Friday, February 28, 2014

Clowning around

Back in 2006, during one of my former parish's picnic in Baker City, I volunteered to dress up as a clown, to entertain the children. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, as children were fascinated by this strange character handing balloons and cheering them on, but who didn't say a word to them. It was a unique experience for me as one of our young people, Mayce Collard painted my face, and made sure no one could recognize me. 
Unfortunately Mayce died in a tragic car accident a year later, but I will always remember her smiling face when she was painting my face, giggling all along as she fine-tuned her masterpiece. A handful of children recognized me during the picnic, but the majority of them still think that this clown came down from heaven.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Funny License Plates

What you might get from the Pope, a bishop or a priest or nun
As we approach Carnival weekend, before we start the penitential season of Lent, let's have some fun this weekend with the strange, unusual and peculiar. Today you have three bumper-stickers with an unusual message, which are short and sweet but meaningful nonetheless.
Moms work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, non-stop!
Latin for Peace be with you! (Pax Vobiscum)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

God's Wings

A little something to put things in perspective. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick.
When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast......because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live. 

Isn’t this the way God treats us, and protects us daily, every minute of our lives?
'He will cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you will find refuge.'
(Psalm 91:4)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Flashback from the 1970s

Reminiscing through my teenage years, mainly as a seminarian, where I spent 7 glorious years at the Major Seminary in Floriana, while attending the Royal University of Malta from 1970 to 1977. You can see in these photos the changing face of a young Julian Cassar, with the last one even hinting at a receding hair line, which would be full blown by 1977, and gone forever since then. 
They were good years as I formed a great relationship with my classmates and other seminarians, who are presently all priests serving various parishes in Malta. I also enjoyed various hobbies back then, including indoor sports, especially billiards, snooker and table-tennis, as well as photography and classical music. 

Studies included philosophy, church history, scripture, moral and dogmatic theology, liturgy, patrology, canon law, and later on homiletics, psychology and pastoral theology. My home for 7 years, the Major Seminary eventually became the Chancery of the Archdiocese, while the Seminary moved to Tal-Virtu in Rabat a year after I was ordained.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Prayer for those who live alone

I live alone, dear Lord.
Stay by my side, in all my daily needs.
Be my guide every day of my life.
Grant me good health, for that indeed I pray.
To carry on my work, from day to day.
Keep pure my mind, my thoughts, my every deed.
Let me be kind, unselfish in my neighbor’s need.
Spare me from fire, from flood, malicious tongues.
From thieves, from fears, and evil ones.
If sickness or accident befall, then humbly, Lord, I pray,
Hear my call when I’m feeling low, or in despair,
lift up my heart and help me in my prayer,
I live alone, dear Lord, yet have no fear,
because I feel your presence ever near. AMEN.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

12 things to remember

 12 things to remember
The value of time.
The success of perseverance.
The pleasure of working.
The dignity of simplicity.
The worth of character.
The power of example.
The influence of life.
The obligation of duty.
The virtue of patience.
The improvement of talent.
The wisdom of economy.
The joy of originating.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

St. Peter and the Pope

Today the church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, representing the primacy and leadership of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and successor of St Peter, the first Pope. This leadership is symbolized by the symbolic chair which is situated behind the main altar at the St Peter’s Basilica, a work of art by Bernini. Each Cathedral in the world also has a cathedra, or chair of the Bishop, Archbishop or Cardinal that serves in that particular Diocese. 

The last photo here is a mosaic of the moment when Jesus empowered Peter to become the first Pope, also symbolized by the keys he is receiving from Jesus. This mosaic is on the outside, at the entrance to the steps that lead to the top of the cupola of St. Peter’s.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rome anecdotes

As you can imagine, I constantly reminisce about my trip to Rome in May 2012, and since I took so many photos, I would like to share a few more in this blog. Today I have two anecdotes that I experienced through photos. The first one shows a scene in Piazza Venezia, where the monument to Vittorio Emmauele II is located, affectionately known as the "Wedding Cake", and which the Italians call "l'Altare della Patria" (The Altar of Patriotism.) Close by there are two domed churches, which you can see in the background. But since this is Rome, one expects to see many priests, including what may have been a group of seminarians or students enjoying a little lunch break. Yes, domes and priests are a very common sight in the Eternal City.

Then I encountered a Roman soldier, obviously just for show. When I tried to take his photo, he came quickly towards me and demanded money. I quickly concluded that he was there for business, and kept an eye on me for a while, until I finally got him distracted and took his photo from behind. I realized afterwards that he was probably more interested in checking out the sun-bathing girls on the steps of the fountain, instead of worrying about this annoying photographer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Domes in Rome

Piazza del Popolo domes with the Vatican in the background
Yesterday I showed you a Rome skyline, which was distracted by two pigeons in love. So today, I share with you two great photos with plenty of domes and steeples which dominate every skyline in the Eternal City. The St Peter’s dome designed by Michelangelo is seen in the distance in the first photo, while the two nearby domes are from the two churches that are found in Piazza del Popolo. The other photo shows other domes, belfries and steeples that are so popular and common, especially in the heart of Rome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love affair in Rome

When I visited Rome in May 2012, I came back with over 3000 photos. I have shared a few of them on this blog, but there are others which I plan to show you in the future. As one can imagine, the Roman skyline is always dominated by domes and steeples. One day I was above Piazza del Popolo (The People’s Square) and was focusing on a typical dome-dotted skyline, when all of a sudden a pigeon appeared in my viewfinder. Lo and behold, another pigeon landed next to the first one, and it was obvious that they were a male and female. I followed their love affair by taking one photo after another, getting also a bird’s eye view of Rome. 
Unfortunately, the last two photos are not fit for publication, although you can only imagine what happened at the end of this public display of avian affection.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Icicles as tall as 7 feet (click once to enlarge)
Ever since I saw my first icicle in the winter of 1981, I have always been fascinated by icicles. They form independently of anything else going on in the world. They are formed by the thawing of the melting snow and ice as the drip drip of the melted snow keeps accumulating while the temperatures turn colder once again. 

This happens usually overnight when the temperature drops. Then in the morning as daylight appears, these huge icicles appear, some of them as tall as six to seven feet. I took these photos a week ago when we had 2 feet of snow between Friday and Saturday. By Sunday morning, these icicles were everywhere around our school and church building. Some of our custodians and sacristans were asking me if they should break them off. Of course my response was ”Not before I take a few good photos...” As you can see, it was worth every one of them.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kennedy and Lincoln

On this President's Day, I share with you this incredible list of similarities in the lives of two of our greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress  in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President  in 1960.

The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.
Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.

Both wives lost  a child while living in the White House.
Both Presidents were shot on a  Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Lincoln was shot at the theater named 'Kennedy.'
Kennedy was shot in  a car called 'Lincoln.'

Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a  warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.
A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe,  Maryland.
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

At the Vatican in 1966

Group photo - I am on the the front, far right
I take you today back to the summer of 1966 when I was chosen as one of the altar-boys to serve at the Vatican. A year earlier, a new initiative was started having a group of altar-boys from Malta to take over serving at the Vatican for the two summer months. The purpose was to replace the Italian altar-boys who serve the Masses all year round. I was chosen in 1966 and I was grateful to serve many Masses of various priests from around the world on the many altars spread around the entire Basilica. We had to serve as many as 5 Masses a day, but we were free in the afternoon and evening to take trips to various landmarks around Rome. 
Kissing the ring of Pope Paul VI, August 1966

I was also grateful to have a picture taken of me kissing the ring of the Fisherman, Pope Paul VI, with the then-bishop of Malta, Msgr Michael Gonzi present as well as our Director Fr Joseph Delia. The altar-boys still go every summer, cherishing a tradition that is coming close to 50 years. So many of the altar-boys became priests, including 4 from my group.
Between Masses at the Vatican

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Great choral quartet

Left to right: Emily McClean, John Fawcett, Alycen Reinhart and Charlie Davio
Yesterday was St Valentine’s Day and I was impressed by the number of our school children bringing in candy, cup-cakes and other goodies to share with each other. I even got a few treats and a few cute cards from my little sweet admirers. And our choral quartet came over to my office and sang a beautiful harmonized rendition of “You are my Sunshine,” plus another classic by Nat King Cole. 

These four choristers sing regularly at our school Mass every Wednesday, besides helping out at various weekend Masses. They are 7th and 8th Graders, Emily McClean, John Fawcett, Alycen Reinhart and Charlie Davio.

I invite you check a new blog, mainly for the parishioners of St Francis of Assisi in Bend. I have no publicized it yet, other than through this blog, but already it got over 200 hits. Check it out at

Friday, February 14, 2014

Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine, patron saint of lovers
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was especially known for marrying young Christian couples in secret, for fear of being caught. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270. Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole to his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valentini. The greatest part of his relics are now in the church of St. Praxedes. His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, the Roman Missal of Thomasius, and all other martyrologies on this day. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Inside Malta's churches

Inside Birkirkara's parish church dedicated to Saint Helen
Yesterday I showed you what a church in Malta looks like from the outside. Here are some photos of the magnificence of these same churches when they are fully decorated for their titular Saint’s feast, usually in the summer months. One can obviously see the elaborate chandeliers, the tapestry on the walls, besides the painting in ceilings, apses and walls, as well as at the altars. Most of the altars are also decorated with candles, as well as a set of statues representing the apostles, sometimes 12, on other occasions just 6, and in this particular church, all gilded in gold. Make sure to click once on each photo to enlarge.
The main altar in the same church

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Malta's Baroque Churches

Birkirkara's St Helen's parish church
Whoever visits my home country of Malta will always be impressed by four things: the chaos in the traffic system, the warm hot summer months, the friendliness of the people and the beautiful Baroque churches that figure in every imaginable skyline. With the majority of them built 200 to 400 years ago, they are truly works of art, especially in the way they are decorated for the summer festa season, which is the highlight of every parish church, culminating with the procession of the titular saint’s statue around the streets of the respective town or village. The picture above shows the parish church dedicated to St Helen in Birkirkara. Hundreds of light bulbs literally cover the facade of this magnificent church, and the second picture shows the same facade during daylight. Most of these churches also have a dome, frequently painted in red or maroon, while the inside is just as spectacular as the outside. But you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to go inside.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


The Blessed Mother speaks to Bernadette at Lourdes
In 2002 I was able to visit Lourdes with a group of Maltese pilgrims. I celebrated Mass for them and visited many landmarks, both in Lourdes itself and in the outskirts. But the thing that impressed me the most is the holiness and sacredness of the entire place. Yes, there were of course hotels and restaurants, but every shop and souvenir stand sold only religious articles, and absolutely nothing else. And once you enter the territory of Lourdes, you feel like you really entered a sanctuary, and you have the feeling that you were in a church, even with thousands of other pilgrims around. It was a very special time for me and one really felt the presence of the Blessed Mother with you wherever you went. Of course we participated in the aux flambeaux procession in the evening and I even led a decade of the Rosary. 

The Bishops declaring the apparitions authentic
Today we commemorate the first apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes to the young girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. It took the church a few years to declare the apparitions as truly authentic, and since then over 70 miracles have taken place to people visiting Lourdes, the tiny place nestled between Spain and France at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains.

For all the visitors of this blog, I inform you that I started another blog related to my present parish of St Francis of Assisi in Bend, OREGON - it will be updated frequently, not necessarily daily, but you can view it at this address:

Monday, February 10, 2014

National feast of Malta

A ceiling painting inside the church of St Paul, Valletta, Malta
February 10 has always and will always be a special day for me and for all Maltese Catholics - the day we celebrate the shipwreck of Saint Paul on the island of Malta, as it is recorded in chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles: “Once we had reached safety we learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary hospitality; they lit a fire and welcomed all of us because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire when a viper, escaping from the heat, fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must certainly be a murderer; though he escaped the sea, Justice has not let him remain alive.” But he shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm.........the rest of the sick on the island came to Paul and were cured. They paid us great honor and when we eventually set sail they brought us the provisions we needed.”
This reading is a great tribute to the Maltese, showing them welcoming, hospitable and generous.

Statue of Saint Paul by Melchiore Gafa
The feast is commemorated with a solemn procession in the streets of the capital city of Valletta, where the church of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul is situated. The beloved statue of Saint Paul was carved out of wood by Melchiore Gafa and is carried in procession today.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Salt of the earth

Today Jesus encourages us in the Gospel reading to be the salt of the earth, giving a special religious flavor to others by our actions. I shared in my homily today how salt is made in my homeland of Malta. These photos describe exactly the process of placing sea water in these salt pans and over the hot summer months, the sea water turns into salt, which is then piled up in mounds and placed in bags to be used for flavor and seasoning. Some of it is also trashed to finer salt and used along with the pepper for food. But sea salt has a coarse consistency and is used frequently by chefs and cooks around the world.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bend Winter Wonderland

St Francis of Assisi historic church during the snowstorm, Feb 8, 2014
I apologize for being late in posting today, but I was taking some photos this morning of the 2 feet of snow that fell over Bend over the last 48 hours, and it is still snowing, with possibly 6 more inches on the way.
A Pine branch heavy with fresh snow
Here are some photos that speak for themselves, boht of the the historic church in downtown Bend and other shots in the area as this roving photographer was snooping around trying to get the best angles of a winter wonderland in Central Oregon.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Prayer of Forgiveness

"The Forgiving Father" by Sister Rigoberta
O God, forgive us for the faults which make us difficult to live with.
If we behave as if we were the only people for whom life is difficult;
If we behave as if we were far harder worked than anyone else;
If we behave as if we were the only people who were ever disappointed, or the only people who ever got a raw deal; 

If we are far too self-centered and far too full of self-pity: Forgive us, 0 God.
If we are too impatient to finish the work we have begun; 

If we are too impatient to listen to someone who wants to talk to us, or to give someone a helping hand; 
If we think that other people are fools, and make no attempt to conceal our contempt for them: Forgive us, 0 God.
If we too often rub people the wrong way;

If we take advantage of someone else's weakness to make us feel better or stronger;
If we spoil a good case by trying to ram it down someone's throat;
If we do things that get on people's nerves, and go on doing them, even when we are asked not to: Forgive us, 0 God.
Help us to take the selfishness and the ugliness out of life and to do better in the days to come.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A list to carry along

* The most destructive habit.............................Worry
* The greatest Joy...............................................Giving
* The greatest loss...............................................Loss of self-respect
* The most satisfying work................
................Helping others
* The ugliest personality trait......
* The most endangered species........
.................Dedicated leaders
* Our greatest natural resource..........
...............Our youth
* The greatest "shot in the arm".......
* The greatest problem to overcome..
* The most effective sleeping pill.......
.................Peace of mind
* The most crippling failure disease....
* The most powerful force in life......
* The most dangerous pariah..........
...................A gossiper
* The world's most incredible computer...........The brain
* The worst thing to be without.........
................ Hope
* The deadliest weapon.....................
..................The tongue
* The two most power-filled words......
.............."I Can"
* The greatest asset............................
* The most worthless emotion........
* The most beautiful attire..............
* The most prized possession.............
............... Integrity
* The most powerful channel of communication...........Prayer
* The most contagious spirit.............

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

St Agatha

Giovanni Lanfranco - St Peter healing St Agatha
St. Agatha was born in Catania, Sicily, and died there a martyr in approximately 251 AD. In the legend of her life, we are told that she belonged to a rich, important family. When she was young, she dedicated her life to God and resisted any men who wanted to marry her or have sex with her. One of these men, Quintian, was of a high enough rank that he felt he could force her to acquiesce. Knowing she was a Christian in a time of persecution, he had her arrested. He expected her to give in when faced with torture and possible death, but she simply affirmed her belief in God.
Quintian imprisoned her in a brothel in order to get her to change her mind. He brought her back before him after she had suffered a month of assault and humiliation in the brothel, but Agatha had never wavered. Quintian sent her to prison, instead of back to the brothel - a move intended to make her more afraid, but which probably was a great relief to her. When she continued to profess her faith in Jesus, Quintian had her tortured by cutting off her breasts. He refused her any medical care but God gave her all the care she needed in the form of a vision of St. Peter.
Saint Agatha is often depicted in paintings carrying her excised breasts on a platter. The shape of her amputated breasts, especially as depicted in artistic renderings, gave rise to her attribution as the patron saint of bell-founders and of bakers, whose loaves were blessed at her feast day. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.
Because she was asked for help during the eruption of Mount Etna she is considered a protector against the outbreak of fire. She is the patron saint of Catania, Molise, Malta, San Marino and Segovia in Spain. She is also the patron saint of breast cancer patients, martyrs, wet nurses, fire and earthquakes. The following painting is a modern impression of St Agatha, in relation to her role as patron of breast cancer patients.

O St. Agatha, who withstood the unwelcome advances from unwanted suitors, and suffered pain and torture for your devotion to Our Lord, we celebrate your faith, dignity, and martyrdom. Protect us against rape and other violations, guard us against breast cancer and other afflictions of women, and inspire us to overcome adversity. O St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, mercifully grant that we who venerate your sacrifice, may receive your intercession. Amen.