Saturday, February 28, 2015

A new Archbishop for Malta

My home country of Malta has a new Archbishop, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, born while his parents were in Toronto, Canada, on 15 May 1959. They moved to Malta a year later where Msgr Charles was educated in a local public school as well as a private High School. He entered the Law Course at the University of Malta in 1976 and he graduated Doctor of Laws in 1984. After completing his Seminary studies and a Licentiate in Pastoral Theology at the Faculty of Theology, Malta, he was ordained a priest on July 11, 1986. 
Father Charles Scicluna being ordained in 1986
Right away, he was sent to read Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and obtained the doctorate in Canon Law with specialization in Jurisprudence in 1991. After his Rome studies Mgr Scicluna worked on the Malta Metropolitan Tribunal as Defender of the Bond and was lecturer in Pastoral Theology and Canon Law at the University of Malta. At the same time he served in various parishes, and also served as Vice Rector at the Major Seminary between 1994 and 1995 when he was called to the Vatican to work on the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura as Substitute Promoter of Justice. In 1996 he was appointed Postulator for the cause of beatification and canonization of Dun Gorg Preca, who became the first Maltese Saint. In October 2002, Monsignor Scicluna was nominated Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, working very closely to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict. He was responsible for investigating and prosecuting the more grave crimes reserved to the exclusive competence of the Congregation, especially in the aftermath of the sex-abuse scandal. He has also lectured widely on issues concerning child protection in the Church, visiting a number of local churches in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia, while being a Visiting Lecturer in Penal Processes at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome).

The Bishops of Malta and Gozo with their respective parents
On October 6th, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI nominated Mgr Scicluna as Auxiliary Bishop of Malta  and only 6 weeks later, he was nominated member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On 21st January 2015, Pope Francis nominated Mgr Scicluna as President of the Special College within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to hear appeals in processes concerning serious offences. He will be installed on March 21.

Friday, February 27, 2015

40 days

The number 40 is a significant number in the bible because it signifies a preparation for something special like:
The rain lasted for 40 days in the mighty flood – Noah
Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai for forty days (Ex 24:18)
Jonah gave the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4)
Jesus, before starting His ministry, spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting             (Matt 4:2)
The 40 days of Lent actually end on Palm Sunday, and then starts Holy Week. Thus the first three days of Holy Week are not part of Lent, but they are listed and referred to as Monday of Holy Week, Tuesday of Holy Week and Wednesday of Holy Week, also referred to as Spy Wednesday, referring to the fact that on that day Judas betrayed Jesus. The Holy Triduum of course include Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Power of Forgiveness

This is a touching prayer on forgiveness, written by a young man, Aidan Conger who is soon to become a member of our Catholic faith. 

My faith and my trueness are crippled and torn, ...
but never forget the weight that for you was born.
A suffering king, tortured Lord,
A savior of men, and we held him to the sword.

We beat and we battered,
on the cross blood was splattered.
King above all, ruler of hearts,
right here and now, is where your faith starts.

Kindle the fire, thicken the flame, ...
I understand now, and I will not be lame.
I will not lay quietly, I will not lay still,
the word of the Lord is mine to fulfill.

I'm a servant of God, my soul is committed,
my soul and my heart with Jesus is fitted.
My soul is on fire, my heart is not dead,
my soul is finite, my heart is like lead.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Art of Marriage

A good marriage must be created. In the art of marriage, the little things are the big is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say “I Love You” at least once each day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is having mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving in each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is finding room for the things of the spirit. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is not only marrying the right partner. It is being the right partner.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reflections for married couples

In my life as a priest, I come in contact with many married couples. Most often it’s young couples preparing for marriage, always happy and exuberant. There are also happily married couples who are sacrificing their lives for their children, giving everything they’ve got to see them happy and being role-models for them. Then there are those who in their golden years, stay together through illness and dementia, through hospitalizations and eventual departure from this world. Then there are those who are struggling in their relationship, and to these I go out of my way to listen, to guide, to help and to motivate to hang in there, through thick and thin, because they promised each other in front of God to stay together in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. 
To all these I dedicate these reflections. In the early years they discovered love, gently unfolding  in their hearts, whispering of the joy to come. On their wedding day, they all found dreams that will come true, creating memories that they would cherish for a lifetime. Throughout their life together they followed a special journey, hand in hand, eager to explore a world of promise. And forever they would share and everlasting love that could come from God alone.
And a quote I always share in my marriage homilies, with apologies if some think it’s crude or offensive, but how true it keep a marriage healthy and brimming with life, whenever you’re wrong, admit it, but whenever you’re right, just shut up!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Passion Flower

Known also as the passion flowers or passion vines, Passiflora is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants, the namesakes of the family Passifloraceae. They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
The Blue Passion Flower (Passiflora Caerulea) shows most elements of the Christian symbolism
The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the lance that pierced Jesus’ side.
The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter and Judas Iscariot)
The flower's radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents the chalice or the Holy Grail.
The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
The blue and white colors of many species' flowers represent Heaven and Purity.
I took the above photo in Malta, where the Passion flowers grow profusely, especially in the spring.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Repent and Believe

On this first Sunday of Lent, we see Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert, and then we see him in prayer, while encouraging the people to “repent and believe in the gospel.” This was the same message of John the Baptist in Advent as it was last Wednesday on Ash Wednesday. May I suggest this guideline to help you throughout your Lenten journey:
Repent - admit of your weaknesses and ask for forgiveness.
Return - come back to church where you can find comfort and consolation.
Reorient yourself - make the adjustments you need.
Resolve to change - ask God to help you make the changes you need for a better life.
Rejoice - be happy with the person that is your NEW YOU.
Remember - the blessings you received, so that you don’t start taking God for granted.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Anonymous Polyptych

Polyptych crafted 1450 AD in Wallraf Richartz Museum, Koln
A polyptych is a multi-paneled painting, usually used as an altar-piece. This particular anonymous polyptych shows the life of Christ, and except for the first three panels, (Annunciation, Birth of Christ and Three Kings,) the other 9 show various scenes from the passion of Christ, from the Last Supper to the Resurrection. These panels were produced also to be used as visuals to teach children and adults about the life of Christ, similar to the role that stained-glass windows had over the years. Most of these polyptychs were place in front of the altar, so that people can look at them while praying in church. Realizing that many people could not read in the past, this was an ideal way to teach about the life of Jesus. Please do click on the image to get a better resolution.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lent - time to upgrade and re-tune ourselves

We have always looked at Lent as a time to get closer to Jesus by fine-tuning our spiritual lives. With the many appliances we have at our disposal, and which we use routinely and regularly, we’ll be in big trouble if you ignore the red lights to upgrade, re-charge and overhaul whatever we use. This may help you understand how important it is for us to fine-tune our spiritual lives too.
If we were batteries, Lent would be a time to charge them up.
If we were knives, Lent would be a time to sharpen our cutting edges.
If we were cars, Lent would be a time for an oil change and a tune-up.
If we were swimming pools, Lent would be a time to filter the dirt out of the water.
If we were gardens, Lent would be a time to fertilize our soil and dig out our weeds.
If we were carpets, Lent would be a time to get power-cleaned.

If we were VCR’s, Lent would be a time to clean our heads and adjust our tracking system.
If we were IPads, Lent would be a time to charge them up when we’re low on battery life.
If we were computers, Lent would be a time to overhaul our disk drive.
If we were highways, Lent would be a time to repair our cracks and fill our potholes.
If we were TV sets, lent would be a time to adjust our focus and our fine-tuning.

If we were silverware, Lent would be a time to clean away our tarnish.
If we were seeds, Lent would be a time to germinate and reach for the sun.
If we were lawn-mowers, Lent would be a time to sharpen those blades.
And if we pretend to be good Christians, Lent is a time to pray more, go to confession, and be good role-models for others.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carrying our Cross

Adolphe Bouguereau - Compassion
We are invited today to follow Jesus and carry our cross. Of course we cannot do this by ourselves. We need His help to do what He did as He headed towards Calvary for crucifixion. Our crosses may take many forms: a handicapped child, an abusive or alcoholic spouse, a troubled teenager, an annoying neighbor, an obnoxious or lazy co-worker, disruptive students in class, a parent fighting cancer or heart disease, a tyrannical boss - all of which can be truly heavy crosses to carry. 
Jesus not only accepted His cross, but also embraced it. Accepting our cross is tough enough, but to embrace it is asking for the impossible. Yet, it’s only when we let Jesus help us carry it that its weight starts to feel lighter. Maybe our burdens and crosses appear heavy because Jesus is not on them, they are crosses not crucifixes. When we see our cross as a crucifix, with Jesus is nailed to it, then the weight becomes less to bear, because He takes on His sturdy shoulders the extra weight that we deem unbearable.
We adore you o Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

At the start of this Lenten season, we reflect on three important phrases which the priest will say while marking our foreheads with ashes:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”
“Turn away from sin, and believe in the Gospel”
"Repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

It is interesting to note that in European countries, including Italy and Malta, the ashes are placed or dropped on top of the head, instead of marked on the forehead as is done in the USA. I also have a custom of asking the people to bring back the old palms from last year’s Palm Sunday and I will burn them a few days before, and use the ashes from the burned palms for the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This also shows the continuity between one year and another, from ashes to palms, and from palms to ashes. It is also a reminder of the stark fact that from dust we came, and to dust we will return, as the first phrase proclaims. Some parishes in New York replace the holy water fonts with ashes instead of holy water during Lent.
I invite you to journey with me as I share with you during the next 40 days, reflections and meditations that will help you get closer to the crucified Jesus.
We adore you o Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Flash from the past - 50 years ago

As a student in Form 3, equivalent to Grade 9
Just before we start the season of Lent, I am taking you back 50 years today with some nostalgic photos of my childhood or early teenage years. I was just 13 in 1965, and these are memories of my upbringing in my hometown of Saint Julian's, with family and friends.
Family photo at our home in St Julian's, Malta
Taking a break from doing homework
Altar boys on a camping trip with Archbishop Michael Gonzi, other priests and chaperones. Can you spot me, my brother Paul and my father?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Unknown wonders of the world

Popeye Village in Malta
Occasionally I come across some photos which present scenes from unknown and fairly undiscovered places from around the world. Here are a few of them with a brief description for each of them. The first one is the set of the movie "Popeye" filmed in 1978 in Malta, starring the late Robin Williams. The film set has become a tourist attraction and the Malta Government has been upgrading its appearance, which, as you can see, makes for a colorful village of Smithaven.
Mountain Rainbow hills in China
Regaleira Palace in Portugal
Entrance to the Kansas City Library in the USA
Psychedelic salt mine in Russia
Umbrella Avenue in Agueda, Portugal

Sunday, February 15, 2015


One of the many colorful floats parading through the streets
I share today a few photos of Carnival floats from my home in Malta. Certainly the Carnival defile is not as elaborate as the one in Brazil, but it is a colorful annual event that takes place on the weekend before Ash Wednesday. The idea is to feast and celebrate before the fast and penance starts during Lent. Lots of dancing in costumes takes place in public squares, bot in the main capital city of Valletta as well as other local towns and villages, which are becoming more popular. 
The word Carnival actually means carne vale (meat is allowed, or meat is valid.) This way people can eat meat now but abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Friday of Lent. Hopefully more people will avail themselves of the opportunities during Lent to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel, go to confession and do acts of charity towards others.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

True words of Love

Kayla and the letter she wrote to her family
It has been wrenching these last few weeks to hear about the hostages killed by the group that calls itself the Islamic State, and learn about the extraordinary people we have lost: humanitarian workers, independent journalists, people who chose to put themselves in one of the most dangerous spots on earth in hope that they might do something needed and good.
The parents of Kayla Mueller, the aid worker whose death was confirmed this week, released a letter she was able to send her family last spring from her captivity by ISIS. It is hard to imagine the conditions under which she may have written. She had been a prisoner for about 9 months, but tells her family that she's safe and well-treated; she doesn't want them to worry. You may be struck — knocked over, in fact — by the huge spirit and soul of a young woman who is already giving the gift of her life to the service of others.

"I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free," Kayla Mueller writes. "I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another ...The gift that is each one of you + the person I could + could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support. I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time ...

"None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes. I wrote a song some months ago," Kayla Mueller told her family, "that says, 'The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, without your hope there would be nothing left...' — The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God's will we will be together soon. All my everything, Kayla"

Friday, February 13, 2015


Today being Friday the 13th, I thought of sharing with you a small list of phobias that are becoming more common. People become fearful of something and they become fixated about it, sometimes finding it impossible to overcome that particular fear. These are some of the most common phobias....
Ablutophobia – fear of bathing, washing, or cleaning
Algophobia – fear of pain
Autophobia – fear of isolation
Aviophobia – fear of flying
Aquaphobia – fear of water.
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
Astraphobia – fear of thunder and lightning
Bathmophobia – fear of stairs or slopes

Chronophobia – fear of time and time moving forward
Claustrophobia – fear of having no escape and being closed in
Cyberphobia – fear of or aversion to computers and of learning new technologies
Dentophobia, odontophobia – fear of dentists
Ecclesiophobia – fear of churches
Enochlophobia - fear of crowds
Paraskevidekatriaphobia – fear of Friday the 13th

Gerascophobia – fear of growing old or aging
Glossophobia – fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak
Hemophobia, haemophobia – fear of blood

Kleptophobia – fear of stealing or being stolen
Mysophobia – fear of germs, contamination or dirt
Necrophobia – fear of death and/or the dead
Nosocomephobia – fear of hospitals
Ophthalmophobia – fear of being stared at
Phonophobia – fear of loud sounds or voices
Pyrophobia – fear of fire
Thalassophobia – fear of the sea, or fear of being in the ocean
Triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13
Xenophobia – fear of strangers, foreigners, or aliens

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Human Body - last part

An embryo of a few weeks
41. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. 
A human head remains conscious for about 15 to 20 seconds after it has been decapitated.

43. Humans can make do longer without food than sleep. Provided there is water, the average human could survive a month to two months without food depending on their body fat and other factors. Sleep deprived people, however, start experiencing radical personality and psychological changes after only a few sleepless days. The longest recorded time anyone has ever gone without sleep is 11 days, at the end of which the experimenter was awake, but stumbled over words, hallucinated and frequently forgot what he was doing.

44. The most common blood type in the world is Type O. The rarest blood type, A-H or Bombay blood, due to the location of its discovery, has been found in less than hundred people since it was discovered

45. Every human spent about half an hour after being conceived, as a single cell. Shortly afterward, the cells begin rapidly dividing and begin forming the components of a tiny embryo.

46. Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do.

47. Your ears secrete more earwax when you are afraid than when you aren't.

48. Koalas and primates are the only animals with unique fingerprints. 

49. Humans are the only animals to produce emotional tears. 

50. The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet in the air.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Our Lady of Lourdes

In the year 2002, I was privileged to visit Lourdes for the first and only time, so far. I was spending an extended few weeks in Malta and was asked to accompany a group of Maltese pilgrims as their chaplain for a week. What impressed me the most was the holiness of the entire place, and even though the sanctuary and its grounds extended to a few square miles, once you entered the gates, it was like entering a church - everyone was reverent, respectful of each other, and of course there was a mystical aura of prayer all around. I was also privileged to lead one decade of the Rosary in Maltese while pilgrims walked aux flambeaux around the promenade, leading to the sanctuary.
The Basilica at Lourdes
The Marian Apparitions at Lourdes were reported in 1858 by Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old miller's daughter from the town of Lourdes in southern France. From February 11 to July 16, 1858, she reported 18 apparitions of "a Lady," and despite initial skepticism from the Catholic Church, these claims were eventually declared to be worthy of belief after a canonical investigation, and the apparitions were approved by Pope Pius IX in 1862. So far 69 miracles have been scientifically approved, and between 6 to 8 million pilgrims visit Lourdes every year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Celebrating the Shipwreck of Saint Paul

Statue of Saint Paul by Melchiore Gafa
This is the day when the entire country of Malta stops in thanksgiving to the Lord for an event that turned our lives around. St Paul brought Christianity to Malta, and it has survived the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spanish, the French and the British, all of whom had their own beliefs and influences. And yet the Maltese people remained strong in their adherence to their faith. Granted that materialism and consumerism as well as the invasion of social media have taken their toll on many countries in Europe, and Malta, though not unblemished, has withstood the waves that have driven Christianity off the agenda of so many Catholic European countries. I pray this year that Catholicism continues just as strong in the decades to come.
The cave where St Paul stayed for 3 months in Malta in 60 AD
Many are the paintings depicting the shipwreck of Saint Paul on the shores of Malta. Quite a few churches and smaller chapels are dedicated to him and many paintings are visible in churches and Museums. While stranded in Malta for three months in 60 AD, St Paul is said to have stayed in a rock-hewn cave, which is still visible and visited by many tourists, including Pope St. John Paul II in 1990 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. An artistic statue carved of wood by Melchiore Gafa is carried in procession through the streets of the capital city Valletta on the evening of February 10, and weather permitting, thousands of Maltese faithful will witness this manifestation of faith.
San Pawl Missier taghna, itlob ghalina (St Paul, our Father, pray for us)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Saint Scholastica

Since tomorrow is the feast of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul, the national feast of Malta, I share today a reflection on the saint whose liturgical feast is also celebrated tomorrow.
St. Scholastica, twin sister of St. Benedict, consecrated her life to God from her earliest youth. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighborhood at Plombariola, where she founded and governed a monastery of nuns, about five miles from that of St. Benedict, who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns. She visited her brother once a year, and as she was not allowed to enter his monastery, he went in company with some of his brethren to meet her at a house some distance away. 
These visits were spent in conferring together on spiritual matters. On one occasion they had passed the time as usual in prayer and pious conversation and in the evening they sat down to take their reflection. St. Scholastica begged her brother to remain until the next day. St. Benedict refused to spend the night outside his monastery. She had recourse to prayer and a furious thunderstorm burst so that neither St. Benedict nor any of his companions could return home. They spent the night in spiritual conferences. The next morning they parted to meet no more on earth. Three days later St. Scholastica died, and her holy brother beheld her soul in a vision as it ascended into heaven. He sent his brethren to bring her body to his monastery and laid it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. She died about the year 543, and St. Benedict followed her soon after. Her feast day is February 10th.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Two Big Bucks

While driving yesterday through an inhabited area in Bend, I came across two big bucks, two male deers who were strolling along the side of the street, minding their own business, and apparently oblivious of anything else happening in the world, including an occasional car going by. Since I was on a quick sick call, I did not have my camera with me, but I happened to have my cell phone and took a few quick photos, which I share with you today. They had 4 points in their antlers, as you can see, quite beautiful animals, but as far as I know, they use those antlers to fight other male deer when the mating season is underway, usually between September and November.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hold your head high

Standing for what you believe in regardless of the odds against you, and the pressure that tears at your Courage.

Keeping a smile on your face when inside you feel like dying, for the sake of supporting Strength.

Stopping at nothing and doing what's in your heart that you know is Determination.

Doing more than is expected, to make another's life a little more bearable, without uttering a single Compassion.

Helping a friend in need, no matter the time or effort, to the best of your Loyalty.

Holding your head high and being the best you know you can be when life seems to fall apart at your Perseverance. 

Facing each difficulty with the confidence that time will bring you better tomorrows, and never giving Confidence.

Hold your head high and make your life better every day!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Power is out

We had a terrible storm overnight with fierce winds and rain. This led to the power cut off in the rectory and the historic church. We're hoping it will be restored soon, but the power outage makes you realize how many things we take for granted. Thankfully there was still a little hot water to shave and shower, but the garage door would not open, phones of course were out, the oven and everything electric was out, and you had to rely on your wrist watch to check the time. Of course the alarm clock was blank, and so I can say that for once I overslept, and got up at 4:55 AM. Naturally the howling wind did not let any one sleep, and the broken limbs of trees was conspicuous as I was heading to the office, getting a ride from one of our sisters who attended the 7 AM Mass, which was celebrated in a very romantic setting, in candle-light. And the red vestment in honor of St Paul Miki and his companions added a little extra touch to the atmosphere inside the church. The wind is still very strong, and the rain keeps coming down - too bad it's not snow, especially in the mountains where we need it the most, but every little droplet helps. Besides people can blame me for the rain, as I've been praying for moisture and snow all through the month of January.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lord help me.....

In all of my needs, I come to you in humility and trust and say to you, Lord help me.
In my doubts, uncertainties and temptations, Lord help me.
In my loneliness, in my tiredness and in difficult situations, Lord help me.
When I see my hopes and plans fail, and turn into disappointments and worries, Lord help me
When others fail me and hurt me, and when I see that only your grace can save me, Lord help me.
When I entrust my soul into your tremendous Love, as a Father and Savior, Lord help me.
When I lose all my hope to failure, when I see all my efforts end in vain, Lord help me.
When I lose patience, and when I see my cross getting heavier and heavier, Lord help me.
When I feel sick and abandoned because my head and hands can’t function anymore, Lord help me.
Always, in spite of my weaknesses, shortcomings and other failures, Lord help me always, and never abandon me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Human Body - part 4

Continuing the series of intriguing facts about the human body......
31. The fastest growing nail is on the middle finger.

32. Facial hair grows faster than any other hair on the body. This is true
for men as well as women.

33. There are as many hairs per square inch on your body as a chimpanzee.

34. A human fetus acquires fingerprints at the age of three months. 

35. By the age of 60, most people will have lost about half their taste buds.

36. About 32 million bacteria call every inch of your skin home. But don't
worry, a majority of these are harmless or even helpful bacteria.

37. The colder the room you sleep in, the higher the chances are that you'll
have a bad dream.

38. Human lips have a reddish color because of the great concentration of
tiny capillaries just below the skin.

39. Three hundred million cells die in the human body every minute.

40. Like fingerprints, every individual has an unique tongue print that can
be used for identification.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Saint Blase

Many people today head to churches to have their throats blessed on the occasion of the feast of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr. St Blase lived in the 4th century and was a physician, and bishop of Sebastea (modern Sivas, Turkey). He was martyred by being beaten, attacked with iron carding combs, and beheaded. In iconography, Blase is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, steel combs. The similarity of these instruments of torture to wool combs led to his adoption as the patron saint of wool combers in particular, and the wool trade in general. He may also be depicted with crossed candles. Such crossed candles are used for the blessing of throats on the feast day of Blase, the day after Candlemas on the Roman Catholic calendar of saints. Blase is traditionally believed to intercede in cases of throat illnesses. He was particularly remembered for dislodging a fish-bone in the throat of a young child, a miracle just before his death which led to many invoking prayers to him for protection of all throat ailments.
“Through the intercession of Saint Blase, Bishop and Martyr, may God protect you from all ailments of the throat and every other illness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN”

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus

Presentation stained-glass from the Baker City Cathedral (1923)
It’s been 40 days since Christmas, and on this day, February 2nd,  two special ceremonies are remembered. The first and the most popular is the presentation of Jesus to Simeon in the temple, followed by his circumcision. The other ceremony is the one that all mothers who gave birth to a son had to perform, precisely 40 days after the birth of their baby boy. Under Mosaic Law, a woman who had given birth was considered ritually unclean for 40 days, at which time she was to present herself to the priests and offer sacrifice - her “purification”. Up until 1969, the liturgical calendar still commemorated the Purification of Mary, and then the emphasis turned to the Presentation of Jesus.
At the beginning of the 8th century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession. At the end of the same century, the blessing and distribution of candles became part of the celebration, giving the feast its popular name “Candlemas Day.” Up to a few years ago, in my native Malta, all the pastors of parish churches used to con-celebrate a Mass with the Bishop, during which Mass, they would offer the Bishop a candle, usually artistically decorated. Only recently the custom was changed slightly whereby the pastors would offer, along with the candle, a food basket or a monetary donation to be distributed to the needy and poor of the diocese.