Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Vigil photos

Blessing of the Paschal Candle
The celebration of the Easter Vigil in our parish was the climactic moment for our Liturgical Year as 9 members were baptized and three others also confirmed, while one was received into full communion of the Catholic church. 5 members of the same family also received sacraments, the mother and her two sons and a baby daughter were baptized, while the  father was confirmed, besides receiving their first Holy Communion. These photos show the ceremony in progress.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Easter Lily

Just as the poinsettia takes center stage at Christmas time, the Easter Lily does the same at Easter time, adorning our sanctuaries and being used to decorate our altars for the Easter season every year. The Easter Lily was discovered by a missionary priest in the 19th century on Ryukyu Island, off Japan. It is a stem rooting lily, growing up to 3 feet high. It bears a number of trumpet shaped, white, fragrant, and outward facing flowers, with pointed green leaves. Its technical name is Lilium longiflorum. The missionary who found it eventually tried to take some bulbs to England, but was stranded in Bermuda, where they bloomed for the first time on April 16, 1854. They reached Philadelphia in 1876.
From the 1890s to the early 1920s, there was a thriving export trade of bulbs from Bermuda to New York. A disease affected the Bermuda lilies: this was identified by Lawrence Ogilvie. Then most Easter lily bulbs arriving in the United States were imported from Japan before 1940s. The supply of bulbs was suddenly cut off after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Easter lilies became extremely valuable in the United States. Once the plant and flowers have withered, you can plant the bulb in any garden, and they will come up again. In warmer climates, they will sprout again by the following August, otherwise, wait for next spring.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter decorations at St Francis

I share with you today two photos from each of our churches here in Bend. The new church is decorated by Rick and Lupita Wesseler, assisted by a new couple, while the historic church is decorated by Judy Kennedy, assisted by a few other helpers. The new church has the empty tomb represented in front of the main altar, this year also having a sunrise effect. All around, flowers adorn the tabernacle and other sections of the sanctuary. 
The historic church is resplendent with Easter lilies and seasonal flowers and two angels in front of the altar. The Paschal Candle is prominently displayed in both churches next to the pulpit. More photos from Holy Week can be seen at
The Monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament and the crucifix in the background

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mother Angelica of EWTN dies at 92

Mother Angelica (1923-2016)
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), passed away on Easter Sunday, March 27 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years old. Born Rita Rizzo on April 20, 1923, few would have predicted that the girl from a troubled family in Canton, Ohio, would go on to found not only two thriving religious orders, but also the world’s largest religious media network.
On Aug. 15, 1944, at the age of 21, Rita entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland and took the name by which the world would come to know her — Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation. In 1969, she began recording spiritual talks on audio for mass distribution. She recorded her first radio program in 1971, 10-minute programs for WBRC.
Encouraged by her new friend and patron Nashville lawyer Bill Steltemeier, she recorded her first television programs seven years later — half-hour programs called Our Hermitage. It didn’t take long for her to warm to the idea of a faithful Catholic media apostolate.

While utilizing a secular studio to produce programs for a Christian cable television network one day in 1978, Mother Angelica heard that the station owned by the studio planned to air a program she felt was blasphemous. “When I found out that the station was going to broadcast a blasphemous movie, I confronted the station manager and objected,” said Mother Angelica. “He ignored my complaint, so I told him I would go elsewhere to make my tapes. He told me, ‘You leave this station and you’re off television.’”
“I’ll build my own!” responded Mother Angelica. That decision was the catalyst for EWTN, as it led to the sisters’ suggestion to turn the garage into a television studio.

Mother Angelica in the early years of EWTN
Eternal Word Television Network was launched, fittingly, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15, 1981. That garage became the first television studio and eventually became the control room — the nerve center — for EWTN’s global television programming. From its humble beginnings in a garage at an Alabama monastery, EWTN expanded over the years into an influential TV, radio and online operation. Its channels now broadcast to 264 million households around the world.
Mother Angelica appeared regularly on the network, hosting "Mother Angelica Live," a show on which she led religious discussions with TV viewers. She founded and grew a network that appealed to everyday Catholics, understood their needs and fed their spirits. After stepping down from leading EWTN in the early 2000s, Angelica suffered a stroke that impaired her speech and limited her mobility. EWTN's success was recognized by the leaders of the Catholic Church. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI awarded one of the Vatican's top honors to Angelica and the network's former chairman for their work.

EWTN today transmits 24-hour-a-day programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400. The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

Her funeral will be held on Friday April 1 at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in Birmingham, Alabama, with various vigil services, rosaries and prayer services between Tuesday and Thursday.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

He is Risen! Alleluia

"Why do you search for the living among the dead? He is risen - he is not here!"
May the Easter blessings come upon all of you who visit this blog, and may the joy we experience today, remain with us all year long, especially with those who have suffered so much in their lives. May the Light of Christ illumine their every way, and lead them to happier days ahead.

He is truly Risen!Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
He brings a Prayerful Life to someone searching for meaning and direction.
He brings Peace to those who are always worried and uptight.
He brings Victory out of defeat.
He brings Joy to those who cannot seem to smile anymore.
He brings a Beautiful Baby to her who was premeditating an abortion.
He brings Light to those who are living in darkness.
He brings Enlightenment and Understanding to those couples whose marriage has been more of a struggle than a Joy.
He brings Hope out of despair.
He brings New Life to those worried about dying.
He brings Peace to this world ravaged by war and fighting and oppression.
He brings Love and Reconciliation to those harboring thoughts of revenge and hate.
He brings Optimism in a world tormented by pessimism.

A Blessed Easter to all visitors of this blog.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Figolli and Pysanky

Maltese figolli
Just as Christmas has its special food, like puddings, mince pies, cookies and fruitcake, so does Easter, and in particular, I refer to two places where these special treats are so popular that they deserve a special mention today, the vigil of Easter. I’m referring to Malta with its figolli and Ukraine and its Pysnaky eggs.
More figolli wrapped and ready for sale
The Maltese figolli are popular treats made from 2 sheets of dough, filled with almond paste, but the dough is usually cut in shapes of hearts, baskets, rabbits, bears, butterflies, shapes of children or anything imaginative. A chocolate egg is placed on top, after the shape is covered with hard icing and decorated like any other cake. 
Holy Thursday bread from Malta with sesame seeds and almonds
Another popular treat in Malta is the Holy Thursday bread, made like a donut shape with almonds and sesame seeds. They are traditionally given to the 12 parishioners whose feet are washed at the evening Mass, but many people buy these loaves, have them blessed and enjoy them on Holy Thursday. They are of course very crusty on the outside and fresh on the inside. 
Pysanky eggs from Ukraine
The word pysanka (plural pysanky) refers specifically to an egg decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs. Artists go into incredible detail as they decorate these eggs with beautiful colored designs, each color is symbolic of a virtue or a positive trait. With the advent of Christianity, the symbolism of the egg was changed to represent, not nature's rebirth, but the rebirth of man. Christians embraced the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ rose. With the acceptance of Christianity in 988, the decorated pysanka, in time, was adapted to play an important role in Ukrainian rituals of the new religion. Many symbols of the old sun worship survived and were adapted to represent Easter and Christ's Resurrection.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday processions

The Sorrowful Mother statue from Rabat, Malta from 2010
As we commemorate the passion and death of Our Lord today, I go back once more to Malta and share with you some photos of a typical Good Friday procession, which is held in various parishes this afternoon, into the evening. Life size statues are carried shoulder high by strong men, as children, adults and many parishioners participate in a solemn and reverent procession depicting various scenes from the last few hours of Jesus. Children also dress up as Old Testament and New Testament characters, carrying various symbols. 


                ACCUSED HIM, ABUSED HIM;


                         ASSAILED HIM, NAILED HIM.

                             FOR YOU AND ME, HE DIED,

                                 I CRIED...............................

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Thursday in Malta

Altar of Repose in a church in Rabat, Malta
Holy Thursday is a very special day for all priests and Catholics alike. Traditionally the Chrism Mass is held in the morning in most Dioceses, while in the evening the re-enactment of the Last Supper is celebrated with the foot-washing ceremony held in each church. In Malta and other countries, a very elaborate and decorative Altar of Repose is set up with flowers, candles, angels and other religious symbols. After the Mass in the evening, parishioners would visit these altars which are set up in every church and chapel, praying in vigil late into the night, and even sometimes on Friday morning. These photos show only a sample of some altars decorated during my last visit to Malta in 2010. Click on each photo to admire the painstaking detail people go through to decorate these altars, which are frequently disassembled on Friday afternoon, just before the Good Friday Service.
Altar of Repose in a Carmelite church in Valletta, Malta
Altar of Repose in another church in Valletta, Malta
Altar of Repose in my childhood church, St Julian's, Malta

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Holy Triduum

Holy Week is just days ahead, Lord.
In some ways, it will be an ordinary week:
I'll still have to go to work, to school, to the store.
I'll still need to care for my family and friends.
I'll still have to do laundry and take out the trash.
I'll still have to deal with life's everyday problems:
    my responsibilities won't diminish or take a break...

And I'll do all this in a world that largely ignores  the names we give this week's special days:
                        Palm Sunday, 
                            Holy Thursday
                               Good Friday
                                  Holy Saturday
                                     Easter Sunday
So I ask you to help me, Lord, to make and keep this week holy...

I hope and pray this week will be peaceful - in spite of all I have to do...
I hope and pray these days will be prayerful: that I'll make some time to spend with you alone and time to go to church on these holy days...
I hope and pray that in my mind and heart these days will be different from any others,
in how I see and experience the world around me, in how I plan and spend my time...

Help me know and live these days as set apart, some solemn and some joyful:
      a time to grow in faith, and hope and love,
      a time to grow in my relationship with you...

Let this week not be like all the others, Lord - but let this week and all its days
be truly holy. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Archbishop Emeritus of Malta dies.

Archbishop Joseph Mercieca (1928-2016)
Archbishop Joseph Mercieca was born in Victoria on the island of Gozo in Malta. He was baptised on 14 November 1928 and received the other sacraments at the parish church of St George in Victoria. He entered the Gozo seminary to study for the priesthood but continued his studies in Rome at the Gregorian university and the Lateran university. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1952 by Joseph Pace, the Bishop of Gozo at St James' Church in Victoria, Gozo. In 1958, he was chosen to be the rector of the Gozo Major Seminary. In 1969 Father Mercieca was appointed, by Pope Paul VI, to judge the Roman Rota.

Five years later Pope Paul VI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Malta to assist Archbishop Gonzi. He was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Mikiel Gonzi on the feast of St Michael in St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta. Succeeding the said Msgr. Gonzi as archbishop of the metropolitan see of Malta on December 12, 1976, during his thirty years in office, Mercieca - who was virtually unknown before his episcopal appointment - managed to restore stability in the Maltese Church after the bruising political dispute with the Labour Party in the Gonzi years. Threading carefully a new dispute with the Labour government during the 1980's regarding Church schools and church property, he maintained his characteristic tranquillity when he was twice surrounded by angry mobs, when a bomb was placed outside his residence in Mdina, and when the curia was ransacked, ensuring to a large extent that the long-lasting divisions of the 1960's would not return anew. He spent the next thirty years as the spiritual shepherd of the Archdiocese of Malta.

1976, myself as a deacon with Archbishop Gonzi and Mercieca at his consecration
Mecieca is credited with restoring stability in the Maltese church following Gonzi's dispute with the Malta Labour Party in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1995, he was appointed a member of the Xirka Gieh ir-Repubblika. Mercieca offered his resignation to Pope John Paul II on 11 November 2003. He remained Archbishop until 2 December 2006, and was succeeded by Paul Cremona in January 2007. Archbishop Mercieca had a brother who is also a priest serving in his home parish of St. George in Victoria. Mercieca retired from the pastoral government of his see on December 2, 2006, passing away after years of failing health aged 87. The funeral will be held on Wednesday March 23, and he will be buried in the Mdina Cathedral. Archbishop Emeritus Mercieca is the bishop who ordained me and my 13 classmates in June 1977.
Mercieca, 2nd from left with the Long Island Bishop, John McGann in 1990
Archbishop Mercieca with Pope St John Paul II

Monday, March 21, 2016

Palm Sunday celebration

Yet another donkey was a part of the Palm Sunday celebration at St Francis of Assisi in Bend, as Pimmy was the center of attraction during the blessing of palms and procession towards the church. The beautiful brown donkey had her 15 minutes of fame three times as she patiently walked back and forth to accompany the people who attended the blessing. That’s 45 minutes of fame! At times Pimmy turned stubborn as she did not like walking on blacktop, but preferred the grass, of which she could also munch a mouthful occasionally. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, and now we turn our focus on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

As is now customary in all the parishes I served in, there is no Palm Sunday without the presence of a donkey, leading our procession after the blessing of the palms. For good measure this year we have 3 donkeys here in Bend. Two of them were present yesterday at the 5 PM Mass, Poncho and Daisy, owned by Greg and Cathy Jensen, and brought to the church by our friend and his trailer, Richard Doerfler. The burros were led as usual by Makenna and Kelsea Bomke, seasoned donkey-handlers, which led many people to remark...."I don't who's the cutest, the donkeys or the Bomkes!" 
Another donkey, Pimmy, owned by Diana Levey will be present this morning for all three Masses, at 7:30 AM, at 10 AM and at the Spanish Mass at 12:30 PM. Please come early as the blessing of the palms and the procession takes places 15 minutes before Mass starts.This celebration commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding a donkey, greeted by people who waved palm branches and olive branches, laying them and their clothes on the ground.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

2016 Chrism Mass

The annual Chrism Mass was held in the Cathedral of Baker City on Thursday March 17. Bishop Liam Cary celebrated the Mass with all the priests concelebrating, during which the Oils of Catechumens, the Oil of Chrism and the Oil of the Sick were blessed, and later on distributed to all the priests of the Diocese. They will be used throughout the year in the administration of the sacraments in the various parishes and mission churches across Eastern Oregon. These two photos show a customary group photo on the steps of the Cathedral, and the priests around the altar during the blessing of the oils. The priests who are wearing vestments are those who celebrated jubilees of their ordinations this year, respectively 40 years (Fr Rick Fischer, Fr Joe Reeves,) 25 years (Fr Nonnatus Lakra,) and 10 years (Fr Luis Alva-Flores.) (click on each photo to enlarge)

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Sorrowful Mother

We honor today the Sorrowful Mother as she stands by the cross waiting for her Son to die, His body to be placed on her lap soon afterwards. An image that has been painted, sculpted and drawn by many artists. Many countries honor the Sorrowful Mother (Mater Dolorosa) on this Friday before Holy Week, as seen in this procession held in Malta in the city of Valletta. Thousands of people accompany the procession, also attending Mass and going to confession on a day of atonement and repentance. Each parish holds a procession with a statue devoutly kept in each church, but the most popular and the most attended one is the one in Valletta, a photo of which you can see here, from 2010.
O Blessed Mother, who had to see your Son grow into a handsome young man, and then let Him go, we ask your protection on our children and young people. May they feel protected from the world's dangers, and feel safe in your care. As you saw your Son tortured and killed, we pray for those mothers who had to see their children killed in wars, sudden accidents, through suicides and other terrible disasters. May these mothers find compassion in you, O Blessed Mother, and we ask that you give them the comfort they so much desire. This week we stand by you, and suffer with you, as we witness once again the passion, death and eventual resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Chrism Mass today

I have many happy memories of this day as all priests gather with their bishop at the Cathedral in Baker City for the blessing of the sacred oils to be used throughout the Diocese over the next year. Since I was in the Cathedral for 8 years, it was my responsibility to organize this day with the help of the Cathedral staff. There was a lot of coordination involved especially towards the end of the celebration when the three different oils had to be put in small quantities in three different plastic bottles, for each priest of the Diocese. But there was also a lot of setting up to do, like planning the Holy Hour, then the Happy Hour, followed by the dinner hosted by the kind ladies of the Altar Society, as well as some snacks for after the Chrism Mass. Last but not least there was the liturgical aspect of the celebration, the readings, the music by the Folk Group or Choir, the official group photo on the steps of the Cathedral and so much more. Besides there was also the recognition of those priests who celebrate anniversaries divisible by 5 years, therefore 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 etc. The oils to be blessed are the Oil of Catechumens, used at baptisms, the Oil of the Sick, used in the anointing of the sick and infirm, and the Oil of Chrism, which is mixed with a perfume called balsam, to be used at Baptisms, Confirmations, Ordinations of priests and bishops, as well as consecrations of new churches, altars, etc.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A descriptive painting

Chinnawong Sawai "The Glory of the Cross"
As we approach Holy Week, I share with you today an inspirational descriptive painting with plenty of religious symbolism. This modern painting is by Chinnawong Sawai entitled "The Glory of the Cross." You will have to enlarge it, and then you can see among other symbols a crown of thorns, the acronyms for Chi Rho (or PX), palm branches, dice, a heart, a butterfly, flames of fire, grapes, drops of water and others which can stand out of your imagination. 

Over the next few days, all the priests will be in Baker City for the Chrism Mass, and I may not be able to place any posts until Friday afternoon. Friday is a special day in Malta as the feast and processions of Our Lady of Sorrows will be celebrated, a solemn and devout feast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Many people ask what do the letters INRI stand for. They represent an acronym for the phrase which Pontius Pilate ordered placed on the cross of Jesus. They were actually written in Greek, Hebrew and Latin. The Latin phrase is “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum” which means “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”, hence I.N.R.I.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Blended Stations

We are all used to the Stations of the Cross, usually placed 7 on each side of the church, as people pray in front of them during the Lenten Season. Then there are artists or painters who blend in all the stations in one general painting. This was the case with Hans Memling with his massive painting on the Passion of Christ. In it, he displays the entire way of the cross as if Jesus is going through the entire town or village. As you enlarge this painting you will see Jesus in various stages of his way of the cross, from the agony of the garden on the lower left hand side, to the crucifixion in the top part, on a hill. You can also see the Last Supper as well as the Resurrection, the former on the left hand side, and the latter on the right hand side of the painter. But in between you can see in various alcoves and doorways the steps that led Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to Golgotha, where he was crucified.
Another painting shows the Stations of the Cross displayed in four panels, a modern version which you can see here under.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Crucifixion paintings

"Crucifixion" by Andrea Mantegna
Besides the Nativity and the Blessed Mother, the most painted scene from the Bible is the Crucifixion of Jesus. Most prominent painters have painted their own version of the moment Christ was crucified on Golgotha. The majority of paintings are dramatic, descriptive and solemn. Others presented the scene in their own hometown town or neighborhood, including in the background elaborate scenery. Others even went so far as to include themselves in the foreground, making the painting obviously anachronistic, but that was a tradition that was repeated by many painters. (click to enlarge)
"Crucifixion" by Jan Provoost
Crucifixion triptych by Goswijn van der Weyden