Monday, March 31, 2014

Miniature Good Friday procession (part 1)

Continuing my sharing of various exhibits from Holy Week in Malta, here are images from a stunning miniature procession which is usually held on Good Friday. These are small 3 inch figurines that make up a replica of the entire procession held in many churches on the evening of Good Friday, complete with marching bands playing funeral marches, altar servers, monsignori, biblical characters and of course the dozen or so statues that tell the story of the Passion of Christ.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pope Francis and confessions

Pope Francis going to confession at the Vatican
An impressive few photos to share with you today as Pope Francis led a Penitential Service at the Vatican, and then went to hear confessions himself. But the one thing that surprised everyone is the fact that before he entered his confessional, he himself went to confess, across from his own confessional. It was yet another humbling scene of this Argentinian Pope. A few weeks earlier he helped out in hearing confessions at another venue when young people were gathered.
Pope Francis hearing confessions
In his homily, among other things, Pope Francis said: Conversion is not a matter of a moment or a year, is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one. The Apostle John writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The Pope then referred to two essential elements of the Christian life.
The first is: put on the new man. This new life allows one to look at reality with different eyes, without being distracted by things that do not matter and cannot last long. For this we are called to abandon sinful behavior and fix our gaze on that which is essential. Behold the difference between the life deformed by sin and the life illumined by grace. From the heart of the man renewed according to God come good behaviors: always to speak with truth and avoid any lie; to steal not, but rather to share what you have with others; especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be gentle, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to fall into backbiting that ruins people’s good name, but to look more rather on each person’s positive side.

Pope Francis absolving penitents
The second factor is: Remain in my love. The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. When Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain locked up in itself. By its very nature Love is open, it spreads and is fruitful, it always generates new love.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Malta's Holy Week exhibits

After the successful and well-attended presentation in my parish about Holy Week in Malta, I continue to post some of the photos that describe the innumerable exhibits that dominate Holy Week in Malta. Over the next week, you will see various displays, miniature statues of the passion of Christ, and decorated plates related to Holy Thursday and the commemoration of the Last Supper. Many of these plates are made from colored salt, rice, beans, pasta, semolina, sugar and other dried edibles, which are eventually given to orphanages and nursing homes - so nothing is wasted or thrown away after the exhibits are closed. 
Most of these decorative plates are hand made, intricately positioned so as to paint and design these artworks, simply by placing salt and the other ingredients on a tray, with the eventual result looking like a painting. Please do click on each photo to get a better resolution and admire the intricacy of such crafts and artistic work. I took these photos during Holy Week in 2010.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Recent Papal tweets

These are some of the most recent tweets sent by Pope Francis....
 - Lent is a time of grace, a time to convert and live out our baptism fully.
 - We cannot be tepid disciples. The Church needs our courage in order to give witness to truth.
 - Jesus is never far from us sinners. He wants to pour out on us, without limit, all of his mercy.
 - Jesus is our hope. Nothing – not even evil or death – is able to separate us from the saving power of his love.

 - Sickness and death are not taboo subjects. They are realities that we must face in Jesus’ presence.
 - May we learn to say “thank you” to God and to one another. We teach children to do it, and then we forget to do it ourselves!
 - Christian love is loving without counting the cost. This is the lesson of the Good Samaritan; this is the lesson of Jesus.

 - The challenge for Christian spouses: remaining together, knowing how to love one another always, and doing so in a way that their love grows.
 - Our deepest joy comes from Christ: remaining with him, walking with him, being his disciples.
 - Let us pray for Christians who are victims of persecution, so that they may know how to respond to evil with good.

 - Lent is a good time for sacrificing. Let us deny ourselves something every day to help others.
 - In life we all make many mistakes. Let us learn to recognize our errors and ask forgiveness.
 - How to live a good marriage? United to the Lord, who always renews our love and strengthens it to overcome every difficulty.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Maltese crucifixes

Crucifix in St George's church, Rabat, Gozo, Malta
Yesterday I had a very nice crowd attending my three presentations on the celebration of Holy Week in my home country of Malta. Most of those who attended told me personally how astounded they were with what they saw, and how different the culture in the United States is from a Catholic country like Malta. I will share with you over the next few weeks some of the displays and exhibitions that I shared yesterday. I was able to visit Malta during March and April in 2010, the first time in 30 years that I was able to witness the heritage and traditions that are part of the Maltese religious culture. These photos show crucifixes in churches and in various exhibitions displayed by various groups and individuals.
Ivory crucifix from my brother's collection
A cross with various symbols of the passion of Christ

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What Jesus saw from the Cross

James Tissot - "What Jesus saw from the cross."
As we approach Holy Week and the passion, crucifixion and death of Jesus, let us meditate for one moment on the hours Jesus spent on the cross. He uttered 7 words while dying, 7 words that have been reflected and meditated upon and preached by various preachers, especially during the Good Friday service. We always look at the cross with two others next to Jesus, the good and bad thief, all of which are usually pictured or painted on a hill, known as Golgotha. Very few artists however have looked at this scene from a different perspective. James Tissot did precisely this when he painted the scene entitled "What Jesus saw from the cross." Besides local folks, soldiers and accusers, one can see the tomb in the background, the sponge and vinegar which would be offered to Jesus when he said "I Thirst." More prominently, in the foreground, one sees Mary Magdalene just beneath the cross, while the apostle John, the Blessed Mother and two other women look inconsolably at the dying Christ. It is a painting filled with symbolism, worth meditating upon, especially during this Lenten season. (click once to enlarge)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Annunciation

The mosaic of the Annunciation in Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome
The Annunciation has been one of the most frequent subjects of Christian art.Depictions of the Annunciation go back to early Christianity, with the Priscilla catacomb including the oldest known fresco of the Annunciation, dating to the 4th century. It has been a favorite artistic subject in both the Christian East and as Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and figures in the repertoire of almost all of the great masters. The figures of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel, being emblematic of purity and grace, were favorite subjects of Roman Catholic Marian art, where the scene is also used to represent the perpetual virginity of Mary via the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.
A ceiling painting in the same church in Rome
Works on the subject have been created by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Duccio, Jan van Eyck, and Murillo among others. The mosaics of Pietro Cavallini in Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome (1291), the frescos of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (1303), Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco at the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (1486), and Donatello's gilded sculpture at the church of Santa Croce, Florence (1435) are famous examples. I personally visited Santa Maria in Trastevere in 2012 and was stunned by the beauty of the mosaics in the apse of the main church. I also found another painting of the Annunciation in a side-chapel, which many people may not notice when visiting this church.

Monday, March 24, 2014

11 years in Oregon

In my new church of St Francis of Assisi, here in Bend
It was March 24, 2003 when Bishop Vasa dropped me off at John Day, picked up a Coca-Cola can and said to me “OK Father Julian, you’re on your own....”It was 11 years ago that I started my ministry here in the Diocese of Baker, with 2 and a half years at St Elizabeth of Hungary in John Day, 8 years as Rector of the Cathedral in Baker City, and now starting officially my pastorate at St Francis of Assisi, in Bend. 
With a nice group of converts in St Elizabeth, John Day, Easter 2005
Incidentally, Bishop Cary yesterday celebrated all the Masses and announced to the people that he was appointing me Pastor (see letter, two days ago on this blog.) I can only look back with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for both Bishops for trusting me with one bigger parish than the other. John Day had a population of 2,000 people, Baker City had 10,000, 
and Bend has 80,000. 
At the Cathedral in Baker City when I arrived in 2005
After the renovation of the Cathedral sanctuary in 2008
The Catholics amount to 10% of the Oregon population, but I see a lot of potential in bringing in converts to join our Catholic community, as I did in John Day and Baker City. So on we go with more work ahead, hoping the parishioners will support my efforts to bring them together as a happy family, committed to their faith, and collaborating for the common good and for the good of the entire parish.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Words of Comfort from the Psalms

To have confidence in God: Know that the Lord does wonders for his faithful one; the Lord will hear me when I call upon Him…..You alone bring security to my dwelling  (Psalm 4)
To search for guidance: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want….He refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths….I will fear no evil; for You are at my side….only goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23)
Asking for healing and forgiveness: Look toward me and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of distress. Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins. (Psalm 25)

In Thanksgiving and Gratitude
: Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, his mercy lasts forever….the Lord is with me, I fear not; what can man do against me ? My strength and my courage is the Lord, he has been my refuge. (Psalm 118)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Appointed Pastor

With Bishop Liam Cary at the School Mass in January 2014
Bishop Liam Cary has just sent me a letter appointing me the new Pastor of St Francis of Assisi Parish in Bend. The Bishop will be celebrating all the Masses this weekend in our parish, and preaching at all of them, on this Third Sunday of Lent. Welcome to our and your parish, Bishop Cary. Here is a copy of the letter:

18 March 2014
Dear Father Cassar,

By virtue of this letter, I appoint you Pastor of St Francis of Assisi Church in Bend, effective today, 18  March 2014, for the usual term of six years, with the option of renewal upon its completion.

With this appointment you are to exercise all the duties and enjoy the faculties and privileges attached to your office as stipulated in the Code of Canon Law, the Pastoral Guidelines of the Diocese of Baker, and legitimate diocesan customs. As pastor you are specifically entrusted with the complete oversight of St Francis of Assisi School.

I very much appreciate your willingness to assume this position of service to the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi, Father. May the Good Shepherd strengthen you to imitate His self-giving love and so lead your people to the good pasture of the Kingdom.

In Christ Jesus
Most Reverend Liam Cary
Bishop of Baker.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This past Wednesday I cooked some delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup for our children and their parents in our weekly "Dinner with Father" program, and since many people asked for the recipe, here it is. Enjoy.  

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, diced or minced
4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
one 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup mild picante sauce
one 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
one 15-ounce can ranch style beans, undrained
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1 teaspoon ground cumin
half teaspoon black pepper
half teaspoon oregano leaves
half teaspoon chili powder
a tiny pinch of paprika
2 cups or more chopped cooked skinless chicken breasts or thighs
15 springs of cilantro, chopped
Sliced black olives, optional
tortilla chips, optional – broken up, on top of soup
sliced avocados, optional
shredded cheese, optional
1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic. Cook until onion is tender, approx 6 minutes.
2. Increase heat to high and add broth, tomatoes, picante sauce, beans, corn and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add chicken and cilantro. Cook for another 15 minutes, until thoroughly heated.
4. Serve with a topping of tortilla chips and sliced avocados and grated cheese (optional)

Thursday, March 20, 2014


O God, forgive us for the faults which make us difficult to live with.
If we behave as if we were the only people for whom life is difficult;
If we behave as if we were far harder worked than anyone else;
If we behave as if we were the only people who were ever disappointed, or the only people who ever got a raw deal; If we are far too self-centered and far too full of self-pity: 

Forgive us, 0 God.
If we are too impatient to finish the work we have begun; If we are too impatient to listen to someone who wants to talk to us, or to give someone a helping hand; If we think that other people are fools, and make no attempt to conceal our contempt for them: Forgive us, 0 God.
If we too often rub people the wrong way;
If we spoil a good case by trying to ram it down someone's throat;
If we do things that get on people's nerves, and go on doing them, even when we are asked not to: Forgive us, 0 God.
Help us to take the selfishness and the ugliness out of life and to do better in the days to come.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A letter to Saint Joseph

Statue of a smiling St Joseph at Zejtun church, Malta
During our school Mass today, on this feast of St Joseph, I shared with the children and their teachers and parents a hypothetical letter I wrote to Saint Joseph:
Dear St Joseph,
    Today being your feast day, I thought of writing you a few lines mainly to show my gratitude to you for all you did for Jesus and Mary his mother. Very few people are greater than you, because who was ever closer to Mary and Jesus than you. You married Mary even though many people were suspicious of you, and you were patient enough to raise Jesus from his birth to the day you died, and left him as an orphan and his mom as a widow.
Joseph, you showed your greatness by your humility. By being humble and quiet and staying always in the background, your image shone forth majestically and we admire the simple life you led, and your courage in taking Mary as your wife, in spite of the gossip that was going on from other people.
I can only imagine how special and happy was that house in Nazareth, raising Jesus as a baby, a toddler, a young boy and as a teenager. A few questions come to mind:
-         Was he obedient to you and his mother? Did he go to sleep on time? Did he get up on time? Did he say his prayers? Did he obey at home? Did he have any sleepovers? Did he have any girlfriends? Did his friends knew how special he was? It hurts me to read that the people of Nazareth threw stones at him when he visited them years later!
-         Did he play any tricks on you and Mary? Since he was an only boy, he couldn’t blame his brothers and sisters if something went missing, if something broke. Did he always do his chores? Did he go to school, which were probably different from our schools? Did he do his homework? 
Miraculous statue of St Joseph at Rabat, Malta
     Dear St Joseph, we admire your kindness in dealing with other people. When a stressful situation appeared, you always let Mary handle it, like when Jesus was lost in the temple for 3 days, or like the wedding at Cana, when they ran out of wine. You always stayed in the background, and this also shows that you were respectful of others and avoided any quarrels and conflicts.
     I ask you finally St Joseph to keep our families in your prayers. Just as you protected you family from Herod, from harm and from those who hated you, your wife and your Son, please protect our families and children from danger. I beg you also, please pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need more priests and sisters to work in our parishes, schools, hospitals and other places. And I finally ask you to remember those who work, those looking for work, especially husbands and fathers who lost their jobs. 

Signed - your friends in Bend, Oregon

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Head of Christ

The Head of Christ (1940), painted by Warner Sallman was reproduced 500 million times, appearing in Church Bulletins, posters, T-Shirts, in wallet-sized copies distributed to servicemen during World War II. Sallman also painted “Christ our pilot” and “Christ at heart’s door” The Head of Christ originated as a charcoal sketch entitled The Son of Man done in 1924 and sold to be the cover of the Covenant Companion, the denominational magazine for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Sallman did several variations of the painting over the years, and the first oil version was done in 1935. 
In 1940 he was asked to reproduce that painting by the students of North Park Theological Seminary. This reproduction was seen by representatives of the Gospel Trumpet Company, who created a new company called Kriebel and Bates to market Sallman's work. For the next thirty years Kriebel and Bates marketed over 100 Warner Sallman works. When Kriebel and Bates dissolved, the copyrights to these works were acquired by Warner Press. The Baptist Bookstore initially popularized the painting, distributing various sized lithographic images for sale throughout the southern United States. The Salvation Army and the YMCA, as members of the USO, handed out pocket-sized versions of the painting to American servicemen heading overseas during World War II. After the war, groups in Oklahoma and Indiana conducted campaigns to distribute the image into private and public spaces.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Blessings

May you always have work for your hands to do.
May your pockets hold always a coin or two.
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow.
May the soft winds freshen your spirit.
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you.
May God enfold you in the mantle of His love.
And may you be in heaven
Half an hour before the devil knows you’re gone!

To see a biography of Saint Patrick, check my parish blog at

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Morning Prayers

O God, our Father, who makes the Light to shine out of the darkness, we thank You for waking us to see the light of this new day. Grant to us to waste none of its hours; to soil none of its moments; to neglect none of its opportunities; to fail in none of its duties. And bring us to the evening time undefeated by any temptation, at peace with ourselves, at peace with our fellow-men and women, and at peace with You.
O God, our Father, who have told us to live in fellowship with one another, keep us from everything which would make us difficult to live with today. Help us never to thoughtlessly or deliberately speak in such a way that we would hurt another person’s feelings, or wound another’s heart. Keep us from all impatience, from all irritability, and from a temper which is too quick. Keep us from eyes which are focused to find fault and from a tongue which is tuned to criticize. Keep us from being touchy, and quick to take offense, and slow to forget it. Help us not to be stubborn or obstinate, and keep us from selfishness which can see nothing but its own point of view, and which wants nothing but its own way.
Grant unto us all through this day something of the grace and beauty which shone upon our Blessed Lord. Eternal and ever blessed God, we do not know what will come to us and what will happen to us today. Whatever comes, we ask You to be our leader to guide and strengthen us, to comfort and control. If temptation comes to us, give us grace to overcome evil and to do what is right. If we have to make important decisions, give us the grace to choose the right way, and to refuse the wrong way. If it will be difficult to witness for You, give us the courage never to be ashamed to show whose we are and whom we serve. If things go well with us, keep us from all pride, and keep us from thinking we do not need You.
If we shall know sorrow, failure, disappointment or loss, keep us from all despair, and help us never to give up.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Pope's Secretary

Pope Francis with his secretary, Msgr Alfred Xuereb from Gozo, Malta
It is an honor for Malta that Pope Francis chose a Maltese priest to be his private secretary. When, shortly after his election, Francis welcomed Msgr. Alfred Xuereb as his secretary, he made a “Popish joke” about a letter he received which he said spoke unfavorably of Xuereb. The letter was from Benedict XVI and in fact praised the Maltese prelate. Xuereb, who was nominated secretary of the Holy See’s new economic dicastery just a few days ago, talks about this in an interview with Vatican Radio.
“From 28 February, Benedict XVI’s last day as Pope and the day we left the Apostolic Palace forever to 15 March, so two days after the new Pope’s election, I stayed with the Pope Emeritus in Castel Gandolfo to keep him company and help him with secretarial work. When it came to the moment where we had to part ways was heartrending because I had had the fortune of living with him for five years and leaving him, being separated from him was very tough. Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t know I was going to have to pack my bags and leave Castel Gandolfo and Benedict XVI that very day. But the Vatican was telling me to hurry, pack my bags and get to St. Martha’s House because Pope Francis was even opening the door himself: he didn’t have a secretary to help him. I went to the chapel several times to meditate that morning because I felt a little bit confused. But I was certain, I had a strong feeling I was being guided from Above.”
“I went into into Pope Benedict’s study crying,” the Maltese prelate said during the interview, “I found it hard to speak but I tried to tell him how sad I was and how difficult our separation was for me. I thanked him for the fatherly kindness he had shown me. I assured him that the experiences I had in the Apostolic Palace with him helped me see “the things up there” much more clearly. Then I kneeled down to kiss his ring, which was no longer the fisherman’s ring and with his look of fatherly tenderness, he got up and blessed me.”
Xuereb then went on to describe his first meeting with Francis. “ He welcomed me into his study, greeted me in his usual cordial manner and even cracked a joke, a Popish joke if I may call it so! He was holding a letter and said to me in a serious tone: “Ah, but we have a problem or two here, there’s someone who doesn’t have a very good opinion of you!” I clammed up but then I realised he was referring to the letter Pope Benedict had sent him to informed the Pope that I had been released from his service and that I was now free to serve Francis. Pope Benedict was kind enough to list some of my qualities. Pope Francis invited me to sit down on the sofa and he sat on a chair beside me. He asked me in a very fraternal way to help him in his challenging task. Finally he wanted to know my relationship with superiors and other important figures. I told him that at least on my part I could say I go on well with everyone.”

Pope Francis signing a cast of a young woman
"I see the missionary spirit in Francis. He calls the crowd towards him, a crowd that maybe feels lost, and brings it back to the heart of the Gospel. He has become a parish priest of the world and is encouraging those who feel they have grown apart from the Church to return in the knowledge that they will find their place within it. Clericalism and case history present serious obstacles to making everyone in the Church feel loved and supported. Parish priests and priests tell us almost on a daily basis that people are going back to confession and are actively practicing the faith thanks, encouraged by Pope Francis, especially when he reminds us that God never tires of forgiving us.”
Xuereb underlined the “special attention” the Pope shows to the “sick and this is because he recognized the body of Christ in their suffering and completely forgets his own misfortunes. For example in the first months of his pontificate he was in a great deal of pain because of his sciatica. Doctors advised him to avoid bending over but when he met sick people in wheel chairs or sick children in their buggies he bend down anyway to show his closeness to them. He also did so when he washed the young prisoners’ feet at Casal del Marmo, during the Eucharistic celebration on Holy Thursday. Despite the pain he was probably in, he knelt down before each one of the twelve young offenders to kiss their feet.”

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Pope Francis day

Pope Francis celebrating daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta chapel
The light in suite no. 201 in St. Martha’s House, furnished with heavy walnut furniture, comes on very early in the morning, around at 4:30 am. For two hours, Francis sits alone, praying and meditating the readings of the day and preparing the brief homilies he gives off-the-cuff every morning, as his Maltese secretary Alfred Xuereb explains. A few minutes or so before 7 am the Pope goes down to the sacristy alone, where there are fifty or so people, some priests and his two secretaries, Xuereb and Fabi├ín Pedacchio (an Argentinean) waiting for him. Since January, each day the faithful attending the morning mass come from a different Roman parish: the Bishop of Rome, Bergoglio, knows he is unable to visit all the parishes (even Wojtyla didn’t and he was Pope for 27 years), so instead, he invites them, so to speak, to his home. The homilies said at these masses are one of the most important new elements of this pontificate: they are simple, to the point and yet profound at the same time. There is no official written text but Vatican radio publishes a summary of each homily in the late morning. The Vatican publishing house has also published a two-volume work titled “Omelie del mattino”, (Morning Homilies) containing the Pope’s daily morning homilies.
Pope Francis dining with some young people
When Mass has ended the Pope takes off his vestments and goes back to the chapel where he sits at the back and prays in silence for a minute or so. He then goes out into the atrium to greet people one by one.  He takes his breakfast at 8 am in the St. Martha’s House dining room. This is where the Pope usually has lunch at 1 pm and dinner at 8 pm. In the evening there is only table service for the residence’s guests during the first course. After this, each of Francis’ dining companions, including himself, gets up and chooses their second course from the self-service area.” I need to live among people and if I lived on my own, perhaps a little isolated, it wouldn’t do me good,” Francis said when he explained that he chose not to live in the Apostolic Palace for “psychiatric reasons”, because he can’t “live alone”, isolated in the papal apartment.
The Pope’s days are intense. Apart from the audiences he holds, the official meetings and the visits from heads of state, the piles of documents he receives from the Secretariat of State and the Curia congregations and the reports he gets from various commissions keep him on the go all day long. Francis finds the time to personally read about fifty or so letters and messages from the thousands he receives every day. These sit on his desk for a while and the Pope then responds to them personally without any intermediaries, using the landline telephone.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pope Francis - 1st anniversary

The newspaper from Argentina heralding the new Pope
It was exactly a year ago when the world was stunned with the election of a new Pope, the first from South America, an Argentinian Jesuit, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. He has since left quite an impact on the Catholic world, and has been admired by everyone around the globe. His pastoral approach has contrasted starkly with his predecessors, choosing to live in a humble motel instead of the Vatican palace, celebrating daily Mass in a simple chapel, improvising most of his homilies and waiting on line for breakfast in the motel cafeteria. The choice of the name Francis also showed the priorities the new Pope was going to emphasize, support for the poor and the emarginized, even those who consider themselves atheists and anti-Christian. His twitter message today was simply "Please pray for me." 
Ad Multos Annos Papa Francisco!
Pope Francis biography - Click once to enlarge

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two Cartoons

Everybody loves cartoons. Whether reading them in the newspaper or in comics, it's part fantasy, part satire and mostly humorous. Sometimes a cartoon effects you personally, especially when you are the subject of a specific cartoon. That was the case with me in 1984 and recently in 2009. I was convinced to sit for a a caricature of myself. The first one shows me on a bicycle, which was my preferred mode of transportation back then, also carrying a flute, and saying "I'll do anything for a New York Mets game/ticket." I remember this was done in Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island, NY, while driving out there, or maybe even biking - I don't remember exactly the circumstance. It is not a very sharp reproduction, as I misplaced the original, and I took this photo from a video that I made of it.

The second one was done at the Baker City annual parish picnic by Tom Novak, a Vietnam vet who is a popular artist in Baker City. Once again, here I am seen with my flute as well as cockatiel, one of my pets back then, whose name was Charlie Parker. Both of them capture a good image as every professional artists can bring out the  important features in a face, which is their main point of interest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bishop Fulton Sheen

Bishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)
The Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation has issued a press release announcing that the medical commission advising on his cause for beatification and canonization has approved the alleged miracle he performed on a still-born baby. The 7-member board of medical experts who advise the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints at the Vatican unanimously approved a reported miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen. In September 2010 the parents of a still born baby sought the intercession of Fulton Sheen after over an hour passed without the child showing any signs of life. Doctors attempted every possible life saving procedure but with no luck. After 61 minutes the baby was restored to full life and made a full recovery. The child, now three years old, continues in good health.
The team of medical experts advising the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints have found no “natural explanation” for the child’s recovery. The case will now be reviewed by a board of theologians and if approved by them, the case could move on to the cardinals and bishops who advise the Pope on such matters. “Finally, the miracle would be presented to Pope Francis who would then officially affirm that God performed a miracle through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.  There is no timeline as to when these next steps might  move forward, the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation press release informs. “Should Pope Francis validate this proposed miracle, Sheen could then be declared "Blessed" in a ceremony that could be celebrated in Peoria, Illinois, Sheen's hometown.  Upon the Holy Father signing the decree for the beatification, an additional miracle would lead to the Canonization of Archbishop Sheen, in which he would be declared a “Saint.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen delivering one of his sermons
Fulton Sheen was born in El Paso in 1895; a priest since 1919, he was sent to study Philosophy at Leuven University. A great apologist, he was given his own radio show in 1930 which he carried on for twenty years, with audience numbers going up week by week. When he became Auxiliary Bishop of New York in 1951, television network DuMont offered him a show that was to go on air every Tuesday at eight in the evening. 'Life is Worth Living' proved so successful that he received an Emmy Award for the show in 1952. When he collected it, Bishop Sheen expressed his gratitude to the authors: “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” The program was broadcast until 1957, reaching audiences of thirty million people. In 1966 he was nominated Bishop of Rochester in the State of New York. He died in 1979 just a few months after John Paul II praised him for his commitment to the announcement of the Gospel.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Malta churches - the outside

St Publius church at twilight
Maltese baroque churches are as spectacular on the outside as they are on the inside. Especially in the summer festa season, when their facade is decorated with hundreds of colored light bulbs, and the result is just fascinating, as these two photos can testify. They are of the same church seen yesterday, that of St Publius in Floriana. The facade is usually lit for an entire week, as celebrations, Masses, vespers, marches, fireworks and other attractions are held in just about every parish throughout the summer season. St Publius's feast incidentally is one of the earliest, in mid-spring, close to the last Sunday of April.
The same church a little later in the evening

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Malta's rich churches

The main altar at St Publius church, Floriana
Over the next few weeks, in anticipation of Holy Week, I will be sharing with you various photos I took 4 years ago, including many of the celebrations, festivities and decorations used during Holy Week and Easter. Buy in anticipation of that, I share with you today some photos of our Maltese heritage in sacred architecture and liturgical ornamentation that embellishes churches, homes, museums and streets all over the Maltese islands. 
The main body of the same church
This particular church is in Floriana, dedicated to Saint Publius, the first Bishop of Malta, who was the leader of the island when St Paul was shipwrecked there in 60 AD. The church was dressed up for its annual feast in late April, and one can see the richness of the main altar, the silver candle-sticks and the red velvet altar-piece with golden embroidery of its finest quality. More to come....