Saturday, June 30, 2012

Early Christian Martyrs

Early Christian martyrs waiting their death at the Colosseo
The day after the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Church commemorates the many unknown, possibly in thousands of Christian martyrs who shed their blood for their faith under ruthless Emperors. What is known as the Persecution era, so many martyrs died defending their faith, either through crucifixion, being burned, being eaten by lions or other excruciating methods of torture.

Early Christians being taken away from their families
Many of them were arrested just by being seen carrying a cross in their hands. Most of them congregated underground in catacombs, for fear of being arrested and killed. Some of the known martyrs have been canonized by the church, St Agnes, St Agatha, St Cecilia, St Ignatius of Antioch, most of the early Popes, and so many others. It was only thanks to King Constantine who ended the Persecutions in 313 AD, that Christians could once again profess their faith freely and build basilicas and churches to worship in.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Saints Peter and Paul

The church honors today the two great apostles, who in spite of their background or weakness, became leaders of the early church in Rome and in Eastern Europe. Who would have thought that a simple fisherman and an unpretentious tent-maker would one day become the pillars of the church! Peter and Paul’s life story can very well be described as the ‘rags-to-riches’ journey. And yet the spiritual and historical influence and impact they left on the history of Christianity is truly amazing.
An original painting of St Peter from my brother's collection
St Peter was one of the privileged three who were close to Jesus on various occasion, along with John and James. He was the first apostle to perform a miracle, and we admire the triple affirmation of faith to erase completely the triple denial during Christ’s passion. He was chosen to be the first Pope of the Church realizing that Jesus saw something special in him - not John who remained faithful till the end, who wrote a beautiful Gospel, but Peter - the rough and tough type, the weakling who became the rock.
1960 panel of St Paul in Malta by Emvin Cremona
St Paul on the other hand made his turnaround quickly and in a determined way. From being so helpless at his conversion, to becoming a strong powerful spokesperson for Christ, traveling hundreds of miles, on foot, by boat, probably on horseback, writing prolifically his letters to communities he had previously visited. Then he was sent to Rome to be tried as a Roman citizen, only to have his ship wrecked on my homeland Malta (Acts chapters 27-28).

Let us remember today the dominant image these two apostles represent in our church....Peter, the rock, the foundation, and Paul, the messenger par excellence of Jesus.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two pillars of the church

Impressive statue of St Peter outside his Basilica in Rome
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul, and in their honor I share with you today some photos I took during my recent visit to Rome. Two of the most impressive Basilicas are actually St. Peter’s at the Vatican and San Paolo fuori le mura, and I share some photos of the statues of these two pillars of the Church.

Statue of St Paul at San Paolo fuori le mura
13th century bronze statue by Arnolfo di Cambio
Another St Paul statue in San Paolo fuori le mura
For more Rome and Vatican photos check my parish website in the home page by simply clicking on this link     St Francis De Sales Cathedral Parish

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"It really didn't hurt!"

This is the expression I hear from people who donate blood for the first time. And I heard it today from a few who were with me at the Nazarene church during a Blood Drive that saw me donate my 100th pint. It was just an ordinary donation for me, with the exception of a few photos for the local paper and an accompanying article, receiving a nice gift of a nylon bag that can hold anything from IPods to pens and books, and a certificate from the local Blood Drive organizers.
Drip, Drip, Drip - one drip at a time makes one pint.
My phlebotomist Sydney appeared nervous, although she seemed to have been waiting for me when I arrived. Apparently she wanted to draw the 100th pint from my arm, and stayed with me from beginning to the end. All the phlebotomists are nice people and they look forward to more donors, especially when I encourage others donors to show, as they did on Monday and Tuesday.

You get to meet many people, familiar faces and new faces from our town, and we form a brotherhood or sisterhood of donors who have one incentive in their mind, to help save a life. Knowing that the blood is used almost immediately, you feel good that someone whom you don’t know is living because you gave something special, be it a Mormon from Utah, a newborn baby from Oklahoma, a Mexican from Arizona, or even an Oregonian from Baker City.
Being presented by a certificate and a carry-all bag
Today for example, I met a local teacher who donated her first pint, Teresa Sullivan, as well as her parents who are perpetual blood donors. I was honored to give blood at the same time with Teresa, her first and my 100th. I told her that one she’ll catch up with me. Another parishioner from Halfway, Karen Endersby started giving today after having received some chemo-therapy 12 years ago. Another local woman Sylvia Bowers donated after having a break of 20 years to give birth to 4 children, including twin girls, a teenage boy and our pool lifeguard Charlotte, a Boise State student who also donated. The mother-daughter combination of Michele and Darryn McCauley also donated blood together, Michele being a High School teacher and Darryn heading for college in a few weeks.

Thank you one and all. I signed up for my 101st donation, which incidentally will be on my 60th birthday, August 27th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

100 pints

Continuing my story about my 100th blood donation taking place today, I share a few more anecdotes and interesting facts about blood donations.
A funny anecdote happened once during a Blood Drive in a New York clinic when I had another priest with me donating blood. A young man showed up also to donate and when he saw two priests sitting next to each other, he panicked. He asked the nurse what was going on….and why were two priests there. He actually started to leave and I and the nurse ran after him to convince him that everything was fine, no one had passed away and we were just there to do what he was planning to do – help save a life by donating a pint of blood.
Another surprising episode happened just after I gave my 99th pint this past April. We were starting the priests’ retreat in Bend and I scheduled an appointment there, since I could not be in Baker City where the drive was being held on the same day. Later in the afternoon, as the priests gathered for their retreat at Powell Butte, some priests saw my bandaged arm and asked me what happened. I told them simply that I had donated blood, and one of them asked me what do they give you for doing something so noble. I told him that a few cookies, a drink and a “Thank you” is all we ever get, and that’s fine with me, as giving blood can never be recompensed - it’s a genuine selfless gift we give to others. As soon as I turn around, another priest, Fr Luis Alva-Flores, the pastor at Madras, was waiting to talk to me and said to me “I have a gift for you Father Julian!” Believe it or not, that day was his birthday and we had just sang Happy Birthday to him. And with that he gave me his IPad. I was of course dumbstruck, and wondered if this was a dream or reality. Well, Fr Luis is a savvy high-tech young priest, and I was always asking questions about this new invention called the IPad whenever we met for meetings. And since he had just bought the latest version of the IPad, he thought that I deserved his first IPad, which I have been using ever since. I guess God knew who deserved a gift that day.
I take this opportunity to thank all the ladies who run the hospitality tables after donating at the Baptist or Nazarene churches in Baker City, especially for those delicious sandwiches and for the beef broth. I tell them that one of the reasons I enjoy donating blood is because of those sandwiches and the beef broth which always taste so good. Now I’m off to my second century of donations. My finals advice is - please donate blood, and save a life in the process!
I want to thank these generous people who have accepted to donate a pint of blood to commemorate my 100th donation: Paul Haytas, Darryn McCauley, Michelle McCauley, Dave Davis, Tammy Skidmore, Tom Fisk, Mary Stearns, Mike Voboril, Micah Wilson, Karen Endersby, Charlotte Bowers, Sylvia Bowers. Some of them are new donors, others are returning donors, not to mention the many other regulars who donate regularly.

Some interesting statistics:
- Only 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood – less than 10 percent do annually.
- 4.5 million Americans will a need blood transfusion each year.
- 43,000 pints: amount of donated blood used each day in the U.S. and Canada.
- Blood drives hosted by companies, schools, places of worship and civic organizations supply roughly half of all blood donations across the U.S.
- The number of blood donations collected in the U.S. in a year: 17 million
- If you began donating blood at age 17 and donated every 56 days until you reached 76, you would have donated 48 gallons of blood, potentially helping save more than 1,000 lives!
- The number of blood donors in the U.S. in a year: 9.5 million.
- The human body has 70,00 miles of blood vessels.
- There are 8 pints of blood in the human body.
- 90% of our blood is water.
- One-third of our body weight is water.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tomorrow is a big day!

A page in my diary of the first 37 blood donations I gave

June 26, 2012 will always be a special day for me, as tomorrow I will be donating my 100th pint of blood in the local Blood Drive being held at the Nazarene church, in Baker City. It all started on July 15th 1984. I had gained enough weight after being in the USA for 3 years that I could finally donate blood. When I was in Malta, I was always underweight, at 120 lbs, a skinny priest who started to beef himself up when he came to the USA in 1981.
Our own parish at Holy Spirit in New Hyde Park was organizing a bi-annual blood drive, and there I gave my first pint of blood. I felt a little dizzy at first, and not knowing what to expect, they told me it was pretty normal. I spent the rest of the day in Rectory feeling very well, drinking lots of water, and being treated to a steak dinner in the evening with all the other priests. That was the only time I felt pampered or treated extra-nice, because the rest of the story is pretty simple – going to give blood became as ordinary as going to the local library.

Blood donations from 1994 till present

And here I am on June 26, 2012, almost 28 years later in Baker City, OREGON donating my 100th point, something which I always felt good doing, while encouraging others to donate blood regularly. For this centennial donation, I have encouraged 10 other people to start donating with me, most of them young people in the parish who have never donated before, or who have donated a few times years ago and stopped. I wanted to commemorate this milestone by having at least 10 new donors, realizing that trying to get 100 new donors is a Herculean undertaking. But at least we have 10 new donors who will hopefully continue to give on a regular basis, as I did when I started.
Over the years, a few of my parishes were responsible of organizing the Blood Drives, while here in Oregon, other churches have that privilege. But back between 1991 and 1996, while I was stationed in Rocky Point, again on Long Island, NY, I went over and beyond campaigning for blood donors. Besides making pulpit announcements after the weekend Masses, I had created a database with all the people who had donated in the past, and made sure to call them a day or two earlier, so that they too can donate a pint of their precious blood. For a few years we always got anywhere between 120 and 130 donors on a regular basis, within 6 hours, that is between 2 PM and 8 PM. By 1994 the numbers were still rising and in January 1995 I was able to get 157 donors to donate – a record for a Blood Drive within a Church sponsored drive. I know that was an incredible number of donors, but people collaborated with me, knowing how much at heart I had this humanitarian project. They all chipped in, helping us break the record. I wonder if anyone ever broke it since then. (To be continued - make sure to click on the diary pages to enlarge)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Birth of John the Baptist

Esteban Murillo - Jesus and John the Baptist

There are three paintings that depict a young St John the Baptist which are favorites of mine for different reasons. They are all by the Spanish painter Esteban Bartolome’ Murillo and they show John the Baptist as a little boy, John always being accompanied by a little lamb, symbolizing his famous words “Behold the Lamb of God,” the phrase he used to welcome Jesus when he came to the Jordan River to be baptized by him. The other two paintings are of John by himself, one of them with a pondering look, while the other shows him in a remorseful or apologetic mood, again both of them with the lamb next to him. Today the Catholic Church celebrates his birth, and that is why we use the color white in our vestments. John is regarded as the last prophet of the Old Testament, while some refer to him as the first martyr of the New Testament, and we do have a commemoration of his martyrdom on August 29, but it’s his mysterious birth that is celebrated today, since Elizabeth his mother was advanced in age.
Esteban Murillo - John the Baptist as a child
When a baby is born here in the USA, the announcement is made in the papers, Godparents chosen, the baptism is held and a party usually follows. In John’s time, his birth was announced in a very unusual way. Similar to what the Native Indians did when sending a message, his father Zechariah made a bon-fire and lit it in the evening, so that his relatives and friends would know that Elizabeth gave birth to her baby. This is actually a tradition that is still held in many countries, among them Malta. Many towns and villages collect wood, sticks and logs for a few weeks and pile them up, and on the evening of June 23, they light this bon-fire, in commemoration of the birth of John. Some towns and villages compete as to who can make the biggest bon-fire. With the fire restrictions here in the USA, this custom will never be given the go ahead, but it is a meaningful tradition nonetheless.
Esteban Murillo - John in a remorseful mood
John the Baptist as a prophet had a tough role to play - to point out the sins which were keeping the people from truly knowing, loving and serving God. He prepared the way of the Lord by calling people to lives of repentance. This is the message we receive on the 2nd Sunday of Advent when we focus again on John the Baptist as we see him preparing the way of the Lord, setting the stage for Jesus’ arrival - doing all the rough work and then disappear, getting hardly any credit. But that was his role and never complained about it. In the Gospel of John the Evangelist (Jn 3:30,) we read that John the Baptist said about Jesus: “He must increase, while I must decrease.” This is very indicative of what will happen after Jesus’ baptism. Jesus became well known, while John disappeared in the background. Yet while the popularity of Jesus increased, John faded away, and we see him again being arrested and then being beheaded by Herod. Yet there is another interesting twist to the phrase “He must increase and I must decrease.” John’s birthday falls close to the summer solstice, one of the longest days of the year, and from now on, the days will start decreasing, leading to one of the shortest days of the year, which is Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, close to the winter’s solstice, and from then on, the days will start getting longer. “I must decrease, while He must increase.”

It’s a notion worth adapting to in our daily lives - we must decrease our yearnings, our dreams, our wishes, while we should let Him increase in us, increasing our potential to love, increase our prayer life, our devotion to duty, our commitment to our faith. This is the message the church wants us to remember this weekend. We can obviously decrease the clutter from our lives and increase the goodness that is certainly already in your heart.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Cocoon and the Butterfly

A healthy monarch butterfly
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.  One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched  the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its  body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making  any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it  could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped  off the remaining bit of the cocoon.  The butterfly then emerged easily.   But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The  man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected  that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand  to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.  Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its  life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.   It never was able to fly.   

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from  the cocoon.  Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life.  If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it  would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could  have been.  And we could never fly.

Friday, June 22, 2012

St Thomas More - St John Fisher

Saint Thomas More
These two British martyrs are among the most beloved in the English Catholic Church. St Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career which took him to Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, and when she died at a young age, he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A great reformer, Thomas More numbered Bishops and scholars among his friends, and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book "Utopia". He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope, while strongly opposing Henry's thirst for a divorce. This is when the Church of England broke away from the Catholic religion. The rest of Thomas’ life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church. In 1534, with his close friend, St John Fisher, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower. Fifteen months later, he was tried and convicted of treason. On the scaffold, he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as "the King's good servant- but God's first." He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. His life is depicted in the classic movie “A Man for all Seasons,” with Paul Scofield acting in an Oscar-winning performance.
St Thomas More and St John Fisher before their martyrdom
St. John Fisher was born at Yorkshire in 1459, and educated at Cambridge. In 1504, he became Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge, in which capacity he also tutored Prince Henry who was to become Henry VIII. St John was dedicated to the welfare of his diocese and his university. From 1527, he actively opposed the King's divorce proceedings against Catherine, his wife in the sight of God. Unlike the other Bishops, St John refused to take the oath of succession, and he was imprisoned in the tower in April 1534. The next year he was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III and Henry retaliated by having him beheaded within a month. A half hour before his execution, John Fisher opened his New Testament for the last time and his eyes fell on the following words from St. John's Gospel: "Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have given You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. Do You now, Father, give me glory at Your side". Closing the book, he observed: "There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life." They were both canonized on May 19th, 1935, with Thomas More becoming the patron of lawyers and politicians.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

St Aloysius Gonzaga

St Aloysius Gonzaga as a young page

One of the patrons of youth, St Aloysius Gonzaga was an Italian Jesuit saint of the 16th century. Quite a few Jesuit colleges are named after him, including Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington and St Aloysius College, in Malta. Aloysius is the Latin form of his given name, Luigi, in English known as Louis. The Gonzaga name is well known in Italy. Aloysius Gonzaga was born at Castiglione near Mantua, Italy, in 1568 to a celebrated family of wealth and prestige. As the first born son of his father, Ferrante, and his mother, Marta, he was in line to inherit his father's title of Marquis. He grew up amid the violence and brutality of the Renaissance Italy and witnessed the murder of two of his brothers. In 1576, Aloysius' parents sent him to attend the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de Medici, in Florence. Later, accompanied by his parents, he traveled to Spain to join the court of Philip II in Madrid.
St Aloysius as a Jesuit novice
In Spain, Aloysius decided he wanted to join the newly founded religious order, the Society of Jesus. His father resisted his decision and there followed a struggle of wills that continued after his return to Castiglione in 1584. But Aloysius eventually prevailed. Renouncing his right to the title of Marquis and to the vast wealth he was destined to inherit, he entered the Society of Jesus in Rome on November 25, 1585. During his early studies in Rome, he would regularly go out into the streets of the city to care for victims of the plague. He himself contracted the disease as a result of his efforts for the suffering and died on June 21, 1591, at the age of twenty-three, six years short of his ordination as a Jesuit priest.

Even before his time as a Jesuit, Aloysius was known for his love of prayer and fasting. He received his First Communion from St. Charles Borromeo. As a Jesuit at the Roman College, he continued to devote his time to prayer and practices of austerity. His spiritual director was Robert Bellarmine who later was canonized and declared a doctor of the church. When Robert was dying, he asked to be buried next to the grave of Aloysius. Today, they rest next to each other in the church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Rome. Pope Benedict XIII canonized Aloysius in 1726, and three years later declared him to be the patron of youth in the Catholic Church, an honor later confirmed by Pope Pius XI in 1926.  Gonzaga University in Spokane is the only Jesuit university in the world named after St. Aloysius.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Strength and Courage

Jesus gives us the strength helps us to be courageous.
It takes strength to be certain - It takes courage to have doubts.
It takes strength to fit in - It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to share a friend's pain - It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to hide your own pain - It takes courage to show it and deal with it.
It takes strength to stand guard - It takes courage to let down your guard.
It takes strength to conquer - It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to endure abuses - It takes courage to stop them.
It takes strength to stand alone - It takes courage to lean on a friend.
It takes strength to love - It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive - It takes courage to live.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

35th Anniversary

June 19, 1977 - the day of our Ordination at St John's Cathedral, Valletta

I look back today to that historic day on Sunday June 19, 1977 when along with 13 other classmates, I was ordained a priest by Archbishop Joseph Mercieca at St John’s Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. After 7 happy years living at the Seminary with all my classmates and about another 50 seminarians, we were now all assigned to different parishes, myself ending up in my hometown parish of St Julian’s. where I spent 4 years before leaving for the USA in September 1981.

Just a few days before Ordination in June 1977
I enjoyed living at the Seminary, in a community with other seminarians, a few older than us and others younger, all in different stages of the journey to the altar. While attending the University of Malta, we also did manual work in the summer months, mainly to get acquainted with the life of workers. Personally I worked at a shipyard and a car assembly plant, but most of my time was spent helping my parish priest in various summer activities and other liturgical functions.

Our Seminary years, this being Christmas 1971, our first year
With 5 of my classmates in 2010 at a reunion in Malta

Most of my classmates stayed in Malta working in parishes, and other than one other who went to Australia for a few years, and a three others taking post–graduate courses in Canon Law, Sacred Art and Communications, all stayed close to each other, meeting periodically and celebrating Mass every year on our anniversary. I joined them on the 10th and 25th anniversary but was not able to join them on most of the anniversaries because I’m always involved in parish work, especially over the last 10 years, being by myself.
With my parents, June 19, 1977
One of my classmates early this morning wrote this about our service to the church. Between all of us, we have given 3,890,000 hours of service, in 26 different parishes in Malta, 6 different nations outside Malta, on 4 continents, and within 7 institutions of the Church and the University.

To end I share this beautiful poem by Henri Lacordaire, a French Dominican priest, which I have recited every year on my anniversary Mass:
To live in the midst of the world, without desiring its pleasures.
To be a member of each family, yet belonging to none.
To share all sufferings, to heal all wounds.
To penetrate all secrets, without being curious.
To go from men to God and offer Him their prayers.
To return from God to men, to bring pardon, hope and peace.
To have a heart of gold for charity, and a heart of bronze for chastity
To teach, to listen, to forgive. To lead, to console, to bless always.
This is your life, o priest of Christ.                     

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Priesthood

In anticipation for my 35th anniversary tomorrow, I share this interesting quote, while encouraging everyone to pray for vocations. We are forever grateful for all those who appreciate the work of a parish priest.

If the priest preaches for over 10 minutes, he’s long-winded.
        If the sermon is short, he didn’t prepare it.
If he has fairs and bazaars, he’s bleeding the people,
        If he doesn’t, there is no life in the parish.
If he takes too long in the confessional to help and advise sinners, he’s too long,
        If he doesn’t, he’s not a good adviser.
If he celebrates Mass in a quite voice, he’s a bore.
        If he puts feeling into it, he’s an actor.
If he starts Mass on the minute, his watch is fast,
        If he starts Mass late, he’s holding up the congregation.
If he tries to lead the music, he’s showing off,
        If he doesn’t, he does not care much what Mass is like.
If he decorates the Church, he’s wasting money,
        If he doesn’t, he’s letting it run down.
If he keeps himself neat and tidy, he is showy and worldly.
         If not, they say he is dirty and lazy.
If he organizes games and activities for the youth, they consider him a playboy.
        If he doesn’t mix with the youth, they say he is old-fashioned.
If he gets involved with an apostolate among women, he is girl-crazy.
        If he doesn’t serve all the people, they consider him abnormal.
If he makes home visits, he’s a party animal.
        If he doesn’t, they accuse him of being a loner, and does not care for his parishioners.
If he is a good administrator, he is business-minded.
        If he doesn’t, they say he is careless, and does not really care about the Church.
If he preaches of social issues, they say he is meddling with politics.
        If he doesn’t, they accuse him of not being an honest citizen.
If he preaches well, he is trying to save the world with his theories.
        If he doesn’t preach well, he is ignorant and not updated
If he works a lot and prays little, he wastes too much time at work.
        If he spends time in prayer, he is a holy roller, but is abandoning the parish.
If he defends the teaching of the Church, he's looking to become a Monsignor or a Bishop.
       If he criticizes the Church’s stand, he is a rebel.
If he tries to be like the people, he is not acting Christ-like.
        If he doesn’t imitate the people, he is a hypocrite. 
If he’s young, he’s not experienced,   
        If he’s old, he should retire.
If he doesn’t imitate Jesus, he is no priest.
         If he imitates Jesus, he is trying to be popular. 
If he imitates Jesus too much, they will crucify him.
         And if he dies, there may be no one to replace him.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Honoring Fathers

My father John in 1985
On this Father’s Day, I remember and pray for my father John who left us on January 4, 2002, to be joined by my mother Mary 8 years later, and my brother Paul a few months after that. In his funeral homily I said that “The tremendous amount of good that my father accomplished was done with sincere and genuine humility. Whether he was painting a room, or plastering a roof before the rainy season, whether he was decorating a cake or weeding a garden, whether he was ironing a mountain of clothes or preparing a rabbit or a chicken for us to eat, he did everything with a sincere interest, sheer joy and a total commitment.  In one of the letters he used to write to me every week, precisely on the occasion of my parents' 50th Anniversary in 1998, I remember my dad writing to me that the best thing that ever happened to him was when he met my mother. . . . . they knew each other since they were very young, and got married young too, but the way they raised our family is nothing short of a masterpiece. I do not say this just to show off, but those who knew him well, know exactly what I mean. 
My mother and father in 1982 in front of the World Trade Center, NY

But our father’s image changes over the years. Just reflect on this list of remarks one would make about our fathers at different stages of our lives.
4 years - “My daddy can do anything.”
7 years - “My dad knows a lot, a whole lot!”
8 years: “My dad does not know quite everything.”
12 years: “Oh well, my father naturally does not know that either!”
14 years: “Oh father? He is hopelessly old-fashioned.”
21 years: “Oh, that man - he is out of date!”
25 years: “He knows a little bit abut it, but not much.”
30 years: “I must find out what dad thinks about this.”
35 years: “Before we decide, let’s get dad’s opinion first.”
50 years: “What would dad have thought about this?”
60 years: “My dad knew literally everything!”
65 years: “I wish I could talk it over with dad once more.”

Let us remember them, and cherish the wealth of wisdom they shared with us over the years.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Immaculate Heart of Mary

The day after the feast of Sacred Heart, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On this occasion I share with you one of my favorite hymns that is used in the Breviary which the priests recite daily. This is taken from the hymn of the Morning Prayer of the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a poem whose text is attributed to Dominican sisters:
Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!

Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!

Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!

Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the mother, Christ the mother’s Son;
By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sacred Heart

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century, but through the 16th century, it remained a private devotion, often tied to devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ. The first feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Fr. Jean Eudes. From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque for the devotion to become universal.
In all of these visions, in which Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus played a central role. The "great apparition," which took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart. In that vision, Christ asked St. Margaret Mary to request that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday after the octave (or eighth day) of the Feast of Corpus Christi, in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice that Christ had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but His love for all mankind. The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.

"Sacred Heart of Jesus" by Pompeo Batoni

The devotion became quite popular after St. Margaret Mary's death in 1690, but, because the Church initially had doubts about the validity of St. Margaret Mary's visions, it wasn't until 1765 that the feast was celebrated officially in France. Almost 100 years later, in 1856, Pope Pius IX, at the request of the French bishops, extended the feast to the universal Church. It is celebrated on the day requested by our Lord - the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost Sunday. Normally on the following day, on Saturday the church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, walk with me today, and grant that I may hear your footsteps and see your footprints, and gladly follow where they may lead me. Talk with me today, and grant that I may hear Your tender voice, and listen to Your advice. 

Help me to feel Your presence in all the projects that I accomplish, in all the words that I say and in all the thoughts that cross my mind. Be my strength when I seem to weaken, and my courage when I start to be afraid. 

Help me to know that it is Your hand holding mine throughout all the minutes of all the hours of this day. And when night falls, grant that I may know that I am gathered to Your Sacred Heart to sleep in love and peace. AMEN.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

St Anthony of Padua

St Anthony of Padua with the Child Jesus
St. Anthony of Padua was born August 15, 1195 near Lisbon, to a wealthy family and given the name Fernando. He was sent to the cathedral school in Lisbon, but in 1210, at the age of 15 he entered the Augustinian monastery of Sao Vicente in Lisbon, against the wishes of his family. But in their monastery near his native city he was distracted by visits from relatives and friends. After two years, Fernando asked to be transferred. He was sent to Holy Cross in Coimbra, a great center of learning and capital of Portugal at that time. He devoted the next eight years of his life to study and prayer, immersing himself in Sacred Scripture.
"St Anthony distributing bread" by Willem van Herp (1662)
When news of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco reached him, he joined the Franciscan Order in 1221, when he was 26 years old. At his own request, he was sent as a missionary to Morocco with the mission of preaching among the Moors. He had to return to Europe because of ill health. After this, St Anthony was moved to Romagna (Italy) and spent 9 months as a chaplain to hermits. He was so modest that he thought nothing of spending his days carrying on the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent. But the Lord had bigger plans for this holy man. At an ordination ceremony, the priest who was about to give the sermon fell ill suddenly and St Anthony was called upon to give the sermon in his place. Although he refused with humility at first, he eventually had to do so because of his vow of obedience to his superior. The rest as they say, is history!
The Basilica dedicated to St Anthony in Padua (Padova), Italy
The last two years of his life he spent in Padua, preaching, hearing confessions and working to help the poor. St. Anthony died on June 13th, 1231 at Arcella, a suburb of Padua in the apartment reserved for the chaplain of the sisterhood of Poor Clares of Arcella. There he received the last rites and died. He was only 36. Saint Anthony was canonized in 1232 by Pope Gregory IX and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946. He holds the record for the second fastest canonization in history: he was declared a saint 352 days after his death. In 1263, a basilica was built in his honor. He was above all the greatest preacher of the middle ages and one of the finest orators of all time. Today he is one of the most famous saints and is often called upon by Catholics to help find lost possessions. Saint Anthony of Padua is usually sculpted or portrayed holding the child Jesus, or a lily or a book, or all three, in his arms.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

7 years in Baker City

Inside St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Christmas 2010

Today I conclude my 7th year here at the Cathedral in Baker City. Tomorrow I'll start my 8th year and hope to spend a few more years here, as long as the Bishop allows me. It has been a pleasant and spiritually-enriching experience for me personally, as it's been for the parishioners I met, both here in Baker City, as well as my mission churches of Unity, North Powder and Halfway, the last of which is still within our parish boundaries.

I pray that I can continue to serve my people and encourage them to to participate as fully and as enthusiastically as they can in the life of this parish. After leading the renovation project to coincide with the Cathedral's centennial in 2008, I am always happy to welcome visitors, new coverts and parishioners who have returned back to their second home. The Cathedral parish has served many needy families and will continue to be an example of faith, prayer and sincere commitment from everyone who has become a part of my own family. 
On my arrival on June 13, 2005

I am forever grateful for the Staff, members of various organizations, and ministers who serve at our celebrations, especially when the bishop is here during Holy Week, Christmas, ordinations, confirmations and other diocesan events. I look forward to welcome our new bishop Liam Cary on the weekend of June 30 and July 1, as he visits our cathedral for the first time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another great Maltese artist

Paul Camilleri Cauchi's painting of the Blessed Mother in Gharb, Gozo, (Malta)
During Lent, I shared with you the works of sculptor Michael Camilleri Cauchi, producing two beautiful statues of Jesus crowned with thorns, and another one of Jesus falling under the cross. His brother Paul is another accomplished artist in his own right, producing prolifically all over the island of Malta in various churches, painting ceilings, domes, and altar-pieces with exceptional creativity, color and movement. 
The Assumption of Mary in Cathedral Church, Rabat, Gozo, (Malta)
His style is evident from these paintings I here reproduce, all of which are photos I took in my recent visit to Malta. Along with my favorite Maltese painter Emvin Cremona, Paul Camilleri Cauchi has left his indelible mark all over the island of Malta, even though he is originally from the sister island Gozo, 5 miles northwest of Malta. Sacred art in Malta has become the envy of many other countries, thanks to these two and other artists.
Part of a ceiling of the Annunciation church in Balzan, Malta

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Corpus Christi

From the Vatican Museums, a magnificent tapestry of the Last Supper

A very special day indeed for all Catholics, as we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, known also as Corpus Christi. We remember that day when Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as we reflect on the poetic words written by St Thomas Aquinas in 1264 at the order of Pope Urban IV, in his sequence Lauda Sion Salvatorem.
Here are a few verses of this sequence, translated from the Latin original:

His own act, at supper seated
    Christ ordain'd to be repeated
    In His memory divine;
    Wherefore now, with adoration,
    We, the host of our salvation,
Consecrate from bread and wine.
    Hear, what holy Church maintaineth,
    That the bread its substance changeth
    Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Jesu, shepherd of the sheep:
    Thou thy flock in safety keep,
    Living bread, thy life supply:
    Strengthen us, or else we die,
    Fill us with celestial grace.
Thou, who feedest us below:
    Source of all we have or know:
    Grant that with Thy Saints above,
    Sitting at the feast of love,
    We may see Thee face to face.
    Amen. Alleluia.

The above photos is one of many I took while in Rome recently, many of which I will share with you over the next few months. This is a huge tapestry by Flemish craftsmen, hanging in one of the halls of the Vatican Museum. You can always click on the image to see it in more detail.