Thursday, June 20, 2024

Ellicott City

hJune 20 Peace and Good, Summer has arrived early in Baltimore. Today will hit the 90's. Of course, there is an irony that it is hotter in New England. The climate has been crazy this Spring. Floods, heat, fires, etc. I really believe that while part of the change might be due to natural causes, it is still true that our multiplication of Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere is having a big effect. I have been in Ellicott City since my last blog. This Saturday I gave a presentation on prayer in St. Anthony at our Shrine. This is a year of prayer in preparation for our Holy Year next year, a year of a pilgrimage of hope. I outlined the ideas presented in St. Anthony's writings concerning how we come to a true prayer life. The talk went well, and at the end I invited whoever wanted to come to the conference room to ask any questions about the faith that they wanted. That was even better. I hope to do this more often in the future. This Sunday I will fly up to Buffalo to visit family and friends. I decided to fly because it is an 8 hour drive (a bit long for my energy level) and I have tons of frequent flyer miles on Southwest. I finished a project for our friars in Assisi. They are celebrating the centennial of the stigmata of St. Francis, and they prepared a demonstration based on a document that St. Francis himself wrote right around that time. It is a Praise of the Most High God on one side of a piece of parchment and a blessing for one of the friars on the other. I had my fourth immunotherapy on Monday. Eight more to go. This does not affect me as much as the chemo and radiation, but there are still some small side-effects (sleep, digestion, etc.). I finished some reading and listening: William Wallace by History Nerds This is the story of the famous Scottish hero who was portrayed in the film Braveheart by Mel Gibson. Admittedly, there are gaps in information given to the lack of documents in this era (which tended to be produced by monasteries, and also by the victors in the various battles). The Persian Invasion of Greece by Arthur Keaveney This is an overview of the relationship between Greece and Persia, between the West and the East over centuries from the golden age of Greece to the time of Alexander the Great. While not exhaustive, the book is well done and gives a very good outline of the various events. Sea Monsters: A History of Creatures from the Haunted Deep in Legend and Lore by Charles River Editors This is a short overview of many of the accounts of sightings of sea creatures. Most of the book is first hand accounts which tend to be repetitive and not all that informative. The author does speak a bit about scientific theories of what is being seen, but that part of the treatment is relatively light.+ The Incas: Inside an American Empire by Terence D’Altroy This is a tremendous course from Modern Scholar on the Inca people. The professor presents an overview of their history, a treatment of their religious beliefs, a sociological presentation on their culture, a study of their architecture, agriculture, etc. This is a topic of which I knew relatively little, and I feel fully rewarded in having listened to this course. Seven Skeletons by Lydia Payne This is the account of various archeological finds of human skeletons and how they influenced the public’s attitude toward archaeology and evolution. These include Lucy, Peking Man, Hobbit, etc. The account is presented in a light manner to the scientific element of the account is not overwhelming. The Napoleonic Wars by History Nerds This is just a short outline of the rise and fall of Napoleon and the various alliances he formed and battles he fought. The account recognizes his military genius, but also his cruel indifference to the sufferings of the people who were victims to his overwhelming ambition and pride. Pilgrims and Puritans 1620-1676 by Christopher and James Lawrence Collier This is an account of the arrival of the Pilgrims (religious exiles from England) and the Puritans (a group more Calvinistic in their approach of state and religion). They wanted to build a heavenly Jerusalem on the earth. Some of what they did was laudatory, some of it not so much. They were incredibly judgmental and cruel to religious dissidents (which is odd considering that they, themselves, were fleeing religious persecution). They did not always have a good relationship with native Americans. Blessed Fr. Solanus Casey: An Inspiration for Our Faith by Dan Crosby This is a learn25 course on the life of Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin from the mid-west who was beloved by the people whom he served. He was famous for being willing to listen to anyone’s problems and offer spiritual advise, he helped to feed the poor, and he was responsible for many, many miraculous events throughout his life. Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient World by Robert Garland This is a Teaching Company course on individual events in ancient history from various nations around the world. The professor is entertaining, and the 24 lessons seemed to be too little given the talent of story telling that Garland has. Lotharingia by Simon Winder This is an interesting book that is difficult to classify. It deals with the portion of Europe that makes up Eastern France and Western Germany along with the territories in between. It is part travelogue, part history book, part a reader on the local cultures in this area. This is one of three volumes written in a similar genre (the others being Danubia and Germania). I enjoyed the book, even in the author’s ramblings which at times wandered here and there. C.S. Lewis: Christology and Cosmology by David Fagerberg This Learn25 course goes through the various writings of C.S. Lewis, especially his Narnia volumes, and describes the Christology contained therein. I cannot say that I am that interested in reading the Narnia cycle, but this short course provided me with the information I need to know what it is all about. The professor is extremely well informed about Lewis’ writings, and about their deeper theological significance. The Louvre by Charles River Editors This is a short history of the famous Parisian Museum. It began as a royal palace, but over the years evolved into a center for the collection of artworks of the royal family, and then as a museum open to all. The account speaks of its various collections of sculpture, paintings and prints and other documents. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Ellicott City

June 12, 2024 Peace and Good, I have some very good news. I had my CT scan this past Monday, and the doctors who examined the results said that I am in remission with my lung cancer. They cannot be sure that everything is complete, so I will continue immunotherapy for the next nine month, with CT scans every three months to see how things are going. But this was a very positive development. I also had a bit of a setback when I developed vertigo last Friday. I was taken to the hospital. This is the first time that I have suffered from it, so it was very confusing and, given my history of cancer, frightening. It turns out that it does not seem to be related to the cancer. It is strange, but I feel that it has given me one more thing by which I can emphatize with people who are suffering from this ailment. I finished my translation of the Italian Children's New Testament stories. I am now working on a presentation for Saturday on prayer in the life of St. Anthony (whose feast is tomorrow). His feastday is tomorrow, but we have a day of recollection on Saturday when more people are free in St. Anthony's honor. This is the year of prayer in preparation for the Holy Year in 2025. I have finished some reading and listening: Thebes: the Forgotten City of Ancient Greece by Paul Cartledge Paul Cartledge is a tremendous author on ancient topics. This book which speaks of Thebes is a good example of his work. Not as famous as Athens or Sparta, Thebes nevertheless played an important role in the history of ancient Greece. It was the legendary birth place of Oedipus. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great for rebellion and to serve as an object lesson to other cities that might consider opposing him. It was considered to be a city that did not play the proper role during the invasion of the Persians. Shadows in the Jungle by Larry Alexander This is an account of the Alamo Scouts during World War II. They were specially trained forces who infiltrated behind enemy lines to spy on them, occasionally to attack certain installations, and even to liberate prisoners of war. They served in the islands of the South Pacific including Philippines. The story of these scouts is well told and inspiring. Empire of Mud: the Secret History of Washington, DC by J.D. Dickey This is a history of the origin of the city of Washington D.C. from its origin to the beginning of the 20th century. The author deals with practical questions (buildings, sewage, paving of roads, hygiene) and with political questions (how the city lost most of its local autonomy in the aftermath of a series of scandals, and also as a way to crush the influence of the African American population of the city). The account is very informative. The Fall of Europe by Fred Majdalany This is basically a history of World War II, but from a European point of view, and from a mostly western point of view (the Soviets are only rarely mentioned). Oddly, the account takes into considerable consideration the period before the war, but then concludes the account with the period around the time of the attempted assassination of Hitler in the Valkyrie affair. Smoke Signal by Marie Benedict This is a novella about Bletchley Park (the secret site in World War II where the enigma code of the Germans was broken). Agatha Christie makes one of the characters a man with the last name of Bletchley. The crew at the Park try to discover whether the name was chosen by accident or purposely chosen. It turns out that Agatha has discovered a band of Soviet spies by accident and is trying to get the attention of the Secret Services to investigate them. Alexander the Great by Kelly Mass This is part of the very short biographies of great figures throughout history. This edition gives good information in a presentation that doesn’t last much more than an hour. The Real History of Witches and Witch Hunts by Thomas Fudge This is a Learn25 course that deals with the phenomenon of people being accused of being witches and put to death. He carefully documents the various trials and tendencies, including such things as torture to force a confession, evidence given by young children, fantastic stories that seem to have been invented to stop the torture, etc. The research is well done. The professor shows how this was both a Catholic and Protestant phenomenon, and he correlates the periods of the worse persecution to other outside factors (religious warfare, famine, etc.) which probably influence the search for a scapegoat. The American Revolution by DK DK is a series of books that are extensive explorations of a topic with a hundred or so somewhat independent essays (but all with the same texture and format). This volume on the American Revolution gives ample information on the causes, conduct and consequences of that war. It is a must read (or listen) for those interested in the topic. The Fever of 1721 by Stephen Cross This is the story of an epidemic of smallpox in Boston in 1721, along with the controversy about the new experiments in inoculation (not yet with cowpox but with a hopefully limited amount of material taken from smallpox pustules). One of the men involved in this was Cotton Mather, the famous Congregationalist preacher who helped in the convictions of the Salem Witch trials. Another was a young Benjamin Franklin who worked in his brother’s press shop. The Cambodian Campaign during the Vietnam War by Charles River Editors This short book speaks about the invasion of Cambodia (and Laos) during the Vietnam War. The author feels that the military has been judged harshly by the press (which by this point of the war were hostile to the governments of the US and Vietnam and the military). The author points out that most of the supplies and reinforcements for the Vietcong were being transported along the Ho Chi Ming trail or were being shipped into the port of Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and that the invasion cut off supplies of arms and food for many months. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Charles River Editors Eleanor is one of those historic figures who seems too sensational to be true. She was married to two kings: that of France and of England. She went on the crusades with her French husband, possibly committing incest with her uncle on the way. She ruled over a large territory in southern France. She rebelled against her husband (Henry) along with two of her sons. She was held under house arrest in a castle for much of the latter part of her life, eventually being freed when her son Richard the Lion hearted took the throne. The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman Tuchman is a great historical author. This book speaks of a number of episodes in history in which the people engaging in a warlike policy should have known better, but they blinded themselves to some obvious truths because of pride or arrogance or illusion. She speaks of the war with Troy, the wars fought be the Medieval Papacy, the American Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War. In each case, she shows how those involved did have options which they chose to ignore. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Ellicott City - Pittsburgh - Ellicott City

June 1, 2024 Peace and Good, I hope you are all well. I am slowly feeling better as time goes on. I have received my third immunotherapy treatment (nine more to go). On the 10th of this month, I will have a CT scan that will tell me how well the chemo and radiation worked. I was able to travel to Pittsburgh (a four hour drive) to visit family and one of my spiritual directees. The trip tired me out a bit, but no where near what it would have done in previous weeks. The next test of my strength will be a trip to Buffalo to visit family and friends. I have been working on my podcasts for the daily readings, and recently on a translation from Italian into English for an exposition in Assisi. Next week i have some work to do for my publisher (Catholic Book Publishing Company). There are nice projects for me for there is no rush to get them done. I am also helping out a bit at the Shrine. That came in handy this week, for many of the friars went down to Charlotte for the ordination and installation of Michael Martin as the bishop of Charlotte. I finished some reading and listening: The Great Schism and the Western Schism by Charles River Editors This is a short presentation on the division of the Western from the Eastern Church (the Great Schism) and also the period in the Middle Ages when there were two, and then three men who claimed to be Pope (the Western Schism). Technically, the Great Schism was resolved when Paul VI and the Orthodox Patriarch renounced the mutual excommunications that marked the seemingly irreparable separation between East and West, and the Western Schism was resolved by a Church Council which convinced (with a bit of forceful persuasion) for all the popes to step down and to elect a new one. 1493 by Charles Mann This is the second volume in a two volume series. The first was 1491 which spoke about the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. This volume speaks about the after effects of his arrival, both within the Americas (e.g. indigenous slavery, the arrival of African slavery, etc.) and outside (the Columbian exchange which saw new crops like potatoes change diets across the world. The presentation is well done, but the topic possibly a bit to wide reaching. Charlemagne: Father of Europe by Philip Daileader This is a Great Courses presentation on the history of Charlemagne (both in terms of his reign and in terms of his influence upon later Europe). The author goes out of his way to separate fact from legend. Many of the questions asked about Charlemagne receive the answer “yes and no” for he was a complicated figure, and later authors and historians tend to overly simplify his meaning to history. Warfare by DK DK is a producer of long, extensive topics. It is almost that each book is an amalgamation of a hundred or so Wikipedia articles. The topics do not always precisely follow each other, but each provides insight to what was going on. Obviously, when the topic is as large as warfare from prehistoric to modern days, one is covering a lot of information. Yet, one never feels overwhelmed by the presentations. American Religious History by Patrick Alllitt This is a history of the main religious movements in the country from the time of the Puritans to the present day. Allitt treats both the original movements (e.g. the Mormons, some millennialist movements, etc.) and the traditional religions (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish). He speaks about how other religions are now spreading in the country (Hindu, Muslim). He is respectful to the various faiths and gives a balanced account of their positive and negative dimensions. Packing the Court by James MacGregor Burns This is a history of the Supreme Court and how presidents have used their appointments to shape the politics of their time (and for a considerable period afterwards, due to the fact that the appointments are for life). The term “packing the court” is usually applied to FDR who had a plan to expand the very conservative court which was blocking his New Deal reforms, yet Burns shows how this was done in slow motion by many of the presidents. The book is very, very interesting. Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature by David Schenker This is an excellent Modern Scholars treatment of the various forms of literature from the time of Homer (if he existed) up to the time of the Hellenists after the death of Alexander the Great. The professor describes both the author and his times and the content of his writings, whether it be comedy or tragedy or epic or poetry. I especially appreciated the historic background to help me understand why they ancient authors said things the way they did. The British Subjugation of Australia by Charles River Editors This is a history of the British discovery and settling of Australia. From being a penal colony, it because a place of settlement for many English who otherwise could not have afforded a plot of land. The gold rush led to rapid settlement. The sad side of the story is how the local Aborigines were treated. The Double Agents by W.E.B. Griffin This is basically the story of the plot of the English to dump a body off the coast of Spain with plans for a false invasion of Sardinia or Greece in order to take the Nazi attention off of Sicily. The author adds in other details about skullduggery both in Sicily and Britain. I don’t especially like Griffin’s other books, but this one was OK. The Early of Montenegro by Charles River Editors This is a history of the small land of Montenegro, along the Adriatic coast alongside of Serbia. The book delivers what it says, but in excruciating detail. There is story after story of invasion, overthrow of a king or a duke, etc. Unless one is very, very interested in the topic, I would suggest avoiding this book. Winston Churchill by Hourly History This is a short biography of Churchill. It is really not much more than an outline, but it is a good tool for remembering those parts of his life that are often not treated too well (e.g. his years in exile early in his career, his later years). Bogie and Betty by Charles River Editors This is the story of the lives, careers and love of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. They met on set after Bogart had already been married three times, all to women who had serious personal problems (especially drinking). Bacall was twenty-five years younger than Bogart, but the marriage was very successful. Furthermore the films in which they starred together proved to be magical for some of their real love for each other was transferred to the screen. Have a good week. Shalom fr.Jude