Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting older

Remember, old folks are worth a fortune, with silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys, lead in their feet, and gas in their stomachs. I have become a little older now and a few changes have come into my life. Frankly I have become quite a frivolous old gal. I am seeing five gentlemen every day. 
As soon as I wake up, WILL POWER helps me get out of bed. Then I go down the hall and see JOHN. Next CHARLIE HORSE comes along and takes a lot of my time and attention. When he leaves ARTHUR RITIS shows up and stays the rest of the day. He doesn’t like to stay in one place very long, so he takes me from joint to joint.
After such a busy day, I’m really tired and glad to relax with BEN GAY. What a life !
The preacher came to visit me the other day. He said at my age, I should be thinking about the “hereafter.”
I told him, “Oh I do, all the time. No matter where I am – in the parlor, upstairs, in the kitchen or down in the basement – I keep asking myself, ”NOW WHAT AM I HERE AFTER?”

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Archangels

St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Gabriel
Today is the feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Michael - the angel of judgment - is known as the champion in the fight against Satan and the other devils as well as the guardian of the faithful especially at the time of death. Frequently he is portrayed crushing the devil’s head with a lance.
Gabriel - the angel of mercy - is the messenger from God in St Luke’s gospel who foretold the birth of John the Baptist, “Be not afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.” Six months later it was Gabriel who appeared to Mary at the Annunciation saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” Raphael  -  whose name means “God has healed” was sent by God to heal Tobias of his blindness and to deliver Sara from the devil in the book of Tobit.
We tend to underestimate the presence of Angels in our lives. However they are gaining popularity as we see many angel pins on people’s jackets, posters and paintings of various angels are showing up at card stores. And of course at Christmas, there are the angels on ornaments and hanging on nativity scenes. We sing about the angels in several of the Christmas hymns. Angels were also present at Jesus’ tomb when the women went to anoint his body and found the tomb empty. But we are reluctant to accept their actual existence. This is certainly a departure from our childhood when we prayed to our Guardian Angel at least daily. As children we believed that there was truly one angel whose job was to look after us, who would always hover around us ready to protect us from all evil and to communicate our desires and needs to God. The feast of the Guardian Angels in fact is in 3 days, October 2.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Many people don’t know that 99% of all hazelnuts in the USA are harvested in our great state of Oregon. The hazelnut industry has been ramping up to meet growing demand, particularly for hazelnut spreads like Nutella, and for exports to China, where hazelnuts are popular during the Chinese New Year celebration. World-wide, Oregon harvest only 7% of the world’s product, but this year, that may increase significantly, because the biggest world’s producer of hazelnuts, Turkey recorded a terrible frost that damaged a large portion of their crops. 
Young hazelnuts on a tree
Turkey produces 70% of the world’s supply, and they are now looking to Oregon for help. Last year, Oregon produced $121 million worth of filiberts or hazelnuts. Over the last 7 years, the acreage devoted to growing hazelnuts in Oregon has grown by 50 percent.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saint Vincent de Paul

St Vincent de Paul (1581-1660)
St. Vincent was born of poor parents in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, in 1581. He attended school under the Franciscan Fathers and he impressed so many people that a gentleman chose him as guardian to his children, and he was thus able to continue his studies without being a burden to his parents. In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for theological studies, and there he was ordained priest in 1600.
In 1605, on a voyage by sea from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell into the hands of African pirates and was carried as a slave to Tunis. His captivity lasted about two years, until Divine Providence enabled him to escape. After a brief visit to Rome he returned to France, where he became chaplain to the family of Emmanuel de Gondy, a Count and General of the galleys of France. It was the Countess de Gondy who persuaded her husband to support a group of able and zealous missionaries under the leadership of St Vincent, who would work among poor tenant farmers.

Helping the poor with St. Louise De Marillac
In 1617, De Paul founded the "Ladies of Charity” from a group of women within his parish. He organized these wealthy women of Paris to collect funds for missionary projects, found hospitals, and gather relief funds for the victims of war. In this he had the help of St. Louise De Marillac, and they eventually became known as the Daughters of Charity. After working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley-slaves, St Vincent returned to be the leader of what is now known as the Vincentians. These priests, with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability, were to devote themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages. At the same time, he began to preach missions.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of St Vincent, but charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age. In the midst of the most distracting occupations his soul was always intimately united with God. Though honored by the great ones of the world, he remained deeply rooted in humility. The Apostle of Charity, the immortal Vincent de Paul, died at Paris, September 27, 1660 at the age of eighty. He was canonized in 1737 and he is the patron of charitable societies.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul, a charitable organization dedicated to the service of the poor, was established by French university students in 1833, led by the Blessed Fredric Ozanam. The Society is today present in 132 countries. De Paul University in Chicago takes its name from Vincent de Paul and St. John's University in Queens, New York was founded in 1870 by the Vincentians, as was Niagara University in 1856.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Value of a Hug

If carrots can hug each other, why can't we?
It’s wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A hug can say “I Love you so,”
Or again “I really hate to see you go.”

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

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

Hugs are great for father and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers.
And chances are your favorite aunts,
Love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them, puppies love them;
Heads of State are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier,
And make travel so much merrier.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

More from Bouguereau

Adolphe  Bouguereau - The Virgin with Angels
So many of my visitors seemed to have enjoyed the paintings of Adolph Bouguereau, and so, here are three other paintings from his vast collection of intimate depictions of children, mothers, sisters and a special emphasis on the Blessed Mother.
Adolphe  Bouguereau - The Bunch of Grapes
Adolphe  Bouguereau - Mother and children
Adolphe  Bouguereau - Innocence

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Meeting Bouguereau

Adolphe Bouguereau "The Virgin with Angels"
Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to three of my favorite painters or artists. The first one is William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 - August 19, 1905) who was a French academic painter. Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of classical subjects with a heavy emphasis on the female human body.
Adolphe Bouguereau "The Holy Family"
Although he created an idealized world, his almost photo-realistic style was popular with rich art patrons. He was very famous in his time but today his subject matter and technique receive relatively little attention compared to the popularity of the Impressionists. Bouguereau employed traditional methods of working up a painting, including detailed pencil studies and oil sketches, and his careful method resulted in a pleasing and accurate rendering of the human form. His painting of skin, hands, and feet was particularly admired. Prominent among his subjects are pleasantly depicted nude cherubs, angels and children. Near the end of his life he described his love of his art, "Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come back." He left us 826 paintings.
Adolphe Bouguereau "The Motherland"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Saint Pio of Pietralcina

Padre Pio, the stigmatist monk (1887-1968)
Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietralcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.
Born Francesco Forgione in 1887, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo. On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.
Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.

St Pio with children towards the end of his life
Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. A fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano in the 1940s, known as "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" and has 350 beds. A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. He died on September 23, 1968, was beatified in 1999 and made a saint in 2002.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A kind, caring gesture

An eyewitness account from New York City, on a cold day in December: A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, "My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?" "I was asking God to give  me a pair of shoes," was the boy's reply. The lady took him by the hand  and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks  for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a  towel.
He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the  back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel. By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him.
She patted him on the head and said, "No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?" As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her  by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears his eyes, answered the question with these words: "Are you God's Wife?"

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Malta - 50 years Independent

PM George Borg Olivier as Malta is declared Independent Sept 21,1964
Malta was ruled over the past 2 millennia by the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spanish, the Knights of St John, the French and the British. Following a Maltese constitutional referendum in 1964, approved by 54.5% of voters, on September 21st 1964, Malta became an independent state as a Constitutional Monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State. 
Stamps issued in 1964 to celebrate Independence from England
So September 21st every year is celebrated as Independence Day or Jum l-Indipendenza in Maltese, this year being the 50th anniversary. One can say that both Labor Leader Dom Mintoff, as well as Nationalist Leader and Prime Minister George Borg Olivier contributed towards the attainment of Independence.
Prince William at the celebrations yesterday in Malta with PM
On December 1st 1964, Malta was admitted to the United Nations. In 1965 Malta joined the Council of Europe, and in 1970, Malta signed an Association Treaty with the European Community. Malta was declared a republic on December 13th, 1974 and in 2004, Malta finally became the 25th nation to join the European Union.
Fireworks during the 50th anniversary celebrations

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Focus on Malta

A tourist complex called Portomaso, which includes a yacht marina
Since tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of Malta becoming Independent, I want to share some photos today of flood-lit scenes from Malta, photos which I took recently during my visit there. Malta's night life is just as exciting as it is during the day. Just as New York is called the 'city that never sleeps', we can easily say that Malta has become the 'island that never sleeps.' 
St Julian's Bay with restaurants galore
On a few occasions, I was up early at 5 AM to take photos of a sunrise, and people are still walking around from the night before, mostly coming from night clubs and other places of entertainment. Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry on what happened 50 years ago.
Domed churches dominate every Malta skyline
Another restaurant known as Barracuda at Balluta Bay

Friday, September 19, 2014

Saint Januarius

St Januarius, patron of Naples, Italy
St. Januarius (Gennaro) is a patron saint of and former bishop of Naples in the 4th century. Januarius and his friends were initially sentenced to be eaten by the lions, tigers, and bears at the Naples amphitheater. Although the beasts had been starved for several days before the day of the planned transformation of the Christians into animal crackers, the beasts refused to attack Januarius and his colleagues. The spectators at the amphitheater were frightened by the indifference of the starving animals to the Christians and rumors began to circulate that the Christians had magical powers and were possibly protected by their god. The governor of Campania ordered their immediate beheading and Januarius' body was later returned to the Cathedral in Naples.
Over a century later, it was purported that a vial of St. Januarius' blood surfaced and was preserved and permanently fixed in the metal reliquary in the Cathedral of Naples. Thousands of people assemble to witness this event in the Cathedral of Naples, three times a year: on September 19 (Saint Januarius day, to commemorate his martyrdom), on December 16 (to celebrate his patronage of both Naples and of the archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics).

Naples Cardinal shows the liquefied blood of St Januarius
Sometimes the "blood" liquefies immediately, other times it takes hours.  When the priest brings the vial to the altar that holds the saint's blood, the people, who gather by the thousands, pray that the blood becomes liquid once again. If the miracle takes place, the officiant proclaims, "Il miracolo é fatto!" ("The miracle has happened.") and waves a white handkerchief. Then the hymn 'Te Deum' is sung and the reliquary is taken to the altar rail so the faithful can kiss the vial.  There have been a few instances when the substance in the vial had not liquefied and the faithful believes that it is a sign of impending peril. Five times when liquefaction has failed there have been major disasters, the latest being an earthquake in southern Italy that killed 3,000 people in 1980.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jesus in my heart

A four year old was at the pediatrician for a check up. As the doctor looked down her ears with an otoscope, he asked, "Do you think I'll find Big Bird in here?" The little girl stayed silent. Next, the doctor took a tongue depressor and looked down her throat. He asked, "Do you think I'll find the Cookie Monster down there?" Again, the little girl was silent.
Then the doctor put a stethoscope to her chest. As he listened to her heart beat, he asked, "Do you think I'll hear Barney in there?" "Oh, no!" the little girl replied. "Jesus is in my heart. Barney's on my underpants."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Saint Robert Bellarmine

St Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
Born at Montepulciano, Italy, October 4, 1542, St. Robert Bellarmine was the third of ten children. His mother, Cinzia Cervini, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification of the body.
Robert entered the newly formed Society of Jesus in 1560 and after his ordination went on to teach at Louvain (1570-1576) where he became famous for his Latin sermons. In 1576, he was appointed to the chair of controversial theology at the Roman College, becoming Rector in 1592; he went on to become Provincial of Naples in 1594 and Cardinal in 1598. This outstanding scholar and devoted servant of God defended the Apostolic See against the anti-clericals in Venice and against the political tenets of James I of England. 

He composed an exhaustive apologetic work against the prevailing heretics of his day. In the field of church-state relations, he was also very effective in a time of major upheaval all over Europe. Remember that these were the days of the Protestant Reformation, with various leaders starting their own religion, King Henry VIII and the Anglican/Episcopalian religion, Luther with Lutheranism, Calvin and Zwingli in central Europe, and others. And like other well-know priest saints of this era, Robert was able to defend the church with the likes of St Vincent de Paul, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier, St Julian Peter Eymard, St Francis De Sales, St John Baptist Vianney, St Charles Borromeo and many others.

Robert Bellarmine was the spiritual father of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a Jesuit novice, and also helped St. Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order, the female order founded by St Jane Frances de Chantal. He has left us a host of important writings, including works of devotion and instruction, as well as controversy. He died in 1621 and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930; the following year he was declared a Doctor of the Church. His remains, in a cardinal's red robes, are displayed behind glass under a side altar in the Church of Saint Ignatius, the chapel of the Roman College, next to the body of his student, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, as he himself had wished.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


A Cabernet Sauvignon wine bottle, 337
As everyone knows, I do not drink. Actually I do drink, on the job. And recently with 4 Masses on Sundays, I’m always afraid of being pulled over and given a breathalyser test, and then trying to convince a policeman that it is my duty to drink on the job, during Mass,
although that is actually the Blood of Christ.
My father in his winter uniform with the number 337
Having said that, during a recent visit to the local Safeway Food Store I noticed a bottle of wine with an intriguing label, 337. I have always been fascinated by that number, because it was my father’s police number, which he used on his uniform. I have used the number in some combination on my passwords and of course I think of my father every time this number stands out, like when gasoline is $3.37, or seeing a house number, or even seeing that Lafayette, Louisiana has 337 as an area code.
My father in his summer uniform in 1971, just before he retired
So I dedicate this entry to my dad, and sharing with you a photo of the bottle of wine, which I will keep for as long as I can, and think of my father every time I look at it, which is very frequently, because it is right here in front of me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows

"The Seven Sorrows of Mary" by Adriaen Isenbrant
The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated a day after the feast of the Cross, and even though we are far from the Lenten season, the church asks us to reflect on the 7 sorrows that Mary experienced, as beautifully depicted in this image by Adriaen Isenbrant from the 16th century, a panel visible in Bruges, Belgium. The 7 sorrows that Mary had to face were these, as described in each of the panels surrounding the image of the Sorrowful Mother:
1. Jesus’ circumcision.
2. The escape into Egypt.
3. Jesus lost and found in the temple.
4. Seeing Jesus carrying the cross and meeting him on the way to Calvary.
5. The crucifixion of Jesus.
6. The Pieta, as the dead body of Jesus is laid on her lap.
7. The burial of Jesus.

An old image of the Sorrowful Mother from Marsaxlokk church, Malta
The beautiful hymn Stabat Mater Dolorosa is sung frequently during Lent, especially during the Stations of the Cross. The first three words mean Stood the mournful Mother weeping,” and the poem was written by Jacopone de Todi in the 13th century, and was set to music by various composers including  Palestrina, Pergolesi, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Haydn, Rossini, and Dvorák. Here are the first 2 verses:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Prayer for World Peace

Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle, the strength to be forgiving, the patience to be understanding and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.
May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear shall no longer lead men to commit injustice, nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.
Help us devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men were created.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Six Questions

Can you answer three of these questions?

1.  Name the five wealthiest people in the world
2.  Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3.  Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest.
4.  Name 10 people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
5.  Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6.  Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.  These are no second-rate achievers.  They are the best in their fields.  But the applause dies.  Awards tarnish.  Achievements are forgotten.  Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz.  See how you do on this one:

1.  List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2.  Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3.  Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4.  Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5.  Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
6.  Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.


Easier? The lesson?

The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the credentials, the most money, or the most awards, but those who touch your life, and you will never, ever be the same.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Holy Name of Mary

This feast of the Holy Name of Mary was celebrated since 1513, instituted in Spain, and was extended to the entire world in 1683 and assigned to the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary (September 8.) In 1954 it was re-instated on September 12, but removed temporarily as many thought it was a duplication of the Nativity of Mary. But in 2001, the feast was re-established to be celebrated today September 12. We honor today the name of Mary, or Mariam or Miriam in Hebrew. The name most probably originated from the Egyptian Meri-Amun, meaning “beloved of the God.” The name is very common in Arab, Iranian and Muslim countries. However Mary is called by an innumerable other names that denote a connection with an apparition or something special, Our Lady of Lourdes, Fatima, Joy, Queen of Peace, Angels, Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Snows, Our Lady of Guadalupe, etc.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering the New York Martyrs

An image I produced 13 years ago, with Mary and Jesus replacing the Twin Towers
This is an article I wrote 13 years ago in my parish Bulletin:
It is truly heart-breaking following the events of September 11, 2001! All we can do right now is pray, as we follow the aftermath of the catastrophic tragedy on TV. People have been crowding to our Churches, as Friday the 14th is a National Day of Prayer and Mourning for the victims. The rest of the world joined in solidarity and prayer, and the whole of the United States is grateful for the world-wide support that we're receiving right now.
The heartbreaking stories we're hearing are truly incredible....like the man from Fishkill who was buried but was able to get out alive, with minor scratches. Or the CEO of Cantor-Fitzgerald who lost all 700 of his employees who were on the very top floors of one of the Twin Towers, including his brother. He survived simply because he took his daughter to her first day of Kindergarten, and was heading towards work when the tragedy happened. Or the young woman who called her husband in California frantically just before she died, leaving simply a message "They bombed us. I'm going to die. I love you always." Or the Fire Department Chaplain Fr Mychal Judge OFM, who was administering last rites when he was hit by a falling body and other debris. Or so many others who were writing E-mails or sending Instant Messages while the planes crashed into their buildings.
Or the people who died on the planes, like the Priest from Massachusetts, who just found a last-minute seat to go and see his sister in Los Angeles, only to die half-an hour later. Or the three children with their teachers who had won a National Geographic Competition and were experiencing part of their reward on the plane.
The feelings of people here had changed from disbelief to shock on the first day, from anger to numbness on Wednesday, from patriotism and prayer to unity and collaboration today and in the weeks to come. In the midst of all this chaos and darkness, we cannot give up hope. As the motto of the Christophers says, "we have to light one candle instead of cursing the darkness." We have to look for something positive, instead of criticizing how terrible everything around us is. We have to look forward to continue to unite the country and the world, not be divisive by searching for opportunity for revenge.
May God continues to bless the generous and hardworking firefighters, police-officers, volunteers and medical teams who are helping with the recovery process, which could be very long, tiring and extremely discouraging.
May God give eternal rest to all the victims, and strength to their families and loved ones. These are the new American Martyrs, or better yet, the New York Martyrs, whose feast should be inserted in the Liturgical Calendar for September 11th.

Gone, but never forgotten
We pray today that from the ashes will rise a new spirit of beauty and unity in America.
Already, all across this nation our hearts have been knit together into a new tapestry of one America.
Because of this tragedy, we have been bound together by a silver chord of hope and brotherhood and sisterhood.
What was meant to drive us apart has really drawn us together. May we always remember.
And so today we ask, God, that you would wipe the tears of all in need of comfort.
That you would warm the heart of one who would grow cold from bitterness.
That you would lift the head of that one who is bowed down in sadness.
That you would touch the discouraged and remind them that love will always conquer hate.
We thank you, God, for making us such a resilient people. We know that we are.
And we pray now for the strength to rise again, to build again, and to live free from fear.
We pray that you will help us rebuild our broken lives and mend our broken hearts.
We pray that you will give us the courage to face evil and the faith to believe that good will never be defeated. Hold us close to your heart.
And through our tears, and through our sorrow, may we all see a new vision of a new tomorrow.
Bless us all and God bless America.

Beams of Light, that will never fade away

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remembering a tragic day in US history

It was 13 years ago. Everyone was going on their merry way, minding their own business. Schools had just started, the crisp air was returning, heralding another New York fall. But people were complacent as to any danger that may be lurking on the horizon. And things changed quickly in a blink of an eye, when American freedom was shattered, 3000 lives were lost, two icons, 4 planes and the center of America's strategic brain (the Pentagon) were attacked, and life would never, ever be the same. So many families were effected, so many lives were literally turned upside down. So many children became orphaned in a split-second. So many widows and widowers, so many broken hearts, and destroyed lives.
I was right there in the midst of this tragedy, and my memories are just as vivid.
A few hours after the attack, with the Twin Towers gone
Let us pause and remember those tragic few hours and pray for the victims who died so innocently, the people whom I always have called the "New York martyrs." Tomorrow I will share more reflections surrounding this tragic day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saint Peter Claver

St Peter Claver (1580-1654)
A native of Spain, young Jesuit Peter Claver left his homeland forever in 1610 to be a missionary in the colonies of the New World. He sailed into Cartagena (now in Colombia), a rich port city washed by the Caribbean. He was ordained there in 1615.
By this time the slave trade had been established in the Americas for nearly 100 years, and Cartagena was a chief center for it. Ten thousand slaves poured into the port each year after crossing the Atlantic from West Africa under conditions so foul and inhuman that an estimated one-third of the passengers died in transit. Although the practice of slave-trading was condemned by Pope Paul III and later labeled "supreme villainy" by Pius IX, it continued to flourish. Peter Claver's predecessor, Jesuit Father Alfonso de Sandoval, had devoted himself to the service of the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work, declaring himself "the slave of the Negroes forever."
As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God's saving love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves.

Stamp issued by Colombia to honor Claver
His apostolate extended beyond his care for slaves. He became a moral force, indeed, the apostle of Cartagena. He preached in the city square, gave missions to sailors and traders as well as country missions, during which he avoided, when possible, the hospitality of the planters and owners and lodged in the slave quarters instead.
After four years of sickness which forced the saint to remain inactive and largely neglected, he died on September 8, 1654. The city magistrates, who had previously frowned at his solicitude for the black outcasts, ordered that he should be buried at public expense and with great pomp.
He was canonized in 1888, and Pope Leo XIII declared him the worldwide patron of missionary work among black slaves.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nativity of Mary

"The Birth of Mary" by Esteban Murillo
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Connected to this feast is the Immaculate Conception which we celebrated exactly 9 months ago, to emphasize the duration of a human pregnancy, even for Mary, being born of her mother Saint Anne. The feast of the Nativity started in the 5th century when a basilica was built in Jerusalem where St Anne lived and where Mary was born, traditionally around 12 BC. Saints Joachim and Anne have their own feast on July 26, but today we honor Mary’s birthday. Imagine the joy to see this little girl being born, in the obscurity of her town, with no Angels, no shepherds, no Kings, but that’s because she didn’t want to take the attention from her Son, who would be born 16 years later.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Flashback from the past

At Saranac Lake, NY in 1983
Here are some photos from 30 years ago, a skinnier version of me, playing the flute in various parts of the Northeast, sometimes on a short vacation, other times on Retreat. I taught myself playing the flute when I came to the USA in 1981, and just practice and play whenever someone asks me to, during get-togethers, informal meetings, at weddings and funerals.

At Weston priory, Vermont during a break at a Retreat in 1982
Again at Saranac lake, NY in 1984

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Street Violinist

John Fawcett playing in downtown Bend, maybe 'romantically'
First Fridays in Bend, Oregon are very festive, artistic and culturally rich and varied. All the stores display various forms of art, the breweries go crazy...well there are 20 Breweries in Bend! - so that’s a lot of craziness. Artists, craftsmen and musicians showcase their talent and among them yesterday was one of our St Francis Catholic School students, John Fawcett, who is an exceptional violinist. He is in the 8th Grade and takes special classes weekly, traveling many miles for private lessons. 

So while strolling downtown Bend yesterday, I met John who was on his way to set up in a different corner on Wall Street. I took some good photos while he was playing and mesmerizing everyone who was going by, adding to the donations in the white violin case in front of him. He is already taking part in concerts with local orchestras, and last October, just 2 days after I arrived here in Bend, I attended a concert in a local High School. Oblivious as to who he was, this young boy comes on stage and performs the difficult Symphonie Espagnol by Eduard Lalo. When he was finished I looked at the program to see who this budding genius was, and found out that he is one of our students! Next day I raved about him during the school Mass, and the rest is history. He is very dedicated and generous with his talents. He leads the singing at Mass to as a Cantor too, and have participated in a few of my weddings playing the violin. I know that one day we will have to pay big bucks to listen to him in celebrated concert halls around the country. In the meantime, good luck John!