Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tour de France

The 4 jersey leaders in the Tour de France 2011 edition

Every year throughout the month of July, one of the most grueling races is held in France, the Tour de France, this year celebrating its 100th edition. It actually started in 1903, but stopped for 10 years during World War II. It is by far the toughest races that stretches over 4 weeks, as the top professional bikers sprint, climb and maneuver through incredible twists and turns to finish the over 2000 miles, over 21 stages, ending in Paris. The leader wears the yellow jersey, but there are 3 other jerseys that are worn throughout the race, identifying the respective leaders in other categories. The white jersey with red polka dots jersey is for the leader of the climbing category, excelling in mountain climbing. The green is for the points classification for the sprinters, and the white jersey is for the young rider classification for the riders under the age of 26.
Three donkeys dressed in the jersey leaders
Last year, cute scene was visible during one of the stages when three donkeys were dressed in the respective jerseys of the leaders. I have been a Tour de France aficionado for many decades, and since it is always screened on TV (presently NBC Sports Network,) I try to follow it religiously. I also follow the Giro d’Italia as well as the Spanish Vuelta, the other two major bicycle road-races, held respectively in May and August each year.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

St Peter and St Paul

St Peter by  Arnolfo di Cambio
 A very special festivity today as we honor the two pillars of the church, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. I share with you two photos I took last year during my visit to Rome. The bronze statue of St Peter was sculpted by Arnolfo di Cambio and St Peter’s foot is worn out with the millions of people touching it reverently over the centuries. It is situated close to the main altar under the Bernini baldacchino. 
St Paul's statue in his own basilica
The other statue is that of St Paul in the portico of the basilica of St Paul outside the walls. There is also a beautiful cloister adjacent to the same basilica. Peter and Paul met only briefly, but it was enough to solidify a relationship that will forever bind them together. They both died a martyr’s death, St Peter being crucified upside down, and St Paul being beheaded in Rome.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thx Kxy Pxrson

 All of us are important in the life of the church, not just the Pope and Bishops and priests. All the people, children, young and old are important and needed for the church to function properly and effectively. This interesting story shows how intrinsic our role is, and even if I’m one in a billion, my contribution is just as important and necessary.
                                        The Kxy Pxrson
Xvxn though our typxwritxr is an old modxl, it works quitx wxll xxcxpt for onx of thx kxys. Wx havx wishxd many timxs that it workxd pxrfxctly. It is trux that thxrx arx 45 kxys that function wxll xnough, but just onx kxy not working propxrly makxs thx diffxrxncx somxtimxs. It sxxms to us that thx Church is somxwhat similar to our typxwritxr. Not all thx pxoplx arx working propxrly. You may say to yoursxlf, “Wxll, I am only onx pxrson; I won’t makx or brxak thx Church.” But it doxs makx a diffxrxncx! Bxcausx thx Church, to bx xffxctivx, nxxds somx of you, thx mxmbxrs, to sxt thx xxamplx, to lxnd a hand, to prxach thx Gospxl by your dxdicatxd livxs. Thx Church nxxds thx sxrvicx only you can givx. So thx nxxt timx you think you arx not nxxdxd, rxmxmbxr our typxwritxr and say to yoursxlf, “ I am a kxy pxrson in thx Church - thx Church just might nxxd mx!”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Tribute to Marriage

The Supreme Court decision given yesterday in favor of recognizing same-sex marriage is certainly an issue that is hurting the nobility of marriage as God intended it to be, a union between a man and a woman. “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one. They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore let no man separate what God has joined.” (Mark 10: 6-9) Our duty is to pray for stronger marriages, especially between couples who feel they are drifting apart. Counseling is always available, prayer enhances the spouses’ relationship, and involvement in a vibrant parish community helps any couple stay alive, active in their faith, and an example to the children they are blessed with.

I took the above photo on a country road between Ontario and Nyssa in rural Oregon, and even though it may describe the situation in many marriages, there are millions of other marriages that are strong, healthy, and a true witness to what God intended the union between husband and wife to be. As we pray for and help those who may have a different sexual orientation, let us continue to work on strengthening the many marriages between men and women, many of whom I blessed over the past 36 years, in Malta, New York and Oregon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The T H I N K Method

Continuing on the same theme as yesterday, what we say to others and about others could be detrimental to our friendships and relationships. Many of these were shattered and broken because we did not keep a secret, or because we spread rumors or gossiped about things, news and information that was not correct or true. So I always suggest this method to my parishioners, and invariably they always come back to ask me for a copy or what the five words are. It is so true, we can hurt so many people by what we say without first thinking - as the story of Socrates showed us yesterday. So, never say anything about others unless it is True, Helpful, Inspiring (or Important,) Necessary and Kind - a perfect acronym for the word THINK. That’s write, think about it, before you say it!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The wisdom of Socrates

In ancient Greece (469-399 BC) Socrates was well-known for his wisdom. One day, a man ran towards him and all excited told him:”Hey Socrates, do you want to know what I just heard about Diogenes?”
“Wait a moment, before you tell me whatever you want to say, let me ask you three questions. First of all, about truth. Do you know for certain that what you want to tell me is true?” asked Socrates.
“No, I just heard it, and came over to tell you this news,” answered the man.
“Very well, so you don’t even know if what you want to tell me is true. Here is the second question for you: whatever you want to tell me about this something good?”
“No...on the contrary.....”
Socrates continued, “So, you came to tell me something that is not good, and something that is not even true. Let’s get to the third question then.  Do you think that whatever you want to share me with me about Diogenes is of any use to me?”
“I don’t think so!” responded the man.
“So, if you came to tell me something about another person which is not true, not good and of no use to me, why do you want to say it at all?” concluded Socrates. The man of course remained dumbfounded, and he kept the information to himself, and learned a big lesson that day, which we should all keep grafted in our hearts and minds. And that is why Socrates was regarded as one of the wisest men to ever live on earth.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Birth of St John the Baptist

Tintoretto - Birth of John the Baptist
We celebrate today the birth of St John the Baptist, the only other Saint, besides Jesus and the Blessed Mother, whose birth is celebrated by the Catholic Church with a special festivity. There is another feast relating to his martyrdom, which is held on August 29, but it’s his mysterious birth that is commemorated today, since Elizabeth his mother was advanced in age. Nowadays, when a baby is born, the announcement is made in the papers, Godparents are chosen, the baptism is held and a party usually follows. In John’s time, his birth was announced in a very unusual way. Similar to what the Native Indians did when sending a message, his father Zechariah made a bon-fire and lit it in the evening, so that his relatives and friends would know that Elizabeth gave birth to her baby boy. This is actually a tradition that is still held in many countries, among them Malta. Many towns and villages collect wood, sticks and logs for a few weeks, pile them up and then light a bon-fire on the evening of June 23, in commemoration of the birth of John the Baptist. Certainly a much different way to share a news that the social media offers us today, when a picture of a newborn baby is spread throughout the globe through a cell-phone, Facebook, etc. 
We honor today this great underrated Saint, who set the stage for Jesus, then disappeared, getting hardly any credit, and even losing his life through the envy of Herod. The above painting of the birth of the Baptist by Italian painter Tintoretto may appear too elaborate and flashy for what actually must have happened 2000 years ago. But this is the style of pre-Renaissance painters. One can see a retinue of nurses helping in the birth. Elizabeth is in bed recovering from the ordeal, Zechariah is praising the Lord, while even a women is ready to start nursing the newborn John. The Blessed Mother is the one holding the baby, as she is depicted with a halo, herself still pregnant with the unborn baby Jesus.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

St Joseph 'upgraded'

An anonymous painting of St Joseph, as carpenter, with his son Jesus.

I have always said that our dear St Joseph deserves much more attention than he actually gets. Most of his exposure is at Christmas time when his image is portrayed in millions of Christmas cards that are exchanged around the world. This week Pope Francis ‘upgraded’ St Joseph by delegating all the priests to insert his name in the Eucharistic Prayers after the name of Mary, adding “her spouse St Joseph.” I have personally been doing this ever since I was ordained, and have always mentioned his name with that of his wife, the Saint of the day and the patron Saint of the Parish in which I was serving, presently St Francis De Sales. 
In his official decree, Pope Francis wrote that "St Joseph stands as an exemplary model of the kindness and humility that the Christian faith raises to a great destiny, and demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ. Through these virtues, this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures." St Joseph, pray for us!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Doctor Julian Cassar

Dr Julian Cassar on left, and brother Peter on right (2010 photo)

It is with great honor that I share with you a brief profile of my nephew Julian, who yesterday officially became a doctor, after he passed all his final exams, and can now showcase the acronym MD after his name. I cannot believe that this young man, who shares my same name, whom I baptized back in 1990, and whom I’ve seen growing into a toddler, young handsome boy and a charming teenager, is now a Medical Doctor. It is a proud accomplishment for his entire family, his father Marcel, a Senior Vice-President of  FimBank, a specialist trade finance bank,  and mother Maria, who herself is graduating as a Bachelor of Art this year, as well as younger brother Peter, who himself will be starting medical school in September. 
Baby Julian in 1991, aged 1
Both Julian and Peter attended private schools, especially the 5 years they spent at St Aloysius College in Malta, besides two years in Junior College. Julian will now take just one week off from studies and will start work in a week at the Mater Dei Hospital in Malta, where he will serve for 2 years before deciding which area he would like to specialize in. I’m sure the 2 years of experience at the start of his medical career will open up for him various areas in which he will find himself comfortable choosing his area of expertise. 

In the year 2000, with Peter in the middle and Julian on the right

Our prayers are with him and his brother as they help each other in the important medical field and share their talents to help people get better and feel better. After carrying my title as Father Julian Cassar for over 36 years, I am honored that the other namesake I know of, is my dear nephew, whom I can now call Doctor Julian Cassar.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pope Paul VI - elected 50 years ago

Pope Paul VI (June 21 1963 - 6 August 1978)
This has been a month of milestones and anniversaries, and we celebrate yet another one today. It was 50 years ago today that the cardinals elected Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini as the new Pope to replace Blessed Pope John XXIII. He took the name of Paul VI and would continue the Vatican Council II, started by his predecessor. These are some other milestones from his life.
Born  - September 26, 1897
Ordained priest - May 29, 1920
Consecrated Bishop - December 12, 1954
Made Cardinal - December 15, 1958
Elected Pope - June 21, 1963
Died - August 6, 1978 (aged 80)

August 1966 - as an altar boy with Pope Paul VI
I was honored to have served at the Vatican in the summer of 1966, and we had an audience with Pope Paul VI, during which I had a historic photo taken of me kissing the hand and ring of the Pontiff, one of my most treasured items.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pope Francis' Tweets

The Pope meets the Holy Spirit

Continuing on a custom started by Pope Emeritus Benedict, Pope Francis has been sharing tweets in various languages, including Latin, which also gives him the opportunity to create longer phrases. Here are some of the recent tweets, each of which is a meditation in itself:
 - Christians are ready to proclaim the Gospel because they can’t hide the joy that comes from knowing Christ.
 - Are you angry with someone? Pray for that person. That is what Christian love is.
 - Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.
 - How many kinds of moral and material poverty we face today as a result of denying God and putting so many idols in his place!
 - We must not be afraid of solidarity; rather let us make all we have and are available to God.
 - Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry.
 - Care of creation is not just something God spoke of at the dawn of history: he entrusts it to each of us as part of his plan.
 - Christ leads us to go out from ourselves more and more, to give ourselves and to serve others.
 - The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

36th Anniversary

Ordination day with Archbishop Mercieca
I join today my 12 classmates in Malta as we celebrate our 36th anniversary of our Ordination to the priesthood. We were ordained by Archbishop Joseph Mercieca at St John's Cathedral in Valletta Malta on June 19, 1977. All of our parents and brothers and sisters were alive back then, although the majority of parents are now enjoying their eternal rest, besides a few siblings who also left this earth. 

With my family after the Ordination
Incidentally I will be offering my Mass today at exactly the same time as my classmates in Malta. Mine will be at 9 AM at the St Alphonsus hospital chapel, and their concelebrated Mass will be at the major Seminary in Rabat at 6 PM. All my classmates are presently in Malta with a few of them still serving as pastors at various churches, although since all of us are now in our 60s, a few of them are taking it easy, not necessarily retired, but slowing down a little bit. Ad Multos Annos to all as we celebrate 3 dozen years in the service of the Lord.
My Ordination holy card

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Father's letter - part 2

This is the second part of a letter a father write to his sons, suggesting to them 8 values to cherish. Here are numbers 5 to 8....

5. Love.  You will meet lots and lots of girls in your lives.  Treat them all with dignity and respect.  Care more about their inner beauty than their outward appearance.  Treat your bodies like holy temples and don’t give in to sinful behavior.  You will know you are in love when your knees go soft, your stomach has butterflies and you can’t stop thinking about her as the most beautiful girl you have ever seen.  Then what?  Get to know her, build a relationship and take the time to see if she is the ONE.  You will eventually know if she is and she will be looking at you the same way.  Be counter-cultural, do the right thing and save yourselves for marriage.  The world might make fun of you, but Jesus will love you for it.

6. Responsibility.  You have heard your mom and I say this a million times:  “You need to be more responsible!”  Well, you do.  Someone has to be responsible, why not you?  If you are involved in an activity or project, act responsible and be a leader.  If you make a mess, clean it up.  If you say you will do something, do it.  One of my old bosses told me years ago that if “I touched it, I owned it!”  This has always served me well and helped me in countless ways.  Don’t wait for somebody else to take responsibility.  It may be up to you.  By the way, do you know who is always responsible for your actions?  You are.

7. Friendships.  Be true to yourself and your friends.  Hang out with people who share your values.  Be a good enough friend to others that you always tell them the truth.  This is the sign of a true friend.  If your friends go down a path you know is wrong, stand your ground and do not follow.  The tricky thing about friendships is you sometimes find yourself alone because you are committed to following the teachings of the Church or the values you learned as young people.  Trust me on this one - never abandon your faith or your values to follow the crowd.  On the other hand, you will hopefully have a few close friends who stay with you a lifetime and they are to be treasured as gifts from God.

8. Be Real.  Don’t ever pretend to be someone else.  You are who God created you to be.  Don’t be tempted to hide your true self, your faith or what you really think from others.  Reflect on my favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “”To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

I will stop with these eight lessons and we will dive into other valuable topics again in a future letter.  I hope you read this and come to me and your mom with lots of questions.  I promise we are here to help you.  Did you know your mom and I have a vocation (job) given to us by God?  Our vocation is to help our family (and everyone else) get to Heaven.  That is our number one responsibility as parents.  You are going to stumble and struggle at times in life, but always remember we are here for you and we love you.  Most importantly, God loves you and he will never abandon you.  He wants you to learn, grow and think for yourselves, but never stray from His love.

Boys, your mom and I want one more important thing for you.  We want you to be happy.  Really, truly happy!  You know what?  You can’t be truly happy unless you have joy.  Do you know where joy comes from?  Joy comes from putting Christ first in your lives and loving Him so much that everyone sees Him at work inside you.  Then, you will have true joy which will make you really and truly happy.
                                                                                      With all my love,    Dad

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Father's letter - part 1

Continuing on the theme of fathers, I share with you today part one of a letter I came across, written by a Catholic father to his sons. He shares with them 8 things he wants them to remember for the rest of their lives.....

Dear boys,
It must seem strange that I am writing you a letter.  When you finish reading this you will hopefully understand the reason.  First of all, I want you to know your mom and I love you both very much and we could not be prouder of you.  We are not perfect parents, but we have done our best to help you make your way through these difficult growing-up years and prepare for the future. As I grow older, I have gained a sense of perspective and am grateful for the ability to reflect on the many lessons I have experienced.  I appreciate the challenges I have encountered because they have helped to shape me as a man, husband and father.  I wish I could remember all of the wisdom my parents shared with me when I was your age, but I can only catch fleeting memories every now and then as the years pass.

There is so much I wish to share with you!  I want to tell you what it feels like to fall in love with the woman you will marry.  I want you to know the indescribable joy I felt when both of you came into this world.  I want you to understand the rough years I spent in the spiritual wilderness with no faith and the profound conversion experience I had when I surrendered to Christ and found the Truth I was seeking for most of my life in the Catholic Church.  The list of rich experiences and lessons is almost endless…but perhaps I will share some of them now and save the rest for future letters. So to keep it simple, here are eight things I want you to think about, pray over and hopefully remember for the rest of your lives:

1. Faith.  God loves you, no matter what.  Stay true to yourself and always love and serve Him.  Stay devoted to our Catholic faith despite all the temptations you will have from the world to leave.  Be men of prayer and observe the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation.  Never forget you were made for Heaven and not the world.
2. Values.  Your mom and I have taught you the difference between right and wrong.  Our Catholic faith has helped you learn to love your neighbor and serve others.  Never lose touch with your values-they define who you are.  Don’t be tempted to sacrifice your values for a little temporary comfort or pleasure.  It is never, ever worth it.
3. Education.  School isn’t always going to be fun.  It wasn’t for us either.  But, it is very important to have a quality education if you want to have good career options.  Never be satisfied that you know enough.  Become lifelong learners. Be insatiably curious about other people and life in general.
4. Work Ethic.  Nothing in life is truly free.  Work hard and you will be rewarded.  Pay your dues and out hustle everyone around you.  No matter what you hear later in life, I promise you there is no easy path to riches and there is no substitute for hard work.  I know, I know-this part sounds just like Papa!
                                             (part 2 - tomorrow)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My father through the years

My dad with my sisters Rosemarie and Josephine, 1953
As we celebrate Father’s Day today, I have to look back at the younger days of my father, especially through 3 photos from three different decades. And I share just a few lines from the homily I gave at my father’s funeral back in January 2002.
"The tremendous amount of good that my father accomplished was done with sincere and genuine humility. Whether he was painting a room, or plastering a roof before the rainy season, whether he was decorating a cake or weeding a garden, whether he was ironing a mountain of clothes or preparing a rabbit or a chicken for us to eat, he did everything with a sincere interest, sheer joy and a total commitment. 

My father and mother, 1966
Following the end of the war, my dad entered the Police Department, a career which he served with pride, honor and impeccable devotion. He was loved, respected and fulfilled his duties with utmost dedication, and gave his life, heart and soul to help retain order in our nation, which was going through some troublesome period. It was the highlight of my week when he used to take me or my brother to his Office, where we ended up playing with everything we found on his desk. In a letter sent to him in 1971 by the ex-Police Commissioner Vivian deGray, he wrote about my father: "Mr John Cassar worked under me in the Police Force for over 25 years. He was always employed on clerical duties to the full satisfaction of his superiors. Mr Cassar is a courteous, respectful, capable, conscientious and reliable clerk of unimpeachable probity and integrity."
In his summer uniform as a policeman, 1971
In one of the letters he used to write to me every week, precisely on the occasion of my parents' 50th Anniversary 3 years ago, (that was 1998,) I remember my dad writing to me that one of the best things that ever happened to him was when he met my mother. . . . . they knew each other since they were very young, and got married young too, but the way they raised our family is nothing short of a masterpiece. I do not say this just to show off, but those who knew him well, know exactly what I mean."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nature's stained-glass

Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue)
Nature has a way of showing off its beauty in a simple yet fascinating way. At this time of the year, flowers showcase a spectacular display of color, and every year I come across an unusual species of flower that capture my attention and is quickly photographed by my camera. One such species has been planted recently outside the Rectory by faithful gardeners Frances and Sam Raabe, who methodically and meticulously take care of our flower beds. One such flower is known as Salpiglossis, or painted tongue, and offers up a kaleidoscope of color, with each flower rich in shadings of pigment and strong veins. Related to petunias, salpiglossis have the same open-faced, trumpet-like flowers. Salpiglossis sinuata is a flowering plant native to southern Chile. It was introduced to the northern hemisphere in the 1820s.
Salpiglossis - the orange variety
Unlike petunias, Salpiglossis is a relatively upright grower, reaching up to 3 feet in the garden. Flowers are about 21/2 inches in diameter. The colors are cream, lemon-yellow, gold, orange, brown, red, scarlet, violet, and near blue. Most of them are overlaid with veins and other patterns of color, making them look like stained glass. The flowers have a five-lobed funnel-shaped corolla, up to 7 cm (2.5 in) long and 5.5 cm (2 in) diameter, each lobe with a notched apex, velvety in texture, either violet or orange, and have contrasting darker stripes along each petal.

Friday, June 14, 2013

World Blood Donor Day

About a year ago, donating my 98th pint in Baker City.

Today is World Blood Donor Day, celebrated around the world to encourage more people to roll up their sleeves and donate blood. You all know how passionate I am about donating blood. Last year on June 26th I donated my 100th pint, and next Tuesday, June 18th I will be donating my 105th pint. I am always campaigning for more people to donate blood, especially young people. So if you feel healthy and strong enough, head over to the nearest blood drive, and be generous with the gift of life. Unfortunately a very small percentage of people donate blood, anywhere between 3% to 5%, and the need is always great. We see a generous flow of donors when a tragedy occurs, but the need is always big, 365 days a year.

Thank you Germany - I was surprised today to find out that someone or somewhere in Germany discovered my blog and added over 3300 hits in one single day. The visitors count on Wednesday was 48248, and this morning it went up to 51729. I was going to alert you that we're nearing 50000 clicks, but now we're way over. Maybe they liked the entries, the photos, or a particular post. Whatever the reason, this was one day for the records!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

8 years at the Cathedral

Today I officially start my 9th year here as pastor at the Cathedral parish. It has been a blessing serving the people and seeing our parish community grow and change over the past 8 years. Time has really flown by, even though as you all know I have not been idle during these years. We have accomplished a lot and even more will be accomplished, God willing.
The many children I baptized when I first arrived here just received their First Holy Communion, while many of the children to whom I gave First Holy Communion over the past 8 years have recently been confirmed by Bishop Liam Cary. I wonder if I’ll be here to do the weddings of some of them!  It shows how time flies, and I am amazed at the changes that took place in our parish over the past 8 years. Of course we all got a little older, a little greyer, and for some of us our hairline did not change much.
The life of the parish has always focused on liturgy, celebrations, renewal and community spirit. Naturally by far the biggest and most obvious transformation was the renovation of our Cathedral sanctuary done in the summer of 2007, to coincide with the centennial of our Cathedral, which we celebrated in October that year, as well as on April 9, 2008, the actual day of the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral. My gratitude is to all parishioners, and all those who support me through their talent, time and treasure. May we continue to build on our strong foundations, our faith, our adherence to what keeps us together, and to one another.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fleming and Churchill

Sir Alexander Fleming, inventor of penicillin

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby ditch. He dropped his tools and ran to the ditch. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and a terrifying death. The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy farmer Fleming had saved. 
"I want to repay you, " said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life." 
"No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied proudly. "I'll make you a deal. Let me take him and give him a good education. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll grow to a man you can be proud of. "And that he did.
In time, farmer Fleming's son graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin. Years afterwards, the nobleman's son was stricken with pneumonia.  What saved him? Penicillin.
The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

3 new watercolors

I share with you today three new watercolor scenes that I created. They are all imaginary scenes, but certainly influenced by the Eastern Oregon topography, which is very rural, with lots of pine trees, and an occasional lake, besides many ranches, hay barns and mountains, still with some snow on their peaks. 
Moreover we do get some spectacular sunsets from now until November. Unfortunately we do not get much rain, which I keep praying for at every Mass I celebrate. The rivers are very low and the snow is melting quickly, predicting a dry summer, which can lead to many forest fires when the grass dries up.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Magnificent Seven

Seven magnificent quarter horses
Exactly 8 years ago, just before I left the parish in John Day, I was invited by my friends Jim and Colleen Clark to visit their ranch where they raise quarter horses. They actually live 8 miles away from John Day, in the hamlet of Mount Vernon with some nice property for their many horse to roam around and pasture. All of the horses are spectacular to look at, and among the many photos I took, I was able to get the above photo, which I called the Magnificent Seven. This was before the digital age camera, so the quality is not the best, but these 7 quarter horse came over towards me on the order of their master Jim, and very gently lined themselves up for this unique photo opportunity, which has been one of my all-time favorites. 
Julian, a few days old, following his mother

Moreover, just before I left John Day, the Clarks named one of their horses Julian, born in late May 2005, and who has since been unfortunately castrated, so that he’ll be stronger and gentler, so I was told. Of course he could not be a daddy and have some fun like many other horses do. 

I also got the opportunity to ride one of the horses, a very gentle one, as I paraded with my grey cowboy hat, given to me by the Clarks. I had originally bought a black hat, to match my black outfit, but some people told me that only the bad guys wear black hats! 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Eucharistic Congress in Malta

Eucharistic Congress celebration in 1913 held in Malta

It was exactly 100 years ago this year that the international Eucharistic Congress was held in Malta. It is held annually in different countries and 1913 saw many Cardinals, Bishops, other prelates and priests travel to Malta for this unique celebration that included special Masses, processions, speeches and gatherings. A week-long celebration was held this past week in various locations, culminating with an outdoor Mass and procession on Friday, the feast of the Sacred Heart. The following photos show scenes from this commemorative event, with many First Communion children participating in the procession, led by Archbishop Paul Cremona through the streets of the capital city, Valletta. 
Concelebrated Mass in St George's Square, Valletta
First Communion children in procession
Archbishop Cremona with the Eucharist under the baldacchino

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Heart of Mary by C. Bosseron Chambers

As a counterpart to the feast of the Sacred Heart, which we celebrated yesterday, today the church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This incredible piece of artwork was originally created by C. Bosseron Chambers, an American who lived between 1882 and 1941. It was created with hundreds of pictures of the Virgin Mary, a collage done with extreme precision and thought. Of course you have to enlarge it to see the detail and the individual images of the Blessed Mother.
Most Holy Mother of God, you who carried Jesus close to your heart, and then saw your heart being broken when he was tortured, crucified and killed, we ask you to keep our hearts close to you and to Your Son. Remind us to love one another as Jesus encouraged us to do, to do the simple things in life with a lot of  love. Remind us to imitate your example of unconditional love towards everyone around us. Encourage also to forgive those who hurt us, as we ask for forgiveness for any hurt we may have caused.  AMEN.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sacred Heart

A modern stained glass image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The devotional feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated today, a celebration that was popular throughout the centuries but intensified in its importance and popularity after the apparition of Jesus to St Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 16, 1675, during the octave of Corpus Christi. Christ asked Margaret Mary to request that a feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated in reparation for the ingratitude of humanity for the sacrifice Jesus had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all mankind.
An old holy picture of the Sacred Heart
By 1765, the feast was being celebrated throughout France, but it took another almost another century to gain worldwide approval by the Pope, Pius IX, who extended the feast to the universal church in 1856. The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by a lance, surrounded by a crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. Sometimes the image in over Jesus’ body with his wounded hands pointing at the heart.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pope John XXIII - 50 years gone

Blessed Pope John XXIII (Nov 25, 1881 - June 3, 1963)
Many people have noticed resemblances between Pope Francis and Blessed Pope John XXIII, and incidentally this week we commemorated the 50th anniversary of Pope John’s death, on June 3. He was born on November 25, 1881 in Sotto il Monte near Bergamo, northern Italy. He was elected Pope on October 28, 1958, an older Pope whom the Cardinals thought would be a transitional Pope after the long reign of Pius XII. However they were wrong as he convened the Second Vatican Council which brought many changes to the Catholic Church. Some people had remarked that they thought he would open a window and bring a little fresh air into the life of the church, but instead caused a spiritual hurricane. He will also be remembered for two great encyclicals “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth) and “Mater et Magistra” (Mother and Teacher.) Blessed John XXIII died on June 3, 1963, aged 81 and was succeeded by Pope Paul VI, who continued the Council with all the Bishops and Cardinals, concluded in 1965. He was beatified on September 3, 2000.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Saint Boniface

Saint Boniface was a missionary who propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He was born around 675 AD in Wessex, England, and by the age of 30, he had become an ordained priest. On his missions east of the Rhine River, he was unrelenting in his effort to convert pagans to his faith. In the Frankish kingdom, he met great problems because of lay interference in bishops’ elections, the worldliness of the clergy and lack of papal control. In order to restore the Germanic Church to its fidelity to Rome and to convert the pagans, he had been guided by two principles. The first was to restore the obedience of the clergy to their bishops in union with the pope of Rome. The second was the establishment of many houses of prayer which took the form of Benedictine monasteries. A great number of Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns followed him to the continent. He introduced Benedictine nuns to the active apostolate of education. During a final mission to the Frisians, he and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for Confirmation. They died on June 5, 654 in Dokkum, Frisia, which is now in the Netherlands. St Boniface is the patron saint of Germany.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Queen Elizabeth - 60 years as Queen

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her speech.
June 2nd was the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation as Queen of England and the Commonwealth. She was born on April 21, 1926. Following her wedding with Prince Philip, the couple took up residence at Clarence House in London. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of Gwardamangia, at the Villa Gwardamangia, the rented home of Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. Incidentally my barber in Malta was also Prince Philip's barber during the years he spent in Malta. The children Charles and Anne remained in Britain, but visited Malta occasionally. 

During the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, June 2, 1953
Her father King George VI died on February 6, 1952, and Elizabeth took power right away, but her coronation did not take place until June 2, 1953, 60 years ago. She is one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history.