Friday, November 30, 2012

Saint Andrew

Main altar painting, San Andrea della Valle, Rome
Sibling rivalry is not often mentioned in the Gospels, but we know that John and his brother James were always trying to impress Jesus, while their mother spoke in their regard so that they get preferential treatment in heaven. Then there was Peter who had his brother Andrew close to him, both fishermen, but Jesus had the soft spot for Peter, while Andrew stayed in his shadow.  Andrew became a disciple of the great St John the Baptist, but when John pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Andrew understood that Jesus was greater. At once he left John to follow the Divine Master. He was actually the first apostle Jesus called at the Sea of Galilee.
At first the two brothers continued to carry on their fishing trade and family affairs, but later, the Lord called them to stay with Him all the time. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time, they left their nets for good. It is believed that after Jesus ascended into Heaven, St Andrew went to Greece to preach the gospel, as well as along the Black Sea. He is said to have been put to death on a cross, to which he was tied, not nailed. He lived two days in that state of suffering, still preaching to the people who gathered around their beloved Apostle. Various countries have chosen St Andrew as their patron saint, among them Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Scotland. In fact Scotland has incorporated his X-shaped cross in their flag, repeated again in the Union Jack, the British flag. 

Side altar painting, San Andrea della Valle, Rome
Relics of the Apostle Andrew are kept at the Basilica of St Andrew in Patras, Greece; the Duomo di Sant'Andrea, Amalfi, Italy; St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Church of St Andrew and St Albert, Warsaw, Poland. There are also numerous smaller reliquaries throughout the world.
The two paintings reproduced here were paintings in the famous church San Andrea della Valle in the heart of Rome. Thankfully they allowed photography in the church, and I was able to take a few photos last May. The church is featured in the first act of the opera Tosca by Giacomo Puccini.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Three Hymns

Before we start the Advent season in preparation for Christmas, I share with you one final cute story that will surely bring a smile on everyone's face....

One Sunday a pastor told his congregation that the church needed some extra money, and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little more in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns. After the offering plates were passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in offering. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation and said that he would personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate. A very quiet, elderly, saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand.
The pastor asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and in thanksgiving asked her to pick out three hymns. Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said. I'll take him and him and him.

The Three Hymns...him, him and him!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Surprising Sunrises

Baker City, OREGON sunrise November 28, 2012
Autumn is the best time to observe spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Here in Eastern Oregon, we are blessed with such scenes that illuminate the entire sky. This morning I experienced such a phenomena, when you have to be in the right place at the right time, with a camera at hand. Sunrises like these last only 2 to 3 minutes, and if you miss the perfect shot, you’ll regret it forever. Many people miss seeing these sunrises because they’re either still asleep, or getting up, or shaving or taking a shower, or putting make-up on, or having breakfast, or checking e-mails, or the news, or watching morning shows, or just too oblivious of the beauty that’s a curtain-rise away. So I share with you today the red flaming sky that enveloped Baker City at around 7 AM.

“Praise the Lord you skies and clouds, you sunrises and sunsets!”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Remembering a great pioneer

Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who performed the world's first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work, has died at age 93. Since the first kidney transplants on identical twins, hundreds of thousands of transplants on a variety of organs have been performed worldwide. Murray shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990 with Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who won for his work in bone marrow transplants. "Kidney transplants seem so routine now," Murray told The New York Times after he won the Nobel. "But the first one was like Lindbergh's flight across the ocean." Murray's breakthroughs did not come without criticism, from ethicists and religious leaders. In the early 1950s, there had never been a successful human organ transplant. Murray and his associates at Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, developed new surgical techniques, gaining knowledge by successfully transplanting kidneys on dogs. In December 1954, they found the right patients, 23-year-old Richard Herrick, who had end-stage kidney failure, and his identical twin, Ronald Herrick.

Because of their identical genetic background, they did not face the biggest problem with transplant patients, the immune system's rejection of foreign tissue. After the operation, Richard had a functioning kidney transplanted from Ronald. Richard lived another eight years, marrying a nurse he met at the hospital and having two children. "Post-operatively the transplanted kidney functioned immediately with a dramatic improvement in the patient's renal and cardiopulmonary status," Murray said in his Nobel lecture. "This spectacular success was a clear demonstration that organ transplantation could be life-saving."

Murray performed more transplants on identical twins over the next few years and tried kidney transplants on other relatives, including fraternal twins, learning more about how to suppress the immune system's rejection of foreign tissue. One patient who received a kidney transplant from a fraternal twin in 1959, plus radiation and a bone marrow transplant to suppress his immune response, lived for 29 more years. Murray continued a long career in plastic surgery, his original specialty, and transplants. He was guided by his own deep religious convictions. "Work is a prayer," Murray told the Harvard University Gazette in 2001. "And I start off every morning dedicating it to our Creator."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving never ends

As many people return to their normal daily routine, may they always remember to give thanks to God almighty for so many blessings they receive. As I was coming back from my mission Church in Halfway yesterday, a simple wooden cross on a hill reminded me of God’s beauty all around. May we continue to show gratitude everyday of our lives.

    “O God, when I have food,  help me to remember the hungry;
    When I have work, help me to remember the jobless;
    When I have a home, help me to remember those who have no home at all;
    When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer....

    And remembering, help me to destroy my complacency;
    Show more my compassion, and be concerned enough to help;
    By word and deed, those who cry out
    for what we take for granted. Amen.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King

 The Solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. It’s a day to honor our Savior as King, who leads us with love, kindness and compassion, unlike many other ruthless Kings and Emperors who lead with tyranny, oppression and cruelty, many of whom were deposed by their own people. The image of Christ the King has always been presented to us as if sitting on a glittering throne, with a scepter in hand and golden crown on his head. In actual fact, his throne was the cross on which he was crucified, the scepter were the nails driven through his hands and feet, and the crown was made of sharp thorns that were pushed on his head. The feast of Christ the King as we know it now was introduced in 1925, to counteract the start of Communism in the world. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had taken the presence of Christ from the hearts of people, and the Church wanted to bring Him back into the center of their lives. The feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October until 1969, when Pope Paul VI shifted this feast to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, usually towards the end of November.
Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat (Christ will win, Christ will reign, Christ will rule)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bishop Scicluna consecrated

Bishop Charles Scicluna at St John's Cathedral, Valletta, Malta

Mgr Charles Scicluna, former Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, was ordained Auxiliary Bishop for Malta on Saturday morning November 24, 2012 at St John's co-Cathedral in Valletta. He will be Archbishop Paul Cremona's right hand man. Two Cardinals, several bishops and many priests concelebrated the Mass in a packed Cathedral. The ceremony began with the reading out of an official proclamation by the Pope followed by Mgr Cremona’s homily in which he thanked the Pope for sending Mgr Scicluna “with his talents and experience - to help me and the Church in Malta on its way towards holiness”.
Malta Cardinal Prospero Grech blessing the new Bishop
In a message to the new bishop, Mgr Cremona said “The fullness of the ministerial priesthood which you will be receiving in your Episcopal Ordination is the mission through which the Bishop helps the faithful to live their calling as Christians. This means that the Bishop’s is not a personal dignity: it is given to him for others. It is a great dignity and a great responsibility which the Church entrusts primarily to Bishops in a specific place and entrusts them mainly with all the means it has available for the sanctification of Christians: namely the sacraments and the Word of God.”

Miter, ring and crosier of new Bishop Scicluna
The Bishop's ring is a gift from the Malta archdiocese. In the liturgical form, the ring represents the loyalty of the bishop towards the Church. In the past, the ring would be given as a sign of respect to mark (seal) his official documents and as a symbol of the commitment of the bishop towards his diocese. The miter is a gift from the nuns community in Rome, of which he is chaplain. The miter represents the bishop's enthusiasm to walk towards the path of sainthood. The tails of the miter incorporates the coat-of-arms of Bishop Scicluna, which include the family crest, which incidentally is also my mother's maiden name. The crosier is a present from the Lija parish, where Mgr Scicluna lives with his parents. The crosier reminds us that the bishop is the shepherd taking care of his flock. The cross around Mgr Scicluna's neck was given as a gift from his relatives. Ad Multos Annos.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Watch what you write!

"Sure is hot down here!......."  What !

Our wonderful technology is amazing and we are now communicating with such ease and efficiency that makes typewriters, note-pads and even fountain pens and ink obsolete. But it’s wise to remember how easily this wonderful technology can be misused, sometimes unintentionally, with serious consequences. 
Consider the case of the Illinois man who left the snow-filled  streets of Chicago for a vacation in Florida.  His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him there the next day.  When he reached his hotel, he decided to send his wife a quick e-mail. Unable to find the scrap of paper on which he had written her e-mail address, he did his best to type it in from memory.   Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher's wife whose husband had passed away only the day before. When the grieving widow checked her e-mail, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor in a dead faint.  At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Blessed Thanksgiving

May we bow our heads in prayer on this day of gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for - our existence; our parents who created us out of love; our health and well-being. We are grateful for our children and their innocence; for our youth and their enthusiasm; for spouses and their sincere commitment to their sacrament; for our seniors and their wisdom and experience. We are thankful for our churches, our schools, people in public office, and all those who serve us in society. And last but not least for peace and harmony in our world. May we see God’s handprint  and footprint in everything we see around us. A Blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Memories of Thanksgiving

Kermit at Thanksgiving Day Parade

Papa Smurf parading down the avenues

My first Thanksgiving in 1981 was a memorable one, as I went to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade in New York City. It was a glorious day with thousands of people watching the floats of Snoopy, Spiderman, the Smurfs and Kermit float by in the cold autumn air. I thought I would spend the rest of the day visiting some stores in Manhattan, but everything was closed! So I headed back to New Hyde Park where I joined one of the families in my parish for a delicious turkey dinner. Things have changed as this year some stores will open in the evening to beat the Black Friday rush of customers storming the stores for early Christmas shopping. But it’s a shame that commercialism and materialism has tarnished this otherwise religious and meaningful holiday.

Shrek floating down Broadway
And yet the balloons of so many new characters like Shrek and Buzz Lightyear will float again through the New York avenues to the thrill of children and older folks alike. A Blessed Thanksgiving to everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Showing Gratitude

Showing Gratitude - Over the years, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. Since we do not celebrate it in Malta, or anywhere in Europe, it became more meaningful for me as the years went by to give tribute to God for all the blessings that I have received from family, friends, former parishioners and Americans in general. Thanksgiving is considered to be an art, the art of living thankfully and showing gratitude to God for all He gave us over the years. So walk with me through this list of things we so often take for granted:
- our Cathedral, warm in the winter and cool enough in the summer months, a hidden gem in the northwest USA.
- Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who gave us Microsoft and Apple respectively, as well as Windows, Ipods, Ipads, the copy and paste buttons, half a million apps and free e-mail, with no paper, no envelopes, no postage.
- digital cameras, and the possibility to take hundreds of photos without having to print any of them, but save the good ones and discard the blurry ones, then send them to friends within a few seconds.
- Freezers, so that you can freeze your favorite soup or meal, and enjoy it 6 months later.
- Do Re MI Fa So La Si - the 7 notes that can still give us millions of songs and pieces of music.
- Automatic cars, so that you can drive without having to shift gears every 3 minutes.
- for movies on DVDs, for entire symphonies on CDs, and also for the nostalgia of vinyl records, cassettes, floppy discs and even beta tapes, which are now all Museum items.
- for flying across the Atlantic in 7 hours, instead of sailing the same distance in 27 days.
- for Webcams, that allow you to see what’s going on around the world, especially for ODOT cameras that allow you to check the condition of some roads and avoid or postpone driving through the snow.
- for microwave ovens, for dish-washers, washing-machines and dryers, and also for, remember them? - typewriters!
- for the blessing of water, without which, nothing will survive, for rakes and shovels, for snow ploughs and lawn-mowers, and for the gift of moisture (rain or snow,) especially when they fall in the mountains and lakes.
- for the opportunity to share a blog around the world, all for free, and having 22 thousand visitors check it out over 10 months, with a new entry every single day.
- for courteous neighbors, for blood donors and organ donors, for patient check-out salesgirls, for concerned landlords and for priests and deacons who preach less than 10 minutes on Sundays.  There is so much more to be grateful for. And last but not least, for our parents who created us out of love, and for our children who look up to us, hopefully to receive always a good example.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

Norman Rockwell - Saying Grace
During the next 4 days I will share reflections and images related to Thanksgiving, especially in view of the fact that materialism and consumerism is just about ready to destroy this meaningful holiday. It has become one of my favorite celebrations, when I encourage people and parishioners to bow their heads in prayer and thank their Creator for so many blessing received. One of the artists that has given us memorable paintings and posters about Thanksgiving is Norman Rockwell, especially through his Saturday Evening Post posters. I share with you two of them today, one , the other a little humorous. The poster above shows an old lady bowing her head in prayer before her meal, with two young men inquisitively looking at her, but getting a lesson in what Thanksgiving is all about. Her grandson is also joining in prayer, waiting for his turn to dig into the turkey.
This second poster from 1928 shows a contrast in how Americans visualize Thanksgiving Day. As we all remember the pilgrims who came to America, most Americans today have transformed the image of the pilgrim with a typical football player, as 2 football games used to be played on this day, traditionally one in Detroit and the other in Dallas. Over the past few years, yet a third game has been added, so that people can watch football from 9 AM till 9 PM, in between munching on the turkey, the stuffing and cranberry sauce, besides of course....pumpkin pies, at least for those who like them.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The end of a generation

My aunt Concetta with grandson Simon, 1966

I give tribute today to my aunt Concetta Micallef who died on Friday November 16 in Malta, aged 97. She was the last of my father’s siblings and outlived all her brothers and sisters by 12 years and more. The 4 brothers and 3 sisters who were born between 1914 and 1928, and were all close to each other and having 19 grandchildren in all, all growing up in St Julian’s in the midst of hardship caused by World War II.  
In 1936, with Concetta standing in the back, my father on her left
My aunt was also my godmother and she was very happy and proud that one of her nephews became a priest, as she always looked forward for my Masses, especially when I was still in my home parish, and whenever I visit Malta. She was a great lady who loved her two sons, her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all her nephews and nieces, whom she treated like her own children. We all respected her and adored her patience, her happy attitude in everything she did and her dedication to her passion of sewing, for which everyone admired her. Incidentally she was also my father’s godmother, and now that she is re-united with him and her husband Alfred and her other sisters and brothers, I offer my Masses this week in her memory. And so another generation is gone, and it’s up to us now to continue to imitate the values they worked so hard for. 

2002 - With my family after a memorial Mass, Concetta in front, on my right
Her Obituary as it appeared in the Times of Malta today:
MICALLEF. On November 16, CONCETTA, née Cassar, aged 96, widow of Alfred, passed peacefully away at St Vincent de Paul residence comforted by the rites of Holy Church. She leaves to mourn her great loss her children Charles and his wife Rose, Joe and his wife Frances, her grandchildren Simon and his wife Sharon, Kenneth and his wife Richies, Shirley and her husband Vincent, Rodney, and Susan, her great-granddaughters Raquel, Tamara and Maria, together with her nephews and nieces, among whom Fr Julian of Oregon, US, other relatives and friends. The funeral leaves St Vincent de Paul residence tomorrow at 7.30am for St Julian’s parish church, where Mass praesente cadavere will be celebrated at 8.15am, followed by interment at Santa Maria Addolorata cemetery. No flowers by request, but donations to the Monastery of the Poor Clares, St Julian’s, will be greatly appreciated. Lord grant her eternal rest for a life of devotion and dedication to her family.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

St Elizabeth of Hungary

Esteban Murillo - St Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth was born in Bratislava, a Kingdom of Hungary in 1207, the daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary. At the age of four she was sent for education to the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, and within a few years she was betrothed to his son, Ludwig. As she grew in age, her piety also increased by leaps and bounds. In 1221, aged 14, she married Ludwig of Thuringia, the same year that he was crowned Ludwig IV, and the marriage appears to have been happy. In 1223, Franciscan monks arrived, and the teenage Elizabeth not only learned about the ideals of Francis of Assisi, but started to live these ideals. Ludwig was not upset by his wife's charitable efforts, believing that the distribution of his wealth to the poor would bring eternal reward; he is venerated in Thuringia as a saint, though not canonized by the church as his wife is. In spite of Elizabeth’s position at court she began to lead an austerely simple life, practiced penance, and devoted herself to works of charity.
Painting in the church at Kosd, Hungary

Her husband was himself much inclined to religion and highly esteemed her virtue, encouraging her in her exemplary life. They had three children, Hermann, Sophia and Gertrude. Then tragedy struck - Ludwig was killed while fighting with the Crusaders. After his death, Elizabeth left the court, made arrangements for the care of her children, and in 1228, renounced the world, becoming a tertiary of St. Francis. Her family wanted her to re-marry, but she made a vow of celibacy and never married. She built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg, Germany and devoted herself to the care of the sick until her death at the young age of 24 in 1231. St. Elizabeth is frequently pictured distributing bread to the needy in her community, and thus is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, the homeless, nursing services, widows, and young brides. She was canonized in 1235, just 4 years after her death.

Friday, November 16, 2012

St Margaret of Scotland

Margaret was an English princess, although, like the saint we honor tomorrow Elizabeth of Hungary, she was also born in Hungary. She later settled in England, and with her mother they sailed to Scotland to escape from the king who had conquered their land. King Malcolm of Scotland welcomed them and fell in love with the beautiful princess, and even though he was a good person, he and his court were a little rough. Margaret and Malcolm were married before too long.
As Queen, Margaret changed her husband and the country for the better. When he saw how wise his beloved wife was, he listened to her good advice. She softened his temper and led him to practice great virtue. She made the court beautiful and civilized. Soon all the princes had better manners, and the ladies copied her purity and devotion. The king and queen gave wonderful example to everyone by the way they prayed together and fed crowds of poor people with their own hands. Their intention was to make everyone happy. 

The Marriage of Margaret and Malcolm III
Margaret was a blessing for all the people of Scotland. Before she came, there was great ignorance and many bad habits among them. She worked hard to obtain good teachers, to correct the evil practices, and to have new churches built. She loved to make these churches beautiful for God's glory, and she embroidered the priest's vestments herself.
God sent this holy Queen six sons and two daughters. She loved them dearly and raised them well. She attended to charitable works, and personally served orphans and the poor every day before she ate. She rose at midnight to attend church services every night.                 

Her husband, Malcolm III, and their eldest son, Edward, were killed in a fight against the English at Alnwick Castle. Her other son Edmund was left with the task of telling his mother of their deaths. Margaret was ill, and she died on 16 November 1093, three days after the deaths of her husband and eldest son. Saint Margaret was canonized in the year 1250 by Pope Innocent IV in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Broken Cruets

Marshall Josip Tito of Yugoslavia
This is a touching story about how children are effected by correction, being disciplined in a gentle manner instead of being scolded in a harsh way. A story is told about a young altar boy who dropped the glass water and wine cruets on the marble floor of the sanctuary at Mass in a church in Yugoslavia,  breaking them into a zillion pieces.  The priest yelled at him and told him not to come back.  He never went back, and became the Communist leader of Yugoslavia:  Marshall Josip Tito.  
Bishop Fulton Sheen
But there was an occasion when another young altar boy dropped the cruets, smashing them to smithereens.  The  understanding and patient priest patted the young fellow on the back and said:  "Don't worry about it, son - you'll probably be a bishop some day."  And this youngster grew up to be Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the famous writer, preacher and holy man whose cause of canonization is under way!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Written excuses - from parents

Norman Rockwell - At the Principal's Office

The following is a collection of "actual excuse notes from parents (including spelling) " from the Office of Educational Assessment at the University of Washington. You have to use your imagination when reading and trying to understand some of them, but I hope that for a little change of rhythm, this post brings a smile to your face.

My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.
Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.
Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31,32, and also 33.
Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.
Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt  in the growing part.

Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
Chris will not be in school because he has an acre in his side.
Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea and his boots leak.
Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father's fault.
Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it  was Sunday.

Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.
My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the Marines.
Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.
Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a hangover.
Please excuse Burma, she has been sick and under the doctor.

Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, with fever and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

 St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, was born in Lombardia, Italy in 1850, the youngest of thirteen children. Two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her 67 years. As a young girl, Francesca was taken care of by her older sister Rosa, because her mother was 52 when Maria Francesca was born.
At 13, she was sent to Arluno to study under the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at the Normal School, and in 1868, at 18 she was certified as a teacher. Four years later she contracted smallpox. When she tried to enter into the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, Mother Superior refused admission, even though she saw potential in her, because of her frail health. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her siblings.
One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls' school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her Bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Although her lifelong dream was to be a missionary in China, Pope Leo XIII sent her to New York City on March 31, 1889 with six other nuns. There, she obtained the permission of Archbishop Michael Corrigan to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, Ulster County, NY today known as Saint Cabrini Home, the first of 67 institutions she founded in New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and in countries throughout South America and Europe, especially Italy, England, France, Spain. Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable woman soon founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages in this strange land and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children. 

She died in Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patroness of immigrants. Her beatification miracle involved the restoration of sight to a child who had been blinded by excess silver nitrate in the eyes. Her canonization miracle involved the healing of a terminally ill nun. She is buried in Washington Heights where a shrine is also dedicated to her.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Supporting Tonio Borg

Tomorrow November 13th, Dr Tonio Borg, Malta Deputy Prime Minister will face the appropriate committee of the European Parliament in a hearing which is part of the procedure adopted before someone can become a Commissioner of the European Union. The candidature proposed by the Maltese Government has the support of Malta’s other political party, Partit Laburista. So all of Malta, predominantly Catholic, is behind him 100%.

Unfortunately, Tonio is facing an anti-Christian secularist lobby in the EU Parliament. He will be grilled relentlessly simply because he espouses Christian values. It is the Christian ethos which is so much hated by the secularists that will be under attack. Dr Tonio has always defended his Catholic faith, the indissolubility of marriage, the sacramental aspect of marriage between a man and a woman, the sacredness of life, as well as other issues that are constantly under attack by secularists, just because they are based on our Christian truths and beliefs.

The above photo was taken at the Vatican in 1969, when Tonio was an altar-boy chosen to serve at the Vatican during the summer months. My late brother Paul is seen kissing the ring of Cardinal Paolo Marella, and behind Tonio, in glasses, is another beloved deceased altar-boy Mario Seychell, along with Canon Joseph Delia, the Director of the altar-boy organization Piccolo Clero. I pray that these 4 departed loved ones will intercede for Tonio from heaven, as he is given a fair trial and eventually be confirmed as the new Malta European Union Commissioner. This has nothing to do with politics, but about standing for what you believe, especially in a Europe that is also predominantly Catholic. Europe and the world need people like Tonio Borg to stand for integrity, loyalty and a genuine Christian commitment.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Honoring all Veterans

Dear Lord,
Today we honor our veterans, worthy men and women
who gave their best when they were called upon
to serve and protect their country.
We pray that you will bless them, Lord,
for their unselfish service in the continual struggle
to preserve our freedoms, our safety,
and our country’s heritage, for all of us.
Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced,
for the sacrifices they made, for their many different contributions
to America’s victories over tyranny and oppression.
We respect them, we thank them, we honor them, we are proud of them,
and we pray that you will watch over these special people
and bless them with peace and happiness. Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The 3 other Basilicas

St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican

Yesterday I wrote about the mother church of Rome, the Lateran Basilica. So today I briefly refer to the 3 other Basilicas of Rome, and show you photos I took of each of them this past May. St. Peter’s Basilica is the most popular church in the world, the home of the Pope and the center of Christianity. The basilica was built on the burial place of St Peter, the collective work of Donato Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Gianlorenzo Bernini. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century, but construction of the present Basilica began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.
St Paul outside the walls
St Peter’s outside the walls was built originally by King Constantine on the burial place of St Paul. The present Basilica was finished in 1823. It has an impressive portico with a statue of Saint Paul in the middle, as well as a cloister. A circular image of each Pope is seen all around the inside of the Basilica. Impressive mosaics and paintings adorn the rest of the church.
St Mary Major
St Mary Major is the largest church dedicated to the Blessed Mother, and the present church was finished in 1740 by Ferdinando Fuga who was also commissioned to modify the interior. According to tradition, during the pontificate of Liberius, the Roman patrician John and his wife, who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary. They prayed that she might make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor. On  August 5th, at the height of the Roman summer, snow fell during the night on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. In obedience to a vision of the Virgin Mary which they had the same night, the couple built a basilica in honor of Mary on the very spot which was covered with snow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Lateran Basilica

The facade of St John Lateran, constructed by Alessandro Galilei

Today is the anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran church in Rome, the mother church, which was dedicated on November 9, 324 AD. King Constantine had built the original church on a plot of land owned by the Laterani family. It was pillaged and attacked and desecrated over the years, but it survived. However, an earthquake in the 9th century destroyed it completely. The Lateran Basilica along with the Palace adjacent to it have been rebuilt and rededicated twice. Pope Sergius III dedicated them to Saint John the Baptist in the 10th century, while Pope Lucius II dedicated them to Saint John the Evangelist in the 12th century. Two destructive fires in 1307 and 1361 ravaged the Palace and Basilica, but the Avignon Papacy sent money for their reconstruction and maintenance. However they never regained their former splendor, until Pope Clement XII launched a competition to design a new facade. 
The top part of the facade, with Jesus the Savior, flanked by John the Baptist and John the Evangelist
 Over 23 architects took part in the competition and the winner was Alessandro Galilei. The majestic facade as it appears today was completed in 1735. I was fortunate to visit the Basilica last May and took quite a few photos, 4 of which are accompanying this post.
St Matthew, one of the 12 massive marble statues

I was especially impressed with 12 massive statues of the 12 apostles situated inside the basilica, sculpted by the best sculptors in Rome in the early 18th century: Rusconi, Moratti, Rossi, Mazzuoli, Ottoni, Monnot and Le Gros. An elaborate baldacchino stands above the main altar, surrounded by various paintings and an intricate mosaic in the apse.

The baldacchino on the left, with the apostles' statues visible on the right

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Flashback from 40 years ago

Our team in 1972, I was the goalie - all the others are active priests

In 1972, I was in 2nd year at the Major Seminary in Malta, and along with 17 classmates and around another 70 other seminarians, I enjoyed the community life, while studying at the University of Malta various subjects like Metaphysics, Philosophy, Ethics, Dogmatic and Moral Theology, Church History, Liturgy and Patrology, Scripture and other church-related topics. We also enjoyed various pastimes, especially playing soccer. Since I was responsible for all sports activities, I encouraged every seminarian to take part in a 7-a-side soccer league which went on for an entire year. 
And the goalkeeper let one in! - We still won that game.

Most of the seminarians were not athletic at all, but it was fun trying to get everyone involved, even if they were clumsy or awkward shooting a soccer ball. I was also the goalie for our team, but I also coordinated the Faculty of Theology team which played against other faculties like Medicine, Law, Science, Arts, Architecture and others. Most of the Law students we played against are now members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister, various Ministers in his Cabinet, as well as others who are accomplished doctors, architects, etc. They were happy years, fun years that we look back at and reminisce as we say to each others, “those were the days!”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Simple Quiz

As people wind down after the US election, I share with you today a simple quiz. 

This is a quiz for people who know everything! They are 9 straight questions with straight answers, nothing tricky or unusual. I will post the answers later in the day.

1. The one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends .

2. North American landmark constantly moving backward.
Niagara Falls  (The rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.)

3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons .
Asparagus and rhubarb.

4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside .

5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle.
The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small, and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.
6. Three English words beginning with dw
Dwarf, dwell and dwindle.

7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar. Period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation marks, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.
8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh

9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with 'S'.
Shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day - A Prayer

Citizens voting, and a future voter peeking

This Prayer for the Nation and its Government was written and first delivered in August 1791 by Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore: adviser to Washington, cousin of the Declaration's lone Catholic signer, the first shepherd of this church in these States:
    We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ has revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.
    We pray Thee, who alone are good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict XVI, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, Liam, all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.
    We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.
    We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.
    We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.
    Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.
    To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fr Rene' Cilia - Rest in Peace

Father Rene' Cilia

It was a tragic day in Malta on Sunday. 4 men were killed in a farmhouse where fireworks were being constructed. It's a scene happening too often in the Maltese islands. May they rest in peace, and may their families find consolation and comfort during this tough time. 
I ask you today also to pray for a young priest, Fr Rene' Cilia who was killed Sunday morning on his way to celebrate Mass in his parish at Zejtun. He was ordained only two years ago, and filled with youthful enthusiasm, he was well loved by his parishioners and the youth, to whom he dedicated his life. Let us pray for his parents, relatives, friends and his parishioners. 

From the Times of Malta November 6, 2012:
Hundreds of people have turned up in Qormi for the funeral of Fr Rene' Cilia, the 27-year-old priest who died in a traffic accident early on Sunday. The people burst into applause as the cortège arrived in the square outside St George's Parish Church and was carried in the church as the bells tolled. The church is packed, with chairs also having been set up on the parvis.
Youths from Zejtun, where Fr Cilia was setting up a youth group, carried flowers behind the coffin.
Those present include several Sisters of Mother Teresa, recalling Fr Cilia's work in the missions before be became vice-parish priest of Zejtun. A number of children in school uniform have also turned up. Fr Cilia's mother and two brothers are sitting in the front row a few metres away from the coffin. Archbishop Emeritus Mgr Joseph Mercieca and Gozo Bishop Mario Grech are present for the Mass, which Mgr Anton Gouder, pro-vicar general, celebrated. "We are here to mark the loss but also to celebrate the beauty of Fr Rene's short life," Qormi parish priest Anton Cassar said in his homily. "It was a life fill with purpose because it was a life dedicated to the service of the Lord and fellow man."
He said that to many in Qormi and Zejtun Fr Rene's loss was like losing a father. "He deserved to be called father. He liked joking and making people laugh.. Fr Rene was also aware of the obstacles the church faced and that some people wanted to dishearten priests. Addressing Fr Rene's mother Rita, Fr Cassar thanked her for raising her son as she did. He was also her pillar of strength when her husband died tragically.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Over 20,000 hits

Eagle Creek in Richland

Thanks to all of you, this blog is becoming even more popular, reaching over 20,000 hits since I started on January 5th. We reached the 10,000 hit on July 11th, and we were on target to reach 20,000 by the end of the year, but thanks to all of you, we picked up speed, and with 2 more months to go, we reached another milestone. We’re getting an average of 120 hits a day. And the hits are coming from all over the world, with the majority coming from the United States and from my home country of Malta. But there are people from Malaysia, the Philippines, Canada, Australia, India and many other far away countries who are checking my blog, maybe to get inspiration, maybe to look for an inspiring photo, to read the life of the saint of the day, or for other reasons. Tell your friends about it and keep visiting daily. I try to keep it as interesting as possible, with fresh ideas, pertinent reflections and timely tips for parents and everyone concerned. 
Richland fall scene
Mr and Mrs Deer looking for a romantic evening

Today I share with you just 3 photos I took just yesterday on my way to my mission church in Halfway. You can see the golden yellow hue of the trees, and this was a constant sight for the 54 mile trip, as if I placed a yellow filter over my glasses. And the solitary buck looking for a pretty doe is a common sight during this season of deer mating.