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


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