Wednesday, July 31, 2013

St Ignatius of Loyola

'Apotheosis of St Ignatius" by Peter Paul Rubens

Today being the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, (1491-1556)the founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as Jesuits, we  pray especially for Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit himself, celebrating the first feast of his founder as a Pope. To read a biography of St Ignatius, you can go back to last year, July 31, but today I share with you three of his most famous quotes:

“Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.”

“O my God, teach me to be generous
to serve you as you deserve to be served
to give without counting the cost
to fight without fear of being wounded
to work without seeking rest
and to spend myself without expecting any reward
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will. Amen”

“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

St Peter Chrysologus

St Peter Chrysologus (406-450)

St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church was born at Imola, Italy in 406, and was baptized, educated, and ordained a deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola. St. Peter merited being called "Chrysologus" (golden-worded) from his exceptional oratorical eloquence. In 433, Pope Sixtus III consecrated him bishop of Ravenna. He practiced many corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and ruled his flock with utmost diligence and care. He eliminated the last vestiges of paganism and other abuses that had sprouted among his people, cautioning them especially against indecent dancing. "Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil," he remarked, "cannot rejoice with Christ." He also counseled the heretic Eutyches (who had asked for his support) to avoid causing division but to learn from the other heretics who were crushed when they hurled themselves against the Rock of Peter. He died at Imola, Italy in 450 and in 1729 was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII, largely as a result of his simple, practical, and clear sermons which have come down to us, nearly all dealing with Gospel subjects.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Meaningful Quotes

Work is the very salt of life, not only preserving it from decay, but also giving it tone and flavor.

Promises make friends. Performances keep them.

Here are two things needed in these days – first for the rich people to find out how the poor people live, and for the poor to know how the rich work.

One foundation of happiness is the ability to know when we have what we want, and then not restlessly seek after something else.

Never bear more than one trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds – all they have ever had, all they have now, and all they expect to have.

Advice is very much like snow. The softer it falls the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.

In great things unity. In small things liberty. In all things charity.

They never taste who always drink. They always talk who never think.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

3 million for the Pope

3 million people gather on Copacabana beach for final Mass

A reported 3 million people turned out Sunday for Pope Francis' final Mass of his Brazil trip after camping out on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach. Nearly the entire 2.5 mile crescent of the beach overflowed with people, some of them taking an early morning dip in the Atlantic and others tossing t-shirts, flags and soccer jerseys into the pontiff's open-sided car as he drove by. Francis worked the crowd, kissing babies, taking a sip of mate tea handed up to him and catching gifts on the fly. Even the normally stern-faced Vatican bodyguards let smiles slip as they jogged alongside his car, caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd. “Jesus is calling on you to be a disciple with a mission,” Francis told the crowd. He added that the best way to evangelize the young is another young person, and that the Church needs their enthusiasm, creativity and joy. “Dear young people Jesus Christ is counting on you, the Church is counting on you, the Pope is counting on you!” Francis said.
Pope Francis with the statue of the Virgin of Aparecida

The Saturday vigil drew a reported 3 million flag-waving, rosary-toting faithful, who overflowed Copacabana beach. The attendance figure, given by local media citing the mayor's office, is higher than the 1 million at the last World Youth Day vigil in Madrid in 2011, and far more than the 650,000 at Toronto's 2002 vigil. Many of those watching the vigil had tears in their eyes as they listened to Francis' call for them to build up their church like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, was called to do. "Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!" Francis said, drawing cheers from the crowd in this soccer-mad nation. On the beach, pilgrims staked out their spots on the sand, lounged and snacked, and prepared for the all-night slumber party ahead of Sunday's Mass. At the end of the Mass, the Pope announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, possibly also in recognition of Pope John Paul II, who will soon be Saint.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Relay for Life

Luminarias at the Baker City Relay for Life

The annual Relay for Life will be held today and tomorrow here in Baker City. The project has been going on for over 9 years now and the idea is to collect funds for cancer research. People from all walks of life walk around the track from 4 PM on Saturday till the following morning. Luminarias will be placed around the track with the names of cancer victims, sufferers and survivors, sometimes with their photos on the white bag (called Luminarias) and which will be lit over night. 
The Luminarias are lit at nightfall

A touching ceremony is held as darkness sets in and the candles will be lit to stay burning overnight. Various teams from our community join forces to raise money, and our parish has been in the forefront of this project with their “Team Hope.” I will walk between 5 and 6 AM Sunday morning and then offer a Sunrise service, before people start packing and leaving.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Saints Joachim and Anne with a young Mary

We honor today St Joachim and St Anne, the parents of the Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus. In their honor, I offer this prayer for grandparents:
Almighty God, we pay tribute today to the role of grand parenthood. So many grandparents nowadays are raising their own grandchildren, because their own parents either failed, or are too busy, or are separated or divorced. At a time when they thought that their work was done, they take over more responsibilities with patience, love and determination. May the images of St Joachim and St Anne be an inspiration to these grandparents, as they reflect on the love and affection they showed in raising their daughter Mary, the Mother of our Savior. And who knows how happy they were to see baby Jesus being born, raised and loved by his own parents. Who knows how often they baby-sat for him, and they must have been so proud of him, as they admired him growing up as a toddler, a young man and eventually leaving home for his official mission. We pray for all grandparents that they may find the courage and strength to honor their role in protecting, guiding and inspiring their grandchildren, and may they be an example of faith and fortitude for them.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral of St James in Compostela, Spain
I had every intention today to write about this beautiful Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, this being the feast of Saint James (Santiago in Spanish.) However I offer a prayer today for the over 80 victims of a train tragedy that occurred yesterday, precisely as it approached this pilgrimage site from Madrid. I presume that many of the victims were pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela to celebrate the feast of St James. Hundreds of people make a traditional walk through the northern part of Spain every year, hiking with friends, sleeping in motels and special resting places, dividing their pilgrimage over a few weeks or months. The Cathedral itself was started in 1075 and finished in 1211 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. 
The elaborate facade of the Cathedral, completed in 1211
The Cathedral is the reputed burial-place of St James the apostle, and it is the destination of the Way of St James, the historical pilgrimage route since the Early Middle Ages. The building is a Romanesque structure with later Gothic and Baroque additions. According to legend, the apostle Saint James the Greater brought Christianity to the Celts in the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD he was beheaded in Jerusalem. His remains were later brought back to Galicia, Spain.
Let us today remember the victims of this unfortunate tragedy, and may God give consolation to their families and relatives and heal the survivors.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My first car

I never drove in Malta, and probably never will. Traffic is horrendous, parking impossible, besides they drive on the left hand side. And when I came to the USA in 1981, I used a bicycle for the first three years, visiting people, going on Communion calls, making occasional trips on Long Island, and even taking a few altar-boys on long trips to Montauk Point and back. But by 1984, I realized that I will not survive on a bike all my life. So I took some classes, started practicing driving, and by mid-February I was ready for my big test, which I passed right away on February 22, 1984, getting my license on that same day. My first car was a much-loved white Toyota Tercel, which was the stick-shift type (not automatic.) I enjoyed many trips in it, even to upstate New York, and kept it until 1994, 10 full years, when I traded it in for a Geo Metro. I kept the Geo Metro until 1998 when I moved to Pleasant Valley, NY and got a Honda CRV. Some parishioners there told me I needed a stronger car to drive in deeper snow, especially since their lawn-mowers were more powerful than my Geo Metro, having only 3 cylinders! When I moved to Oregon, I had it shipped here in 2003 and kept it until 2008 when it turned over 100,000 miles and then got my present car, a Chevy Equinox. People always have special memories of their first car, and so do I with my Toyota Tercel.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grey Blue Heron

Grey-Blue Heron resting along the Powder River, Oregon

Since it's been pretty dry and very hot this summer, wildlife has been very sparse this year, as deer and elk and other animals prefer to stay in the shade rather than bask in the blazing sun. Well, this past Saturday, on my way to my mission church in halfway, I came a cross a grey-blue heron resting in the Powder River. They usually fly away as soon as they see an intruder or someone getting close to them. However this time I was lucky to have snapped a quick picture from my car, before he took off, gliding away, as you can see from the second photo. Notice his incredible wing-span too. The Great Blue Heron is found throughout most of North America, as far north as Alaska and the southern Canadian provinces. There are blue herons and grey ones, and have rarely traveled to Europe.

They may be found in numbers in fresh and saltwater marches, swamps, flooded meadows, lake edges, or shorelines, as well as rivers, as was the heron I encountered last week. They are quite adaptable and may be seen in heavily developed areas as long as they hold bodies of water bearing fish. Great Blue Herons rarely venture far from bodies of water but are occasionally seen flying over upland areas. They usually nest in trees or bushes near water's edge, often on islands (which minimizes the potential for predation) or partially isolated spots.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Pope in Brazil

A Brazilian stamp issued for the occasion of  World Youth Day

This is the week when the World Youth Day is being held in Brazil. Pope Francis is making his first official trip outside of Italy since his election in March. This is briefly the schedule of Pope Francis' week ahead:
Monday July 22, Departure from Rome, Welcoming Ceremony at the Garden of the Guanabara Palace, Courtesy visit to the President of the Republic at the Guanabara Palace at Sumare.
Wednesday July 24, Holy Mass in the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception of Aparecida.  Visit and address at the St. Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital.
Thursday July 25, Visit to the Community of Varginha (Manguinhos) in Rio de Janeiro, Welcoming ceremony by the young people along the Copacabana beachfront of Rio de Janeiro.
Friday July 26, Recital of the Angelus Domini from the Central Balcony of the Archbishopric of St. Joaquin, Way of the Cross with the young people along the Copacabana beachfront.
Saturday July 27, Holy Mass with the Bishops of the 28th WYD and with Priests, Religious and Seminarians in the Cathedral of St Sebastian, Meeting with the Brazil's leaders gathered at the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro.
Sunday July 28, Holy Mass for the 28th World Youth Day at Campus Fidei in Guaratiba, Recital of the Angelus Domini at Campus Fidei in Guaratiba, Meeting with the Volunteers of the 28th World Youth Day, and departure for Rome.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Inside Castille Palace

During the reign of the Knights of Malta, between 1530 and 1798, they built many fortifications, houses and palaces, known as Auberges. The most imposing Auberge is the one known as Castille, where the Prime Minister has his official office. These are just two photos of the inside staircase, beautifully crafted, with pleasant archways, nicely painted with soft colors and a welcome attraction to any visitor to the Prime Minister, usually dignitaries and well-known people. 

The outside was just recently restored, and I will share a few photos of the imposing facade as soon as I have some good quality photos. I took these 2 photos when I visited the retired Prime Minister 3 years ago.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Life isn't....What life is

Life isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about how many friends you have. Or how accepted you are. It’s not about if you have plans this weekend or if you’re alone. It isn’t about who you’re dating, who you used to date, or how many people you’ve dated, or if you haven’t been with anyone at all. It isn’t about whom you’ve kissed. It isn’t about sex. It isn’t about who your family is or how much money they have. Or what kind of car you drive. Or which school or College you attended. Life isn’t about how beautiful or ugly you are. Or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on, or what kind of music you listen to. It’s not about if your hair is blonde, red, black or brunette. Or if your skin is too light or too brown. It’s not about what grades you get, how smart you are, or even how smart everybody thinks you are, or how smart standardized test say you are. It’s not about what clubs you’re in, or how good you are at “your” sport.

But, Life is about who you love and who you hurt. It’s about who you make happy or unhappy purposefully. It’s about keeping or betraying trust. It’s about friendship, used as a sanctity or as a weapon. It’s about what you say and mean, maybe hurtful, maybe heartening. It’s about starting rumors and contributing to petty gossip. It’s about what judgments you pass and why. It’s about whom you have ignored with full control and intention. It’s about jealousy, fear, ignorance and revenge. It’s about carrying inner hate and love, letting it grow, and spreading it. But most of all, it’s about using your life to touch or poison other people’s hearts in such a way that could have never occurred alone. Only you choose the way those hearts are affected, and those choices are what life’s all about.

Friday, July 19, 2013

NY and LA

Just some statistics about two of the biggest cities in the USA, New York and Los Angeles.
The term 'The Big Apple' for New York was coined by touring jazz musicians of the 1930s who used the slang expression 'apple' for any town or city. Therefore, to play New York City is to play the big time - The Big Apple.

There are more Irish in New York City than in Dublin, Ireland; more Italians in New York City than in Rome, Italy; And more Jews in New York City than in Tel Aviv, Israel .

Very few people have heard of this fact, but the word NYLON was formed by the combination of two men who invented nylon. They did not know what to name their invention, but they came up with a brilliant idea. Since one of them was from New York and the other came from London, they decided to use NY and LON, the first letters of their hometown - and so came nylon!

The full name of Los Angeles is: El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula. It can be abbreviated to 3.6% of its size: L.A.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

St Camillus de Lellis

St Camillus de Lellis ( 1550 - 1614)

St. Camillus de Lellis was born at Bocchianico, Italy on May 25, 1550. He fought as a soldier for the Venetians against the Turks, was addicted to gambling, and by 1574 was penniless in Naples. He became a Capuchin novice, but was unable to be professed because of a diseased leg he contracted while fighting the Turks. He devoted himself to caring for the sick, and became director of St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. He received permission from his confessor (St. Philip Neri) to be ordained and decided, with two companions, to found his own congregation, the Ministers of the Sick (the Camellians), dedicated to the care of the sick. They ministered to the sick of Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome, enlarged their facilities in 1585, founded a new house in Naples in 1588, and attended the plague-stricken aboard ships in Rome's harbor and in Rome. In 1591, the Congregation was made into an order to serve the sick by Pope Gregory XIV, and in 1591 and 1605, Camillus sent members of his order to minister to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia, the first field medical unit. Gravely ill for many years, he resigned as superior of the Order in 1607 and died in Rome on July 14, 1614, the year after he attended a General Chapter there. He was canonized in 1746, was declared patron of the sick, with St. John of God, by Pope Leo XIII, and patron of nurses and nursing groups by Pope Pius XI.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thank you, Lawrence

With Malta PM and friend, Lawrence Gonzi in April 2010

This is a sad day and a happy day for my long-time friend Lawrence Gonzi. He was my classmate at the Minor Seminary years between 1966 and 1968, and we sat in the same bench next to each other in class for two full years. He eventually became a lawyer and entered politics, becoming House Speaker, a member of Parliament, deputy Prime Minister, and finally Prime Minister of Malta in 2004, the same year that Malta became a member of the European Union. He led Malta for the past 9 years as Prime Minister, winning another election for his Nationalist Party in 2008, while losing the last election earlier this year in March.
Well, today Lawrence is officially retiring from Parliament and from politics. He gave his last speech in Parliament today, and as usual, he was emphatic, respectful and loyal to his values, his party and his faith. In an article he wrote today in the Times of Malta, he wrote "Our success as a country has not happened by coincidence. It happened because over the years we have always been guided by a set of values that are of Christian inspiration and are universally accepted even by non-believers: respect for the dignity of every human being in all circumstances; respect for human life, even when still a foetus in the mother's womb; treasuring the family as a social unit that needs constant nurturing; respect for minorities independently of their abilities or disabilities and a host of other fundamental freedoms including those that were severely tested in the 1970s and early 1980s and that motivated me to enter politics."
Happy retirement Lawrence. You surely deserve it!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Carmelite Scapular

The Carmelite Scapular

Today is celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. According to a pious tradition, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St Simon Stock at Cambridge, England on Sunday June 16, 1251. In answer to his appeal for help for his oppressed order, she appeared to him with a scapular in her hand and said to him:”Take, beloved son, this scapular of your order as a special sign of grace for all Carmelites; whoever dies with this scapular, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in danger, a pledge of peace.”
The Carmelites are a religious order founded on Mount Carmel in the 13th century, named thus in reference to the mountain range found in the Holy Land. The founder was a certain Berthold, who was either a pilgrim or a crusader. The order was founded at the site that it claimed had once been the location of Elijah’s cave, 1700 feet above sea level.
By 2001, there were 2,100 religious monks in 25 provinces in the Carmelite order, besides 700 enclosed nuns in 70 monasteries. In addition, the Third Order of lay Carmelites count 28,000 members throughout the world. Besides St Simon Stock, there are other Carmelite saints such as St Therese of the Child Jesus, St John of the Cross, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St Theresa of Avila and even Sister Lucia of Fatima.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Barberini paintings

A triptych of the Blessed Mother with two Saints

One of the most popular museums in Rome is what is known as the Barberini Museum, better known as the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica. It is located in the Barberini Palace, in Piazza Barberini, central Rome. Among the many paintings which are displayed are a number of religious paintings by known and unknown artists, mostly Italian. A few triptychs and diptychs are visible with multi-panels depicting images of the Blessed Mother.

A few painted crucifixes are also displayed, similar to the one that spoke to St Francis in Assisi, and which was restored. I visited the Barberini Museum last summer and was able to take a few photos which I share with you, with no commercial purpose, but simply for everyone's enjoyment.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Prayer by Mother Teresa

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

You are God. You are true God from true God, generated not created, of the same substance of the Father. You are with the Father from all eternity. All things were created by you and the Father. You are the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. You are the Son of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit in her virginal womb.
You were born in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary and placed in a manger with straw. You are an ordinary man without much education, and the educated class in Israel judges you unfairly.
Jesus is: the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life, the victim immolated for our sins on the cross, the sacrifice offered for the sins of the world, and for my sins in the Holy Mass.
Jesus is: the Word to be proclaimed, the Truth to be revealed, the Way to be followed, the Light to illumine, the Life to be lived, the Love to be loved,
Jesus is: the Hungry Person to be fed, the Thirsty Person given drink, the Naked One to clothe, the Homeless to receive shelter, the Sick to be cured, the Abandoned to be loved,
Jesus is: the Outcast to be welcomed, the Leper whose wounds are bathed, the Beggar to whom a smile is given, the Drunkard who needs to be listened to,
Jesus: the Mentally Disturbed who needs to be protected, the Infant who needs to be held in our arms, the Blind Person who needs to be led by the hand, the Mute for whom someone must speak, the Crippled with whom one walks,
Jesus is: the Drug Addict who needs help, the Prostitute who needs to be taken off the streets, the Prisoner who needs to be visited, the Aged person who needs to be taken care of.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saint Henry

St Henry (973-1024) with his wife St Cunegundes

As German king and Holy Roman Emperor, Henry was a practical man of affairs. Born in 973 AD, he was the last member of the Ottonian dynasty of Emperors. He became king of Germany following the sudden death of his second-cousin Emperor Otto III in 1002 and was crowned as Emperor in 1014. He was energetic in consolidating his rule. He crushed rebellions and feuds. On all sides he had to deal with drawn-out disputes so as to protect his frontiers. This involved him in a number of battles, especially in the south in Italy; he also helped Pope Benedict VIII quell disturbances in Rome. Always his ultimate purpose was to establish a stable peace in Europe. According to eleventh-century custom, Henry took advantage of his position and appointed as bishops men loyal to him. In his case, however, he avoided the pitfalls of this practice and actually fostered the reform of ecclesiastical and monastic life. Both he and his wife, St. Cunegundes, lived in perpetual chastity, to which they had bound themselves by vow. The Saint made numerous pious foundations, gave liberally to pious institutions and built the Cathedral of Bamberg. His holy death occurred at the castle of Grone, near Halberstad, on July 13, 1024. He is the patron saint of the childless, of Dukes, of the handicapped and those rejected by Religious Order. He was canonized in 1146. All in all, this saint was a man of his times. From our standpoint, he may have been too quick to do battle and too ready to use power to accomplish reforms. But, granted such limitations, he shows that holiness is possible in a busy secular life.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Pretzel

One of the most popular snacks in every household is definitely the pretzel. A carefully prepared dough of specially selected ingredients is formed into pretzels with a real twist, salted and slowly baked for extra crunchiness. The popular pretzel of today was developed long ago by a monk in about 610AD at one of the mountains between Southern France and Northern Italy. After baking bread, this imaginative monk took leftover dough and rolled it into a strip, and formed it to represent a child’s arms folded in prayer. He called it “pretiola”, which is Latin for ‘little reward’ and gave it to little children for learning their prayers. The precious “pretiola” made its way over the Alps into Austria and Germany where it became affectionately known as “Bretzel.”

Pretzels also hold an honored place in the marriage ceremony. A woodcut dating 1614 and copied from a stained-glass window in a Cathedral in Berne Switzerland, depicts a pretzel used as a nuptial knot in a royal marriage. After a while, wishing on a pretzel became common, particularly at weddings when the bride held one side of a pretzel and the groom held the other side. They pulled on a pretzel and each got a piece of their hand, very much similar to what we do with a wish-bone from a chicken after it’s been dried and washed clean.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

St Benedict

A 1993 Austrian stamp honoring St Benedict

We honor today the father of Monasticism, Saint Benedict, and we pay for all the Benedictines around the world who follow the Rule of St Benedict, comprised of 73 short chapters. The Rule encourages a Christo-centric life and also gives recommendations about how to deal with our brothers (and sisters), as well as some administrative rules on how to run a monastery. St Benedict was a twin and along with his twin sister St Scholastica, they are both revered as saints. 
St Benedict's medal, front and back

The well-known medal of St Benedict is very descriptive and has acronyms in Latin on how to attack the devil and protect oneself from danger. The most famous Benedictine Abbey is in Monte Cassino near Rome, which was heavily bombed during World War II, but many other beautiful monasteries are around the world, especially in Germany, France, Italy, England and the USA.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Saint John Paul II

Floribeth Mora, miraculously healed

A Costa Rican woman whose brain aneurysm reportedly disappeared after she prayed to Pope John Paul II broke down in tears Friday July 5 as she publicly spoke for the first time about the church-confirmed miracle underlying John Paul’s case for sainthood. The Roman Catholic Church presented 50-year-old Floribeth Mora and her doctor to reporters after Pope Francis approved the miracle needed to canonize John Paul II. With tears in her eyes, Mora described how she was sent home with pain medicine but no apparent hope for treatment, thinking she was going to die after her 2011 aneurysm diagnosis. She says a photograph of the pope seemed to speak to her during the deceased pontiff’s beatification, and her doctor says the aneurysm disappeared for no apparent reason. Mora, who owns a private security business with her husband in the middle-class neighborhood of Dulce Nombre de Tres Rios, said she woke up on April 8, 2011, with a strong headache and went to a hospital in the nearby city of Cartago, where she was diagnosed with a severe migraine.
The pain lasted for three days and Mora returned to the hospital, where a series of tests revealed an aneurysm on the right side of her brain that had begun to hemorrhage, according to her attending physician, Alejandro Vargas. Doctors were unable to stop the bleeding and Vargas consulted colleagues in other Latin American countries and Spain, who advised against operating because of the difficult access to the affected area.
‘‘I returned home with the horror of imminent death. Seeing my children walking by looking at me, standing beside my bed, seeing my husband making himself strong, taking my hand and crossing himself every night, it was very sad,’’ Mora said. Her family built an altar to John Paul II outside her house, and while Mora was watching the late pope’s beatification on May 1, 2011, she picked up a magazine and, looking at a photo of the pope, starting to hear a voice. ‘‘It said, ‘Get up, don’t be afraid,'’’ Mora said.

The Great Pope John Paul II, soon to be canonized
Mora said she stood up and felt instantly better, and a variety of medical exams revealed that her aneurysm had simply disappeared. After her recovery, Mora wrote her story on a blog dedicated to John Paul, where it was seen by people pushing for the pope’s canonization. Later, she traveled to Rome, where she underwent further exams, and church officials began working to have her recovery classified as a miracle. Pope Francis will set the date for canonization at an upcoming meeting of cardinals. Pope John XXIII will also be canonized, most probably on the same day as John Paul II.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Only in America

Only in America do people drive on a parkway and then park in a driveway....
Only in America do people send goods by a car and call it a shipment, then send goods by a ship and call it cargo.....
Only in America do people have their noses run and their feet smell....
Only in America can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.....
Only in America are there handicapped parking spaces in front of a skating rink.....
Only in America do people put suits in garment boxes, and then put garments in suitcases.....
Only in America do drugstores make the sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions.....
Only in America do people order a double cheeseburger, large fries and a diet coke......
Only in America do banks leave both doors open, and then chain their 50 cent pens to the counters.....
Only in America do people leave cars worth thousands of dollars in their driveway, and leave useless junk locked in their garage......
Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of 10 and buns in packages of 8.....

And one final question that has puzzled me, especially here in rural Eastern Oregon...why is it that people have to clean up after their dogs, but not after their horses or cows?

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Mouse

Dr Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013)

As you’re reading this blog right now, unless you are using an IPad or Smartphone, the probability is that you are caressing this little gadget that has revolutionized the way we communicate. I’m talking about the mouse, whose inventor died this past week. So we honor today Douglas C. Engelbart who was 25 when he had an epiphany in 1950 that would change the world. The epiphany spoke to him of technology’s potential to expand human intelligence, and from it he spun out a career that indeed had lasting impact. It led to a host of inventions that became the basis for the Internet and the modern personal computer. In later years, one of those inventions was given a warmhearted name, evoking a small, furry creature given to scurrying across flat surfaces: the computer mouse.

In December 1968, Engelbart set the computing world on fire with a remarkable demonstration before more than a thousand of the world’s leading computer scientists at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, one of a series of national conferences in the computer field that had been held since the early 1950s. Dr. Engelbart was developing a raft of revolutionary interactive computer technologies and chose the conference as the proper moment to unveil them. For the event, he sat on stage in front of a mouse, a keyboard and other controls and projected the computer display onto a 22-foot-high video screen behind him. In little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists. He demonstrated how a mouse, which he invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing. Douglas Carl Engelbart was born in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 25, 1925. He spent his formative years on a farm in suburban Portland, graduated from high school in 1942 and attended Oregon State College. Toward the end of World War II, he was drafted. He spent two years in the Navy, one of them in the Philippines, as a radar technician.

The idea for the mouse — a pointing device that would roll on a desk — occurred to Dr. Engelbart in 1964 while he was attending a computer graphics conference. He was musing about how to move a cursor on a computer display. Early versions of the mouse had three buttons, because that was all the case could accommodate, even though Dr. Engelbart felt that as many as 10 buttons would be more useful. Two decades later, when Steve Jobs added the mouse to his Macintosh computer, he decided that a single button was appropriate. The Macintosh designers believed in radical simplicity, and Mr. Jobs argued that with a single button it was impossible to push the wrong one.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How old is your church?

St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Baker City, OREGON

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.
If you belong to the church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534, because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to re-marry.
If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.
If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was founded by Samuel Seabury in the American Colonies in the 17th century.
If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.
If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.
If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.
If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, New York, in 1829.
If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.
If you are of the Dutch-Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder of your religion in New York in 1628.
If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.
If you are a Christian Scientist, you look back to 1879 as the year your religion was founded by Mary Baker Eddy.
And if you are a Roman Catholic, you know that your religion was founded by Jesus Christ, Son of God in the year AD 33, and it is still the same Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Watermelon sculptures

God bless summer for the abundance of fruit that is available. Those who know me, know that I am a fruit buff, as well as a veggie aficionado, but especially anything that ends with berry. Summer also provides us with some mouth-watering watermelon, which are also available in the seedless variety. 

Then there are some ingenious sculptors who create inventive ways of sculpting different objects which almost appear three-dimensional, since they have three layers of color, green, white and red. These are just three sculptures for you to enjoy from anywhere in the world, as people in the northern hemisphere experience a hot warm summer.

Friday, July 5, 2013

St Elizabeth of Portugal

St Elizabeth of Portugal  (1271-1336)

Elizabeth was a Spanish princess, born in 1271 who was given in marriage to King Denis of Portugal at the age of twelve. She was very beautiful and very lovable. She was also very devout, and went to Mass every day. Elizabeth was a holy wife, but although her husband was fond of her at first, he soon began to cause her great suffering. Though a good ruler, he did not imitate his wife's love of prayer and other virtues. In fact, his sins of impurity gave great scandal to the people.
Later, to make matters worse, the King believed a lie told about Elizabeth and one of her pages by another page, who was jealous of his companion. In great anger the King ordered the one he believed guilty, to be sent to a lime-burner. The lime-burner was commanded to throw into his furnace the first page who came. The good page set out obediently, not knowing death was waiting for him. On his way he stopped for Mass, since he had the habit of going daily. The first Mass had begun, so he stayed for a second one. In the meantime, the King sent the wicked page to the lime-burner to find out if the other had been killed. And so it was this page who was thrown into the furnace! When the King learned what had happened, he realized that God had saved the good page, punished the liar, and proven Queen Elizabeth to be innocent.
This amazing event helped greatly to make the King live better. He apologized to his wife in front of everyone and began to have a great respect for her. In his last sickness, she never left his side, except for Mass, until he died a holy death. St. Elizabeth lived for eleven more years, doing even greater charity and penance. She was a wonderful model of kindness toward the poor and a successful peacemaker between members of her own family and between nations. After her death on July 4th, 1336, her body was returned to the monastery at Coimbra for burial. She was canonized by Pope Urban VIII on Holy Trinity Sunday, May 25th, 1625. Because St. Elizabeth was faithful to daily Mass, she found strength to carry her many great crosses. And because her page was faithful to daily Mass, he escaped death. Her example also encourages me to thank all those who attend daily Mass.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

Granted that this is a holiday, not a holy day, but I always like to connect a spiritual meaning to every American holiday, because there is so much to be thankful for, both for blessings received and also for the freedom we cherish. This is the kind of freedom that so many other countries still do not have. Just over the past few decades, we recall countries like Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and the entire Middle East, many African countries, as well as Communist countries that have never experienced any form of freedom of speech and religion, whose citizens have suffered so much.
The Declaration of Independence has great significance to the American people because it is what led to our independence from England and King George III. The Declaration of Independence justified our right to revolt against a government that no longer guaranteed us our natural rights and stated certain ideals that were important for us to have, such as liberty and equality.
One of the most important sentences is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration also plays a significant role in our world today and in recent history. It is because of the words in that document that women are now treated the same as men and that all races are treated equally. Without the words of our founding fathers some of the civil rights that have been passed might never have come to light.
So let us pray today for those who are still suppressed and cannot enjoy any semblance of freedom. Let us pray  in gratitude that we can speak freely, worship according to our personal beliefs (at least until now,) travel according to our needs or wishes, write whatever is on our mind and in our heart, and celebrate joyously every holiday that our country cherishes. 
I can tell you that my home country of Malta also got its Independence from England in 1964, and it was a peaceful transition, and we still have great respect towards the British, because they helped Malta so much, built many places and helped us tremendously during World War II. So, as we remember our freedom and Independence, let us also remember our dependence on each other – we are brothers in sisters in Christ, we share the earth, and even though we do not agree on everything, we can always be cordial, respectful, appreciative and collaborative of each other. As Roman Catholics, we also somehow gained independence form our Christian denominations, which actually broke away from us, but we do have a friendly ecumenical rapport with them, as recent Popes have bridged the gap and got them closer to us, as they were before.
And last but not least, let us remember the members of our Armed Forces who protect our freedom and keep our country safe. May they always remain safe themselves, and we pray for an end to all hostilities, especially in those countries where their rulers act more like tyrants. May freedom be celebrated by all men and women of goodwill, not just today, but everyday of our lives.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Doubting Thomas

Caravaggio's rendition of the Doubting Thomas

Today we honor St Thomas, one of the apostles of Christ, who will always be remembered for his doubting traits. When Jesus appeared to the apostles after the Resurrection, at first Thomas was not there, and told his friends that he would not believe that Jesus was alive, unless he saw with his eyes, and touched with his own hands the wounds of Jesus. Of course the second time, Thomas not only believed, but uttered one of the most quoted phrases in the entire Gospel, "My Lord and my God." This is a phrase that is frequently repeated by many people at the time of the elevation of the Eucharist.  Tradition says that St Thomas went to India where he introduced Christianity, and where his remains were preserved, until they were transferred to Mesopotamia in 232 AD, a ceremony organized by an Indian King, out of respect to the great Apostle. 
Thomas' wound of disbelief was healed by touching and seeing Jesus' wounds. So it wasn't by chance that Thomas was absent, then came and heard, he heard and doubted, he doubted and touched, and finally he touched and believed.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Amazing Grace

John Newton, and a famous quote of his

John Newton was the son of an English sea captain. When John was only 10, his mother died, and he went to sea with his father. The boy learned the ups and downs of the sea backward and forward. At 17 however, he rebelled against his father, left the ship and began living a wild life. Eventually John took a job on a cargo ship, that carried slaves from Africa to America across the Atlantic Ocean. He was promoted rapidly and soon became the captain of the ship. Newton never worried about whether slave trade was right or wrong - he just did it, and gave him an opportunity to make money. But then something happened that changed his life.
One night a violent storm blew up at sea. The raging waves picked up Newton’s ship and threw it around like a toy, and everyone on board was filled with panic. Then John did something he hadn’t done since leaving his father’s ship. He prayed. Shouting at the top of his voice, he said, “God, if you will only save us, I promise to be your slave forever.” God heard his prayers and the ship survived. When Newton reached land, he kept his promise and quit the slave trade. Later he studied for the ministry and was ordained a pastor of a small church in Olney, England. There he won fame as a preacher and as a composer of hymns.
One of the most moving hymns Newton wrote is one that praises God for his conversion. The words read: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found - was blind, but now I see....Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.”
In our lives we experience many spiritual storms that shake up our lives. If we know the source of help and where we can rely for support, everything will turn just fine, as it did for John Newton, in spite of his much serious predicament. But if we try to handle the storms of our lives by ourselves, pretty soon we’re gonna drown or self-destruct. Let us therefore remember the words and circumstance in which “Amazing Grace” was written, and turn to God, not only in bad times, but also in happy times, at least to thank Him for blessings received.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blessed Junipero Serra

Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784)
America owes its Catholic faith from two people who are practically unknown, sometimes unrecognized and frequently ignored by many American Catholics. The first one brought the faith to the east coast, a French Jesuit priest, St Isaac Jogues who settled in upstate New York, along with a few other Jesuits, who unfortunately were all tomahawked and killed by the Iroquois Indians. On the west coast, the Catholic faith was brought by Blessed Junipero Serra, a Franciscan monk, born on 24 November 1713 at Petra, Spanish Majorca as Miguel Jose Serra. He entered the Franciscan University at Palma at age 15, and joined the Order at age 17, taking the name Junipero after the friend of Saint Francis. Ordained in 1737, and taught philosophy and theology at the Lullian University.In 1749, Serra was sent to the missionary territories of the west of North America. A mosquito bite he received early in his trip to the New World left one leg swollen; this and his asthma made walking a painful process for the rest of his life. In 1768 he took over missions in the Mexican provinces of Lower and Upper California, missions the Jesuits were forced to abandon by order of King Charles III. 
The 21 Missions (click to enlarge)

A tireless worker, Serra was largely responsible for the foundation and spread of the Church on the West Coast of the United States.He founded twenty-one missions, converted thousands of Native Americans, and trained many of them in European methods of agriculture, cattle husbandry, and crafts. He was a very dedicated religious and missionary, penitent and austere in all areas of his life.
Blessed Junipero Serra is the namesake of the Serra Club, an international Catholic organization dedicated to the promotion of vocations, and the support of seminarians and religious novices. Many of his letters and other writings have survived, and the diary of his travels to the west was published in the early 20th century.
He died on 28 August 1784 of tuberculosis at Mission San Carlos, California, USA of natural causes and he was  buried at Carmel, Monterey, California. He was proclaimed a Venerable on 9 May 1985 by Pope John Paul II, and beatified by the same Pope on 25 September 1988. We owe it to him that so many of the California cities have Christian connotations - Los Angeles, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Anita, San Francisco, even Corpus Christi, Santa Fe, Sacramento etc.