Friday, August 31, 2012

God's Love Letter - part 1


This entry is divided into 2 parts, the second part appearing tomorrow, mainly because it is a little long, but also so that you will have enough time to meditate on these scriptural quotes that shows God's continuous care of each and every one of us. It is presented as a Love Letter from God, our Creator, and it comes in as a very consoling entry to those who may be going through some rough time.

My Child ~
You may not know me, but I know everything about you ~ Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up ~ Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways ~ Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered ~ Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image ~ Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being ~ Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring ~ Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived ~ Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation ~ Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book ~ Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live ~ Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made ~ Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother's womb ~ Psalm 139:13 

 
And brought you forth on the day you were born ~ Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me ~ John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love ~ 1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you ~ 1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child and I am your father ~ 1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could ~ Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father ~ Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand ~ James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs ~ Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope ~ Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love ~ Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore ~ Psalm 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vintage Cars

Once a year here in Baker City, a large contingent of vintage cars arrive and are displayed in a local park, for everyone to admire and inspect. Some of the cars are from the 1920s and later years, but they are all in mint condition, and are really beautiful to behold. 
Their owners shine them and sparkle them for everyone to see. I am surprised that the owners can find parts for them, but they told me that this is big business and because they love their hobby, the owners would pay lots of money even for a simple part. These few photos show just a few of the vintage cars, including one that is as old as me, a 1952 Ford.
A scene that could very well be from 1928
The 1950s and 1960s were also represented
1952 Ford and  1952 human specimen

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Martyrdom of St John the Baptist

Caravaggio - Beheading of John the Baptist 1608, Valletta, Malta
The feast of the Martyrdom of St John the Baptist which we celebrate today was actually a sad day for Christianity. It was sad that Herod terminated his life just to please a girl for a well-performed dance. And then her mother requested John the Baptist’s head as a gift. Everyone knows that a girl would have asked for a nice necklace, some perfume, a pair of pretty sandals or a beautiful dress as a gift, but Herod used the opportunity to destroy John the Baptist. The most famous painting of this horrible scene is the Caravaggio masterpiece which he painted in Malta in 1608, and is still seen at the Oratory of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta.

An invisible line travels from the top left hand corner to the bottom right and dissects the work into two triangles.  All the action takes place in the left triangle. John the Baptist lies on the ground, probably dead, blood flowing from his neck, his head almost severed. Salome reaches out with her plate to take his head. The jailer points to the plate: "Cut it off and throw it there". The old lady clutches her head in horror as the executioner, body gleaming and radiating light grabs St. John by the hair and moves in for the cut.  The group forms a beautiful arc that is mirrored in the shade of the outer arch and the inner stone arch above them.

The right triangle is mainly empty space, punctuated by the rope that once bound the prisoner and a square window, through which two boys look on in horrified fascination. Their eyes are fastened on the knife that the executioner holds behind his back. If one draws another invisible line from the top right hand corner of the picture to the bottom left, the point in which the two diagonal lines meet is the knife - the exact center of the picture.  Like the boys within the framed window, our eyes too are drawn to this weapon.

What makes the painting so real for our time, is the casual brutality. It is something that we fear, but are drawn to. Few of us have ever heard a gunshot, or seen a corpse. Yet our news, our entertainment, the newspapers that we read and books that we enjoy are filled with senseless violence and play to our voyeuristic instincts.  We fear this violence, we shudder at the thought of it, yet, like the two boys, we cannot but help to be drawn to it.

The painting is huge and was recently restored in Italy. The figures are life size. It is the only painting that bears a Caravaggio signature. He has signed his name in the blood that flows from John the Baptist, perhaps in atonement for the violence, indeed murder, that he himself had perpetrated, according to historical records. Soon after completing this painting Caravaggio was once more involved in an incident of terrible violence.  He fled Malta, never to return.  A hunted man, he died soon after. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

St Augustine and St Monica

St Augustine and St Monica

The feast of St Augustine is placed just one day after that of his mother St Monica. Spending her entire life praying for his conversion, she certainly deserved to become a Saint herself. Augustine was born in the city of Tagaste, Algeria, in 354 AD to a Christian mother. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and became a Manichean. Later he converted to Christianity, being baptized by St Ambrose, and became a bishop of Hippo, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church, and is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Some of his writings are strictly autobiographical, even though very theological in thought. The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography are still read around the world.
As a young man before his conversion, he taught in North Africa, Carthage and Rome. It was only when he arrived in Milan that his life started to change. In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy. Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan telling him in a sing-song voice to tolle lege ("take up and read"). He grabbed the nearest text to him, which was Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened it at random to 13:13-14, which read: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa.
In 391 he was ordained a priest and became a famous preacher, while 5 years later he was made bishop of Hippo. Augustine died on August 28, 430. Among his famous quotes are these:   
“You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.” 
“To sing once is to pray twice.”
“Love, and do what you will.”
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

30+30=60

So after 30 years of experience, today I finally turn 30! I leave the quinquagenarians today and join the sexagenarians club (and that is not a bad word at all.) A year older makes you think and thank. It makes you think of the years gone by, the many childhood memories, studies, exams,  schoolwork, family life, and then work - 35 years of serving the people of God as a priest. And it’s time to also thank the Lord for many blessings received, many opportunities to bring people closer to God, and bring Jesus to the people by celebrating Mass and sharing the Eucharist.
So I offer you a few photos from the past as I looked every 10 years, as I see myself changing and growing up, starting with these photos of my younger years, as a baby (yes, wearing a dress, since my mother had two girls before me) and riding a tricycle. Then at 10 years old and at 20 in my Seminary years. (click once to enlarge, but quality is not the best as these are copies to create a montage)
Here we have my Ordination photo with my parents in June 1977, then some photos from 1982 in my early years of New York, as I settle down in the USA for the past 31 years so far.
Here we have some other photos from 1990 with the Long Island Bishop John McGann and my parents, with my nephew Julian in 1992, again with my parents in 1987 on my 10th anniversary in Malta, and a few others from 1992 in my years at Rocky Point, NY.
This last group of photos are from 1998 on my parent’s 50th anniversary, then in 2002 when I turned 50 with a child after a foot-washing ceremony at Pleasant Valley, NY, then in 2010 with my 1966 Minor Seminary classmate Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta, and finally just recently in July 2012 with my new Bishop Liam Cary. 
Thanks everyone for your birthday wishes. Now I start work on my next 60 years!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Feastday at St Julian's

The annual procession with the statue of Saint Julian will be held today throughout the streets of the village. The photo above shows the statue of Saint Julian decorated with donated flowers and candles.  The photo below taken from the parish website show some scenes of the solemn Mass earlier in the day.  
St Julian's parish church, Malta
Accompanying the procession later in the day will be priests, altar-servers, members of the Blessed Sacrament Confraternity as well as marching bands. Both the old parish church and the new one, opened in 1969 are beautifully decorated for this occasion, as these photos show.
The old Lapsi church in Julian's, Malta

The end of the procession with the statue of St Julian

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Festivities at St Julian's

The statue of St Julian, crafted by Carlo Darmanin 1893
A week-long celebration in honor of Saint Julian will reach their culmination tomorrow Sunday, with the procession along the streets of the village with the statue of St Julian. Various Masses were celebrated this week for various groups, like the youth, the elderly, children, members of religious organizations, etc. 

Streets are decorated with banners and other smaller statues. The predominant colors are black yellow and red, the Belgian flag, since St Julian came from Belgium. He lived in the 9th century.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Saint Bartholomew

St Bartholomew statue at St John Lateran, Rome

All that is known of St Bartholomew with certainty is that he is mentioned in the Gospels and Acts as one of the twelve apostles. His name means "son of Tolomai" (or Ptolemy) and scholars believe he is the same as Nathanael mentioned in John’s Gospel, who says he is from Cana and that Jesus called him an "Israelite...incapable of deceit, a person in whom there is no guile." He was a close friend of St Philip, because they are always mentioned together.
After the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India. Other traditions record him as serving in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. Along with St Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the st century. Thus both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. However, it is in Greater Armenia that Bartholomew saw his end where he was flayed or skinned and beheaded by King Astyages. The famous Last Judgment painting by Michelangelo shows St Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The face of the skin is recognizable as Michelangelo's, as if the artist wanted to show how much he suffered under Pope Julius, who wanted the Last Judgment finished sooner.

Michelangelo's Last Judgment - St Bartholomew
Of the many miracles performed by St. Bartholomew before and after his death, two very popular ones are known by the townsfolk of the small island of Lipari, off the coast of Italy. When St. Bartholomew's body was found off the shore, the Bishop ordered many men to take the body to the Cathedral. When this failed due to its extreme weight, the Bishop then sent out the children. The children easily brought the body ashore.
The people of the island of Lipari celebrate his feast day annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town during a procession, it suddenly got very heavy and had to be set down. They managed to lift it but had to put it down a few more times. Within seconds, walls further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all of the townspeople would have been killed.
During World War II, the Italian Fascist regime looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of the Saint and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only several ounces. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many pounds of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What if ?


What if, GOD couldn't take the time to bless us today because we couldn't take the time to thank Him yesterday?

What if, GOD decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we didn't follow Him today?

What if, we never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when GOD sent the rain?

What if, GOD didn't walk with us today because we failed to recognize it as His day?

What if, GOD took away the Bible tomorrow because we would not read it today?

What if, GOD took away His message because we failed to listen to the messenger?

What if, GOD didn't send His only begotten Son because He wanted us to be prepared to pay the price for sin?

What if, the door of the church was closed because we did not open the door of our heart?

What if, GOD stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others?

What if, GOD would not hear us today because we would not listen to Him?

What if, GOD answered our prayers the way we answer His call to service?

What if, GOD met our needs the way we give Him our lives?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mary, Queen of Heaven

Coronation of Mary at St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Baker City, OR
Mary the Queen of Heaven or the Queenship of Mary, is a Catholic feast day, created by Pope Pius XII on October 11, 1954, The feast was celebrated on May 31, the last day of the Marian month but Pope Paul VI moved the feast day to August 22, one week after the feast of the Assumption.
Assumed into heaven, Mary is with Jesus Christ, her divine son. Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood of Jesus Christ, her only son, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. 
In a way we can say that many feasts of Mary parallel those of Jesus. We have His Ascension and her Assumption, we have his suffering on Good Friday, and her feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. We have his birthday on Christmas and her birthday on September 8. We have his conception in Mary's womb on March 25, and her conception in St Anne’s womb on December 8.
Most of the images and paintings of Mary portray her with the child Jesus and others with St Joseph. Yet there is quite a portfolio of paintings that has Mary being crowned. Accentuating the positive, it is better to see Mary being crowned with angels around her, instead of seeing her suffer under the cross of Jesus, and yet both are important to emphasize, because one would not have been possible without the other. 
 
The prayer mostly associated with her role as Queen is: 
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 
It is said that when St Bernard heard these words being sung in a church, he uttered the words: O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! And his words were then added to this prayer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pope St Pius X


Saint Pius X was born on June 2, 1835, his name being Giuseppe Sarto, He was the first Pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. He was one of 11 children, and though poor, his parents valued education, and Giuseppe walked 3 miles to school each day. Pius X was a fervent reformer of Church practices and regulations such as the Canon Law, his most important reform, which for the first time codified Church law in a central fashion. He was a pastoral pope, encouraging personal piety and a life-style reflecting Christian values.
Pope Pius X was a Marian Pope, because for him there is no safer or more direct road than Mary. She is uniting all mankind in Christ. He was the only Pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience at the Parish level and pastoral concerns permeated his papacy. The Catechism of Pope Pius X is short and direct. His teachings were considered equally down to earth and practical. He favored the use of modern language in Catechesis. Frequent communion was a lasting innovation of Pius X, because before his time, people could only receive communion once a month and, on special occasions, on Sunday. He was also instrumental in introducing the custom of First Holy Communion for young children.
Like his predecessor, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) Pius opposed modernism, a school of thought, which claimed that Catholic dogma itself should be modernized and blended with 19th Century philosophies.

Pope Pius X visiting a girls school in Rome
Personally Pius combined within himself a strong sense of compassion, benevolence, poverty, but also stubbornness, and a certain stiffness. He wanted to be pastor and was the only Pope in the 20th century who gave Sunday sermons every week.
His charity was extraordinary, filling the Vatican with refugees from the 1908 Messina quake, long before the Italian government began to act on its own. He rejected any kind of favors for his family, his brother remained a postal clerk, his favorite nephew stayed on as village priest, and his three sisters lived together close to poverty in Rome.  He often referred to his own humble origins, taking up the causes of poor people. AI was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor." Considered a holy person by many, public veneration of Pope Pius X began soon after his death. He died August 20, 1914 and was canonized in 1954, after his body was exhumed and displayed under a side-altar where priests can celebrate Mass, many of which I was lucky to serve as an altar boy in 1966.

Monday, August 20, 2012

St Bernard of Clairvaux

St Bernard preaching to his monks

Born in 1090, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian monastic order. After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. The little community of reformed Benedictines at Cîteaux, which would have so profound an influence on Western monasticism grew rapidly. Three years later, in 1115, Bernard was sent with a band of 12 monks to found a new house at Clairvaux, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux would soon become inseparable. Bernard became a popular preacher, promoting the devotion to the Virgin Mary. In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which Bernard traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar who soon became the ideal of Christian nobility.
On the death of Pope Honorius II, a schism broke out in the Church. King Louis VI convened a national council of the French bishops, and Bernard was chosen to judge between the rival popes. Bernard devoted himself with renewed vigor to the composition of the works which would win for him the title of "Doctor of the Church". In 1139, Bernard assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran. Having previously helped end the schism within the Church, Bernard was now called upon to combat heresy.
Following the Christian defeat at the Siege of Edessa, the Pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard's life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at age 63 on August 20, 1153, after 40 years spent in the cloister.

Jean Bellegambe "St Bernard with the Madonna" 1509
He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints and was canonized by Pope Alexander III 18 January 1174, only 21 years after his death, a pretty fast canonization in those days. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church. He became remembered as the Mellifluous Doctor, the Honey-Sweet Doctor, for his eloquence. The Cistercians honor him as only the founders of orders are honored, because of the widespread activity which he gave to the order.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

We carry Him - He carries us

Christ the Light by Anton Inglott

The one phrase that strikes me personally in today’s Gospel is when Jesus said: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” I have said this many times that when you receive Jesus at Communion time, understand the nobility of that moment – He is in you, you are carrying Him inside of you, you are a real Christ-bearer, a Christopher (Greek for ‘carrying Christ,’) and hopefully people will see that specialness in you when they meet you later on, tomorrow, later in the week. You carry Christ wherever you go.

But we are also in Christ, we become a part of Him, we enflesh ourselves in Him, As my spiritual director in the Seminary used to tell us, we are soaked in Him, we are dipped in him and like a dry sponge that absorbs water and becomes full and soaking, we are soaked in the goodness and holiness of Jesus. Isn’t that precious? We are in Him, just as He is in us. We carry Him with us, and He carries us with Him. It’s a reciprocal deal. That is quite a privilege and an honor. And we do that every day, ever time you receive the Eucharist. When we receive communion,  He becomes a part of us, and we become a part of Him, we carry Jesus with us, and He carries us within Him.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How great is God!

Our Creator and Redeemer . . .how great is He, and do we THINK about it ??? God's accuracy may be observed in the hatching of eggs.. . . . .
For example:
-the eggs of the potato bug hatch in 7 days;
-those of the canary in 14 days;
-those of the barnyard hen in 21 days;
-The eggs of ducks and geese hatch in 28 days;
-those of the mallard in 35 days;
-The eggs of the parrot and the ostrich hatch in 42 days.(Notice, they are all divisible by seven, the number of days in a week!)

God's wisdom is seen in the making of an elephant. The four legs of this great beast all bend forward in the same direction. No other quadruped is so made. God planned that this animal would have a huge body, too large to live on two legs. For this reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it can rise from the ground easily.

The horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first. A cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first. How wise the Lord is in all His works of creation!

God's wisdom is revealed in His arrangement of sections and segments, as well as in the number of grains.

-Each watermelon has an even number of stripes on the rind.
-Each orange has an even number of segments.
-Each ear of corn has an even number of rows.
-Each stalk of wheat has an even number of grains.
-Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number and the next row an odd number.

-The waves of the sea roll in on shore twenty-six to the minute in all kinds of weather.

All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks, and the Lord specified thirty fold, sixty fold, and a hundred fold all even numbers.

God has caused the flowers to blossom at certain specified times during the day. Linnaeus, the great botanist, once said that if he had a conservatory containing the right kind of soil, moisture and temperature, he could tell the time of day or night by the flowers that were open and those that were closed!

The lives of each of you may be ordered by the Lord in a beautiful way for His glory, if you will only entrust Him with your life. If you try to regulate your own life, it will only be a mess and a failure. Only the One Who made the brain and the heart can successfully guide them to a profitable end.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Love, Patience and Sacrifice

My parents in 1988, after 40 years of marriage

Jesus speaks about the sanctity of marriage today in the gospel readings of the day, and in honor of my parents, I share this reflection today, since I saw in their relationship the values of love, patience and sacrifice at their very best. Throughout 54 years together, me and my siblings witnessed the expression of dedication and unconditional love they shared for each other and for us all. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, these values are deeply appreciated later on in life. They never did anything apart from each other, and so they sacrificed, they suffered and toiled ceaselessly to see their family happy and content, sometimes with the minimum, because as I learned in my life, it’s not what you have that counts but what you do with what God gives you.
My parents on their wedding day, July 24, 1948
Back in the 1990s, I led Pre-Cana classes for couples in my parishes in New York, and at the end of each session, I would ask the couples to give me one phrase that would define marriage in their eyes. These are some of the comments I collected over the years from them:
Marriage is a.....partnership, a commitment, an outrageous vocation as much as a vacation, a life-long friendship, a bond, togetherness, affirmation, a gift to be cherished, devotion, an adventure, a journey, eternal, a sacrifice, strength to be together as one, exciting and scary, a roller coaster, mutual, reciprocal, a union, in tune with each other, giving and taking, emotional, security, a dialogue, a pledge, passion, magic, a sacrament, a compromise, equal opportunities, a decision, and .....work! Lots of work.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blessing of fishing boats

My watercolor impression of the fishing boats blessing and Mass

Every year in my home town of St Julian’s, the traditional Mass and blessing of fishing boats takes place on an evening close to the feast of the Assumption of Mary. This is done in other fishing villages, in particular Marsaxlokk, as well as other smaller fishing ports. As you can see from the photos below, taken in the 1970s, a priest celebrates Mass, usually inside a fishing boat with an altar set-up inside for the occasion, and then the blessing of the boats takes place afterwards. 
Fr Anton Xiberras celebrating the fishermen's Mass

The fishing season officially starts around the middle of August and goes into late November, when the most popular Maltese fish, the lampuka is caught in abundance. The price of a lampuka is pretty high at first, but goes down as the catch of fish is more abundant.

Fr John Galea blessing the boats at St Julian's, Malta

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Feast of the Assumption

Statue of Mary exiting the Cathedral in procession

A mid-summer solemnity is the one we celebrate today - that of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, a dogma of faith that was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on November 1st 1950. In his encyclical “Munificentissimus Deus” the Pope solemnly declared “we pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma, that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, Having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Inside the decorated Cathedral, Rabat, Gozo, Malta
More than half the parishes in Malta are dedicated to the Blessed Mother, 8 of them precisely to the Assumption, and today, processions are held in each of them. These photos were from the Cathedral parish of Rabat, Gozo, on my last visit for that feast in 2006. Churches are beautifully decorated, solemn Masses are held during the 15 days leading to this day, and a festive yet reverent procession is held with the artistic statue of Mary. Of course marching bands and fireworks are also included.
Decorated streets with lights, banners and other miniature statues

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

St Maximilian Kolbe

St Maximilian before being taken to Auschwitz
Maximilian was born in January 1894 in Poland and was one of 5 sons to his devout parents. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. In 1907 Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome and was inspired to organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional leaflets, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata" and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.
Maximilian went to Japan where he built a monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time. He provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalan├│w. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports.

St Maximilian taking Franciszek's place
On February 17, 1941 he was arrested again by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place. The guards accepted this move, and Francizek was spared and eventually lived until the late 1990s. During the time in the cell St Maximilian led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
Franciszek Gajowniczek
Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek and his family.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oregon flowers

Holyhock flowers next to a birdhouse

More holyhocks

I share with you some photos of flowers that grow at this time of the year in Eastern Oregon. Some of them may be familiar to you, but others may not. These were taken over the past few weeks in different places, in front of houses, in yards, when I notice unusual or unfamiliar flowers, and record them on camera. 

An unusual double-growth on a pink daisy-like flower
Cleome
The growing season here is very short, and flowers usually bloom between June and August. Vegetables also are abundant at this time, but as soon as frost starts, usually by early September, everyone will be running to pick their tomatoes, zucchinis, string beans and other veggies they grow.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Marathon Day

Marathon winner Stephen Kiprotich in the middle, flanked by two Kenyans
As the Olympic Games end today in London, traditionally the last day is also Marathon Day when the men’s marathon was run through the historic and picturesque streets of London. The winner was Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, followed by two Kenyans. It was impressive to see the winner kneeling down on the finish line, kissing his country’s flag and then blessing himself. 

Meseret Defar of Ethiopia with picture of the Blessed Mother
Two days earlier, another female athlete, Meseret Defar of Ethiopia became ecstatic after winning the 5000 meters, and also knelt down and took a picture of the Blessed Mother from under her shirt, kissing it and showing it to the camera. There was also the impressive story of David Rudisha, who won the 800 meters in a world record time, after coming from the Masai tribe in Kenya, and not having any facilities to train in. However he was noticed by a lay missionary Patrician brother Colm O’Connell who trained him on dirt roads, creating a sort of a track after removing stones and covering holes on the road. David was also encouraged to start running after seeing his father’s silver medal form the 1968 Olympics which he had won in a relay race for Kenya. There are many other touching stories that connect faith and sport. The spirit of the Olympics reigns supreme, higher, stronger and faster.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saint Clare


Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called "Poor Clares." When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not.
Soon her sister Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus, and live without any money. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time. Once, He saved them from a great danger in answer to St. Clare's prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, St. Clare had herself carried to the wall and right there, where the enemies could see it, she had the Blessed Sacrament placed. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters. "O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care."
At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed: "They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?"                                    
Many stories and allegorical tales have been created with St Francis and St Clare, including the popular movie and phrase “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” But the fact is that both St Clare and St Francis laid a foundation for what to become one of the most influential orders of priests, friars and sisters, the Franciscans. Many other Orders splintered from the original Franciscans, but the foundation of each group remained always a life of poverty and good Christian example, a life detached from the materialism of this world.

The Poor Clares at St Julian's Monastery, Malta
In my hometown of St Julian’s, Malta, there is a monastery of cloistered nuns, St Clare’s Monastery and they have had the respect and admiration of everyone who gets to know them. I’ve served and said many Masses in their chapel, they crafted my priestly chasubles, and other vestments and have been close to my family, in prayer and support that both of us needed. This is what they say on their website: “We are an enclosed contemplative fraternity of Poor Clare sisters whose monastery is in Regional Road, St Julian’s. Our life is centered on daily prolonged silent prayer, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As contemplatives we dedicate more time to praise of God. Our deep spiritual life enables us to enter deeply into silent conversation with Him. Meditation on the Scripture, as well as other spiritual reading, provides the foundation for this prayer.”