Saturday, August 31, 2013

Success and Failure

Winston Churchill

A young English boy was called ‘carrot top’ by other students and was given little chance by some teachers. He ranked third lowest in class and constantly failed mathematics and Latin. He repeated his grade twice and was said to have little understanding of his school work. He never gave up though, and eventually became Prime Minister of England. His name was Winston Churchill.

Elvis Presley
When Elvis Presley in 1953 tried out as a singer in the Grand Ole Opry, the main judge pulled him aside and asked him, “What do you do for a living?” And Elvis responded “I drive trucks, Sir.” To which the judge responded, “Well, I suggest that you forget about singing and keep on trucking!” The world of music is glad that Elvis did not follow the judge’s suggestion and did not give up on his singing career.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Leonardo's Genius

Da Vinci's anatomical dissection of an embryo

He may be renowned for masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, but Leonardo da Vinci is also one of the greatest anatomists the world has seen. His intricate knowledge of the human body, which was years ahead of his time, is demonstrated in a collection of notebooks which he filled with detailed studies of organs, bones, vessels and muscles using new illustrative techniques. The collection of notebooks, which date between 1452 and 1519, chart much of the Italian renaissance artist's groundbreaking studies of the human body. These notebooks are presently being exhibited in Edinburgh, Scotland until November 10. Curators say his work foreshadows modern techniques like MRI scans and 3D computer modeling 'to an astonishing degree'. Da Vinci began researching the human body to ensure his paintings were as true to nature as possible. Between 1507 and 1513 he dissected more than 30 human corpses, including that of a 100-year-old man.

Da Vinci's notes on the human hand
Leonardo da Vinci is best known for his stunning artwork but the Italian Renaissance painter had many talents. He was also a sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. Only around fifteen of his paintings survive because of his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Leonardo is also revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, and the double hull, also outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. But everyone agrees that the artist mostly known for the Mona Lisa, was a genius, way ahead of his time.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Children's questions to Mary

A few days ago I shared with you some questions that children may want to ask Jesus. Now a few questions to His mother Mary…..
Dear Mary, did you say the prayers with Jesus when he woke up – we say our prayers even before we go to bed.
Dear Mary, did you say grace before meals and pray for those who have nothing to eat? – we pray Jesus’ favorite prayer when we say “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Dear Mary, did you have a pet dog or cat or maybe even a donkey? – we have a dog, some fish and a cockatiel who squeaks a lot.
Dear Mary, did you stay with Jesus when he was doing his homework? – did he do all his homework in time, and finish all his projects in time?
Dear Mary, did you have a Bible at home? – we have a Bible from which we read daily, and another big one with leather cover and lots of pictures in it.
Dear Mary, did you speak to the Holy Spirit? – I know you saw him at Pentecost, but did Jesus ever speak about him to you?
Dear Mary, did you ever tell Jesus about where he was born? – was he ever disappointed that he wasn’t born in a nicer place?

Dear Mary, did you ever tell him what the shepherds said about him, and what gifts the Kings gave him? – I bet he would have preferred some toys!
Dear Mary, how really worried were you when Jesus was lost for 3 days? – you must have panicked a little, as my parents do when I get lost sometimes.
Dear Mary, when Joseph died, did Jesus work for you, so that he can feed you with some income?
Dear Mary, you must have been heart-broken when you see Jesus being killed and crucified on the cross. We remember you every year as we pray to the Sorrowful Mother.
Dear Mary, what feelings went through your mind when they placed Jesus’ lifeless body on your lap when he was taken down from the Cross? We remember you as pray to you as the Pieta’.
Dear Mary, we love the prayer of the Rosary and wish more people would say it more frequently. I say it daily, along with our entire family at night before we go to sleep.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

'I have a dream'

It was 50 years ago today that Martin Luther King delivered that impassioned speech in Washington DC, and here is an important section of the speech:

I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow.
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interpostion and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Saint Monica

Saint Monica
Any woman who spends her life praying for the conversion of her husband and her wayward son deserves to be canonized, especially after her own son becomes a popular Saint and a Doctor of the Church. Monica’s parents brought her up as Christian and married her to an older, pagan man named Patricius. He was a man with a great deal of energy, but also a man given to violent tempers and adultery. Her son St Augustine writes in one of his books that despite the prevalence of domestic abuse at the time, because of her obedience to him, Patricius never beat St. Monica. His mother lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. However, St Monica attended church daily and cultivated the virtue of patience. She would say to other women who had bad marriages, "If you can master your tongue, not only do you run less risk of being beaten, but perhaps you may even, one day, make your husband better."

She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370. He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life. St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, "it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish." This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received, strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. Not long after, as she was preparing to return to Africa, she died at the age of 56 at the port of Ostia, Italy, telling Augustine: "There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God has answered this more than abundantly. What more am I to do here?" St Augustine’s feast will be celebrated tomorrow, a day after his mother’s feast.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Children's questions to Jesus

Dear Jesus, we have a few questions for you – you know how children are always inquisitive about everything they see around them. So here are a few questions for you….

Dear Jesus, we love your flowers – how we wish that the blind can see them!
Dear Jesus, you made a great invention when you made birds fly, and sing so beautifully to each other.
Dear Jesus, where did you get all that water in our seas – we enjoy swimming in it!
Dear Jesus, how do you keep the sun up, without falling – and so we can see what we’re doing with its bright light.
Dear Jesus, how do you light all those lamps and stars in the sky, for everyone to see and for no one to count.
Dear Jesus, how do you fit in my heart, since it is so small – but the important thing is that you stay there.

Dear Jesus, why do some people don’t like you, since you are so beautiful – please forgive them and bring them back to you.
Dear Jesus, do you ever sleep – you’re always so busy and taking care of everyone?
Dear Jesus, did your mom sew that nice robe you wear? – maybe from some money your daddy earned at his carpenter’s shop?
Dear Jesus, did your mom ever bought you any toys – to play and share with your friends?
Dear Jesus, will we be able to play while in heaven? – they told us in religion classes that in heaven we will have a different body.
Dear Jesus, there are many children who have never heard of you – could you reach out to them and visit them, whenever you have some free time?
Dear Jesus, your mom is really beautiful – we have many of her statues in our church, and they are all so pretty.
Dear Jesus, you are really patient with us – this shows how much you love us and desire that we stay close to you.
Dear Jesus, did your mom let you play with other children – probably as long as they were nice and well-behaved.

Dear Jesus, prepare for us a nice place with you in heaven – I’ll be there with my parents, with my brothers and sisters and my grandparents, I hope we can all fit in there!
Dear Jesus, come and live with us for a few days – my dad will fix a room for you to stay in...or you can even take my bed and stay in my room.
Dear Jesus, come and play with us – we will be happy to play your games, and share ours with you.
Dear Jesus, have mercy on those who use bad words, so that they can love you more – our teacher told us to say “Blessed be God” when we hear them curse.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

St Julian

Statue of Saint Julian

These photos speak for themselves, as the procession with the statue of St Julian is held today. The statue was crafted in 1893, 120 years ago by the artist Carlo Darmanin. It was made of paper-mache, and it is the pride of everyone who lives in the village of St Julian's. 
Carlo Darmanin, the sculptor of the statue

Vestments and chalices displayed in the church

The relic of St Julian is also carried in the procession, accompanied by altar-servers, lay-people, and other parish representatives. Fireworks and marching bands are also prominent throughout the evening. Il-Festa t-Tajba lil-Giljanizi kollha (Happy Feast to the folks of St Julian's parish)
The statue of St Julian being taken out in procession from the parish church

Saturday, August 24, 2013

More Festa decorations

A marching band warming up for the festive march around town

The feast of St Julian will reach its climax on Sunday with the evening procession, but other festivities are held every day, both inside the church and in the streets of the village. 

Statue of Pope John Paul and the statue of the Sacred Heart

Fireworks known as 'catherine-wheels'

Predominantly among these are the band marches which are accompanied by fireworks, lots of revelry by young people, and color, lights and anything that adds to the festive mood. These photos show just a little bit of the mood created during this busy weekend.

Friday, August 23, 2013

St Julian's churches

The new St Julian's parish church, where I served from 1977 to 1981

As I've been describing this past week, my hometown village of St Julian's is celebrating the feast of St Julian, and I share with you today two photos of the two churches, the new one and the old one. The new church was built between 1962 and 1967 and was opened officially in the late 1960s with various additional decorations installed over the years, among them the organ, the stations of the cross, the confessionals and others. Pope John Paul II visited this church in 1990, and on that occasion the church was painted in unusual colors scheme devised by Architect Richard England. People were confused at first but they came to accept the colors pink, purple and sky blue in their sanctuary. 
The old St Julian's church, where I was baptized and served as altar-boy

The old church was built in the mid 1850s, the final version of other smaller churches built decades earlier on the same spot. The church was dedicated to the Ascension of Jesus, but was always known as the parish church of St Julian, after it became a parish in 1891, being taken from the expanding region of Birkirkara, from which at least half a dozen parishes have splintered from its region. This church was recently restored by a group of aficionados and Mass is celebrated daily, including many weddings on weekends, which many couples seem to like, because of its intimate quaintness, and historical ambience.  Both churches are seen here dressed up for the annual feast of St Julian, photos which I took in 2006.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mary our Queen

Coronation of Mary - St Francis De Sales Cathedral, Baker City

We honor the Blessed Mother today as Queen of Heaven and Earth, a feast introduced into the liturgical calendar by Pope Pius XII on October 11, 1954. It was celebrated on May 31, the last day of the Marian month, but Pope Paul VI moved it to August 22, a week after the feast of the Assumption of Mary. One of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in our Cathedral was crafted by the Rambusch brothers of New York in 1958, and shows the coronation of Mary, surrounded by God the Father, God the Son and the the Holy Spirit, besides a group of angels, two of whom are placing the crown on Mary's head.

May Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth protect us all and keep her eyes on the suffering people, especially those in Syria and Egypt and in the Middle East region, and may she change the heart of their leaders who have no respect for human life.  May she protect all firefighters who are battling some huge fires right now, as well all the young people heading for college and children preparing for another scholastic year.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

St Julian's Festa decorations

The main square in St Julian's with festa decorations
During this week-long festival in honor of Saint Julian in my hometown, a lot of banners, flags and other decorations are displayed around town. Since St Julian was originally from Belgium, the predominant colors are black, yellow and red, the colors of the Belgian flag, and many tourists who happen to be visiting during this week may think that they have landed in Belgium instead of Malta. 
A hand-painted banner near the old parish church of St Julian

Lots of work, planning, designing and painting goes behind each of these banners, known in Maltese as ‘bandalori’ and ‘pavaljuni.’ Obviously they add a lot of color and character, and this is repeated in each town and village, just about every weekend from May till September. More photos of the feast of St Julian will appear over the next few days.
Our street decorated, with the house where I grew up, second from left

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Silver Rose

Members of the Knights of Columbus with the Silver Rose

Last Saturday, August 17 we had a special Holy Hour in our Cathedral to honor the Blessed Mother in what has become known as the Silver Rose program. The Silver Rose Pilgrimage was initiated by the Knights of Columbus, as a joint Canadian-US Program as another recognition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Patroness of the Americas. It started with the Supreme Knights of Columbus Convention in Toronto, Canada 8 years ago. The Silver Rose, a polished silver plated rose is 14 inches in length in a case. The program starts in Toronto each year and weaves its way across Canada into the United States and will end at Mexico City, on December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This year, the Silver Rose entered the United States through Washington and into Oregon via the Tri-Cities, then to Hermiston, Pendelton, La Grande, Baker City, Ontario, Prineville, Madras, Redmond, Bend, La Pine, Lakeview and Klamath Falls. Then the rose will enter California, into Nevada and finally into Mexico. The Holy Hour consisted of the recitation of the Rosary, reflections, meditations and special prayers, concluding with Solemn Benediction. Parishioners were also invited to come forward and venerate the Rose. A generous crowd of parishioners attended the Holy Hour, including some members of the Knights of Columbus from our parish.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prayer for Humilty

Pope Francis washing people's feet on Holy Thursday

Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its needs, welcomes advice and accepts rebuke. 
Help us always to praise rather than criticize, to sympathize rather than condemn, to encourage rather than discourage, to build rather than destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


A plateful of delicious, juicy figs

One of my favorite fruit is a fig. However here in Eastern Oregon, they are as rare a polar bears and alligators. I over-indulged on them as a child where I had plenty of them to eat, mostly from a huge fig tree at my grandmother’s house. My job in the summer was to pick up as many as I could, filling as many as two buckets a day, besides the other bucket full that would end up in my stomach as I swung from branch to branch like a young Tarzan. 

Figs growing on a tree in Malta, including two young ones

Figs need an extended warm climate to grow, and since our growing season here in Baker City is only three months, it’s impossible to grow them. You can’t even find them in stores, except for the dried ones. Figs have more fiber per serving than any other fruit, and more anti-oxidants than red wine or tea. Besides they are also a biblical fruit, mentioned in the Bible on a few occasion, including the time when Jesus went looking for figs on a tree and found none.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fishermen Mass

Fishermen Mass at St Julian's (click to enlarge)
Today kicks off officially the celebrations in honor of Saint Julian in my home parish of the same name. An open air Mass is celebrated in the evening near the seashore, followed by the blessing of boats and the fishermen, whose busy ‘lampuki’ seasons starts now. Lampuki are popular fish caught in the Mediterranean between now and November. A small statue of St Julian is also brought to the area by boat, accompanied by marching bands.  A few years ago I did a watercolor impression of the Fishermen Mass, while the photos below shows a section of the congregation attending the Mass, celebrated by the parish priest or pastor of St Julian’s parish.
The congregation attending the Fishermen Mass by the seashore

The Mass is followed by an evening of Maltese music, food and fellowship. All this coming week, I will share more photos and events of this week-long celebration, culminating with the procession with the statue of Saint Julian on Sunday August 25.

Friday, August 16, 2013

One Hand

Zach Hodskins, drafted by a Florida College team

Another young man just made some sensational news when he was drafted by a Florida basketball team in college. Thousands of students are drafted and picked every year, but Zach Hodskins is special. He was born with one hand, and has played basketball ever since he was a young child. He does not know any other way. And he’s pretty good, watching some of the videos shown on ESPN. Good luck to him!

Jim Abbott, celebrating his no-hitter in 1993 with the NY Yankees
Another one-handed sports star is the baseball player Jim Abbott who was drafted to play professional baseball with the California Angels. Jim was also born with one hand, but this did not deter him from trying his best in what he knew best - throwing a baseball.  While with the University of Michigan, Abbott won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's best amateur athlete in 1987 and won a gold medal in Baseball with the USA at the 1988 Summer Olympics. He was drafted in the first round of the 1988 Major League Baseball Draft and reached the Majors the next year. He was with the New York Yankees between 1993 and 1994 and he will always be remembered for throwing a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in 1993. A no-hitter is every pitcher's dream and very few ever record that milestone, maybe 2 to 3 every year out of thousands of games played throughout a season of 162 games. Abbott retired with a career record of 87 wins and 108 losses, with a 4.25 earned run average. This comes to show that nothing is impossible for those who dream big.        Good luck to Zach Hodskins and thank you to Jim Abbott for never giving up!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

6 faces of Mary

The 6 images of Mary in the Cathedral windows
We are so blessed with our beautiful stained-glass windows crafted over the past 90 years in our St Francis De Sales Cathedral. The sanctuary especially seems to be embraced by the images of the Blessed Mother, as I have mentioned frequently on the feasts of Mary. On August 15, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption and we honor her that day with 2 special Masses on that holy day of obligation.
The windows in the main body of the church were crafted by the Povey Brothers of Portland in 1923. The other two closer to the altar, of the Coronation and Pentecost were crafted by the Rambusch Company of New York in 1958. Each image of Mary is different and yet the same. The maternal aspect of each image portrays the affection, the anticipation, the sorrow, the joy and the glory of Mary’s journey. The images here portrayed are in a chronological sequence.
The first one shows the Annunciation, as the Angel Gabriel brings her glad tidings, revealing that she was chosen by God to be the mother of our Savior. There is a hesitant look on her face as she pondered the message of the Angel, realizing that she was not married and yet was to become pregnant as soon as she utters her historic YES.
The second image is at the Presentation of Jesus at the temple, showing a look of anticipation and eagerness, moving forward with two turtle doves, accompanied by St Joseph behind her. The offering of doves was a requirement of the poor parents, while wealthy parents were to present two sheep. Mary is also seen holding a candle, to remind us that the feast is known as Candlemas day, and happened 40 days after the birth of Jesus, at which time, the mother was to be purified by the High Priest. At the birth of a baby, any mother would be considered impure for 40 days, and could not attend the temple for the duration.
The third image is of the Sorrowful Mother under the cross, even with a tear trickling down her cheeks, accompanied by another Mary. Yet another Mary, of Magdala is kneeling down clasping the foot of the cross in this impressive depiction of the Crucifixion.
The fourth image is seen at Pentecost, the historic day on which the church was officially born, and we see Mary here encouraging the apostles as the Holy Spirit descends on each of them in the form of a tongue of fire.

The Assumption stained-glass, crafted 90 years ago.
The fifth image is that of Mary being assumed into Heaven, as she looks heavenward with arms open being welcomed into heaven, while the apostles underneath appear surprised seeing Mary leaving them, as they surround the empty tomb. Impressive rays surround her glorified image.
The last image is that of Mary being crowned as Queen of Heaven. While sitting on a throne, two angels are placing a crown on her head, as she is surrounded by God the Father and God the Son, while other angels rejoice around her. The complexion of Mary’s face is a very peaceful one, reminiscent of the joy she experienced being joined once again with her Son Jesus.
Incidentally the Pentecost and Coronation windows cost $8,200 in 1958, while the other large ones from 1923 cost $1000 each, while the smaller windows cost $500 each. I hope you can all use these images of Mary as a constant meditation of her role and intervention in our lives, especially as you attend Mass weekly in our beautiful Cathedral.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Assumption vs Dormition

Dormition Icon from the 1100s
As we approach the feast of the Assumption of Mary tomorrow, we ponder the ages-long controversy whether Mary died before being assumed into heaven. Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, and in his declaration, he said: “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” If you read the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus, which was issued on the same occasion, it becomes manifest that the Holy Father taught that our Immaculate Lady died an earthly death before being assumed bodily into Heaven.  Citing Saint Modestus, the Holy Father writes: “As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, Mary has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.”
The citations employed by Pope Pius XII reveal that he believed and intended to show that the Immaculate Virgin Mary did in fact undergo death prior to her glorious Assumption.
This death-resurrection-assumption is known as the Dormition (Sleeping) of Mary. A popular Dormition Icon from the 1100s features Christ holding the tiny soul of Mary depicted as a baby wrapped in white clothes. The Mother of God’s body lies lifeless on a bier or an open casket. The orthodox image shows that Mary did die. The Holy Apostles surround her demonstrating that the Dormition and Assumption had apostolic witness and are part of the deposit of Faith. The Eastern Churches celebrate a mini-Lent before the Assumption from August 1-14. There is a tradition is that she died at 3pm on August 13 and rose again and was assumed into Heaven on August 15. Her death on August 13 is still commemorated in Jerusalem to this day. Hence August 13-15 is a Marian Triduum or “three-day” death and resurrection cycle.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Value of a Hug

Even nature tells us it's OK to hug!
It’s wondrous what a hug can do - a hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A hug can say “I love you so” - or again “I really hate to see you go.”

A hug is “Welcome back again,”  and “Great to see you! Where’ve you been?”
A hug can soothe a small child’s pain - and bring a rainbow after rain.

A hug - there’s just no doubt about it, we scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights and warms and charms - it must be why God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers, sweet for sisters, swell for brothers.
And chances are your favorite aunts love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them, puppies love them - heads of state are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier and make travel so much merrier.

No need to fret about your store of them - the more you give, there’s more of them.
So stretch those arms without delay, and give someone a hug today.

Monday, August 12, 2013

St Jane Frances de Chantal

St Jane Frances de Chantal 1572-1641

Born to the nobility in Dijon, France in January 1572, the daughter of the president of the Parliament of Burgundy, Jane grew up in a very devout environment, a trait she shared with her husband and the 4 children God gave them. Despite the early financial worries, she and her husband shared "one heart and one soul." One way Jane shared her blessings was by giving bread and soup personally to the poor who came to her door.
Her happiness was shattered when her husband Christophe was killed in a hunting accident. Before he died, her husband forgave the man who shot him, saying to the man, "Don't commit the sin of hating yourself when you have done nothing wrong." The heartbroken Jane, however, had to struggle with forgiveness for a long time. At first she tried just greeting this man on the street. When she was able to do that, she invited him to her house. Finally she was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child.
These troubles opened her heart to her longing for God and she sought God in prayer and a deepening spiritual life. She spent her free time in prayer, and received a vision of the man who would become her spiritual director. In Lent, 1604, she met Saint Francis de Sales, and recognized him as the man in her vision. Her commitment to God impressed Saint Francis, the bishop who became her director and best friend and the two carried on a lengthy correspondence for years. 

St Jane listening to St Francis De Sales preach
On Trinity Sunday, 6 June 1610 she founded the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady at Annecy, France. The Order was designed for widows and laywomen who did not wish the full life of the orders, and oversaw the founding of 69 convents. Jane spent the rest of her days overseeing the Order, and acting as spiritual advisor to any who desired her wisdom. With Francis' support, Jane founded the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old. She believed that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.
Still a devoted mother, she was constantly concerned about the materialistic ways of one of her daughters. Her daughter finally asked her for spiritual direction. St Jane Frances died in 1641, at sixty-nine years of age at the Visitation Convent. Her relics are in Annecy, France, a place frequently visited by St Francis himself. Visitation nuns today live a contemplative life, work for women with poor health and widows, and sometimes run schools. St Jane Frances de Chantal was canonized in 1767.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Blessing for Feet

We thank you Lord for our feet, for the incredible and ingenious way you shaped them for us so that we can use them to walk, run, climb and simply help us go through life non-stop.
For the feet of pastors, preachers and missionaries who go to the ends of the world spreading the Good News.
For the feet of little children who learn how to walk after falling a hundred times over before taking their first step.
For the feet of athletes who run at incredible speed, jump with astonishing ease and swim with a terrific kick to break all kinds of sports records.
For the feet of marathon runners who defy everyone and keep running, pounding the ground, thanks also to good sneakers made by Nike, Adidas and other brands.
For the feet of farmers and ranchers who have to work in the outdoors, caring for their cattle, horses and sheep, sometimes in extremely cold weather, and at times in unbearable heat.
For the feet of police officers and firefighters who risk their lives chasing criminals and risking their lives in adverse and risky conditions.
For the feet of soldiers and peace-keepers that after they finish their duties in perilous conditions, they can return safely home to their families.
For the feet of dancers and ballerinas who astonish us with their dancing, their pirouetting and graceful techniques they use to entertain those who attend Ballets, Broadway Shows and other performances.
For podiatrists who help us when our feet hurt, or when we injure them or need any kind of help and support for aching feet.
For foot reflexologists who can sooth any discomfort and give us a relaxing time which our feet always like and enjoy.
For the feet of adventurers and climbers, especially those who scale high mountains in the snow, that they will always have a way to get back down from where they started, and avoid getting lost or disoriented.

Mary Magdalene washing Jesus' feet with her tears
For the feet of saints who imitated Jesus in their lifestyle, for martyrs who gave up their lives for him, and for those who left everything to follow in his footsteps.
For the feet of Jesus who walked around Galilee to preach, heal and motivate people to turn their lives around, the same feet caressed by his mother Mary, washed by the tears of a sinful woman, and brutally nailed to the cross at the crucifixion.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Baker City Fair

A friendly parrot at the Baker City Fair

The annual Baker City Fair is being held this week, and I visited the exhibits yesterday and came back with a few photos to share with you. There were some exotic animals, like alligator, snakes, tarantulas and a colorful jovial parrot who was friendly with everyone, including photographers. There were various categories of food, vegetables, fruit, cakes, cookies, clothing, embroidery, photography and so much more. Of course animals take the most prominence, as young children and teenagers raise them at their homes and ranches and display them for judging, followed by an auction, which must be a heart-wrenching scene for these children. After raising them faithfully, talking to them, feeding them, washing them and falling in love with them, they have to part from them as they are auctioned off, although they do get some pocket money in return to save for college. 

Jayme Ramos with her sheep

Besides the cows and horses, the chicken and rabbits, ducks and turkeys, the most popular are the hogs and sheep. A few of our young people presented them and got prizes for them, including two pictured here, Jayme Ramos and Hollie Minor, with their respective sheep.
Hollie Minor and her sheep

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Blessing for Hands

We thank you Lord, for our hands, and for the many wonderful things we can do with them…
For the hands of firefighters who help put out fires and save lives.
For the hands of writers who write books and articles in the papers.
For the hands of doctors who cure our illnesses and pains and other health-related problems.
For the hands of kind nurses who care for us at clinics and hospitals and nursing homes.
For the hands of priests who forgive us our sins, bless us on many happy occasions, and give us the Body of Christ.
For the hands of teachers who teach us to read and write, help us become decent citizens and guide us through years of schools, colleges and universities.
For the hands of our parents who guide us and protect us, clean us and cook for us, and help us get up when we fall.
For the hands of baseball players who hit home runs and catch fly balls, run and steal bases, and help their teams win the World Series.
For the hands of bakers who bake bread, cakes and cookies and everything our hearts desire.
For the hands of painters and artists who create beautiful paintings for us to admire and for the Museums to show them off.
For the hands of farmers who grow vegetables and fruits for us to enjoy, and grow hay for the animals, as well as plant beautiful flowers to embellish our gardens.
For the hands of pianists, flutists and violinists and other performers who entertain us with their virtuosity, concertos and recitals.

For the hands of children who grab crayons, smash cookies and play with toys, while using their tiny fingers to send instant messages on their cell-phones.
For the hands of toddlers who use crayons of walls, smash cookies to smithereens, and break toys apart in seconds.
For the hands of older siblings who are patient and loving towards their little brothers and sisters and teach them many tricks, including occasional mischief around the house.
For the hands of secretaries who type, take messages and answer phone-calls all day long.
For the hands of politicians who write and sign rules and regulations, while they vote on passing important laws and directives for their constituents.
For the hands of the Blessed Mother, who gave us Jesus, after raising him with love and affection that any mother would show towards her offspring.
For the hands of Jesus, who healed lepers, performed miracles, broke bread while feeding thousands, and whose hands were crucified on the cross for us.
And for God’s own hands, who created all we have, and for guiding us in the right path to heaven.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A description of St Dominic

A sculpture of St Dominic by Carlo Pini (1946)
After World War II, Pope Pius XII authorized the Dominicans of Bologna to have the relics of the founder examined. … After the war, with the Pope’s permission, the Provincial of Lombardy had the relics examined by X-ray. He was not permitted to open the casket, but photographs from many angles were taken. Almost all the bones are still there after more than seven hundred years. Doctors and anthropologists were able to study them and give an accurate description of the skeleton and physical characteristics of St. Dominic.
A certain Sister Cecilia's description is proved reliable by the scientific examination. She said he was of medium height — the measurements show that he was five feet six inches tall. She said, “his figure was supple; his face handsome and somewhat ruddy; his hair and beard blond with a reddish tinge. He was not a bit bald [apart from the shaven tonsure], though here and there in his hair there was a touch of gray.” At the bottom of the reliquary, the examiners found some shreds of St. Dominic’s hair. It was exactly the color that Cecilia had said it was. “From his brow and eyes,” she continued, “there came a radiant splendor which won the respect and admiration of all; his eyes were large and beautiful.” St. Dominic’s remains show large eye-sockets that are widely placed, confirming the physical description of Cecilia. With the scientific measurements and Cecilia’s description an artist has reconstructed an image of St. Dominic. At least in size, shape, and proportion it conforms to life. “His hands were long and handsome and his voice powerful and sonorous, and he was always joyous and smiling, except when moved with compassion at the affliction of his neighbors.” There are very few saints of so long ago whose personal appearance is so well described. The statue reproduced above is the image reconstructed from these descriptions. It was sculpted by Carlo Pini in 1946 and is in the Basilica of San Domenico, Bologna, Italy. That is also where St. Dominic’s remains are entombed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saint Cajetan

Saint Cajetan  (1480-1547)

Like a few other saints, like St Francis De Sales and St Alphonsus, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life — first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia. Born in 1480, his life took a characteristic turn when he joined the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, a group devoted to piety and charity, shortly after his ordination at 36. When he was 42 he founded a hospital for those with incurable illnesses at Venice. At Vicenza, he joined a “disreputable” religious community that consisted only of men of the lowest stations of life — and was roundly censured by his friends, who thought his action was a reflection on his family. He simply sought out the sick and poor of the town and served them, but was criticized for this.
The greatest need of the time was the reformation of a Church that was “sick in head and its members.” Cajetan and three friends decided that the best road to reformation lay in reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. One of them later became Pope Paul IV. Together they founded a congregation known as the Theatines, named after the town of Chieti, where their first superior-bishop had his see. They managed to escape to Venice after their house in Rome was wrecked when Emperor Charles V’s troops sacked Rome in 1527. The Theatines were outstanding among the Catholic reform movements that took shape before the Protestant Reformation. In Naples he founded one of many charitable, nonprofit credit organizations that lent money to help the poor and protect them against usurers. Cajetan’s little organization ultimately became the Bank of Naples, with great changes in policy. 

"St Cajetan" by Giovanni Lanfranco
When Cajetan was sent to establish a house of his congregation in Naples, a count tried to prevail upon him to accept an estate in lands. He refused. The count pointed out that he would need the money, for the people of Naples were not as generous as the people of Venice. “That may be true,” replied Cajetan, “but God is the same in both cities.”
He died on August 7, 1547 in the Kingdom of Naples. His remains are in the church of San Paolo Maggiore in Naples; outside the church is Piazza San Gaetano, with his statue. He was beatified in 1629, by Pope Urban VIII. On April 12, 1671, Cajetan was canonized together with St Rose of Lima and St Luis Beltrán. He is the patron saint of workers, gamblers, job seekers and unemployed people.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What will matter ?

I used this quote last Sunday in my homily, and many people asked for a copy - so here it is. I use it also during some funerals, and it always hits home.

What will matter ?
Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought but what you built,
not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is not how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.