Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The early Christian martyrs

Martyrs being crucified and waiting to be eaten by lions
The day after the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Church commemorates the many unknown, possibly in thousands of Christian martyrs who shed their blood for their faith under ruthless Emperors. What is known as the Persecution era, so many martyrs died defending their faith, either through crucifixion, being burned, being eaten by lions or other excruciating methods of torture.
Many of them were arrested just by being seen carrying a cross in their hands. Most of them congregated underground in catacombs, for fear of being arrested and killed. Some of the known martyrs have been canonized by the church, St Agnes, St Agatha, St Cecilia, St Ignatius of Antioch, most of the early Popes, and so many others. It was only thanks to King Constantine who ended the Persecutions in 313 AD, that Christians could once again profess their faith freely and build basilicas and churches to worship in.

But it seems that history is repeating itself, as so many innocent civilians are today being martyred, also for worshiping in churches, for being Christian or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We pray also today for those who are suffering for lack of religious liberty and those still being persecuted for their faith.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Statue of St Peter outside the Vatican
The church honors today the two great apostles, who in spite of their background or weakness, became leaders of the early church in Rome and in Eastern Europe. Who would have thought that a simple fisherman and an unpretentious tent-maker would one day become the pillars of the church! Peter and Paul’s life story can very well be described as the ‘rags-to-riches’ journey. And yet the spiritual and historical influence and impact they left on the history of Christianity is truly amazing.
St Peter was one of the privileged three who were close to Jesus on various occasion, along with John and James. He was the first apostle to perform a miracle, and we admire the triple affirmation of faith to erase completely the triple denial during Christ’s passion. He was chosen to be the first Pope of the Church realizing that Jesus saw something special in him - not John who remained faithful till the end, who wrote a beautiful Gospel, but Peter - the rough and tough type, the weakling who became the rock.

Statue of St Paul in San Paolo fuori le mura
St Paul on the other hand made his turnaround quickly and in a determined way. From being so helpless at his conversion, to becoming a strong powerful spokesperson for Christ, traveling hundreds of miles, on foot, by boat, probably on horseback, writing prolifically his letters to communities he had previously visited. Then he was sent to Rome to be tried as a Roman citizen, only to have his ship wrecked on my homeland Malta (Acts chapters 27-28).

Let us remember today the dominant image these two apostles represent in our church....Peter, the rock, the foundation, and Paul, the messenger par excellence of Jesus.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

If a dog were your teacher

If a dog were your teacher these are some of the lessons you might learn......
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When it's in your best interest, practice obedience. Run romp and play daily.
Let others know when they've invaded your territory. Take naps and stretch before rising.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you. Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
On warm days stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you're scolded don't buy into the guilt thing and pout. Run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Stop when you have had enough. Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want what lies buried, dig until you find it. When someone is having a bad day, be silent.......sit close by....and nuzzle them gently.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

To be like Jesus

To wait for You, patiently.                                                                                                    
To speak to You, eloquently.                                                                                                   
To think of You, thoughtfully.                                                                                              
To smile at You, happily.                                                                                                    
To work for You, arduously.                                                                                           
To imitate Your example, devotedly.                                                                                               
To follow You, faithfully.                                                                                                  
To dream of You, meditatingly.                                                                                            
To write about You, constructively.                                                                    
To be nourished with Your Body and Blood, spiritually.
To yearn for You, eagerly.                                                                                                   
To preach about You, energetically.                                                                                             
To forgive like You, mercifully.                                                                                       
To love like You, unconditionally.                                                                                  
To rejoice with You, enthusiastically.                                                                                     
To listen to You, attentively.                                                                                                
To read about You, diligently. 
To trust in You, hopefully.                                                                                              
To feel for others like You, compassionately.                                                                   
To pray like You, devotionally.                                                                     
To defend You, courageously.                                                                                            
To give like You, generously.                                                                                             
To show concern towards others like You, passionately. 
To console like You, comfortingly.                                                                                            
To repent like You, sincerely.                                                                                                 
To act like You, courageously.                                                                                        
To persevere like You, whole-heartedly.                                                                           
To be like You, peacefully and prayerfully.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Vacation Bible School group photo

This a group photo of the children who participated in the Totus Tuus Vacation Bible School held in our parish between Sunday and today. We thank the four members of the Totus Tuus (Totally Yours) team, Michael, Thomas, Anna and Dominique who spent a whole week  teaching, inspiring and motivating our children. They also led the evening session with the Middle-School and High School students. (please click on each photo to enlarge)
The Totus Tuus team L to R: Thomas, Dominique, Michael and Anna
Middle School and High School groups

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Magic Medicine

Sometimes you come across some information that inspires you to share it with others. Here is one of them, which can help many people who face this annoying condition. The herpes simplex is a blister or cold sore that usually occurs in the region around the lips. To avoid the constant use of antiviral drugs, here is a simple homemade recipe that can solve the herpes.
Herpes simplex is relatively harmless but annoying viral infection that often returns to the same place in the form of blister on the lip. Due to the fact that those who suffer from it are quite annoyed, we bring you a simple remedy, which you must have in the kitchen. Believe it or not, all you need is a single clove of garlic.

Chop a clove of garlic finely and place over the blister. Let it sit for ten minutes, then remove and rinse with warm water. Repeat five times, and within 12 hours the herpes will disappear as if by magic. If speaking about larger herpes you should repeat the same process the next day. Garlic enhances the body’s ability to defend. It is rich in many minerals such as calcium, sulfur, phosphorus and iron. It contains essential oils such as allicin and vitamins, that’s why many refer to it as antibiotics from nature. In addition, garlic is an excellent fighter against high blood pressure, is used for the breakdown of fats in the blood, prevents the development of cancer, treats atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, rheumatism, headaches, relieves stress, fatigue, bronchitis, chronic cough, asthma, ejects toxins from the body, helps detoxify the intestines, improves circulation and prevents thrombosis.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Birth of John the Baptist

Esteban Murillo - Jesus and John the Baptist
There are three paintings that depict a young St John the Baptist which are favorites of mine for different reasons. They are all by the Spanish painter Esteban Bartolome’ Murillo and they show John the Baptist as a little boy, John always being accompanied by a little lamb, symbolizing his famous words “Behold the Lamb of God,” the phrase he used to welcome Jesus when he came to the Jordan River to be baptized by him. The other two paintings are of John by himself, one of them with a pondering look, while the other shows him in a remorseful or apologetic mood, again both of them with the lamb next to him. Today the Catholic Church celebrates his birth, and that is why we use the color white in our vestments. John is regarded as the last prophet of the Old Testament, while some refer to him as the first martyr of the New Testament, and we do have a commemoration of his martyrdom on August 29, but it’s his mysterious birth that is celebrated today, since Elizabeth his mother was advanced in age.
Esteban Murillo - John the Baptist as a child
When a baby is born here in the USA, the announcement is made in the papers, Godparents chosen, the baptism is held and a party usually follows. In John’s time, his birth was announced in a very unusual way. Similar to what the Native Indians did when sending a message, his father Zechariah made a bon-fire and lit it in the evening, so that his relatives and friends would know that Elizabeth gave birth to her baby. This is actually a tradition that is still held in many countries, among them Malta. Many towns and villages collect wood, sticks and logs for a few weeks and pile them up, and on the evening of June 23, they light this bon-fire, in commemoration of the birth of John. Some towns and villages compete as to who can make the biggest bon-fire. With the fire restrictions here in the USA, this custom will never be given the go ahead, but it is a meaningful tradition nonetheless.
Murillo - John the Baptist as a young boy
John the Baptist as a prophet had a tough role to play - to point out the sins which were keeping the people from truly knowing, loving and serving God. He prepared the way of the Lord by calling people to lives of repentance. In the Gospel of John the Evangelist (Jn 3:30,) we read that John the Baptist said about Jesus: “He must increase, while I must decrease.” This is very indicative of what will happen after Jesus’ baptism. Jesus became well known, while John disappeared in the background. Yet while the popularity of Jesus increased, John faded away, and we see him again being arrested and then being beheaded by Herod. Yet there is another interesting twist to the phrase “He must increase and I must decrease.” John’s birthday falls close to the summer solstice, one of the longest days of the year, and from now on, the days will start decreasing, leading to one of the shortest days of the year, which is Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, close to the winter’s solstice, and from then on, the days will start getting longer. “I must decrease, while He must increase.”

It’s a notion worth adapting to in our daily lives - we must decrease our yearnings, our dreams, our wishes, while we should let Him increase in us, increasing our potential to love, increase our prayer life, our devotion to duty, our commitment to our faith. This is the message the church wants us to remember this weekend. We can obviously decrease the clutter from our lives and increase the goodness that is certainly already in your heart.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

More animal photos - part 2

A bald eagle on a tree in Keating, Oregon
A few more photos of animals in the wild, most of them in Central and Eastern Oregon. These include a majestic bald eagle, two sandhill cranes, a group of Clydesdale horses, a chipmunk perched on a rock, and a deer checking out his date. These are all photos I took on some of my trips, some of them between Baker City and Halfway, where I traveled every weekend for 8 years.
Two sandhill cranes in Whitney, between Baker City and John Day
Clydesdale horses in Central Idaho
An inquisitive chipmunk in Crater Lake, Oregon
A male deer looking out for a date, found in Richland, Oregon

Monday, June 22, 2015

Some animal photos - part 1

A blue heron in flight, caught between Baker City and Halfway
As we experience the longest days of the year, I want to go back to my own photo album and share with you some of best animal photos I took over the past few years. They are presented here with no particular order, but since I have quite a few of them, I share them over the next few days. They include a blue heron in flight, a yellow-headed blackbird, a male and female quail, and a family of ducks and ducklings.....more tomorrow.
Yellow-headed blackbrid, caught on the Prineville reservoir
A male and female quail, caught in Richland, Oregon
Ducks on a family outing in Dayville, Oregon

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Amazing Grace

There is a story that somehow parallels today’s Gospel reading of the apostles being afraid of the storm at sea, which Jesus calmed down. A man named John Newton had some early religious instruction from his mother, but had never practiced his Christian faith. He was pressed into service in the Royal Navy, and then became involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of Ireland. He knew he was going to die and he called out to God for mercy, promising that he would change his life, if he was saved. He survived! While his boat was being repaired, he wrote the first verse of what became one of the most popular hymns. He eventually became a Minister in the Church of England and people packed his churches whenever he preached. The hymn he wrote was:                               
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

Let us be aware of God’s presence in our lives. We don’t have to be sinking or drowning to call on Him. He knows what we need way before we ask Him. Just hold on tight to Him, through your prayer life, through the Eucharist, the life-line that always connects us with Him.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Highlights from new Encyclical

These are some highlights of ‘Laudato Si', Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment....on subjects ranging from abortion to consumerism. An encyclical is a long essay written by a Pope every 2 years or so. "Laudato Si" means "Praised be...." the first words of the text, taken from St Francis of Assisi.....“Praise be to you, my Lord.”

On waste
The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

On the extinction of species
Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

On God’s love
The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.


On climate change
A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system...... Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

On the need for action
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle can only precipitate catastrophes. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.

A nun reading the text of the Encyclical 'Laudato Si."
On consumerism
Less is more.” A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment.

On abortion
How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”

On gender ideology
Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.

On progress
Humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19, 1977

Ordination day with my family, June 19, 1977
Today I go back 38 years ago, as I join my classmates in celebrating our anniversary to the priesthood. All of them are now in Malta, a few still pastors, others semi-retired, while others still working at various positions and offices in the church in Malta. We spent 7 glorious years together at the Major Seminary, while studying at the University of Malta. Seminary life was very special to me, and living in a community was very rewarding and enriching. At one time we were close to 100 seminarians at various stages of the priesthood. Nowadays the numbers have dwindled even though vocations for the priesthood and religious life are still fairly healthy. 
My Ordination holy card, front and back
The quote I used for my Ordination holy card was from the first letter of St Peter: "
Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly." (1 Peter 5:2.) I offer my Mass today for the Rectors, Vice-Rectors, Spiritual Director and professors and teachers who taught us over the 7 years we spent together, most of whom have since passed away. I offer my Mass for my parents, brothers and sisters, nephews and relatives and friends in the parishes I served over the past 38 years, St Julian’s, (Malta,) New Hyde Park, Rocky Point, Hicksville, Pleasant Valley (all in New York) and John Day, Baker City and Bend (all in Oregon.)
With my classmates just after the ordination Mass

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Little Town

A little town is where you don’t have to guess who your enemies are. Your friends will tell you.
A little town is the only place on earth where people past middle age are called by their first names when they saunter down the street.
A little town is where a few people can get away with lying about the year they were born. Too many people can remember.
A little town is where people with various ailments can air them properly to sympathetic ears.
A little town is where, when you get a wrong number, you can talk for 15 minutes anyhow.
A little town is where the ratio of good people to bad people is something like 100 to one. That’s nice to remember.
A little town is where it is hard for anybody to walk to work for exercise because it takes too long to stop and explain to people in cars who stop, honk and offer a ride.
A little town is where city folks say there is nothing to do, but those who live there don’t have enough nights in the week to make all the meetings and social functions.
A little town is where everyone becomes a ‘neighbor’ in time of need.
A little town is where businessmen struggle for survival against city stores and shopping centers.
A little town is where those same businesses dig deep many times to help with countless fund-raising projects.
A little town is where it’s nice to be when rearing a family.
A little town is where you don’t have to lock your doors every time you leave the house.
A little town, when all is said and done, is a nice place to live.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How the poor live

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.  On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"
"It was great, Dad."
"Did you see how poor people can be?" the father asked.
"Oh Yeah" said the son.
"So what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father proudly.
The son answered:
I saw that we have one dog and they had four.
We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. 
We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. 
Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. 
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. 
We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. 
We buy our food, but they grow theirs. 
We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."
With this the boy's father was speechless.
Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."
Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate on what we don't have. 
What is one's persons worthless object is another's prize possession. It is all based on one's perspective.
It makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for all the bounty we have instead of worrying about wanting more.
Take joy in what you have and see the treasure in it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

St Anthony quotes

St Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
Last Saturday June 13 was the liturgical feast of St Anthony. Since it was also the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, unfortunately he got bumped. But today I like to give him some credit by sharing with you three of his quotes:

May your love grow in knowledge and understanding so that you may know how to discern not only between good and evil, but also to distinguish between what is good and what is even better.

We need external peace to live with others; we need internal peace to live with ourselves; and we need eternal peace to live with God.

When the rays of the sun strike crystal, it glitters like sparks of a fire. A faithful Christian, illumined by rays like a crystal, ought to illumine his neighbor with the light of good example, through word and deed.

Truly honest people possess a harmonious and pleasant demeanor; nothing reproachable can be found in their actions, nothing inappropriate in their words, nothing indecent in their manner. Being spontaneous and respectful, their behavior wins the admiration and goodwill of all.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Table Graces

A Norman Rockwell painting - Thanksgiving Dinner
As families gather for dinner, may I suggest some table graces, which can be shared by children, parents and anyone sitting around the dinner table. 

Our Father, we are grateful for this family,
who hand in hand form one unbroken circle.
Help us to do your will,
as caring individuals and as a loving family. Amen.

We thank you Lord, for happy hearts,
for rain and sunny weather.
We thank you Lord, for this our food,
and that today we are together.

We’re thankful for the many things
Our Heavenly Father sends:
For love and faith and strength and health,
For home and food and friends.
A caricature of the Rockwell painting, which is happening too often
For bright lights and warm fires,
we thank You o Lord.
For good food and the clothes we wear,
we thank You o Lord.
For the care and love of father and mother,
we thank You o Lord.
For friends who come to be our guests,
we thank You o Lord.
For all the things you have given us to enjoy,
we thank You o Lord.
For true happiness which comes when we share,
we thank You o Lord.

For each new morning with its light....
For rest and shelter of the night......
For health and food, for love and friends......
For everything Your goodness sends.....
We thank you Father.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

From watercolor to stained-glass

Next to the stained-glass window installed at the Phaneuf residence in Bend, OR
One of our new families in our parish just moved here from Minnesota over the past 6 months. They moved to a house which had a window opening inside and thought of installing a stained-glass window in its place, something to remind them of Oregon. So they discovered some of my watercolor paintings and asked me if I could create something that would fit there. Obviously I was honored they liked my style of painting, which is very simple and amateurish.
The original watercolor used as a base model
Lo and behold, I created a landscape scene and within a few months, they had the painting-turned-stained-glass installed. So this past week, I was asked to visit them again and sign the finished masterpiece. Thanks to Dianne and Pat Phaneuf, I now have a painting that has been transferred into a stained-glass window, which is a faithful reproduction, complete with mountains, cat-tails, rocks, trees and a canoe.
Signing the finished stained-glass window
The stained-glass as seen from the other side

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Following the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Similar to yesterday's feast, it was St John Eudes who promoted this devotion first in 1648 in the town of Autun, France, and later on in all the French dioceses. In 1799, Pope Pius VI granted the Bishop of Palermo the permission to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in his diocese. When the revelation of the 'Miraculous Medal" to St Catherine Laboure took place in 1830, the impetus for this devotion was even more obvious. Mary's love for us all is just as powerful and consistent as that of her Son, Jesus. When we feel sad or depressed, let us go to Mary and enjoy her loving embrace given with compassion, devotion and respect.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Feast of the Sacred Heart

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gained much popularity after the visions that St Margaret Mary Alacoque had from Jesus around the year 1675. The church initially had doubts about the authenticity of the visions, but approved them almost 100 years later. The feast was first celebrated in France only but was extended to the universal church in 1856 by Pope Pius IX. The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by a lance, surrounded by a crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. If we can only comprehend the sacrifices Jesus made for us, and in spite of our weaknesses and shortcomings, He loves us unconditionally, even when we tend to take Him for granted. May our love for Him be just as powerful and intimate. May we appreciate His endless support and care towards our well-being, represented also in the way the church, priests, sisters and other people show their affection towards everything that is Roman Catholic.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to You I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to You , and to do all for Your love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease You. I take You , O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Your  Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in You, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Your infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Your pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget You or be separated from You . I beseech You , through Your infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Your Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Your devoted servants. Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

James Last

James Last (1929-2015) - a great musician and human being
Many people grew up with the music of Elvis Presley, or the Beatles, or other artists if you were growing up in the 1980s and 1990s. But if you were in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, the music of James Last literally made your heart and pulse beat faster. The world of music is saddened with the loss of one of their favorite musicians.
James Last (born Hans Last) was born in Bremen, Germany on April 17, 1929 and was the most popular musical arranger and a big band leader. His "happy music" made his numerous albums best-sellers in Germany and the United Kingdom. He began studying the piano at age 10, but his first music teacher felt he lacked any musical talent. Last started playing more actively with his second tutor and switched to the double bass as a teenager.  After the end of the war, he joined Hans G√ľnther Oesterreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra. In 1948, he became the leader of the Last-Becker Ensemble, which performed for seven years. He was voted as the best bassist in the country in a German jazz poll for 1950, 1951 and 1952.

The cover of one of the 190 albums released by James Last
Last first released albums in the U.S. under the title “The American Patrol” on Warner Brothers around 1964. He also released a series of nine albums in a series called Classics Up To Date vols. 1–9 which served up arrangements of classical melodies with strings, rhythm and wordless chorus from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s. Last released an album, Non-Stop Dancing, in 1965, a recording of brief renditions of popular songs, all tied together by an insistent dance beat and crowd noises. It was a hit and helped make him a major European star. Over the next four decades, Last released over 190 records, including several more volumes of Non-Stop Dancing.  He had married his first wife, Waltraud, in 1955; they had two children, Ronald and Caterina. Waltraud died in 1997. Last divided his time between Florida and Hamburg with his second wife Christine. He gave much credit to Christine and son Ronald, for help with his music. James Last died on 9 June 2015 in Florida at the age of 86.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 Parish High School Graduates

Parishioners who graduated from High School this past weekend
Yesterday I showed you the 8th Grade Graduates from our Catholic Parish School. Today I will introduce you to the High School students who are parishioners of St Francis. Unfortunately not all of them were there, but these were the ones who were at the Baccalaureate Mass on Sunday.
From left to right are : Elizabeth Lasilla, Emily Hyde, Mackenzie Halligan, Gabe Wyllie, Teddie Widmer, Rebecca Slough and Macey Connors. Among those who could not be at the Mass were Joseph Schwarz, Alexis Rastovich, Victoria Rastovich, Carol Sanchez, Joel Arker, Shannon Brennan, Cesar Eligio, Jorge Garcia, Michael Hayes, Carmen McBride, Joseph McCance, Ellen Nopp, Ezequiel Rivera, Joseph Theobald,
Jasmine Dominguez, Tia Hatton and Dillon Slye. Congratulations to all.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

St Francis 2015 Graduation

2015 St Francis Catholic School Graduates - Left to right: Hannah Slye, Marie Mosely, Emily McLean, Stella Hyde, Nicole Gallivan, John Fawcett, Steven Dominguez
7 students graduated yesterday from St Francis Catholic school. These are the last of thousands of students who have graduated from our school since 1936, and I offer to you today the message and homily I shared with them and their parents and teachers during Mass yesterday.

It is a true honor today leading this Mass on the occasion of your Graduation from St Francis. Thousands of students have graduated over the years since 1936. Every time I ask a congregation in church by show of hands how many attended St Francis, there is always a nice group of proud alumni who have great recollections of the years spent in our school. I also know that many of you, with your siblings, have spent 8, 10, even 15 years in our school. But remember that your Graduation today is not the end of the road, but rather a transition stage. As if you’re on a train, and today you’re changing track,  the train itself, maybe even your luggage. Your train will now pick up speed - your studies will be harder and more demanding in High School. And the competition will become more intense.

Let me tell you secret that may shock you - I never graduated, never experienced a graduation ceremony. In Malta, we just study, work hard, get good grades of course and receive a diploma only at the University or College level. In my case it was at my ordination, 38 years ago (when your own parents were toddlers themselves) - the ordination for me was equivalent to my Graduation. And from then on, it was and still is, non-stop work. My diploma is not hanging on wall, framed and turning yellow or brown by now, but is engraved in my heart, molded in my mind, and is evident by what I do with my hands, my feet, my speech, my homilies, talks, my counseling people, visits to hospitals, talking to students and young people, helping couples keep their marriage together. And so much more. And so your success in life will be shown by what you can accomplish after you finish your schooling, and start working, in whatever field you decide to take on.

Thank God always for your health, your talents, your potential, and never take him for granted. Never think that you don’t need God in your life. I’ve seen too many young people go down in the valley of destruction when they felt they could do it by themselves, and then they reached out to God, and changed their lives. You will certainly have many distractions and temptations facing you in HS and College. But persevere and strive for the best. Even the names of your future High Schools can give you the impression of having reached a milestone, but it’s long way ahead. You can only reach the summit of Summit when your grades are close to 4.0. You can get a good look from a Mountain View when the view is clear and sharp and there are no distractions or temptations hindering your focus. You can enjoy being at Bend High and feel you’ve reached the highest peak of your life - but remember that just as you see things up high, you can still come down with a big thump. You can also end up at Trinity up the road and you will be successful as long as you can keep God and Jesus in your life, and let the Holy Spirit inspire every step you take.

In the name of your parents, your teachers and those who have admired you all along, I want to thank you for the inspiration you have been to so many. And even though I’ve been here for less than 2 years, some of you have been an inspiration to me personally.
Stella Hyde – I admire your dedication to your studies, reflected in the cross-county skiing you and your family love so much. You have the drive to reach for higher goals, and your patience, your perseverance, and your utmost dedication to make your dreams come true is an inspiration to me personally.
Steven Dominguez – I will always remember your portrayal of Jesus at the Living Stations, and I thank your family who participate in our Spanish Mass, especially with the music.
Emily McLean – of course you always impressed me by your voice, but especially in being courageous enough to face a large crowd and lead the singing as a Cantor when you were still in 7th grade. Remember that your voice is a gift – use it profitably to inspire other people and our congregation here every Sunday.
Hannah Slye – if you follow your mom’s career, you will be a fine nurse, but please don’t try to become a surgeon, because if you handle patients as you handled that poor frog last week, we’re all in big trouble. The good thing was that he was already dead. And keep that smile which is a special gift that you can share with everyone else.
Marie Mosely – your gentle nature is also an inspiration to me, especially how close you are to your family, and a role-mother to your younger siblings.
Nicole Gallivan – I admire your dedication to your studies, and only last weekend I witnessed personally the discipline in focusing on your studies, especially when all your friends were enjoying the trampoline after your brother’s Confirmation. Studying Latin on a Sunday evening when your siblings and friends were having fun shows character, determination, discipline and a strong motivation to not let extra-curricular activities interfere with your studies.
John Fawcett – the first time I met you (or better yet, heard you play,) I was mesmerized. I had just arrived at St Francis and it was during the Central Oregon Symphony Concert when this young boy came on stage to place Edoard Lalo’s ‘Symphonie Espanol.’ When he finished I looked at the program and found out that this was one of our boys. Ever since I have admired you, followed your career, heard you leading a string quartet, in orchestras, and as a soloist, frequently at some of my weddings. Remember your roots when you play at Carnegie Hall.

A Time Magazine article a few years ago interviewed the Harvard applicants at the prestigious Ivy College, and were asked which were their two priorities - the answer out of 99% was power and money. They may be important for your success in life, but they are not everything. Remember the values that brought you here - and your parents can tell you about sacrifice, love, determination, commitment, loyalty. Remember that your parents and grandparents and teachers survived without the Ipod, Ipad, Iphone, Itunes, but they emphasized other values that are irreplaceable and indestructible, the I love you, I care for you, I miss you, I respect you and I forgive you.

Remember and be proud of the values that were given to you since the time you were born, the values of patience, tolerance, forgiveness, appreciation, respect and the one that you probably didn’t like, but the one that gave you identity and character, that is the value of discipline. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you are Catholic. Contrary to what many young people think, people will not make fun of you if you tell them you go to Church every Sunday. They will admire you, and we will be proud of you. Better yet, bring a friend along, as I see many College students do when they visit their families. This is the one thing that makes me so proud of them.

Remember the Kindergarten teachers as well as your Middle School teachers. Sometimes we forget those who really put a strong foundation, even in our younger grades. Remember older siblings or that baby-sitter who spent hours watching you fall asleep, changed hundreds of messy diapers, and helped you even with school work, your homework and many other projects. Remember that coach who taught you how to swing a bat, throw a football, or learn to swim, snow ski and bicycle.

Remember that drama, health and music teacher, your mentors and counselors who spent hours trying to figure out what may be troubling you, only to find out that it was a sweetheart who broke your heart because they didn’t return a phone-call. Remember the priests and teachers who taught you here at the Religious Ed program over the years. Remember especially your parents who must have sacrificed so much for your upbringing, your education and your overall well being. You would not be here if it weren’t for them and their love for you. We won’t say Good Bye today, but So Long, and until we meet again. Congratulations. (Father Julian)

Monday, June 8, 2015

A lesson from the Geese

Every spring, we notice a contingent of geese migrating up north to warmer climate, and in the fall, we see them heading south for warmer climates in the winter. It’s such a fascinating sight seeing those hundreds of geese following each other in that breath-taking V-formation. Have you realized how much we can learn from watching these geese fly past us?

 - When geese fly in formation, they travel about 70% faster than when they fly alone. (Christians who have a sense of community can travel that way more effectively.)
 - Geese share leadership. When the one in the front gets tired, he rotates back to the wing and another flies forward to take his place. (What does this say about sharing?)
 - Geese honk from behind. Those in the rear honk to urge those in front to keep their speed up. (What can we do to encourage and support our leaders?)

 - Geese keep company with the fallen. When a weak or sick goose drops out of the flight, at least other joins him to help and protect. As God’s people, we are to care for each other on the way “gearing one another’s burdens to fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
- Geese mate for life. You see a male and female together all the time - and they keep the same mate for life. What does this teach us about marriage and fidelity and relationships?
We can learn a lot from geese, can’t we?