Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saint Julian

St Julian's parish church decorated for the annual feast (photo of 2006)
The procession with the statue of Saint Julian is held today in my hometown of the same name. Earlier in the day some revelry takes place while marching bands entertain the people marching through the streets. Then the traditional greasy pole competition is held in St Julian’s Bay, as young men try to catch three flags at the end of a pole greased with lard. But the highlight of the evening is the procession with the 1983 paper-mache statue of St Julian which starts at 7 PM and usually ends by 11 PM, with a massive crowd gathered inside the church, cheering the statue and waiting to see the festivities end with Benediction.
Statue of St Julian by Carlo Darmanin (1893)
Greasy Pole competition
During the procession with the new church in the background
More from the procession of Saint Julian
The statue returns home, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Celebrations at St Julian's

The old St Julian's church dressed up for the festa this week
This week, my hometown of St Julian’s in Malta celebrates the feast of its titular saint with a week long calendar of religious functions, celebrations and activities. These include Masses every evening with a particular theme, and groups of people invited for each, children, the youth, members of various organizations, the elderly, newly-married and the newly-baptized. 
The main square at St Julian's with colorful banners
Marching bands add to the festivities, as well as fireworks and lots of colorful decorations along the streets. The predominant colors are black, yellow and red, the colors of the Belgian flag, since St Julian was from Belgium. Other decorations include outdoor statues, although the most prominent statue is carried through the streets only on Sunday evening. But more about this tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy these photos that give you a hint of what is going on there this weekend.

Colorful banner hanging next to the house where I grew up

Friday, August 29, 2014

Matryrdom of St John the Baptist

Caravaggio "Beheading of John the Baptist" Valletta, Malta
The commemoration of the martyrdom of St John the Baptist brings me back to Malta, where the most impressive painting of this scene is in the Cathedral of St John’s in Valletta, a masterpiece by Caravaggio, housed in the Oratory adjacent to the main Cathedral. It is visited by thousands of visitors and tourists daily. Its recent restoration began in April 1997 when it was sent to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence as the Comune di Firenze had offered to restore it. The whole project, which was a major operation, was financed by the Opificio itself. Restoration works were completed in June 1998 and the painting was exhibited at the del Carmine church, Florence. The painting returned to Malta in June 1999. 
Before and after restoration, the signature of Caravaggio
It is the only painting which was signed by Caravaggio, his signature seen in the trickle of blood coming from John’s decapitated head. His full name is Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Yet another painting, probably more graphic is that of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
'Beheading of St John the Baptist' by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Thursday, August 28, 2014

St Augustine and St Monica

The feast of St Augustine is placed just one day after that of his mother St Monica. Spending her entire life praying for his conversion, she certainly deserved to become a Saint herself. Augustine was born in the city of Tagaste, Algeria, in 354 AD to a Christian mother. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and became a Manichean, even fathering a child out of wedlock. Later he converted to Christianity, being baptized by St Ambrose, and became a bishop of Hippo, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church, and is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Some of his writings are strictly autobiographical, even though very theological in thought. The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography are still read around the world.
As a young man before his conversion, he taught in North Africa, Carthage and Rome. It was only when he arrived in Milan that his life started to change. In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy. Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan telling him in a sing-song voice to tolle lege ("take up and read"). He grabbed the nearest text to him, which was Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened it at random to 13:13-14, which read: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." 

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa. St Monica died as she was leaving the port of Ostia on her way back to Africa, just after her son had converted.
In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest and became a famous preacher, while 5 years later he was made bishop of Hippo. Augustine died on August 28, 430. Among his famous quotes are these:  
“You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.”
“To sing once is to pray twice.”
“Love, and do what you will.”
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Getting Better

Continuing on another 25 quotes that should make everybody's life happier, blessed and focused on an even better future, because we're not getting older....just getting better!

26. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.                                                                            27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone and everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.                                                      30. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.                                                                             46. Pray. It works.                                                                                                                             47.You do your best, and God will do the rest.                                                                              48. Keep a diary to write all your relatives’ and friends’ birthdays.                                            49. Smile. God loves you.                                                                                                                  50. To keep a marriage brimming with love, whenever you’re wrong, admit it, but whenever you’re right, shut up!

(with apologies for the way these lists are scrambled - I tried to fix it, with no success, which proves point Number 51 - You just can't be perfect!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Growing Older

To celebrate growing older, someone once wrote a list of  lessons which life can teach you. I added a few myself, and I’ll share the first 25 today, and the other 25 tomorrow.
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.                                                                                 4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.                                                                8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.                                                                                 9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. Love your enemies, and you’ll drive them nuts!                                                                           15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. When judging others use the THINK method. Is it True, Helpful, Important, Necessary, Kind? If it is then say it, but if it’s not, don’t even open your mouth.                                              22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Cough to clear your throat, and sigh to clear your heart.                                                            24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Saint Louis of France

St Louis of France (1214-1270)
At his coronation as king of France, Louis IX bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. Other kings had done the same, of course. Louis was different in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he brought peace and justice.
Born in 1214 in Poissy, France, he was crowned king at 12, at his father’s death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his teenage years. When he was 19 and his bride 12, he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage, though not without challenge. They had 11 children. Louis “took the cross” for a Crusade when he was 30. His army seized Damietta in Egypt but not long after, weakened by dysentery and without support, they were surrounded and captured.
He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis, caring even for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace.
Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person.
Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil in 1270 at the age of 56. He was canonized 27 years later.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Heaven's Grocery Store

I was walking down life's highway a long time ago.
One day I saw a sign that read, "HEAVEN'S GROCERY STORE".

As I got a little closer, the door opened wide,
and then I found myself standing inside.

I saw a host of ANGELS. They were standing everywhere.
One handed me a basket and said, "My Child, shop with care".

Everything a human needed was in that grocery store.
And if you couldn't carry all, you could come back the next day for more.

First, I got some PATIENCE. LOVE was in the same row.
Further down was UNDERSTANDING; you need that everywhere you go.

I got a box or two of WISDOM, a bag or two of FAITH.
I just couldn't miss the HOLY GHOST, for it was all over the place.

I stopped to get some STRENGTH and COURAGE to help me run this race.
By then my basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed some GRACE.

I didn't forget SALVATION, for SALVATION was free.
So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.

Then I started up to the counter to pay my grocery bill.
For I thought I had everything to do the MASTER'S will.

As I went up the aisle, I saw PRAYER; and I just had to put that in,
for I knew when I stepped outside, I would run into sin.

PEACE and JOY were plentiful; they were last on the shelf.
SONG and PRAISE were hanging near, so I just helped myself.

Then I said to the angel, "Now, how much do I owe?"
He smiled again and said, "MY CHILD, GOD PAID YOUR BILL A LONG, LONG TIME AGO."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saint Rose of Lima

St. Rose of Lima is the patroness of Latin America and the Philippines. She was born at Lima, Peru on April 20th, 1586. This South American Saint's real name was Isabel, but she was such a beautiful baby that she was called Rose, and that name remained. As she grew older, she became more and more beautiful, and one day, her mother put a wreath of flowers on her head to show off her loveliness to friends. But Rose had no desire to be admired, for her heart had been given to Jesus. So she put a long pin into that wreath and it pierced her so deeply, that she had a hard time getting the wreath off afterward. Another time she became afraid that her beauty might be a temptation to someone, since people could not take their eyes off her. Therefore, she rubbed her face with pepper until it was all red and blistered.
St. Rose worked hard to support her poor parents and she humbly obeyed them, except when they tried to get her to marry. That she would not do. Her love of Jesus was so great that when she talked about Him, her face glowed and her eyes sparkled.

Rose had many temptations from the devil, and there were also many times when she had to suffer a feeling of terrible loneliness and sadness, for God seemed far away. Yet she cheerfully offered all these troubles to Him. In fact, in her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young woman use to pray: "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart."
She died in Lima the 24th of August, 1617, and many miracles followed her death. She was beatified by Pope Clement IX, in 1667, and canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X, the first from the American continent to be so honored. She is represented wearing a crown of roses.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hail Holy Queen

Coronation of Mary at St Francis Cathedral, Baker City, 1958 (Rambusch Bros, NY)
Today being the feast of the Queenship of Mary, I thought of giving you a brief reflection on one of the most popular prayers or hymns of the Catholic Church. The Salve Regina, or Hail Holy Queen  was composed during the Middle Ages by German monk Hermann of Reichenau. It was always sung or recited in Latin especially among monks during Compline, the prayer that is said in the evening. It is said that St Bernard, while acting as legate Apostolic in Germany, on Christmas Eve, 1146, he entered the cathedral to the processional chanting of the anthem, and, as he genuflected three times, he uttered the words "O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria," and these words were added to the Salve Regina. The Salve Regina is traditionally sung at the end of a priest's funeral Mass out of reverence to Mary, the Mother of Christ, the High Priest, and all Priests. As a prayer, it is commonly said at the end of the rosary.
The hymn has been set to music by various composers, including Victoria, Palestrina, Josquin and Lassus. Handel and Liszt composed their own settings in later years. Schubert composed no less than four versions. In 1976 the words of the first verse of the Salve Regina were used as a repeating theme in the song 'Oh What a Circus' in the musical Evita, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, Poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send forth our sighs, Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, Thine eyes of mercy toward us; And after this our exile, Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pope St Pius X

Pope St Pius X (1835-1914) He died 100 years ago.
Saint Pius X was born on June 2, 1835, his name being Giuseppe Sarto. He was the first Pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. He was one of 11 children, and though poor, his parents valued education, and Giuseppe walked 3 miles to school each day. Pius X was a fervent reformer of Church practices and regulations such as the Canon Law, his most important reform, which for the first time codified Church law in a central fashion. He was a pastoral pope, encouraging personal piety and a life-style reflecting Christian values.
He was the only Pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience at the Parish level and pastoral concerns permeated his papacy. The Catechism of Pope Pius X is short and direct. His teachings were considered equally down to earth and practical. He favored the use of modern language in Catechesis. Frequent communion was a lasting innovation of Pius X, because before his time, people could only receive communion once a month and, on special occasions, on Sunday. He was also instrumental in introducing the custom of First Holy Communion for young children.
Personally Pius combined within himself a strong sense of compassion, benevolence, poverty, but also stubbornness. He wanted to be pastor and was the only Pope in the 20th century who gave Sunday sermons every week. His charity was extraordinary, filling the Vatican with refugees from the 1908 Messina quake, long before the Italian government began to act on its own. He rejected any kind of favors for his family, his brother remained a postal clerk, his favorite nephew stayed on as village priest, and his three sisters lived together close to poverty in Rome.  He often referred to his own humble origins, taking up the causes of poor people. "I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor." Considered a holy person by many, public veneration of Pope Pius X began soon after his death. He died August 20, 1914 and was canonized in 1954, after his body was exhumed and displayed under a side-altar where priests can celebrate Mass, many of which I was lucky to serve as an altar boy in 1966.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saint Bernard and the Blessed Mother

Juan de las Roelas "Vision of St Bernard" 1611
We celebrate today the feast of Saint Bernard, (1090-1153) the primary builder of the Cistercian Monastic order. He was also very devoted to the Blessed Mother having written various prayers in her honor. The above painting seems strange for some people, but it reflects the nurturing instinct that Mary had on St Bernard. Mary is seen squeezing her breast to feed Bernard with her maternal milk, showing herself as a spiritual provider of food as any mother would see that her children are fed, physically and spiritually.
This is one of the prayers written by St Bernard.
O you, whoever you are, who feel in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land, if you do not want to fall apart in the tempest, do not avert your eyes from the brightness of the star, Mary, Your Mother.
When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at the Star, call out to Mary, Your Mother.
When you are being tossed about by the waves of pride, or ambition, slander or jealousy, gaze up at the Star, Mary, Your Mother. When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering against the protective shield of your soul, gaze up at Mary, Your Mother. When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by your heavy conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgement appals you, and you begin to lose heart in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary, Your Mother.
Keep her name on your lips, Keep her in your heart. Follow the example of her life and you will obtain the favor of her prayer. Following in her footsteps, you will not go astray. Asking for help, you will not fall into despair: thinking of her you will not err. While she keeps hold of your hand, you will not fall or stumble. With her protecting you, you will not be afraid. With her leading you, you will not tire. Enjoying her protection, you will reach the goal. Her kindness will see you through the end.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 truths to live by

1. You need not be afraid of where you're going when you know God is going with you.
2. Your work is a commentary on your character.
3. When you are feeling low remember that God thinks highly of you.
4. Patience means awaiting God's time without doubting God's love.
5. To add to your joy, count your blessings.
6. Each day is a gift to be opened with prayer.
7. Everything in God's store is on the bottom shelf... you have to get on your knees to get it.
8. It's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.
9. You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.
10. To the world you may just be somebody.......but to somebody you may just be the world.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Relying on God

A little boy was spending his Saturday morning playing in his sandbox. He had with him his box of cars and trucks, his plastic pail, and a shiny, red plastic shovel. In the process of creating roads and tunnels in the soft sand, he discovered a large rock in the middle of the sandbox. The lad dug around the rock, managing to dislodge it from the dirt. With no little bit of struggle, he pushed and nudged the rock across the sandbox by using his feet. He was a very small boy and the rock was very big. When the boy got the rock to the edge of the sandbox, however, he found that he couldn't roll it up and over the little wall.

Determined, the little boy shoved, pushed, and pried, but every time he thought he had made some progress, the rock tipped and then fell back into the sandbox. The little boy grunted, struggled, pushed and shoved, but his only reward was to have the rock roll back, smashing his chubby fingers.  Finally, he burst into tears of frustration. All this time, the boy's father was watching the drama unfold from his living room window. As the tears fell, a large shadow appeared across the boy and the sandbox. It was the boy's father.

Gently he said, "Son, why didn't you use all the strength you had available?"  Defeated, the boy sobbed back, "I did, Daddy, I did! I used all the strength I had!"  "No, Son," corrected the father kindly. "You didn't use all the strength you had. You never asked me."  The father then reached down, picked up the rock, and removed it from the sandbox.
How often we feel we can do things on our own, but it's only when we let God into our lives that things get done, properly, quicker and better.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What if ?

What if...? God couldn't take the time to bless us today because we could not take the time to thank Him yesterday...
What if...? God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we didn't follow him today...
What if...? God didn't walk with us today because we failed to recognize it as His day...
What if....? We never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when God sent the rain...
What if...? God stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others....
What if...? God took away the Bible tomorrow, because we would not read it today...
What If...? God took away His message because we failed to listen to His messenger...
What if...? The door to the church was closed because we did not open the door of our hearts...
What if...? God would not hear us today because we would not listen to Him yesterday....
What if...? God answered our prayers the way we answer his call to service...
What if...? God met our needs the way we give Him our lives...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Van Gogh Family Tree

Vincent Van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890)
Something funny for today...........with no offense to the Van Gogh Family.
His obnoxious brother..................................................Please Gogh
His dizzy aunt.................................................................Verti Gogh
The brother who ate prunes.......................................Gotta Gogh
The brother who worked at a convenience store........Stopn Gogh
The grandfather from Yugoslavia.................................U Gogh
The brother who bleached his clothes white...............Hue Gogh
The cousin from Illinois.................................................Chica Gogh
His magician uncle........................................................Wherediddy Gogh
His Mexican cousin.......................................................Amee Gogh
The Mexican cousin's American half brother.........Grin Gogh
The nephew who drove a stage coach.....................Wellsfar Gogh
The constipated uncle...............................................Can’t Gogh
The ballroom dancing aunt........................................Tan Gogh
The bird lover uncle....................................................Flamin Gogh
His nephew psychoanalyst.........................................E Gogh
The fruit loving cousin...............................................Man Gogh
An aunt who taught positive thinking......................Wayto Gogh
The little bouncy nephew..........................................Poe Gogh
A sister who loved disco...........................................Go Gogh
His niece who travels the country in a van...........Winnie Bay Gogh
His border-crossing guard uncle...........................M. Barr Gogh

Friday, August 15, 2014

Assumption of Mary

The Church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary in Victoria, Gozo, Malta
The church celebrates today the feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. The dogma of the Assumption was proclaimed in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, even though devotion to this feast was always observed. In my home country of Malta, there are 10 parishes dedicated to the this feast and processions are held today in all of them throughout the streets of each respective town or village, with the statue of Mary. 
Statue of Mary exiting the church
Churches and streets are decorated as you can see from these attached photos. However, as most processions are festive, these are very reverent, still with marching bands, fireworks and the participation of the people, always in huge numbers.

Street decorations in Victoria, Gozo, Malta

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

St Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Maximilian was born in January 1894 in Poland and was one of 5 sons to his devout parents. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. In 1907 Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome and was inspired to organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional leaflets, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata" and helped form a community of 800 men.
Maximilian went to Japan where he built a monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time. He provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanów. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports.

Franciszek Gajowniczek
On February 17, 1941 he was arrested again by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place. The guards accepted this move, and Francizek was spared and eventually lived until the late 1990s. During the time in the cell St Maximilian led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek and his family.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Remembering 'Popeye'

'Popeye Village' in Malta
The tragic death of Robin Williams stunned the entertainment world. Yet this comic genius has left quite a repertoire of movies, voices on cartoon characters and stand-up comedy, not all of it clean and acceptable for all audiences. Many people do not know that his first movie was filmed in Malta. After his TV series "Mork and Mindy", Williams was cast as Popeye in a movie with Shelley Duvall, directed by Robert Altman. It cost $20 million to produce and grossed $50 million at the box-office and $25 million in rentals. 
A skinnier me visiting Popeye Village in 1983
An elaborate set was built on a rocky coast in Malta, and the entire Sweethaven village was created for the filming, which was done between 1978 and 1979. These photos I took back in 1983 show some of the quaint houses, still in place, mainly because the Malta Government turned the set into a tourist attraction, with thousands of visitors touring the complex, bringing in more money than the movie itself made 35 years ago. The houses included a few bars, the Fire Department, a school, Post Office, a church, bridges and houses and sea docks. So this is an opportunity to visit again 'Popeye Village' and give tribute to a great comic actor who sadly left us on August 11th, 2014.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sun and Moon rising

A rising sun I captured as a balloon or lollipop
As you’ve seen from recent posts in this blog, we had some spectacular sunrises and sunsets lately, mostly because of the effect of the smoke in the air from nearby fires. Here are two photos I took this past week, the first one showing a sunrise, and the other one showing the supermoon, a photo I took last Saturday here in Bend, Oregon.
Supermoon on Saturday August 2, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saint Clare

Saint Clare (1194-1253)
Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called "Poor Clares." She was born July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio. When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not.
Soon her sister Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus, and live without any money. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time. Once, He saved them from a great danger in answer to St. Clare's prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, St. Clare had herself carried to the wall and right there, where the enemies could see it, she had the Blessed Sacrament placed. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters. "O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care."
At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. She died on  August 11, 1253. 

St Francis cutting the hair of St Clare
Many stories and allegorical tales have been created with St Francis and St Clare, including the popular movie and phrase “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” But the fact is that both St Clare and St Francis laid a foundation for what to become one of the most influential orders of priests, friars and sisters, the Franciscans. Many other Orders splintered from the original Franciscans, but the foundation of each group remained always a life of poverty and good Christian example, a life detached from the materialism of this world.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Happiest Angel

One simple reason why angels are so happy!
Yesterday I showed you photos of some statues of angels in Malta. These are usually set up in streets during the week-long festivities to honor the titular saint of that particular parish church. Now I want to introduce to a very happy angel, and as soon as you see it, and observe what’s in the foreground, just below him, you would understand why he is so happy.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Malta outdoor statues

An outdoor statue showing the marriage between Mary and Joseph
Every weekend in Malta, there are 4 to 6 different celebrations of parish saints, culminating with a procession with the main titular statue through the streets of the town or village. Many other decorations are set up along the streets, including statues of angels, some of which are visible here. 
A happy angel-musician
They are usually made of paper mache, and even though they are elaborately made, they are not of the highest quality as the titular statue, which is kept in the church, and carried out for 4 hours on Sunday evening. Nonetheless, they are well-crafted statues and beautifully done.
Another angel at Zebbug, Malta

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Dominican from St Francis

Sr. Maximilian OP speaking to the parishioners of St Francis.
On the eve of the feast of Saint Dominic, an alumna from our St Francis School came to visit us and presented a heart-warming talk to our parishioners on her vocation, her life and her one-year journey in Rome, this past year. Sister Maximilian Garretson OP, graduated from St Francis Catholic school and was looking for a happy life, getting married, have a bunch of children and settle down as a parent, like her 2 sisters and 3 brothers. But the Lord called her to be a Dominican of Our Lady of the Eucharist of Michigan. She spent the last year at their house in Rome, during which time she experienced the many religious events at the Vatican and around Rome, including the recent canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. The day before she celebrated her 10th anniversary of her profession, and today she celebrates with other Dominicans, the liturgical feast of Saint Dominic.
St Dominic meeting St Francis
St Dominic lived as a contemporary of St Francis of Assisi, preached against the Albigensian heresy and helped reform the Cistercians. Dominic spent the last years of this life organizing the order, traveling all over Italy, Spain and France preaching and attracting new members and establishing new houses. The new order was phenomenally successful in conversion work as it applied Dominic's concept of harmonizing the intellectual life with popular needs. He convoked the first general council of the order at Bologna in 1220 and died there the following year on August 6, after being forced by illness to return from a preaching tour in Hungary. He was canonized in 1234. Dominicans today number 6,500, not counting many nuns who work as teachers, in social work and in hospitals.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Sarah Kennedy with one of the dolphins
One of my parishioners showed me some exceptional photos of his daughter interacting with dolphins. She is Sarah Kennedy and works at the Florida Keyes Dolphin Research Center. Dolphins are often regarded as one of Earth's most intelligent animals, though it is hard to say just how intelligent. Dolphins are highly social animals, often living in pods of up to a dozen individuals, though pod sizes and structures vary greatly between species and locations. In places with a high abundance of food, pods can merge temporarily, forming a superpod; such groupings may exceed 1,000 dolphins.
Dolphins can, however, establish strong social bonds; they will stay with injured or ill individuals, even helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface if needed. This altruism does not appear to be limited to their own species. They have also been seen protecting swimmers from sharks by swimming circles around the swimmers or charging the sharks to make them go away. Dolphins communicate using a variety of clicks, whistle-like sounds and other vocalizations. They also use nonverbal communication by means of touch and posturing. 
These photos show Sarah working and playing with dolphins, including my favorite photo, synchronized diving, with the dolphin’s tail and Sarah’s feet disappearing in the water simultaneously.