Friday, December 22, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

December 22, 2023 Peace and Good, This has been quite a couple of weeks for me. A week ago today I had surgery on my right lung to try to remove a tumor there. This took place at Johns Hopkins in downtown Baltimore. The doctor was not able to remove the tumor because it was entwined with the nerve controlling the diaphragm. It looks as I will be doing radiation and chemo and/or immunotherapy instead. This surgery is taking me longer to get over. The incision was much larger than the one in October, and the body was probably not fully recovered from that one. I am getting stronger every day, and today was the first day I was able to do my 40 minute walk. I finished my meditation book on wisdom literature. I have already seen the proofs of the first third, and it should be complete toward the end of January. I am pleased with how it has turned out. I will be staying here in Ellicott City for at least the next couple of weeks, continuing to recover. After Christmas I hope to have enough energy to return to my taping of daily reflections and writing various projects. I have been reflecting on being ill and what it all means. It is teaching me to surrender more and more, realizing that I certainly cannot control everything. It has also reminded me that there are so many people out there who care for me and are praying for me, and I have to minister to them by sharing information, gratitude, etc. I don't want this illness to make me totally self-centered. I finished some reading and listening: Heaven and Hell: a History of the Afterlife by Bart Ehrman This is a review of what Sacred Scripture and the Jewish and early Christian authorities say about heaven, hell and purgatory. It is a good overview, but the interpretation that the author gives is sometimes confusing. He interprets one verse allegorically, and another as literal (whatever it takes for him to make his point). What really hurts his credibility is that he confesses at the end that he does not even believe in the afterlife. Ten Christian Mystics and What They Tell Us of God by Murray Bodo Murray Bodo is a Franciscan poet. This Learn25 course presents the biography and teachings of ten mystics (a few of them contemporary). Some of the lectures lack significant content, but some of the latter ones are quite well written. Overall, I could say it is worth reading, but not the best book I have ever read. Brutus by Kathryn Tempest This is the history of the man who led the plot to kill Julius Caesar. He was considered to be a man of great virtue (as opposed to most of the other plotters who were seeking their own privilege. He fought against Anthony and Augustus (then known as Octavian). The author presents a very good portrait of the man and his reasoning (to kill Caesar and what he did after that). The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon by Todd Zeillitch This is a short book about a man who worked at NASA, the space agency. He fought for the idea that the only way that Americans could reach the moon by 1970 (the goal set by President Kennedy) was to use a lunar module instead of trying to land the entire mother ship. He was right, but he faced only opposition in the process. He does not come across as a great hero, but his tenacity enabled a successful landing. Ancient Greece’s Most Important Islands by Charles River Editors This book is a history of the various islands in the Mediterranean which were part of the greater Greek world, such as Crete, Rhodes, Sicily, etc. It gives a history of that period when there was the greatest Greek influence (especially in Sicily which at that time and even today is given the title of Magna Grecia, Greater Greece). The account is well written, although it emphasizes the warfare aspect above all other details of their culture and history. San Francisco is Burning by Dennis Smith This is an account of the famous San Francisco earthquake and especially of the conflagration that followed it. It deals with the politics of the response, and especially of the actions (and failures) of many of the critical figures in the attempt to fight the fires. The army general in the area, General Funston, took control of the situation, but his orders were at times capricious and even dangerous. There were many innocent people shot as looters at this time, and many buildings lost because soldiers decided to evacuate unwilling residents. Gettysburg by Stephen Sears This is a thorough account of the battle of Gettysburg. It deals mostly with the movements and successes and failures of various brigades and divisions. It also tries to enter into the minds of the two combatting generals, Lee and Meade. This battle could rightly be said to be the worst defeat of the South under Lee, and the worst days of general service by Lee. At the end of the account is a good historic overview of the importance of the battle and its aftermath. Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King The beautiful dome over the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Flowers in Florence is a masterpiece of the early renaissance in Italy. This book by Ross King (who is a very good author, especially on art) speaks about how the Florentines were able to construct this dome without the use of interior supports during the construction process (which had been used on all other domes made in this era). The process is described in details, especially the rivalry among the various architects and artists involved in the process (as well as the political events during the construction which greatly influenced the history of Florence). The book is very well done. The Man who Haunted Himself by Ishmael Reed This is a novella of an African American scientist who realizes he is dying, and who has his brain transplanted into a young white high school athlete (without permission or the knowledge of the young man’s family). It deals with the confusion of trying to fit into a family whose father is somewhat racist. The book is well done, at least to the end when the author produces an ending too much like a fairy tale (and they lived happily ever after). John F. Kennedy by Hourly History This is a short biography of JFK, dealing with his father and his expectations, his political career, his marriage to Jackie, and of course his assassination. It does not go into depth with anything, but provides a good outline. The Battle of Lookout Mountain by Charles River Editors This is the story of how the Federal forces defeated the rebel forces at Chattanooga during the civil war under General Grant. The rebels had blockaded the federals in the city, and Grant first of all broke the blockade, and he then attacked the forces on the mountains to the south of the city. He originally intended this to be a minor attack, but it met with incredible success, largely due to the fault of the Confederate General in charge. Inca Lands by Hiram Bingham This is a book written about an exploration of the Inca territory at the beginning of the 20th century. It is dated, but it does provide an entertaining travel account. The most important detail is that Bingham discovered the ruins of Machu Pichu which probably served as the royal court for the Incas after the conquests of Pizzaro and before the Incas were finally defeated. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaur by Steve Brusatte This is a very entertaining book by a paleontologist concerning the history of dinosaurs, told especially from the point of view of archeological discoveries around the world. Brusatte presents a very personal account, presenting many of the people involved in this field. It is half travelogue, half scientific explanation. You are all in my prayers. Merry Christmas fr. Jude

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

December 7, 2023 Memorial of St. Ambrose Peace and Good, I have had a very good writing week. Last week I finished the text for my meditation book on sayings from Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Sirach and Qoheleth). I sent in the text and it is being typeset at this time. It will probably be a few months before it appears in print. This week I edited the Lectors' Wookbook for 2024-2025. It is basically the same text as that which I wrote three years ago with quite a few corrections and changes due to what I have read in the meantime. I am feeling well. The effects of my first lung operation did not last all that long. I have another lung operation on December 15, this time on the right side of my lung. There are two masses growing there, and they have to take them out. This time they might have to take out the upper lobe of the lung. They will only know for sure when they go in. I will be in the hospital for three to four days. I really don't like being in the hospital for I rarely sleep (due to all the various checks made during the night). The weather here is that of early winter. It is cool with lots of clouds and a bit of rain. I have finished some reading and listening: Animals at the extremes: The desert environment by OpenLearn This is an openlearn presentation on how desert animals manage to survive their most challenging environment. It especially speaks of adapting biological and behavioral changes that mark the desert animals different from the same species living in a more favorable environment. There is a lot of technical information in the presentation, so I would not recommend it for everyone. The History of Forensic Science by Elizabeth Murray This is a teaching company course of the birth and development of forensic science. The professor tries to draw stories from many different areas (e.g. murder, larceny, spying, etc.). She does get into the recent discoveries of forensics (e.g. DNA analysis, electronic means of gaining information, etc.). The course never really comes together, but rather is a series of interesting but disconnected presentations. People of the Century by Time Magazine This is an overview of 100 of the most famous and important people of the 20th century. At times, their names are simply mentioned with a line or two of what they did. At other times, there are extended overviews of their contributions to society (usually around 10 minutes or so on the audiobook recording). It does not go into depth with any of the figures, but it does offer a good, entertaining overview of the century. Sir Francis Walsingham by Derek Wilson Walsingham was the chief spy of Queen Elizabeth I. He was a puritan and rabidly anti-Catholic. He arranged for the death of Queen Mary of Scotland by enticing her and others into a plot. He was responsible for a vicious persecution against Catholics during these times. He also had to deal with a famously indecisive queen who could be vicious and stingy to those who tried hardest to serve her. The author sees Walsingham as a hero, and is always ready to defend him against charges of cruelty and deception. The Ancient Greek World by Jennifer Robert and Jeff Woodman This is a relatively short series of lectures about the history and culture of the Greek World. The presentations are well done, understandable, and told in a way that is lively and interesting. This could almost serve as an introductory course into ancient Greece. Conspirata by Robert Harris This is an account of the consulship of Cicero in the 1st century B.C. It is a novel, told through the mouth of Tiro, Cicero’s always faithful Greek slave. It especially deals with the failed rebellion of Catalina, a man from a noble family who loses all his fortune and decides to present himself as the savior of the underclass. It also deals with the rise of Julius Caesar. The book is tremendous, and one easily slips into the minds and the lives of the characters described. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord This is the account of the sinking of the Titanic (which was the basis of the famous film by the same name). Lord is a good author of narratives. This book includes as many details as possible of the struggle of the passengers to survive the disaster. It includes heroes and cowards. It speaks of the causes of the disaster as well as its aftermath (especially to the main figures involved in the disaster). Fearless Spies and Daring Deeds of World War II by Rebecca Langston-George This is a short outline of a few of the famous spies of the Second World War, both allied and German. It does not go into great details, but rather gives a ten minute outline of each of the figures covered in the presentation. India and Pakistan by Gregory Kozlowski This is a short history from ancient times to the time of independence from the British Empire of the nations of India and Pakistan. A good amount of time is spent on the Raj, the time with the British rule India, from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century. It speaks of many of the famous historic figures who were so prominent in its history. It also deals with the Hindu/Muslim divide which still troubles this part of the sub-continent. Empire of the Black Sea by Duane Roller This is the story of the various kingdoms that arose around the Black Sea in the period before Christ, but it is especially the story of the greatest of the kings who ruled in those times: Mithridates VI of the kingdom of Pontus. This is a kingdom in northern Turkey, and he rules just as the other major empires of the area (Macedon, the Seleucids, and Ptolemy in Egypt) were weakening and Rome was on the rise. He fought a few wars against Rome, including one in which he sent word secretly around his empire to slaughter all Romans and Italians living in his kingdom on the same day (some estimate as many as 80,000 people). He was also known as the poison king, for he was very knowledgeable of poisons and took small doses of poisons each day to make himself immune to their effect. 24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of the People who Lived There by Philip Matyszak This is a popularized account of how Romans lived in ancient times (c. the 2nd century A.D.). The author takes the time hour by hour and presents a story of what a particular person might have been doing at that time. Thus, one has 24 separate but intertwined accounts of life in ancient Rome. Unknown terms are well explained, and the presentation is both informative and entertaining. Attila: The Barbarian King who changed Rome by John Man This is a developed biography of Attila the Hun. The author does a good job of speaking about what was happening in the Eastern and Western Roman Empires at this time, who the Huns were and their points of view in terms of raids and plunder, the role that the leader of the Huns played, etc. Given the fact that the written records are all from the Roman side, the author nevertheless develops a good and fair portrait of who Attila was and why he did the things he did. Have a good week. Please keep me in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, November 24, 2023

Ellicott City, Md

November 24, 2023 Peace and Good, I almost wished you all a happy black Friday. It almost seems as if it were created first, and then people came up with the idea of Thanksgiving. I remember one Black Firday in Rome (where Thanksgiving is not celebrated). A store wanted to celebrate Black Friday, but they did not quite understand the concept. They had their window filled with black clothes on sale. I have been waiting for results of my various medical tests. I finally got a call Wednesday evening. I will be having another operation in two to three weeks to take out the masses on my right lung. They took out two from the left side, and two remain on the right side. I am glad to know what is going to happen in these weeks. I have been waiting a month since the last operation for indications of what would happen. I have been working on my latest meditation book and I finished the last part this morning. They will type set it over the next couple of weeks, and after I approve the proofs, it will go to press. I don't expect it to be on sale til next year. These things take a lot of time, especially since printing occurs in countries like South Korea. The weather here in Baltimore is beautiful fall weather. Cool, but mostly clear. I finished reading and listening to some books: Eschatology by Harvey Egan This is a Learn25 presentation on the Last Things: the return of Jesus at the end of time, the final judgment, heaven, hell and purgatory, etc. This is one of the best theological presentations I have heard in quite some time. I felt quite at home with many of the conclusions made by this professor. I would highly recommend this particular course to those who wish to listen to this topic. The Big Mysteries of Human Evolution by Elen Feyuerriegel This is a Great Courses presentation on the question of human evolution. It deals with questions of fossils, language development. racial differences, the dissemination of the first humans around the world, who were the first true humans and who are their ancestors and their cousins, etc. The presentation is filled with detail and one must take time to follow its development, but it is a good course. Isabella of Castille by Giles Tremlett This is a well written, extensive biography of the famous queen of Spain (who together with her husband Ferdinand literally invented the idea of Spain). She was not a queen consort, but a reigning monarch who had very strong views about many things. She is remembered for sponsoring the adventurous voyage of Christopher Columbus, but also is known as the monarch who exiled and persecuted Jews and Muslims from her reign. Clash of Cultures: Prehistory-1638 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is an account of the first European settlements in America (not counting the Norse in earlier centuries) and their interaction (often violent) with Native Americans. This series of history books aims to give the major details without drowning its readers in detail, and the author largely succeed in doing that. Repressed by Jeffrey Deaver This is a novella about a man who has a very strange reaction seeing a car in a field at a fair. His family urge him to go to a counselor for he had been acting short with them for a while. He does this and uncovers a repressed memory that makes it all clear. But that is certainly not the end of the story. The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century by William Rosen This is a book which speaks about a period of famine that occurred in the mid 14th century in Europe caused by horrible weather (first incessant rains and then drought) and by man-made disasters, especially warfare. While it is supposedly about Europe, the author spends an inordinate amount of time dealing with England and Scotland. It is not really the best developed book I have read recently. Harry S. Truman by Hourly History This is a short biography of the man who has been known as the “accidental president.” He was a relatively unknown Senator when he was chosen to be the vice-presidential candidate with FDR for his fourth term. He faced incredibly difficult decisions on the foreign and domestic levels, and he proved to be much more than an adequate president (some would classify him as great). Frederick Douglas by Hourly History This is a short biography of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas. Born a slave, he eventually escaped from his Maryland plantation. He became a famous author and lecturer on the topic of emancipation. He was the first man of color received at the White House as a guest at dinner. He became the poster child of what people of color could accomplish, giving hope to them and shocking those who still considered them to be inferior even after they were released from slavery. The Election of 1828 by Charles River Editors This is the account of the election of 1828. In spite of the fact that Andrew Jackson received the highest number of electoral votes, John Quincy Adams was chosen by the House of Representatives to be president (for no candidate had received a majority of electoral votes). Jackson considered this to be a dirty election for another candidate, Henry Clay, had thrown his support behind Adams and was then named Secretary of State. Adams was a one term president, soundly defeated by Jackson in the next election. Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Does Intelligent Alien Life Exist? By Robert Lawrence Kuhn This is a short course from Learn25 concerning the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It is actually only three lectures long. Each lecture is actually a series of interviews with experts in the field that are cobbled together. The professor asks the question of whether there is life out there, why has it never contacted us? What would be the consequences of some form of contact? How would that change our lives and even our theology? The presentation, in spite of its brevity, is extremely well done. Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price This is a history of the Vikings. It includes that history which we can identify, their mythology, their social life, their travels, etc. It is well developed and thorough. Church Farm House by Benedict Ashforth This is a series of short stories about a house where a mass murderer lives and the evil spirit that possesses them both. The stories are inter-generational. They are tied together well, and present a portrait of evil played out over time. The Oracle of Dodona by Charles River Editors Less famous than the oracle of Delphi, this site in northwestern Greece was a major site for an oracle dedicated to Zeus. It is mentioned by Homer and Hesiod and other ancient authors. The seers probably received their message by the movement of leaves of the sacred oak trees and by messages from birds, etc. It was destroyed several times over the course of history, the last time by the Christians and was largely forgotten til recent times. Have a good week and a meaningful beginning to Advent. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

November 15, 2023 Peace and Good, The weather here in Baltimore is beautiful. It has been a wonderful Fall season. I have been waiting for a few weeks for the pathology report on the two masses they took from my lungs. One of them is just junk, but the other is a type of cancer. I have to see the oncologist to see what the next step is to be in treatment. There are still another two masses on the other side of the lungs. I spoke a few words at Mass this morning and my words dealt with gratitude. I have to keep this in mind in these days. I am trying to be grateful for the experience of having to slow down and accept the care of others. I want to be grateful for the wait that I have to go through between my various appointments with doctors and waiting for medical reports. I have always felt that surrender is the goal to which God is calling me, and lately God has been sharing an important lesson in giving up control with me. It is not that I want to be sick. But, I do see that it is where God wants me at this time, so I have to try to embrace it. I have been working on my next book which is a minute meditation book on saying from the books of Proverbs, Sirach and Qoheleth. The book is going very, very well, and I am already over half finished with it. I have finished some books and courses: The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Capon This is a brilliant combination of a cookbook and a treatise on theology. Capon is a very entertaining author. His premise is that God created this world as good, and it is our duty to celebrate it. We are not here simply to survive, but to thrive and rejoice and praise. He feels that one of the most important ways that we can do that is by eating well. In the course of the book, he speaks of cooking implements, ingredients, wine, setting the table, dinner parties, etc. This is the third of his books that I have read, (the others being the Third Peacock and Exit 36) and I have truly enjoyed all three Foreign Agent by Brad Thor This is an action novel about a Russian agent who pretends to be a Muslim terrorist and gets them to attack important American targets so that the US might be provoked to get into a war with Issus. The hero of the story is a Rambo like figure. Brad Thor is not exactly subtle, but as an action/spy novel it is not that bad. By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire by Ian Worthington This is a study of the lives of Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. The authors main emphasis is on the fact that Philip was the one who established the nation and the army that then permitted Alexander to conquer much of the known world. Alexander comes across as driven, even to the point of mistreating his men terribly. The author sees him as a great general, but not necessarily the nicest of human beings. Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing This is a very good novella which speaks of a murder discovered by the dog walker. It looks like the soon to be divorced wife might have done it until she, too, is found dead. There are various suspects, but there is a great surprise that only slowly develops in the course of the action. Jane Austin by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of Jane Austin and her writing. It deals especially with the fact that she had to write to support her family. It outlines her books, speaks of her difficulty in getting them published, and of their incredible success. Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World by Colin Wells This is a study of the culture and history of the Byzantine empire along with the other countries and cultures that came into contact with it over the centuries from its foundation by the emperor Constantine until its final conquest by the Turks in 1453. The author covers many dimensions of the story, e.g. the palace intrigues, the preservation of Greek culture, its cultural influence on neighboring areas, etc. It is well done and very interesting. Jesus and the Last Supper by Brant Pitre This is a very thorough study of various aspects of the Last Supper. Pitre is a great Bible scholar, very informed about Bible, post-Biblical, Jewish, etc. literature. He is able to present various suggestions and then show how they are either credible or not. I intend to read as many of his books as possible. Cultured: the Epic Story of Cheese by Janet Fletcher This is a Teaching Company short course on the various aspects of the making and selling of cheese. The author described the process, the variations, the varieties of cheese. She speaks of cheeses tied to certain specific areas. She contrasts cow cheese from goat cheese. It was probably more information than I needed to know about the topic, but it was entertaining. Courageous Spies and International Intrigue of World War I by Allison Lassieur This is just a short account of some of the major spies and terrorists of the Frist World War. It deals with Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand, with Mati Hari, with Edith Cavell, a nurse who saved many allied prisoners, the Dame Blanche, a spy organization in Belgium to get information to the allies of German movements etc. The account is well done and informative. Brothers, rivals, victors by Jonathan Jordan This is the story of the interaction of three of the major generals of World War II: Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley. Patton comes across as seriously unbalanced, needing fame all the time, but nevertheless a brilliant general. Bradley was more boring, but also more balanced and methodical. Eisenhower comes across as not necessarily a great military general, but as a magnificent political general to keep the various elements of the allied alliance in step and at peace. Milwaukee by Charles River Editors This is the history of this mid=western city, from the days when it was a fur trading center, to a farming center, to an industrial center. It speaks of the various nationalities that settled there. It also speaks of its decline and troubles in recent years, especially in racial discord. Rome Enters the Greek East by Arthur Eckstein This book was not quite what I expected. I thought it would speak of the mixture of the culture of the Greek world with that of Rome. Rather, it is a detailed historic study (almost seems as if it started out as a doctoral thesis) of the wars between Greece and Rome which led to the conquest of the Greek cities. The author speaks of how there were three fairly equal powers in that part of the world (Egypt, Macedon, and the Seleucids). When Egypt became weak (an internal rebellion, a child pharaoh), the other two sprang to invade. This is when Rome entered in and at first only forced its way in to balance the three powers again, but eventually took over itself. Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang This is the story of the Soong sisters. There were three of them. One of them married Chaing Kai-shek, one married a very rich man, and one married Sun Yat-sen, and when he died became an important member of the Communist movement. They were from a Christian family, while not all of their actions (e.g. autocracy, blatant bribery, mistreatment of the poor) could be called Christian virtues. The story is well told, showing the good and bad side of each of the sisters. Have a good week and Happy Thanksgiving. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

November 4, 2023 Peace and Good, I have spent these days at Elicott City. Last Wednesday I had an operation to remove two masses from my lungs. They are being studied, and I meet with the surgeon on Monday to see what the next step might be. There are another two masses on the other side of the lungs, and he might want a second surgery to remove them as well. I got through the surgery very well. The worst day was the one following the operation. After that, there was very little pain or discomfort. I am back up to my 40 minute walk each day. For all the health problems I have had in these weeks, I am really doing quite well on a day to day basis. I have been working on my next book: a series of short meditations on the Proverbs of the Old Testament. It is coming along quite well, and I hope to have the first draft finished in a month or so (depending on what sort of treatment the doctor recommends). I finished some reading and listening: The Sayings of the Holy Desert Fathers, trans by Wallis Budge This is a rather long collection of the saying of the Egyptian desert fathers and mothers from the 5th and 6th centuries. They are very repetitious, and some of them either didn’t make any sense to me or were of a spirituality which seemed questionable to me. I guess the idea that these men and women rejected the world to serve God would necessarily carry a sense that the world was evil, but it seemed almost Manichean in its tone. Machiavelli by Patrick Boucheron This is a short account of essays on the life and work of Machiavelli. The author’s premise is that he has gotten very bad press over the ages, and that he was not really as bad as he has been portrayed. Rather than proposing that any means was legitimate to rule, he was actually speaking about how to better the very confused state of Italian politics (with the rivalry of Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, the papacy, etc. tearing the country apart). Eleanor of Aquitaine by Kelly Mass This short biography presents the life and career of this queen of Aquitaine who married first the king of France and later the king of England, Henry II. The film, “A Lion in Winter” speaks of their strange relationship as well as that of their children which included Richard the Lion Hearted and King John. The Athenian Democracy by Robert Garland This is a great courses presentation on the “democracy” which was to be found in Athens during the centuries during which the Persian invasions and the Peloponnesian were fought. The professor tries to present both the positive and negative aspects of this form of government in a theoretical manner, but also in the practical development of an Athenian Empire that was kind to Athenians but much less so to the other members of the league. Rome and the Barbarians by Kenneth Harl This is a thorough treatment of Rome and its Empire and its interaction with the barbarian peoples who lived near the empire, and who “invaded” it to bring it to its ultimate destruction in the West. Harl is an excellent presenter who gives a tremendous amount of detail without ever being boring. Rather than presenting a melodramatic story of hordes of barbarians crashing across the borders, he explains how the Romans coopted many of them to be part of their armies (thus training them in the techniques of Roman warfare) and how many of them simply wanted to settle in parts of the empire that were underpopulated and safer from more ferocious barbarians at their backs. Exploring the Mayan World by Edwin Barnhart This is an 8 part video presentation of a trip to the part of Mexico where the Mayans lived. It is a combination of an archaeological study, a travelogue of interesting sites, and an introduction to modern Mayan culture and gastronomy. The program really is more of an entertaining segment rather than being academic. Operation Greif by Charles River Editors This is a study of the attempt to confuse allied troops by infiltrating Germans dressed in American uniforms who spoke English across the front lines to confuse the allies and assist the capture of important military objectives. There were some successes, and there was widespread fear, but the results of this program were not what the German had hoped it would be. Marie Antoinette by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the queen of France who was executed during the French revolution. The presentation neither defends nor attacks her. It simply presents the details and helps one see how she was incapable of responding to a very confusing and fluid situation. The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior by Paul Strathern This is an incredibly good study of Cesare Borgia, Leonardo da Vinci, and Niccolò Machiavelli and how they interacted. Leonardo at first cooperated with Borgia in inventing war machines, but he later withdrew his assistance when he saw first hand the terrible character of his patron. Machiavelli served as a type of ambassador to the Florentine state which gave him the opportunity to see Borgia up close. Borgia, the son of a pope, was a man who did whatever was good for him and his father. This is not the first book by Strathern that I have read, and I have always been pleased with them. The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston This is the story of an artificial intelligence program which escapes its bounds and alternatively threatens and is threatened by governmental organizations, evil people wanting to use it for their own purposes, etc. It is saved by its programmer and by a young boy who adopts it when it enters a toy robot. As the story proceeds, one comes to see the personality of the program and how it becomes more and more human. Cicero by Anthony Everitt This is a thorough study of the life of the famous Roman orator Cicero. Born to middle class parents, he fought to acquire the dignity he sought in a very class-conscious Roman republic. He became counsel and defended the state against the machinations of a young aristocratic, Catolina, who wanted to overthrow the system. He found himself in the midst of a failing government (due to the selfishness of many of the people in that system). He was eventually murdered by Mark Anthony (with the contrivance of Augustus) for his frequent attacks on him. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

October 24, 2023 Peace and Good, These weeks have been quite busy visiting various doctors, etc. I am now under the care of Dr. Meyer, an oncologist from Johns Hopkins. He has advised that I have an operation upon my lungs so that they can know for sure what my problem is. They believe it is a sarcoma, but they are not sure which type. So tomorrow I will have an operation at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. They will take out two of the tumors growing in the lower left portion of my lung which will then be studied so that they can discover how best to treat me. I have started my next project, a book of daily meditations on the books of Proverbs, Qoheleth and Sirach. I have gotten the green light from the publisher, and have done much of the initial work. It is the type of project that I will be able to work upon in small segments, when I feel up to it. I have had a great time writing magazine articles in these weeks (38 of them) and taping and editing daily reflections (over 200). I am way ahead on all of this so I don't have to worry about it for quite a while. I will probably only be in the hospital overnight (although that could easily change). I really don't sleep well in hospitals, so I hope that it really is the one night. I have finished some reading and listening: St. Clare by Sr. Joan Mueller This is a learn25 presentation on the life, spirituality, and writings of Clare of Assisi. The presenter gives a good exegesis of the letters she sent to her follower, Agnes of Prague, explaining the significance of the imagery used and the message between the line. She is seen as a courageous defender of her privilege of poverty, even against the wishes of the Holy See which would have preferred her to found a more conventional form of monastic life. Richard the Lion Hearted by Kelly Mass This is a short presentation of the career of the English king and crusader Richard the Lion Hearted (the later half of the 12th century AD). He was a much better warrior than king, hardly ever living in England during his reign. Like many of his contemporaries, he showed chivalry when he wanted to, but a ferocious cruelty when that suited his purposes. The World’s Greatest Churches by William Cook This is a series of lectures from the Great Courses on magnificent churches throughout the world. Some of them are highly unusual, others simply incredibly beautiful or unique. Professor Cook has done a number of courses for Great Courses, and he is thorough and at times profound. I watched this course on video, and the videography was very good, but the explanation of the churches at times devolved into comments on how beautiful they were over and over again. Introduction to Christian Mysticism by Harvey Egan This is a series of lectures from the Learn25 program dealing with Christian mystics throughout the centuries. Some of these mystics had supernatural gifts and visions, while others like Teilhard de Chardin and Mother Teresa lived normal lives with great intensity. Ultimately, the true definition of mysticism is not based upon paranormal phenomena but rather of seeing the presence of God in a very real and profound manner. Riddle Island by Steve Hamilton This is a short book which tells the story of how a random comment leads to an investigation as to why a group of mobsters would show up at a resort out of season and also the disappearance of the son-in-law of a millionaire who owned a nearby island. The ending is a bit of a surprise, and the story is well written. Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman This book speaks about the environmental crisis in the world today, especially the climate change which seems to be the result of human activity. It goes on at length as to how this situation might be addressed. The book is thoughtful, and it offers practical solutions. One of the most intriguing was the idea of finding an artificial means of producing photosynthesis. Killing the Mob by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard This is the story of crime in the 30’s in the US and also of the birth of the mob in the country. One of the mysteries is why J. Edgar Hoover denied that the mafia even existed and sabotaged efforts to combat it. Robert Kennedy, when he served as attorney general, is praised for his efforts to destroy their power in so many areas of society. The Peloponnesian War by Kenneth Harl This is a series of 24 lectures on the war between Athens and Sparta. The author deals with and challenges the images of those two cities (Athens the birthplace of democracy and Sparta a militaristic/autocratic society). He speaks of the great leaders of those cities. He deals with the origin and tactics of the war. It is very well done. Peace Won by the Saber by History Nerds This is an account of the Crimean War of Russia against the Turkish Empire, France and Great Britain. Supposedly it was about the question of who would be responsible for Christians in the Turkish Empire. It was really about the question of whether Russia would be allowed to conquer more of the Turkish Empire, especially the city of Istanbul. The account also deals with the criminal lack of care for the wounded during the war. Robert the Bruce by History Nerds This is the biography of the great Scottish hero who helped his country win independence from England after the conquests of King Edward I, Edward Longshanks. Is Paris Burning by Dominique Lapierre This is one of the best books I have read in quite some time. It deals with the last days of the Nazi occupation of Paris. The allies did not want to liberate it quickly (for then they would be required to feed a large population and care for their other needs when they wanted to dedicate their resources to the invasion of the rest of France and even Germany). Lapierre throws in a million personal accounts while also dealing with larger issues (such as Hitler’s obsession on destroying the city). The Road Home by Garrison Keillor This is a series of presentations (each about 10 minutes) by Garrison Keillor on life in Minnesota. They are entertaining, at times hooky, but always dealing with everyday topics. Have a good week. Please keep me in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

October 15, 2023 Peace and Good, I am still plowing my way through a series of medical visits. Tomorrow I will meet with Dr. Christian Meyer at Johns Hopkins, an expert in the type of cancer that I have been diagnosed as having. If you have to be sick, Johns Hopkins is a great place to receive treatment. The strange thing is that I do not have any symptoms. This was all discovered through a routine x-ray that was required by a medication that I am taking. Thank God that they found it (along with the blood clots that were also in my lungs). I am hoping that by this time tomorrow, I will have some sort of idea what a treatment plan will involve. I will be going to the meeting with the health care coordinator for our province, Patricia Ashburn. She is a gem and it will be good to have someone along who will hear the things that I might not be able to hear at the time because of concerns, etc. Fall has certainly arrived here in Baltimore. There is more rain and the temperatures are quite a bit cooler. I finished some reading and listening: Agent Running in the Field by John le Carre John le Carre is brilliant in presenting the secret services of Great Britain in both its successes and especially it banal failures. The spies are not like 007. They are regular men and women with all of their personal flaws. This volume deals with a spy who is reaching the end of his career and how he is drawn into messy situation with another men working for the secret services. Charlemagne by Kelly Mass This is one of the short biographies written by Kelly Mass, this one on the great emperor Charlemagne. It speaks of his military endeavors (and possibly war crimes according to our standards). It also speaks of why Charlemagne’s empire failed to last much after his death. Leonardo’s Brain by Leonard Shlain This is a speculative study of the brain and ways of thinking of the great artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci. The author speaks of how people normally are better in one or another of these fields (what is at times called left brain or right brain thinking). The author proposes that there was something very unusual with the way Leonardo thought that made him almost an evolutionary prodigy (possibly what humans would tend toward in the future). Rembrandt by Hourly History This is a short biography of the Dutch artist Rembrandt. In spite of its brevity, the author manages to give a good presentation on the times, influences and techniques of the artist (including his horrible money problems throughout most of his life). Jane Boleyn by Julia Fox This is the story of the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn and the wife of Anne’s sister. She was part of the court, even after the death of her sister and husband. She was there during the short reign of Jane Seymour who died after childbirth, Anne of Cleves whose marriage with Henry was annulled, and then Kathryn Howard who cheated on Henry (with the assistance of Jane Boleyn). She was executed along with her charge. The author tells a good story, basing it on whatever evidence there is from the period. Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow: 1864-1896 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is a medium sized account of how the victory of the Civil War and the 12th to the 15th amendments to the constitution were betrayed after the contested election of 1876. The north was no longer interested in ruling the south, and it left it to the south to decide who to treat the freed slaves, which includes economically exploiting them, politically disenfranchising them, etc. Michelangelo Buonarotti by Hourly History This is one of those short biographies of historic figures, in this case the painter and sculptor Michelangelo. It speaks of his early days learning the artistic methods, of his years of great success, and of his long career and life. He comes across as an incredibly talented man who was also a bit of a misanthrope. Russian Revolution by Hourly History This is an outline of the history of late Czarist Russia and the policies and people who led them to revolution. It also speaks of the career of Lenin and Stalin. The book is more of an outline than an actual history. Ruth (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary) by James McKeown This is a tremendous exegetical treatment of the short book of Ruth. The author explains the text and the action that takes place in it. He deals with the question of politics, especially the relationship between Israel and Moab (a hated foreign people). It speaks of the book as a reaction to other Biblical books. It also develops certain topics that are very applicable to our society in our modern days. Raid on the Sun by Rodger Claire This is the story of an Israelite raid on a nuclear reactor in Iraq which could have been used to provide plutonium for atom bombs. The author introduces questions of personality, of politics (internal and world), etc. It is a fast moving text which is quite good. A Brief History of Japan by Jonathan Clements This is a very, very good treatment of Japan from pre-historic to modern times. Certain eras are filled with names and situations that are difficult to understand, but others are fascinating. The author opens a whole new world to the readers. I would recommend this book to those interested in the topic. Alfred Hitchcock by Charles River Editors This is a short book dealing with the life and career of the famous mystery director Alfred Hitchcock. It speaks of the ups and downs of his professional career, of the best of his films and the actors with whom he often worked, of some of the techniques that he invented and used in his films. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Ellicott City

October 8, 2023 Peace and Good, I am still in Ellicott City, and the way it looks now I will be here for quite some time. I visited the oncologist this week, and he is sending me to a specialist at Johns Hopkins. It is great to be so close to such a great hospital. I have a sarcoma on my lungs, and we will have to see if and how they can treat it. I have been writing or taping every morning, and then reading or listening to courses in the afternoon. After I finished up in Rome, the provincial asked me if I wanted a Sabbatical. It told him I didn't want to attend anything formal because I love teaching but I hate school. I prefer to learn on my own, and I am enjoying the courses that are available (,, the Great Courses, the Modern Scholar, Learn 25., etc.). There is so much out there and many, many of the courses are well worth it. Of course, being cheap, I am always looking for a discount or free material. Fall has arrived in Baltimore. The morning temperature today was in the 50's. Friday one of our friars, Richard Rome, was ordained a deacon. I know him since he entered the Order. I checked with the doctors, and they said that I really did not have to self-isolate, so I was able to attend the ordination. I have finished some reading and listening: The Kingdom of Judah by Charles River Editors This is supposed to be the treatment of the kingdom of Judah from its earliest days up to its fall under Babylon. I found some of its theories a bit strange, positing theories that I believe have relatively little evidence. This is one of the few Charles River books that I can say that I did not really enjoy. Roman Blood by Steven Saylor This is part of the series of a detective in Rome before and during the days of Julius Caesar. The detective is known as Gordianus the Finder. In this volume, he is hired by Cicero to investigate a man accused of being a patricide. This is one of the first of the series. All of the volumes I have read are tremendous. Beethoven’s Shadow by Jonathan Biss This book are the musings of a pianist who is called upon to record all of Beethoven’s symphonies. This was a tremendously long and complicated process. Biss muses on the gifts and shortcomings of some of his mentors. He speaks of the difference between concert performances and recordings. He wonders of the mechanization of musical performances in the recording process which can rob the music of its originality. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffmann This is an overview of the growing, making and use of coffee throughout the world. Hoffmann speaks of the processes used in its growing and cleaning of the coffee, the various machines used to make it, and its growth in various countries. It becomes a bit tedious as he catalogs the various dimensions of the process. Warriors, Queens and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400 by Joyce Salisbury This is a Teaching Company course of 36 lectures on various famous and not so famous women before the date of 1400. Salisbury deals with women from numerous countries. She speaks of queens, philosophers, poets, etc. At times, Salisbury takes a very feminist approach to the stories, but this is understandable when deals with women who came to the fore in a period in which women were rarely esteemed or even noticed. Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston and the Atlanta Campaign by Earl Hess This is the story of a major part of the battle for the conquest of the city of Atlanta during the Civil War. Many, many northern soldiers were killed in what amounted to a futile attack, but even though this was a disastrous failure, it led to the abandonment of the fortifications which eventually led to the fall of the city to the union soldiers. Poland by Victoria Varga This is a short history of Poland from the earliest days until the fall of communism under the influence of Pope St. John Paul II. In spite of it being quite brief, it does give some good insights into the successes and failures of the government of the country. Date Night by Jeffery Deaver This is a novella about a mass murderer who calls the night of his murders “date night.” A lawyer who totally opposes the death penalty tries to stop his execution. There is a bit of a surprise ending to the story. Bloody Mary by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of Queen Mary I, the successor of Edward VI and the predecessor of Elizabeth I. In spite of the title, Mary is presented in a fair manner, not demonizing her as many authors tend to do. Young Philby by Robert Littell This is a medium sized book that puts voice to the history of the famous British traitor who spied for the Soviet Union during and after World War II. One meets him, his wife, his Soviet handlers, even Stalin. The book has a surprise “what if” turn that makes it even more interesting. Bernard of Clairvaux by Thomas Merton This is a series of lectures that Merton gave to the novices at his monastery. The sound quality is really not great, and Merton only makes a couple of significant points. I can’t say that I know Bernard of Clairvaux any better after having listened to these tapes. Have a good week. Please keep me in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

September 26, 2023 Peace and Good, I am still stationed at our friary in Ellicott City. This is the provincialate. Every morning I try to work on some project, such as writing or recording daily reflections. I am way ahead on articles for both our magazine in Padua (articles in English) and Kenya. Also, the daily reflections are up to early December. Later this week I hope to begin some research for a book. I had my bronchoscopy last week. I was out for the whole thing, and it went very well. The pulminologist could not have been nicer. The only side effect from the procedure was a light cough and a scratchy throat for that day. By the next day I was back to normal. I am still awaiting the results of the test. They had told me that it would take from five to seven days to find out. We got a bit of the tropical storm here (Ophelia). It was mostly a constant light rain for two days, but it is still cloudy today and still raining off and on. My afternoons are spent on reading and listening to books. I really enjoy this time to study some topics that I have always wanted to research. I finished reading and listening to some books: 55 Mysteries of the Mind by Scientific American This is a series of 55 short articles concerning various topics dealing with the brain. The series is well done, sort of like listening to a series of Wikipedia articles. I can truly say I enjoyed it, and learned something from it. The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman All of Hillerman’s books are worth reading, and this volume was no exception. There is a murder (actually more than one) on the reservation that has ties to a crime network in Los Angeles. Chee, a reservation detective, must investigate the killings, and he must try to protect a young girl who was a witness to some of the events and is therefore in danger. Hillerman has a gift of describing the characters and the background in a very believable way. The Fires of Vesuvius by Mary Beard When I started the book, I thought this would be an account of the famous explosion of the volcano Vesuvius which buried the city of Pompei. Rather, it was a description of life in the city as discovered through a study of the archaeological evidence. Beard is an excellent scholar, and her arguments are quite convincing. Washington’s Farewell by John Avion This is a study on the text and reaction to the farewell address that Washington bequeathed to the nation upon the end of his second term. The author deals at length upon the idea of not getting involved with foreign entanglements, of not exploding the public debt, etc. He is able to show the sources of the address, and how Washington changed what had been proposed by Jay and Hamilton to put his own touch on the topics contained therein. He also shows how the address has been used and abused throughout the ages. The Heron by Don Winslow This is a novella about an accountant who has hidden himself from a crime boss from whom he has robbed a lot of money and with whose wife he had an affair. It is a good story with just enough twists and turns to keep in interesting. The Real History of Secret Societies by Richard Spence This is a teaching company course about various secret societies throughout the ages, dealing with many of the usual topics (the Templars, the Freemasons, the anarchists, etc.) and with groups I had never heard about. Spence gives common characteristics about many of the groups. He makes some questionable conclusions at times, but overall the information is good and the presentation entertaining. Micah (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Dempster This is a Biblical commentary on the book of the prophet Micah. It is one of the best commentaries I have read in years. It pays a lot of attention to the original setting in which the book was produced, to the linguistic subtleties, and also to the application of the message in the days of Micah and in our own days. I acquired a number of volumes of this commentary series because they were on sale, but I am very glad I found this gem. The Blood of the Lamb by Michael Lister This is one volume of a multi-volume story of a chaplain at a maximum security prison who had been a private investigator. In this volume he must solve the murder of a young girl, the daughter of an evangelist. The story, as always, is much greater than it seems on the surface. The chaplain is a flawed person, with a drinking problem on which he is working. In this volume, he is slowly getting together with his divorced wife. Amphibious Warfare in World War II by Charles River Editors Like all of the Charles River books, this is a short investigation into the topic contained in the title. It deals with amphibious landings in the Pacific, the coast of North Africa, Sicily and the D-Day landing in France. Anne Boleyn by Kelly Mass This is a short overview of the life of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII. It is more of a bullet point presentation than a real biography, but it is long enough to set the scene and tell the story. The Exodus by Michael Guinan This is a Learn25 course on the Book of Exodus. The professor covers the content of the book and its historicity, based on archaeological and other written texts. He deals with the idea of covenant and how the book is not about objective rules, but rather about a life style in which God and neighbor are central. He also speaks about the influence this book and story have had upon society, and especially various social justice movements, over the centuries. Civil War 101 by Peter Carmichael This is a learn25 course on the Civil War. The author is very balanced in his approach to the topic, never lauding the north too much and never buying into the myths that arose after the war concerning the southern cause. He gives a good outline to the action, the politics, and the social condition of those who participated in the war. He tries not to be too objective, in the sense that he quotes from letters and remembrances of those involved in the fighting to try to show the human dimension and costs of the war. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Ellicott City, Maryland

September 14, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been at home in Ellicott City these days except for visits to doctors' offices, which is quite a few. I have been using the mornings for writing projects and the afternoons for reading. I have managed to finish 28 articles for two magazines in Padua, Italy and Kenya. The Paduan articles are on the compansions of Jesus, while the Kenyan articles were on the parables of Jesus. I have a CT scan yesterday. They finally discovered why I had a pain in my side. It is a broken rib. I had a small fall a month ago, and I did not realize I had hurt myself like this. Next week I have my bronchoscopy, having a tube put down my throat into my lungs to get a biopsy of the growth they found. I will be asleep, so they can do whatever they want when I am out of it. I have decided to self-quarantine as much as possible, given all the important health appointments I have in these weeks and given the fact that covid is making a bit of a comeback. It is just safer to be careful right now. I finished some reading and listening: European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century by Lloyd Kramer This is a Teaching Company course on the main intellectual movements of the 19th century. It comes across as a post-enlightenment reaction to the main intellectual movements of the previous century. The professors content is well arranged and he is careful to show the links between the various ideas being presented. Henry Knox’s Noble Train by William Hazelgrove At the very beginning of the War for Independence, General Washington sent a book store owner hundreds of miles over winter ravaged land to procure canons from the fort the patriots had taken at Fort Ticonderoga in northern New York State. Knox had no real military training, only what he had read in books in his shop. Yet, he was able to perform a miracle by brining the canons to Boston, an action that forced the British to abandon the city. C.S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath This is a thoughtful biography of the famous author of so many Christian books of apologia and of the Narnia series. The books speaks of the background and struggles of Lewis, and how he almost backed into the role of Christian apologist by accident. The various persons so important to Lewis, e.g. his brother, Tolkien, etc. are well outlined. The Great Fire of London by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the disaster in 1666 which destroyed most of the city of London, and possibly wiping out the last vestiges of the great plague which had attacked London in the previous year. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed by Mark Muesse This is a teaching company course on comparative religions, especially the lives and teachings of the four men mentioned in the title of the course. I liked the presentation of the similarities of the four figures. I found that the professor sometimes put possibly too positive of a viewpoint on certain elements of the stories of these characters. Furthermore, his presentation of Jesus subtly and at times not so subtly denies his divinity, presenting him as an honored sage. Pierre Currie by Charles River Editors This is a well written short presentation on the husband of Madame Curie. He and she both discovered radium and studied the properties of nuclear radiation. Pierre is presented almost as if he were an absent minded professor, but the story is told with great respect. Marquis de Lafayette by Hourly History This is a short biography of the famous Revolutionary War hero from France who served as a adjutant to George Washington. The book deals with his involvement with both the American and French revolution. Even though it is short, there is quite a bit of material in the presentation. The Cathars by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the reform movement/heresy which began in the Balkans but which grew to fruition in the south of France and neighboring territories. It was dualistic, speaking of two gods, one good and one bad. It rejected the material world. The Church organized a crusade against it which proved to be terribly violent. Vincent van Gogh by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the famous artists. Because it is so short, it does not really give a great insight into the motivation and the insight of the artist, or into his troubled mind. A Short History of the Vietnam War by DK The DK series of collection of vast treatments on various topics. It is presented almost as it were an album of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject. This particular volume, dealing with the Vietnam War, is well developed and gives insight to what actually happened (in the war, in politics, to the people, to the society, etc.). It is not always a smooth read (between the various sections), but each section by itself is a good read. The Great Penguin Rescue by Dyan deNapoli A ship went down just off the coast of South Africa, and when the fuel bunkers ruptured, oil poured forth into the ocean right around a major breeding grounds of a group of highly endangered penguins. The oil caused the penguins to lose their ability to swim in cold water, and it sickened them when they ingested it while preening their feathers. This is the story of the massive effort to rescue the penguins, cleaning and nourishing them until they could be released into the wild. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone This is the story of four sisters from southern France who eventually became queens in their own right in various kingdoms during the middle of the 14th century. It deals with a lot of the convoluted politics of the era, involving especially England and France. The book is quite engaging, but one finds that one has to pay close attention due to the numerous names and plots and subplots used in telling the tale. Rizzio by Denise Mina This is a short book which is a dramatic presentation of the murder of Rizzio, the consultant of Queen Mary of Scotland, by a band of nobles and with the contrivance of her own husband. The story is well told, and the characters involved are well outlined. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, September 1, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

September 1, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Ellicott City for a bit over a month now. I am feeling much better after having been in the hospital for blood clots on my lungs. It was caused by a Deep Vein Thrombosis which itself, I am sure, was caused by too many flights. I felt it coming on when I was in South Korea on visitation, but I didn't realize what it was. I still have some visits to the doctors in this area. I hope that all of this will be over by the end of the month, but we will have to see. I have been using the morning for various writing and taping projects. I have finished my articles for the Messenger magazine in Padua until March, 2026. I wanted to finish a particular series upon which I was working on the companions of Jesus. Now I have to work a bit for the articles I do for a magazine in Kenya. I have managed to get ahead on my blogs on the daily readings, about a month in advance. The afternoons I am using to read and listen to courses, mostly from the Modern Scholar series. I have finished a number of books: The Graves are Walking by John Kelly This is the story of the potato famine in Ireland during the 19th century. The author speaks of the cause of the famine (both biological and sociological), of the reaction (and often lack thereof) to the suffering of the people by the British overlords, and the mass migration and suffering of those who left Ireland caused by that disaster. The book is well done. It is difficult to come to grips with the magnitude of the disaster, and the often callous response of the British (actually sending grain out of the country while people were starving, as well as expelling people from their fields in the midst of a famine). After Thermopylae by Paul Cartledge The premise of the author is that the battle of Platea (which followed the battles of Thermopylae and the naval battle at Salamis) has largely been forgotten, even though this was the definitive defeat of the Persian invasion in Greece. The problem is that he hardly deals with the battle. He speaks about the oath of Platea, supposedly an oath made to fight well at the battle, but probably a later invention to speak to the needs of a different situation. He speaks of many other things as well, but passes over the actual battle in a cursory manner. I really did not like this book all that much. The Battle of Shiloh by Hourly History This short history of the battle of Shiloh speaks about a battle that Grant and Sherman almost lost, being found unprepared for an attack by southern forces as they moved south after conquering a good part of western Tennessee. Introduction to the Qur’an by Professor Martyn Oliver This is a Great Courses presentation on the central book of Islam, the Qur’an. The professor gives a cursory overview of the history, previous sources, and meaning of this book. Oliver is a bit defensive in his presentation, possibly overemphasizing the idea that the radical Islamic interpretation of the book is not what was intended. Yet, the course offers a number of valuable insights. Joan of Arc by Helen Castor This is a very good biography of this famous French saint. The author speaks of her revelations in a highly respectful manner, never saying that they were definitely supernatural and never disclaiming this proposal. She speaks of the difficulties that Joan overcame in her effort to defend France against her enemies, England and Burgundy. Castor gives a good sense of the culture and history of these times, and also of the eventual overturning of her condemnation by a body of judges who were very nationalistic in their decisions. Horatio Nelson by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the hero of the navy during the Napoleonic Wars. He was brilliant as a war hero, but less than exemplary in his personal life (having an affair with a married woman, being incredibly self-referential and ambitious). Sam Houston by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the colorful character and friend of President Jackson who led the fight for independence in Texas and its eventual annexation to the United States. At times he was the president of Texas, its governor, and its senator. He fought the secession of Texas to join the Confederate States during the Civil War (although he himself owned slaves). Italy’s Most Powerful Mafias by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation of the various forms of the Mafia (Cosa Nostra, Ndrageta, etc.). The author speaks of the failure of the central government to deal with the problems which led to the growth of these movements. He even indicts the allies in World War II who used the Mafia to fight the Nazis and Fascists and then allowed the rebirth of the Mafia in Southern Italy (and eventually throughout the world). The History of Wales by History Nerds This is a short presentation of the history of this part of Great Britain from its earliest days until the present. The author gives enough information to have a good sense of the culture and history of Wales, without getting so involved in the presentation that he would lose his readers. Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst I thoroughly enjoy all of Furst’s books. They all deal with European countries in the 1930’s up to 1945. This particular volume speaks of a policeman in Salonika, Greece, just before the invasion of the Nazi’s. The hero is caught up in resistance activities even before the invasion, helping Jews to escape Nazi Germany and helping a British scientist to escape from occupied Paris. Furst has a talent to paint a picture that is totally foreign, yet totally believable. A History of British India by Hayden Bellenoit This is a Great Courses presentation on the history of the British involvement in India. It goes from the days of the first commercial enterprises until the day of Indian and Pakistani independence. It gives a balanced approach to the story. Even in topics such as Gandhi, the professor goes out of his way to be honest to the talents and difficulties of his approach. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this topic. Have a good week. Please continue to keep me in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude

Friday, August 11, 2023

Ellicott City

August 11, 2023 Peace and Good, This has been an interesting week. I had a health problem, blood clots on my lungs, probably brought on by a Deep Vein Thrombosis (whish was there due to my extensive travels in these years). I was in the hospital for five days, and am now in aftercare. The staff of the hospital were great. The friars and some of my friends in the area have been very caring and solicitous. I am at home now, slowly regaining my strength. With my temperament, I always want everything done yesterday, but I have to learn to slow down and rest until the body is ready for activity again. This means that my trip to California that was supposed to happen next week has been postponed. That is no big problem, for the friars at Ellicott City are very welcoming. Once I know a few more things about my health, I can speak with the provincial to try to map out the near future. I finished some books and courses: A Century of Immigration: 1824-1924 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is part of a series on American History which tries to present the story in an interesting manner. This particular volume deals with the arrival of the millions of immigrants from the early 19th century to the early 20th century. It speaks of the countries from which they came, how they slowly entered into American society, the opposition to new immigrants by some people and groups, etc. Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir This is a majestic account of the queens who reigned from the time of the Norman conquest of William the Conqueror till the days of Empress Maude, a period running from 1066 to the middle of the next century. Much of the information is drawn from bequests made to monasteries, etc., but there is also the source of biographies (very biased) of some of the people involved. Weir has done a great job of presenting the various women in a realistic manner. The British Raj by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the start of the British raj, its growth, and its eventual end after World War II. Mass gives quite a bit of attention to the East India Company which was supposedly a trading company, but which slowly conquered most of what became Pakistan and India. Their role was taken over by the British government after a rebellion in the mid 19th century. Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs This is one of the volumes in the Pendergast series who is a remarkable FBI agent who must search for a son who is a mass murderer and a genetic experiment by a band of Nazi’s in Brazil. He did not even know he was the father of this son and his twin brother. The story is not always believable, but always entertaining. Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World by Thomas Cahill This is an overview of the period of the renaissance in Europe. It deals with politics, religion, art, literature, etc. Cahill is a great author. He does have a bit of an anti-institutional attitude toward the Church, but overall gives a balance overview of developments in the early 16th century. The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan by Gregory Feifer This is a great history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its failure. Thee author gives a tremendous amount of information as to the Soviet motives, the Afghan communists’ intentions, and the reaction of the Islamic warriors who fought back. Feifer is able to balance the stories of major historic movements as well as individuals. He gives a good picture of the horror visited upon the Afghan civilians, of the mines purposely planted to kill children, etc. Colonial Horrors ed by Graeme Davis This is a collection of many of the early horror stories of colonial America. Some of them are familiar, others were all but unknown to the modern world. There are stories of ghosts, of possessions by demons, of buried treasure, of normal jealousy, etc. The style of the stories is a bit baroque, but overall they are good. Village of Islands by Jim Shepard This is a novella concerning a group of veterans who were sent to the Florida Keys during the depression. An unexpected hurricane hits the Keys and devastates their camp, killing many of them and many of the local residents. This is also the story of the lack of preparation for this event, even when the managers responsible had received warning of the coming hurricane. The Last Days of Stalin by Joshua Rubenstein This is a presentation of the last days of Stalin, his death, and what happened after his death. Because Stalin was so tyrannical, his successors were hesitant to voice their opinions (which is also true given the intensive competition among the members of the Politburo). The author gives a very good account of the larger movements as well as the personal remembrances of those involved. Livable Cities by Mark Alan Hughes This is one of the shorter Great Courses presentations. It speaks of the benefits of city life, of the possibilities of making the citizens of cities part of the decision-making process, of techniques to make cities more livable, etc. The presenter is quite good, although I wonder how possible some of his suggestions are. Have a good week. Please say a prayer for my health. Shalom fr. Jude

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

July 27, 2023 Peace and Good, I has been a nice, quite week. I have been getting caught up with articles for the Messenger Magazine in Padua, Italy (done until March of next year) and of the daily reflections. I'm at the point with both of them that I can put them on the side for a few days at least. I took a trip up to Totowa, New Jersey these days to visit my publisher. It was good to get out of the house and travel a bit, even if there was a tremendous amount of trafic and construction everywhere I went. I have finished one set of medical procedures, and next week I have to arrange for another CAT scan that was requested by one of my doctors. Today we have the birthday of one of the friars at the other friary on the property, fr. Hillary. He is 85 years old. fr. Hillary is as excentric as they come, but a fund excentric. He used to have a lot of adult education courses in the parishes in which he served, and people would flock to the courses. I finished some reading and listening: The Agency: A History of the CIA by Hugh Wilford This is a Teaching Company course on the history of the CIA from the days of its founding (and its predecessor agency, the OSS) to the present. It gives an explanation of how an information gathering agency began to interfere in the policies and governments of other countries (and a spate of spying on its own citizens, something strictly against its own rules). The professor gives a good overview without either overly defending or attacking the agency. Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci Two different groups chase after a Ukrainian plutocrat who was a KGB monster, killing thousands and thousands. One of the groups goes after master murderers to kill them for their crimes. The other group is a US government agency concerned that he was selling nuclear fuel to Arab terrorists. They meet and slowly form a united effort. The action is quite good, and the character development is quite good. Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston I usually read the books written by Douglas Preston together with Lincoln Childs. This one was only by Preston and it is quite good. It is the story of his journey with a companion by horse to the sites visited by Coronado when he explored the Southwest looking for the cities of gold. The book is both an adventure story (real and not fictional) and a history lesson of the encounter of the Spanish culture and the Indigenous peoples living there. Unfortunately, it is a tragic story of oppression and misunderstandings. The Culper Ring by Hourly History This is the story of a group of spies that George Washington organized in New York City during the Revolutionary War to inform him of British intentions. They were able to warn him both of a faint that the British were intending and a possible attempt to kidnap and kill him. The Third Chimpanzee: = the Evolution and the Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond Jared Diamond’s books are all filled with an incredible amount of information. The third chimpanzee in the title is the human being. Diamond speaks of the various abilities of humans and where they came from (e.g. sight, speech, cultural characteristics, etc.). He speaks of dangers in the past and those which are in the future (nuclear disaster, environmental degradation). I would highly recommend this book and Diamond’s other volumes. The Golden Age (of the Netherlands) by Kelly Mass This speaks of the period of Dutch history when the Netherlands was experiencing a most favorable trade climate and was extending its influence through a colonial empire. As always, these presentations are the bare bones approach to the topic. Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible: Baruch, Additions to Daniel, Manasseh, Psalm 151 by John Schmitt, etc. This is an exegesis of the above mentioned books. The approach is highly exegetical, and the overall presentation in a number of the volumes in the set of commentaries is not quite as present. I found the presentation on Baruch the most useful. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson by David Reynolds This is an extensive presentation on the history and culture of the United States during the age of Jackson and in the years immediately after his presidency. It covers questions of trade, religion, territorial expansion, treatment of the indigenous, etc. The presentation is very well organized, and the volume definitely worth one’s time. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling I had heard that the later volumes in the Harry Potter series were darker, and that is certainly the truth of this last volume of the series. I found the story good. Harry is certainly presented as a Christlike figure in this book, but the story handles well the conflicted emotions of the main characters as they confront an impossible situation. Red October by Douglas Boyd I thought this was going to be the story of a submarine named the Red October, but it turned out to be the story of the first Red October, the communist revolution in Russia. The author does a great job of presenting the main characters in the drama. He covers the main points of what happened. The only shortfall I felt was that the description of the actual revolutionary days is a bit hasty. Have a good Weekend. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, July 17, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

July 17, 2023 Peace and Good, It is so good to put just one city in the title of this blog. I have been in Ellicott City, beginning my time of rest before I begin a new apostolate (I don't know what that will be yet). This past Wednesday I had sinus surgery. They had discovered a total blockage in my right sinus when they were doing CAT scans to see what my neuropathy problem was. I could not address it then because the surgeon wanted me to spend three weeks without any flights, and that was just not possible til recently. The surgery went very well, with nothing more than a sore throat and a headache. The staff, the doctor, etc. were all tremendous. I have an appointment with the doctor this coming Wednesday. I will be here in the Baltimore area until mid-August, and then head out to our novitiate in California. There I will spend a few months, writiing a bit and just taking it easy. There have been so many trips in these years that I just need time to physically recover a bit. Already, I have found that several times a day I say to myself that I should get busy and do something, and then I tell myself that I don't have to do it. That is a good feeling. I finished some reading and listening: Executing the Rosenbergs by Lori Clune This book covers the trial and the execution of the Rosenbergs, the atomic spies executed by the US during the 1950’s. The author especially covers the reaction to the execution in countries throughout the world. She does not try to defend either them or the government, being willing to admit that Julius Rosenberg was a spy (the wife was a bit more ambiguous) and that the government mishandled the whole affair, giving the communists a press victory. The Middle East by Wendy McElroy This is a short presentation of the Middle East, especially in the 20th century. Honestly, it is more of a presentation on the history of Israel and its relations with the surrounding Arab nations. The presentation is good, but it is not what it advertises itself to be. John the Baptist by Raymond Collins This is a learn25 presentation on the person of John the Baptist. The professor gives an exegetical presentation from the writings of the New Testament, mentioning those few other early documents that speak of him (e.g. Josephus). The presentations did not give me a lot of new information, but confirmed what I already knew about the topic. George Patton by Hourly History This is a good, short presentation on the highly controversial World War II general who even the Nazi’s considered to be the best general on the Allies side. The short book presents elements of his genius, but also those elements that proved to be self-destructive. It avoids needless speculation on his death (e.g. conspiratorial theories involving the Soviets, the US government, etc.). Between the Rivers: the History of Ancient Mesopotamia by Alexis Castor This is a 24 lecture presentation on the history of the land that today is called Iraq and Syria. The professor is excellent, and she gave a number of lectures that went beyond dates and names. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, and learned quite a bit from it. Stonewall Jackson by Hourly History This is a very quick presentation on the life and military career of Stonewall Jackson. In such a short book, it is difficult to really know the person, and this is no exception. The book comes across as an outline rather than a story of the person. The Apollo 1 Disaster by Charles River Editors This is a presentation on the disaster that struck the practice launch of Apollo I A fire broke out in the capsule, and in the oxygen rich environment, quickly killed the three astronauts there. Unfortunately, the author of this presentation simply copied document after document concerning the investigations, making the read quite boring. The Apis Bull by Charles River Editors This is one of those short treatments on a specific topic by Charles River Editors. In this case, it is the story of the Apis bull which was considered to be sacred in ancient Egypt. It had to have certain markings on it, and was kept in luxury until its death, after which it was mummified. Even its mother was treated with great respect. At the end of the Hellenistic era, it took on a new identity as the Serapis. The cult went on until the early days of the Christian era. The Genius of Earth Day by Adam Rome This is a short course from the Teaching Company on the first earth day (what led up to it, what happened that day, and the long term consequences). The author is very much a fan of the movement, but he does not go overboard too much in his account. Dante by R.W.B. Lewis This is a very nice biography of Dante. It does not deal only with the Divine Comedy as many books on Dante tend to do. It speaks of his background, his politics, his reason for writing his various works, etc. It is not a very long book, but it is packed with insight. The Sacco Gang by Andrea Camilleri I have read a number of books by Camilleri. He writes about a police investigator who often has to deal with the Mafia in his home of Sicily. This book speaks about a family that fought the Mafia and who were attacked by them and by the authorities who hid the Mafia deeds for pay. They spent many years in prison for crimes that the Mafia actually committed. Lord Haw-haw by Charles River Editors This is a biography of the life and career of an American (British?) man who served as a propaganda dispenser in English during the Second World War. He hated the British aristocrats (possibly because he could not break into their circle) and berated them and the Jews and anyone else who came into his sphere. He was executed for treason at the end of the war. Jefferson Davis by Hourly History This is a short history of the first and only president of the Confederate States. It does not go into very much detail, especially during the Civil War years when it would have been interesting to know what he thought of his military leaders, etc. Nevertheless, it was a nice outline of his life. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Rome - Ellicott City, MD

July 4, 2023 Happy Independence Day, The last couple of weeks in Rome were grueling with two week long meetings, the first a definitory with a meeting of the presidents of the federations throughout the world and the second a meeting with half of the provincials of the world at the half way point in the present six year terms of the Minister General. On the 28th, I flew back to the States through Germany. Fortunately, we were only about 45 minutes late, compared with the incredible delays so many have suffered in these days. I will be at Ellicott City until August 16th, and then fly out to California for some R and R. On the 13th of this month I have a minor operation on my sinuses which I have been putting off due to the travel requirements I had as Assistant General. As of July 1st, I am finished with that responsibility. I don't really know what the long term future holds, but the next months have to be recovering from the wear and tear of 13 years of constant travel. We had the funeral of one of our friars yesterday at Annunciation Parish in Baltimore, fr. Joseph Bayne. He did suddenly of a heart attack. He did great work with runaway young men in Buffalo for years, and recently had been the assistant at our Postulancy program in Chicago. I finshed some reading and listening: European Thought in the 20th Century by Lloyd Kramer This is a teaching company course that speaks about major philosophical movements in Europe during the 20th century, from the isms to the post-modernistic era. The professor does not advocate one position or another. He simply presents the ideas and the major proponents of those ideas. Ben Gurion by Simon Peres This is a biographical account of the first leader of Israel. Ben Gurion is presented with his strengths and his flaws. Those who worked with him often found him to be autocratic, but some of that was needed in the crisis of the early years of Israel’s existence. Peres, who himself became a prime minister, gives an inside view of many of the events that made Israel what it is today. The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss Strauss is one of three authors on Roman history whom I truly enjoy. He gives a tremendous amount of background information without ever becoming pedantic. He paints a picture that explains the what and the why of whatever happened. I could easily recommend this volume. The Mongols by Kelly Mass This is a short history of the Mongols who proved to be such a horror to the nations which they assaulted. They came out of the Mongolian plateau at the end of the 12th century AD, and conquered much of the Muslim world, reaching the doors of Europe before they finally turned back. Unlike many other conquerors, they never really intended to set up and govern an empire as much as put the surrounding states in tribute to them. Christ, the Heart of Creation by Rowan Williams This is one of the most profound books I have ever read. He deals with high metaphysics and very esoteric theories, but he does so in a brilliant manner. This is the first time I truly understand the Hypostatic Union, not as a joining of two separate natures but as the divine subsuming itself in the human (for the divine contains everything that exists). I had to read this very slowly to understand as much as I could, which was probably no more than 1/3, but I would gladly read anything Rowan Williams (the former Archbishop of Canterbury) again. The Joy of Science by Robert Hazen This is a very long (60 lectures), very good overview of the modern conception of the scientific view of the universe. It deals with innumerable topics, from atoms to evolution to the history of science to the most modern conceptions of science. The professor is good and clear in his presentations, even though I had to really think about some of the topics (e.g. quantum physics). A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 US Invasion of Mexico by Amy Greenberg This is a long consideration of the reaction of the people of the States to the initiation and fighting of the Mexican American war. It was clearly a war initiated by the States in order to conquer territory (most of the southwest and California, for Texas had already been annexed). It deals with the main figures involved in the debate, Clay and Polk and a newly elected representative named Abraham Lincoln. The book mentions the fighting, but the real drama is on the home front. Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon Donna Leon is clearly one of my favorite authors. She writes about a police investigator in Venice. Brunetti has a wonderful relationship with his wife who is a college professor in literature. He is not a super sleuth, but rather an honest, insightful investigator. This volume deals with questions about sex tourism and drug manipulation. It also has a good read of the complexities of the Italian bureaucracy. It is, as always, a great read. The Maroons by Charles River Editors This is an account of the communities of run away slaves at the edge of civilization in any country that imported a large number of African slaves. This includes the US (Virginia, Florida, Louisiana), Brazil and Jamaica. At times, the run aways established large communities that were loosely associated with neighboring plantations, etc. Most of these communities were built on land that no one wanted (swamp land, the mountains, etc.). The Russian Civil War by Hourly History This is the account of the warfare between the forces of the white (anti-Bolsheviks) and the reds (Bolsheviks). The whites were aided by outside powers, especially Great Britain, the US, and Japan. The war was incredibly bloody, and also disastrous for the people who needed a dependable source of food, especially after the lack of food during the First World War. Sulla and Gaius Marius by Charles River Editors In the first century B.C., there were two Roman empires who seized power through the use of their legionary armies. Maius was mostly known as a populist. He was a very good general who defeated barbarian invasions in the north. But he despised Sulla, and he killed many of his followers. In revenge, Sulla, one of the upper class, conquered Rome and killed many, many of Marius’ followers (as well as anyone who was rich enough to want dead). He made himself dictator for life, but then resigned not many years after that. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Seoul - Rome

June 20, 2023 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome these past couple of weeks, but constantly in meetings. Right now I am taking part of an assembly of half of the major superiors of the Order (the other half met in January). This is taking place at our seminary in EUR, a suburb of Rome. Only a couple of the participants are from the States. The majority of them cam in January. The weather has changed and it is early summer, quite warm. We have had some odd rainy days, odd for this time of year which is usually quite dry. I will be in Rome for a little more than a week, and then back to the States. My first month and a half will be in Ellicott City, Maryland, for some minor medical care. Then off to California where I will help to baby sit our novitiate (for there will be no novice class this coming year). I have finished some reading: The Eighty Years War by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the war of independence that Holland waged against the Spanish Empire which, at that time, was the overlord of the country. It involved religious questions, for the north, which today is Netherlands, is today mostly Calvinist, while the south, which today is Belgium, is mostly Catholic. England got involved now and then, somewhat to protect Protestants, but mostly to annoy Spain. Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny by Michael Broers This is a very long account of the life and career of Napoleon. The author goes into great depth to describe the various political and cultural forces that Napoleon had to deal with. Oddly enough, he ends the book long before the invasion of Russia and the end of Napoleon’s career and life. What he has written about, he has written well. In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire by Adrian Goldsworthy This is an account of some of the most important generals in the history of Rome. The accounts are well done. It is typical of one of Goldsworthy’s books, who is an excellent historian on the topic of Rome. He tells who they were, what they did, and perhaps most importantly, why. Attila the Hun by Kelly Mass This is a short account of the life and activities of the famous Hun who is still considered to be one of the most ferocious barbarian to have invaded Europe. The author gives what details are known about Attila, attempting to show which legends are not reliable. World War I: the Sacrifice of a Generation by History Nerds The history nerds put together accounts that are far reaching. They present more a series of factoids than a well developed narrative. Nevertheless, the presentation is well done and provides ample information. Chekhov: 11 Stories This is a series of stories written by the famous 19th century Russian author. I found the narrative filled with endless dialog (which is more romantic phrases than true dialog). I cannot say that I will be looking for more of Chekhov’s writings. The Birth of the Modern Mind by Alan Charles Kors This is a long great courses series on the birth of the enlightenment and thought in the 18th and 19th centuries. The professor says over and over again that his presentation is not based upon what he himself believes, but rather what the character that he is covering believes. He does a very good job of presenting the various authors and movements, especially in Great Britain and France. Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War: 1831-1861 by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier This is a historic account of slavery in the United States and how it was a cause of the Civil War (no matter what some revisionists would say). The series by the Colliers is written to present history in a manner that it is palatable, without too many dates and names that just confound those interested in the topics covered by these authors. White Nights by Fyodor Dostoyevsky This is a short novel about a man with no true goals and no realistic view of the world who meets a woman whom he thinks he wants as his wife. She, herself, is pining for a lost love who returns. I have been readings some of Chekhov’s stories, and both he and Dostoyevsky present dialogs that are flowery and never end. Dictators Without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia by Alexander Booley and John Heathershaw This is a presentation of the Central Asian dictators (former Soviet Union republics) that are ruled by dictators who use the international banking system to hide their horrendous rape of their countries. They even use systems like Interpol to arrest their political opponents. One of the confusing elements is that those opponents were themselves often thieves who pillaged the country before they were exiled. The presentation is well done. Ancient Rome: the Rise and the Fall of an Empire by Simon Baker This is a long, very well written history of the Roman Empire. Baker is one of those ancient historians who can tell an involved story without ever making it boring. I would recommend this presentation, which was based on a BBC series, to anyone interested in this topic. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude