Thursday, May 29, 2014

Malta Diary - part 5

This entry can very well be titled 'Women and Work.' it has been the week for women in Malta, as the results of the European Parliament elections were decided, and in a stunning result, 4 out of the 6 Maltese members elected were women, two-thirds of Malta's humble representation at the European Union! There are presently 10 women in the Maltese parliament, out of 65 members, and so the women in Malta are having a field day, rightly so. Incidentally thanks to the 4 elected in the Euro Parliament, Malta has the largest percentage of representation of women among the 27 countries that make up the European Union. In the last election 5 years ago, they had none.

This week has also been a working week for me as I did some furniture painting around our house. As I'm so used to seeing white in the USA, in reference to snow, I've seen lots of white this past week as I painted chairs, cabinets, doors and other furniture with brilliant white paint, freshening up some of the kitchen equipment that needed a new paint-job. Speaking of painting, I also started doing some watercolor projects in my free time. After the success of my 4 paintings being auctioned for our parish school, I got motivated to pick up the brushes and created some landscapes with the limited equipment I have, mostly lent by my sister-in-law Maria.

This past week I also accompanied my sister-in-law to her native island of Gozo, our sister island and part of the Maltese archipelago. Gozo is 5 miles north-west of Malta, and a ferry boat covers the 20 minute transit to a more peaceful, more conservative and less crowded spot in the 122 square miles that make up the Maltese islands. I was able to visit some of the churches there and take some great photos to add to my ever-growing collection. So far I took 1200 photos, but I'm sure by the time I return to Bend the number will be close to 2000. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Malta Diary - part 4

Visiting so many towns and villages this past week, I came to realize how much the topography and physiognomy of my home town has changed recently. The many colonial style one floor houses have been replaced by apartments that are 6 to 12 floors, most of them for tourists, but for local residents as well. My home town of St. Julian's is well known for restaurants, hotels and even night clubs where the young and the old gather for entertainment, besides of course for socializing, drinking and just hanging out. Walking around these neighborhoods, I felt like a fish out of the water, as the young people dominate the streets, bars and shops, most of them with tables and chairs outside, to attract more customers. I don't want to sound like a broken record, because I've mentioned this point already in an earlier entry, but this has been a major change in my perspective of Malta, one of the smallest islands, but with a tremendous building boom, overcrowded towns, and a hectic, bustling life, night and day.

Many of these young people are students from foreign countries staying in Malta for a few weeks or months with the purpose of learning English. Since most of the Maltese are polyglots, and speak at least English and Italian, besides their native Maltese, it is easy for foreigners to find a welcoming spirit and friendly people, wherever they go. There is always someone around who can speak a foreign language, and communication is the least of our problems. 

And since Malta is part of the European Union, any Maltese native can work abroad, and vice-versa. We don't even need a passport to travel to other European countries, similar to what happens when one travels from one state to another within the United States of America. 

There are in Malta around 90 parishes, and each parish celebrates a special festivity during the summer months, honoring their patron saint. Over the next two weekends, I hope to visit some of these parishes, where a procession with the statue of the saint is held on Sunday evening, culminating a week of religious celebrations, held inside the local parish church, as well as outside, with fireworks, band marches and lots of decorations along the main streets of each town and village. The churches in particular are dressed up in their very best with tapestries hanging on the walls, chandeliers, as well as other decorations that are stored throughout the year, but are showcased during this week, as churches sparkle with the gold and silver that are hundreds of years old, donated by our generous forefathers and preserved throughout the centuries

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Malta Diary - part 3

Yes, this was a terrific week for photography as I ventured out to many other towns and villages, some of which have changed and developed so much since I was a youngster. Traffic of course is horrendous. Wherever you go, people are always friendly and ready to help with directions and easy to start a chat with, especially when they notice you are a native Maltese with a tourist glow around you, particularly when they notice the camera around my neck. 
Walking through many of the streets of the small towns, you never know what you might come across....unusual flowers that you never knew about, small sparrows frolicking on the tree branches, women crafting lace in a shady spot outside their homes, small chapels and other architectural gems, elderly men resting on benches eyeing me suspiciously as I take their picture, and many other surprising scenarios that show up unexpectedly. When I was younger and took pictures of elderly folks, they took offense, considering me an intruder. Nowadays it's much easier and safer, not only because they are used to tourists shooting all kinds of photos, but also because telephoto lenses make it easier to aim, point and shoot from a distance, getting the same result as an annoying close-up which nobody seems to like.
I have been helping out in my parish with Masses and some confessions. Since I left Malta for good back in 1981, there are very few of my former folks and parishioners who are still alive. My former altar servers are now parents, and their own children are now serving my Masses. The many couples that I married in the late 1970s are now grandparents and the many babies I baptized in the same period are now parents themselves and raising their own babies. Moreover my brother Marcel and his wife Maria are celebrating their 25th anniversary on May 21 with a visit to Florence and Rome, the same places they visited on their honeymoon. Back then they also visited me in New York, staying with me in the Rectory, while visiting various landmarks in the Big Apple. 
The temperature is warming up slowly slowly, as is the political temperature in many of the people, in anticipation of the big European elections taking place this coming Saturday, May 24. These are taking place all over Europe, in all the countries representing the members of the European Union. This is similar to elections taking place in the USA for members of Congress. Each country has a number of members proportionate to the population. So, while Italy, Germany and France have over 70 members, smaller countries like Portugal, Sweden and Greece have around 20 each - Malta has only 6. Stay tuned for more news from Malta in a few days.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Malta Diary - part 2

I can say that as of Sunday May 18, I am fully recovered from jet-lag, and this is confirmed by the fact that I am waking up early in the morning without the need of an alarm clock. I've been helping in my parish with Masses and confessions, also because the pastor is by himself at the moment. A priest who is helping him with daily Masses is away for a week, and another priest who was helping for a few days is back in Rome studying. Moreover since my last visit here 2 years ago, two of my childhood priests have died, and so the pastor saw me as an angel, to help him with Masses, which have been reduced to three a day, with six on Sunday. I remember growing up when we had 7 priests in the parish, even though some of them taught in schools, but they were always available to say daily Mass. Besides the parish church, there is a smaller church and a smaller chapel, besides a church run by the Augustinians.

I have been doing some serious photography, going into detail and finding unusual angles and perspectives in my home town and the capital city. Even though Malta is very small, and I've been to every town and village, there is always a surprise in every unexpected place. Moreover many new buildings have been built over the years, and the Maltese topography has changed drastically, with new hotels, restaurants and shops sprouting up in every imaginable spot. Since my hometown of St Julian's is a very touristic place, there is a tremendous attraction to visitors, especially with the young people in a section where night clubs and disco clubs are very common. 

And thank God for chargers so that I can re-charge my IPad and camera battery. Since the voltage in most of Europe is 220 volts, it's always risky charging something without a transformer, but nowadays, every airport is loaded with these international travel transformers, especially with everyone carrying cell-phones, IPods and IPads, besides lap-tops, cameras and every imaginable gadget that runs on batteries, which is just about everything. This coming week I plan to visit more towns and villages, and of course more photography.

Home-cooking is much appreciated, thanks to my sisters and anyone who invites me over. The taste of Maltese food, local bread, homemade soups, local drinks, and soon rabbit brings back many nostalgic memories, and certainly my taste-buds adapt quickly to Maltese cuisine. Besides, many of the local TV stations have popular cooking shows which add to the anticipation of what the next meal will be like. But this teaches me the virtue of patience, of which I have an abundance.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Malta Diary - part 1

Being away from the Internet, WiFi and e-mails is helping me appreciate the social media a little more. We take it for granted when WiFi is so easily accessible. But when it's not available, you feel like you're living in the 1950s or beyond.
Well even at home here in Malta for a family visit, I have no access to the Internet, and so these entries on my blog are probably going to be few and far between.
After a 4-plane flight from Bend to Portland, to Washington DC, to Frankfurt and to Malta, jet-lag as usual took its toll on me, and I needed a few days to recover and get back to myself. But thanks to my IPad, I was able to type as much as I wanted and save everything for future use. Keeping journals and writing articles for a Maltese newspaper as well as for the parish Bulletin is something I do on a regular basis., and so it is automatic for me to start typing at every opportunity of free time I have. 
In the middle of May, the temperatures are pretty comfortable for Malta at this time of the year. However it will soon be warm and humid as May gives way to June and then to July and August, which are the hottest months of the year. My first impression of Malta is definitely its congestion, with lots of cars on the road, with finding a place to park anywhere is always a Herculean task. With over 400,000 people living on an island that is 18 miles by 8, this makes for a the third most densely populated place in the world, only surpassed by Monaco and Singapore. And with the influx of many tourists and the illegal immigration from Northern Africa, the population keeps growing, and congestion gets bigger and more complicated.

Two main issues are dominating the news in Malta at this time. The first one is the European Union elections being held on May 24, and the second one is the upcoming World Cup in soccer being held in Brazil, starting within a month. There are 30 candidates running for elections to take the 6 seats available for the European Parliament, a highly prestigious position which helps make important decisions in Brussels that effects all of Europe. Each country in the European Union has a number of seats proportionate to its population. Our country has only 6 seats, but they are fought for tooth and nail, and even though they will all represent Malta, there are usually 3 members from each political party in Malta, although it could very well be 4 and 2.
The interest in soccer in Malta is truly fascinating, with many of the fans rooting for either England or Italy, but since the matches are being played in Brazil, the time difference will have a definite effect on the general interest, as most games will be held in the middle of the night, Malta time. Granted that most matches will be replayed over the next day on TV stations, but there is a bigger sense of excitement when following a soccer match 'live.' Usually the host team is always a favorite, and so, Brazil seems to have the upper hand. They usually are one of the strongest teams, and they already won the World Cup five times, in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Italy won the World Cup four times, in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, while England won it only once, in 1966 when it was held in England. May the best team wins!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Off to Malta

Balluta Bay, close to my home in Malta in the town of St. Julian's
I will be visiting my family over the next month, and my blog entries may be limited. I will try to keep a diary, as long as I have WiFi access. I may not be able to place any photos, but I’ll see what I can do when I’m there. My nephews may be able to help me, even though they will be busy working and studying. If you want to check where I’ll be, this webcam in my hometown is where I’ll be roaming about. (link further down)
St Julian's parish church, where I'll celebrate most of my Masses
The new church is on the top centre, with a modern steeple, and lit up at night. Malta is 9 hours ahead of Oregon, and 6 hours ahead of New York. Naturally I will spend time with my family, help in my local parish, take plenty of photos and charge my internal batteries for another year of pastoral ministry and service to my people here in Bend.

The main altar of the old parish church, where I'll celebrate some Masses
PS: The School Auction held yesterday was a huge success, and my paintings went for $230, $200, $300 and $500 respectively, bringing in a total of $1230.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pope Paul VI soon a Blessed

Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)
Giovanni Battista Montini's beatification is near: On May 6 cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints unanimously approved the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Italian Pope from Brescia, who died in August 1978. The year which marked the canonization of two Popes – John XXIII and John Paul II – will also be the year of Paul VI’s beatification. In the next few days Pope Francis will be promulgating the decree on the miracle attributed to the late Pope and the date suggested for the actual beatification is 19 October. The beatification is expected to take place in Rome on the occasion of the concluding ceremony of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family: it was Paul VI himself who established the Synod in September 1965 in response to a request made by the Council fathers. It should be noted that next August will mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Paul VI’s first big encyclical, the “Ecclesiam Suam”, which he wrote and edited entirely by himself. He was ordained priest on May 29, 1920, consecrated Bishop on December 12, 1954 and made a Cardinal on December 15, 1958. He succeeded St John XXIII as Pope on June 21, 1963.
The miracle attributed to the intercession of Paul VI was witnessed in the United States in 2001. It involved the healing of an unborn child, which was found to have serious problems and a high risk of brain damage: the foetus’ bladder was damaged and doctors reported ascites (presence of liquid in the abdomen) and anhydramnios (absence of fluid in the amniotic sac). All attempts to correct the problem proved futile and in the end the doctors said the child would either die in the womb or it would be born with severe renal impairment. Abortion was offered as an option but the mother refused. Instead, she took the advice given to her by a nun who was a friend of the family and had met Montini: she decided to pray for Paul VI’s intercession using a fragment of the Pope’s vestments which the nun had given her.

Pope Paul VI with Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, eventually John Paul II
Ten weeks later the results of the medical tests showed a substantial improvement in the child’s health and the baby was born by Caesarean section in the 39th week of pregnancy. Faith weekly Credere revealed that the diocesan inquiry was launched in 2003 and all witnesses agree that the case in question cannot be explained scientifically.
The child has made it to thirteen and his health is constantly monitored to ensure that his psychophysical state is normal. Doctors are especially keeping an eye on the child’s renal function. On 12 December last year the medical consultation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints headed by Professor Patrizio Polisca, confirmed the impossibility of explaining the healing and the dicastery’s theologians gave their approval last 18 February. Benedict XVI promulgated Paul VI’s heroic virtues on 20 December 2012.

Altar-boy Julian Cassar kissing the ring of Pope Paul VI in 1966
I was honored to be in Pope Paul VI’s presence in 1966 as an altar-boy chosen to serve at the Vatican. In the audience we had with the Pope, I kissed the ring of the Supreme Pontiff and a photographer snapped a photo which I will treasure for ever. Out of 25 altar-servers only me and another boy had our picture taken in such a historic and memorable moment. In the audience he told us that whenever we became pastors to go to visit him again. Unfortunately he died in 1978, but I did see his successor, Benedict and even concelebrated Mass with him in Malta in 2010.

Friday, May 9, 2014


 - Maybe God wanted us to meet the wrong people before meeting the right one so that when we finally meet the right person, we will know how to be grateful for that gift.
 - Maybe when the door of happiness closes, another opens, but often times we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one which has been opened for us.

 - Maybe the best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had.
 - Maybe it is true that we don't know what we have got until we lose it, but it is also true that we don't know what we have been missing until it arrives.

 - It takes only a minute to get a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone, but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.
 - There are moments in life when you miss someone so much that you just want to pick them from your dreams and hug them for real.

 - Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.
 - May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to make you happy.

 - Always put yourself in others' shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too.
 - The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

 - Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss and ends with a tear.
 - The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past, you can't go on well in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.
  - When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you are the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May Crowning

Children placing flowers in front of Mary's statue
The May Crowning was held in our parish yesterday, both in the morning for the school children, and in the afternoon and evening for our Faith Formation program. A statue of the Blessed Mother was crowned at each celebration as children placed flowers in front of the Marian statue. While this was being done, I played several times the Ave Maria by Schubert on my flute, as the long line of children prayerfully processed towards the altar. Afterwards we recited the Rosary, and concluded with the Hail Holy Queen. 
More photos can be seen on the parish blog at

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Two other watercolors on auction

"New England in Autumn" by Fr Julian Cassar
These are the two other watercolors I painted which are being auctioned on Saturday to benefit the parish school. The Auction is being held at the Riverhouse in Bend, Oregon, stating at 5 PM. I am also hoping that this summer I will resume my water coloring painting hobby which I have abandoned since I arrived here in Bend. I am self-taught, and professional artists would probably find a few mistakes, but I do it for the fun of it, and enjoy it tremendously, especially when people appreciate my style.
"Oregon Ranch" by Fr Julian Cassar

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Watercolors on the auction block

'Pier at Sunset' by Fr Julian Cassar
This coming Saturday, 4 of my watercolors are being auctioned to support our parish school. Some of the staff noticed my collection of watercolors I have done over the past 4 years and asked if I can donate a few of them to be auctioned. They then chose 4 of them, had them matted and framed, and this Saturday they will find a new home. 
'Peaceful River' by Fr Julian Cassar
Surprisingly enough I was told that the bidding will start with $200 on each painting. Picasso and Botticelli must be rolling in their graves! I hope that my humble efforts and my self-taught hobbies will help our school in any possible way. The other two paintings will appear in tomorrow's blog.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bend First Holy Communion

Some of our school children First Communicants
I am awaiting a few more photos from parents of our First Holy Communion celebration which was held at the 10 AM Mass yesterday, May 4. These are just some of the school children gathered together before the Mass started. It was a beautiful celebration as 70 children received Jesus for the first time in their lives. Another 30 Spanish-speaking children will receive their First Holy Communion this coming Sunday at 12:30 PM.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Flashbacks on First Holy Communion

1936 photo of my mother, Mary
While waiting to share with you some photos of our First Holy Communion celebration taking place today in my parish in Bend (with hopes that some parents share some of these photos) I flashback to years gone by to show you some other First Holy Communion photos from my family, including one from 1936 of my mother, as well as my sisters and brothers. 
My sisters Rosemarie and Josephine in 1956
I was happy to see many of our children have their photo taken yesterday, as w ell as group photo with both the English and Spanish speaking children together.

My brother Paul's First Communion in 1962
My brother Marcel's First Communion in 1970

Saturday, May 3, 2014

First Holy Communion

Many parishes at this time of the year celebrate a ritual that we all went through, receiving the First Holy Communion. This week and next week I have over 100 children receiving Jesus in their hearts, as parents, siblings, grandparents and relatives celebrate with the children this very special and intimate moment. My memory of my First Holy Communion is still very vivid in my mind, even though this was 56 years ago. It happened on June 29, 1958 in my home parish of St Julian's in Malta. It was customary for each child to have his official photo, which I share with you today. This photo is still hanging in our home, along with those of my brothers and sisters.
Another custom was to have holy cards printed to commemorate this occasion. Please pray for my children, and for their parents that they would realize the responsibility to bring their children to church every week.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pope's Easter Message

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you. Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible. Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty. Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.
Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith. We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent. We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!
Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan. We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord. By your resurrection, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. 

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace! "Christus surrexit, venite et videte!" ["Christ is risen, come and see."]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Prayer for work

Lord Jesus, as the world celebrates May Day today, the church celebrates the feast of Saint Joseph, patron saint of workers, and so our thoughts and prayers go to all those who work, those searching for work and that the dignity of all workers be respected and honored everywhere.
We pray for those who work work with their hands, carpenters, construction workers, loggers, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, writers, printers, nurses, sculptors, painters, engineers, cooks, chefs, and yes, even baseball, lacrosse and football players. May they always stay focused on the work at hand and avoid any accidents or mishaps.
We also pray for those who use their minds at work, doctors, lawyers, accountants, counsellors, planners and inventors, politicians and strategists, priests and teachers, and mothers and fathers who use both hands and mind and heart.
We ask you Lord to provide work opportunities for those parents who need some form of income to support their families. May employers and employees collaborate together and see good, productive work accomplished with dedication, honesty and commitment.
And as we continue the work of creation, remind us also to rest on specified days, and never waste any time at work, or do things which are otherwise done during leisure time. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.