Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week

Holy Week is just days ahead, Lord.
In some ways, it will be an ordinary week:
I'll still have to go to work, to school, to the store.
I'll still need to care for my family and friends.
I'll still have to do laundry and take out the trash.
I'll still have to deal with life's everyday problems:
    my responsibilities won't diminish or take a break...

And I'll do all this in a world that largely ignores  the names we give this week's special days:
                        Palm Sunday, 
                            Holy Thursday
                               Good Friday
                                  Holy Saturday
                                     Easter Sunday
So I ask you to help me, Lord, to make and keep this week holy...

I hope and pray this week will be peaceful - in spite of all I have to do...
I hope and pray these days will be prayerful: that I'll make some time to spend with you alone and time to go to church on these holy days...
I hope and pray that in my mind and heart these days will be different from any others,
in how I see and experience the world around me, in how I plan and spend my time...

Help me know and live these days as set apart, some solemn and some joyful:
      a time to grow in faith, and hope and love,
      a time to grow in my relationship with you...

Let this week not be like all the others, Lord - but let this week and all its days
be truly holy. Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2015

More from Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday procession at the 10 AM Mass
The first three Masses at St Francis of Assisi parish in Bend started outside with the blessing of the palms, followed by a procession towards the church.The procession was led by our donkey Pimmy who got her 45 minutes of fame as she devoutly followed the proceedings and led the congregation to the church for Mass with the readings of the passion of Christ. I thank Diana Levey who lent us Pimmy, as well as the Bomke girls, Makenna and Kelsea who led the donkey at all three celebrations. This is a tradition that has taken roots here in Bend, as will hopefully be a memory people will cherish for a lifetime, especially through these photos.

The ceremony at the 12:30 PM Spanish Mass

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday celebrations - part 1

Saturday evening started the Palm Sunday celebrations in our parish with a procession following the blessing of palms. Two donkeys, Poncho and Daisy led our procession, helped by the Rossi family, while the donkeys were lent to us by the Jansen family. 
The congregation met in the back of the school, and after the palm blessing and the reading of the Gospel, the procession proceeded towards the church. Another donkey will participate in Sunday's Masses, and more photos will appear in tomorrow's blog.  This is the start of the Holy Week celebrations which culminate with Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Elk at Whitney Valley

Driving back from Baker City, I came across a large herd of elk in the Whitney Valley, more or less midway between John Day and Baker City. There were actually two herds, less than a mile from each other. Obviously, when they notice someone stopping the car, they trot away from you, but I was able to take a few photos of these two herds, the first one with 40 heads, the second with more than 60 heads, including one male, whom you can see leading his girlfriends for a Friday night hangout at their local favorite place.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Photos from the Chrism Mass

A group photo on the steps of the Cathedral
The Chrism Mass was held on Thursday March 26 at the Baker City Cathedral, and these are a few early photos from this annual celebration. Bishop Liam Cary is surrounded by his priests as he prepares to consecrate the oils to be used for Baptism, Confirmations, Ordinations and Anointing of the Sick. I mentioned earlier that I did not see one single deer on Wednesday - it was much different today as I encountered two herds of elk between Baker City and Prairie City - make sure to check tomorrow for their amazing photos....
(please click on each photo to enlarge)

Photos later

Chrism Mass photos will be posted later on today.  The scenic drive from Baker City to Bend will take a good portion of the day, and hopefully I will come across some wildlife, because on our trip here on Wednesday I did not see one single deer. What I lacked in deer, I made up with old parishioners who were glad to see me, just as I was delighted to meet them again, with children getting older and some senior folks passing away.

So stay tuned

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Baker City

Naturally I am presently in Baker City for the annual Chrism Mass to be celebrated tonight with Bishop Liam Cary and all the priests. It was a pleasant drive yesterday although overcast and cloudy, but it's bright and sunny this morning, with the spectacular Elkhorn Mountains majestically displayed above Baker City. Most of the priests stay at the Welcome Inn Motel, courtesy of Rich and Lynn Langrell, and the place is buzzing with activity.

The sad news has been announced that the plane crash in the Alps in Southeast France was the result of a murder suicide maneuver by the co-pilot. Our hearts go out to the families of the 150 people who were innocently murdered in this heinous tragedy. Among the victims were 16 German students, two opera singers returning home after performing in Wagner's "Siegfried" and many other Spanish and German citizens. The plane was flying from Barcellona to Dusseldorf and crashed in a rugged mountainous region after the pilot was locked out of the cockpit, and what followed was an 8 minutes free fall that resulted in an intentional crash of the Germanwings plane. Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families.

Today March 26 would have been my Father's 90th birthday. He was born in my hometown of St. Julian's on March 26, 1925 and passed away on January 4, 2002. Today happens to be my 12th anniversary of starting my ministry in the Baker Diocese, when I was assigned to serve as pastor of St Elizabeth of Hungary parish in John Day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chrism Mass tomorrow

The priests of the Baker Diocese at the 2014 Chrism Mass
The annual Chrism Mass will be held at the Cathedral in Baker City on Thursday, March 26. All the priests will be gathering with their Bishop Liam Cary for the consecration of the Sacred Oils to be used for Baptisms, Confirmations, Ordinations and Anointing of the Sick The priests will also renew their vows to their Bishop. Traditionally this ceremony takes place on Holy Thursday itself, but since all the priests here in Eastern Oregon have to travel hundreds of miles to get to Baker City, it is always done a week earlier. 
The priests gather with their Bishop on the steps of the Cathedral
This is one of three occasions when the priests gather together and enjoy camaraderie, a nice meal hosted by the Baker City Parish and especially for me, a day to visit my former parish and meet some of my old parishioners. The other two occasions are the annual Retreat, held two weeks after Easter, and the Clergy Assembly held in October

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Miniature Good Friday procession

This was yet another huge surprise for me 5 years ago, when on Good Friday morning, I was invited to visit this incredible piece of artwork done by one man - a complete Good Friday procession in miniature, spread out throughout an entire room, actually at the President’s residence. I was told that this man had been working on this project for a decade but never exhibited any of his statuettes, until the President of Malta himself showed interest and invited him to showcase this masterpiece during Holy Week at the Palace itself.
This exhibit shows the entire procession, complete with marching bands, altar-servers, Biblical characters and the complete set of statues. Each statuette is approximately 3 to 4 inches in height, but meticulously crafted, painted and displayed. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

More from the Good Friday Processions

The second part of the procession held on Good Friday focuses on the last few scenes from the Passion of Christ, with the Crucifixion, entombment and Our Lady of Sorrows, which always comes in as the last statue. This is because many people accompany the Blessed Mother and make vows to her, women walking in bare feet, carrying babies, and men with hoods (to protect anonymity) carrying a cross and with chains tied to their ankles to accentuate sacrifice. 
Thousands of people watch these religious spectacles with great devotion, as marching bands play funeral marches, while Boy Scouts lead the procession with bugles an fanfares to announce the start of this annual ritual.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Good Friday processions

Probably the most impressive aspect of the Holy Week celebrations in Malta are the Good Friday processions held in various parishes in the early evening. Usually these processions start after the 3 PM Good Friday service, and go through the streets of the villages between 5 PM and 9 PM. 
Besides the impressive statues that depict the Passion of Christ, from the Agony in the Garden to the Entombment of Jesus, various characters from the Bible also participate in a biblical drama, as you can see from these photos. Roman soldiers also are well represented. More photos will be shown tomorrow. These photos were taken in the town of Rabat back in 2010.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Altars of Repose

Altar of Repose at OL Mount Carmel church, Valletta, Malta
One of the most solemn days in the life of the church is Holy Thursday, the day the Eucharist and the Priesthood were instituted, both at the Last Supper which Jesus hosted for his 12 apostles. The foot washing ceremony takes place during the evening Mass, re-enacting the humble gesture Jesus did to his beloved apostles, encouraging them to do the same to others, humbly serving them, the mission of every priest. 
An Altar of Repose in a church in Rabat, Malta
Following the Mass, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament is held, placing the Eucharist in a special Altar of Reposition, usually a side altar, away from the main altar. The main altar is then stripped of altar cloths, candles, flowers, etc. Many churches decorate the Altars of Reposition in a magnificent display of flowers, candles, angels and other symbols of the Eucharist. These photos show just a few of the altars decorated in Maltese churches in 2010.
The Altar of Repose in my childhood church in St Julian's, Malta
People then visit these altars out of respect towards the Eucharist and pray until midnight. These visits continue also in the morning on Good Friday until noon. The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, originating in Rome, traditionally started by Saint Philip Neri, who took the members of his Oratory to visit the 7 major basilicas as penance. These churches are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence-outside-the-Walls, Saint Sebastian-outside-the-Walls, and Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

More Last Supper displays

Yet the most spectacular display of the Last Supper was set up in the Dominican Oratory in Valletta, with a horse-shoe shaped table with meticulously prepared plates with various symbols relating to the Passion of Jesus, the 12 apostles and coat-of-arms of various Prelates. The different plates were made of rice, beans, pasta, salt and lentils, all arranged to create a beautiful display of colorful symbols. But nothing is wasted, as all the ingredients are then given to orphanages and nursing homes to be used in cooking. Please do click on each photo to see the details and precision by which these plates have been prepared.