Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saint John Bosco

Images of St John Bosco and the Salesian community
St John Bosco was born on August 16, 1815 and died on January 31, 1888. He was an Italian Catholic priest, educator and writer who put into practice the convictions of his religion, dedicating his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth and employing teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, a method that is known as the preventive system. A follower of the spirituality and philosophy of Francis de Sales, Bosco dedicated his works to him when he founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (more commonly known as the Salesians of Don Bosco). Together with St Maria Domenica Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a religious congregation of nuns dedicated to the care and education of poor girls, and popularly known as Salesian Sisters. In 1875 he published Bollettino Salesiano Mensuale (A Salesian Monthly Bulletin) and it has remained in continuous publication, and is currently published in 50 different editions and 30 languages. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Living without God

Without GOD, our week would be:
Fightday & 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Living Sermons - part 2

Continuing the touching stories that are living sermons in themselves:
7. Today, I kissed my dad on the forehead as he passed away in a small hospital bed.  About 5 seconds after he passed, I realized it was the first time I had given him a kiss since I was a little boy.
8. Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling.  I chuckled and asked, "Why?" She replied, "So you can help me save the planet."  I chuckled again and asked, "And why do you want to save the planet?"  Because that's where I keep all my stuff," she said.
9. Today, when I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient laughing hysterically at her 2-year-old daughter's antics,  I suddenly realized that I need to stop complaining about my life and start celebrating it again.
10. Today, a boy in a wheelchair  saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me. He helped me all the way across campus to my class and as he was leaving he said, "I hope you feel better soon."
11.  Today, I was feeling down because the results of a biopsy came back malignant.  When I got home, I opened an e-mail that said, "Thinking of you today.  If you need me, I'm a phone call away."  It was from a high school friend I hadn't seen in 10 years.
12. Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe. He said he hadn't eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy.  Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating. The first thing the man said was, "We can share it.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Living Sermons - part 1

The best sermons are lived, not preached. Here are the first of 6 tiny stories of hope, love and forgiveness. 6 more will appear tomorrow.
1. Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I'm working on for my Psychology class.  When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said, "Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile."
2. Today, I asked my mentor - a very successful business man in his 70s - what his top 3 tips are for success.  He smiled and said, "Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing."
3.  Today, after a 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug.  When I tensed up, she realized I didn't recognize her. She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said, "On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center."
4.  Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying.  And just before he died, he licked the tears off my face.
5.  Today at 7AM, I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went into work.  At 3PM I got laid off. On my drive home I got a flat tire. When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too.  A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job. I start tomorrow.
6.  Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother's hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died. She simply said, "I feel so loved right now. We should have gotten together like this more often."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saint Angela Merici

St Angela Merici (1474-1540)
Angela Merici was born in Desenzano by Lake Garda, Italy on March 21, 1474.  As she was growing up, all around her hometown she saw poor girls with no education and no hope. She had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land and the island of Crete. On the way there she had fallen ill and become blind. Nevertheless, she insisted on continuing her pilgrimage and toured the holy sites with the devotion of her heart rather than her eyes. On the way back she stopped again in Crete and after prayers, she recovered her sight. But this must have been a reminder to her not to shut her eyes to the needs she saw around her, not to shut her heart to God's call. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century that Angela lived in, education for women was for the rich or for nuns. Angela herself had learned everything on her own. Her parents had died when she was ten and she had gone to live with an uncle. She was deeply disturbed when her sister died without receiving the sacraments. A vision reassured her that her sister was safe in God's care - and also prompted her to dedicate her life to God.
But women weren't allowed to be teachers and unmarried women were not supposed to go out by themselves - even to serve others. Nuns were the best educated women but they weren't allowed to leave their cloisters. There were no teaching orders of sisters like we have today. These girls weren't being helped by the old ways, so Angela invented a new way. She brought together a group of unmarried women, fellow Franciscan tertiaries and other friends, who went out into the streets to gather up the girls they saw and teach them. These women had little money and no power, but were bound together by their dedication to education and commitment to Christ. Living in their own homes, they met for prayer and classes. They were so successful in their service that Angela was asked to bring her innovative approach to education to other cities, and impressed many people, including the Pope. Though she turned him down, perhaps the Pope's request gave her the inspiration or the push to make her little group more formal. She officially founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535 in Brescia, northern Italy, the first group of women religious to work outside the cloister and the first teaching order of women.
It took many years of frustration before Angela's radical ideas of education for all and unmarried women in service were accepted. They are commonplace to us now because people like Angela wanted to help others no matter what the cost. Saint Angela Merici reassured her Sisters who were afraid to lose her in death: "I shall continue to be more alive than I was in this life, and I shall see you better and shall love more the good deeds which I shall see you doing continually, and I shall be able to help you more." She died on January 27,  1540 at about seventy years old. Many of the Ursuline Sisters today take care of orphans, and help in schools and hospitals.

Monday, January 26, 2015

$20 worth of time

A man came home from work late again, tired and irritated, to find his 5 year old son
waiting for him at the door.  "Daddy, may I ask  you a question?"
"Yeah, sure, what is it?" replied the man.  "Daddy,  how much money do you make an hour?"
"That's none of your business!   What makes you ask such a thing?"  the man said angrily.
"I just wanna know.  Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?" pleaded the little boy.
"If you must know, I make $20.00 an hour."
"Oh," the little boy replied, head bowed.  Looking up, he said,  "Daddy, may I borrow $10.00 please?".
The father was furious.  "If the only reason you wanted to know how much money I make is just so you can borrow some to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you're being so selfish.  I work long hard hours everyday and don't have time for such childish games."

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.  The man sat down and started to get even madder about the little boy's questioning. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money? After an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think he may have been a little hard on his son.  Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $10.00 and he really didn't ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy's room and opened the door.
"Are you asleep son?" he asked.  "No Daddy, I'm awake," replied the boy.
"I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier," said the man.
"It's been a long day and I took my aggravation out on you.   Here's that $10.00 you asked for." The little boy sat straight up, beaming.  "Oh, thank you Daddy!" he yelled.
Then, reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some more crumpled up bills. The man,
seeing that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, then looked up at the man. "Why did you want more money if you already had some?" the father grumbled.
"Because I didn't have enough, but now I do," the little boy replied. 

"Daddy, I have $20.00 now.  Can I buy an hour of your time?"  

Let us remember to spend time with our children, whenever possible. They yearn to hang out with adults, parents, and older siblings. They feel like becoming little big men and women, and they mature quicker when they are frequently surrounded by adults.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Conversion of St Paul

A painting by Michael Camilleri Cauchi in the Sacred Heart Church, Fontana, Gozo, Malta
This day in history is a true milestone. Personally I probably would not be a priest if I was not born in Catholic Malta. And Malta would not be Catholic if it wasn’t for St Paul being shipwrecked there in 60 AD (we’ll talk about that on February 10, the feast of the shipwreck of St. Paul,) and St Paul would not have made any of his missionary journeys if he was not converted on his way to Damascus. The dramatic painting below is one of many that are depicted in Maltese churches, although the shipwreck obviously is more of a popular scene. We honor our great Apostle of the Gentiles today on the day his life changed forever.
Caravaggio's depiction of the Conversion of St Paul
"Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,  went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9: 1-9)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saint Francis de Sales

Stained glass window at Baker City Cathedral, 1923
Born in 1567, the eldest in a large family, Francis was ear-marked by his father to become a lawyer. He was more interested though in Canon Law and with the support of his mother and his prestigious appointment as provost of the Cathedral Chapter, his father eventually gave his consent to Francis’ desire for service in the church. He studied in Paris, France and Padua, Italy and was ordained a priest in 1593.
As a priest he set out to offer clear and solid teaching, even slipping articles on Catholic doctrine under the doors of people’s homes, for which he was later named Patron of Journalists. He also was very instrumental in implementing the decrees of the Council of Trent which was completed 30 years earlier.
In 1602, he was made Bishop of Geneva, and here he strove to educate the clergy as well as support and enrich religious life. He preached zealously, always focusing on the Scripture, while trying to reform lax abbeys and monasteries. He gave spiritual direction to many, as well as through his letters. He gave special attention to women, to the poor and to the disadvantaged. His famous book The Introduction to the Spiritual Life was a result of his letters written as spiritual direction. The Treatise on the Love of God came about in response to the Visitation Sisters, whom he helped found with the help of St Jane Frances de Chantal, with whom he became a spiritual pen-friend, their letters also published in a book. He died in 1622 and was canonized 33 years later in 1655.

A famous quote from St Francis de Sales: “The everlasting God has, in His wisdom, foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His loving mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with His loving arms, and weighed with His own hands, to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of all-merciful love of God.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Marianne Cope

St. Marianne Cope (1838-1918)
Marianne Cope, O.S.F., also known as Saint Marianne of Molokai, was born on January 23, 1838  was a German-born American who was a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York. By 1883, Cope had become the Superior General of her congregation. It was at this time she received a plea for help from leprosy sufferers in Hawaii. King Kalakaua himself sent the letter asking for aid in treating patients who were isolated on the island of Molokai. The King had already been declined by more than 50 other religious institutes.
Mother Marianne, as she was then known, left Syracuse with six sisters to attend to the sick, and arrived on November 8,1883.Known for her charitable works and virtuous deeds, she spent many years caring for lepers on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Cope was not afflicted by the disease, which some faithful consider miraculous. She died of natural causes on August 9, 1918.
In 2005 Cope was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Cope was declared a saint by the same Pope on October 21, 2012, along with the young 17th-century Native American, Kateri Tekakwitha. Cope is the 11th American citizen to be honored by the Catholic Church.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Human Body - part 3

Continuing a fascinating list of facts about the human body, here are another 10 curiosities that are just as mind-boggling as they are peculiar:
21. The three things pregnant women dream most of during their first trimester are frogs, worms and potted plants. Scientists have no idea why this is so, but attribute it to the growing imbalance of hormones in the body during pregnancy.

22. The life span of a human hair is 3 to 7 years on average. Every day the average person loses 60-100 strands of hair. But don't worry, you must lose over 50% of your scalp hairs before it is apparent to anyone.

23. The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as an encyclopedia. Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen that enters your bloodstream, and is itself made up of 80% water. Though it interprets pain signals from the rest of the body, the brain itself cannot feel pain.

24. The tooth is the only part of the human body that can't repair itself. 25. Your eyes are always the same size from birth but your nose and ears never stop growing.

26. By 60 years of age, 60% of men and 40% of women will snore.

27. We are about 1 cm taller in the morning than in the evening, because during normal activities during the day, the cartilage in our knees and other areas slowly compress.

28. The brain operates on the same amount of power as 10-watt light bulb, even while you are sleeping. In fact, the brain is much more active at night than during the day.

29. Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour. Neurons continue to grow throughout human life. Information travels at different speeds within different types of neurons.

30. It is a fact that people who dream more often and more vividly, on an average have a higher Intelligence Quotient.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Saint Agnes

One of the early and young martyrs of the church is the beloved Saint Agnes. According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born around 291 AD and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304.
The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes' refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind.  When eventually she was led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her.
It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths. A few days after Agnes' death, her foster-sister, Saint Emerentiana was found praying by her tomb; she claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, and was stoned to death after refusing to leave the place and reprimanding the pagans for killing her foster sister. Emerentiana was also later canonized. Agnes' name may have derived from the Latin 'agnus', meaning lamb, and she is always represented with a lamb near her. Then there is another beautiful tradition......

Pope Francis blessing the lambs at the Vatican
On this day, the feast of St Agnes, the Pope traditionally blesses two lambs raised by Trappist monks near Rome. The lambs are sheared and the wool is given to the cloistered Benedictine nuns at Rome’s Basilica of St. Cecilia. The nuns use the wool to make palliums, which are bands that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders during liturgical functions. Every year on the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Pope places the bands around the necks of archbishops who have taken office in the past year. Today, after blessing the animals, the pope also asked God to “bless the pastors who will receive the palliums made from the wool of these lambs.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

History of vaccines

 Jonas Salk in 1955 holds two bottles of a culture used to grow polio vaccines.
This may sound as an underrated story, but this incredible list has kept millions of people alive. Read on and see why. In 1796 Edward Jenner, a doctor in Gloucestershire, England, inserted pus from a woman’s’ cowpox lesion into a boy’s arm. The boy never developed smallpox. Jenner coined this type of protection “vaccination.” A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and keep a record of it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters. Since the first one, a host of vaccines have been introduced, especially over the lat 100 years. Here is a brief history of the vaccines created.
1892 - Cholera
1896 - Typhoid fever
1921 - Diphtheria and tuberculosis.
1924 - Tetanus
1928 - Penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming
1933 - Whooping Cough
1955 - Polio
1963 - Measles
1967 - Mumps
1969 - Rubella
1977 - Smallpox eradicated worldwide
1979 - Polio eradicated in the USA
1981 - Hepatitis B
1995 - Chicken Pox
1998 - Rotavirus
2006 - Human papillomavirus

Monday, January 19, 2015

"I have a dream"

I share with you part of a famous speech delivered by Martin Luther King in Washington DC, on August 28, 1963, a speech that is now immortalized as one of the most effective speeches in the fight for racial equality.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

For the good and not-so-good

For the hungry and the overfed, may we have enough.
For the mourners and the mockers, may we laugh together.
For the victims and the oppressors, may we share power wisely.
For the peacemakers and the warmongers, may clear truth and love lead us to harmony.
For the silenced and the politicians, may we speak words of truth.
For the unemployed and the overworked, may our impact on the world be kindly and creative.
For the troubled and the disgruntled, may we live together as wounded healers.
For the homeless and the homeowners, may our homes be simple, warm and welcoming.
For the vibrant and the dying, may we all die to live.

(From a New Zealand Prayer Book.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

St Anthony Abbot

The life of Anthony will remind many people of St. Francis of Assisi. At 20, Anthony was so moved by the Gospel message, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor,” that he actually did just that with his large inheritance. He is different from Francis in that most of Anthony’s life was spent in solitude. He saw the world completely covered with snares, and gave the Church and the world the witness of solitary asceticism, great personal mortification and prayer. But no saint is antisocial, and Anthony drew many people to himself for spiritual healing and guidance.
At 54, he responded to many requests and founded a sort of monastery of scattered cells. Again like Francis, he had great fear of “stately buildings and well-laden tables.” At 60, he hoped to be a martyr in the renewed Roman persecution of 311, fearlessly exposing himself to danger while giving moral and material support to those in prison. At 88, he was fighting the Arian heresy, that massive trauma from which it took the Church centuries to recover.
Anthony is associated in art with a T-shaped cross, a pig and a book. The pig and the cross are symbols of his valiant warfare with the devil—the cross his constant means of power over evil spirits, the pig a symbol of the devil himself. The book recalls his preference for “the book of nature” over the printed word. Anthony died in solitude at 105. Since he is frequently surrounded with animals, the blessing of animals is held on this day in many countries, as he is, along with St Francis, considered the patron saint of animals.

Friday, January 16, 2015

My favorite Good Night Prayer

This has been my favorite Good Night Prayer which I say every evening before hitting the sack. I hope you can print it and place it next to your bed, as I did. It is very comforting and a peaceful way to jump into the arms of Morpheus at night..... 
As my head rests on my pillow, 
let my soul rest in your mercy.
As my limbs relax on my mattress, 

let my soul relax in your peace.
As my body finds warmth beneath the blankets, 

let my soul find warmth in your love.
As my mind is filled with dreams, 

let my soul be filled with visions of heaven.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Myself in the 1950s

As an altar-boy, aged 4
Growing up in the 1950s was truly a special time for me, and realizing that this was just a decade after the terrible years of World War II, I can only imagine how peaceful and re-creative it must have been for my parents and all those who suffered during the atrocities of the war. My parents had told me many times how much they suffered during the war, especially my father, but after getting married in 1948, they had two children within 2 years and four within 7 years. For the first 4 years of my infancy, we shared a house with an aunt, and moved into our new home in 1956, where my parents lived for the rest of their lives, and where my sister still lives, and where I stay whenever I visit Malta. 
I have a few photos of my childhood which I treasure and which show a serious side of me, meticulously dressed by my mother, and fond of soccer like every other boy growing up in Malta and all over Europe for that matter. The house where I was born in 1952 was 100 yards away from the local parish church, while the new house was 2 blocks away, a 3 minute walk, and so I was constantly around the church, starting to serve as an altar boy at the age of 4, my debut being during the procession of Corpus Christi. Then I served Mass with my bother Paul until I entered the Seminary in 1970. I have a great recollection of those years which was a much simpler life for us, enjoying the first years of my schooling, and living in a humble, yet loving and over-protective family.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Human Body - part 2

Continuing my weekly entry of 10 fascinating facts about the human body:

11. Your body has enough iron in it to make a nail 3 inches long.

12. Earwax production is necessary for good ear health. It protects the delicate inner ear from bacteria, fungus, dirt and even insects. It also cleans and lubricates the ear canal.

13. Everyone has a unique smell, except for identical twins, who smell the same.

14. Your teeth start growing 6 months before you are born. This is why one out of every 2,000 newborn infants has a tooth when they are born

15. A baby's head is one-quarter of its total length, but by the age of 25 will only be one-eighth of its total length. This is because people's heads grow at a much slower rate than the rest of their bodies.

16. Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood the number is reduced to 206. Some of the bones, like skull bones, get fused into each other, bringing down the total number.

17. It's not possible to tickle yourself. This is because when you attempt to tickle yourself you are totally aware of the exact time and manner in which the tickling will occur, unlike when someone else tickles you.

18. Less than one third of the human race has 20-20 vision. This means that two out of three people cannot see perfectly.

19. Your nose can remember 50,000 different scents. But if you are a woman, you are a better smeller than men, and will remain a better smeller throughout your life.

20. The human body is estimated to have 60,000 miles of blood vessels.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

God among us

O Lord, You are:
Light in my darkness,
Calm amidst the storm,
Shelter when lost,
Joy even in sorrow,
Comfort when lonely,
Peace in time of war,
Silence when words fail,
A Healing Touch when sick,
A Kind Word in defeat,
A Smile when anxious or confused,
A Welcome yet unexpected visit,
A Gentle Hand on a weary shoulder,
A Hug when all seems hopeless.
O Lord, wherever I am, You are there to be my guardian and guide.
You are there for my neighbor in need and the nameless poor who hunger for justice as well as for bread. You are in the highest heaven ablaze on sacred mountaintops and worshiped in every tabernacle and in every chapel where Your presence is felt.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pope Francis baptizes 33 babies

While presiding over the baptism of 33 babies, Pope Francis told mothers of the infants, “You mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don’t worry.” During the Mass, Pope Francis also discussed the harsh reality that impoverished mothers around the world are unable to feed their children. The written text of his homily had the phrase 'give them milk,' but he changed it to use the Italian term 'allattateli', which means 'breastfeed them,' and added that they should not hesitate.
Last year, the Pope took a similar stance. During the baptism of 32 infants in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis said, “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here.” Indeed, the Pope’s second affirmation that breastfeeding in public is permissible harkens back to art depictions of the Madonna breastfeeding that were, historically, viewed as symbols of beauty. Honestly I personally feel there is nothing more beautiful, more natural and human than a mother nurturing her infant with her own milk from her own body, the same body which gave birth to that creature only a few weeks or months earlier.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jesus' Baptism and our Baptism

As we celebrate Jesus’ Baptism today, may we look back at our own baptism and see how faithful we have been to the commitment our parents made for us. I ask 3 simple questions today for your consideration:
1. How proud are you of the decision your parents took when they introduced you to the Catholic faith by baptizing you?
2. Do you know the names of your godparents, the name of the priest who baptized you, the church in which you were baptized?
3. If you were chosen as a godparent for a child, do you keep in contact with that child, who may now be a teenager, an adult, a parent, and do you make sure they attend church regularly? Remember that this was one of the promises you made when you stood as a godparent on the baptism day.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Human Body - part 1

The Human Body is a treasure trove of mysteries, one that still confound doctors and scientists about the details of its working. It's not an overstatement to say that every part of your body is a miracle. Here are fifty facts about your body, some of which will leave you stunned. These are just 10 of them....more to come every week.

1. It's possible for your body to survive without a surprisingly large fraction of its internal organs. Even if you lose your stomach, your spleen, 75% of your liver, 80% of your intestines, one kidney, one lung, and virtually every organ from your pelvic and groin area, you wouldn't be very healthy, but you would live.

2. During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools. Actually, Saliva is more important than you realize. If your saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.

3. The largest cell in the human body is the female egg and the smallest is the male sperm. The egg is actually the only cell in the body that is visible by the naked eye.

4. The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue and the hardest bone is the jawbone.

5. Human feet have 52 bones, accounting for one quarter of all the human body's bones.

6. Feet have 500,000 sweat glands and can produce more than a pint of sweat a day.

7. The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades. The reason it doesn't eat away at your stomach is that the cells of your stomach wall renew themselves so frequently that you get a new stomach lining every three to four days.

8. The human lungs contain approximately 1,500 miles of airways and 300 to 500 million hollow cavities, having a total surface area of about 70 square meters, roughly the same area as one side of a tennis court. Also, your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart.

9. Sneezes regularly exceed 100 mph, while coughs clock in at about 60 mph.

10. Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Interesting Questions and Answers - part 2

Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?
A: Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called 'pygg'. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as 'pygg banks.' When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig. And it caught on.

Q: Who invented nylon?
A: It was invented by two men, one American and the other British, one from New York and the other from London. So they decided to name their invention combining their city of origin, thereby NY and LON - so nylon!

Q: Why do men's clothes have buttons on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?
A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's right! And that's where women's buttons have remained since.

Q: Why do ships and aircraft use 'mayday' as their call for help?
A: This comes from the French word m'aidez -meaning 'help me' -- and is pronounced, approximately, 'mayday.'

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Interesting Questions and Answers - part 1

Pope Francis greeting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Q: Why does the Pope wear a white cassock?
A; Popes used to wear red most of the time, but in the 16th century, Pope Pius V was elected Pope as a Dominican priest. And since Dominicans wear white, the Pope decided to start wearing white in official functions. Since Rome gets very hot in the summer months, successive Popes still wore white and felt cooler. After a few decades, the custom remained that Popes wear white.

Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called 'love'?

A: In France, where tennis became popular, the round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called 'l'oeuf,' which is French for 'the egg.' When tennis was introduced in the US, Americans (mis)pronounced it 'love.'

Q. Why do X's at the end of a letter signify kisses?

A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

God's Billboards

You have all probably seen some of these billboard signs. In case you haven't, reflect on them today:
Tell the kids I love them        -God
Let's meet at my house Sunday before the game.        -God
C'mon over and bring the kids.          -God
What part of “Thou Shalt Not...” didn't you understand?      -God
We need to talk.           -God
Keep using my name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer.     -God
Loved the wedding, now invite me into the marriage.      -God
That “Love Thy Neighbor” thing... I meant it.      -God
I love you and you and you and you and...     -God
Will the road you're on get you to my place?       - God
Follow me.         -God
Big bang theory?... You've got to be kidding!!!      -God
My way is the highway.           -God
Need directions?               -God
You think it's hot here?           -God
Have you read my #1 best seller? There'll be a test.      -God
Do you have any idea where you're going?      -God
    (And my personal favorite...)
Don't make me come down there!!!        -God

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Everything comes in Threes

Many people asked for a copy of part of my homily from last Sunday, and I share it with you today , the traditional feast of the Epiphany which is still celebrated on its original date in Italy, Spain and many Latin-American countries. Going back to the three gifts of the Kings, may I suggest to you a few gifts you can offer to God, to your families, to yourself and to others. I offer them to you as three gifts of Christmas:
There are 3 things that once gone, never come back:           
3 things in life one should always strive to attain:                 
3 things in life that are most valuable:                                   

3 things in life that are never certain:                                    
3 things in life that will make you a better person:             
3 things in life that can easily destroy a person:                   
3 things for a mature dialogue:                                               

3 people that make every marriage happier                          
3 words that can strengthen any family and home:             
3 things that keep every Catholic strong:                             

Monday, January 5, 2015

The 7 UPs for 2015

1. Wake Up !! ... Decide to have a good day.  "Today is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalms 118:24
2. Dress Up !! ... The best way to dress up is to put on a smile.  A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks. "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance; but the Lord looks at the heart."  I Samuel 16:7
3. Shut Up!!... - Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.   "He who guards his lips guards his soul."  Proverbs 13:3
4. Stand Up!!...  For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.   "Let us not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good..."  Galatians 6:9-10
5. Look Up !!...  To the Lord.  "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me".  Philippians 4:13
6. Reach Up !!...  For something higher.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."  Proverbs 3:5-6
7. Lift Up !!...  Your Prayers.  "Do not worry about anything; instead PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING." Philippians 4:6

Sunday, January 4, 2015


The feast of the Epiphany presents us with a beautiful story that concludes the Nativity of Jesus. I want to share with you this beautiful poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled precisely “The Three Kings.” It is a little long, and so I never used it in any of my homilies, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to share it with the visitors of my blog today.
Three Kings came riding from far away,
  Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
  For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large, and clear,
  That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
  Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
  Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
  Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees. 

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
  Through the dusk of night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
  With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
  "Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
  To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
  We know of no king but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
  Like riders in haste, and who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
  Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
  And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
  The only one in the gray of morn
Yes, it stopped, it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
  The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
  Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
  And only a light in the stable burned. 

And cradled there in the scented hay,
  In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
  Of a kingdom not human but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
  Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
  Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
  The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
  The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
  And sat as still as a statue of stone;
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
  Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
  With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
  And returned to their homes by another way.

Today is 13th anniversary of my father’s death, and I continue to pray to him and to my mother that as they have done over 54 years of marriage, they keep their eyes on us all. On January 5th this blog celebrates its third anniversary.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One more Nativity

Nativity at St Francis of Assisi church, 27th Street entrance, Bend, OR.
Most people think that the Christmas season is over, but the Catholic church recognizes the feast of the Baptism of Jesus as the end of the Christmas season. That in fact will be next Sunday, January 11, and so in anticipation of tomorrow's feast of the Epiphany, I share with you just one more Nativity, displayed at the entrance of our new church complex on 27th Street in Bend. Actually I took this photo this past week on a hazy day while the sun was rising, and I positioned the faded sun right where the star is placed, and gave me a very special effect, as you can see. 
This Nativity was set up by Alan and Sean Walsh, and you can see another photo in the dark hours of the evening, which gives a totally different perspective. Tomorrow we see the three Kings arriving at the scene. (you can click on each photo to enlarge)

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Happy New Year

Though even thinking on the subject of time may prove discomforting, it is not a bad idea - especially at the beginning of a new year. As we look into “year” we look at a block of time. We see 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. And all of it is a gift from God. We have done nothing to deserve it, earn it, or purchase it. Like the air we breathe, time comes to us as a part of life. The gift of time is not ours alone. It is given equally to each person. Rich and poor, educated and ignorant, strong and weak—every man, woman and child has the same twenty-four hours every day.
Another important thing about time is that you cannot stop it. There is no way to slow it down, turn it off, or adjust it. Time marches on. And you cannot bring back time. Once it is gone, it is gone. Yesterday is lost forever. If yesterday is lost, tomorrow is uncertain. We may look ahead at a full year’s block of time, but we really have no guarantee that we will experience any of it. Obviously, time is one of our most precious possessions. We can waste it. We can worry over it. We can spend it on ourselves. Or, as good stewards, we can invest it in the kingdom of God. The New Year is full of time. As the seconds tick away, will you be tossing time out the window, or will you make every minute count? Make this simple resolution this year - make every minute count!

I wish all visitors to this blog a healthy, peace-filled, joyous and harmonious New Year!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

World Day of Peace

The World Peace Day is a feast day of the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to peace, held on 1 January, on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It was introduced in 1967 by Paul VI, inspired by the encyclical Pacem in Terris of St. John XXIII and with reference to his own encyclical Populorum Progressio. The day was first observed on 1 January 1968.
The World Day of Peace has often been a time when popes make magisterial declarations relevant to the social doctrine of the Church. Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II have each year made important statements on the United Nations, human rights, women's rights, labor unions, economic development, the right to life, international diplomacy, peace in the Holy Land, globalization and terrorism. These are the mottoes that were issued each year since 1968, a short phrase, but worth reflecting on:
1968: World Day of Peace.
1969: The promotion of Human Rights, the road to Peace.
1970: Education for Peace through Reconciliation.
1971: Every Man is my Brother.
1972: If you want Peace, work for Justice.
1973: Peace is possible.
1974: Peace depends on you too.
1975: Reconciliation – the way to Peace.

1976: The real weapons of Peace.
1977: If you want Peace, defend Life.
1978: No to violence, Yes to Peace.
1979: To reach Peace, teach Peace.
1980: Truth, the power of Peace.
1981: To serve Peace, respect Freedom.
1982: Peace: a gift of God entrusted to us.
1983: Dialogue for Peace, a challenge for our Time.
1984: From a new heart, Peace is born.
1985: Peace and Youth go forward together.
1986: Peace is a value with no frontiers North-South, East-West: only one Peace.
1987: Development and Solidarity: two keys to Peace.
1988: Religious Freedom, condition for Peace.
1989: To build Peace, respect minorities.
1990: Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation.
1991: If you want Peace, respect the Conscience of every person.
1992: Believers united in building Peace.
1993: If you want Peace, reach out to the poor.
1994: The family creates the Peace of the Human Family.
1995: Women: teachers of Peace.
1996: Let us give children a future of Peace.
1997: Offer forgiveness and receive Peace.
1998: From the justice of each comes Peace for all.

Pope Francis with this year's motto
1999: Respect for human rights: the secret of true Peace.
2000: Peace on Earth to those whom God loves.
2001: Dialogue between cultures for a civilization of Love and Peace.
2002: No Peace without justice, no Justice without Peace.
2003: “Pacem in Terris”: a permanent commitment.
2004: An ever timely commitment: teaching Peace
2005: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
2006: In truth, Peace.
2007: The human person – the heart of Peace
2008: The human family, a community of Peace.
2009: Fighting poverty to build Peace.
2010: If you want to cultivate Peace, protect creation.
2011: Religious Freedom, the path to Peace.
2012: Educating young people in justice and Peace.
2013: Blessed are the Peacemakers.
2014: Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to Peace.
2015: No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.