Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday update

I am happy to say that I just used my IPad during my homily this morning. Since I could not print my notes which always come so handy as a lifesaver during my Masses, I was able to successfully used the IPad, scrolling down and up my notes with a flip of a finger. My homily was of course in Maltese, as I recollected the image of the Good Shepherd while praying for vocations, which thankfully are still very healthy in Malta.

The 50th anniversary Mass for my first pastor Fr John Galea went very well with 25 priests concelebrating the High Mass, complete with orchestra and chorus, performing the Maltese composer Carlo Diacono's Mass. Fr John is a great lover of sacred music, having conducted this Mass many times himself as a director, but this time he was the main celebrant, and all the performers participated as if giving him a gift, without being paid. In the name of my family, I spoke for 7 minutes towards the end of the Mass, recollecting happy memories of my first 4 years as a priest as his assistant (1977-1981,) and my earlier years as an altar boy and seminarian in the 1960s and early 70s.

I am also helping my sister-in-law Maria with her thesis on holy water fonts or spouts in Maltese churches. She is studying for the degree as Bachelor of Art History, and my job is to follow her and take pictures of various fonts, while measuring them and cataloging them correctly. While visiting these churches I am of course adding to my collection of sacred art photos, and since there are so many churches within walking distance, it's pretty easy to move from one to the other without wasting much time driving.

On Monday we plan to visit the island of Gozo, where Maria grew up, 5 miles northwest of Malta, and there are a handful of old churches there too. My two sisters will also accompany us on our trip and so I plan to do a lot of listening while they do the talking and the chatting. The temperatures are warming up slightly in Malta, but it's still pretty comfortable. Plenty of tourists invade our island all year round, but the biggest problem facing the natives is parking a car. There are more cars than people, and the only other thing that surpasses the number of cars in proportion to the people are cell-phones! Sometimes I feel that even dogs and cats carry a cell-phone around. And I have no doubt that I am the only human without a cell-phone in Malta right now, and probably on the entire planet. But I treasure my IPad and IPod. A neighbor of ours must have a WiFi connection, because I can also connect to the Internet, and that's how I'm sending these messages onto my blog. Stay tuned, more to come over the next few days.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A small correction

I was informed by my sister that I made two typo errors yesterday in my post entitled "From Malta." The name of my former pastor is Galea not Gales. Galea is my grandmother's family name. The other mistake is with the word realizes, which should read 'relatives.' The blogspot here does not allow me to correct or edit simple mistakes. In the meantime, my nephew Peter has installed a few apps on my IPad, including the Breviary (Divine Office) as well as Google Earth, IRadio and a few others which I am not familiar with, yet. Speaking of the IPad, my nephew has the new IPad, probably the first one in Malta to own this ingenious gadget. As for myself, I was given the IPad by fellow priest Fr Luis Flores, of Madras, Oregon. He bought a new one for himself, and thought I deserved his first one, for free. It has been a blessing for me, and I look forward to download a word processor on it soon, probably the one known as PAGES. I may probably use it for my Sunday homily, of course in the Maltese language. Il-paci maghkom ilkoll - Peace be with you all,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

From Malta

I am finally able to log into my blog, of course thanks to my tech-savvy nephew Peter. Since I am adding a post from a new location, they thought I was a hacker hacking my blog, but at least it's good to know that Blogspot is actually to protect you from any intruders. Unfortunately as much as I would like, I cannot use any photos as the blogspot won't let me download photos. But at least you know you'll be bombarded with photos when I return to the parish. In the meantime just to let you know that I arrived safely and will be here for two more weeks, before heading to Rome for another week. The weather is still pretty comfortable, but warming up slightly every day. Friday April 27 I will be concelebrating with my first pastor, my second cousin Fr John Galea, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary of his priesthood. That's my second 50th anniversary pastor in a week, after celebrating with Msgr John Heinlein last Sunday. Fr John Gales was my pastor in my first parish, my hometown of St. Julian's between 1977 and 1981. It will be an occasion to see many realizes whom I don't see very often. That's is all for now. My two nephews are in the midst of their finals, and so their help in my computer space is very limited, because of course they need their laptops and IPads and IPods all the time. It's a different world today - how did we ever survive without these high tech gadgets. Anyway, blessings from Malta, and please remember my mom in your prayers - today would have been her 83 rd birthday, and yesterday was the 2nd anniversary of her death. Fr Julian

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everday Prayers

Norman Rockwell painting "Giving Thanks"
These are prayers for every day of the week, to be used as Grace before meals.

God our Creator, we thank You for this Sunday.  We thank You for our Church, for our home and for the chance to rest today. We thank You for this meal. As we share it, help us to recognize the presence of Jesus with us, and fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.

We thank You, Lord our God, for this new week which we have begun today. We thank You for our schools and for our work, and for all our friends there. Bless this food we share and give us the strength to be patient and kind with one another. Amen.

Dear God, Your Love is like a mother’s gentle hands, and Your care is like a father’s watchful presence. We thank You for always being there for us, and for giving us the gift of each other as a family. During this meal help us to listen to one another and to appreciate each other’s unique gifts. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Generous God, we give You thanks for this food, and for all the good things You have given us. Help us to remember those who are hungry tonight. Teach us how we can help all those who are in need. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessed are you, Lord our God. You made the land and the sea, the sun and the rain. You brought forth  this food from nature’s bounty to our table. We thank You for the farmers who grew it, and for many people who brought it from the fields to the factories and supermarkets. And we thank You for (name) who cooked it for us. Amen.

Loving God, as we come to the end of another week of work and school, we thank You for Your friendship and ask Your forgiveness for our failings. Help us to be more like Jesus who showed us His love on the Cross. And make us grateful for all your gifts and for this meal. Amen.

Lord Jesus, You are with us always in our chores and in our play, in what we do together and when we are apart. Help us to grow in love as a family and to be a sign of Your presence to our friends and neighbors. Thank You for this food, for this day, and for this past week. Amen.

Since I will be visiting my family in Malta, I may or may not be able to update the daily posts over the next few weeks, but if I can, I will try to share with you whatever I can.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

With Msgr. John Heinlein

Back in 1979 at Massapequa Park, NY

Over the next few weeks, my best priest friend Msgr. John T. Heinlein will be replacing me here at my parish in Baker City. In fact this weekend we will be celebrating 85 years of priesthood service together with 2 con-celebrated Masses here in the Cathedral. He is celebrating 50 years, while I am celebrating my 35th anniversary later in June.
Back in 1983 in Weston, Vermont
We met originally in 1979, while I helped replacing another priest from China for 2 and a half months in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Massapequa Park on Long Island, NY. Two years later I was back with him in his new parish at Holy Spirit in New Hyde Park, where we spent ten glorious years together. He is presently working as an Associate Pastor at St. Jude’s in Mastic Beach, NY, and even though he retired a few years back, he is still strong enough to add his pastoral touch in that parish.
Back in 2000 at Pleasant Valley, NY
I am grateful for his service to the church, and for his help to me, coming over all the way from New York, so that I can visit my family. He has been my inspiration over all these years, and we have helped each other in good times and bad, through thick and thin, and after a combined 85 years of service, we continue in our indefatigable style, serving people and being just what God wanted us to be, good shepherds.
April 22 after Mass at the Cathedral
On April 22, 2012 we con-celebrated Mass together at St Francis De Sales Cathedral here in Baker City, combing 85 years of priestly ministry, as we gave thanks for the many blessings we both received from God, from the people and from each other.
April 22 after Mass at the Cathedral, Baker City, OR

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two Ospreys

While driving from the Retreat yesterday, I came across in Sumpter a nest with two ospreys. I don't know if they were young, or a mother and a baby, but they seemed to be both fully grown. They may not be as spectacular as the bald eagle, but they are beautiful animals nonetheless.

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle or fish hawk, is a diurnal fish-eating bird of prey. It reaches more than 24 in length and 71 in across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings. The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of  habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant. 
As its other common name suggests, the Osprey's diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It possesses specialized physical characteristics and exhibits unique behavior to assist in hunting and catching prey.

A close-up of the two ospreys at Sumpter, Oregon, April 20.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prayers for the next few weeks

Since I will be visiting my family in Malta in the next few weeks, I may not be able to add new posts, although whenever I can find a computer, I will try to do that - just stay tuned. The regular posts will resume after May 20, but I will keep you updated about my visit to Malta, whenever possible.

Sacristy window at Spencer Abbey, Massachusetts

But in the meantime, I will share with you some prayers which you can use from time to time.

Parents' Prayer for Their Children
O God the Father of mankind, who has given to me these my children, and committed them to my charge to bring them up for You, and to prepare them for eternal life: help me with Your heavenly grace, that I may be able to fulfill this most sacred duty and stewardship. Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me to be gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful; and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence, and the excess of severity; and grant that, both by word and example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety, so that at last I may, with them, be admitted to the unspeakable joys of our true home in heaven, in the company of the blessed Angels and Saints. Amen.

Prayer of Spouses for Each Other
Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust.  Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony.  May we always bear with one another's weaknesses and grow from each other's strengths.  Help us to forgive one another's failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of concern and mutual love, placing the well-being of one another ahead of self. May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year.  Bring us both ever closer to You through our love for each other.  Let our love grow to perfection.  Amen.

Parents apologize to their children
Forgive us if we instilled it in your heads that only a career and money are the only important things in life.Forgive us if we gave you more objects than values, more luxury than principles. Forgive us if we spent more time in scolding than in correcting and giving good examples. Forgive us if we were more concerned about the cleanliness of your teeth than your speech. Forgive us if we emphasized more the easy life than the good and just way of life.
Forgive us if we were overly concerned about making more money, to such an extent that to build a beautiful house, we destroyed the unity of our home. Forgive us if we were so busy that we couldn't find time to do things together, to talk to each other, and to simply be together.  Forgive us if we erred in our calculations, as we increased the buying of stuff but decreased the true show of love.  Forgive us if we never stressed the importance of loving God, thereby ending up desiring everything but the presence of God in your lives.  Forgive us that we taught you many subjects, but ignored the most important, the Bible and the catechism.

Prayer before doing the laundry
Lord Jesus, as we prepare to wash our clothes, help us to see in the clothes our own individual lives. The detergent we use is like the grace of your mercy, while the dirt and stains are like our sins. As we see our clothes become clean again, may our lives be also cleaned of any imperfections or blemishes, any hurtful feelings we may have towards others, and may we also look at others as a reflection of your creative powers. As we wear our clean clothes again, make us realize that we are putting on a new person, with a refreshed attitude, a renewed outlook, alive, healthy and well.

Prayer before a construction project
Lord Jesus, as we start this project today, we ask your help and guidance as we plan and execute different strategies to see a successful finished product. Help us to work safely and cautiously, without anyone getting hurt or injured. May we see our project successfully completed in the stipulated time, as everyone shares his load of work. Remind us to work as a team, as teamwork makes hard jobs much easier. And just as you rested after completing the work of creation, may we rest at the end, enjoying the fruits of our labor. And may we always give you honor and praise for helping us start and finish.

Prayer before cooking a big meal
Lord Jesus, today we have company and we plan to cook a nice meal for our guests, as well as for our family. We ask your help and assistance in being creative and even inventive in what we prepare. May everyone help out in the various ways, like setting up the table, cleaning up afterwards, doing the dishes, and of course cutting, slicing, mixing and stirring whatever is being cooked. And as we remember the poor and the hungry in this world, may we all enjoy the meal which as a family we are creating today.

Prayer before a long trip
Lord Jesus, I have a long trip ahead of me, and I am nervous - that something may go wrong. With so many terrorist attacks in the past few years, it seems we are never ever safe anymore. So I ask for your protection and blessings as I travel across thousands of miles, mostly by air and overland. I pray for the pilots and drivers who will be driving me and others to our destination. Give us also good weather and safety on the roads. And after returning back home, remind us always to thank you.

Prayer of a husband and wife
(to be prayed while sitting facing each other and holding hands.)
Lord, we praise you and thank you for all the goodness you showered on us. For our health and faith, for our home and our children, for caring relatives and respectful friends. Please, give us the patience with each other and those around us, remind us not to take each other for granted, and make us always pleasant to live with. Encourage us also to show our best side to our better half, especially when we are tired or cranky. Help us to remember the happy times we had in our marriage, and remind us always to keep each other as the number one priority. And may we be an example to our children, co-workers and family members. May we see you Lord as our inspiration and guide through tough times and turbulent moments. We ask your blessing on our family and keep us all united together, in and peace and harmony.

Prayer for your children at school
Lord Jesus, I pray today for my children who are in school. Make them realize how important it is for them to focus on their studies, to do their homework, to listen to their teachers and pay attention as something is being explained to them. Remind them always to ask question when they don't understand something, and never be afraid of asking for an explanation when something is not clear enough. I thank you Lord for their teachers who spend hours with my children, for principals who keep order and everything else running smoothly, for custodians who keep the classes and hallways clean and so many other parents who help out generously with so many little things. From Nursery School to Graduation from College, give my children and all children the perseverance to strive for the best, to strive for the best grades in exams, and to absorb as much as possible from what they learn in those critical first 20 years of their lives.

Prayer when facing stress
Lord Jesus, I am facing a stressful situation, and I need your help. I need your guidance to show me which way to go. I know you will tell me to be patient, but I feel like I'm at the end of the line. I really need some time to think and reflect on my own, but most importantly, I need to know that you will handle all my problems. You who said "Come to me all you who feel burdened, and I will lighten your load," I am literally dumping this situation on Your Lord. Relieve me of the pressures and stress I'm feeling right now, and give me peace and contentment. I know I have to deal with this issue mostly on my own, but I appreciate any kind of support you can give me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic - 100 years ago

Titanic, leaving Southampton, April 10, 1912
It was exactly 100 years ago that the Titanic sank in the Atlantic ocean. The last survivors are now all gone, but the memories and stories that have been told, will be re-told again and again. The loss of over 1,500 lives was one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. Four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, Titanic – at the time the world's largest ship – struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland. Five of her watertight compartments were holed, causing the ship to flood deck by deck. She carried too few lifeboats for her 2,223 passengers and crew, and many seats were left empty due to a poorly managed evacuation. Titanic's officers loaded the lifeboats "women and children first", leaving most of the men aboard the ship. 

"The sinking of Titanic, from a painting by Billy Stower
Two hours and forty minutes after the collision, Titanic sank with over a thousand people still aboard. Almost all those who jumped or fell into the freezing water soon died of hypothermia or drowned. The RMS Carpathia rescued the survivors from the lifeboats a few hours later. Public outrage at the loss of life led to tougher maritime safety regulations. Titanic's wreck was not found until 1985. The disaster has inspired a wealth of popular culture including many films, most notably James Cameron's ‘Titanic’ in 1997, winning 11 Oscars and grossing over $1.9 billion in the first 12 years since its release.
The Titanic bow, photographed in 2004
Please note that I will be on retreat with the Baker Diocese priests all this week. So there will not be any new posts until Friday.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Something about my family

Cassar family photo in 1963
Many visitors to this blog have expressed to me that they enjoy seeing photos of my family’s past. And so from time to time, I will dig into the family’s photo album, of which I consider myself the archivist, and share them with you. These are three pictures of our family over the year spanning 14 years, the first one being taken in 1963, a year before my younger brother Marcel was born. We are here at home, a kind of a professional photo with four children with their parents. I am seen standing, and as I shared many times, many people thought my mother had two sets of twins, as she dressed me and my brother Paul alike, as she did with my two sisters, Josephine and Rosemary.
The Cassar children in 1967
The next photo was 3 years later, with Marcel aged 3, on a little vacation on the sister island of Gozo. We spent a week at Nadur, in a house lent to us by our uncles and aunts, but since we never had a car, we walked just about everywhere we went, except for longer trips which we took by bus. When I say longer trips, they could have been anywhere between 3 miles and 5 miles at the most!
June 19, 1977, the day of my ordination
The last photo was on the day of my ordination to the priesthood on June 19, 1977. I was 24, my brother Paul was 21, Marcel 13, while Josephine and Rosemarie were 27 and 26 respectively. My parents would have been 52 and 48, my father the oldest. This was of course a happy day for the entire family, not just for me, because as I always say, the vocation of a priest is the greatest gift God can give to any family.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My notice board from the 1990s

 Back between 1991 and 1996, I was stationed in St Anthony of Padua parish in Rocky Point, on Long Island, NY, and adjacent to the church, there was a notice-board, some people called it a Marquee. One of the duties that I took upon myself was to change the message on this notice board, actually two messages, one on each side. Since it was located on a busy street, and there were only four lines to fill in, I had to keep my messages short, but effective nonetheless. Occasionally there were some notices about services, events taking place, etc, but most of the time, the space was left for my quotes. 
Here are some interesting quotes I used over the years. I always looked for catchy verses, funny and witty at times, but clear and to the point, besides being thought -provoking.
Doubt sees obstacles - Faith sees the Way.
Are you going the wrong way? God allows U-Turns.
If we take care of today, God will take care of tomorrow.
The family that prays together stays together.
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP......Now do you know your prayers?
No God, No peace - Know God, Know Peace.
Life is fragile, handle with prayer.

And the most popular one was:
Love your enemies...and you’ll drive them nuts!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Church for the future

St Francis De Sales Cathedral at Baker City in the spring
For a world at its worse, we need a Church at its best.
For a world full of sadness, we need a Church full of gladness.
For a world that’s going down, we need a Church that’s going up.
For a world that complains, we need a Church that cares and comforts.
For a world full of war, we need a Church full of peace.
For a world that cries vengeance and hate, we need a Church that forgives and forgets.
For a world full of impatience, we need a Church full of tolerance.
For a world full of heartache, we need a Church that’s full of good news.
For a world that believes in “playing”, we need a Church that’s committed to praying.
For a world full of defeat, we need a Church full of victory.
For a world that’s pessimistic, we need a Church that’s optimistic.
For a world that is crying, we need a Church that smiles.
For a world that’s out of tune, we need a Church that’s filled with harmony.
For a world that’s falling apart, we need a Church that keeps us all together.
For a discouraged world, we need an encouraging Church.
For a world that is full of compromise, we need a Church that stresses commitment.
For a world that is going through a period of darkness, we need an enlightening Church.
For a world that’s rebellious and vindictive, we need a Church that is truly compassionate.
For a world that is creating stumbling blocks, we need a Church that is placing stepping stones of hope.
For a world that is stressful or tense, we need a Church that is calm and peaceful
This is the kind of Church we all have to strive for.
This is the kind of Church we at St. Francis De Sales Cathedral are working together to be, one big, happy, faith-filled and united family.
And my prayer is that every church in the world will strive to reach these ideals. With God's help, everything is possible.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

10 things you will never regret

The Cathedral cross on a frosty January 2009 morning

We've heard many suggestions, advices, and quotes that enlighten us from time to time. I've built quite a collection of such quotes and lists. From time to time, I will share them with you, hoping they will help you and inspire you to be a better person. A friend of mine shared a great line with me about trusting God in everything. Here it is: 
         "If God brings you to it.....he will bring you through it."

Now here are Ten things you will never regret

1.    Showing kindness to an aged person.
2.    Destroying a letter written in anger.
3.    Offering an apology that will save a friendship.
4.    Stopping a scandal that was ruining a reputation.
5.    Helping a boy or girl find themselves.
6.    Taking time to show consideration to parents, friends, brothers and sisters.
7.    Refraining from gossip when others around you delight in it.
8.    Refusing to do a thing which is wrong, although others do it.
9.    Living according to your convictions.
10. Accepting the judgement of God in any question.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Easter Lily

Lilium Longiflorum - The Easter lily
Just as the poinsettia takes center stage at Christmas time, the Easter Lily does the same at Easter time, adorning our sanctuaries and being used to decorate our altars for the Easter season every year. The Easter Lily was discovered by a missionary priest in the 19th century on Ryukyu Island, off Japan. It is a stem rooting lily, growing up to 3 feet high. It bears a number of trumpet shaped, white, fragrant, and outward facing flowers, with pointed green leaves. Its technical name is Lilium longiflorum. The missionary who found it eventually tried to take some bulbs to England, but was stranded in Bermuda, where they bloomed for the first time on April 16, 1854. They reached Philadelphia in 1876.

From the 1890s to the early 1920s, there was a thriving export trade of bulbs from Bermuda to New York. A disease affected the Bermuda lilies: this was identified by Lawrence Ogilvie. Then most Easter lily bulbs arriving in the United States were imported from Japan before 1940s. The supply of bulbs was suddenly cut off after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Easter lilies became extremely valuable in the United States.

Monday, April 9, 2012

From Cross to Light

The darkness of the Cross leads to the Light of Christ.”

I took this picture a few years ago when I was on my way to my mission church in Halfway. It was a cloudy day and sunny intervals, and I noticed that someone had planted a wooden cross on a hill on the side of the road just before the descent into Halfway. Naturally I stopped and took a few good photos with the cross in the foreground and the sun peaking or shining through the clouds. This was very meaningful to me, as I saw the Cross being overwhelmed by the light of the Risen Christ, a beautiful meditation. If there is a title to this photo, it should be “The sufferings of Good Friday give way to the joy and glory of Easter,” or even “The darkness of the Cross leads to the Light of Christ.”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alleluia! He is Risen

Easter decorations at my Cathedral, Baker City, OREGON
Alleluia! The darkness has changed to light, the screams of ‘Crucify him’ has turned to Alleluia. The starkness of the altar has turned to beauty and color once again. Flowers and Easter lilies have replaced the emptiness in our sanctuaries. The suffering and pain of Good Friday have given way to joy and celebration of Easter. Death has given way to life. And Christ overcame his own death, and is alive and well. Let us rejoice and be glad. Christ has died, Christ is risen.
Statue of the Risen Christ at Valletta, Malta
For the past 46 days of Lent and Holy Week, you have followed my meditations, reflections and photos that describe the somber mood that this season evokes. But now it’s time to celebrate, as the statue of the Risen Christ is carried in the streets, as happens in Malta, to accentuate to new spirit of Easter joy. The Easter Vigil is also very meaningful, as the new fire and the new water are blessed, catechumens are baptized or received into the Catholic community, while others are confirmed, and the majority of the people renew their baptismal vows during Easter Masses.

Save us, Savior of the world, because by your death and resurrection, you have set us free. 
(Memorial Acclamation, New Roman Missal)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pysanky and Figolli

Colorful Ukranian pysanky Easter eggs
Just as Christmas has its special food, like puddings, mince pies, cookies and fruitcake, so does Easter, and in particular, I refer to two places where these special treats are so popular that they deserve a special mention today, the vigil of Easter. I’m referring to Ukraine and its Pysnaky eggs and Malta with its figolli.

The word pysanka (plural pysanky) refers specifically to an egg decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs. Artists go into incredible detail as they decorate these eggs with beautiful colored designs, each color is symbolic of a virtue or a positive trait. With the advent of Christianity, the symbolism of the egg was changed to represent, not nature's rebirth, but the rebirth of man. Christians embraced the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ rose. With the acceptance of Christianity in 988, the decorated pysanka, in time, was adapted to play an important role in Ukrainian rituals of the new religion. Many symbols of the old sun worship survived and were adapted to represent Easter and Christ's Resurrection.
Maltese figolli
The Maltese figolli are popular treats made from 2 sheets of dough, filled with almond paste, but the dough is usually cut in shapes of hearts, baskets, rabbits, bears, butterflies, shapes of children or anything imaginative. A chocolate egg is placed on top, after the shape is covered with icing and decorated like any other cake.
Holy Thursday bread
Another popular treat in Malta is the Holy Thursday bread, made like a donut shape with almonds and sesame seeds. They are traditionally given to the 12 men or children whose feet are washed at the evening Mass, but many people buy these loaves, have them blessed and enjoy them on Holy Thursday. They are of course very crusty on the outside and fresh on the inside.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Statue of Christ carrying the cross
The day Christ died is commemorated in our churches by a simple service, usually at 3PM, the hour Jesus died. This includes Scripture readings, including the Passion according to St John, the Universal Prayers, the Adoration of the Cross and Communion service. Stations of the Cross are frequently prayed in the evening. However in countries like Malta, various processions are held in some parishes, with life-size statues depicting the Passion of Christ.
Roman soldiers at the Good Friday procession
Children carrying symbols of the Passion
The photos in this post are from a procession which took place in the town of Rabat, Malta in 2010. They show various Biblical characters, Roman soldiers, children carrying Passion symbols, and the statues, anywhere between 10 and 12 in each procession, although some other parishes have even more, including one parish that has the statue of the Last Supper. Tradition says that the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows comes last, preceded by the entombment of Jesus, represented in an elaborate canopy, with the body of Jesus inside.
Boys Scouts playing a solemn fanfare ahead of Christ Redeemer statue
Marching bands accompany the procession, playing somber funeral marches, and Boys Scout bugle their way in, always starting off every procession with a solemn fanfare. Some men walk in bare feet, as well as with chains tied to their ankles, at times with hoods to protect anonymity. Women also walk in bare feet behind the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, and behind the statue of Jesus falling under the weight of the cross.
Extreme penance on Good Friday
Statue of the Crucifixion of Christ
Statue of the Entombment of Christ

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday

Altar of Reposition at Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Valletta, Malta
One of the most solemn days in the life of the church is Holy Thursday, the day the Eucharist and the Priesthood were instituted, both at the Last Supper which Jesus hosted for his 12 apostles. The foot washing ceremony takes place during the evening Mass, re-enacting the humble gesture Jesus did to his beloved apostles, encouraging them to do the same to others, humbly serving them, the mission of every priest.
Old Lapsi church, St. Julian's, Malta
Following the Mass, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament is held, placing the Eucharist in a special Altar of Reposition, usually a side altar, away from the main altar. The main altar is then stripped of altar cloths, candles, flowers, etc. Many churches decorate the Altars of Reposition in a magnificent display of flowers, candles, angels and other symbols of the Eucharist. These photos show just a few of the altars decorated in Maltese churches in 2010. 
St Paul's church, Rabat, Malta
People then visit these altars out of respect towards the Eucharist and pray until midnight. These visits continue also in the morning on Good Friday until noon. The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, originating in Rome, traditionally started by Saint Philip Neri, who took the members of his Oratory to visit the 7 major basilicas as penance. These churches are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence-outside-the-Walls, Saint Sebastian-outside-the-Walls, and Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem.
The elaborate Altar of Reposition at Mdina Cathedral, Malta
Franciscan Conventual church, Valletta, Malta

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Surprising Spring Day

1st Street, Baker City, OREGON - 6:30 AM on April 4, 2012
While the rest of the country is enjoying almost summer-like temperatures, we woke up today in Baker City, Eastern Oregon with another winter wonderland.

St Francis De Sales Cathedral, during the snowstorm
The Cathedral always gets a nice coating whenever it snows, and after 6 inches that fell today, we all wonder whether we're heading into spring or back into winter.

104 year old steeples that have seen all kinds of weather

Good Friday procession in miniature

Statue of the betrayal of Judas

This was yet another huge surprise for me 2 years ago, when on Good Friday morning, I was invited to visit this incredible piece of artwork done by one man - a complete Good Friday procession in miniature, spread out throughout an entire room, actually at the President’s residence. I was told that this man had been working on this project for a decade but never exhibited any of his statuettes, until the President of Malta himself showed interest and invited him to showcase this masterpiece during Holy Week at the Palace itself.
The twelve apostles followed by a marching band
Altar servers and priests
On Good Friday, various processions are held in parishes with life-size statues of the Passion of Christ, complete with many biblical characters, Roman soldiers, marching bands playing funeral marches and the clergy (see Good Friday’s post.) What you see here is a complete replica of a typical procession, from beginning to end.
The statue of the Crucifixion
Again these are just 5 photos of the display, showing different angles, some statues and other characters that are an important part of this unique procession that is held on Friday evening through the streets of about 25 parishes.

Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week artistry

More detailed plating, including one with the Maltese Cross

I continue today my sharing of some incredible artistry done by hand, mostly by pasta, beans, rice, salt and lentils. Yesterday you saw a general view of some of plates, and today you can see even closer some of the exceptional detail that goes into creating and ‘painting’ these displays. Hundreds if not thousands of people will visit these displays, mostly on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, while doing the traditional visits to 7 altars in different churches where the Blessed Sacrament will be reserved (more on this on Holy Thursday.)

Emblem of the Dominican order
Coat of arms of Grand Master Pinto
Some of these plates show the coat-of-arms of various Popes and Bishops who governed over the past 400 years, including some of the Grand Masters, Dominican friars and priests who led the Order over the years.
Made strictly from pasta
I have to say that 2 years ago when I took these photos, I was somewhat lucky, though at first disappointed that the exhibition had not yet opened by Tuesday of Holy Week, when I actually went to visit it. I was told that the official opening was going to be held that same evening, but then to my surprise, I was invited to go in and take as many photos as I could. It was a dream come true as there was no one else around bumping elbows and casting strange shadows, or just getting in my way. Not only that, but when the organizer heard that I was living in the USA, he came over and gave me as much information as I needed.

More plates, the bottom one - Archbishop of Malta's coat of arms

The place at table of the apostle Simon