Sunday, March 31, 2013


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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

More Last Supper displays

Plates created by colored salt for Holy Week in Malta

Once in a while I receive a nice e-mail or comment on one of my posts, which are now reaching close to 150 hits a day. I received a comment from a Karoline from Germany, and I would love to send her more photos from my collection, but I don't have her e-mail address. So if she is reading this post, could you please send me your e-mail address and I will be very happy to send you more photos I took 3 years ago. Send a brief note to my e-mail Here are some more photos from Last Supper displays exhibited in Malta - a true work of art, wherever you look.
                      A Blessed Easter to everyone reading my blog.
A Grand Master plate created with pasta and rice
Archbishop Cremona's coat-of-arms created with rice
More paintings created from colored salt at Cospicua, Malta

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

14th century Crucifix at the Barberini Museum, Rome

A sermon from the 2nd century by St Melito of Sardis: He was led forth like a lamb; he was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as he had ransomed Israel from the hand of Egypt; he freed us from our slavery to the devil, as he had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. He sealed our souls with his own Spirit, and the members of our body with his own blood.

Pieta at the Barberini Museum, Rome

He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own for ever. He is the Passover that is our salvation. 
Crucifixion at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, Rome
It is he who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed him. In Abel he was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonored in the prophets.
It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb. (St Melito of Sardis)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday

Last Supper tapestry at the Vatican Museums
Another beautiful and ornate tapestry this time of the Last Supper, in a photograph I took last year at the Vatican Museums. On Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, Jesus instituted the Eucharist during the meal He hosted with his 12 apostles. It is strange that on the occasion of giving them his most precious gift, He also revealed that two of his apostles were not faithful to the end. Peter denied Him, while Judas betrayed Him. Peter at least had the opportunity to redeem himself, but Judas hug himself in desperation. 
Altar of Repose in Rabat, Malta
A tradition that started with St Philip Neri in Rome is the visit of the 7 churches on the evening of Holy Thursday. Churches in Malta are very frequent so people could walk from one to the other or at least drive a short distance. However in some countries like Oregon, one has to drive a thousand miles to get to 7 Catholic churches, since we are so spread out. Yet the Maltese churches decorate the Altar of Repose with a beautiful display of flowers, candles, angels and other Eucharistic symbols, a seen in these photos I took 3 years ago.
Altar of Repose, St Julian's Lapsi Church, Malta

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chrism Mass

Diocese of Baker priests with their Bishop during the Chrism Mass

The traditional Chrism Mass is held on Holy Thursday morning in most dioceses. However, in our Baker Diocese, since we are so spread out, with some priests having to travel close to 400 miles one way, the Chrism Mass is held a week earlier. This was held in our Cathedral parish on Thursday March 21, with Bishop Liam Cary leading the concelebration with just about all the priests concelebrating with him. 
Bishop Cary mixing the chrism with the oil
These photos show the priests gathered around the altar with their Bishop as the blessing on the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism is invoked. All the priests collected their bottles of oils after the Mass was over, to be used for their sacraments in their respective churches.
A group photo of all the priests with their Bishop

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Into Holy Week

"Arrest of Jesus" tapestry at the Vatican Museum

This beautiful and ornate tapestry is displayed at the Vatican Museum, in a photograph I took last year and it shows the moment of the betrayal of Judas. However a few other scenes are visible in the tapestry, including the agony in the garden, Peter’s severing the ear of Malchus, and the mob pushing around Jesus being arrested. 
"Entry into Jerusalem" tapestry at the Vatican Museum
The left side of the tapestry show the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as he is welcomed with people waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna to the King.” These tapestries are of infinite value and along with the Last Supper which I will share on Holy Thursday are some of the priceless artifacts displayed at the Vatican Museums. The readings at Mass during the three days before the Holy Triduum hint at the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter, which eventually led to the arrest of Jesus, his trial, and crucifixion.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Last Supper displays

 An elaborate Last Supper table is displayed every year in Valletta, Malta, seen here in photos I took 3 years ago. A horse-shoe shaped table is covered with intricate plates decorated with various designs using simply rice, pasta, salt, beans and other colored grains. 

The table is exhibited during Holy Week and thousands of people visit this display, which is set up every year with new designs of plates, including coat of arms of prelates, bishops and Popes. None of the food is wasted, because after the exhibition is over, the rice, pasta and beans are distributed to various orphanages, homes of the elderly and other places. Notice up close the detail and the precision in which the beans and pasta are strategically placed to create the beautiful designs.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hosanna to the King

Jesus entering triumphantly Jerusalem.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, we honor Jesus as he is welcomed into Jerusalem before his passion and death. This was the Palestinians' way of giving a ticker-tape parade to their hero whom they have listened to, followed and saw performing many miracles among them. Many of those people healed by Him were there waving palm branches and laying down their cloaks on the road. Others were still suspicious of him and soon will shout "crucify Him!" or "release Barabbas!" And as Holy Week starts today, we focus on the last few days of Jesus among us, and be prepared to follow in his footsteps during the Last Supper, his trial, his crucifixion, and his eventual Resurrection.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holy Week displays

During this coming week, many places in Malta will showcase their craftsmanship in presenting various exhibitions connected to the celebration of Holy Week. While visiting my home in 2010, I was able to take many photos of such exhibits, including the ones you see in my post today. 

Some churches and organizations display a Last Supper table complete with colorful plates made from salt, semolina, rice, pasta, beans and other edibles that can add to the attractiveness of the display. A variety of biblical and religious symbols are created by placing strategically colored rice or salt to create a veritable paintings. The displays are put on show for the duration of Holy Week, but nothing is wasted because all the pasta and rice is distributed to orphanages and old people's homes after the exhibition is over. And next year, they start all over again.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mater Dolorosa

Procession with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Light in the darkness

The approach of Holy Week sets everything into a dim light, as the anticipation of Easter approaches. But there is no light without first roaming through the darkness. There is no Alleluia before first hearing the strains of 'Crucify Him.' There is no joy without first experiencing some pain. There is no celebration without first suffering through the passion and death of Christ.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Prayer before the Crucified

All you who are crying, come to Him, because He is crying too.
All you who are suffering, come to Him, because he can heal you.
All you who are afraid, come to Him, because He always has a smile waiting for you.
All you who are hungry, come to Him, because He’ll feed you the Living Bread.
All you who are in darkness, come to Him, because He will guide you with His Light.
All you who are lost, search for His guiding hand, and you will never get lost from now on.
All you who feel persecuted, come to Him because He had his share of persecution too.
All you who are lonely, come close to Him, because He too was very lonely on the Cross.
All you who feel being punished unfairly, just look at Him. He died for you, unfairly.
All you who are dying, come to Him, and you will live forever.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis installed

Pope Francis during his inauguration Mass

Pope Francis officially inaugurated his papacy by a Solemn Mass in the sun-drenched yet chilly square of St Peter's, surrounded by close to a million people. During the Mass he received the pallium and the ring of the fisherman, symbolic of his supremacy as Supreme Pontiff. Yet, what distinguished him during this celebration is his simplicity and keeping away from the pomp and ceremonials that are connected with such a high position. He still wore his black shoes, rode on a jeep instead of the bullet-proof Popemobile, and mingled with the people, kissing babies and blessing even the handicapped attending the Mass.

The Vatican unveiled the new coat-of-arms of Pope Francis, which are basically the same that he used as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The shield has a bright blue background, at the center top of which is a yellow radiant sun with the IHS christogram on it representing Jesus (it is also the Jesuit logo). The IHS monogram, as well as a cross that pierces the H, are in red with three black nails directly under them. Under that, to the left, is a star representing Mary, Mother of Christ and the Church. To the right of the star is a nard flower representing Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. With these symbols the Pope demonstrates his love for the Holy Family.  What distinguishes his coat of arms as pontiff is that, instead of the wide-brimmed, red cardinal's hat atop the shield, it is now crowned by the papal tiara and crossed keys.
His motto—“Miserando Atque Eligendo” (because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him)—is taken from the Venerable Bede's homily on the Gospel account of the call of Matthew. It holds special meaning for the Pope because—when he was only 17-years-old, after going to confession on the Feast of St. Matthew in 1953—he perceived God's mercy in his life and felt the call to the priesthood, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Pope's sweetheart

Amalia Damonte - the Pope's girlfriend from 1948
“I froze in front of the television. I couldn’t believe that Jorge was the Pope!” confessed the 77-year-old lady with white hair and spectacles outside her home at 555 Membranilla Street in the Flores district of Buenos Aires last night. She had one more little admission – about a man who is now pontiff and a love letter from long, long ago. It was 1948 or 1949 – Amalia Damonte can’t be entirely sure – when the young son of Italian immigrants slipped a letter in her hand declaring his undying love for her. She does know that he was 12 years old at the time and that she spurned his advances in part because her parents didn’t think that much of him. “He wrote me a letter telling me that one day he would like to marry me, even drawing a picture of what our dream house would look like with a red roof” she said standing outside the same house that she grew up in, just four doors from down what used to be the childhood home of Jorge Bergoglio at number 531, where he lived with his mother and railway-worker father.“He said that if I didn’t say yes, he would have to become a priest. Luckily for him, I said no!”
Jorge Bergoglio, aged 12
That she left the young man with his romantic yearnings unrequited is not something she has forgotten and although it was more than 60 years ago, she may still harbor a smidgen of regret. “He had a crush on me, you know. We used to play on the streets here. It was a quiet neighborhood then, and, well, he was very nice.” Amalia eventually moved away from Membranilla Street but returned when her parents died. She did marry in the end and admitted that she wished the boy from down the road had been there, albeit in his official capacity as a priest. Their lives have since diverged in a way neither could have imagined, but today they were reunited in the media. While Amalia told her story to a handful of reporters in Buenos Aires, her “Jorge” was starting the first day of his new life as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, with a sizeable number of the world’s news reporters on his tail. Perhaps Amalia’s parents were wrong about the boy from down the road all those years ago.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Francis' photo album

From the Calgary Sun, Canada

A Latino newspaper declaring "The Pope is ours!"

I will share a few more posts on Pope Francis until Tuesday, when he is officially crowned as Supreme Pontiff. Then I will focus on Holy Week. The media of course has been riveted by the news of an Argentinian Jesuit Pope, and these are just a few front pages of newspapers reporting this historic election, besides a few other photos from Jorge Bergoglio's photo album.
Fr Jorge Bergoglio as a young priest, preaching
Cardinal Bergoglio with Pope John Paul II in 2001

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Silence and Simplicity

As Cardinal Bergoglio, kissing the feet of babies
The two qualities that came out of Pope Francis’ first appearance were silence and simplicity. He asked the thousands of people gathered at St Peter’s square to silently bow their heads in prayer and then bless him, before he returned the favor. One could hear a pin drop in those 20 seconds of silence. Obviously his humility and simplicity were all over his personality. His Papacy will definitely be different, as he will certainly be known as the Pope if the poor and the underprivileged.
Pope Francis has the trait of all his previous predecessors. He has the seriousness and decisiveness of Pius XII, the affability and down-earthedness of John XXIII, the ecumenical perspective of Paul VI, the pastoral humility of John Paul I, the charm and attractiveness of John Paul II and the theological knowledge of Benedict XVI. Many details about his early life are coming out. He reportedly had a girlfriend, Amalia whom he asked to marry when he was 12. His only surviving sibling is a sister, Maria Elena. 

Family photo: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, second from left in back row, poses for a picture with his family in an unknown location. Top row from left to right, his brother Alberto Horacio, Bergoglio, his brother Oscar Adrian and his sister Marta Regina. Bottom row from left to right, his sister Maria Elena, his mother Regina Maria Sivori and his father Mario Jose Bergoglio.
He loves to dance the Tango and is a fan of Buenos Aires’ San Lorenzo de Almagro soccer team. He’s near to the people; he’d always take the subway to go to these poor neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. This is a humble man and a joyful man who prays a lot. He prays two hours in the morning since he became a Cardinal in 2001. 
With a limo waiting for him, Pope Francis prefers the bus with the other Cardinals

Pope Francis caught the last bus of Cardinals returning to the Santa Marta guesthouse in the Vatican following the conclave Wednesday, and ignored the special limousine waiting for him.. At the toast made to him that night at dinner, he responded: “may God forgive you for what you’ve done.”
The day he was departing for the conclave, a couple of friends brought him a pair of shoes. He’s always very humbly dressed…and the shoes he was wearing were not in very good shape. So even in those little things you see the humility, the austerity of this pastor. In Buenos Aires he’s very much devoted to the work of justice and peace. He founded a Vicariate called ‘Priests for the Favellas’ (a very poor and disadvantaged slum area). So in our diocese he has a little structure of priests working just in the favellas. He himself would go there; he would cook for them on Christmas day – even as Cardinal.

Bergoglio First Holy Communion - Jorge on left and Oscar on right

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis' first messages

Pope Francis during his first, unscripted, improvised homily

Newly-elected Pope Francis spoke in a homily to the cardinals who elected him, and the next day he spoke to them again informally, and these are a few phrases that he shared, without any comments:
Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. We have to walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord,.....Let us continue to build the Church, with living stones, anointed by the Holy Spirit, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord......We can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? It’s what happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil. When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil. But remember that in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups, some bumps - there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back. 

Pope Francis giving his blessing at the end of his first Mass
When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil places before us every day. Let us not give into pessimism and discouragement. We are in old age. Old age is the seat of wisdom, and like good wine that becomes better with age, let us pass on to young people the wisdom of life.

Pope Francis’ initial actions suggest he will bring a new style to the papacy, favoring humility and simplicity over pomp and grandeur.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

Pope Francis on his first appearance in front of his people.

Taking the name Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday, putting the world's 1.2 billion Catholics under the direction of a pope from the New World for the first time in Christianity's 2,000 year history. A mild-mannered man who cooks his own meals and until now traveled by bus to his job as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to hold the Catholic church's highest office. His election is likely to shift the role of the papacy from theological teacher to pastor of the flock. It also reflects the shifting demographics of Roman Catholicism: Latin America is now home to more than one-third of the world's Catholics, with 483 million Catholics from Mexico all the way down to Tierra del Fuego in Chile. Argentina has 36 million Catholics. Mexico has 100 million and Brazil 150 million Catholics.
As a young Jesuit with some members of his family
Pope Francis immediately embraced his mission as shepherd in Rome and the world, leading more than 100,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square in the Lord's Prayer and then asking for them to pray for him with a moment of silence. He asked the people to bless him before he could bless them in his first blessing. His election also breaks new ground for the Society of Jesus, a religious order renowned for its skepticism of authority and hierarchy. St Ignatius of Loyola, the order's founder, didn't want Jesuits to be bishops because he didn't want prestige and power associated with it, but he wanted them to work as priests. What is unclear is whether the new pope, who has no experience with the central administration of the Vatican, will be adept in tackling some of the problems that face the so-called Curia.

In many ways, Cardinal Bergoglio is an ideal figure to transition from a centuries-old line of European popes. His father was an Italian immigrant, giving him roots in a country that is, along with Spain, considered a mother country of Argentina. Argentines rejoiced at the appointment, evoking the new pope's missionary actions in the working-class districts of Buenos Aires. He is a man of enormous modesty. In fact the day after his election, he returned to the Church-run residence where he was staying before becoming pontiff, the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI, and insisted on paying the bill, out of his own money.

As a Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998-2013)
Born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936, Jorge Bergoglio was ordained a Jesuit priest on December 13, 1969, and was consecrated as bishop on June 27, 1992. He was elevated to a Cardinal and Archbishop of Buenos Aires on February 21, 2001. His rise came as Catholicism has grown in Latin America. A century ago, 65% of the world's Catholics lived in Europe. But by 2010, only 24% did, and in the meantime, Latin America's share has risen to 39%—more than Europe and U.S. combined.

The choice of the name of Francis reflects his humble life. Having become archbishop of Buenos Aires 1998, he left empty the sumptuous episcopal residence next to the cathedral. He went to live in an apartment a short distance away, together with another elderly bishop. In the evening he was the one who saw to the cooking. He rarely rode in cars, getting around by bus in the cassock of an ordinary priest. But he is also a man who knows how to govern. During the terrible 1970's, when the Argentinian dictatorship was raging and some of his confrères were ready to embrace the rifle and apply the lessons of Marx, he energetically opposed the tendency as provincial of the Society of Jesus in Argentina. While he has served his entire priestly ministry in Argentina, the new Pope is well acquainted with the Vatican. At the time of his election to the papacy he was a member of the Congregations for Divine Worship, the Clergy, and Religious; the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He served as relator general for the Synod of Bishops in October 2001. 

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio
Jesuits are not known for their regalia and showmanship in liturgy and other ceremonial functions. I don’t expect him to fancy many elaborate outfits and staying above the people, but rather he would mingle with the people as a humble pastor. Maybe even the Popemobile may end up in a Vatican museum. We saw that image of him already as he appeared at the balcony dressed only in the white cassock. He wore the same pectoral cross he used as a Cardinal, and even asked the people to bless him, bowing down and silencing the huge crowd to a whisper, where one could hear a pin drop in the Vatican square.

The Mass of consecration will be held on Tuesday, March 19, the feast of St Joseph, most probably in the Vatican square, and hopefully on a dry day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Pope Francis I
At 7:09PM Rome time, the white smoke came out of the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, signifying that a Pope has been elected. It was after the fifth vote that the decision has been reached, on the second day of voting. Thousands of rain-drenched people gathered in the St Peter's Square to welcome the new Pope. Cardinal Tauran of France appeared in the balcony and announced the much-awaited  words...
"Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum - Habemus Papam.....Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Cardinalem
Jorge Bergoglio, cui nomen imposuit, Franciscum I
Pope Francis I - Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina
Born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Entered the Society of Jesus: March 11, 1958
Ordained priest: December 13, 1969
Consecrated Bishop: June 27, 1992
Elevated to Cardinal: February 21, 2001
Elected Pope: March 13, 2013
He was a son of Italian immigrants, one of 5 children. He is known to be very humble, rides the bus, cooks his own meals, and even asked to people to bless him just after he was elected.

Vatican history through stamps

Blessed Pope John XXIII
As the world continues to wait for the white smoke, signifying a new Pope, I share with you today some beautiful and historic stamps from the Vatican past. Each stamp tells a story, as a great history can be written just by admiring these stamps.
Pope Clement VI
1994 Pope John Paul's visit to Spain
1967 - anniversary of Sts Peter and Paul's martyrdom