Nuns of Sant’Ambrogia: Hubert Wolf

My recent favorite genre of book has been non-fiction. Now that I’m done with school, learning is more of a “fun” endeavor than a “necessary” one. Sometimes, though, these novels can be a huge undertaking. Tedious, chronologically difficult to understand, and highly complex characters are all immense hurtles to overcome when approaching a non-fiction work. All of these hurtles were ones that I had to approach when starting and reading¬†The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogia. This book was a labor of love, that’s how I’m going to star this post.

The Vatican’s approach to dealing with scandal is of interest to many, regardless of the time era. With the film “Spotlight” just winning the Oscar for Best Picture, this is a topic of current concern. This novel presents an historical perspective of another scandal that rocked the Church in the 19th century, one in which the proof that this scandal even existed wasn’t released until the late 1990s. In this alone was intrigue that this novel presented an interesting perspective on the Church’s stance on scandal and how they overcome such atrocities.

There was once a convent in Italy called Sant’Ambrogia. It was run by nuns who revered a nun who was thought to be a saint. The church did not grant her Sainthood, for there was not enough evidence, but the nuns of her same convent 50+ years after her death thought that she was a Saint so they could not be convinced otherwise. Their leader was a fanatic who believed that she had messages from God, Mary, and the Holy Ghost. Not only was she a heretic, but she also was deceptive and a murderess. But, that’s not the worse of it.

A German princess came to stay with the nuns to see if their convent was a suitable fit for her. She became ill and got sicker and sicker with time. After many months of not being able to eat anything but soup, she begged her cousin to rescue her. When she left the convent, she immediately got better and both her and her cousin knew she had been poisoned. This starts that scandal in which the nuns were accused.

The above two paragraphs are a very vague and superficial description of this novel. There is A LOT more to the story than this (especially some lesbian activities), but that is the general overview. The German Princess was the Whistle blower and she is the one that began the investigation(s) into the convent and the individuals who worked there. Priests, nuns, cardinals, and even the Pope were all affiliated with this convent and the issues that were transpiring within its walls. Yet, in the end, there was no real adjudication that happened. The nuns and priests got slapped on the wrist with a few months of service to the Church, but otherwise ended up back in their initial positions. The convent was closed and its membership disbanded to a wide variety of other convents, but that was the only thing that really was remedied.

The main takeaway message from this book that I could glean from it, was the highly complex and time consuming nature of the Vatican’s investigative branch. The process included: prelim investigation, approval to continue by the cardinals and pope, informative process, decision, offensive process, defensive process, and judgment, followed by notification. Do you realize how convoluted and time intensive this process is? No wonder scandal plagues the Church!

While this book was extremely tedious and took me a long time to finish, it was worth the read just in considering the basic process of investigation by the church. The congregation of cardinals and the pope are always well-apprised of the situation, which could be good or bad. Regardless, it’s very tedious and was a bit shocking to read about.


Lizzie Borden: Netflix

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted a blog! A lot has changed: a successful defense (yay, I’m a Doctor), moving across country (only to move back in 2 months), and changing career paths. No stress, right?! So, obviously, I needed something to keep me a bit sane during this rather insane time. Cue Netflix! I just completed the 8 episodes of the Lizzie Borden Chronicles, a recently added series to the Netflix family.

You may remember the famous rhyme that children play while skipping rope:

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.

In 2014, Lifetime aired a film about Lizzie, her life prior to the murders then during/after her trial. She was accused of murdering her father and stepmother. The film left off at the very end of the trial when she was found not guilty. The Chronicles, alternatively, begins when she was released from jail and began her life after the trial. It is all fictionalized and portrays Lizzie as a murderess who seeks revenge over anyone who gets between her, her happiness, and her sister’s happiness.

Overall the 8 episodes are rather well done, considering that the series has been panned by many critics. The costume pieces are exquisite and the sets are almost as comparable to the time era of the Bordens’ life era. You have to consider, however, that this series is a fictional representation of the Bordens, who they were as people, and the individuals that they interacted with. Lizzie is assumed to be a heartless woman, only interested in protecting her own interests. Moreover, she was a wise woman who plotted against her enemies, usually taking most enemies out at once (framing one for another’s murder).

For how much this show had amazing costumes and sets, it had an excessive amount of blood. Lizzie would slit wrists, necks, and sever heads from bodies (at least 2 an episode). It’s pretty gruesome, so this show is definitely for the faint of heart. But, I wonder if this is even close to Lizzie’s personality. From my readings on the internet, it seems highly likely that she killed her family. But the degree of complexity that this series gives to Lizzie in plotting against people who are blackmailing her, is almost inconceivable. Women during the Borden era were not that smart, on the aggregate; additionally, they weren’t use to getting their hands dirty. ¬†In this alone, I feel like the series is a bit preposterous, and I can see why others didn’t really like it. But, if you take it at face value, the series keeps you on the edge of your seat, “What is that crazy woman going to do now?”

I wish Lizzie had a journal. We would at least get to understand what kind of things she thought about. Was she a wise and cunning woman, always planning her next success? Was she obsessed with her sister (the series painted a very vivid picture of her obsession with Emma, her sister, and women)? We won’t ever really know, unfortunately. Borden was found not guilty and lived her life out after the trial, constantly being plagues of the murder of her parents, which I do pity her for. If she had a percentage of the craziness that the series paints her to have, though, I have less pity for her. Regardless, watch it if you’re not squeamish. If you are, be prepared to close your eyes about every 10 minutes. Lots of blood, lots of death. My kind of series.