Saturday, November 30, 2013

My home at St Julian's, Malta

My hometown of St Julian's, Malta (click once to enlarge)
Today I'm going to take you by air over my home in Malta, over the area known as Ta' Giorni in St Julian's. It's an aerial photograph that shows also the towns of Balluta, Sliema, Gzira and Valletta in the background and the rocky shoreline, many apartments, hotels and restaurants, which make up for a very crowded section of Malta. Being only 18 miles by 8, with 400,000 people living on this small island makes for a very densely populated island, the third mostly densely populated country after Monaco and Singapore. You can see a very limited green section, which is actually a small valley protected by law. Well, this is where I grew up - this is where I lived until 1981, and this is where my sister Josephine still lives, as well as many neighbors and friends, childhood friends who are now probably grandparents themselves.
Zooming in the same photo of St Julian's
In the second photo you can zoom closer to my home and the third photo you can see our residence at 100 Birkirkara Hill right in the center of the photo, in a corner of the street. Of course you can see how parking is a major problem, with 320,00 registered cars. Houses used to be one to two floors at the most, but now, wherever you look, you see 6 to 10 floor apartments coming up. The parish church is outside the photo, but we'll talk about that some other time. 
Zooming even deeper with our house right in the center!
Make sure you click on each photo and enlarge as much as you want to see a close-up view of my hometown, St Julian's. By the way, they did not name the town after me! I was named for our patron, Saint Julian.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Julian Cassar MD

Dr Julian Cassar with mother Maria, brother Peter and father Marcel
It was a very happy day yesterday for my family as my nephew Julian graduated officially as Medical Doctor with 87 of his classmates at the Jesuits Church in Valletta, Malta. He had started working at the local Mater Dei Hospital since he finished and passed his final exams in June, but since they celebrate Graduations in November in Malta, he had to wait till November 28 to get his degree. And as we celebrated Thanksgiving here in the USA, it was a Thanksgiving too in my family as this little boy grew up to be a doctor, with his brother Peter following in his footsteps, just starting Medical School.
One year old Julian in the summer of 1991
It is my honor today to dedicate this post for him and his family, sharing some photos I took of my namesake and his brother over the years. I always told him to become something big as he had my name to show, but little did I know that after Fr Julian we now have Dr Julian Cassar. Congratulations! We’re so proud of you.
With nephews Julian and Peter in 1999
Again with my nephews in 2004 in Malta

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being thankful

This year I am thankful for being here in my new home, with my new family at St Francis in Bend, and grateful for past parishes, parishioners and friends.
I am thankful for having Fr Joseph with me to help in our healing and invigorating growth of our parish.
I am thankful for parents who set the example for their children, and for children who keep their parents on their toes and frequently on their knees.
I am grateful for the many volunteers who give and share their gifts and talents without asking for anything back in return.

I am grateful for my GPS on my phone that can find difficult-to-find addresses in this big city, especially in those winding and distant streets.
I will be grateful also when the authorities change one of the main streets from Route 97 to 96 or 94 or 93, anything but 2 Route 97s!
I am thankful for those who spend hours praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament week after week, day after day.
I am grateful for the three Bomke children who volunteered to provide and cut the straw for baby Jesus’ manger.

I am grateful for the generous donors who contributed within a few hours to buy 2 new chalices and a new Monstrance and crucifix for our historic church.
I am grateful also for those who no longer support their church, because I am praying for them, that their heart and their attitude will change soon.
I am thankful when seeing our school children and those in our Faith Formation program eagerly participate in various projects and classes we organize for them.
I am thankful that you made the effort to be here today in church, and grateful also that a turkey takes 3 to 4 hours to cook, so that you don’t have to worry about it burning or overcooking.

I am grateful for the SAVE Button on the computer, for free WIFI in unexpected places, for e-mail, for 300 daily hits on my blog, for digital photography and for a new parish website we will be starting soon.
I thankful for everyone’s health and well-being, for the many seniors I already visited in hospitals and nursing homes, and for safety on the roads during the holiday season.
I am thankful for my family, the upbringing I had by my parents, for my siblings, and for my two nephews, one of whom, Julian, is graduating as a medical doctor precisely today.
I am thankful because even though I’m loaded with work, I cannot be happier working with you, praying with you and simply mingling with all of you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving

If you ever want a taste of what Thanksgiving was like in the past, all you have to do is browse through some editions of the Saturday Evening Post magazine, with Norman Rockwell's famous posters, displayed as a front cover. So as we prepare for this special feast tomorrow, I share with you some of the classic posters painted by this great American painter. My all-time favorite is the one with an old lady in a Restaurant, accompanied by her grandson as she bows her head in prayer. Two young men are intrigued by her simple, humble gesture, and the message is pretty straight forward. .....thank the Lord for any morsel of food, and count your blessings!
Thanksgiving poster from 1932
The other posters speak for themselves, including a funny one with the contrast of a pilgrim with a 1920s football player. A Blessed Thanksgiving to all visitors of this blog, now counting 300 daily hits.

Thanksgiving poster from 1928
Poster entitled "Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Deer hunting and Religion - part 2

A buck in Hereford, OR waiting to choose his girlfriend for the day
When you find the best deer or elk with antlers, the number of points should remind you of many features of our Christian faith . . . . .
A one-pointer (spike) reminds us of Jesus, the Son of God.
A forked horn or 2-pointer reminds us of the 2 parts of the Bible, the Old and New Testament.
A 3-pointer reminds us of the three virtues of Love, Faith and Hope.
A 4-pointer reminds us of the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
A 5-pointer reminds us of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

A mounted elk head at the Hitching Post in Richland, OR
A 6-pointer reminds us of the 6 days God took to create everything we have around us.
A 7-pointer reminds us of the 7 Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick.
An 8-pointer reminds us of the 8 Beatitudes, from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.
A 9-pointer reminds us of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
A 10-pointer reminds us of the 10 Commandments which God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
So you see, hunting can be a prayerful experience, reminding you that you can find God in nature, while living and practicing your faith as you hunt.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Deer hunting and Religion - part 1

Four inquisitive deer photographed near Keating, OR
I was thinking recently about deer and elk hunting, and even though I never used a rifle, shotgun or bow and arrow (I actually used a rifle on target practice once,) and never went hunting, but talking to many hunters, I learned a lot about how the process works. I see many similarities between hunting and our faith.
Searching for that priceless deer or elk is like searching for God. You rejoice and brag about it with your friends when you finally get your prize. And so should your search for and discovery of God be.
Just as you display that many-pointed head for everyone to see, so should your discovery of God be - let others rejoice with you when you finally find happiness and joy.
To get to your target and be successful, you have to be quiet and avoid any kind of noise and distractions, waiting sometimes for many hours. To really find God, you have to avoid any distractions that may prevent you from seeing him clearly, up close and personal. To really make Him alive in your life, you may have to work hard at it, for hours, days and weeks.
When you’re hunting you wait patiently for the best animal, which means you’ll probably ignore many others that are not as attractive. In your search for God, many other temptations, other sects and denominations may take you away from the one true God. Don’t be tempted with a lesser quality - go for the best.

A very obedient buck crossing by deer-crossing sign, also in Keating.
Just as you take all the necessary equipment with you when you go hunting, the search for God needs also to be accompanied by prayer, a strong focus on what’s good, perseverance and good will, a good dose of commitment and lots of patience.
Just as it’s advisable that you go hunting with friends, both for company and safety, so also your search for God will be just as effective if you do it in a communal spirit, with friends and other members of your parish.
Hunters have to take the guts out after catching a deer, and so in our Christian life we have to eliminate all the distractions and temptations that are unnecessary and not helpful to us.
Of course most people eat the venison or elk meat and nourish themselves all year round. So can those people who attend Church regularly and receive Communion, nourishing themselves with the Body and Blood of Jesus. (to be continued tomorrow)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christ the King

A very old Russian Icon of Jesus as King
If you were to google ‘Christ the King,’ searching for images, you will come up with a large number of images of Jesus on a glittering throne, usually sitting with a soft embroidered cushion, surrounded with angels, wearing a sparkling jewel-embedded crown, with a shiny scepter in his hand. In reality, Jesus never aspired to present this image. His throne was the rugged cross, the scepter was the nails driven through his hands, his crown was made of sharp thorns, and his robe was a simple robe, for which the soldiers threw lots after he was crucified. 
Christ crowned with thorns as He blesses the world
Christ never spread a message of hatred and then taught us how to love. He never waged war and then preached peace and justice. He wasn’t rich and told us to be poor. He never escaped from anything or from anyone - except for once, when they wanted to give Him a promotion and make Him King.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Animals in the Bible

The donkey that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday is listed as an ass
I did a little research about the animals that are listed in the Bible. Combining any mention of animals or group of animals, this is the list that I came up with, in alphabetical order. Some of them may sound strange to you, as they did to me, but they are listed as animals, and so I included them too, 122 in all.
Adder (a hissing viper,) animal, ant, ape, asp, ass,
Badger, basilisk, (a type of serpent,) bat, bear, beast, bee, beetle, beeves (beef cow,) behometh (gigantic beasts,) bird, bittern (type of crane,) boar, bullock, burnt offering.
Calf, camel, cankerworm, caterpillar, cattle, chameleon, chamois, cockatrice (poisonous serpent), coney (mountain animals,) cormorant (type of pelican,) cow, crane, cuckoo.
Dog, doleful creatures, dove, dragon, dromedary.
Eagle, egg, elephant.

Fallow-deer, fatling, ferret, fiery serpent, fish, flea, fleece, fox, frog.
Gier eagle, gnat, goat, goldencalf, grasshopper, greyhound,
Hare, hart, hawk, he-ass, heifer, hen, herd, heron, hind, hoof, hornet, horse, horse-leech,

Kangaroo, kid, kine (buffaloes,) kite.
Lamb, lapwing, leopard, leviathan, lice, lions, lizards, locust.

The quail I photographed last year, male on left, female on right
Mole, moth, mouse, mule,
Osprey, ossifrage (a bearded vulture,) ostrich, owl, ox
Palmer-worm, partridge, peacock, pelicans, pigeon, pygarg (white antelope.)

Ram, raven. roe,
Satyr (hairy goat,) scapegoat, serpent, sheep, snail, sparrow, spider, sponge, stork, swallow, swan, swine.
Tortoise, turtle.                

Weasel, whale, wolf, worm.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 years ago

President JF Kennedy (1917-1963)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), commonly known as "Jack" or by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from January 1961 until he was assassinated on November 22, 1963, 50 years ago today, one of the saddest days in our nation, probably only surpassed by the September 11, 2001 attack and the Pearl Harbor attack.
After military service as commander of Motor Torpedo Boats PT-109 and PT-59 during World War II in the South Pacific, Kennedy represented Massachusetts' 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953 as a Democrat. Thereafter, he served in the U.S. Senate from 1953 until 1960. Kennedy defeated Vice President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 U.S. presidential election. At age 43, he was the youngest to have been elected to the office, the second-youngest president (after Theodore Roosevelt), and the first person born in the 20th century to serve as president. To date, Kennedy, a Catholic, has been the only non-Protestant president and the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize.
Events during his presidency included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race—by initiating Project Apollo (which would culminate in the moon landing), the building of the Berlin Wall, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and early stages of the Vietnam War.

One of the newspapers of November 23, reporting the shocking news
Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 PM on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was taken to Parkland Hospital for emergency medical treatment, but pronounced dead at 1:00 pm.  He was shot once in the throat, once in the upper back, with the fatal shot hitting him in the head. Only 46, President Kennedy died younger than any U.S. president to date. Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the Texas School Book Depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges for the murder of a local police officer, but was never subsequently charged with the assassination of Kennedy. He denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Ruby was then arrested and convicted for the murder of Oswald. Ruby successfully appealed his conviction and death sentence but became ill and died of cancer on January 3, 1967, while the date for his new trial was being set. The FBI and the Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. However, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that those investigations were flawed and that Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

30 years ago

In the region of Lake Placid, NY, summer of  1983
Some of my new parishioners in Bend have become quite interested in my blog, checking it as early as 6 AM, wondering why I was late in posting my daily entry. I know also they are looking forward to my presentation about my home country of Malta, set for December 5, but today I'll go down memory lane to 30 years ago, when I was settling in my first parish in New Hyde Park on Long Island. The first photo shows me in one of my favorite T-shirts in Lake Placid, during a summer trip with my former Pastor.
Before a bike-trip of 120 miles to Montauk Point, NY
The second photo shows me with 4 altar-servers on one of our bike-trips to Montauk Point, at the very tip of Long Island, a 120 mile bike ride which took 2 days to cover. We were supposed to take our bikes back on the train on our return trip, but were denied traveling with our bicycles. And so I had to call my pastor who came to our rescue and picked us all up in a van he had to borrow.
Fluting away on Saranac Lake, NY
The third photo shows me playing the flute on Saranac Lake in upstate New York, during a week-long summer vacation. I learned the flute by myself and have been practicing on my own ever since. Incidentally yesterday, during the school Mass I played the Thanksgiving melody "Simple Gifts" with a quartet of school children in chorus, Alycen, Emily, John and Charlie, accompanied by their music teacher Colleen Rastovich.

With parents by Twin Towers, 1983
 The last photo shows my parents and myself by the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, again in New York, during one of their visits they made to my parish at Holy Spirit. In all of these photos you can see a skinnier version of myself, coming from Malta in 1981 at 130 lbs, gaining 10 lbs every year until I reached 170. Then my weight stopped and stayed at 170 lbs ever since, eating as much as I want and anything I want (except for pumpkin pie and macaroni and cheese)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Holy Humor

When a church seeks a pastor, they want in him the strength of an eagle, the grace of a swan, the gentleness of a dove, the friendliness of a sparrow, the night hours of an owl. And when they catch that bird, they expect the pastor to live on the food of a canary.

A very old pastor made it a practice to visit the parish school one day a week. He walked into the 4th grade class, where the children were studying the states, and asked them how many states out of 50 could they name. They came up with 40 names, which was pretty good. He then jokingly told them that in his days students knew the names of all the states.
One boy raised his hands and, “Yes, but in those days there were only 13 states.”

A little girl became restless as the preacher’s sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, “Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My alarm clock

Possibly my new alarm clock

Many people who know me, know that I’m an early bird, waking up at 4:30 AM every day and hitting the sack by 9 PM, or 9:15 PM at the very latest. Like everyone else, I can be an owl or a rooster. Owl stay up late at night, and some people seem to work better at 11 PM or even beyond midnight. Others, like myself, work much better in the wee hours of the morning. My alarm clock is very reliable, as they all are, unless we have a power failure, in which case I wake up usually around 4 AM with the figures of “12:00" flashing repeatedly in my face. Lately I’ve been thinking of replacing my alarm clock with something more natural and down-to-earth, like this exotic rooster. In Malta, they usually wake up the entire neighborhood when everyone is still sleeping, but I remember well in the summer months, when one leaves a window open, the roosters compete against each other on who hits the highest note and they alternate their cock-a-doodle, or as we say in Maltese ‘quqqu-ququ.’ (Trust me it’s much easier to pronounce than it looks.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Basilicas of Sts Peter and Paul

St Peter's majestic Basilica at the Vatican, Rome

Barely a week ago, we commemorated the dedication of the Mother Church of the Catholic Church, St John Lateran. Today we commemorate the dedication of two other major basilicas combined together, St Paul outside the walls and St Peter’s basilica, known as the Vatican. These dedications are important because they symbolize in a way the birth and baptism of each edifice.
When the early persecutions ended in 313 AD by King Constantine, he later built a basilica over the tomb where St Peter was buried. It lasted almost a thousand years, and the reconstruction of the original building started in the 14th century. The present Basilica, an ingenious structure built with the collaboration of Michelangelo, Bramante, Carlo Moderno, Giovanni Pannini and Bernini was officially consecrated on November 18 1626 by Pope Urban VIII. It is by far the most imposing and impressive church in all of Christendom, where major celebrations, elections of Popes, funerals, Canonizations etc, are held.
Basilica of St Paul outside the walls, Rome
The Basilica of St Paul was started by Valentinian II on the Via Ostiense in 386, on the place where St Paul was buried. It was subsequently modified by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. It has a graceful cloister that was built in the 13th century. Of all the churches of Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years.
However a negligent fire destroyed it in 1823 and the new and present Basilica was built in the 19th century and consecrated on December 10, 1854 by Pope Pius IX. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, the Emperor of Russia the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal facade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian Government, which declared the church a national monument. Pope Pius IX ruled that both Basilicas will have their dedication celebration together, on November 18. Both churches are majestic in appearance, but also very imposing in their stature as two of the 4 major basilicas in Rome.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Filfla - rock or island?

Since Malta is only 18 miles by 8 miles, we are very limited in space, and every square inch literally is precious to us. We refer to this mid-Mediterranean archipelago as the Maltese Islands, and they include the main island of Malta, the sister island of Gozo, two smaller inhabited islands Comino and Cominotto, lying between the two main islands, and then there is a smaller island called Filfla. This is an island just 3 miles south of Malta, and even though anyone would consider it as a rock, we proudly refer to it as an island. 
Filfla as seen from the mainland Malta

Up until the 1970s, it was used for target practice, but this custom was stopped by the Government. It is uninhabited and is the home of some unusually looking lizards. Very few people visit it, but most passengers on an Air Malta flight usually get a close-up glimpse of this rock-island, as the planes hover above it while descending into the local airport.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Malta Pine Crucifix

The Pine Tree Crucifix of Malta
Trees grow in various shapes and sizes. The majority are normal healthy trees and they grow for decades until they may be cut down to be used for wood. Other trees become deceased after a few years and they eventually decay and die. It is incredible how so many millions of trees grow by themselves, watered by rain, and nature takes care of them without any fanfare. Then there are trees that grow in a very unusual way, like a pine tree in Malta that grew up in the shape of a crucifix. It is located on a main road that leads from Attard uphill to Rabat. One can easily see the contortioned figure of Christ with head and arms extended, with the twisted body and and legs on the vertical part of the pine tree. 
I don’t know if it’s still in existence, but until a few years ago, it was still in perfect shape, and when I took this photo in the 1980s, it was mostly unknown to many. Someone went a little bit too far and stained it, which probably caused its disappearance. I am not sure about its present state, but the last time I was in Malta, I could not find it. People started also putting holy cards around it, garnering more attention, and soliciting a prayer, which I will repeat here: We adore you o Christ and we praise you, because by Your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Praying for the Philippines

Heavenly Father, We ask your blessing on us today, and especially we ask you to bless the people of the Philippines after suffering so much devastation this past week as a result of a terrible typhoon. Give a sense of comfort to all those who lost loved ones, those who lost just about everything they had. May God reward the victims with the gift of eternal life in heaven. As many natives of this great archipelago grieve, mostly devout Catholic and certainly dedicated Christians, we ask You Lord to console them, give them hope for a better tomorrow, and as they try to re-build their lives, be with them in the coming weeks and months.

Help those who are homeless, hungry, thirsty, and in need of almost everything. May we think of them and support them by our prayers and donations. Give strength to all the service men and woman, nurses and doctors, rescue workers who are doing their best to restore some kind of normalcy in Tacloban and other surrounding areas effected by the typhoon. May the Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus protect the people of the Philippines - may Mary give them the courage and hope to persevere in the midst of the heartache they experienced. We ask this prayer through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

God's work

1. Be ye fishers of men. You catch them - He'll clean them.
2. Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.
3. Don't put a question mark where God put a period.
4. Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.
5. Forbidden fruits create many jams.
6. God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
7. God grades on the cross, not the curve.
8. God loves everyone, but probably prefers "fruits of the spirit" over "religious nuts!"
9. God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

10. He, who angers you, controls you!
11. If God is your Copilot - swap seats!
12. Most people want to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity.
13. Prayer: Don't give God instructions  - just report for duty!
14. The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.
15. The Will of God will never take you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.
16. We don't change the message, the message changes us.
17. You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.

18. You do your best. God will do the rest.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bend Sunrise

October and November can give us some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. With the exception of yours truly, many people are still asleep when these magnificent natural paintings flash across the sky. Such was the case last Sunday when I was heading to my new church for the 7:30 AM Mass. I arrived in time, about 6:40 AM to take a few photos by the church, but especially by a cross that is placed at the entrance of the St Francis of Assisi Catholic Center. 

Since the church is a modern one, the outline is quite simple, but at least, I was able to compose a fairly good photo of the entrance to the complex, but the cross stole the show that early morning. Too bad that sunrises last 5 to 10 minutes, and worse yet, very few people see them, especially when they occur on a weekend. Thanks to a few early risers like myself, and thanks to photography, now everyone can enjoy them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci

Cardinal Bartolucci with one his many choral scores
The death was announced yesterday, November 11, 2013, of Cardinal Dominco Bartolucci, who for 40 years led the Sistine Chapel Choir. He may be unknown to many people, but he actually did more to choral sacred music than anyone else still alive, especially within the Vatican. Born in 1917, he was ordained a priest in 1939, and showed interest in music at a very early age.  After serving as Chapel Master in il Duomo of Florence, at the end of 1942 Bartolucci went to Rome in order to deepen the knowledge of sacred music. Having served as Deputy Master of the St. John Lateran, in 1947 he was appointed Master of the Liberian Choir of St. Mary Major, succeeding Licinio Refice. In 1952, on the advice of Lorenzo Perosi, he was appointed Deputy Master of the Sistine Chapel.
When Perosi died in 1956, Pope Pius XII gave him the position of permanent director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir. The ensemble of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir upon the death of Perosi was in poor condition. The situation was restored, however, thanks to the commitment of Bartolucci and personal interest of Pope John XXIII. In the forty years of Bartolucci's leadership, the choir balanced the obligation of papal liturgies with tours in various countries throughout the world, including Austria, France, Belgium, the Philippines, Australia, the United States, Turkey, Poland, and Japan. In the years of the Second Vatican Council, Bartolucci, against abandoning Latin, committed himself that the liturgical reform should not take a direction hostile to sacred music. Bartolucci was also dedicated to teaching and composition. He was a child prodigy, having composed his first Mass at age 12; his best known Mass is the "Misa Jubilei," written in the Holy Year 1950. The body of his work already published fills more than forty volumes and includes Masses, motets, madrigals, hymns, symphonic, organ, and chamber music, and above all a series of oratorios for soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Cover of a record of the Sistine Chapel Choir directed by D. Bartolucci
In 1997 Bartolucci was replaced at the helm of the Sistine Chapel by Msgr. Giuseppe Liberto, an event which aroused some controversy in the context of liturgical music, and which was criticized by Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI. Bartolucci was invited back to the Vatican to conduct a concert of choral music in 2006, and was elevated to Cardinal by the same Pope in October 2010. Even the motto he chose as Cardinal shows his love of music, “Psallam Deo Meo” (I will sing to my God.) Bartolucci was 97.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Honoring Veterans

They are the men and women who live every day in pain. Physical pain from their wounds, lost limbs, or maybe it's the shrapnel they still carry. Emotional pain from being separated from their families for long periods of time. For missing the birth of their child, or death of a parent. Mental pain for what they have seen and what they had to do. They are the ones who make life-long friends. They know how precious life is and they never forget the ones who didn't make it back. Never. That is why you will see Veterans at the cemetery on Memorial Day walking around and silently thanking the ones who are buried there. They don't have to know them personally to know the sacrifice each one made.
They are not the ones who are loud and boisterous. They are the ones who are quiet.
They are the ones who shivered in the foxhole, trying to keep the enemy at bay.
They are the ones who crawled through sand when the temperature was 126 degrees.
They are the ones who carried their buddy to safety.
They are the ones who sometimes drink too much, trying to keep the memories from haunting them.
They are the ones who carry the flag with the honor and respect it deserves.
They are the ones who wear their military uniform with pride and still have it in their closet 30 some years later.

They are the ones who don't ask you to go out of your way for them.
They are the ones who have gone out of their way for you.
They are the ones who spent many nights awake on guard duty so you didn't have to.
They are the ones who helped keep our shores safe while you played video games.
They are the ones who missed their birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates.
They are the ones who got shot and got sent home, but felt guilty because their buddies were still there.

They are the ones who followed orders even when they didn't want to.
They are the ones who had enough love and pride in their country to do a job many others couldn't do.
They are the ones who cried when they were alone in their tent.
They are the ones who flew planes, drove tanks, worked a ship, and armed the missiles.

They are the ones who had moms at homes praying for them every minute of every day.
They are the ones who made it safe for you so you could go to school or work.
They are the ones who missed ordering pizza, the movies, the shopping trips, and all that you take for granted.
They are the ones who asked to take a friend's deployment because that friend had a family.
They are the ones who gave their girlfriends a lock of their hair to keep as a promise of their return.
They are the ones who wanted to come home.
They are the ones who didn't return.
They are the ones who waited months for a letter.
Let us pray and remember them, and never forget what they did for our country.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

First steps

Prepping up for the Tour de France

After yesterday's post showing you the house where I was born, I share with you today the very first photos taken of me, most probably taken by one of my uncles, since I don't remember my parents having a camera during my early childhood years. The first one shows me on a tricycle, balancing precariously and wearing what some people referred to as a dress. Well, since my mother had two girls ahead of me, it was common that as a baby I would wear some hand-me-downs. Moreover some people called what I was wearing a 'rumper' which one might call a 1950s unisex outfit. However my main concern was how on earth I was balancing on a tricycle when I probably didn't even walk at that time.

First steps, and lots of bumps and bruises
The second photo was probably taken as they were waiting for my first solo walk, outfitted in the cloth diapers my mother used for many years. God bless innocence, childhood and the early 1950s!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where I was born

A historic room where I saw light for the first time
A nostalgic trip today to the very first day of my life, the day and place I was born. At that time, my family lived at 16 St Angelo Street in St. Julian's, and my mother gave birth to all her first four children at home. My younger brother Marcel was born in our new house at 100 Birkirkara Hill. A few years ago, in fact just before the house was sold to someone else after an uncle and aunt lived in it from 1956 till the early 1990s, I took a picture in the room where I was born on August 27, 1952. The other photo shows the front door of the same house. Incidentally, one hour after I was born, another boy was born two houses down the road from us, and me and Tony Xerri grew up together. I also celebrated his wedding in 1980, and I presume that by now he is a grandfather. 

Front door of 16 St Angelo Street, St Julian's
At that time a popular mid-wife made the rounds in the neighborhood delivering babies. Her name was Giuseppa Xiberras, the sister of a beloved priest Fr Anton who served in my parish for many years. One of my duties as a seminarian was to record the baptismal information in Latin in large registers and which are kept in the parish archives. I remember clearly that the last verse was always "Obstetrix fuit Giuseppa Xiberras," meaning "Nurse/midwife was Giuseppa Xiberras." In the 1970s and later, nurses from the MMDNA were also making the rounds delivering babies at home. I believe that MMDNA stood for Malta Midwives District Nurses Association. A little nostalgic trip down memory lane today, 61 years ago.

Friday, November 8, 2013

If Jesus came to your house

I shared this reflection last Sunday in my homily, and had an overwhelming response from people, and so here it is for everyone to reflect on....

If Jesus came to your home to spend a day or two –
If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you’d do.
Oh, I know you’d give your nicest room to such an honored Guest,
And all the food you serve Him would be the very best.
And you would keep assuring Him you’re glad to have Him there –
That serving Him in your home is a joy beyond compare.

But – when you saw Him coming would you meet Him at the door
With arms outstretched in welcome to Your Heav’nly visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in,
Or hide your magazines, and put the Bible where they’d been?
Would you turn off the radio and hope He hadn’t heard,
And wish you hadn’t uttered that last, loud, hasty word?

Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymns books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about?
And I wonder – if the Savior spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing the things you always do?
Would you go right on saying the things you always say?
Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?

Would your family conversation keep its usual pace,
And would you find it hard each meal to say table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing, and the read the books you read.
And let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?
Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you’d planned to go,
Or would you, maybe, change your plans for just a day or so?

 Would you be glad to have Him meet your very closest friends,
Or would you hope they stay away until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on,
Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do,
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you.

But He is really here among us, as hypothetical as this may seem – he is there in your home, as that Unseen Guest at every meal you share, as the Silent Listener at every conversation you are involved in. He is here in front of me as I see Jesus in every one of you – that is why we are called Christians, other Christs.