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 (audible.com, chirp.com, the Great Courses, the Modern Scholar, Learn 25. Librivox.com, 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