Thursday, May 23, 2024

Chicago - Ellicott City

May 23, 2024 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. Since I have been back from Chicago, I have been at home. I had my third immunotherapy treatment this past Monday. I have some small aches and pains, but none of them is serious and I bring all of them to the attention of my treatment team at the hospital. I cannot describe how kind and compassionate they have all been at Johns Hopkins. I really feel as if they see me as a person and not another anonymous patient to care for. I am beginning a translation of a short Italian children's New Testament for my publisher. It should only take a week or two to finish the text. I am now well ahead in daily scripture reflections (up to early July). I have been helping out more at the Shrine with confessions and Masses. I am still limited in what I can do in terms of energy. After an hour of confessions and celebrating a Mass, I have to rest for a while to do anything else. I am getting more and more concerned with the strange weather we have been experiencing over these past months. It is clearly a sign of climate change. One can argue whether it is a natural pattern or at least partially man made, but something is happening. While our country can probably deal with it for a while, some poorer countries will be devastated for they do not have the extra resources to tide them over. I have finished some reading/listening: Lex Talionis by Michael Prescott This is a novella about a man who loses his wife giving birth to a child, and then the child’s death at the hands of an inattentive driver. He is losing his mind until one night he meets a mysterious figure in his bedroom who promises to bring back his daughter if he kill someone in the next forty-eight hours. This leads to terrible qualms of conscience and a creative solution. Louis Pasteur by Charles River Editors This is the biography of the great French scientist Louis Pasteur. We still use his name in the term pasteurization which is used for the treatment of raw milk and beer. He invented the vaccine against rabbis, and worked on many practical problems that plagues French agriculture. The Kassites by Charles River Editors This is a little know people who conquered Mesopotamia and held it for around two hundred years in the period after the great Babylonian state and before the conquest of the Assyrians. I have often heard of this people but never knew much about them. This short book was very helpful. The Reconstruction Era by Hourly History This is the story, somewhat tragic, of the south from the end of the Civil War until a decade later when the federal troops were pulled out of those states. It especially deals with the problem of violence and intimidation against the blacks in the south which effectively prohibited them from voting and which subjected them to Jim Crow laws which established segregation. Myth in Human History by Grant Voth This is a Teaching Company Course of myths across the world. The professor establishes certain patterns that one would expect to see in myths. These, for example, include the stories of the jester who breaks all the rules, but who yet manages to assist humankind, even if that was not the jester’s main purpose. This overview provides some insight into the books of Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade. The Ancient Libyans by Charles River Editors The book speaks about the ancient tribes who came to be known collectively as the Libyans. They lived to the west of Egypt during the ancient era, almost ever as a danger and even invading and conquering the land for a while. Eventually, many of them became incorporated into Egyptians culture (as seen by the names of some Egyptian officials). The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz by Charles River Editors This is a short book on a church in Spain that was transformed into a Mosque, and then when the land was reconquered by Christians, remade into a Church. One of the most important elements in this story is the cross which had been hidden behind a wall during the time of the conquest, but which revealed itself by shining a light through a crack in the wall. Pet Sematary by Stephen King This is a typical Stephen King book, full of suspense and even horror, but also filled with tremendously good writing. The story is of a man who finds a cemetery which can bring pets back to life, but they are somehow changed in the process. His young son dies, and he buries him in the cemetery with horrific results. Brother of Jesus, Friend of God by Luke Timothy Johnson This is a series of essays collected by Luke Timothy Johnson on the Letter of James. Some deal with authorship and dating. Others deal with the literary form and the moral lessons found throughout the text. Some, unfortunately, are highly specific and not especially interesting except for those who are interested in a particular verse or two. Overall, it is a good resource. Defiance by C.J. Redwine This is the story of a large group of Jews who fled the ghettoes of Belarus and lived in the forests. The primary purpose was survival, but they also served as partisans, especially when they came under the authority of the Soviet government. Unlike other partisan groups, this one accepted the poor, the young and old, women, etc. – people who in general could not fight. The book is a bit repetitive at times, but the story is great. In Distant Lands by Lars Brownsworth This is an account of the various crusades in the Middle East. The author is very honest about the motivation of many of the crusaders (at times salvation, at times adventure, at times plunder). He is honest about the deviations that caused great scandal even in those days (the sack of Constantinople, the murder of Jews along the way, etc.). He shows how the hold on conquered territory was always tenuous due to the shortage of men and women who would settle there. He also speaks of some of the bone headed mistakes made by Christian and Muslim forces. The Modern Scholar: Hebrews, Greek and Romans: Foundations of Western Civilization by Timothy Shutt This is a quick overview of the influence of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman cultures upon our modern culture today. That is an incredibly large amount of material to cover in one single course, and the best the professor can do is give highlights here and there. The course is good, but superficial. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Monday, May 6, 2024

Ellicott City - Chicago

May 6, 2024 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. As you can see above, I have travelled for the first ime in months. I am in Chicago until this afternoon, having offered a workshop on the writings of St. Paul to our postulants. (Postulancy is the first year in the process of becoming a friar, and it is followed by novitiate.) I very much enjoyed this time, and was able to speak to some friars whom I had not seen for quite some time. The presentations went well, but I do feel a bit wiped by the effort of the travel, etc. It is clear to me that while I am getting better, it will be a while before I can give a retreat or a parish renewal. I have to take it step by step. I have been given a new project by my publisher, to translate an Italian children's Bible. I love doing that kind of work, and I can do it at my own pace. When I get back to Ellicott City, I will be helping out more with daily Mass and convessions at the shrine. It is only one more month before I get the big CT scan to see how the radiation and chemo worked. It will be good to know where I stand. I finished some reading, listening and viewing: The Modern Scholar: Six Months that Changed the World by Dr. Margaret MacMillan This is a truly tremendous coverage of the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I. The professor makes clear how complex the negotiations were (especially with the establishment of new nations and new borders). She speaks of the influence of the various main negotiators. She speaks of how an open conference became one held in small meetings with the major countries making decisions for everyone. She speaks of the successes and failures of the conference, especially of the fact that Germany was not even invited into the negotiations and thus considered the harsh conditions imposed upon it to be unfair (a slogan that was used in the leadup to World War II). Lincoln by Edwin Grosvenor This is an American Heritage short biography of Lincoln. The audio was only a couple of hours long, so the presentation is, at best, sketchy and rushed. The American Revolution: 1763-1783 by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier This is part of an American History series done by the Colliers to present history in a way that does not overwhelm students of these topics. The presentations are clear and incisive. Enough information is given to get a good sense of the topic without overwhelming those using the books. The Body and the Blood by Michael Lister This is the third volume by Lister I have read. His protagonist is a chaplain, former policeman who is in the 12 step program for alcoholism. He is a chaplain at a prison, and is often called upon to do law enforcement investigations as well. He is very introspective, and often speaks of how he is torn by the various elements of his complicated life. The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research by Dorsey Armstrong A few years ago, I listened to a Great Courses presentation by Dorsey Armstrong on the Black Death. This shorter course is a type of corrective of the original course based on the latest medical/archaeological/historic evidence. While most of Armstrong’s original theories were seen to be acceptable, some had to be corrected significantly. Also, since this course was taped during the covid pandemic, Armstrong was able to speak of how we could better identify with what happened in a pandemic which killed 80% of those infected – as opposed to covid that killed around 2 %). Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom This is an account of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Groom is a good author of war topics, and this book is well written and informative. Judges (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary) by David Beldman This is a tremendously good commentary. I had never studied the Book of Judges, and the superficial views I had on the stories contained therein were confronted to a much more profound treatment of the topics. The judges (leaders) of Israel proved to be very flawed men and women. Rather than being a book which approved of the coming monarchy, it proves to be a call to have Yahweh as the only king of Israel. This was especially important because it was written after the Babylonian exile when it appeared that the Jews would never again have their own king. Grave Descend by Michael Crichton This is a short book about a man who is hired to dive into a sunken boat to recover a couple of precious items. The hire is a set up that only slowly unfolds. The diver and his friend are put in a very, very dangerous position as they are being used as pawns to be sacrificed to the Mafia. The Judas Gate by Jack Higgins This is the first volume of a series by Higgins (his pen name – his real name is Henry Patterson). This one involves the IRA along with the Islamist movement in Afghanistan but also in Great Britain. His books are always entertaining, but not too deep. A Franciscan Retreat by Michael Crosby This is not the first course by Crosby that I have listened to, but I hope it is the last. He has many good things to say, but they are often couched in politically correct and relevant vocabulary. He is also an expert in economics, so he feels he has to use economic vocabulary all throughout his presentation. The Life of Moses by Stephen Reid This is a learn25 course on the life and career of Moses. It gives a good outline and deals with some critical moments and their importance, but it is not especially profound in its treatment of the topic. The War of Three Gods: Romans, Persians and the Rise of Islam by Peter Crawford This is the story of the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire and the rise of the Arabs. The Byzantines and Persians were wasting their energy on pointless wars between themselves and within each of the empires (usually having to do with succession issues). This book explains how the Arab invasion could be so spectacularly successful within such a short period of time. The Utah War by Charles River Editors This was an area about which I knew hardly anything. It speaks about the birth of the Mormon Church and how it was persecuted in its early days, having to flee when neighboring communities attacked them (because of their cultish status, and especially the practice of polygamy). Just before the Civil War, President Buchanan sent troops to attack them in Utah. Through some fortunate turns of fate and the good office of some men who risked their life to prevent a disaster, the possible war was stopped before it blew up. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude