Thursday, April 21, 2022

Rome - Ellicott City

April 21, 2022 Peace and Good, I travelled from Rome to Ellicott City on Easter Sunday. I would have like to travel the next day, but the US requires a covid test within 24 hours of one's trip (and it would have impossible to obtain it in Rome on Easter Sunday). It is getting easier to travel, though, and the flights are more and more full. I have been in Ellicott City for a couple of appointments (eyes and teeth). As is common at my age, this has caused another couple of appointments in a month or so. I am surprised at how much cooler Baltimore is compared to Rome where it is high Spring. Rome was packed with tourists for Easter, and most of them are foreigners. These days I have been able to finish two major reports and do two weeks of daily reflections. That was very good, for tomorrow I head to San Antonio and I will be one the road for the next couple of months. I have finished some reading: The Luddites by Charles River Editors This is an historical outline of the movement in England during the 18th and 19th century of people who opposed the modern machines in the cloth mills that put so many people out of work and which created an environment of oppression for many of the workers (e.g. the small children who worked in those mills and were often horribly injured by the machines). The term Luddite is still used today to signify someone who opposes modernization. The French Revolution by Hourly History This short account speaks of the major events of the French Revolution and its significance in Europe and around the world. It deals well with the mob violence which killed thousands, and the fact that the original idealism of many of the participants was crushed under the gradual degradation of the movement until it all ended with the rise of Napoleon. The Maccabean Revolt by Charles River Editors This is an outline of the Maccabean rebellion against the forces of the Seleucid Empire, especially those of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The author points up that at times this was more of a civil war between the traditionalists of the Jewish faith and those who were willing to accommodate themselves to new, Greek ways (even when they opposed some of the major tenets of the faith). The Battle of Stalingrad by Hourly History This is a short description of the rise of Nazi Germany, it opposition to Communism, its attack on the Soviet Union, the battle for Stalingrad and the importance of that particular city (symbolic and material). Because of the length of the book, the author could not go into great detail, but this particular volume of the productions of Hourly History is well done. Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch I truly like all the books I have read by Ben Aaronovitch. His stories are about an older detective who trains a young detective in the arcane area of magic. He heads a special unit that investigates and responds to magical occurrences. The younger detective is the main figure in this volume about a kidnaping of two young girls and their eventual return (although even this is filled with mystery and odd facts). If one likes modern detective/magical stories, then there should certainly be on one’s list. Understanding Russia: A Cultural History by Lynne Ann Hartnett This is one of the Great Courses with 24 lectures on Russia. The emphasis tends to be on the period before the fall of the Romanov dynasty. The lecturer is informative and insightful. I especially liked the lectures on cultural issues. I could recommend this, as well as most other Great Courses series, for anyone who wants more knowledge about this topic. The Pilgrims’ Way by John Adair This is a short overview of many of the most important (and a number of more obscure) pilgrimage sites in Great Britain and Ireland. Many of the shrines were sadly desecrated either in the time of Henry VIII or of the Puritanical movement, but the author describes what was there and what still can be seen. Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War by Thomas and Roger Allen This is the story of how President Lincoln and the Union and Confederate forces used new technology during the Civil War. This includes the telegraph, the railroad, ironside boats, submarines, new types of firearms, etc. The author presents Lincoln who was fascinated with new inventions, much like Churchill during the Second World War. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, April 11, 2022

Rome - La Verna - Rome

April 11, 2022 Peace and Good, We started our definitory a week ago Saturday, and then on Sunday we headed up to La Verna for our annual retreat. La Verna is in Toscany, and it is a site on a mountain side. This is the place where St. Francis received the stigmata a couple of years before his death. The OFM friars have a beautiful shrine there, and this is the third time that I have had a retreat there. The friars have done one very good thing - they have begun to heat the rooms so that they are no longer uncomfortably cold. In the past one froze outside and inside the friary. Now it is much better. When we arrived there was still snow on the ground, but over the course of the week it melted (even if the weather remained cloudy and windy). We have two different retreat presenters, one of our friars who is the rector of the Basilica in Padua and one of the friars from La Verna who lives in the hermitage there. Saturday we returned to Rome and this afternoon we will begin our definitory again. It will go until Wednesday evening, and then we will spend the Triduum in prayer. Sunday I head back to the States where I will be travelling from one city to the next until the beginning of June. I have finished some reading: The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris This is a biography of the life and career of Joseph Lister and his crusade to establish antiseptic conditions in his operating rooms. He surprisingly faced much opposition, including in the United States. Yet, the success of his procedures in comparison to those of others became obvious over time, and by the time of his death he was recognized as a pioneer in the practice of antiseptic surgery. Roman Hispania by Charles River Editors This is a history that speaks of the lands of Spain and Portugal under the local Celtic tribes, under the Greeks and the Carthaginians, and then finally under the Romans until the land was conquered by Visigothic invaders and later by Islamic invaders. The author necessarily covers the career of Hannibal who began his invasion of Italy from Spain. Rules of Prey by John Sanford This is a novel about a serial killer in Minnesota and how a brilliant policeman is slowly able to track him down, more by accident than anything. The detective is presented as a flawed individual whose relationships with women are damaged (both due to him and to them). He is also the friend of a nun who helps him to sort out the profound dimension of what the killer was doing (as she and some others play the computer games which the detective had developed). Beginner’s Mind by Yo-Yo Ma This is a short audible book which speaks of how Yo-yo Ma learned to play the cello, and especially how he developed his talents so that his playing might be an honest communication of culture. He especially emphasized the need to work with fellow musicians in a partnership. The book is well done, showing how the background and studies of Ma became the raw material of his artistic endeavors. Revelations by Elaine Pagels This is an investigation into the content and the effect of the Book of Revelation. Pagels is an expert on Gnostic Literature, and she brings some of that knowledge into this study. She has a very strange theory concerning those whom the community opposed (positing that they were fellow Christians of the Pauline variety and not the pagans and Gnostics of that era). Yet, some of her treatment of the eventual reception of the book by the community is very well done. King, Kaiser and Tsar by Catrine Clay This is an overview of the lives and actions of King Edward VII of England, Kaiser William of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas of Russia. Only the first survived the disruptions of World War I. The three were cousins who often communicated, especially in light of their descendance from Queen Victoria. William is presented as an unbalanced autocrat who desperately needed good advisors but did not have them. The Age of Tyrants by Charles River Editors This speaks of the tyrants of ancient Greece. Today we use the word for cruel autocrats, and a few of the ancient tyrants were in fact this. But most of the tyrants were individuals who seized power to displace the autocrats who normally ruled Greek cities. They were opposed by those autocrats because they threatened their privilege. The Search for the Green River Killer by Charlton Smith and Tomas Guillen This is the account of the mass murderer known as the Green River Killer (in the state of Washington). It speaks of the attempts of the police to discover who was killing so many women and leaving their bodies in isolated fields. The killer was eventually discovered, although almost by accident. This investigation gave rise to many of the reforms in police departments and the FBI to use more scientific means of discovery. Gunpowder by Charles River Editors This is a history of the invention of gunpowder and then of instruments in which it could be used (fireworks, guns, canons, etc.). The book speaks of the spread of knowledge about this substance from China to the Arab world and then to Europe. May you have a prayerful Holy Week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, April 1, 2022

Louisville - Ellicott City - Rome

May 1, 2022 Peace and Good, Well, I am back in Rome. I stopped off at Ellicott City for a couple of days for the re-dedication of Carrollton Hall, a house built by Charles Carroll of Carrollton (the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) for his grandaughter. It dates to 1830, and the friars obtained it in the 1920's. It has at times been neglected, and fr. James, the provincial, worked with a committee to raise funds to renovate it. It will be used as a museum of Catholicity in Maryland, a meeting center, etc. On Tuesday I flew out of Dulles and arrived in London ahead of schedule. That is when the difficulties started. There was no gate open for us, and we waited on the tarmack so long that I missed my connection to Rome. They booked me for the next flight, but then the computer system for British Air crashed (I wonder if the Russians had anything to do with it). I was originally set to arrive in Rome around 3 PM, but didn't get in until around 10:30 PM. The weather here is rainy and windy, but not really all that cold. From what I have been told, this has been a dry winter, so the farmers really want as much rain as possible. On Sunday I will be going up to La Verna, the place where St. Francis received the stigmata, for our annual retreat. It should be about a three hour ride. We will be coming back a week from Saturday. I finished some reading: Leonardo da Vinci by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famed artist and scientist who was part of the Renaissance in Italy. The book speaks of his life and his works. It is a bit to insistent on praising him for whatever he did. John Wycliffe by Hourly History This is a short biography of the proto-Protestant preacher who translated the Bible into English and who attacked the abuses practiced by the Catholic hierarchy. While doing this, he also attacked some of the dogmas of the faith, especially those concerning the Eucharist. The Tonkin Gulf Incident by Charles River Editors This is an overview of the attack on American ships by the forces of North Vietnam. The events are somewhat questionable even now. It is not clear that there was an actual attack. Furthermore, the North Vietnamese had been attacked by South Vietnamese forces in the area in those days, so the North Vietnamese might have thought that they were defending themselves. Whichever, President Johnson used the event as the excuse for expanding the war. Congress went along with his efforts, passing the Tonkin Gulf resolution which abdicated their responsibility to declare war. Istanbul by Thomas Madden This is an extensive account of the city known as Constantinople or Istanbul. It deals with the early era of the city before the emperor Constantine, then the Byzantine period up to 1453, and the city after its conquest by the Turks and its becoming the capitol of the Ottoman Empire. The author presents an entertaining picture with enough information without becoming tedious. Midtown Manhattan’s Most Famous Buildings by Charles River Editors This is an overview of some of the most famous landmarks of New York City such as the Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building. The author of this particular volume gives a lot of information about the construction of these sites and also about the reaction of critics and the public to them. Unfortunately, containing so many accounts makes the book a bit tedious at times. Vincent van Gogh by Hourly History This is a short account of the life and work of Van Gogh. There are not any spectacular discoveries in the book, but it does present a good overview of his tortured life and how it affected the art that he produced. The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo by Edward Shepherd Creasy This is a classical study of battles throughout history. It is weighted toward the British (for the author is British). A while ago I read a study by Keegan on battle, and specifically referenced this volume. It is good, but a bit Victorian in its writing style. The Sixth Extinction by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin Leakey is the son of the famous archaeologist Richard Leakey senior. He and his co-author deal with the five natural extinctions throughout the history of life on Earth. They speak of the coming extinction, due to over population, loss of environment, change in climate. One of the most important details was the study of how one species depends on another for an acceptable environment, so that if one animal or plant disappears, others are affected adversely. The book is well done, but runs on a bit long. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude