Thursday, May 31, 2012

Feast of the Visitation

A beautiful painting of the Visitation in the parish church at Gharb, Gozo, (Malta)

The month of May, dedicated to the Blessed Mother ends with another feast of Mary, precisely her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. It was also the first encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist, even though they were still in their mothers’ respective wombs. As was customary, the younger woman would visit the older one and Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, helping her with chores, while chatting and praying over their upcoming blessed event. Who knows what they talked about....asking questions that any prospective mother would ask another mother....”What are you gonna name the baby? he kicking yet? the crib ready? many more weeks for the delivery?........”

The scene of the Visitation from Franco Zeffirelli's 1976 movie "Jesus of Nazareth."
This feast also encourages us to focus on the spirit of visits. People visit each other frequently, as families vacation and go on holidays while stopping at homes and places where they know they would be welcome. How hospitable are we to guests who stop by to visit us? How gracious are we when we visit friends? Do we check to see if we are imposing on them? How about visiting elderly people, like grandparents, uncles and aunts who may be very lonely? Do we set a good example when friends visit us? Do we invite them to attend church with us on a weekend, or are we embarrassed to take them to Mass with us? You may be surprised how honored they would feel when you introduce them to the church and parish community? I can tell you that this is how most converts are made, when they visit a church and get ‘hooked’ by something special they see, a message in the homily, or any other event that may seem insignificant for you, but not for your friends and guests.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


A banner I did in 1983 for the parish office
Back in the early 1980s, when I first arrived in the USA and was stationed at Holy Spirit parish in New Hyde Park, NY, I worked on a few banners for our church. They were displayed periodically and according to the season. Here are a few that I did over the years. The backdrop usually was burlap or felt, and the letters were all made of felt, including the designs that I personally cut one by one.

A banner I did in 1982 for the Teen Club, quoting St Francis of Chichister's famous quote which was included in the Australian musical "Godspell"
Working patiently on one of the banners

Another banner with a simple message, crafted in 1985

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holy Water Fonts

One of the oldest stoups, dating from the 4th century, in Gharb, Gozo (Malta)
I wrote frequently while I was in Malta, that I was helping my sister-in-law with her thesis, taking pictures of various holy water fonts that one finds on entering a church. Just to conclude this topic, I include here just a few photos I took of different fonts, also called stoups, some of which are pretty old, others more modern. The presence of these stoups in the back of churches is to let people bless themselves as they enter church for Mass. By blessing themselves, they are also absolving themselves of all venial sins, since this act is also a sacramental of the Catholic church. Some of the stoups are very ornamental, with the majority being pretty simple, but all of them are placed at the entrance, by the main door, or even by the side doors.    
From St Ursola church, Valletta, Malta, with the emblem of Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena
In England, during the Middle Ages, fonts called "stoups", or "holy water stones", consisted of a small niche somewhat resembling a piscina (pool) and containing a stone basin partly sunk in the wall, the niche being either under the porch or inside, but always near the entrance to the church. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries fonts again became movable and generally consisted of a tub placed upon an elevated stand, the medium height being about forty inches. The decoration of these small monuments underwent a complete modification as Italy and Spain have preserved admirable sculptured fonts dating from the Renaissance; most of these are of marble, and their bulk sometimes causes them to be mistaken for baptismal fonts, from which they are mainly distinguishable because of having no lids.
Stoups with angels at St Mary church, Mgarr, Malta, the angels possibly by Bernini.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A day to remember.......

Arlington Cemetery where thousands of soldiers are buried, and honored today.

Memorial Day marks the informal start of summer - pools open, the barbecue season kicks off, and it’s OK to wear sandals. But it has a more solemn aspect, implied in the name itself. Memorial Day is a day when we remember the nation's war dead. Not to be confused with Veterans Day—which honors living veterans—Memorial Day remembers those who gave their life for the country. How did this day begin?  

In 1868, Memorial Day was observed for the first time in the United States, at the request of Gen. John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was called Decoration Day because the general had seen women decorating graves of Civil War heroes. In the earlier part of the century, Memorial Day was essentially a Northern and Western holiday. The South had its own Confederate Memorial Day, usually held in April. But World Wars I and II brought an added gravity to the day, as did the later Korean and Vietnam conflicts.  
 In 1959, Congress proclaimed that a day be set aside in recognition of those who died in service to their country. Memorial Day was observed on May 30 until 1971, when Congress decreed that it be observed annually on the last Monday in May. 

A touching typical scene like the ones shown here are common on a day like this, when many widows visit the graves of their spouses killed in war. Let us pray and remember them.....
Laura Youngblood, widow of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Travis L. Youngblood, touches his gravestone while visiting his grave in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery during the Memorial Day weekend in Arlington, Virginia, May 24, 2009. Youngblood died of wounds received in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July of 2005 in Iraq.  (Boston Globe photo)
Another unknown widow prays and cries on the grave of her husband
Memorial Day
A time for picnics, time off work -
Vacations and the "Indy" -
A holiday, too often times
We forget what, it should be.

A time to pay respect to those
Who rallied to the battle cry -
Who gave their lives for liberty -
Those freedoms for you and I.

Such a waste of brave young souls -
Some still struggling through their youth
Who faced and fell willingly
Before war times' awful truth.

So as we share this holiday
With our friends or family -
Take a moment to give thanks to
Those who died so we'd stay free.

Let us strive for world peace -
For the end of greed and hate -
For next time, after "the war"
It just may be too damned late.

Gravestone of Jessica Ellis, one of our parishioners who died on Mother's Day 2008 in Iraq

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Come Holy Spirit

The Pentecost stained-glass window crafted by the Rambusch Company NY in 1958

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: 

Christ Jesus, before ascending into heaven, You promised to send the Holy Spirit to Your apostles and disciples.

Grant that the same Spirit may perfect in our lives the work of Your grace and love.
Grant us the Spirit of Fear of The Lord that we may be filled with a loving reverence toward You.
- the Spirit of Piety that we may find peace and fulfillment in the service of God while serving others;
- the Spirit of Fortitude that we may bear our cross with You and, with courage, overcome the obstacles that interfere with our salvation;
- the Spirit of Knowledge that we may know You and know ourselves and grow in holiness;
- the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten our minds with the light of Your truth;
- the Spirit of Counsel that we may choose the surest way of doing Your will, seeking first the Kingdom;
- Grant us the Spirit of Wisdom that we may aspire to the things that last forever;
Teach us to be Your faithful disciples and animate us in every way with Your Spirit.  Amen.

Cardinal Mercier's Prayer To The Holy Spirit:   I am going to reveal to you a secret of sanctity and happiness. For five minutes every day quiet your imagination, close your eyes to everything visible and your ears to all external sounds and withdraw into the sanctuary of your baptized soul which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There, speak to the Holy Spirit and say:

"O Holy Spirit soul of my soul I adore you. Enlighten guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to submit to everything that you ask of me and to accept all that you allow to happen to me. Just show me what is your will."

If you do this, your life will be happy and serene. Even in the midst of troubles you will experience great consolation, for grace will be given to strengthen and help you to cope with every difficulty.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

St Philip Neri

If one had to choose one saint who showed the humorous side of holiness that would be St. Philip Neri. Born in 1515 in Florence, he showed the impulsiveness and spontaneity of his character from the time he was a boy. His father was not successful financially and at eighteen Philip was sent to work with an older cousin who was a successful businessman. During this time, Philip found a favorite place to pray up in cave on a mountain that had been turned into a chapel. He then went to Rome in 1533 where he studied  philosophy and theology until he thought his studies were interfering with his prayer life. He then stopped his studies, threw away his books, and lived as a kind of hermit.
Night was his special time of prayer. After dark he would go out in the streets, sometimes to churches, but most often into the catacombs of St. Sebastiano to pray. He felt so filled with energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking to others about God, everyone from beggars to bankers.
In 1548 Philip formed a confraternity with other laymen to minister to pilgrims who came to Rome without food or shelter. The spiritual director of the confraternity convinced Philip that he could do even more work as a priest. After receiving instruction from this priest, Philip was ordained in 1551.
At his new home, the church of San Girolamo, he learned to love to hear confessions. Young men especially found in him the wisdom and direction they needed to grow spiritually. But Philip began to realize that these young men needed something more than absolution; they needed guidance during their daily lives. So Philip began to ask the young men to come by in the early afternoon when they would discuss spiritual readings and then stay for prayer in the evening. The numbers of the men who attended these meetings grew rapidly. In order to handle the growth, Philip and a fellow priest built a room called the Oratory to hold them in.
Philip understood that it wasn't enough to tell young people not to do something -- you had to give them something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when the worst excesses were encouraged, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a picnic accompanied by instrumental music for the mid-day break. After walking twelve miles in one day everyone was too tired to be tempted!

The altar where the body of St Philip Neri lies, with the painting 'St Philip in Ecstasy' by Guido Reni
In 1555, the Pope's Vicar accused Philip of "introducing novelties" and ordered him to stop the meetings of the Oratory. Philip was brokenhearted but obeyed immediately. The Pope only let him start up the Oratory again after the sudden death of his accuser. Eventually Philip decided it would be best for the group to have their own church. They became officially known as the Congregation of the Oratory, made up of secular priests and clerics. Philip was known to be spontaneous and unpredictable, charming and humorous. One of his men was Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina who wrote beautiful harmonic choral music and Masses.
Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself. Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they were tinged with humor like practical jokes and were related with gratitude by the people they helped. There were unexpected benefits to his lessons in humility. One member, Baronius, wanted to speak at the meetings about hellfire and eternal punishment. Philip commanded him instead to speak about church history. For 27 years Baronius spoke to the Oratory about church history. At the end of that time he published his talks as a widely respected and universally praised books on ecclesiastical history!
Philip died in 1595 after a long illness at the age of eighty years. This prayer is a fitting conclusion to this brief biography of this happy joy-filled saint: Saint Philip Neri, we take ourselves far too seriously most of the time. Help us to add humor to our perspective - remembering always that humor is a gift from God.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Prodigal Son (in the key of F)

We all heard the beautiful story of the prodigal son, especially during the Lenten season. It is also known, probably more appropriately, as the parable of the Forgiving Father. Well, here is the same parable with a little twist, written in the key of F.
Esteban Bartolome Murillo - Return of the prodigal son
Feeling footloose and frisky a feather-brained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the family finances. He flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune feasting fabulously with faithless friends. Finally facing famine and fleeced by his fellows in folly, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy farmyard.
Fairly famished he fain would have filled his frame with the foraged foods of the fodder fragments left by the filthy farmyard creatures.
'Fooey', he said, 'My father's flunkies fare far fancier,' the frazzled fugitive found feverishly, frankly facing facts. Frustrated by failure and filled with foreboding he forthwith fled to his family. Falling at his father's feet, he floundered forlornly. 'Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor.'
But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching frantically flagged the flunkies. 'Fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast.' But the fugitive's fault-finding frater frowned on the fickle forgiveness of the former folderol. His fury flashed. But fussing was futile, for the far-sighted father figured, such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivity.
The fugitive is found. 'Unfurl the flags, with fanfares flaring, let fun and frolic freely flow.' Former failure is forgotten, folly forsaken, forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortitude."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Handwriting on the Wall

A weary mother returned from the store,
Lugging groceries through the kitchen door.
Awaiting her arrival was her 8 year old son,
Anxious to relate what his younger brother had done.

"While I was out playing and Dad was on a call,
T.J. took his crayons and wrote on the wall!
It's on the new paper you just hung in the den.
I told him you'd be mad at having to do it again."

She let out a moan and furrowed her brow,
"Where is your little brother right now?"
She emptied her arms and with a purposeful stride,
She marched to his closet where he had gone to hide.

She called his full name as she entered his room.
He trembled with fear; he knew that meant doom!
For the next ten minutes, she ranted and raved
About the expensive wallpaper and how she had saved.

Lamenting all the work it would take to repair,
She condemned his actions and total lack of care.
The more she scolded, the madder she got,
Then stomped from his room, totally distraught!

She headed for the den to confirm her fears.
When she saw the wall, her eyes flooded with tears.
The message she read pierced her soul with a dart.
It said, "I love Mommy," surrounded by a heart.

Well, the wallpaper remained, just as she found it,
With an empty picture frame hung to surround it.
A reminder to her, and indeed to all,
Take time to read the handwriting on the wall.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Some family photos

I know that visitors to this blog enjoy seeing some family photos from time to time. And so I share with you today just three recent photos which I took on my visit to Malta and Rome.
This first one is actually to confirm my presence in Rome between May 10 and 17. All in all, I took 3,161 photos in Malta and Rome, 950 of them in Malta, the rest in the Eternal City. I actually take very few pictures of myself, in fact only 3 from the whole bunch. This is one that I asked another tourist to take of me in front of the Basilica of St. Peter's, just before I spent 4 hours at the Vatican Museums.

This is a photo of (left to right) my sister-in-law Maria, my sister Rosemarie and my sister Josephine, during our one-day trip to our sister-island Gozo, mainly to take photos of parish church holy water fonts (also known as stoups,) in preparation for Maria's thesis.

This is a photo of my two nephews Julian (22 years old in July) on the left and Peter (19 in January) on the right, during a momentary break from their studies. Peter is finishing his exams in Biology, Chemistry, Physics etc, while Julian will be sitting for his finals in June in these subjects....hold your breath....Pathology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics and Orthopedics. A year from now he will be graduating as a medical Doctor. We are of course all very proud of them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saint Rita of Cascia

Today being the feast of St Rita, many abused women are looking up to her as their patron saint. Her life story, though it happened 700 years ago, could very well be happening today.

St. Rita was born in 1381 near Spoleto, Italy. Her parents arranged her marriage to Paolo Mancini when she was only 12, despite the fact that she repeatedly begged them to allow her to enter a convent. Mancini was a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who made many enemies in the region. St. Rita endured his insults, abuse, and infidelities for 18 years, and bore him two sons whom she raised with Catholic values.

Toward the end of her husband's life, St. Rita helped convert him and although Mancini became more congenial, his allies betrayed him, and he was violently stabbed to death. Before his death, he repented to St. Rita and the Church, and she forgave him for his transgressions. Now her sons wished to exact revenge on their father's murderers. Knowing murder was wrong, she tried to persuade them from retaliating, but to no avail. She, instead, prayed to God for Him to take away the lives of her sons instead of seeing them commit such a terrible sin. God heard St. Rita's words and her sons died of natural causes a year later. Soon afterwards, St. Rita desired to enter the monastery at Cascia but was spurned for being a widow, as virginity was required for entry into the convent. However, she persisted in her cause and was allowed to enter the monastery after reconciling her family with her husband's murderers. She was 36.

Her actual entrance into the monastery has been described as a miracle. During the night, when the doors to the monastery were locked and the sisters were asleep, St. Rita was miraculously transported into the convent by her patron Saints, St John the Baptist, St Augustine and St Nicholas of Tolentino. When she was found inside the convent in the morning and the sisters could not turn her away. She remained at the monastery, living by the Augustinian rule, until her death, May 22, 1457. St. Rita was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1627, and canonized  on May 24, 1900 bu Pope Leo XIII.

One day, while living at the convent Rita said, "Please let me suffer like you, Divine Savior". Suddenly, a thorn from a figure of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ fell from the crown of thorns and wounded Rita's forehead. The rose is the symbol most often associated with St. Rita. A cousin visited her and asked her if she desired anything from her old home. St. Rita responded by asking for a rose from the garden. It was January and her cousin did not expect to find anything due to the weather and the snow. However, when her relative went to the house, a single blooming rose was found in the garden and her cousin brought it back to St. Rita at the convent. The rose is thought to represent God's love for Rita and her ability to intercede on behalf of lost causes or impossible cases. Her intercession is also sought by abused women.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just a little more time

A little old lady, silver haired, blue eyes, wanders around a gift shop, not buying anything, just looking.  The clerk asks, "Do you need anything?" After a short pause, she looks directly into the eyes of the clerk and says: "Just a little more time."

Just a Little More Time ........What a meditation!

Time to live a little more. Time to seek and find the Lord, to praise Him, to love Him. To smell the flowers 
-- to sing one more song. To dream on the clouds. Just a little more time to clean my house -
-- to wait for the beckoning hand of the Lord.
-- to hear and welcome His call. To be lifted up.

To be quiet and pray, praise the Lord.
Time to share with my friends, to meet with them again, to laugh with them, even to cry a little. Time to pay back some debts, long owed and long forgotten. Time to be reconciled, to embrace my enemies; to apologize and forgive. To be more gentle with the less guilty. To say one more time: "I love you."

A Time to remember:
To remember the sounds;
-- of trickling water in rivulets, rain on the roof, or gently running down a window pane.
-- To remember the sounds of a great pipe organ, the Scottish pipes, of birds singing early in the morning, the tinkle of the bells at Mass, or the call to prayer. The buds popping in the Springtime; the grandeur of great choirs, the moaning of the wind in the trees, and the great opera arias with trained voices.

To see again;
-- The splashing colors of autumn the aspens, cottonwoods and maples.
-- The first gentle snow of Winter, on the fir trees, dripping icicles.
-- The delicate green leaves of Spring.
-- The burned grass of Summer.

Time to recall the odors of freshly-cut hay. The smell of the sun on a summer field; sawdust, the pungent odor of a full field, apple cider and vintage wines. To hear the laughter of children to feel the warmth of their little smiles. To watch their minds grow, learn and respond. Time to be needed again!

Time to experience again new foods: The first taste of a pomegranate, oysters and clams, a shore dinner, fresh vegetables, mashed potatoes, apple pie a la mode, angel food cake - so soft and white, lemon meringue pie. The first taste of a honeycomb, red cabbage, lamb with mint, and veal. The excitement of exotic foods, escargot and calamari.

Time to admire the mosaic of all the faces, scenes, events, experiences, thoughts and prayers. To flee the terrors of the night. To be awed by the sound of the winds. To hear again "the Word of the Lord"; to be excited by His message. to listen, to learn, to praise. To laugh at the aches and pains of age.

Time, Lord, to become a little child again and to enter His kingdom. To be nourished by "The Bread of Life." To feel the anointing oil, and its power to heal. To be graced by all His Sacraments. Time to rekindle joy in my heart and to dream of your coming, Lord.

To touch a child's face. To feel the bark of a tree. To caress wood. To experience the feel of silk, of velvet and the shock of cold steel. To recall the people who have crossed my path, who touched me and I them - so precious memories. To grieve over the loss of friends and relatives and look forward to reunion in the future life.

To experience again the quiet of being alone. Time to experience daydreaming, being creative. To hear the first time: "I love you."   The first love of another; shared love. To experience fear, bodily pain and suffering and the smooth healing, in patience.

To celebrate life. To celebrate friends. To reminisce with old friends the fun days of our youth - the crazy things we did, the stupid and sad things too. To flee the terror of the night. To be comforted by another's love, a compassionate heart, one who can listen. To find a humble heart.

To recall my many travels - in this endless world. To gaze into the sky, and see the stars, the Milky Way and the pale moon waning. To be awed by the glory of the mountains, the glaciers and the barren sands. To be charmed by the beauty of the valleys. To be able to fly into the sky of His creation. To admire the inventions of man, and the control he has gained over creation. To cringe at the power of the waves. To be frightened by a Summer storm to gasp at the thunder and the lightning to run under a sudden downpour. Time to praise Him for creating me. The pain and the privilege of being one of His creatures. To be part of the worship of the Lord, praise and thanksgiving. Time to share the poetry of words.

Time to renew my spirit and my love for Him
-- to rest in the comfort of His arms, to hear Him call my name.

Time to say: Goodbye, with love. I need time to seek again my Lover, Jesus is the Lord.
Time to feel His presence, the breath of His Spirit on me. Time to thank Him for the fullness of life.

Be patient, Lord ...
All I ask is: Just a little more time ... praise and thanksgiving. Time to share the poetry of words. Time to renew my spirit and my love for Him
-- to rest in the comfort of His arms, to hear Him call my name.

Time to say: Goodbye, with love. I need time to seek again my Lover
Jesus is the Lord. Time to feel His presence, the breath of His Spirit on me. Time to thank Him for the fullness of life.

Be patient, Lord...
All I ask is: Just a little more time...

Sunday, May 20, 2012


The Ascension, by Raffaele Caruana, in St Julian's Lapsi Church, Malta

Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, a celebration that has been transferred in many Dioceses to the 7th Sunday of Easter. This is the day that the Lord gave his final “Goodbye” to his followers, although it was more like a “So Long.” This feast has special memories for me as a child, because of a painting that was in my childhood parish, dedicated to the Ascension of Jesus. It was painted by the Maltese artist Raffaele Caruana (1820-1886.) As a child and especially as an altar-boy I frequently reflected on this painting, even connecting the faces of the apostles to men in the parish, whom they resembled. The actual church was dedicated to Saint Julian, the old parish church until 1969, but was always known as the Lapsi Church (Ascension Church.) The feast of the Ascension opens officially the swimming/summer season, and the weather usually warms up steadily from now on, although it was warm enough in late April this year, as I experienced myself.

The Ascension by John Singleton Copley (1775)
Another beautiful painting that I have treasured is the one by Copley. And as Jesus leaves us today, He is also empowering us to continue His work, as He did with the apostles 2 millennia ago. They have no let Him down, and neither did the many saints and holy people that have followed. Let us not let Him down, but continue this enticing relay race of Christianity, passing the proverbial baton to our children and children’s children, as our forefathers have done over the centuries.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Back in Baker City

Yes, I finally made it back home, even after my flight from San Francisco to Boise was cancelled Thursday night, because of windy conditions. And after resting in the airport, and a few hours at a local motel in Boise, I drove back to Baker City in the afternoon Friday.

Here is my first entry since my arrival in my parish, incidentally on the same date that our new Bishop, Liam Cary was consecrated and installed at Bend. I just could not make it on time to be there with all the other priests, but there was nothing I could do about it - just a few hours difference, and I could be concelebrating in this historic moment in our Diocese.
But instead, I am settling back in my parish after a very long flight from Rome, through Washington, San Francisco and Boise. As those who have followed my blog can testify, my week in Rome was just about what dreams are made of. I can calculate that I walked the entire length of a marathon (26 miles and 385 yards) over the 6 full days I spent in Rome. On some days I must have covered 7 to 10 miles, and so it could very well be much more than a marathon. All in all, the landmarks of Rome are all bunched up together, and so you don't lose much time traveling or even walking. On some days I started walking from the far eastern part of Rome and ended up crossing the entire town, ending up at the St Peter's basilica. The entire day I spent at the Vatican was a mesmerizing experience for me, as I arrived early as usual (to beat the tourist rush!) and by 10am I was climbing the 551 steps to the cupola of the dome where you find yourself overlooking the entire city. I'm glad to say that I even passed a few younger tourists in the process who were left huffing and puffing behind me. The steps are actually gradual, with the last 100 of them or so going through a spiral staircase that must have been masterminded by Michelangelo and his friends when he was structuring the dome in the 16 th century.
The Vatican Museum was just very impressive for me as I walked through one hall after the other, re-living history and finding yourself back in time, mingling with Emperors, martyrs, charioteers, Roman soldiers, Greek mythological figures, Egyptian mummies, and of course the likes of Perugino, Pinturicchio, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Bernini, Bramante, Botticelli, and all the other artists who have turned the Vatican over the centuries into a veritable heaven-on-earth. I probably have close to 3000 photos to download and catalogue over the next few weeks, (actually 3161 in all) and so bear with me as I share with you some great shots I took, from unusual angles, exciting vantage points and panoramic views of the Roman skyline, which will never seem the same for me. But parish work awaits me, as I have to also catalogue my sister-in-law's photos of water fonts and stoups, so that she can continue work on her thesis.
In the meantime, stay tuned as my posts will now once again appear every day and be updated daily, with lots of photos, which I could not use so easily while away, with the exception of a photo of St George Preca and those broad beans!

Bishop Liam Cary consecrated
I was only able to follow the last few minutes of our new Bishop's consecration and installation ceremony in Bend, thanks to the simulcast on the Baker Diocese website. I was only able to take a few photos from the ceremony, and even though they are not clear, this is the best I can do to share with you some sights of that event.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Last entry from Rome

A very busy few days in the Eternal City before my return to my parish. Once again I walked an average of 6 to 8 miles each day, discovering streets, statues, monuments, bridges, and mostly churches, some of which were unknown to me, since they are never placed on maps. Monday was the day I was waiting for as I visited inside the Vatican, as well as the Vatican Museums, coming back with close to 800 photos, 250 of which in the basilica and the rest in the Vatican Museums. I was also able to climb the 551 steps to the dome of the famed church, absorbing from up there a breath-taking view of the entire city. I made it up there without any problem, while seeing many other tourists huffing and puffing to reach the top. The Museum tour took a full 4 hours, and was glad that they let us take photos everywhere, except in the Sistine chapel, as expected. Hopefully from Saturday onwards, my entries will once again be daily posts. I will miss Bishop Liam Cary's consecration by a few hours, but he will be in my prayers. I also thank Fr John Heinlein for covering for me over the past month, as well as my sisters for feeding me so well in Malta, and my brother and sister and sister-in-law for being my chauffeurs. And thanks to my nephews for updating me withe latest IPad and IPod gizmos. Until Saturday, as they say in Rome, arrivederci, or ciao!

Friday, May 11, 2012

From Rome

Just a very quick update from the Eternal City. The notes for this blog came up in Italian - a big surprise, but thank God I know Italian. I spent the first day walking at least 10 miles, from churches to basilicas, from the Colosseo to the monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II, from paintings to Museums, but then got stuck as the Metro went on strike - thankfully they re-started work at 5pm. A warm day indeed, and Saturday is supposed to be another warm one, though the climate should change from Sunday on, with rain and cooler temps. So I'll try to get much done tomorrow also. By the way I only took 590 photos today. I have to keep up my quota, since in Malta I only took 920 this year, over 2 weeks! Over and out for now - Fr Julian

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Feast of Malta's first Saint

St George Preca (1880-1962)
Today happens to be the liturgical feast of Saint George Preca, the first and only Saint from Malta who has been canonized back in 2009 on June 3rd. We are all proud of his presence in our lives, and even more special is the fact that many people who are still in their 50s and over remember him alive. When one considers that the USA has only 2 Saints so far (St Elizabeth Ann Seton and St Katharine Drexel) with 2 more to be canonized later this year in October (St Kateri Tekakwitha and St Marianne Cope,) the Maltese are more than honored to claim him as their first native Saint, being such a small country.
St George was born on February 12, 1880 and he founded in the early years of the 20th century the Society of Christian Doctrine, a society of lay catechists. In Malta, he is affectionately known as "Dun Ġorġ" and is popularly referred to as the "Second Apostle of Malta", after St Paul, who brought the Christian faith to the shores of Malta when he was shipwrecked in 60 AD.
Preca first came to the attention of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints which examined the scientifically unexplainable healing of Charles Zammit Endrich in 1964. Zammit Endrich had suffered from a detached retina of the left eye. The healing was declared as miraculous, and was attributed to the intercession of Dun Gorg Preca after Zammit Endrich prayed to him and placed one of the priest's belongings under his pillow. The healing took place outside of a hospital, overseen by the personal doctor of Zammit Endrich, the ophthalmologist Censu Tabone, who was later to be appointed President of Malta (died earlier this year in March - see separate entry)
On 24 June 1975, Archbishop Michael Gonzi  issued a decree initiating the process of Preca's canonization. He was declared "venerable" on 28 June 1999, and on January 27, 2000, Pope John Paul II signed the decree which officially confirmed the Zammit Endrich healing. In a ceremony in Floriana, Malta on 9 May 2001, Dun Gorg was beatified  by the same Pope along with two other Maltese blesseds,  Nazju Falzon, a cleric, and Adeodata Pisani, a nun.
Live photos of St George Preca in the late 50s
In its early years, the Society of Christian Doctrine was silenced for a while, but its identity was recognized as Dun Gorg continued to teach students and form young unmarried men (and eventually women) so that they will eventually teach others. Today, almost every parish in Malta has a group of dedicated young men teaching catechism to  the children, in preparation for their First Holy Communion, Confirmation and beyond. The Society of Christian Doctrine is commonly referred to by the acronym "MUSEUM", which stands for the Latin "Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus!", translating to "Master, that the whole world would follow the Gospel!
St. George died on July 26, 1962, and thousands attended his funeral. His body was recently exhumed and re-buried in the head-quarters of the MUSEUM society. The work he started continues on, even in foreign countries like London, Kenya, Peru, Poland, Albania, Cuba and Australia.

I was honored to celebrate his Mass this morning in my home parish of St. Julian's. Tomorrow Thursday I will be heading to Rome, and there may not be any updates until I return to the USA, May 18. God bless you all.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend update

This is a quick weekend update from Malta. Thanks to all my faithful followers of this blog and for checking from time to time. Temperatures are warming up in Malta, which have taken a toll on my voice especially. It happens to me every time I visit Malta which has 100% humidity. However, I was still able to give my talk to the ladies club, and I had to thank them for being so quite during my presentation, and then they treated me to a nice dinner with 8 other girls, friends of my sisters. That was the easiest part, since you can  only imagine who did 99% of the talking. I saved my voice to be able to say Mass this morning, and again preach with the help of my IPad for a few life-saving notes.

My nephew Peter has been helping me with adding more apps to the IPod and IPad, including some Word Games, a Bible, the Breviary, the new Roman Missal, a Catholic Prayers application and other interesting little gizmos like Google Earth, Radio Tuner and much more. I also rode the new buses which were introduced last July. The complaints have finally subsided, since there were plenty of them in the first few months of their long-awaited introduction. The only problem is that some of them are too big for the narrow streets that dominate most of the island's little towns and villages. I admire these drivers, as well as my brother and sister and sister-in-law who have been my chauffeurs so far, who can maneuver so skilfully through these roads, with cars parked on every side, and parking anywhere just about impossible.

We are also in the process of going through some items and things that my parents accumulated over the decades since they moved with us into this house in 1956. It's not easy to part from so many memories and memorabilia that we grew up with. Since I moved to the USA in 1981, my sisters and brother have more stuff here than I do, but still wherever you look there are memories of my parents whose handprint and footprint is still visible in everything we have around the house.
Broad beans with their pods
I am especially enjoying the typical Maltese food, which my sister Rosemarie is cooking for us. Among the favorites are rabbit, leg of lamb, octopus stew, fresh Maltese bread, salads and broad beans and strawberries, now in season. Broad beans are not common in the USA and they grow in abundance here in Malta. Last week I came across an older man who was quietly eating his lunch of a some bread with corned-beef and broad beans. It was one of those typical Norman Rockwell scenes, and when I asked him if I could take his photo, he not only obliged but insisted that I take two of his broad beans, also known as fayva beans.
They are great as snacks, and excellent with a sliced piece of bread smeared with tomato paste, a slice of tomato and cucumber, some salt and pepper and a sprinkle of olive oil. I am hoping to download a photo of these broad beans, this way you can see and visualize what I'm talking about.

Broad Beans, known also as Fayva Beans
On Thursday I'll be off to Rome. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On the go . . . . .

This is certainly a working holiday for me, more working than holiday for sure. I spent all day Monday visiting churches with my sisters and sister-in-law Maria who is working on a thesis on holy water fonts in Maltese churches. I have known and visited most of these churches, but after every visit, you always notice something new, something that you may have missed in the past. Maltese churches are very rich in their decorations, paintings, architecture and vestments. People love their churches, and truly consider them like their second homes. Since I know most of the priests, it's easy to access them, especially if we go when they are open, early and mid-morning and late  afternoon. Since most of the priests know me from the religious articles I've been writing in a Maltese Catholic newspaper for the 25 years, as well as my past Seminary years, they consider it an honor seeing me visit their church. I'm no big shot of course, but Maltese people consider their countrymen and women who live abroad as special and somehow sprinkled with a different 'flavor.' And  the longer you are away from your homeland, the more you tend to appreciate the food, the culture, the music, the every-changing face of the media, and so much more.

However I don't miss the bumper to bumper traffic, the ongoing building boom, with dusty roads, cranes ruining the scenic and picturesque skyline, and high-risers going up wherever you look. Since Malta is only 18 miles by 8 miles, there is no room for building, other than ruining the little countryside that is left, and which is protected by law. And so unfair permissions are given for 10 to 20 storey buildings to rise and shine, apartments, hotels and residences, in particular apartments for newly-married couples, as well as foreigners who decide to settle in Malta.

Ahead for me are a PowerPoint presentation on my life in Oregon, complete with over 100 of my best nature photos, which I am presenting on Thursday to a group of women, of which my sisters are a part of, similar to the Altar Society. I am sure there will be a lot of ooohs and aaahs when they see photos of bald eagles, quails, snow-capped mountains, deer and elk, as well as my Cathedral parish, besides the events we organize at Baker City. Friday I'll be saying Mass at the Institute of Tourism Studies, where my sister Rosemarie works, and since it is the first Friday of May, many work places organize a monthly Mass. Later in the day my brother Marcel will treat me to a concert at the local Opera house, featuring Tchaikovsky's 2nd Piano Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, two great classical music selections. And between visiting relatives, friends and helping out at my parish church with Masses and confessions, I keep myself busy and pretty occupied. I am happy to help my sister-in-law with her art project, although I cannot say the same with helping my two nephews who also have their finals coming up - their subjects range from Physics to Obstetrics and Gynecology, from Chemistry to English, from Neurology to Pediatrics. A year from now, Julian Jr will be graduating as a doctor, and Peter will start Medical school in September.
Stay tuned - more to come, probably over the weekend.