Saturday, October 31, 2015

Funny Photos

And now for something completely different......clever ideas for some of the most common household items.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Dag Hammarskjold

Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (29 July 1905 – 18 September 1961) was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author. The second Secretary-General of the United Nations, he served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. At the age of 47 years, 255 days, Hammarskjöld is the youngest to have held the post. He is one of only four people to be awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize; Hammarskjöld is the only UN Secretary-General to die in office; his death occurred en route to cease-fire negotiations. US president John F Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century."
This is a prayer written by Hammarskjold:
You who are over us,
You who are one of us,
You who are also within us,
May all see You - in me also.
May I prepare the way for you,
May I thank you for all that shall fall to my lot.
May I also not forget the needs of others.
Give me a pure heart, that I may see You.
A humble heart,  that I may hear You.
A heart of love, that I may serve You.
A heart of faith, that I may abide in You.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Residents at the Vatican

Millions of citizens of countries from all over the world enter Vatican territory every year to visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica or catch a glimpse of the Pope on a Sunday in St. Peter's Square. But only a select 572 souls can claim citizenship of the Vatican itself. Those are the ones carrying what is probably the most exclusive ID card in the world, issued by the Vatican City State. And of that rarefied group, only 32 are women. These facts and figures accompanied copies of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's new regulations for citizenship, residency and access to areas not open to the general public. The new recent Papal laws updated the old rules written in 1929 under the treaty with Italy known as the Lateran Pact. Under the old regulations, residents were obliged to accept citizenship; now some people, such as spouses of employees, can opt out of Vatican citizenship. Who are the citizens of the Vatican? The Pope, naturally, and 73 cardinals who live within the walls or in Rome; 306 members of the papal diplomatic corps; 49 priests and religious brothers; one nun; 86 Swiss Guards; and 25 laymen and 31 laywomen, most of whom are Vatican employees, along with their spouses and children.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Prayers from the Fathers

These are some prayers created by some of the early Fathers of the Church:
Protect O Lord those who cry to You for help. Uphold us in our weakness, and cleanse us from our earthliness. While we walk in this dying life amid the shadows of death, quicken us with Your light. In Your mercy, deliver us from all evil, so that we come at last to the perfection of all that is good. Amen. (St Basil the Great)
Lord, You were rich, yet, for our sakes, You became poor. You promised that whatever is done for the least of your brothers and sisters is done for You. Give us grace to be always willing and ready to provide for the needs of those whose parents have died or whose homes are broken, that your kingdom of service and love may extend throughout the world, to your unending glory. Amen.  (St Augustine of Hippo)

May I be no one’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me, and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I never devise evil against another. If anyone devises evil against me, may I escape uninjured and without inflicting harm. May I love, seek and attain only that which is good. Amen. (St. Eusebius)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Let's Go Mets!

This is a glorious day for all those who have any connection with New York. Since I spent 22 years in various parishes on Long Island and Upstate New York, I had more than a simple fan connection with the New York Mets, who today start the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Ever since I arrived in New York, I was a great fan of baseball and especially of the New York Mets. Then in 1986, just before the team went to Spring Training, they had a big banquet for the players, the staff and many of their fans, and they asked me to give the Invocation and Benediction. There was I sitting on the dais next to Jesse Orosco, Bobby Ojeda, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter (RIP), David Cone and all the other big names. And sure enough, I prayed on that day for timely home-runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, timely hits with men on base, and I prayed that maybe they are ready to win the whole thing, the first time since 1969. And sure enough, everything I prayed for that day, both in the beginning of the banquet, and at the end during the Benediction, happened, as the Mets won the World Series in 1986. They asked me again to do the same blessing in 1988, and that year they won the pennant, but not the World Series. Now they're on the verge of winning it again, with some young arms and timely hitting. Let's pray again that they will give a great performance as they did against the Chicago Cubs, and win the World Series this year. Let's go Mets!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Another miracle

It’s been a fertile year in our parish and yesterday I got to hold another newborn, just three hours after she was born. Gianna Clare Barreras was born at 3:30 PM at St Charles Hospital, the fifth child of Laura and Tom Barreras, the fourth girl. If people don’t believe in miracles, seeing a newborn baby should shatter any doubts. These pictures show also the other two siblings Christopher and Sophia, who will have to do a lot of baby-sitting in the next few years. The older siblings Allie and Kaitlin are in Gonzaga University. 
May God bless this wonderful family and so many others in our parish who continue to enrich our parish family with beautiful babies. More mouths to feed, more babies to baptize, more children to educate in our school, and more Catholic families giving witness for life.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Maureen O'Hara 1920-2015

Maureen O'Hara in her role as Mary Kate Denneher in "The Quiet Man"
Legendary actress Maureen O'Hara, best known for her roles in "Miracle on 34th Street" and films by John Ford, died Saturday of natural causes. O'Hara, 95, passed away in her sleep at home in Boise, Idaho. "Maureen was our loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, 'The Quiet Man,'" a family statement said.
O'Hara was born Maureen FitzSimons in Ranelagh, Ireland, a suburb of Dublin, where her mother was an accomplished contralto and her father ran a business and was part owner of a soccer team, according to her biography on the Internet Movie Database. She was one of six children. O'Hara starred in films with leading men such as Tyrone Power in 1942's "The Black Swan," Douglas Fairbanks in 1947's "Sinbad the Sailor," Sir Alec Guinness in 1960's "Our Man In Havana," as well as John Payne, Rex Harrison, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith and John Wayne.
O'Hara and Wayne made "The Quiet Man" in 1952, directed by Ford. O'Hara was a favorite of Ford, who cast her in five films, including "How Green Was My Valley" in 1941. The film won five Academy Awards, thought not by O'Hara. O'Hara and Wayne held great chemistry on the screen, and Ford also directed them in 1950's "Rio Grande" and 1957's "The Wings of Eagles." A passionate redhead with green eyes and "peaches and cream complexion," O'Hara played heroines and became known as the "Queen of Technicolor."

"The Quiet Man" poster, my favorite movie
She came to Hollywood in 1939 to star as Esmeralda with Charles Laughton in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." In the 1947 holiday classic "Miracle on 34th Street," O'Hara plays a no-nonsense supervisor at a Macy's department store where Kris Kringle goes to work and claims to be the real Santa Claus. The film co-starred a young Natalie Wood. When in her 40s, she advanced her singing voice in television appearances and records. She also took roles in family comedies, including "The Parent Trap" in 1961.
Maureen O'Hara in recent years.
In her autobiography, written with longtime manager John Nicoletti, O'Hara wrote: "When I was young, I didn't think I was at all pretty. I was told only that I had a sulky, pouty face. Ironically, after I got to Hollywood, I resented that I didn't get a crack at more dramatic role because I photographed so beautifully. More than anything, though, it was the way I used my eyes that caused audiences to look deep inside my characters to see what else was there."  Last November, she received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. She was honored to have been the Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City in 1999. Maureen was a devout Roman Catholic, and very proud of her Irish heritage.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Messages in our rooms

One morning I woke up and I asked myself – what are some of the secrets of success in life? And I found the answer in my room.
I looked at the fan in front of me telling me “Stay cool, don’t get hot under the collar.”
I imagined the ceiling telling me “Aim high!”
I imagined the window telling me “Open me wide and see the world in front of you.”
I imagined the clock telling me “Every minute is precious – don’t lose any of them idling or doing nothing.”
I looked at the mirror and she told me “Reflect carefully before making any important decisions.”
I imagined the calendar hanging on the wall reminding me ”Stay up-to-date!”
I could see the shower informing me “Wash off old stains, guilt feelings and move on, with a clean heart and a better disposition.”
I imagined the door challenging me “Push me open and start working, doing the things and projects you had planned to do and never got to doing them.”
I looked down at the carpet on the floor and I received the message loud and clear “Get down on your knees and pray!”

Friday, October 23, 2015

Baseball and Shakespeare

With the World Series on the horizon, and my New York Mets waiting to see who they will face, whether the Kansas City Royals or the Toronto Blue Jays, I will of course write more about the Mets, but here is something to think about as you wait for the start of the this Baseball Classic.
There is an ongoing debate as to when baseball was invented and who spoke about it first. Well, to solve this dilemma, we thought of checking with our friend William Shakespeare, and found out that he actually had a few interesting references to this game, way before it was invented here in America. Check these quotes:
“And so I shall catch the fly” (from Henry V, Act V, Scene 2)
“I’ll catch it ere it come to the ground” (Macbeth, Act III, Scene 5)
“A hit, a very palpable hit” (Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2)

“You may go walk” (Taming of the Shrew, Act II, Scene 1)
“Strike” (Richard III, Act I, Scene 4)
“For this relief, much thanks” (Hamlet, Act I Scene 1)

“You have scarce time to steal” (Henry VIII, Act III Scene 2)
“O hateful error” (Julius Caesar, Act V Scene 1)
“Run, run, o run” (King Lear, Act V, Scene 3)

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (Macbeth, Act I Scene 1)
“My arm is sore” (Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene 5)
“I have no joy in this contract” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene 2)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pope St John Paul

We celebrate today the liturgical feast of a new saint. Certainly the Man of the 20th century, Pope Saint John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18th, 1920 in Poland and became the first non-Italian Pope in almost 400 years. Also known as John Paul the Great, he reigned from October 16th, 1978 until his death on April 2nd, 2005. He was the second longest-serving Pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX who served for nearly 32 years from 1846 to 1878.
As a young boy, he lost his mother at the age of 8 and his father when he was 21. He even had to work at a limestone quarry, but then started his studies at the underground seminary run by Cardinal Sapieha in Krakow. He was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946, and after further studies, he ended up teaching at the Jagiellonian University. He was made a bishop on July 4, 1958 and later became Archbishop of Krakow on June 26, 1967. He remained very staunch to his faith in Poland, even when he became a Cardinal 3 years later. His election as Pope was a big surprise as Pope John Paul I died suddenly after 33 days, and the trend was to elect Italian Popes, but the white smoke showed that a new Pope was chosen on October 16, 1978, aged 58, relatively young for a Pope.
At the balcony he waved to the thousands gathered in the Piazza and  said “the cardinals have called for a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a faraway land — far and yet always close because of our communion in faith and Christian traditions. I was afraid to accept that responsibility, yet I do so in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother.”

John Paul II is recognized as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He upheld the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, supported the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, and in general held firm to orthodox Catholic stances.
He was one of the most traveled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. He was very much devoted to the Blessed Mother, well respected in his native Poland, especially with the famous Black Madonna, and he even chose his motto as Totus Tuus, “Totally Yours,” even with the letter M on his coat-of-arms.
John Paul II's cause for canonization commenced in 2005 one month after his death with the traditional five-year waiting period waived. His successor Pope Benedict XVI beatified him on May 1st 2011 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to him, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle, attributed to the late pope, was approved and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later. John Paul II was canonized on 27 April 2014, alongside Pope John XXIII.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Last call from San Francisco

Chinese lanterns, a very unusual flower.
Ending my review of photos I took in San Francisco, here is the last batch of odds and ends of different shots, from unusual paintings to colored pencils, from flowers to chalk-board menus.
Knitted masks on display and for sale
A colorful mural on Market Street
A colorful menu with unusual names of items offered
A miniature display of Disneyworld at the Disney Museum

Colored pencils

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

More from San Francisco

Sharing with you today a few more photos of different scenes that got my attention in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Naturally our favorite area was the Fisherman's Wharf an its stores and views from the shore.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Two new Saints

Tapestry of the Martins hung at the Vatican yesterday
Two new Saints were canonized yesterday on Mission Sunday, October 18, 2015, by Pope Francis. They are Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower.
Louis Martin (1823–1894) was a watchmaker by trade, and quite a successful one. He also skillfully managed his wife’s lace business. Born into a family of soldiers, Louis spent his early years at various French military posts. He absorbed the sense of order and discipline that army life engenders.
At age 22, young Louis sought to enter religious life at the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Alps. The blend of courage and charity the monks and their famous dogs manifested in rescuing travelers in Alpine snows appealed powerfully to Louis Martin. Unfortunately, the Abbot insisted the young candidate learn Latin. Louis, whose bravery would have carried him to the heights of the Alps in search of a lost pilgrim, got himself lost among the peaks and valleys of Latin syntax and grammar. He became ill and dispirited, and abandoned his hopes for the monastic life. Eventually, Louis settled down in Alencon, a small city in France, and pursued his watchmaking trade. He loved Alencon. It was a quiet place and he was a quiet man.
Zelie Guerin (1831–1877) was one of Alencon's more talented lace makers. Born into a military family, Zelie described her childhood and youth as “dismal.” Her mother and father showed her little affection. As a young lady, she sought unsuccessfully to enter a religious order. Zelie then learned the Alencon lace-making technique and soon mastered this painstaking craft. Richly talented, creative, eager, and endowed with commonsense, she started her own business and became quite successful. Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin eventually met in Alencon, and on July 13, 1858, Louis, 34, and Zelie, 26, married and began their remarkable voyage through life. However, they vowed to live a celibate life. When the local priest heard about this strange arrangement, he scolded them and told them that was not the way married couples should live their lives. Apparently they listened to him, because within the next 15 years, Zelie bore nine children, seven girls and two boys. “We lived only for them,” Zelie wrote. “They were all our happiness.”

Zelie and Louis Martin with St Therese as a young girl
The Martins’ delight in their children turned to shock and sorrow as tragedy relentlessly and mercilessly stalked their little ones. Within three years, Zelie’s two baby boys, a five-year-old girl, and a six-and-a-half-week-old infant girl all died. The series of tragedies had intensified the love of Louis and Zelie Martin for each other. They poured out their affection on their five surviving daughters: Marie, 12, Pauline, 11, Leonie 9, Celine, 3, and their newborn daughter. Louis and Zelie named her Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin. Therese was born on January 2, 1873. She was, however, weak and frail, and doctors feared for the infant’s life. The family— so used to death—was preparing for yet another blow. Zelie wrote of her three-month-old girl: “I have no hope of saving her. The poor little thing suffers horribly. . . . It breaks your heart to see her.”
But the baby girl proved to be much tougher than anyone realized. She survived the illness. A year later she was a “big baby, browned by the sun.” “The baby,” Zelie noted, “is full of life, giggles a lot, and is sheer joy to everyone.” A century later, people would know her as St. Therese, and call her the “Little Flower.” She was canonized in 1925.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

St Peter and St Paul in San Francisco

St. Peter and St. Paul parish church, run by the Salesians.
Another beautiful church I came across in San Francisco is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, a parish church run by the Salesians. It reminded me so much of my home-country of Malta, because it is built out of limestone. My impression is that it was built in two periods, with the two belfries constructed recently, as the limestone looks more clean. I noticed this church from the top of Lombard Street, and made sure to walk towards it until I was stunned by this massive church, possibly built by Italian masons.
An elaborate reredos as part of the main altar.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

More from St Mary's Cathedral SF

The front-door bronze sculpture as seen from inside
Here are more photos of the modern St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.
Bronze plaque commemorating Pope St. John Paul's visit in 1987

Friday, October 16, 2015

St Mary's Cathedral, SF

A modern church that I visited in San Francisco is St Mary's Cathedral, built in 1970. Pope St John Paul II visited this Cathedral on one of his US visits. It has 6 beautifully-sculptured motifs of the Blessed Mother, depicting various scenes from her life. These photos show a tiny glimpse of this big modern church. (more photos tomorrow)
Bronze sculpture above the front door of the Cathedral

Thursday, October 15, 2015

San Francisco skyscrapers

Yesterday we saw them from up high, from the plane. Today we look at them from below, plenty of skyscrapers in downtown San Francisco, similar to a New York skyline. And more of them are coming up as you can see from the last photo in this series.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Over San Francisco

Two weeks ago I was able to visit San Francisco just for 2 days with my brother and his wife. Over the next few days I will share some of the best photos I took over there. The first batch are photos I took from the plane, overlooking San Francisco, including downtown Frisco with its series of skyscrapers. Stay tuned, more to come. Please click on each photo to enlarge.
The other side of the bay....Oakland