Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Malta's snowmen

A Maltese Frosty the Snowman made from hail.
They're going crazy in Malta as the temperatures are dipping into the 30s Fahrenheit. Yesterday the temperature reached 36 degrees Fahrenheit, which is recorded as 2 degrees Celsius. They had a lot of rain, and also quite a bit of hail, enough for some children to create a few snowmen. This is a rare event in Malta as it never snows, even though today some people observed what they called some 'light snow' which was probably light hail. 
A man pushing hail with a squeegee, as they don't have snow shovels in Malta
These photos show some people even pushing away some of the hail, which actually looks like snow. Well, if it's any consolation, the temperature here in Bend, Oregon reached -8 degrees Fahrenheit early this morning, which is -22 degrees Celsius. One can see this on my cell-phone early this morning at 4:46 AM.
Minus 8 degrees F in Bend, Oregon, USA
We might as well enjoy this cold weather, as in July we'll be complaining of how hot it is when we have to deal with temperatures close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or around 37 degrees Celsius. Enjoy this photo of one of my churches engulfed in snow as it appeared yesterday.
Our historic church during a snowstorm.
Another Snowman from Malta made from hail.
A Happy, Peaceful and Healthy New Year to all visitors of this blog. Special thanks to those who hit the "Like' button on the parish Facebook page. God bless you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A ring in a carrot

A Swedish woman has discovered her wedding ring on a carrot growing in her garden, 16 years after she lost it. Lena Paahlsson had long ago lost hope of finding the ring, which she designed herself. The white-gold band, set with seven small diamonds, went missing in her kitchen in 1995.
Although the ring no longer fits, she hopes to have it enlarged so she can wear it again. Mrs Paahlsson and her family live on a farm near Mora in central Sweden. She took the ring off to do some Christmas baking with her daughters, but it disappeared from the work surface where it had been left. The family searched everywhere and years later took up the tiling on the floor during renovations, in the hope of finding the ring, obviously with no success.
It was not until 16 years later when Mrs. Paahlsson was pulling up carrots in her garden that she noticed one with the gold band fastened tightly around it.

Lena Paahlsson and her husband, Ola Paahlsson and husband Ola say it is incredible that the ring has been found. "The carrot was sprouting in the middle of the ring. It is quite incredible," her husband Ola said. The couple believe the ring fell into a sink back in 1995 and was lost in vegetable peelings that were turned into compost or fed to their sheep.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Storms of Life

It seems that everywhere in the world, storms and bad weather are effecting everyone right now. Storms in Malta, snow and sub-freezing temperatures in Oregon, and disruption in most European countries. Then there are other storms we have to deal with on a daily basis in our personal lives. But trusting Jesus we should have nothing to worry about.

When storms of life are raging and doubt reaches my way,
remind me of Your love, Lord, to keep my fears at bay.

When all I see is failure and mountains, hard to climb,
just whisper in my ear, O Lord, that You are still sublime.

This life may disappoint me and so may people too.
Lord, show me Your faithfulness and keep me true to You.

When tears do fill my eyes, Lord, and I'm seemingly blind,
walk with me, Precious Jesus, and ease my tired mind. 

Take me by the hand, Lord, when roads are washing out.
Provide me with protection and keep me from all doubt.

When I'm getting real tired from struggling day and night,
hold me tight, dear Jesus, Please, be my guiding light.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Holy Family

A tender image of the Holy Family at work by John Everett Millais
The humble house of Nazareth today replaces the just as humble stable of Bethlehem. From Jesus as a baby, we see Jesus as a toddler, a young boy, maybe even as a teenager growing with his parents in their home at Nazareth. 2000 years ago obviously things were much different, and we have very limited information of what life was like for Jesus during these childhood years.
Jesus as a teenager reading the Holy Books
We can imagine Joseph caring for his family, working as a carpenter, teaching his son the tricks of the trade. And think of Mary with all humility and tenderness training Jesus in the ways of faith. And many questions come to mind….Was he easy to raise? Was he difficult at times? How did he (and his mother) handle the “terrible twos?” Did he have playmates in Nazareth? Did Jesus have any sleep overs? Did Jesus have any girlfriends? Did he set up any pranks for his parents, hiding things for them? Did he have his own room? Certainly a bed, but did he keep his room in order? Did he experience peer pressure as a teenager? What was his favorite food? His favorite game? What did he do for his recreation? What was prayer time like? Oh, I can only imagine what joy and honor it must have been for Joseph and Mary to pray with their son!
Mary feeding Jesus as a toddler
We know from the Gospels that Jesus was obedient to his parents, was strong and grew in wisdom. Children can learn a lot from him by being respectful and obedient to their parents and teachers, keeping fit by exercising a little, and eating healthy food, and of course read and study to grow wise and smart, as Jesus did. The three paintings I used today show tender moments at the home at Nazareth.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Lights in Bend, Oregon

When I was in New York, there were some families who went over and beyond decorating, especially their front yards, with all kinds of lighted characters, flickering lights, and houses trimmed with long lines of colored lights. I found out that Bend is no exception, and I went out a few days ago searching for some of these lit houses, decked up with lights and inflated characters that we associate with the Christmas season, Santa Claus, Snowmen, penguins, elves, and on a few occasions, the Nativity. 
You can see some of them here in no particular order. God bless the owners of these homes who have to pay an exorbitant electric bill in the next few weeks, but we thank them for lightening up their homes, and embellishing the neighborhood.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Baby Jesus at the Vatican

Baby Jesus enthroned at the Vatican basilica
I was so impressed by the image of Baby Jesus as it was displayed inside St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican during the Christmas Eve Mass. I could not find any good photos of this, so I took some photos myself from the transmission screened through the Internet. Therefore the images are not very sharp, but presentable nonetheless. 
The Book of the Gospels, with calligraphy and an illumination of the Nativity, was placed behind the image of Baby Jesus and created a beautiful backdrop. The stand on which the Gospel Book was placed was used during Vatican Councils I and II, respectively in 1870 and 1962. Another image is of the large statue of the Madonna and child which Pope Francis reverenced at the end of the Mass. I hope you enjoy these pictures and bring you all peace and joy in your hearts.
Pope Francis blessing the statue of the Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child sculpture

Thursday, December 25, 2014

It's a Boy !

 It's a Boy !
And his name is Jesus

Saint Irenaeus wrote in the 3rd Century: 
“because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are,         
that He might make us to be what He is.” 
He became man so that He can make us all Holy.
  The Gift of Christmas is received by trusting hearts….      
   The Love of Christmas is shared by caring hearts….           
The Joy of Christmas is expressed by giving hearts….
A Blessed Christmas to all visitors of this Blog.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas in various languages

St Francis of Assisi new church in Bend, Oregon
As I share with you my greetings for Christmas in several languages, I also present the Christmas decorations in my two parishes here in Bend, Oregon.
Arabic  - I'd Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida.
Argentine - Felices Pascuas y Feliz Año Nuevo.
Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand.
Bohemian - Vesele Vanoce.
Bulgarian - Tchestita Koleda.
Chinese - Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan.
Croatian  - Srecna Nova Godina I Srecan Bozic.
Czech  - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok.
Danish - Glædelig Jul.
Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar.
English  - Merry Christmas.
Estonian - Roomsaid joulupuhi ja onnerikast uut aast.
Filipino - Maligayang Pasko at manibagong baong taon.
Finnish - Hyvaa joulua.
French - Joyeux Noël.

St Francis of Assisi historic church in Bend, Oregon
German  - Froehliche Weihnachten.
Greek - Kala Christouyenna.
Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka.
Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova.
Hindi - Shub Naya Baras.
Hungarian - Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket.
Icelandic - Gledileg Jol.
Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal.
Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah.
Irish - Nollaig Shona Dhuit.
Italian - Buon Natale.
Japanese - Meri Kurisumasu. 

The new church on Christmas 2014
Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha.
Lithuanian - Linksmu Kaledu.
Malay - Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru.
Maltese - Il-Milied it-Tajjeb.
Maori - Meri Kirihimete.
Norwegian - God Jul.
Peru - Felices Fiestas.
Polish  - Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia.
Portuguese - Boas Festas.
Rumanian - Sarbatori Fericite.
Russian - S Rozhdestvom.
Serbia  - Hristos se rodi.
Samoan - La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou. 

Historic church decorated for Christmas
Samoan - La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou.
Slovak - Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok.
Slovene - Vesele Bozicne. Screcno Novo Leto.
Spanish - Feliz Navidad.
Swedish - God Jul.
Tahitian - La Orana No Te Noere.
Thai - Sawadee Pee Mai.
Turkish - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun.
U.K. - Happy Christmas.
Ukrainian - Srozhdestvom Kristovym.
Vietnamese - Chung Mung Giang Sinh.
Welsh  - Nadolig Llawen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Former parishes at Christmas

Christmas at Holy Spirit parish, New Hyde Park, NY
Yesterday I showed you some of the Nativity decorations in my home churches in Malta. Today I go back to 4 of my parishes in the USA. The first one shows Holy Spirit in New Hyde Park, New York, a church that has since been restored and refurbished. 
At St Anthony's, Rocky Point, NY
The second one is from St Anthony of Padua in Rocky Point, New York, while the third one shows the renovated church of St Stanislaus Kostka in Pleasant Valley, New York. The last one is my last parish, the Cathedral in Baker City, Oregon, just after the major renovation I did in the sanctuary area.
At St Stanislaus Kostka, Pleasant Valley, NY
Christmas at St Elizabeth's in John Day, Oregon
Christmas at the Cathedral in Baker City, Oregon

Monday, December 22, 2014

My home churches

The old Lapsi church in St Julian's, Malta at Christmas time
Christmas of course always takes you back in time, and for me it's my childhood churches that evoke most of my nostalgic memories. I grew up in a small parish church in St,. Julian's, dedicated to the same saint. But since it was becoming too small for the growing population, a new modern one was built and opened in 1968, the same one where I served for 4 years between 1977 and 1981. These photos show some Christmas decorations in both churches.
Baby Jesus in the same church at the main altar
The present pastor with the Nativity in front of the new St Julian's church

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mary and Elizabeth

Mary and Elizabeth meeting each other, joyfully.
As we approach the celebration of Christmas, the focus now moves to the Holy Family as Mary and Joseph prepare for the birth of their baby. The Annunciation and the Visitation are also highlighted in the Gospel readings this week. A touching picture I found is the encounter of Mary and Elizabeth as their babies also rejoice at their first encounter. Most paintings of the Visitation, one sees Mary and Elizabeth in a very reverent and serious mood, but this picture shows a lighter, more human reaction, which is originally portrayed in the movie “The Nativity.” Another artist reproduced this encounter and it is one of my favorites. I hope it becomes yours too.
The original scene from the movie "The Nativity"

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Carols

What Child Is This
This melody is the beautiful Greensleeves. It dates from Elizabethan time, possibly even earlier. The song was first registered in 1850 to Richard Jones with lyrics that were neither religious nor respectable. Shakespeare mentions it by name in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in which is it played while traitors are hanged. In 1865 William Chatterton Dix (English) wrote "The Manger Throne", three verses of which became "What Child Is This."

We Three Kings of Orient Are
Frequently thought to be much older than it is, the words and music for this American carol were written in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins as part of a Christmas pageant for the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night)
This carol was written by Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856), the French composer best known for his ballet "Giselle." At the time, it was frowned upon by church authorities who denounced it for lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." The French text is by Cappeau de Roquemaure; the English by American clergyman John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893).

See how many carols can you find in this circle - Click to enlarge
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen
When Scrooge, in Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", heard this cheerful carol, he grabbed a ruler and the singer fled in terror. It is traditional English going back to the 16th or 17th century. The usual harmonization, like that of "The First Noel" is from Sir John Stainer (1840-1941).

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
The words for this American carol are based on a poem written by Unitarian minister Dr. Edmund Sears in 1849. The following year, inspired by the poem, Richard Storrs Willis, a composer as well as editor and critic for the New York Tribune, wrote a melody called "Carol" to which the words were adapted.
The First Noel

Sometimes given the English spelling, Nowell, it first appeared in print in England in a collection of William Sandys (1833). The words and music are traditional. Most think it is from 16th or 17th century France; others claim it never had any French origins and is very English.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Flowers

Red and White Poinsettias around baby Jesus
Three Christmas Flowers are very popular at this time of the year, and this is a little information on each of them:
The Poinsettia - (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a culturally and commercially important plant species of the diverse family that is indigenous to Mexico and Central America. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825.
The Christmas Cactus with its pink flowers
The Christmas Cactus - (Schlumbergera) is a small genus of cacti with six species found in the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil. Plants grow on trees or rocks in habitats which are generally shady with high humidity and can be quite different in appearance from their desert-dwelling cousins. Most species of Schlumbergera have stems which resemble leaf-like pads joined one to the other and flowers which appear from areoles at the joints and tips of the stems. In Brazil, the genus is referred to as Flor de Maio (May flower), reflecting the period in which they flower in the Southern Hemisphere. This genus contains the popular house plants known by a variety of names including Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, Crab Cactus and Holiday Cactus. In Europe, these plants are largely produced for sale in the period before Christmas, and are called:  Weihnachtskaktus in German, Cactus de Noël in French, and Cacto de Navidad in Spanish.
The Star of Bethlehem
Star of Bethlehem - (Ornithogalum) is a genus of perennial plants mostly native to southern Europe and southern Africa belonging to the family Asparagaceae. There are some species native to other areas such as the Caucasus. Growing from a bulb, species have linear basal leaves and a slender stalk, up to 30 cm or more tall, bearing clusters of typically white star-shaped flowers, often striped with green. The common name of the genus, Star-of-Bethlehem, is based on its star-shaped flowers, after the Star of Bethlehem that appeared in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas memories

An Origami Christmas Nativity I created in 1983 in my first parish in New Hyde Park, NY. It features Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the three kings and three camels, a donkey and a cow, a deer, some pine trees, some colorful boxes and a large star, besides a number of colorful cranes hanging on the tree, the symbol of peace.
As you can imagine, I have quite a collection of Christmas memories, mainly through photos of sights and sounds I experienced over the years, both in Malta, in New York and here in Oregon. Going back in time, these are some Christmas memories I will always cherish.
Atypical lighted plastic Nativity display popular in the United States.  This particular one was in Baker City at the Colvin residence.
A cute Nativity displayed only by labrador retrievers and a horse.
A Playmobil Nativity from my nephews in Malta. These plastic characters are made in Malta, or at least assembled in a large German factory in Malta which makes thousands of figurines of all kinds. This nativity is complete with a few rabbits, three Kings and Santa Claus.
A flutist statue in New York City

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nativities from around the world

An elaborate Nativity from Italy
After sharing with you some Nativities from my home country of Malta, today I present a few others from various countries around the world. Each one of them has its own identity and style. I' will have more for you tomorrow.
Hand-carved Nativity from Kenya
Another hand-carved Nativity from the Philippines

A simple Nativity from Vietnam
A Hummel Nativity in the form of a wreath from Germany