Thursday, January 31, 2013

St John Bosco quotes

St John Bosco (1815-1888)

We celebrate today the feast of the founder of the Salesian Order, St John Bosco  and these are some of his popular quotes:

"Be brave and try to detach your heart from worldly things. Do your utmost to banish darkness from your mind and come to understand what true, selfless piety is. Through confession, endeavor to purify your heart of anything which may still taint it. Enliven your faith, which is essential to understand and achieve piety."

"Remember, God does not pay us for results, but for effort."

"All past persecutors of the Church are now no more, but the Church still lives on. The same fate awaits modern persecutors; they, too, will pass on, but the Church of Jesus Christ will always remain, for God has pledged His Word to protect Her and be with Her forever, until the end of time."

"Believe me... nobody can be truly happy in this world unless he is at peace with God."

"Put up willingly with the faults of others if you wish others to put up with yours."

"Guard your eyes since they are the windows through which sin enters the soul."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sister Ubaldina

With Sister Ubaldina, my Kindergarten teacher

In 1998, I was able to re-unite with my Kindergarten teacher from 1956, Sister Ubaldina Portelli. She was still teaching Religious Education to the children at Birzebbugia and helping out at the parish office at that time. She must have been 42 years old when she was teaching us, as she died in 2008 aged 94. As a fairly young nun, she probably loved children tremendously and I remember her mingling with us children as if she was a mother watching over her children. I wrote a brief obituary when she died....”One curious anecdote I remember so well is the fact that she used to pull me out of the class and take me down to the Nuns’ refectory to eat with them during lunch break. In hindsight, I conclude that this was either because I was a troublemaker (which I don’t think I ever was,) or because she singled me out as a teacher’s pet. Or simply because the nuns wanted a young child to eat with them and enjoy the spontaneous remarks and antics young children say and do.” Today she would have been 99 years young.
Let us not forget our religious sisters and priests who dedicated their lives for the service of the church. Sister Ubaldina was one of hundreds of sisters who had a great impact on so many people, and therefore on the religious fabric of Maltese life. We don’t give them too much credit for helping build a solid foundation which have kept so many families and parishes united together. Rest in peace ‘Suor Baldina’, as we affectionately used to call her.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Kindergarten

Watercolor impression of our schoolyard back in 1956

It was back in 1956 when I started my scholastic career that would end 21 years later, in my last year at the Major Seminary, the year of Ordination, 1977. My recollections of my first school are still very vivid, and 2 years ago I painted this scene from our playground at the Franciscan Sisters Nursery/Kindergarten school, located at St Julian’s Hill, in the convent named for St Vincent De Paul, adjacent to a hilly road known as Tal-Kirxa. Many of my childhood friends were to become constant companions and classmates even into our Grade School, which was called the St Julian’s Primary School, from Stage 1 to Stage 6. Our Kindergarten teachers were all nuns, dressed in full habit, and all we could see was their face, basically from their eyebrows to their chin. Even their ears were covered which made me wonder how they ever heard us! I have very fond memories of that school, and tomorrow you will meet my teacher, whom I was able to trace again back in 1998.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A prayer from St Benedict

I came across this beautiful prayer written by St Benedict, and I used it in my homily this past weekend. Many people liked it and here it is for your reflection and meditation:
Statue of St Benedict in the basilica of St Paul outside the walls, Rome
Father, in Your goodness, grant me
- the intellect to comprehend You, the perception to discern You, the reason to appreciate You. 

In Your kindness, endow me with
- the diligence to look for You,  the wisdom to discover You, and the spirit to apprehend You.      
In Your graciousness, bestow on me
- a heart to contemplate You, ears to hear You,  eyes to see You, a tongue to speak of You. 

In Your mercy confer on me
- a conversation pleasing to You, the patience to wait for You,  the perseverance to long for You.
Grant me a perfect end, and Your holy presence. Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saint Julian

Unknown painting of St Julian

This day is commemorated in my home town as the feast of Saint Julian, the titular saint of the village where I was born and grew up, named precisely St. Julian’s. The old parish church is still very much active where Mass is celebrated every day, and it has recently been restored. The painting of Saint Julian behind the main altar is by an unknown artist, but it could be of either Salvatore Busuttil or Peter Paul Caruana. The inscription above it reads “Redemit Te Caritas” (Your Faith has redeemed you.) 
The Assumption with St Julian and St Paul

It replaced the other painting of the Assumption with St Paul and St Julian which was painted by Antonio Falzon, restored in 1989. Various other paintings exist of St Julian, but these two are the most treasured by the natives of my hometown.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Letter from a mother to her daughter

"My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep. When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you. And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Conversion of Saint Paul

Caravaggio - Conversion of St Paul
The conversion of Saint Paul was an important milestone in the history of Christianity. Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles, but is considered as the Apostle of the Gentiles, because after his conversion on the way to Damascus, Paul embarked on 4 missionary voyages, preaching, at times challenging the people to change their lives, admonitions that are recorded in many of his letters. 

These two paintings of Caravaggio show the scene of his conversion, with Saint Paul on the ground after he was overpowered with the light that eventually blinded him for a few weeks, until he was healed by Ananias. The chiaroscuro that Caravaggio uses in many of his paintings is prevalent here, even though the scene was supposed to have been highlighted with the light from heaven. Still the artist wanted to show the darkness in which St Paul was engulfed at that time, darkness caused by the lack of faith, his hatred of Christians, feelings that would soon change, thanks to this momentous conversion of this great Apostle.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quotes from St Francis De Sales

St Francis De Sales (1567-1622) Bishop of Geneva, patron of journalists, writers and social media. Author of  ‘Introduction To the Devout Life ‘ and ‘The Treatise on the Love of God.’ 

Two quotes from the writings of St Francis De Sales: 
“Do not distress yourself about prayer. It is not always necessary to employ words, even inwardly. It is enough to raise your heart and let it rest in Our Lord, to look lovingly up towards the Divined Lover of your Soul, for between lovers the eyes speak more eloquently than the tongue.”
I always say that the most eloquent form of prayer is Silence. We think we have to verbalize words and read prayers from a book to be effective in our prayer life. But most probably the best prayer is the unspoken word that lies in our hearts. Even sitting in silence in a darkened chapel, Jesus can read your heart, can sense your feelings, and can respond to your needs, maybe not right away, as if by magic, but in due time. Because most often, He knows what we need, but not necessarily what we desire or what we ask for.

“Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life with dread and fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has guided and guarded you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father Who cares for you today will take good care of you tomorrow and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you the unfailing strength to bear it. Be at Peace then and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations. “
These are words of consolation. Words that give us courage and hope. Words that have given many other saints and holy people in the past the consolation they were looking for when they could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. That light is present all through our lives, symbolized also by the Paschal Candle which is used at our Baptisms and at our Funerals and is never extinguished in the years between, hopefully to enlighten every step we take, every move we make. This quote invites us to hope and trust in the presence of the Lord by our side.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Prayer for our country

This is a prayer that was delivered at the inauguration of President Obama's second term. I thought it would be fitting to share it with you this week.

Presidents of the United States of America
    We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast 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 art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, Charles (Chaput,) 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[/her] 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. Amen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Snowflakes photo taken as they fell on my car
Since we’ve been well below freezing point for more than a month now here in Baker City, the snow that fell late last year has turned into ice, and none of it has melted. When it is so cold, it is usually sunny and never snows on extremely cold days, because it is so dry and no clouds can form. However on some occasions we do get snowflakes that are really the hexagonal shaped snowflakes which are very tiny and hardly noticeable. However I noticed them one day last week, and took a few close-up photos, which are not very clear. But you can admire the phenomena of a snowflake, which scientist say, not two are alike. You have to of course enlarge these photos to get a glimpse of some of the snowflakes and their intriguing hexagonal shape. The fascinating thing is that these snowflakes fell when there were no clouds in the sky, which explains their mysterious creation.

More snowflakes (click once to enlarge)
According to the encyclopedia, “Snowflakes are conglomerations of frozen ice crystals which fall through the Earth's atmosphere. They begin as snow crystals which develop when microscopic supercooled cloud droplets freeze. Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Complex shapes emerge as the flake moves through differing temperature and humidity regimes, such that individual snowflakes are nearly unique in structure.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bald Eagles

To coincide with the Presidential inauguration today, being that the bald eagle is part of the coat-of-arms of the President of the USA, I share with you today three photos of bald eagles I took just yesterday, along the Powder River, on my way from Halfway after celebrating my mission Mass there. Being that all the rivers and lakes were frozen, and food was hard to find, eagles were on the lookout for anything that moves, so that they can jump on it and devour it. 

So all along the road, I saw at least 8 different bald eagles, all of them waiting patiently for anything that is appetizing. Some were at a distance, but these two were close enough to capture them on my camera. They may appear similar, but their expressions are different, as they look around and survey the area, including the intruding photographer. But then again, bald eagles tend to like bald priests!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Wedding at Cana

Paolo Veronese "The Wedding at Cana"

The Sunday gospel today relates the first miracle performed by Jesus, the changing of the water into wine. Various paintings have been produced of this event. In 1553, Paolo Veronese was summoned to Venice where he painted the famous “Wedding Feast at Cana,” which graces the refectory design by Palladio for the Benedictine Monastery on the Venetian island of San Giordio Maggiore.
This episode, told by the Apostle John, is a precursor or foreshadowing of the Eucharist.
With masterly freedom of interpretation, Veronese transposed the biblical episode to the sumptuous setting of a Venetian wedding. The bride and groom are seated at one end of the table, leaving the center place to the figure of Christ. He is surrounded by the Virgin, his disciples and no fewer than 130 guest, mixing biblical figures with men and women of the Renaissance. Some figures are dressed in traditional antique costumes, while others wear sumptuous coiffures and adornments. Several dogs, birds, a parakeet, and a cat frolic amidst the crowd. According to an 18th-century legend, the artist himself is depicted in white playing in viola da gamba next to other artists Titian and Bassano.
I always feel that the shortage of wine was caused by the presence of the disciples, whom Jesus took along with him, not just the 12, but as many as 72. No wonder Jesus had to come to the rescue after seeing his disciples draining the supply of wine, and having a jolly good time! Richard Crashaw once commented by saying that “the water in the jars saw its God, and it blushed!” And the wine we have on the altar for Mass becomes God at the consecration.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Never give up

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well..... At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw.
With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off! 

Think on this: life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up. Perseverance is the last virtue that dies in us (as well as in donkeys)! Never give up.

Friday, January 18, 2013

7 UPs for 2013

Let us look up to the Lord, knowing that He is looking down on us

1. Wake Up !!  - Decide to have a good day.  "Today is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice
and be glad in it."  (Psalms 118:24)
2. Dress Up !!  - The best way to dress up is to put on a smile.  A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance; but the Lord looks at the heart."  (I Samuel 16:7)
3. Shut Up!! - Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.   "He who guards his lips guards his soul."  (Proverbs 13:3)

4. Stand Up!!... - For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.   "Let us not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good..."  (Galatians 6:9-10)
5. Look Up !!...  - To the Lord.  "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me".  (Philippians 4:13)
6. Reach Up !!... - For something higher.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."  (Proverbs 3:5-6)
7. Lift Up !!...  - Your Prayers.  "Do not worry about anything; instead PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING." (Philippians 4:6)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

St Anthony, abbot

St Anthony surrounded by his faithful friends

Saint Antony is also known as St. Anthony of the Desert or St. Anthony of Egypt. Along with St Francis of Assisi, he is invoked as the patron saint of the animal kingdom, and special Masses take place on the Sunday closest to his feast day of January 17th, with the blessing of animals and pets held afterwards. St Anthony was a hermit who lived in Northern Egypt. He was a staunch defender of the faith against Arianism. During his travels he met many animals, some helpful and some not, but they all befriended him and were kind to him, just as he was kind to them.
Anthony died when he was 105 years old. A life of solitude, fasting, and manual labor in the service of God had left him a healthy, vigorous man until very late in life. And he never stopped challenging himself to go one step beyond in his faith.
Saint Athanasius, who knew Anthony and wrote his biography, said, "Anthony was not known for his writings nor for his worldly wisdom, nor for any art, but simply for his reverence toward God." We may wonder nowadays at what we can learn from someone who lived in the desert, wore skins, ate bread, and slept on the ground. We may wonder how we can become him. We can become Anthony by living his life of radical faith and complete commitment to God.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Nurse's Prayer

Dear Lord, may Your great strength and power flow through me, and lend skills to my hands and vision, judgement to my mind and compassion to my heart. Grant me the strength to minister to my patients in their hour of suffering and anxiety. Make me worthy, O Lord, of this saintly task, and may I faithfully discharge my duties in deep humility, worthy of the trust and faith placed in me.
Give to my heart compassion and understanding,
give to my hands skill and tenderness,
give to my mind knowledge and wisdom,
especially dear Lord, help me always to remember the true purpose of my vocation, that of selfless service and dedication to the weak and despairing in body and spirit. AMEN.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Malta skyline

Malta skyline at Cottonera - 4 domes visible in one photo
Growing up in Malta, the skyline was always flat, with buildings as high as two floors. Nowadays the skyline has completely changed as high risers and even skyscrapers are dominating every where you look. The only exception is where churches are concerned. They have always been the major landmarks in every town and village. 
Lourdes church at Mgarr and Ghajnsielem parish church in Gozo
And these accompanying photos I took a few yeas ago can testify to this statement. As much as skyscrapers are tarnishing the Maltese landscape, yet the baroque churches and red-painted domes will always be an irreplaceable scene that is typical of Catholic Malta.
Three more domes visible in one photo

Monday, January 14, 2013

Just stay.....

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. "Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.
The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night. Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. "Who was that man?" he asked.
The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.
"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."
"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"
"I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."
I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey. His Son was Killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this Gentleman's Name?
The Nurse with Tears in Her Eyes Answered,
Mr. William Grey.............

The next time someone needs you ... just be there. Stay.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Baptism of Christ

Perugino - The Baptism of Christ

As we celebrate Jesus’ Baptism today, may we look back at our own baptism and see how faithful we have been to the commitment our parents made for us. I ask 3 simple questions today for your consideration:
1. How proud are you of the decision your parents took when they introduced you to the Catholic faith by baptizing you?
2. Do you know the names of your godparents, the name of the priest who baptized you, the church in which you were baptized?

Perugino - Baptism of Christ (detail)
3. If you were chosen as a godparent for a child, do you keep in contact with that child, who may now be a teenager, an adult, a parent, and do you make sure they attend church regularly? Remember that this was one of the promises you made when you stood as a godparent on the baptism day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

10 years in Oregon

The Three Sisters Mountains in Central Oregon

This week it has been exactly 10 years since I arrived in Oregon for the first time. It was the middle part of January 2003 when I came for a brief visit of the Diocese which would eventually become my home. I stayed with Bishop Vasa and spent most of my time in the Chancery office. I did not see much of Oregon in those few days, other than the growing city of  Bend and maybe some areas around Sisters with the Three Sisters mountains range, which were snow-capped at that time of the year.
Lining up the a row!
When it was time for me to leave I had asked Bishop Vasa what would I do next, as to my eventual arrival to be assigned in a parish in the Diocese. And then he used an expression that I never heard before, and which made me go into a fit of laughter, leading him also to join in the laughter, when he realized I had never heard it before. His expression was “Father Julian, let me line up the ducks, and then I will let you know....” I could only imagine how difficult it is to put a group of ducks in a row. Of course I returned for good in mid-March, but that expression stayed with me even now, as I laugh just thinking of the phrase, which I hear being used frequently by local people, always with a smile on my face.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reliving our Baptism

With baby Francoise Isabelle Julienne Prevot, baptized Dec 29, 2012
There is nothing more precious than holding a newborn newly-baptized baby next to the nativity, connecting the newborn child to the newborn infant of Bethlehem, Jesus himself.  The Christmas season is not over yet, as this Sunday the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. It is therefore appropriate to look back at our own baptism this week, and see how we lived up to the promises that our parents and godparents made for us when we were baptized. Since we were newborn babies when we were baptized, the majority of us do not remember that day, but our parents certainly do. I must have baptized over a thousand babies in my 35 years as a priest, and it is always an honor when I here those words I DO when 6 important questions are asked about our rejection of sin and our affirmation of our faith in God, in Jesus and belief in the church. 
Blessing the new baby with parents Abbey and Arnaud Prevot

It is an even greater honor when I see the children grow up, attending church regularly with their parents. This coming April, I will be giving the First Holy Communion to a group of children, all of whom I baptized, when I first came to the Baker City Cathedral in 2005, as they are now all 7 years old.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lincoln quotes

As the movie "Lincoln" just received 12 Oscar nominations, I thought of sharing with you today just three quotes from this great President who never hesitated to mention God and the Almighty in many of his speeches. That is one reason he will always be considered as one of the greatest Presidents of the USA.

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

“Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.” (Inaugural address)

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Flashback from 30 years ago

At Holy Spirit Rectory, New Hyde Park, NY in 1983
The heavy snow we received here in Baker City this week reminds me of the heavier snowfall we used to get when I was in New York. The above photo shows me by the Holy Spirit rectory in New Hyde Park. I enjoyed the snow so much back then for two reasons. First I had never seen snow before coming to the USA. Secondly I did not have to drive on it as I did not drive at that time, using the bicycle for short trips. The sanitation department used sand to melt the snow and ice, and which also corroded a lot of cars in the process. 
A reliable jeep, my best driving instructor

However my biking years were soon to be over as I started to learn how to drive in the winter of 1982-1983, using our parish jeep to practice and to plough snow from our parking lots. That gave me a lot of practice since it was not an automatic car, shifting and reversing frequently. And besides I had to maneuver the plough, moving forward and backwards a hundred times while piling the heavy snow on the sides. I enjoyed that jeep so much that after the snow was gone, I painted it green, precisely on St Patrick’s Day, March 17 1983.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winter Wonderland

First Street in Baker City during the snowstorm

January 7 in Baker City turned from an icy town to a winter wonderland as 4 inches of snow fell within 6 hours in the morning. It was a beautiful sight to behold when snow falls softly on trees, branches, fences, roofs, cars and unfortunately on the main roads which quickly turn to packed snow and ice, making for dangerous driving around town and on the highways. 
The Cathedral steeples framed by a snowy pine trees

And it’s even more pretty when the snow falls on the steeples and the roof of our Cathedral, which led me to take some good photos, as I try to frame the church with snowy branches of pine trees, as well as the balsam and douglas fir trees. Since the temperature was around 21 degrees Fahrenheit when I was taking these photos, I could not stay outside very long, as the extremities start to freeze and one has to be careful not to end up a victim of hypothermia. But a few minutes in a warmer room is enough and out I go again for a few more shots of sheer beauty and enjoying this God-given winter wonderland. 

It is snowing again on the morning of January 8, with another inch on top of the 4 inches that fell yesterday.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Safely in His hands

There was an atheist couple who had a child. The couple never told their daughter anything about the Lord.  One night when the little girl was 5 years old, the parents fought with each other and the dad shot the mom, right in front of the child.  Then, the dad shot himself.  The little girl watched it all.  She then was sent to a foster home.
The foster mother was a Christian and took the child to church. On the first day of Sunday School, the foster mother told the teacher that the girl had never heard of Jesus, and to have patience with her.  The teacher held up a picture of Jesus and said, "Does anyone know who this is?"
The little girl said, "I do, that's the man who was holding me the night my parents died."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Three Kings

Icon representing the Three Kings offering their gifts.

As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany today, I looked at some of the many paintings that artists have produced over the centuries, and made these observations:
- All Kings are presented with elaborate outfits and costumes, accompanied by a large retinue of attendants, servants and others caring for their animals.
- All are kneeling down, a posture of humility and respect, and some even prostrated, as the Gospels relate.
- Most are accompanied by camels, but some have horses, as well as other animals like sheep and domestic dogs accompanying them.
- Since they are referred to as Kings, most of them have crowns, but the majority of the paintings show them in turbans, a popular headwear in the Middle East and Far East countries.
- Even though the gifts were for Jesus, the baby is always shown being held by Mary, as if she wants to remain connected with him, as any mother would after giving birth - thus showing respect to mother and child.
- One of the magi is frequently depicted as black, the others dark skinned.

Epiphany by Girolamo di Santacroce
- Most artists would place the face of friends to the Magi, people who were wealthy or good to the community, as a recognition to their benevolence and generosity.
- Beggars are also frequently included in the painting, as if to take advantage of the wealthy Kings, begging for something, for anything.
- Other gifts are also in the paintings, of lesser importance, like fruit, animals, jewelry, clothing.
- The Star which the Kings followed led them to the cave of Bethlehem, and even though it was not an astronomical phenomena, it was a divine intervention, like the appearance of angels, which were sent by God.

Epiphany by Sandro Botticelli
- The Three are referred to as Wise Men, Astrologers, Kings or Magi (derivation of magicians) and their names are interesting to discuss too……
Melchior, a Persian scholar, Caspar (also Gaspar, Jaspar,) an Indian scholar, and Balthazar (also Balthassar, an Arabian scholar.)
- The gifts are also very symbolic. All three gifts are ordinary offerings and gifts given to a king. Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable element. The three gifts had a spiritual meaning: gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense, as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. Sometimes this is described more generally as gold symbolizing virtue, frankincense symbolizing, and myrrh symbolizing suffering.
- As they presented gifts to Jesus, each one of them said “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and Jesus’ response as simply “I love you too.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

First Anniversary

Thanks for the memories and visits to this blog

This blog celebrates its first anniversary today, January 5, and I want to thank all those who visit this blog, some daily, others weekly, yet others occasionally or even by accident. I started this blog a year ago to share reflections, inspirational thoughts, lives of saints, flash-back from the past, family photos and other trivia - anything that is uplifting, inspirational and helpful. One of the other reasons why I was inspired to start it was to counteract a few negative and condemnatory blogs that were very harmful to our parish and our Diocese. I believe that my blog with a positive daily post has helped in offering another option of spreading goodness, sharing morally sound and faith-filled reflections to help our Catholic friends and non-Catholics alike find inspiration. I kept my posts very brief, with a photo or two, and the number of visitors in one year has been an astounding 28,000, which makes for an average 76 hits a day. At times there were as many as 100 to 150 hits a day, and of course some posts are more popular than others. On the right hand side you can see the most popular posts. I had visitors from all over the globe, mostly from the USA, (15202 visits,) second was Malta (3519 visits,) United Kingdom (858 visits,) Russia (771 visits,) and the Philippines (631 visits.) Other countries were Canada, Australia, India, Italy, Germany, Malaysia, Ukraine, and many others.
The most popular post was “The Handwriting on the wall” from May 24 with 304 visits, followed by “The Easter Lily” from April 10 with 303 visits, and “A further glimpse of Rome - part II” from July 7 with 294 visits.
I encourage you to browse through the past months, as you will always find something inspirational and thought-provoking, especially by clicking on 2012 in blue on the right hand side. You will be surprised how many of my photos come up when you type “Father Julian’s Blog photos” in the Google-Images or for your appreciation of something simple, yet worth working on for a few minutes each day.

Friday, January 4, 2013

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

St Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)
Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized. Born two years before the American Revolution, on August 28, 1774, Elizabeth grew up in the "cream" of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels. In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth's early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort.
In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. This time of Elizabeth's life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, Will's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will's seven half brothers and sisters, besides their own 5 children, as well as the family's importing business. Now events began to move fast - and with devastating effect. Both Will's business and his health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save Will's health, the Setons sailed for Italy, but he died of tuberculosis soon after they arrived.
Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church, thanks also to the influence of the Fellicchi family with whom they stayed while in Italy. Elizabeth was baptized in St Peter’s church, New York City in 1805. 

Seton starting the Catholic School system
At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a new order, which was to be named Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children. On March 25, 1809, the new Mother Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton's initial foundation. Mother Seton died in January 4, 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975. On that day both Episcopalians and Catholics rejoiced. She is the patron of the Catholic schools in the USA.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holy Name of Jesus

Today the Church celebrates the feast honoring the Holy Name of Jesus. Medieval Catholicism, and many other Christian churches to the present day, celebrated this feast along with the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, usually on 1 January. St Bernardino of Siena placed great emphasis on the Holy Name, which he associated with the IHS Christogram, and may be responsible for the coupling of the two elements. The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus was moved around over the centuries, and in 2002, it was re-inserted in the Roman calendar to be celebrated today, January 3. 

The name of Jesus is frequently shown as a Monogram of IHS, the first three letters of the Greek name IHSUS. The name of Jesus is offered in a variety of forms, as you can see from this short list of languages:                                                                  
                                                                  Albanian - Jezusi
                                                                  Bosnian -  Isus
                                                                  Czech - Ježíš
                                                                  Filipino -  Hesus/Hesukristo
                                                                  Hawaiian - Jesu
                                                                  Hungarian - Jézus
                                                                  Maltese - Gesù
                                                                  Polish -  Jezus
                                                                  Ukranian - Icyc
                                                                  Vietnamese -  Chúa Giêsu


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci

A recent discovery of a painting of Christ holding a transparent orb has been definitely attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo had many imitators in 16th century Milan but their efforts are miserably below his standard. Looking at the newly cleaned Salvator Mundi, (Savior of the World) which was recently exhibited at the National Gallery, a rediscovered work by Leonardo, the transparent orb is far too brilliantly painted to be the work of one of his disciples.
This unloved painting sold for £45 in 1956 and is now worth £120 million! The painting, acquired in 2005 by a consortium of businessmen, was recently restored. The number of lost Leonardo works almost equals his known paintings. Leda and the Swan, a provocative nude, was probably destroyed by a shocked religious member of the French royal family. The Battle of Anghiari was covered or destroyed at the behest of the Medici. A nude Mona Lisa, the Mona Vanna, is another lost work. Salvator Mundi, is described in 17th century documents but long thought to have vanished.

Christ gazes softly, wisely, from falling curly locks – another Leonardo trait is a love of ringlets and spirals – and raises his right hand in benediction. This work is clearly connected with The Last Supper: the Christ has the same ethereal and elusive quality as the faded figure at the center of Leonardo's sublime mural. This painting once belonged to Charles I. Later in the 17th century the royal family got its hands on the best collection of Leonardo drawings in the world.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Madonna in prayer by Sassoferrato

We start this year with a special feast in honor of Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, and Mother of us all. January 1st, since 1968 has also been considered as the World Day of Peace, and I dedicate this year to the Blessed Mother as she blesses us with her protection and love. May she always protect our families, those still hurting with recent tragedies, those who lost loved ones, and those who seem lost or disoriented in life. As she knows the pain and anguish of losing a child, may we look towards her for direction, for motivation, and consolation.

Madonna and child by Sassoferrato

May Mary, the Queen of Peace and her Son, the Prince of Peace bless the world with peace and harmony, the poor with care and prosperity, the despairing with hope and confidence, the grieving with comfort and gladness, the oppressed with freedom and deliverance, the suffering with solace and relief.

Wishing every visitor to this blog, a healthy and peace-filled 2013.