Friday, May 31, 2013

Honoring Mary

The month of May has always been associated with the Blessed Mother. We started with the May crowning and we end with another of her feasts, the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. And I share with you today another beautiful image of Mary I discovered on one of our religious vestments here in the Cathedral. It is beautifully and intricately embroidered on a cope, which we use for Benediction and other celebrations. It is similar to another vestment with the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which I will share with you next Friday.
These embroidered images were crafted by nuns who spent hours literally painting with thread and needle until the get the desired result, which as you can see is just superb.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Corpus Christ at the Vatican

Pope Francis incensing the Eucharist before Benediction

Pope Francis participated in the annual procession to celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, known also as Corpus Christi. Most Dioceses celebrate this feast on the following Sunday, but the Vatican continues the tradition of holding a procession from St Mary Major to St John Lateran, two of the major basilicas that are about a mile apart. The tradition to hold a procession on Corpus Christi was started in the 11th century when Sister Juliana of Liege, Belgium had a vision to start a celebration of the Eucharist, for which she asked permission from the local Bishop Jacques Pantaleon. When he eventually became a pope, Urban IV gave permission for St Juliana to start the custom of having a procession in honor of the Eucharist, a tradition which is very popular in most Catholic countries.. Many Spanish countries and towns in Spain especially throw flowers on the streets from where the Eucharist will be carried through, literally painting the streets with symbols of the Eucharist as people sing hymns in honor of the Blessed Sacrament.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


One of the most common scenes visible in houses here in Eastern Oregon is the head of a deer or elk hanging on a wall with its massive antlers displayed for everyone to admire. Of course the bigger the better and some antlers have 5 to 6 to 7 points, on each side! They are usually the pride of any hunter, and he or she will tell you with minute detail how they caught that particular deer or elk. However they cannot reveal where they caught it, otherwise they have to kill you - that's what I was told, so secretive is the exact location of the deer kill. Sometimes I come across some unusual set up of antlers as this tree I found in Pondosa, close to Baker City. The owner of this place decided to hang the antlers outside, nailed to a set up of trellis, and for everyone to admire, included the inquisitive photographer like myself who was stunned when I came across this contraption. Apparently antlers are indestructible, since no snow, rain, nor wind can damage them. Every male deer and elk drop their antlers once a year and soon after grow another set.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Impressive Cemetery scene

Impressive scene at the Mount Hope cemetery on Memorial Day
On the occasion of Memorial Day celebrated yesterday, I went to visit the local cemetery here in Baker City, known as Mount Hope, and even though it rained most of the day, the scene was quite impressive, as it’s been every year on this special day honoring those who served and gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy today. Hundreds of American flags were placed all over the cemetery, larger ones flanking the passages while smaller ones being placed on individual graves, along with flowers and other mementoes. Most importantly, many family members, friends and acquaintances visited the cemetery to pay their respect. As Catholics we do a special service on November 2, feast of All Souls, when I bless individual graves of parishioners, but the tradition here in the USA is that the majority of the people visit cemeteries around Memorial Day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Memorial Day marks the informal start of summer—pools open, the barbecue season kicks off, and it’s OK to wear white shoes or 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.

Most importantly, let us remember those widows and orphans who lost their spouses, parents and loved ones who have only memories of their heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


On this feast of the Holy Trinity, may I suggest a practical prayer that we can all do every night so that the Holy Trinity may become an important part of our lives. So, as an examination of conscience, every night before you get to bed, take 3 minutes or even one minute divided into 20 seconds. In the first minute, think of a positive event that happened to you during the day, maybe a good news you received, a good deed you accomplished, and thank God the Father for it. In the second minute, think of a negative thing that you experienced, maybe a conflict, an argument or quarrel with someone else, and ask God the Son, Jesus, to forgive you for it. Then during the last minute, think of something you have to do tomorrow, maybe an important decision you have to make, talking to another person on an important issue, and talk to God the Holy Spirit while asking or guidance and inspiration. Simple, yet effective way to feel connected with the Trinity.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fields of Lupines

Wild lupines with the Wallowa Mountains in the background

Towards the end of May, a miracle of nature takes place every year between the hamlet of Richland and the little town of Halfway in Eastern Oregon. Depending on how much snow we receive during the winter season, fields of wild lupines appear to cover entire stretches of land, and literally paint the fields in white, yellow and purple. With the Wallowa mountains in the background, still topped with snow, the lupines create a spectacular display of color. 

Fields of wild yellow lupines between Richland and Halfway, Oregon
So on my way to my mission church of St Therese in Halfway, every year I stop a few times to add to my collection of nature photos, and which I share with you today.  And then, a few days later, they're gone, only to reappear next year, same time, same place!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Freindship Bible quote

The first reading in today's Mass was from one of my favorite sections and books of the Bible, from the book of Sirach 6:14-15, also known as Ecclesiasticus (the book of the Church):
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy."

And the photo I chose today is eloquently simple yet very effective. I never owned a dog, in fact I'm afraid of dogs. But sometimes they can also be the best of friends, thereby the quote "man's best friend," is so true - ever faithful and loyal. I've seen some wonderful dogs who are excellent companions, and once they get used to you, they will be friends forever. I mean forever and ever, and they never let you down or ignore you or fight with you, or turn against you. I heard it said once that a dog has so many friends because he wags his tail and his tongue. (Dedicated to two of my favorite dogs, Kenny, my brother and sister-in-law's golden lab, and Benny, a chihuahua, my secretary's dog)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A painting of history

Historical characters (click to enlarge)

I share with you today a historic photo which you may call very anachronistic and impossible to see in real life. It is of course a painting of various known people placed together in a scene that spans over 2000 years, maybe even more. You have to enlarge it as much as possible to see each person, but I’m sure you’ll be able to spot some of these characters in no particular order. They include heroes as well as villains, great leaders as well as characters we all would like to forget. Among them you can surely spot:
Beethoven, Mozart, Dante, Pele, Einstein, Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, Vladimir Putin, Stalin, Lenin, Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Mao Tze Tung, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Prince Charles, Michael Jordan, Salvador Dali, Queen Elizabeth, Shirley Temple, Mother Teresa, Karl Marx, Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, Bill Gates, Bruce Lee, Charles DeGaul, Picasso, Napoleon, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Yasser Arafat, Pavarotti, Gandhi and many others.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Prayer to St Rita

Are you faced with a difficult problem? Does it seem insurmountable? The prayer to St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457) shown below might help. After all, St. Rita is known as the “Saint of the Impossible,” and we honor her today, her liturgical feastday.
St. Rita of Cascia (1381-1457)
Early in life, she had a strong desire to be a nun, but got married instead, following her parents’ wishes. By all accounts, her husband was Mr. Wrong, an abusive man with whom she bore two sons of similar temperament. Apparently she had the patience of a saint because she prayed for them all and tried to be a dutiful wife and mother! After 18 years of marriage, her husband was murdered and her sons died of natural causes the following year. After that, St. Rita finally got her wish and was admitted to the convent of Augustinian nuns at Cascia. Tradition has it that the nuns there initially refused to let St. Rita join because she was a widow. One night Saint John the Baptist, St. Augustine and St. Nicholas of Tolentino opened gates that had been bolted shut and left her in the chapel of the convent. When the nuns found St. Rita there the next morning they understood God’s designs for her and accepted her unanimously. Talk about prayer opening doors! Many other miracles were attributed to St. Rita, both during her life and after her death. As an example, her devotion to Jesus in His Passion was such that a thorn from the crucifix in her room pierced her forehead one day while she was praying! The prayer to St. Rita also touches on that miracle:

Oh glorious St. Rita, who did miraculously participate in the sorrowful Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for us the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life, and protect us in all our needs. St. Rita, model wife and widow, you yourself suffered in a long illness showing patience out of love for God. Teach us to pray as you did. Many invoke you for help, full of confidence in your intercession. Come now to our aid for the relief and cure of (mention your request). To God all things are possible; may this healing give glory to the Lord. Through the prayers of St. Rita, may we learn to bear our crosses in life in the same spirit in which she bore hers. Amen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spiritual Vitamins - part 2

Nervous?  - Take Vitamin N.   Never,  never will I leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)
Overwhelmed?  - Take Vitamin O.   Overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:21)
Perplexed or puzzled?  - Take Vitamin P.   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (Jn 14:27)
Quitting?  - Take Vitamin Q.   Quit refusing to believe in me, but have faith in me 

(John 8: 45-46)
Restless?  - Take Vitamin R.   Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. (Ps 37:7)
Scared?  - Take Vitamin S.  Stay with me, and do not be afraid; for the one who seeks my life seeks your life; you will be safe with me. (1 Sam 22:23)
Tired?  - Take Vitamin T.   Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Uncertain?  - Take Vitamin U.  Understand that I am the Lord. No god was ever before me, nor shall any other god come after me (Isa 43:10)
Vain?  - Take Vitamin V.   Vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. 

(Acts 5:16)
Wondering what to do?  - Take Vitamin W.   What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)
eXhausted?  - Take Vitamin X.   eXercise yourself for devotion. (1 Tim 4:7)
Yearning for hope?  - Take Vitamin Y.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff  -  they comfort me. (Ps 23:4)
Zapped?  - Take Vitamin Z.   Be Zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:14)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spiritual Vitamins - part 1

Anxious?    -  Take Vitamin A.  All things work together for the good of those who love God. (Rom 8:28)
Blue?  -  Take Vitamin B.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. (Ps 103:1)
Crushed?  -  Take Vitamin C.  Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 

(1 Pet 5:7)
Depressed?  - Take Vitamin D.   Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. 

(James 4:8)
Eager ?  -  Take Vitamin E and Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. (Ps 100:4)
Fearful?  -  Take Vitamin F.   Fear not, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. (Isa 41:10)
Greedy? -  Take Vitamin G.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put unto your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38)

Hesitant?  -  Take Vitamin H.  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation. (Isa 52:7)
Insecure?  -  Take Vitamin I.   I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

(Phil 4:13)
Jittery? -  Take Vitamin J.   Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

(Heb 13:8)
Know nothing?  -  Take Vitamin K.  Know that the Lord is God, it is He that made us . 

(Ps 100:3)
Lonely?  -  Take Vitamin L.   Love God and love each other. (1 John 4: 21)
Mortgaged?  -  Take Vitamin M. My grace is sufficient for you; power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
(N-Z will appear tomorrow)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer Prayer to the Holy Spirit

1958 Pentecost stained glass in St Francis de Sales Cathedral

Holy Spirit, fill our leisure time with newness.
Fill the long watches of days off and weekends 

with a new way of life for which there is no pay.
Fill up these weekends with
- new things not yet thought,
- new sights not yet seen,
- new people not yet met or visited,
- new deeds not yet accomplished,
- new sounds not yet heard,
- and new places not yet walked.
Fill the long nights with a new style of living,
a new kind of caring.

Fill emptiness with new people whom we have not yet touched or visited,
- roads we have not yet driven,
- hopes we have not yet had,
- news we have not known,
- help we have not yet given,
Make our hours full - and our life long.
Come Holy Spirit, come, and change our world,
so that we can change the world and others too.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bishop Liam Cary - 1st anniversary

Bishop Liam Cary at St Mary's church, Powell Butte, OR

This is the first anniversary of Bishop Liam Cary's consecration as new Bishop of the Baker Diocese. The big celebration was held last year on May 18 at the St Francis of Assisi parish church in Bend. Since then, Bishop Cary has visited every parish and every mission church in his diocese. He came to the Cathedral on 5 occasions already and was always happy with the welcome he received here in Baker City. We look forward to many more collaborative years as he strengthens our presbyterate, hopefully with more local vocations, as well as other missionary priests who will be welcomed to serve in our vast Diocese.
                                 Ad Multos Annos Bishop Cary!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Serenity Prayer

Many people are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. Members of the Alcoholics Anonymous have adopted it as their motto, and are especially fond of it and carry it with them, quote it frequently and share with others. But then there are others who go even further with this prayer. A woman came to the office a few years ago, to ask for some help, and I noticed that she had this prayer tattooed on her neck. I politely asked her if I could take a picture of this unique tattoo and she had no objection, as you can see from these two photos I am posting today.

It must be very painful to have a tattoo anywhere engraved on your body, but it must have been even more so having it done on your throat, on your neck. Nonetheless it was nicely done. By the way this prayer was written between 1941 and 1942 by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971.) This is the original prayer:
God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What we learn from life

1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.
2) When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.
3) If your  sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.
4) You can't trust dogs to watch your food.
5) Don't sneeze when  someone is cutting your hair.
6) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the  same time.
7) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
8)  Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
9) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandpa's lap.

1) Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.
2) Wrinkles don't hurt.
3) Families are like fudge . . . mostly sweet, with a  few nuts.
4) Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground.
5) Laughing is good exercise. It's like jogging on the inside.
6)  Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy.

1) Growing old is mandatory;  growing up is optional.
2) Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.
3) You're getting  old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.
4) It's frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.
5) Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician.
6) Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.

1) You believe in Santa Claus.
2) You don't believe in Santa Claus.
3) You are Santa Claus.
4) You look like Santa Claus.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Bleeding Heart

Lamprocapnos Spectabilis (Bleeding Heart)
My favorite flower is in full bloom right now, outside the Rectory, and as these photos can tell, it speaks of love, optimism, hope and sheer beauty. Its technical name in botany is Lamprocapnos spectabilis. It is also affectionately also known as old-fashioned Venus's car, Lady in a bath, Dutchman's trousers, or Lyre-flower. It is a perennial plant native to eastern Asia from Siberia south to Japan. It is a popular ornamental plant for flower gardens in temperate climates, and is also used in floristry as a cut flower for Valentine's Day. It usually has red heart-shaped flowers with white tips which droop from arching flower stems in late spring and early summer. White-flowered forms are also cultivated. 

I noticed a few days ago a young girl picking up some of the hearts. I couldn’t stop her because I was upstairs, but apparently she only picked two or three hearts, because when I checked it again later, I could hardly tell that there were some missing hearts. But then again, it was the day before Mother’s Day and maybe she gave them to her mother as a surprise gift. Or maybe she gave them to a boy she had a crush on. Or maybe she wanted them for herself. Either way, the hearts will come up again, every year, and I pray that bleeding hearts will be only visible on this plant, and not in the lives of so many heart-broken people and families, of which there are probably much more than we think.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Saint Matthias

Saint Matthias
One hundred and twenty people were gathered for prayer and reflection in the upper room, when Peter stood up to propose the way to make the choice for a replacement for Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and hung himself. Peter had one criterion, that, like Andrew, James, John, and himself, the new apostle be someone who had been a disciple from the very beginning, from his baptism by John until the Ascension.
Two men fit this description -- Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas. They knew that both these men had been with them and with Jesus through his whole ministry. But which one had the heart to become a witness to his resurrection? The apostles knew that only the Lord could know what was in the heart of each. They cast lots in order to discover God's will and Matthias was chosen. He was the twelfth apostle and the group was whole again as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the other 12 who were hand-picked by Jesus, warts and all, Matthias was chosen from among 120 others. So there must have been something special about him - his credentials must have been quite impressive, even though we know so little about him.
That's the first we hear of Matthias in Scripture, and the last. Legends like the Acts of Andrew and Matthias testify to Matthias' enthusiastic embrace of all that being an apostle meant including evangelization, persecution, and death in the service of the Lord.
Clement of Alexandria says that Matthias, like all the other apostles, was not chosen by Jesus for what he already was, but for what Jesus foresaw he would become. He was elected not because he was worthy but because he would become worthy. Jesus chooses all of us in the same way.
Have you ever felt like an afterthought, a latecomer? Or have you ever resented someone new who was added to your group? It is not our prerogative to decide who belongs and who doesn’t belong within our church. God chooses people He deems fit to serve him. The same goes with vocations. We are all called for specific roles, sometimes unknown to us, until we realize our gifts and talents. So let us welcome any newcomers to your parish, work, or family community as someone chosen by God, as the apostles welcomed St Matthias.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Lady of Fatima

Fatima apparition on May 13, 1917

Along with Lourdes and Guadalupe, Fatima is the most visited country as far as religious pilgrimages are concerned. And as if to further accentuate its importance in history, May 13, 1917 was replicated in 1981 for a moment of importance, although in a negative way. On that day Pope John Paul II was shot inside the Vatican Square and almost died. But he recovered enough to make a pilgrimage a year later on May 13, 1982, to thank the Blessed Mother for her intervention in saving his life.
But very much like Lourdes and Guadalupe, the quietness of these small little villages was turned upside down when the Blessed Mother appeared to 3 young children, Francisco and his sister Jacinta Marto, and Lucia dos Santos. Nobody would believe them at first, and were almost imprisoned for fabricating lies. But eventually, religious leaders, priests and bishops in Fatima, Portugal investigated the whole story and found it to be true, with the Vatican officially proclaiming that the apparitions were believable. Francisco and Jacinta died shortly afterwards, but Lucia became a nun and lived into the third millennium in a monastery in Portugal, being visited by 2 Popes. 

Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta
A huge basilica was built on the spot where the Blessed Mother appeared to the children, encouraging them to pray the Rosary, and pray for the conversion of souls. She even gave the children some well-kept secrets, which were only shown to the reigning Popes, but we know now that they spoke about the conversion of Russia and other tragic events that took place over the years, and other historic events which were predicted, like the end of World War I. Thousands of pilgrims visit Fatima every year, and the devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary spread far and wide. The prayer that is said between each decade of the Rosary was devised after the Fatima apparition: O my Jesus forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of thy mercy.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrating Mother's Day

My mother Mary in 1985
To all our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, mothers-to-be, foster mothers and step-mothers, our prayers are with you. On this special day, we pray that they will place their lives and their families’ well-being under the Blessed Mother’s protection. Let us also remember those mothers who are in heaven, waiting for us as patiently as they used to wait at midnight when we were late coming home from a party. A news item on TV showed that if a mother who stays home were to be paid according to the work she does, cleaning, cooking, teaching, counseling, fixing, decorating, driving, etc, she would be working an average 92 hours a week, and she will be earning a minimum of $138,000 a year. My own mother would have earned over $8 million in her lifetime! We love them, and we thank them for all they do for us. May God bless them with eternal happiness in his bosom, until we eventually join them at our final destination.
My mother (pregnant with me) and father with my two sisters in 1952
The idea to celebrate Mother’s Day came to Anna Jarvis, a Philadelphia school teacher, first expressed to a group of friends in 1907. She was originally from rural West Virginia, but her family had moved to Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century. So persuasive was her concept, so diligent was her dedication, that by 1908 she marshaled the support to carry out the first observance of Mother’s Day in May 1908, back in her family surroundings of Grafton, Virginia. Two years later, Mother’s Day became a state holiday by a proclamation by the then-Governor William Glassman. And behold, three years later, Congress proclaimed that henceforth, Mother’s Day should be a national holiday, marked by a Presidential Proclamation issued in May 1914. Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world on the second Sunday in May.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Clenched Fist and Open Hand

A clenched fist represents anger,  aggression, jealousy,  rebellion,
frustration, hatred, superiority and punishment.
A clenched fist is always ready to destroy and annihilate,
to hurt, kill and mutilate, to inflict injury without regrets,
to show hatred, to challenge and to attack, to tear up plans,
to criticize mercilessly,  to show resistance to Peace,
to put someone down, to turn people away,
to destroy the spirit of a happy person,
to discourage the enthusiasm of a child full of life,
to have no respect for life, to show opposition,
and to turn away from God

An Open Hand represents love, forgiveness, giving,
sharing, openness, encouragement, hope,
patience and tolerance.
An Open Hand is always ready to show compassion,
to give advice, to share a smile and give a helping hand,
to feed the hungry and alleviate thirst,
to show leniency and concern,
to work and help clean up, to change a diaper and nurse
a wound, to heal a broken heart, to applaud an effort,
to give another chance, to cheer up, comfort and console,
to reconcile with a friend, to be open to life and growth,

and to return back to God.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ascension - a different perspective

Ascension - our perspective

We always think of the Ascension of Jesus from His perspective - leaving the apostles and heading to heaven for good. But what thoughts went through the apostles’ heads as well as the Blessed Mother when He really left them for good? This stained glass window is very meaningful to me, because it focuses on those left behind - their emotions, their feelings, their doubts, their bewilderment, their confusion, their pondering the future. The past 40 days were like bonus days for them. But now they realized that He was gone for good. Unaware that He will send an extension of Himself in the presence of the Holy Spirit within a week, they were not prepared yet for another major transformation that will happen to them, when the Spirit will change them completely into new men. 
The Sacred Feet of the Ascending Jesus

I like this stained-glass because it shows also Jesus’ feet, still with the wounds visible, the same feet that Mary had washed with her tears and dried with her hair, and then anointed with balm and perfume. They were the same feet that walked the hills of Galilee, the same feet that I’m sure he rested on a couch when visiting his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. We frequently focus on his sacred hands, but his feet were sacred too. Feet used to be anointed in the old rite of  Extreme Unction, now called the Anointing of the sick. And remember that just before he was taken up to heaven, he charged the apostles to continue His work, in using their feet to spread His message of love and compassion, the Good News contained in the Gospel.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My childhood church

The inside of the Ascension church at St Julian's in December 2010
Most countries celebrate the feast of the Ascension today, and this brings me back to my childhood church, dedicated to the feast of the Ascension. It's the church where my parents were married, where we were all baptized, received our Sacraments, where I served hundreds of Masses, and where I spent most of my free time as a child. It is affectionately called the Lapsi church, Lapsi meaning Ascension.

The main altar decorated for the feast of St Julian in August 2006
The church was built and re-built a few times over the years, the first time being in 1580, probably a small tiny country church. It was built again in 1716, again in 1729, and enlarged to its present state in 1854 when it was still a sub-parish of Birkirkara, a larger town 3 miles away. It was elevated to the rank of parish in 1891, and was restored to its magnificent past over the past 20 years, thanks to a grant from the Government and the will-power and drive of parish enthusiasts.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Atlantic City - 100 years ago

Atlantic City boardwalk - 100 years ago
Here are some vintage photos of Atlantic City, as seen in these two historic photos of 100 years ago. People strolling about in long dresses, men in top hats, and of course no bathing suits, no bikinis, hardly anyone sun-bathing or swimming. 
Atlantic City beach
Some men and boys are seen wearing shirts and long Bermuda shorts, with just about their ankles and below their knees visible. Things have certainly changed over the years, but at least people can still walk on the boardwalk, which was partly damaged last year during Hurricane Sandy in October.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

NYC - 100 years ago

42nd Street in New York City, 100 years ago
Having lived in New York for 22 years, I can honestly say that I miss walking through the Avenues and side-streets, visiting the stores, the churches, the various landmarks, enjoying the hustle and bustle of a big city. I actually never drove in New York City, although once I came close by in an uptown area, and as you can imagine, the traffic is absolutely crazy, especially with hundreds of yellow cabs zipping and zapping all day long. Well, these photos take us back to 1913, when the first cars appeared, clogging the streets even then, driving at 20 miles and hour, which was considered fast in those days. Horse driven carriages were also very common in those days, although you may still see them today in Central Park. 

NYC Public Library 100 years ago

Wall Street in NYC, 1913

Stay tuned because tomorrow we'll go to Atlantic City 100 years ago, but don't expect any bikini clad ladies. (Click on each photo to get a bigger image)

Monday, May 6, 2013


The peak of the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon

Last Saturday was a spectacular day in Eastern Oregon, with the sky painted with fast-changing cumulus clouds. These photos I took on my mission trip to Halfway show the amazing display that God gave us that day. There is a lot of scientific information about clouds and their formation, but this simple explanation is enough for the average reader. The clouds that dominated the sky on Saturday were cumulus-fractus.
In meteorology, a cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. These suspended particles are also known as aerosols.

Cumulus-fractus clouds on Saturday May 4, 2013 in Eastern Oregon
The international cloud classification system is based on the fact clouds in their most basic forms can show free-convective upward growth like cumulus, appear in non-convective layered sheets such as stratus, or take the form of thin fibrous wisps, as in the case of cirrus. Prefixes are used in connection with clouds to express variations or complexities in these basic forms or to specify middle or high altitude ranges. These include strato- for low clouds with limited convection that form mostly in uneven layers, cumulo- for complex highly-convective storm clouds, nimbo- for thick layered clouds of some complexity that can produce moderate to heavy precipitation, alto- for middle clouds, and cirro- for high clouds; the latter two of which may be of simple or moderately complex structure.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Crowning Mary

Stained glass of Coronation of Mary in Baker City Cathedral (1958)
Traditionally on the first Sunday of May or on Mother's Day, a statue of Mary is crowned in many catholic churches. I share with you today this prayer I wrote as we crown Mary today in our parish:
Most Blessed Mother, we ask your blessing on us on this day as we crown you Queen of heaven, Queen of our homes, Queen of our parish.
Keep from our homes all evil and danger, and may harmony, respect and tolerance be the values that dominate our families’ interaction and collaboration with each other.
Bless our children and keep them safe, especially during the summer months. Bless those who travel and those who work outdoors. Give our farmers and ranches enough rain for their farms, their crops, their animals. Keep safe our firefighters who may be extra busy this summer.

We are proud to honor you Blessed Mother with some of the most spectacular stained-glass windows in our Cathedral, and may they always remind us of your continual protection on our parish and our families that gather here to worship.
As we crown you today, may you reign along with Jesus your Son throughout the year, blessing us with health and happiness, with faith, fidelity and forgiveness towards each other, and the same love you exchanged with each other and with St Joseph in your humble home of Nazareth. We ask this prayer through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives with you and all the saints in Heaven, forever and ever. AMEN.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

First Communion photos

First Communion children 2013

Our parish First Holy Communion was celebrated last Sunday with 13 children receiving Jesus for the first time in their lives. We rehearse with them in processing towards the altar in order, doing the readings and the petitions, setting up the altar for the Offertory, receiving Communion and everything coordinated and synchronized with our children’s choir. 
The children also prepare banners with pictures and symbols from their lives so far, as well as the blessing cup, which they decorate and take home as a memory of this special day. Recently they have also prepared in their classes small tabernacles, Jesus’ home, which they also decorate and keep at home in remembrance of this happy day for them. Parents, brothers and sisters and grandparents, as well as great grandparents joined them for this celebration.
Children around the altar during Mass

Friday, May 3, 2013

St Philip and St James

St Philip and St James

Even though it was not Jesus’ intention for this to happen, but the apostles tend to categorize themselves. Peter, James and John were chosen on a few occasions to be close to Jesus, at the Transfiguration, in the Garden of Olives, and during other miracles. Then there are those who are less popular, like Thomas, Andrew, Bartholomew, Matthew. Then there are those about whom we know very little - in fact their feast-days are combined, like St Simon and St Jude, and today’s feastday St Philip and St James (son of Alphaeus.) We know very little about them, but it’s enough to know that Jesus called them and then sent them on their mission to evangelize. Even though Peter denied him and Judas betrayed him, the others all remained faithful to their Master, and with the exception of St John, they all died a martyr’s death, suffering for their Master till the end. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater. He was made Bishop of Jerusalem and died there in 62 AD.
St Philip and St James represented in an old Icon

 Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way, the Truth and the Life...If you know me, then you will also know my Father.” Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” “Enough!” Jesus answered, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” This is a challenge to us too - sometimes we take our Lord for granted. We’ve experienced miracles, we’ve heard his touching words, and at times remain skeptical of His intervention in our lives. There is another occasion where St Philip appears talking and eventually baptizing the eunuch who was traveling in a caravan. This incident is reported by St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

St Athanasius

St Athanasius (296-373)
St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under the eye of Alexander, later Bishop of his native city, he made great progress in learning and virtue. In 313, Alexander succeeded Achillas in the Patriarchal See, and two years later St. Athanasius went to the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony. In 319, he became a deacon, and even in this capacity he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy of Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius.
In 325, he assisted his Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, he was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326. His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373. St. Athanasius was also one of the 4 main Doctors of the Church.