the nice things I am doing is a series of short podcasts for the Companions' website. I have been doing 6 a day for the past couple of weeks, so we have built up a very nice library of topics. I am also working on the translation of a book from Italian to English on spiritual direction for priests. I have finished some reading: The Taj Mahal by Charles River Editors This is a quick historical overview of the great Indian monument to the love of a Mughal leader toward his wife. It was also a massive edifice to demonstrate the power of that empire, placed at a key point along a river so that all the merchants passing by would be reminded of who was in charge. It is a mixture of Hindu, Persian and other Islamic influences. The book gives a good rendering of why the building is so impressive. Discovering Genesis by Iain Provan This is an interesting overview of the book of Genesis by a Protestant author. Even though the background of the author is not what I normally read, I found the book enlightening with some insights which I had never considered. I had obtained this book when it was on sale by Kindle, and I will keep my looking for other volumes in the series to notice when they are on sale. The Swamp Fox by John Oller and Joe Barrett This is a biography of Francis Marion, the militia leader who led troops against the British during the Revolutionary War in South Carolina. He has become a mythic figure, and this biography is largely a paean to his greatness. The book is well written, not quite objective (but making no pretenses that it is). Stalin by Ian Grey This is a biography of this unusual and frankly frightening figure. Some of the chapters in the book are quite honest and forthright on the pluses and minuses of Stalin, while others are sadly simply a mouthing of communist propaganda on certain topics (such of the arrest of resistance figures by the NKVD when Poland was being conquered, the reason why Stalin installed communist governments in Eastern Europe and his techniques, etc.). 36 Books that changed the World by The Teaching Company This is a series of lectures by multiple professors on what are considered to be some of the most important books published throughout the centuries. It is a mixed bag of presentations. Some fit better into the format of an overview of a book, while others present only one aspect of that work (since they are taken out of context from a much longer presentation). Nevertheless, as always with the Teaching Company courses, it provides a lot of useful information. Discernment by Henri Nouwen This is a series of lectures by Nouwen and edited by his followers concerning discerning the will of God in our lives. As with his other books, it centers upon the idea that God loves us and wants what is best for us. This is part of a series of books on Nouwen’s thought that are relatively short, but very meaningful. I am praying for your health and that of your family. Shalom fr. Jude