Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Vision of Don Bosco

St John Bosco, seated, in his later years
 St John Bosco was born on August 16, 1815 and died on January 31, 1888. He was an Italian Catholic priest, educator and writer who put into practice the convictions of his religion, dedicating his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth and employing teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, a method that is known as the preventive system. A follower of the spirituality and philosophy of Francis de Sales, Bosco dedicated his works to him when he founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (more commonly known as the Salesians of Don Bosco). Together with St Maria Domenica Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a religious congregation of nuns dedicated to the care and education of poor girls, and popularly known as Salesian Sisters. In 1875 he published Bollettino Salesiano Mensuale (A Salesian Monthly Bulletin) and it has remained in continuous publication, and is currently published in 50 different editions and 30 languages. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

In 1862 Saint John Bosco warned about “persecutions that are in store for the Church.” This had been revealed to him in a dream, which he told to four hundred boys. In the dream there was a great ship steered by the pope heading for pillars of the Eucharist and Mary amid storms and hostile enemy ships. John told of these ships ramming the great ship of the Church and of one blow that gravely injures the Pope, who suddenly falls down. Those around him immediately help him to get up, but he is struck by a second blow, falls again, and dies. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The enemy loses courage as the new Pope overcomes every obstacle and routs all the tottering ships with his. Various captains meet with him, and breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the two columns. Once in between them, he attaches the prow to an anchor hanging from the column with the Host. With another anchor he attaches the other side of the ship to the column with the Blessed Virgin Immaculate.

St. John Bosco’s dream has meaning on more than one level. The basic message is that we should anchor our selves to the Eucharist and Mary for safe harbor. The dream also warns us to stay away from destructive literature and media that promote a culture of death. Having the Eucharist as a goal of the pilgrimage shows us that we have to nourish ourselves with this spiritual food from heaven. The image of Mary also has been so dominant in our lives, starting with 4 years earlier when Mary appeared in Lourdes, and later in Fatima. The clashes described may represent concepts, ideologies, philosophies and principles that came out of writings of the 1800s and 1900s. The enemy forces can be political and military powers from Marxist, Fascist, or Communistic countries. The struggle to maintain course can mean the personal strain of Popes to keep the Church on course after Vatican II. Beyond that, the dream has a prophetic dimension. Many people can instantly recognize John Paul II as the Pope who falls in the dream and many can see the meeting of captains as the Vatican Council II.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Make me a friend, o Lord

This is a prayer I've known from my Seminary years. It was originally written in Italian, ( as far as I remember by Alma Androzzo) and I translated into English, and share it with you today....
Make me a friend, o Lord

O Lord, make me a friend with everybody.
Make that my presence inspires hope, 
 - to all those who suffer and are depressed,
 - to all those searching for the light while laboring in darkness,
 - to all those who want to start to love, but don’t know how,
 - to all those who want to open their heart to someone, but feel so helpless.

Lord, help me so that I won’t pass near such people
 - with an indifferent outlook,
 - with a closed, cold heart,
 - with a hurried disposition.
Lord, help me to be always perceptive of those near me.
Let me always be aware of those who are confused, depressed and worried.
Remind me frequently to so much as feel what they’re feeling, and give me the courage to inspire peace in their hearts.
Lord, set me free from myself, so that I can serve you faithfully,
so that I can listen to Your voice in every person I come in contact with.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why is it ?

My gratitude to the 490 hits this blog received in just two weeks. I hope to continue keeping it interesting and informative to all those who check it out. Now, for something completely different.....

See if you can justify the following:
Why does the sun lighten our hair, but darken our skin?
Why do we call items sent by car a 'shipment', and items sent by ship 'cargo'?
Why is "abbreviated" such a long word?
Why is a boxing ring square?
Why is it considered necessary to nail down the lid of a coffin?
Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?
Why is it that rain drops but snow falls?
Why is it that when you're driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on the radio?
Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
Why is the third hand on the watch called a second hand?
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?
Why isn't there a special name for the tops of your feet?
Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
You know that little indestructible black box that is used on planes? Why can't they make the whole plane out of the same substance?
Why does your nose run and your feet smell?
Why do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters?
Why do people order double cheeseburgers, a large fry, and a diet coke?
Why do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight?
Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and leave useless junk in the garage?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Summa Theologica

St Thomas Aquinas with the Summa, painting by Benozzo Gozzoli
The Summa Theologica is a massive work by St Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican priest whose feast is celebrated today in the liturgical calendar. It is a Theological compendium, written between 1265 and 1274, and although unfinished, it is one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature. It is intended as a manual for beginners in theology and a compendium of all of the main theological teachings of the Church. It presents the reasoning for almost all points of Christian theology in the West. The Summa's topics follow a cycle: the existence of God; Creation, Man; Man's purpose; Christ; the Sacraments; and back to God. 

The Summa, printed in 1463 by Johann Mentelin
The Summa is composed of three major parts, each of which deals with a major subsection of Christian theology. The First Part deals with God's existence and nature; the creation of the world; angels; the nature of man. The Second Part deals with general principles of ethics and morality, including individual virtues and vices. The Third Part treats the person and work of Christ, who is the way of man to God; the sacraments; the end of the world. Aquinas left this part unfinished.
St Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 at Roccasecca and died in 1274 at Fossanova, both in Italy, and was an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. He was known as Doctor Angelicus, the Angelic Doctor.

Friday, January 27, 2012

St Julian

Statue of St Julian, crafted in 1891 by sculptor Carlo Darmanin
Today happens to be the liturgical feast of Saint Julian, my patron saint. In my hometown of St. Julian’s, special celebrations are held in the parish church, although the most extensive celebrations are held on the last Sunday of August. People are very fond of the statue made from paper-mache by Carlo Darmanin in 1891. It has been restored a few times, most recently in 1991 on the centennial year.

St Julian lived in the 9th century and was from Belgium, the only child of his parents Carlo and Lusinda. He loved hunting and one day, just as he was shooting a deer, the targeted deer spoke to him, “before you kill me, just remember that one day you will kill your own parents.” Distraught at this message he ran away from his parents, eventually settling in a different town and marrying a young beautiful girl Margherita. His parents however never gave up, and searched for him for months, until they arrived at the town where he was living. Incidentally they met his wife, and she greeted them happily since Julian was on a hunting trip, and she invited them to rest in her own bedroom. 
A jealous enemy of Julian met him when he arrived home and told him that his wife was cheating on him. Infuriated, Julian went into his house while his wife was at church, and finding two people sleeping in his bed, he decapitated them instantly. Shortly afterwards, his wife arrived beaming with joy, ready to tell him that his parents had finally arrived. Feeling very confused on seeing his wife alive, and realizing what he had done, Julian was inconsolable, as he remembered the prophetic words of the deer. Thereupon, Julian left that town and went into Italy with his wife where he started helping the poor to redeem himself. He eventually built a small hospital, earning him the name of St Julian the hospitalier, and spent the rest of his life tending to the sick in Macerata, where his body is preserved in the local Cathedral.  St Julian was remorseful of his actions, and was forgiven, eventually becoming a saint. "Redemit te caritas" is the motto of the saint, which means "Charity has redeemed you."

Thursday, January 26, 2012


"Coronation of Mary" Polyptych by Paolo Veneziano
This may sound as a strange word, and many of you may go looking in the dictionary to see what it means, and wondering what I'm coming up with today. But the above masterpiece describes it clearly. A polyptych generally refers to a painting (usually panel painting) which is divided into sections, or panels. The terminology that follows is in relevance to the number of panels integrated into a particular piece of work: "diptych" describes a two-part work of art; "triptych" describes a three-part work; "tetraptych" describes 4 parts; "pentaptych" describes 5 parts, etc. It is possibly the most spectacular work of art that can ever be created.

Polyptychs typically display one "central" or "main" panel that is usually the largest of the attachments, while the other panels are called "side" panels, or "wings." Sometimes, as evident in the Ghent and Isenheim works, the hinged panels can be varied in arrangement to show different "views" or "openings" in the piece. Polyptychs were most commonly created by early Renaissance painters, the majority of which designed their works to be altarpieces in churches and cathedrals.

The Ghent altarpiece, another very descriptive polyptych
The term polyptych can also refer to certain medieval manuscripts, particularly of Carolingian works, in which the columns on the page are framed with borders that resemble polyptych paintings. Another meaning of the word may also refer collectively to all multi-panel paintings; it refers not only to a style of art, but also refers to an altar display. Among the most famous are the Stefaneschi polyptych, the Isenheim altarpiece, the Last Judgment polyptych by Rogier van der Weyden and the Ghent altarpiece, reproduced here above.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Conversion of St Paul

This day in history is a true milestone. Personally I probably would not be a priest if I was not born in Catholic Malta. And Malta would not be Catholic if it wasn’t for St Paul being shipwrecked there in 60 AD (we’ll talk about that on February 10, the feast of the shipwreck of St. Paul,) and St Paul would not have made any of his missionary journeys if he was not converted on his way to Damascus. The dramatic painting below is one of many that are depicted in Maltese churches, although the shipwreck obviously is more of a popular scene. We honor our great Apostle of the Gentiles today on the day his life changed forever.

              Painting by Michael Camilleri Cauchi of the Conversion of St Paul in Sacred Heart Church, Fontana, Gozo, Malta
 “Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,  went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9: 1-9)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

St. Francis De Sales

A colored-pencil drawing of St Francis De Sales by a Maltese artist, F Schembri.
Born in 1567, the eldest in a large family, Francis was ear-marked by his father to become a lawyer. He was more interested though in Canon Law and with the support of his mother and his prestigious appointment as provost of the Cathedral Chapter, his father eventually gave his consent to Francis’ desire for service in the church. He studied in Paris, France and Padua, Italy and was ordained a priest in 1593.

As a priest he set out to offer clear and solid teaching, even slipping articles on Catholic doctrine under the doors of people’s homes, for which he was later named Patron of Journalists. He also was very instrumental in implementing the decrees of the Council of Trent which was completed 30 years earlier. He tried very hard to reform the people’s way of life, and conquered Geneva’s Calvinist trend with the weapons of fasting, charity and good behavior.

In 1602, he was made Bishop of Geneva, and here he strove to educate the clergy as well as support and enrich religious life. He preached zealously, always focusing on the Scripture, while trying to reform lax abbeys and monasteries. He gave spiritual direction to many, as well as through his letters. He gave special attention to women, to the poor and to the disadvantaged. His famous book The Introduction to the Spiritual Life was a result of his letters written as spiritual direction. The Treatise on the Love of God came about in response to the Visitation Sisters, whom he helped found with the help of St Jane Frances de Chantal, with whom he became a spiritual pen-friend, their letters also published in a book.

Francis De Sales was revered by his daughters (The Visitation Sisters,) honored by Kings and loved by children. His friend St Vincent de Paul described Francis as “The man who best reproduced the Son of God living on earth.” He died in 1622 and was canonized 33 years later in 1655.
Stained glass window in St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Baker City, OREGON, crafted in 1923.
Some quotes from St Francis De Sales:

- Salvation is shown to faith, it is prepared for hope, but it is given only to charity.
- We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear.
- Some torment themselves in seeking means to discover the art of loving God, and do not know that there is no art or means of loving Him but to love those who love Him.
- An action of small value performed with much love of God is far more excellent than one of a higher virtue, done with less love of God.
- Our greatest fault is that we wish to serve God in our way, not in His way- according to our will, not according to His will. When He wishes us to be sick, we wish to be well; when He desires us to serve Him by sufferings, we desire to serve Him by works; when He wishes us to exercise charity, we wish to exercise humility; when He seeks from us resignation, we wish for devotion, a spirit of prayer or some other virtue.
- The greatest fault among those who have a good will is that they wish to be something they cannot be, and do not wish to be what they necessarily must be.
- The highest degree of meekness consists in seeing, serving, honoring, and treating amiably, on occasion, those who are not to our taste, and who show themselves unfriendly, ungrateful, and troublesome to us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An inspiration for Pro-Life

I shared this story yesterday in my homily, and since the March for Life will be held today in Washington DC, I share it with all readers of my blog.....
Since the legalization of abortion in 1973 we ask you to pray for the millions of babies aborted over these past 39 years. When we say pray, we mean kneel down, bow your head and thank God that you are alive, something that one particular person has been doing a lot lately, in front of millions of people. And he has a reason why he’s doing this. Let me tell you his story.
Tim Tebow praying on his knees at Mile-High Stadium, Denver
More than 24 years ago, Pam and her husband Bob were serving as missionaries to the Philippines and praying for a fifth child. Pam contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink. She went into a coma and was treated with strong antibiotics before they discovered she was pregnant. Doctors urged her to abort the baby for her own safety and told her that the medicines had caused irreversible damage to her baby. She refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. Pam said the doctors didn't think of it as a life, they thought of it as a mass of fetal tissue.

While pregnant, Pam nearly lost their baby four times but refused to consider abortion. She recalled making a pledge to God with her husband: If you will give us a son, we’ll name him Timothy and we’ll make him a preacher. Pam ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy August 14, 1987. Pam’s youngest son is indeed a preacher. He preaches in prisons, makes hospital visits, and serves with his father’s ministry in the Philippines. He also plays football.
Baby Tim with his mother Pam and his four siblings, August 1987
Pam’s son is Tim Tebow.  The University of Florida’s star quarterback became the first sophomore in history to win college football’s highest award, the Heisman Trophy. His current role as quarterback of the Denver Broncos has provided an incredible platform for Christian witness. As a result, he is being called The Mile-High Messiah. And while Pam speaks on the gift of life in women’s centers around the country, Tim prays on his knees. And while people call his action tebowing – he is simply praying for being alive. He is preaching every day by his example. And it always helps if he is able to help his Denver Broncos get into the play-offs. Granted that they’re out now, but he had some remarkable come-backs for his team, and crowned every game by kneeling down and praying. Call it whatever you want, but remember that people have been encouraged to pray on their knees for 2000 years. But I guess it helps that a star-quarterback is doing it after every game, while thousands imitate him. 

Tim with his parents Pam and Bob Tebow

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life - what a beautiful choice

It was 39 years ago in 1973 that abortion was legalized in the USA, and as we all know, this has been an issue that has decided Presidential, Senatorial and Congress races over the past 4 decades. It has divided and split families, and caused grief, shame, and terrible guilt on so many. As we remember and pray for the many millions of babies never given a chance to take one breath of life, we pray also for their mothers and fathers, as well as doctors and nurses who assisted in these murders - with the hope that their hearts are changed and will never repeat the mistakes they've made in the past. I've talked to and counseled many young women who have gone through abortions and not once have I met a person who have not regretted their decision.

Our parish's Family Life Group sponsored this billboard earlier this year, which was displayed for more than 5 months on 10th Street in Baker City. I hope that the thousands of people who saw the message were touched and started to appreciate even more the gift of life. We pray especially for those young women who may be pre-meditating an abortion, so that they can change their minds and continue with a healthy pregnancy. Who knows how many of those aborted babies would have done something special if they were given a chance!

A man was a little upset, and spoke to the Lord: "Lord, why are you doing all this to us? With all that's happening around us, wars, violence, drugs, diseases, illness, .....why didn't you send us someone who could find the cure for AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and solve problems between nations?"  And the Lord answered: "I did! But you aborted each and every one of them!"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Feast of St Agnes

One of the early and young martyrs of the church is the beloved Saint Agnes. According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304.
The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes' refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind.  When eventually she was led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her. 
It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths. A few days after Agnes' death, her foster-sister, Saint Emerentiana was found praying by her tomb; she claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, and was stoned to death after refusing to leave the place and reprimanding the pagans for killing her foster sister. Emerentiana was also later canonized. Agnes' name may have derived from the Latin 'agnus', meaning lamb, and she is always represented with a lamb near her. Then there is another beautiful tradition......

Pope Benedict blesses the lambs, whose wool will be used to make the palliums
On this day, the feast of St Agnes, the Pope traditionally blesses two lambs raised by Trappist monks near Rome. The lambs are sheared and the wool is given to the cloistered Benedictine nuns at Rome’s Basilica of St. Cecilia. The nuns use the wool to make palliums, which are bands that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders during liturgical functions. Every year on the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Pope places the bands around the necks of archbishops who have taken office in the past year. Today, after blessing the animals, the pope also asked God to “bless the pastors who will receive the palliums made from the wool of these lambs.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saints and Blesseds

From time to time, I will share a brief biography of some of the new Saints and Blesseds recently added to the liturgical calendar of the Catholic church. Pope John Paul II had changed the requirement for beatification and canonization to only one miracle for each step, and in his 27-year pontificate he beatified 563 holy men and women, and canonized 482 new Saints. Some of these were members of groups of martyrs. Pope Benedict XVI has so far canonized 14 Saints, including the first Maltese saint, St George Preca. Among the popular names canonized by the Great John Paul were St Maximilian Kolbe, St Faustina Kowalska, St Katharine Drexel, the 103 Korean Martyrs, St Gianna Beretta Molla, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St Josephine Bakhita, St Jose Maria Escriva, St Pio of Pietralcina and St Juan Diego. All of these new saints have a liturgical feast day in the liturgical calendar, and the majority of them were included in the new Roman Missal.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A church I'd like to visit

St Hyacinth Basilica, Chicago, Illinois
I have seen and celebrated Mass in many churches, in particular in my home country of Malta, in England, in New York and here in Oregon. Every church is beautiful, most of them reverent and edifying as well as very conducive to prayer. But there is one church that I would like to visit someday, just to admire its beauty, especially its paintings inside, specifically the dome. This church is St Hyacinth Basilica in Chicago, on 3636 West Wolfram Street. It is a Polish parish founded in 1894. The following photos show the the large saucer dome which has a gigantic mural covering some 3000 square feet with over 150 figures, depicting saints, clergy and lay people. These paintings speak for themselves, showing the entire dome and some close-ups.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Christ, the Priest

Sacred Heart, in St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Baker City, OR, crafted in 1923
 I love stained-glass windows, and am honored to be serving in a Cathedral that boasts of some of the most beautiful windows, crafted respectively in 1923 and again in 1958, with two smaller ones in 1965, as well as 4 recent ones in our day-chapel, crafted in 2005. The above photo shows the Sacred Heart in our Cathedral, placed in the apse, and crafted by the Povey Brothers of Portland in 1923. 

In my collection of photos of stained-glass windows I share today one that is unique, found in an unidentified English church. It shows Jesus as Priest, dressed in a chasuble with the table and chalice in front of him, holding the Sacred Host, representing His own Body and Blood. Even though we do not see Jesus acting as a priest in his lifetime, because the Priesthood was instituted just a few hours before he died for us during the Last Supper, still his death on the cross was a sacrifice. From there He gave us his Body, being given to Mary and her new son John the apostle, and He also shed his Blood, every drop of Blood he had left in his mutilated body. And in every Mass we celebrate Christ is alive and well, through the readings, through the breaking of Bread, and through our reception of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Jesus is truly the model of every priest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jesus talks to your heart

If you never felt pain, then how would you know that I am a Healer?
If you never had to pray, how would you know that I am a Deliverer?
If you never had a trial, how could you call yourself an overcomer?
If you never felt sadness, how would you know that I am a Comforter?
If you never made a mistake, how would you know that I am a forgiver?
If you knew all, how would you know that I will answer your questions?
If you never were in trouble, how would you know that I will come to your rescue?
If you never were broken, then how would you know that I can make you whole?
If you never had a problem, how would you know that I can solve them?
If you never had any suffering, then how would you know what I went through?
If you never went through the fire, then how would you become pure?
If I gave you all things, how would you appreciate them?
If I never corrected you, how would you know that I love you?
If you had all power, then how would you learn to depend on me?
If your life was perfect, then what would you need me for?

Love, Jesus

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two more photos from 3 years ago

Hoar Frost seen here among the trees of the Golf Course, Baker City, Oregon
What happened three years ago on this day here in Baker City was too beautiful and spectacular not to share with you at least two more photos of that amazing nature display that was as unique as it was rare. I've been here in Oregon for 9 years now and that was the only time I saw the hoar frost covering every square inch of the Baker Valley. So my conclusion is that it must be a rare event. Enjoy the photos, praise God and for those who are a little bit more scientifically and metereologically minded, here is some more information about why this phenomena happens.

According to nature encyclopedias, Frost is the solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air. It is formed when solid surfaces are cooled to below the dew point of the adjacent air as well as below the freezing point of water. Hoar frost (also called radiation frost or hoarfrost or pruina) refers to the white ice crystals, loosely deposited on the ground or exposed objects, that form on cold clear nights when heat losses into the open skies cause objects to become colder than the surrounding air. A related effect is flood frost which occurs when air cooled by ground-level radiation losses travels downhill to form pockets of very cold air in depressions, valleys, and hollows. Hoar frost can form in these areas even when the air temperature a few feet above ground is well above freezing. Nonetheless the frost itself will be at or below the freezing temperature of water.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2 miracles - 3 years ago

January 15 and 16, 2009 - two miracles happened those two days, one on the east coast of the USA and the other one on the west coast. The first miracle was when 155 passengers and crew  were rescued safely after the crash landing of  the U.S. Airways plane on the Hudson River, thanks to the capability and genius of their pilot,  Chesley Sullenberger. It was a true miracle that no one died and only a few suffered injuries. May God continue to bless the pilot and his family for his heroics which he downplayed as a humble employer with US Airways. He was a hero for all of America that day. Let us not forget him!

The second miracle took place right here in our parish in Baker City, OREGON when the whole town was embraced and engulfed in a hoar frost that descended on the town for two days. Needless to say, I was out and about taking plenty of photos of this incredible beauty, as every branch, every twig, every tree and just about every leaf became encased in frost. The above photos are only two of the many I took that day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In honor of Mary

Salve Regina stained-glass at St Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, MA
Saturday has always been regarded as Mary's Day. In fact in the liturgical calendar, whenever there is no memorial or feast on any Saturday, we can celebrate the Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. More than Jesus, Mary dominates the liturgical calendar all year round with a feast dedicated to her just about in every month of the year. Hundreds, or should I say thousands are the image depicted in her honor, and I share with you today one of my favorites. It is a stained glass window in the St Joseph's Abbey monastic church in Spencer, Massachusetts. It is known as the Salve Regina, because the monks, every evening at 7:40 PM pray Compline (night prayer) in the church. When it is dark outside at around 8 PM, normally between September and May, the Salve Regina is lit up from the outside and the its image dominates the entire church as the monks sing the Salve Regina in Gregorian chant, before walking one by one in front of the Abbot, as he sprinkles them with holy water. I was thankful to spend 6 months with the Trappist monks of Spencer between September 2002 and March 2003, and I looked forward to admiring the image of the Salve Regina, which of course was always visible during the rest of the day, behind the main altar. The stained glass of Mary was crafted by Nicolas Joep, most probably around 1950-1952, when the monastery church was built by the monks themselves.

Friday, January 13, 2012


The Crucifix in St Francis De Sales day-chapel.

Every Friday in our day-chapel at St Francis De Sales Cathedral, we have 9 hours of perpetual Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I actually start at 6 AM with a Mass attended by a few parishioners, and rain or shine, ice or snow these are faithful people who are always there, when most people are still sound asleep. At the end of the Mass, I expose the Blessed Sacrament for public adoration. Various parishioners come every hour until 3 PM, when we recite the Divine Mercy chaplet, followed by Solemn Benediction. On some occasions I lead a Holy Hour at the end to celebrate Pro-Life, Priesthood, the Eucharist and other themes.
One can only imagine the graces people receive when they are actually in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Some people sit quietly and pray silently, others recite the Rosary, yet others read from the Bible or any other spiritual book, and still others just look at Jesus in the Sacred Host in the monstrance. They don't have to say much, because it's when we are sitting quietly that Jesus speaks to us. The moment we least expect it, an inspiration comes to our mind, a beautiful thought enters our mind, and a glow fills our hearts with joy. People are so busy nowadays that they find it hard to find time for prayer - but those who come to our chapel can tell you that's the best place to be, because Jesus can read our hearts. He knows what we need and He gives it to us in due time. And in silence He answers our prayers. People think they have to read or mumble prayers to be prayerful, but I also believe that "Silence is the most eloquent form of prayer." I hope that those who read these blogs will also experience a prayerful glow in their own hearts, and realize that Jesus is closer to them than they think.

The crucifix hanging on the wall in the day-chapel at this time of the year gets a beautiful colorful reflection from the stained-glass windows on the side, and this photo I took last year speaks for itself. May the Light of Christ brighten your lives, especially when you experience one of those dark, uncertain, troublesome days.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


One of my recent hobbies is watercoloring. Like all my other hobbies I am self-taught and learn simply by practicing and observing other artists, but it comes to show that the more you practice, the better you become, as I've seen a lot of improvement over the past 3 years when I started doodling around. Most of my paintings are unframed but I can say that framing a painting adds so much to its beauty and presentation, as you can see from these two or three included here. The first one is a painting I did of a Richland ranch. Of course I am not always faithful to what I see, and I do improvise and invent things as I go along, but that comes with the freedom of painting and enjoying it. I will share in this blog more of my paintings as I go along, but this is simply as a note of introducing you to some of my watercolor paintings.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vocation awareness

Saints at sunrise - an inspirational photo I took in the rectory attic

This week the church celebrates Vocation Awareness Week as people are asked to pray for more vocations to the priesthood, religious and consecrated life. This gives me the opportunity to thank God for the most precious gift He has given me, my vocation as a priest. I thank Him also for my two wonderful and devoted parents who nurtured this vocation ever since I was born. Growing up in my homeland of Malta, it was beneficial for me and my 12 classmates to feel protected and encouraged to pursue a religious vocation, especially living in a country which is totally Catholic. During my seven years in the Seminary (1970-1977) I discovered more gifts and talents that God was giving me, and still others were nurtured during the past 35 years of priesthood. 

My coming to the USA in 1981 opened up for me a new window of opportunity to learn more, to grow in love of my people and to dedicate my life to pastoral ministry in New York and Oregon. Many people have touched my life during this journey and I hope I was able to get many people closer to God and to their faith. Granted that the situation with vocations is not very positive in the USA, but we feel blessed that so many missionary priests have left their homeland to minister in foreign lands, faraway from their families and homelands. We pray during this week that the Lord will continue to provide shepherds for their sheep, pastors for their parishioners, ministers who show God's love by their preaching, teaching and guidance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My nature photos

Two bald eagles perched on the same branch - Christmas morning 2011
Ever since I bought my digital camera in May 2006, I have taken thousands of photos, mainly of the varied wildlife that is so typical of Eastern Oregon. Scenic panoramic views abound in this area and it is any photographer's dream to be able to capture on film the spectacular and the fascinating scenes one comes across. Of course it always helps if you have your camera with you, as so many people tell me of deer and eagles  and Canadian geese flying overhead, but had no camera at hand to capture that precious moment. Well, my camera is my ever present companion, and I consider her like the wife I could never have, always hanging around my neck or sitting in my car's passenger seat. 

So in this blog I will be sharing with you from time to time some of the best photography I take, mainly from Eastern Oregon. The above photo was taken on Christmas morning, on my way to my mission church in Halfway, just along the meandering Powder River, around 23 miles from Baker City. It was quite a scene and an impressive treat for me to sneak up to these two majestic birds, giving me enough time to snap a few quick photos, before they took off, one by one, probably saying to each other "Oh look, a bald priest bothering two bald eagles on this quiet Christmas morning!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

My personal website

You can always visit my own Personal Website, which I've managed since the year 2000.
There are plenty of photos in it and other quotes and reflections I've shared over the years, besides information about My Family, which includes a tribute to my parents and my brother Paul. If you love art, I also added a link to one of my favorite Maltese artists, Emvin Cremona, with plenty of photos I took myself of his sacred paintings found in churches in Malta.
My parish website which I also manage is also worth visiting here St Francis De Sales Cathedral.

May God grant you this year.....

The Nativity display in St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Baker City, OREGON

In my homily of the feast of the Epiphany, I shared with the people a list of gifts that we ask the Lord to grant us during this coming year. May they be realized, and may we always appreciate the most precious gift of all - the birth of Christ in our hearts and homes....

May Christ Grant You This New Year:
Enough tears to keep you human, warm and sensitive.
Enough humor to laugh at yourself rather than others.
Enough setbacks to keep you humble.
Enough goodness to be called a person of integrity.
Enough accomplishments to keep you confident and eager.
Enough patience to teach you the virtue of waiting.
Enough discipline to be moderate in eating and drinking.
Enough silence in your life that you become more prayerful.
Enough insight in how you see God, but also in how God sees you.
Enough friends to give you life, strength and support.
Enough grief and sorrow to make you both sensitive and loving.
Enough hope to teach you to trust God.
Enough care to comfort the disturbed, but also to disturb the comfortable.
Enough strength from your faith, family and friends to support you.
Enough warm and wonderful memories to give you comfort.
Enough divine and human qualities to forgive oneself and forgive others.
Enough common sense for you to make healthy decisions.
Enough determination to make each day better than yesterday.
AND, enough faith and prayerfulness to arrive in heaven, with Christ smiling and welcoming you with outstretched arms and saying "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the kingdom of heaven."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thank you Father for not giving up on me.

Mandala art at Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco, California
This is a reflection I shared with the people in my homily on New Year’s Day:

I want to thank You for what you have already done.
I am not going to wait until I see results or receive rewards.
I am not going to wait until I feel better or things look better.
I'm not going to wait until people say they're sorry or until they stop talking about me.
I am not going to wait until the pain in my body disappears.
I am not going to wait until my financial situation improves.
I am not going to wait until the children are back and asleep in their beds.
I am not going to wait until I get promoted at work or until I get a new job.
I am not going to wait until I understand every experience in my life that has caused me grief.
I am not going to wait until the journey gets easier or the challenges are removed.

I am thanking you right now, because I made it through another year.
I am thanking you because I am alive and healthy.     
I am thanking you because I made it through the days of difficulties.  
I am thanking you because I have walked around the obstacles and through tough odds. 
I am thanking you because I have the ability and the opportunity to do more and do better.
And I can do all this only with Your help.

I'm thanking you because FATHER, YOU haven't given up on me.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Barefoot Shepherd arrives

Every year in our Cathedral of St Francis De Sales in Baker City, just after the three Kings make their punctual arrival in front of the Nativity, a strange character arrives to adore baby Jesus. This is the barefoot shepherd, who kneels down and takes his sandals off and prays for a while in front of the Savior, surrounded by his mother and father, Mary and Joseph and a group of other shepherds. Recollecting the words that God told Moses on approaching the burning bush, "Remove your sandals from your feet, because this is sacred ground," our shepherd promptly takes off his sandals out of respect. He knows this is holy ground and he can only approach the infant child in utter humiliation and admiration. 

The exact place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem is marked with a piece of glass where people can look through and see the ground underneath. Surrounding the glass underneath the main altar is a star with the inscription “Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary”, and 15 lamps are continuously lit, 6 belonging to the Greek Orthodox, 5 to the Armenians and 4 to the Catholics, and it’s their responsibility to make sure they are never extinguished. Besides, the room where Jesus was born and where the star is placed, has a low ceiling, and you can only enter in bowing down, out of respect, literally on your knees, in adoration to Jesus.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Feast of the Epiphany

The Three Kings by Maltese artist Emvin Cremona, Ghaxaq parish church, Malta

Even though the liturgical celebration of the Epiphany will be on Sunday January 8, many countries still observe it on this day, January 6th, which is also considered as the 12th day of Christmas. Many beautiful paintings have been produced over the centuries to depict this scene of Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar presenting the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn Jesus. The gifts represent respectively the characteristics that Jesus had, as a King (gold,) as a God (frankincense,) and as a human being (myrrh.) The above painting is from the ceiling of St Mary's parish church in Ghaxaq, Malta, painted by Chev. Emvin Cremona, a Maltese painter and one of my favorite artists. The entire ceiling of the same church has other paintings representing scenes from the life of the Blessed Mother.

It was in the 4th Century that December 25 was finally adopted by the Western Christian Church as the date Christ's birth date. It is believed that this change in date gave rise to the tradition of the "12 Days of Christmas." While the Western Christian Church celebrates December 25th, the Eastern Christian Church to this day recognizes January 6 as the celebration of the nativity. January 6 is still considered in Italy and the Spanish countries as the day when the presents are open. Imagine these children having to look at the presents under the tree for 12 days and not being able to open them. In a way it makes sense to open gifts on the day Jesus received his 3 gifts from the Kings. But tell that to American children!

In Slavic and eastern European countries, including Poland, there is a tradition that on the evening before the feast of the Epiphany, traditionally they recite prayers, blessed dried herbs would be burnt and their aromatic smell would fill the house. Doorways would be sprinkled with holy water and the head of the house would write with chalk C + M + B and the year above every door in the house door and say: "Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water." C + M + B has traditionally been translated with Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, however, there is a tradition that it stands for "Christus Mansionem Benedicat" (Christ bless this home).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Cathedral

St Francis De Sales Cathedral in 2011
I am blessed to have been entrusted with the care and embellishment of a beautiful Cathedral, as well as the pastoral care of the people of my parish of St Francis De Sales in Baker City, Oregon. The Cathedral was built between 1906 and 1908 and so in 2008 we had a major renovation in the sanctuary area, and the following 4 photos can give you an idea of how it changed over the the past 104 years. Renovations were done in 1944, 1958, 1980 and 2008. To see more of the Cathedral and to follow events, activities and plenty of photos, check my parish website, which I also take care of, at the St Francis Cathedral website
Cathedral in 1908

Cathedral in 1954
Cathedral in  2005