Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Creed to live by

A reflection of Mount Hood on Trillium Lake, Oregon
Do not undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others.
It is because we are different that each of us is special.
Do not set your goals by what other people deem important.
Only you know what is best for you.
Do not take for granted the things closest to your heart.
Cling to them as you would your life,
For without them, life is meaningless.
Do not let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past nor for the future.
By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.
Do not give up when you still have something to give.
Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.
It is a fragile thread that binds us to each other.
Do not be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.
Do not shut love out of your life by saying it is impossible to find.
The quickest way to receive love is to give love;
The fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly;
In addition, the best way to keep love is to give it wings.
Do not dismiss your dreams. To be without dreams is to be without hope;
To be without hope is to be without purpose.
Do not run through life so fast that you forget not only where you have been,
but also where you are going.
Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

PS: There may not be any posts over the next few days. since I may not have access to the Internet.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Healed and Whole

One day I dug a little hole and put my hurt inside.
I thought that I could just forget I’d put it there to hide.

But that little hurt began to grow – I covered it every day.
I couldn’t leave it and go on – it seemed the price I had to pay.

My joy was gone, my heart was sad, pain was all I knew.
My wounded soul enveloped me – loving seemed too hard to do.

One day, while standing by my hole, I cried to God above,
And said, “If you are really there – they say You’re a God of Love!”

And just like that – he was right there, and just put His arms around me,
He wiped my tears, His hurting child – there was no safer place to be.

I told him all about my hurt, I opened up my heart.
He listened to each and every word, to every sordid part.

I dug down deep and got my hurt, I brushed the dirt away –
And placed it in the Master’s hand and healing came that day.

He took the blackness of my soul, and set my spirit FREE !
Something beautiful began to grow where the hurt used to be.

And when I look at what has grown out of my tears and pain,
I remember every day to give my hurts to Him, and never bury them again.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The simplicity of Pope Francis

As Pope Francis visits the United States, these photos speak for themselves about what has been happening in the last few days. Pope Francis travels in a simple Fiat 500, a small car rather than a big limousine guarded by security guards. However police officers check everyone entering St Patrick's Cathedral, even the humble nuns of Mother Teresa. His thumbs up shows how he's feeling these past few days.
A huge 225 foot mural welcoming Pope Francis
Giving his message at St Patrick's Cathedral, NYC

Thursday, September 24, 2015

St Junipero Serra

Yesterday Pope Francis canonized St Junipero Serra, better known for introducing the Catholic faith to the west coast of the USA. This is the official biography given by the Franciscan Order.

Born at Petra, Majorca, Spain, November 24, 1713, a son of Antonio Nadal Serra and Margarita Rosa Ferrer who spent their lives as farmers, Junípero Serra was baptized on the same day at St. Peter’s Church and was given the name Miguel José.
In Petra, Serra attended the primary school of the Franciscans. At 15-years-old, he was taken by his parents to Palma to be placed in the charge of a cathedral canon, and he began to assist at classes in philosophy held in the Franciscan monastery of San Francisco.
Serra was admitted as a novice at the Convento de Jesús outside the walls of Palma on September 14, 1730, and made his profession on September 15, the following year. He chose the name Junípero in memory of the brother companion of St. Francis. He studied philosophy and theology at the Convento de San Francisco. The date of his ordination to the priesthood is not known, though it probably occurred during the Ember Days of December 1738.  Serra obtained his doctorate in theology in 1742 from the Lullian University, Palma. He was called to the Scotistic chair of theology at the same university as primary professor in January 1749 to become an Indian missionary in America.

On April 13, 1749, with Francisco Palóu, Serra sailed for America. He landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico on December 7, 1749. Although horses were supplied for the friars, Serra elected to walk the 250 miles between Vera Cruz and Mexico City. They reached San Fernando College on January 1, 1750, spending the previous night at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In less than six months, an urgent call came for volunteers for the Sierra Gorda missions. Serra was among the volunteers. During his apostolate in Sierra Gorda with the Pame Indians between 1750 and 1758, Serra not only oversaw construction of a church, which is still in use, but developed his mission in both religious and economic directions. Under his presidency of the missions (1751-1754), the missionaries of the other four towns also built mission churches. 
Serra learned the Otomí language and used a visual method of teaching religion. Zealous in preaching and in promoting both liturgical and popular devotions, he succeeded in bringing the Pame people to practice the faith in an exemplary way. Economically his mission prospered through the introduction of domestic animals, the fostering of agriculture, and the development of commerce. He also defended Indian rights against non-native settlers in a protracted contest over the valley of Tancama. During building operations on his church, he worked as an ordinary day laborer.
He was then assigned to the college of San Fernando, where he arrived September 26, 1758. There he was made choir director, master of novices from 1761 to 1764, college counselor from 1758 to 1761, and a confessor. As a home missionary Serra preached missions in Mexico City, Mezquital, Zimapan, Río Vero, Puebla and Oaxaca. In 1767, he was appointed president of the ex-Jesuit missions of Baja California.
He set out in mid-July and reached Loreto on April 1. Serra resided at the former Jesuit headquarters and assigned missionaries to the 15 missions between San José del Cabo in the south and Santa María in the north. Serra enthusiastically volunteered in 1768 to join expeditions to Upper California. On March 28, 1769, Serra left the mission at Loreto on mule-back, arriving at San Diego on July 1. En route, he founded his first mission at San Fernando de Velicatá on May 14. Serra kept a diary of his journey during which he suffered greatly from an infirmity in his legs and feet and had to be carried on a stretcher.
Serra devoted the next 15 years of his life to evangelical work in Upper California. During that period he founded nine missions: San Diego, July 16, 1769; San Carlos, Monterey-Carmel, June 3, 1770; San Antonio, July 14, 1771; San Gabriel, September 8, 1771; San Luis Obispo, September 1, 1772, San Francisco, October 9, 1776; San Juan Capistrano, November 1, 1776; Santa Clara, January 12, 1777; and San Buenaventura, March 31, 1782. He was present at the founding of Presidio Santa Barbara, April 12, 1782.
Serra remained at San Diego until April 14, 1770, when he embarked for Monterey. From June 3, 1770, until his death, he maintained his headquarters at Mission San Carlos. Serra died at Mission San Carlos, August 28, 1784, at the age of 70 and is buried in the floor of the sanctuary of the church he had built. By the end of 1784, Indian baptisms at the first nine missions reached the number 6,736, while 4,646 Christianized Indians were living in them.
Serra was small of stature, five feet two inches in height. He had a sonorous voice, swarthy skin, dark hair and eyes. Though it appears that he had a fundamentally robust constitution, he suffered a great deal during the latter part of his life. His first affliction was the swelling and painful itching of his feet and legs from mosquito bites which caused varicose ulcers. At times he could neither stand nor walk. After 1758 he began to suffer from asthma.

In character Serra was eager, optimistic, zealous, dynamic, even adamantine. Primarily a man of action, he preferred the active apostolate to the classroom or to writing. He remained a model religious despite his distractions and activity — a man of prayer and mortification. He had a consuming love for his American converts. He fought for the freedom of the Church against royal infringement. Serra was considered by some too aggressive, zealous, and demanding. Though he defended the Indians, he had a paternalistic view and believed in and practiced corporal punishment.
The cause for Serra’s beatification began in the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno in 1934, and the diocesan process was finished in 1949. On September 25, 1988 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II. Pope Francis canonized him on September 23, 2015 during a Mass in Washington, DC. Serra monuments and memorials dot his Camino Real from Majorca to California. He is the subject of several dozen biographies in various languages. His writings with translation have been published in four volumes by Rev. Antonine Tibesar, OFM. He is known as the Apostle of California. Serra International was established in his honor. His life and his mission system are studied in California schools.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saint Pio of Pietralcina

St Pio of Pietralcina (1887-1968)
The beloved Pio of Pietralcina was known all over Italy because of his stigmata, which he had in his hands and feet for 50 years of his life. They mysteriously disappeared at the moment of death, but all through his life he suffered criticism, especially when the church authorities denied him saying public Mass and hearing confessions.  He also had the gift of bi-location and even predicted Pope St John Paul's appointment as a Pope when Karol Wojtyla went to confession to Padre Pio as a young teenager.
This is one of my favorite prayers by St Pio of Pietralcina, (1887-1968) whose liturgical feast we celebrate today:
My dear Jesus, release from my mind and heart
- any troubles from the past,
- any worries about the present,
- any anxieties about the future.
So that I can desire always, and in everything, just one thing
I entrust my reckless and troubled past to Your bountiful Mercy, o Lord. I also entrust to Your infinite Love my confused and undecided present. And I entrust to Your holy Providence my mysterious future. Amen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Lego Vatican

As Pope Francis arrives in the USA today, here's an interesting story about how interest in the Vatican and its prominent Number One resident is becoming more popular....
When Father Bob Simon was in 7th grade, he tried to build a replica of the Vatican out of red and blue Legos but it didn't look "anything like the real thing." Since his first attempt, he's "had it in his mind" that he would one day build a replica of the Vatican and St. Peter's Square. In September of 2014, he began building a replica ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia.
Fr Bob Simon with his masterpiece
"It took about ten months," said Simon, 50, a pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Moscow, Pennsylvania. "I was buying bricks [Legos] for about two years before I started." Simon said he used nearly half a million Legos to complete the replica, which is on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The replica features a mini figure of the pope waving to a crowd and an array of other figures from nuns with iPhones to robbers, characters with sombreros and Elvis.
"I wanted to show a lot of diversity," Simon said. "St. Peters Square is one of those places where people from all over the world come together." The piece, on display through February, will be shown alongside the 10,000 square foot Vatican Splendors display that opens at the Institute on Saturday. The replica and other Lego creations have brought "record crowds," this summer, according to Larry Dubinski, president & CEO of The Franklin Institute.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Dollar Bill

Here are some things about the dollar bill that you may find interesting!
Take out a one dollar bill and look at it. The one dollar bill you're looking at first came off the presses in 1957 in its present design. This so-called paper money is in fact a cotton and linen blend, with red and blue minute silk fibers running through it. It's not paper money at all...its fabric money. We've all washed it without it falling apart. A special blend of ink is used, the contents we will never know. It is overprinted with symbols and then it is starched to make it water resistant and pressed to give it that nice crisp look.
If you look on the front of the bill, you will see the United States Treasury Seal. On the top you will see the scales for the balance - a balanced budget. In the center you have a carpenter's T-square, a tool used for an even cut. Underneath is the Key to the United States Treasury. 
That's all pretty easy to figure out, but what is on the back of that dollar bill is something we should all know. If you turn the bill over, you will see two circles. Both circles, together, comprise the Great Seal of the United States. The First Continental Congress requested  that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a Seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved.
If you look at the left hand circle, you will see a Pyramid. Notice the face is lighted and the western side is dark. This country was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the West or decided what we could do for Western Civilization. The Pyramid is un-capped, again signifying that we were not even close to being finished. Inside the capstone you have the all-seeing eye, and ancient symbol for divinity. It was Franklin's belief that one man couldn't do it alone, but a group of men, with the help of God could do anything.
"IN GOD WE TRUST" is on this currency. The Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT
COEPTIS, means "God has favored our undertaking." The Latin below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means "a new order has begun."

Click to enlarge and see more details
At the base of the pyramid is the Roman Numeral for 1776. If you look at the right-hand circle, and check it carefully, you will learn that it is on every National Cemetery in the United States. It is also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery and is the centerpiece of most hero's monuments. Slightly modified, it is the seal of the President of the United States and it is always visible whenever he speaks, yet no  one knows what the symbols mean. The Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol for victory for two reasons: first, he is not afraid of a storm; he is strong and he is smart enough to soar above it. Secondly, he wears no material crown. We had just broken from the King of England. Also, notice the shield is unsupported. This country can now stand on its own.
At the top of that shield you have a white bar signifying congress, a unifying factor. We were coming together as one nation. In the Eagle's beak you will read, "E PLURIBUS UNUM", meaning "one nation from many people." Above the Eagle you have thirteen stars representing the thirteen original colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding rolling away. Again, we were coming together as one. Notice what the Eagle holds in his talons. He holds an olive branch and arrows. This country wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve peace. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch, but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.
They say that the number 13 is an unlucky number. This is almost a worldwide belief. You will usually never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor. But think about this: 13 original colonies, 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 13 stripes on our flag, 13 steps on the Pyramid, 13 letters in the Latin above, 13 letters in "E Pluribus Unum", 13 stars above the Eagle, 13 plumes of feathers on each span of the Eagle's wing, 13 bars on that shield, 13 leaves on the olive branch, 13 fruits, and if you look closely, 13 arrows. And for minorities: the 13th Amendment.
Why didn't we know this? You probably don't know it and your children don't know it because no one ever felt it important enough to tell us about it. Too many veterans have given up too much to ever let that meaning fade. Many veterans remember coming home to an America that doesn't care. Too many veterans never came home at all.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ
The Noblest One to know.....
The Wisest One to follow.....
The Truest One to trust.......
The Strongest One to build on.....
The Kindest One to imitate.......
The Humblest One to serve.....
The Highest One to love......

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saint Januarius

St. Januarius (Gennaro) is a patron saint of and former bishop of Naples in the 4th century. Januarius and his friends were initially sentenced to be eaten by the lions, .tigers, and bears ( Oh my) at the Naples amphitheatre. Although the beasts had been starved for several days before the day of the planned transformation of the Christians into animal crackers, the beasts refused to attack Januarius and his colleagues. The spectators at the amphitheatre were frightened by the indifference of the starving animals to the Christians and rumors began to circulate that the Christians had magical powers and were possibly protected by their god. The governor of Campania ordered their immediate beheading and Januarius' body was later returned to the Cathedral in Naples.
Over a century later, it was purported that a vial of St. Januarius' blood surfaced and was preserved and permanently fixed in the metal reliquary in the Cathedral of Naples. Thousands of people assemble to witness this event in the cathedral of Naples, three times a year: on September 19 (Saint Januarius day, to commemorate his martyrdom), on December 16 (to celebrate his patronage of both Naples and of the archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics).

Pope Francis holding the liquefied reliquary
Sometimes the "blood" liquefies immediately, other times it takes hours.  When the priest brings the vial to the altar that holds the saint's blood, the people, who gather by the thousands, pray that the blood becomes liquid once again. If the miracle takes place, the officiant proclaims, "Il miracolo é fatto!" and waves a white handkerchief. Then a Te Deum is sung and the reliquary is taken to the altar rail so the faithful can kiss the vial.  The priest conducting the service chants "The miracle has happened." The choir and the congregation respond with a Te Deum, and prayers are offered to St. Januarius. There have been a few instances when the substance in the vial had not liquefied and the faithful believes that it is a sign of impending peril. Five times when liquefaction has failed there have been major disasters, the latest being an earthquake in southern Italy that killed 3,000 people in 1980.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The other side

When I was a little boy, my mother used to embroider a great deal. I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed me that she was embroidering. From the underside I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop she held in her hand. I once complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat.
She smiled at me, looked down and gently said, "My son, you go about your playing for a while and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side."
I wondered why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view. A few minutes passed and then I heard Mother's voice say, "Son, come and sit on my knee." This I did only to be surprised and I thrilled to see a beautiful flower. I could not believe it because from underneath it had looked so messy.

Then Mother said to me, "My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing."

Many times through the years I have looked up to God and asked, "Father, what are You doing?" He has answered, "I am embroidering your life."
I say, "But it looks like a mess to me. It seems so jumbled. The threads seem so dark. Why can't they all be bright?"
The Father seems to tell me, "My child, you go about your business of doing My business, and one day I will bring you to Heaven and put you on My knee and you will see the plan from My side."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Saint Robert Bellarmine

Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
Born at Montepulciano, Italy, October 4, 1542, St. Robert Bellarmine was the third of ten children. His mother, Cinzia Cervini, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification of the body.
Robert entered the newly formed Society of Jesus in 1560 and after his ordination went on to teach at Louvain (1570-1576) where he became famous for his Latin sermons. In 1576, he was appointed to the chair of controversial theology at the Roman College, becoming Rector in 1592; he went on to become Provincial of Naples in 1594 and Cardinal in 1598. This outstanding scholar and devoted servant of God defended the Apostolic See against the anti-clericals in Venice and against the political tenets of James I of England. He composed an exhaustive apologetic work against the prevailing heretics of his day. In the field of church-state relations, he was also very effective in a time of major upheaval all over Europe. Remember that these were the days of the Protestant Reformation, with various leaders starting their own religion, King Henry VIII and the Anglican/Episcopalian religion, Luther with Lutheranism, Calvin and Zwingli in central Europe, and others. And like other well-know priest saints of this era, Robert was able to defend the church with the likes of St Vincent de Paul, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier, St Julian Peter Eymard, St Francis De Sales, St John Baptist Vianney, St Charles Borromeo and many others.

Robert Bellarmine was the spiritual father of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a Jesuit novice, and also helped St. Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order, the female order founded by St Jane Frances de Chantal. He has left us a host of important writings, including works of devotion and instruction, as well as controversy. He died in 1621 and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930; the following year he was declared a Doctor of the Church. His remains, in a cardinal's red robes, are displayed behind glass under a side altar in the Church of Saint Ignatius, the chapel of the Roman College, next to the body of his student, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, as he himself had wished.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Life before the Computer

An application was for employment
A program was a TV show
A cursor used profanity
A keyboard was a piano!

Memory was something that you lost with age
A CD was a bank account
And if you had a 3 1/2 inch floppy
You hoped nobody found out!

Compress was something you did to garbage
Not something you did to a file
And if you unzipped anything in public
You'd be in jail for awhile!

Log on was adding wood to a fire
Hard drive was a long trip on the road
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived
And a backup happened to your commode!

A strange combination - a mixed marriage - a conflicting partnership.
Cut - you did with a pocket knife
Paste you did with glue
A web was a spider's home
And a virus was the flu! 

Remember the typewriter?
And reading a newspaper?
How life has changed for many,
Shifting from screen to paper!

I guess I'll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head
I hear nobody's been killed in a computer crash
But when it happens they wish they were dead!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows by Adriaen Isenbrant
The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated a day after the feast of the Cross, and even though we are far from the Lenten season, the church asks us to reflect on the 7 sorrows that Mary experienced, as beautifully depicted in this image by Adriaen Isenbrant from the 16th century, a panel visible in Bruges, Belgium.
The 7 sorrows that Mary had to face were these, as described in each of the panels surrounding the image of the Sorrowful Mother:
1. Jesus’ presentation in the temple and His circumcision.
2. The escape into Egypt.
3. Jesus lost and found in the temple.
4. Seeing Jesus carrying the cross and meeting him on the way to Calvary.
5. The crucifixion of Jesus.
6. The Pieta, as the dead body of Jesus is laid on her lap.
7. The burial of Jesus.

The beautiful hymn Stabat Mater Dolorosa is sung frequently during Lent, especially during the Stations of the Cross. The first three words mean Stood the mournful Mother weeping, and the poem was written by Jacopone de Todi in the 13th century, and was set to music by various composers including  Palestrina, Pergolesi, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Haydn, Rossini, and Dvorák. Here are the first 2 verses:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Feast of the Cross

Today the church commemorates the day when St Helena found the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Being the mother of Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecutions in 313AD, Helena was determined to find the abandoned cross on which Jesus was crucified. The excavations actually found three crosses buried in Jerusalem close to Mount Calvary. To verify which was the actual cross of Christ, they asked a sick person to touch each cross.  When he touched the third one, the person was completely healed, and thereby they concluded which was Jesus's cross.
A painting of the finding of the cross of Jesus by St Helen
The Cross of Christ dominates our lives in many ways. So many of us start meetings, classes, trips and gatherings with the sign of the cross. Passing by a cemetery, you see hundreds of crosses lining up the entire area. If you’re in Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC, the crosses number in the thousands. This feast is also called the Finding of the Cross, or the Triumph of the Cross. We all have crosses to carry, but when we are given a cross, we are also given the strength to carry them through our lives.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Prayer for Police and Firefighters

Living God,
We pray for police, firefighters, ambulance drivers,
The frontline workers of our fraying society,
Dealing with panic and death.
Give them strength to bear the strain and still be human, just and fair.
God, we dare to thank you for the work of traffic wardens:
We know we can't do without them, for our cities would seize up.
Yet many of us love to hate them.
Keep it in their minds, we pray, that they are loved and appreciated.

God of power and might,
We pray for people who have great power,
Those in charge of police and fire services,
The armed forces, security organizations.
Let them use their power with humility and justice.
And when they feel vulnerable, lonely, they have life or death decisions to make,
Or everyone seems out to get them, and nobody is there to help them.
God, do not be far from them: Be close in you caring and love for them. Amen.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Snow Sculptures

As the temperature reaches in the 90s once again in Bend and Central Oregon, I share with you today three spectacular snow sculptures crafted in the town of Breckenridge, Colorado, with the hope that it will cool off some of the heat that has effected many countries this summer. With one week to go for the summer season to end, we hope our prayers for cooler temperatures will be answered - but this will happen in December and January for sure, when everyone will praying for warmth. But that's the way the world goes. Our prayers are always answered - 6 months later!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Let us remember......

We saw them disappear 14 years ago in a ruthless terrorist attack. But the Twin Towers live on in my memory, as I see the Two Spiritual Towers take their place. The image of Jesus and Mary have replaced the two landmark skyscrapers that disappeared for the iconic New York skyline forever. The metal and beams and glass are gone, but the spirit of what they represented will live on in the spirit of the people, as well as the 3,000 who lost their lives that day 14 years ago.  Let us pray and remember.
This is a day when we remember the three thousand victims of the most senseless tragedy in human history. At least those who are teenagers and older will surely remember where they were when the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded. I personally was preparing and celebrating Mass at my church in Pleasant Valley, NY, and believe it or not, I heard about the attack on America from my mother. When I got to my room after Mass, I found a message on my phone, and as soon as I was retrieving the message, the phone rings, and it was my mother frantically screaming "Julian, are you all right ?" "yes, of course I'm all right" I answered, wondering why was she panicking. Then she told me to open the TV and relayed to me quickly what was happening. At first I thought that the TV was showing a Schwarzenegger movie, but quickly I realized that this was no science-fiction movie.

We all know the rest of the story, and for the next month or so, I was in touch with the Klein family of Pleasant Valley who had lost their son Peter, in his twenties, and married only for a year. Of course I had to do the funeral, with no body, but a large picture of Peter, lots of flowers and a nice quilt which his mother had coordinated with friends, showing the various talents Peter had, from being an altar-boy to a boy scout.
14 years have passed since that day, and the pain for so many families is still there. The blemish that terrorism had inflicted on the USA and the rest of the world is still around us. We just hope and pray that similar horrific tragedies will never occur again. I took these photos in 1988, while on a school trip to the Statue of Liberty with our school children. The Twin Towers will forever be historic landmarks for New York City, even though something else has been built in their place. They will always be indelible icons like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. May the 3000 people who lost their loves that day be remembered throughout history, as we bow our heads in prayer for them, especially on September 11 each year.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Rock memorial

Tomorrow we commemorate a sad day in the life of the United States. An appropriate reflection will be posted tomorrow, but today I share with you something that was created after that day in 2001, to memorialize the victims and the sadness that broke America's heart. A one-man vision was to paint this huge rock with various scenes in memory of those who lost lives for their country, especially the three thousand victims of that terrorist attack, including firefighters and police officers. The pictures speak for themselves.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Queen Elizabeth II

Today Queen Elizabeth II is set to become the longest serving British monarch. As of today the Queen will have reigned for longer than her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, who sat on the throne for 63 years and 216 days. Although impressive, both monarchs are roughly twenty years off from competing with the longest serving rulers of all time.
1. King Sohuza, of Swaziland: 82 years and 254 days (10 December 1899 to 21 August 1982.) The king – who had 70 wives and 210 children in the course of his reign – became ruler of the African nation aged only four months after his father died unexpectedly.

2. Bernard VII, of Lippe: 81 years, 234 days (1429 to 2 April 1511.) The longest serving European ruler, the king of Lippe (a small historical state in Germany, part of the Holy Roman empire) was nicknamed the “Bellicose” for his attitude towards his neighbours.

3. William IV, of Henneberg-Schleusingen: 78 years, 243 days (26 May 1480 to 24 January 1559.) Inherited the throne when he was five. William’s territory was part of the Holy Roman Empire.

4. Heinrich XI, of Greiz: 77 years, 103 days  (17 March 1723 to 17 March 1723.) 

5. Idris ibni Muhammad al-Qadri, of Tunku Besar of Tampin (Malaysia): 76 years, 239 days (31 May 1929 to 26 December 2005.) His rule appears to have been briefly interrupted in during May 1929, but resumed in June.

6. Christian Augustus, of Sulzbach: 75 years, 253 days (14 August 1632 to 14 August 1632.) Augustus appears to have been a relatively benevolent ruler, allowing his subjects to freely choose their religion and promoting his capital as a centre of intellectual learning and printing.

7. Mudhoji IV Rao Naik Nimbalkar, of Phaltan state India: 75 years, 253 days (7 December 1841 to 17 October 1916)

8. Bhagvatsingh Sahib, of Gondal state, India: 74 years, 87 days (14 December 1869 to 10 March 1944)  Bhagvatsingh was highly educated, earning a medical degree at Edinburgh university. He is remembered as one of the most progressive rulers in India’s history.

9. Georg Wilhelm, of Schaumburg-Lippe: 73 years, 282 days (13 February 1787 to 21 November 1860)

10. Karl Friedrich, of Baden: 73 years, 29 days (12 May 1738 to 10 June 1811)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Birthday of Mary

The statue of Maria Bambina in Naxxar, Malta
Today we celebrate the feast of the birthday of the Blessed Mother. She was conceived in St Anne’s womb on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and to follow the duration of a human pregnancy, the church celebrates her birth date today. Many countries, including Italy and Spain as well as Malta celebrate this holy day with images and statues of the baby Mary, although the statues venerated in Malta are that of a young girl, all of which known as Maria Bambina (the little child Mary.) In Malta we also commemorate the occasion of two major victories at war. The first one was the victory of the Maltese and the Knights of Malta against the Turks, the Ottoman Empire in 1565, and the second one was the end of Fascism and Nazism at the height of World War II, a time of terrible suffering for the Maltese people.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day reflections

Labor Day is officially considered the end of the summer season, the beginning of the school year, and yet another opportunity to organize a bar-b-cue for family, neighbors and friends.  But above all, Labor Day comes with the duty for us to thank God for the opportunity and privilege to work. We pray for all those searching for jobs, for those who find it hard to make a living and for those who can earn a living to support their families. May God bless our hands and the fruits of our hands.
Blessed be the work of your hands, Lord God, our Father.
Blessed be the hands that have touched life.
Blessed be the hands that have nurtured creativity.
Blessed be the hands that have held pain, touched and healed.
Blessed be the hands that have embraced with passion.
Blessed be the hands that have planted new seeds and tended gardens.
Blessed be the hands that have harvested ripe fields.
Blessed be the hands that type, write, play music and change dirty diapers.
Blessed be the hands that have cleaned, washed, mopped, scrubbed.
Blessed be the hands that are wrinkled and scarred from doing justice.
Blessed be the hands that have reached out and been received.
Blessed be the hands that hold the promise of the future.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Touching animal photos

If humans can be as loving, as helpful and as compassionate as some animals do, this world will be a much better place to live in. How much can we learn from our furry friends when we see how touching these photos are, how they relate to each other and how they interact with different species.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Holding Benedict

It was an honor for me holding a three-hour old newborn baby, Benedict Paul Lappe, born to Scout and Justin Lappe, bursting into the world at St Charles Hospital here in Bend yesterday morning, September 4th. The Lappes welcomed Benedict Paul who now joins the other 4 children, Peter, Lucy, John and Gianna. Scout coordinates our baptisms here in our parish, and it's such a blessing to see babies being given Christian names. 
The Lappes at an Easter family photo
The name of Benedict may have come to a surprise to many, just as it was a surprise when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger chose the same name as the Pope following St John Paul in 2005. But I'm glad it's becoming more popular, just as Paul is, the patron Saint of my home-country of Malta, where he was shipwrecked in 60 AD. Welcome to the world Benedict Paul! Congratulation Scout and Justin!