Sunday, January 7, 2024

Ellicott City

January 6 The Epiphany Peace and Good, Well, winter has arrived in Baltimore, but so far it has meant cold weather and rain. We did not get any snow in the storm that just passed over the East Coast. I have been visiting one doctor after another in these days. I had a video chat with my oncologist this past Friday, and I am going to start radiation therapy as soon as it can be arranged. I fully expected this, for the surgeon was not able to remove the tumor in my lung. They are still not quite sure of what it is. There are some more test results on the way, so hopefully this will help them to identify it and treat it in the best way possible. I am so grateful for all the people who have reached out with cards and letters and prayers in these weeks. It has been very consoling. I have a post-op visit with my surgeon this Thursday. I am still feeling a lot of discomfort from the last surgery. The surgeon had warned me that this might be the case. I have finished some reading and listening: Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations by Brian Fagan This is a series of 24 lectures that run from the very beginning of humanity in Africa up to the dawn of the various ancient civilizations in Asia, America, Africa and Europe. Fagan is well informed and interesting. Verona by Jeffery Deaver This is a short novel based on Romeo and Juliet in which the son of one mob boss and the daughter of a Chinese gang fall in love and have to deal with their fathers who suspect that the other mob is using the kids to steal confidential information about their own moves. It has a bit of a surprise ending. The End of Empire by Christopher Kelly This is an account of the relationship between the Roman Empires (Western and Eastern) and the Huns, especially Attila. The author speaks of the internal weaknesses of the empires, and of the ferocious fighting spirit of the Huns. Ironically, the Romans had to depend upon the assistance of other barbarians in France in order to defeat the Huns. Men of Fire by Jack Hurst This is the account of Grant’s offensive to take Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson at the beginning of the Civil War. He was hampered by enemies who tried to get him removed from his responsibilities, accusing him of drunkenness (probably unjustly) and other military failures. He was one of the first to coordinate the movements of the army and navy in his assaults. The book is well written. The Severin Dynasty by Charles River Editors This is an account of the not all that long lasting dynasty begun by Septimius Severus at the end of the 2nd century A.D. and the beginning of the 3rd century. One of the most fascinating facts about this dynasty is how a series of women (originally from Syria) who were the wives and mothers of the emperors were really the power behind the throne. Agent Garbo by Stephan Talty This is a great account of a Spanish double agent who the Germans thought was their most important asset in Great Britain during World War II but who was all the time working for the allies. He even established a whole network of imaginary agents who helped misdirect the German defense efforts (e.g. the site of the D-Day landing). The Start of World War I by Charles River Editors This is a short account of the beginning of the First World War. The first part if very good, but the author then goes on to give an overview of the fighting on the Western Front (all but ignoring all the fighting that occurred in other areas of combat (e.g. the Eastern Front, Africa, the Pacific, etc.). I got the impression that the author completed his topic in too few pages and therefore padded his account by adding the Western Front material. Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 by Max Hastings Hastings is a great war author. I have read a number of his books and have never been disappointed. This is true of this masterful (but very long) treatment of the Vietnam War. Hastings works at being fair to all of the parties involved. He has a large number of important remembrances from people who fought or were affected by the fighting. I would recommend this book to anyone who is ready to invest a considerable amount of time in reading it. Early Christianity: The Experience of the Divine by Luke Timothy Johnson This is a course on the beginning of Christianity from the Great Courses Company. Johnson is a great professor. He is very middle of the road in his interpretations. He now teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, but he was originally a Benedictine Monk. In this course, he speaks of the various forms of Christianity as well as the cultural influences from the Greek and Roman world. The Beatitudes: How to Understand and Live Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by Michael Crosby This is a course from the Learn25 series of lectures. I have to admit that I did not like it at all. Much more than a course on the beatitudes. It was a series of reflections on Crosby’s own life that was lightly associated with the beatitudes. I would gladly recommend most of Learn25’s courses, but not this one. The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten This is a book which is the main text for the film about Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. The author is very honest in his praise and criticism of the two men, not running away from their difficult past (e.g. Benedict’s seeming amnesia of the Hitler era, Francis’ seeming collaboration with the Argentinian authorities during the murderous dirty war). He explains their various moves, especially dealing with the Roman Curia and the practice of the faith. The Trials of Five Queens by R. Storry Deans This is a rather old British book about the trials of various queens, such as Anne Boleyn and Queen Mary of Scotland and Marie Antoinette. The book is factual, giving actual testimony, but this only makes it a bit boring. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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