Friday, July 31, 2015

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

A true image of a young St Ignatius of Loyola
The Jesuits had quite an important role in my education and spiritual formation. My spiritual director in the Seminary was a Jesuit as were many of my priest friends. My two nephews were educated in a school run by the Jesuits, and which has actually produced quite a few well-known people in Malta. Jesuits have provided many good priests, many of whom have dedicated their lives to work in the missions. We thank St Ignatius of Loyola, their founder, whose feast we celebrate today.
St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball shattered his leg and subsequently, a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he started reading the Bible and the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith.
St Ignatius with his Spiritual Exercises
Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.
He was a gifted spiritual director, and has been described by Pope Benedict XVI  as “being above all a man of God and a man of profound prayer who gave the first place of his life to God.” He was very active in fighting the Protestant Reformation and promoting the subsequent Counter-Reformation. St Ignatius died at the age of 65. He was canonized on March 12, 1622.  There are 38 members of the Society of Jesus who have been declared Saints. So many other Jesuits have become Cardinals, Bishops and great writers, and two years ago, the first Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio became the first Jesuit Pope, Francis.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

County Fair Photos

The main entrance to the County Fair
Every year many towns and villages present their County Fair. This is the week when the Central Oregon Deschutes County Fair is being held and yesterday I visited the exhibits, the animals, the attractions and the many booths presented to attract people. These are just a few of the photos I took of the strange, the unusual and the common. Photos of the animals will appear in this blog on Saturday, the same day that many of them will be auctioned, to the heartbreak of many of the children who have raised them since they were practically born.
The Catholic booth attended by volunteer Connie Vorndran
Animals crafted with fruits and vegetables
Canned fruit and vegetables presented as exhibits and awarded
Flowers judged and awarded

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Martha was right!

St Martha by Vincenzo di Campo
July 29 is the liturgical feast of St Martha, and it’s good to remember her today and pray for all housewives, housekeepers, custodians, cooks and chefs, of whom she is the patron Saint.
We all remember that domestic scene in the Gospels when Jesus visits his friends Martha and Mary, who along with their brother Lazarus, were close friends to Jesus. We read how Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to him talk, while Martha was busy with the household chores and duties of hospitality, which were very important in Middle Eastern culture. Eventually Jesus reprimanded Martha and praised Mary for choosing the better part. I always felt bad for Martha, because she was doing her duty as a host. As if she was trying to tell Jesus: “Let’s all fix some snacks together and then we can sit down and talk....”
Then I came across this painting by Vincenzo di Campo, and I’m sure you would agree with me....Martha was absolutely right! Look at all the food she had to prepare, foul, chicken, pheasants, lamb, fish, vegetables, and so much more. She had every right to complain and ask for her sister to help her out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

US beaches in 1911

Some nostalgic photos from 1911, showing American beaches. Way before the age of bikinis and skimpy swim-suits, people went to the beach wearing lots of clothing, and only their feet, arms and faces were visible, especially with girls. Most boys still wore a t-shirt although some dared to bare their chest, which was probably considered risky in those days.
This is what sun-bathing looked like in 1911

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bicycles and Balloons

Our ever-growing city of Bend is alive and well all year round, but especially in the summer months when various activities are organized every weekend, with thousands of people, locals and visitors flocking to enjoy the festivities. This past weekend two particular events highlighted the city buzz. The Cascade Cycling Classic was the first, held over a week, but culminating with the bicycle criterium around downtown, as races for both men and women were held, for semi-pros and for professionals.
The second event was the Balloons over Bend, which was cancelled on Friday and Saturday because of wind, but was held on Sunday morning as 7 colorful balloons hovered over the city. These photos I took yesterday show highlights from both events. (Click on each photo to enlarge)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What if ?

What if, GOD couldn't take the time to bless us today because we couldn't take the time to thank Him yesterday?

What if, GOD decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we didn't follow Him today?

What if, we never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when GOD sent the rain?

What if, GOD didn't walk with us today because we failed to recognize it as His day?

What if, GOD took away the Bible tomorrow because we would not read it today?

What if, GOD took away His message because we failed to listen to the messenger?

What if, GOD didn't send His only begotten Son because He wanted us to be prepared to pay the price for sin?

What if, the door of the church was closed because we did not open the door of our heart?

What if, GOD stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love and care for others?

What if, GOD would not hear us today because we would not listen to Him?

What if, GOD answered our prayers the way we answer His call to service?

What if, GOD met our needs the way we give Him our lives?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saint James the apostle

Saint James, a painting by Guido Reni
James and his brother John left their boat and even their father behind, and followed Jesus. The first thing James saw after he followed Jesus was his teaching with authority in the synagogue and the cure of Simon's mother-in-law. We all know that Jesus was the focus of James' life from then on, but it is also evident that James held a special place in Jesus' life. He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the 12, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. But even among the apostles he held a special place. When Jesus raised Jairus' daughter when all thought her dead, he only allowed James, John, and Peter to come with him. Even more important when he went up to the mountain to pray, he wanted James, John, and Peter to go with him. And it was there on the mountain they were privileged to witness what no one else had seen -- Jesus transfigured in his glory, speaking to Moses and Elijah. And with Simon Peter, James and John were the only ones of the apostles that Jesus gave a special name: Sons of Thunder.
St James, by Alonso Cano
It's no wonder then that James, along with John, felt that he had the right to go to Jesus and ask him to give them whatever they asked. When their mother asked Jesus to give them preferential treatment, they didn't see the cross in his future, but an earthly throne. But despite all these misunderstandings, it was still James, Peter, and John that Jesus chose to join him in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane for his final prayer before his arrest. It must have hurt Jesus that the three of them fell asleep on this agonizing evening.
James did drink of the cup Jesus drank of, all too shortly after the Resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him. James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. St James evangelized in Spain before he died and the cult of St James in Santiago de Campostela is well known as people make a long pilgrimage to visit his Cathedral in northwest Spain.

Friday, July 24, 2015

5 recent watercolors

One of my hobbies continues in my limited free time. These are 5 watercolors I painted in June and July to add to my collection of humble watercolors - it's a simple style which I developed over the past 6 years, and am always improvising and creating new techniques. Enjoy them.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

St Bridget of Sweden

St Bridget of Sweden 1303-1373
Born on June 14, 1303 of a very devout family, Bridget’s mother died when she was only 10. She was raised with her siblings by her father and other aunts. As was customary during the Middle Ages, Birgitta was married when she was 13 years old to a young man, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of them survived infancy, and that was very rare at that time.
The King of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson married a foreigner, and asked Birgitta to come and be Lady-in Waiting and to teach his new bride and young queen the language and customs of her new country. After her years of service at Court, Birgitta and Ulf made the long pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela in Spain. On the return journey Ulf became ill but survived until early in the year 1344, when he was very ill again, and so Birgitta took him to the monks at Alvastra where he died and was buried. Birgitta remained in a little house near the abbey and she spent long hours in prayer by Ulf’s grave. She arranged her affairs among her children and various charities and prayed for guidance.

St Bridget handing the rule of her order to the Brigittines.
When she was 41 years old, in the abbey at Alvastra she felt God calling her to start a religious order, mainly for women. He said that the other orders had fallen into decay and this new order would be a vineyard whose wine would revivify the Church. She needed a monastery, chaplains and priests, besides 60 nuns to start the order. King Magnus donated a little palace and much land to the new monastery in Vadstena, but as soon she had begun altering the palace and organizing the work, Christ appeared to her and asked her to go to Rome. Birgitta left Sweden at the end of 1349 never to return, spending the Holy Year 1350 there.
Although she had longed to become a nun, she never even saw the monastery in Vadstena. It was not until 1370 that Pope Urban V confirmed the rule of her order, but meanwhile Birgitta had made herself universally beloved in Rome by her kindness and good works. Save for occasional pilgrimages, including one to Jerusalem, she remained in Rome until her death on July 23, 1373. She was originally buried at San Lorenzo in Panisperna before being moved to Sweden. She was canonized by 1391. Birgitta was the first women ever to found a religious order, known as the Brigittines.
The order spread swiftly throughout Europe with monasteries from Scandinavia throughout Europe, in particular Spain, Italy, Mexico and the USA. None of these foundations have brothers (except U.S.A. which has one male convent.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

St Mary Magdalene

Repentance of St Mary Magdalene by Pompeo Batoni
Mary Magdalene, whose liturgical feast we celebrate today, is mentioned as one of the women who ministered to Jesus. The same passage also refers briefly to an act of exorcism performed on her, on an occasion when seven demons were cast out. These women, who earlier "had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities", later accompanied Jesus on his last journey to, and were witnesses to the Crucifixion. She was also the privileged first person to see Jesus risen from the tomb, an honor that was not given to any of the 12 apostles, but only to Mary Magdalene, probably in a way of thanking her for staying with Jesus till the end at the foot of the cross. This is the last mention in the Gospels of Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem. She is probably included in the group of women who joined the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem after Jesus' Ascension and may have also been with the Blessed Mother at Pentecost.
Tradition as early as the third century identifies Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and with the woman sinner who anointed Jesus' feet, even though she remains unnamed. The identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and "the woman who was a sinner" is reflected in an influential sermon Pope Gregory I gave in 591, which said: "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary of Bethany, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark."

St Mary Magdalene on seeing the Risen Christ
Mary had been looked upon as a great sinner, but Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life. It was He who had lifted her from despair and ruin. Seven times she had heard His rebuke of the demons that controlled her heart and mind. It was Mary who sat at His feet and learned of Him. It was Mary who poured upon His head the precious anointing oil, and bathed His feet with her tears. Mary stood beside the cross, and was first at the tomb after His resurrection. It was Mary who first proclaimed a risen Savior.
According to Eastern traditions, she retired to Ephesus and there she died. Her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved.  Most importantly we honor today a woman who remained faithful to Jesus until the very end of her life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pope Francis' favorite drink

On more than one occasion Pope Francis has been seen sharing a drink offered him by a pilgrim from Argentina: it's mate, a traditional infused drink popular in his native country and its neighbors. Mate is the national infusion of Argentina, and is also associated with Our Lady of Caacupé, whose shrine Pope Francis visited in Paraguay on July 11. The highly caffeinated beverage is served hot, traditionally in a hollowed gourd with a metal straw. Dried leaves of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis), a member of the holly family, are steeped in the hot water. Yerba mate was first cultivated and used by the Guarani, an indigenous people of Paraguay and its neighbors. It was domesticated in the 17th century, and the Society of Jesus was largely responsible for the spread of its consumption, through export – so much so that it became known as “the Jesuits’ tea.” So no wonder that mate is the Pope’s favorite drink, being both a Jesuit and Argentinian.

Monday, July 20, 2015

World's population - 100 people

The world's population presently is close to 7 billion. If we could shrink the world's population to just a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:
There would be:
 57 Asians
 21 Europeans
 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
 8 Africans

 52 would be female
 48 would be male

 70 would be nonwhite
 30 would be white

 70 would be non-Christian
 30 would be Christian

 89 would be heterosexual
 11 would be homosexual

 6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.

 80 would live in substandard housing

 70 would be unable to read

 50 would suffer from malnutrition

 1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth

 1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education

 1 would own a computer

 When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for  both acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.

Click to enlarge

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A new look English

Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC, the European Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.
European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessarily difficult--for example, cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would, of course, be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.
In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using "s" instead of the soft "c." Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would reseive this news with joy. Then the hard, "c" could be replaced by "k" sinse both letters are pronounced alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerical workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.
There would be growing enthusiasm in the sekond year, it kould be announsed that the troublesome "ph" would henceforth be written "f." This would make words like "fotograf" twenty per sent shorter in print.
In the third year, publik akseptance of the new spelling kan be expekted to reash the stage where more komplikated shanges are possible. Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.
We would al agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as though no thing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptiv to steps sutsh as replasing "th" by "z."
Perhaps zen ze funktion of "u" kould be taken on by "v", vitsh is, after al, half a "w." Shortly after zis, ze unesesary "o" kuld be droped from words kontaining "ou." Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventull hav a reli sensibl riten styl, after twenti yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud fin it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of ze Guvermnt vud finali hav kum tru.

Click to enlarge

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The English Language

No wonder the English language is so very difficult to learn:
We polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
A farm can produce produce.
The dump was so full it had to refuse refuse.
The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
The present is a good time to present the present.
At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
The dove dove into the bushes.
 I did not object to the object.
The insurance for the invalid was invalid.
The bandage was wound around the wound.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number.
I shed a tear when I saw the tear in my clothes.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

Click to enlarge, and laugh.....

Friday, July 17, 2015

Prayer Nuts

The inside of the Prayer Nut depicting the Crucifixion
In addition to tiny, beautiful prayer books and rosary beads, people of the past liked to express their love of religion and beauty with objects known as prayer nuts. These artifacts were not actually carved from nuts - rather, they were carved from wood, but tiny enough to look like walnuts. Prayer nuts were mainly produced in northern Europe during the 16th century. Due to the incredible skill required to make these items, only the wealthy could afford them. In addition to being a symbol of a person's faith, they were also a status symbol.
The outsides alone were marvelously carved with intricate designs, including text. Everything was held in place with wooden hinges carved right into the piece. These prayer nuts would usually be attached to a belt or a rosary. When the nut opens, the first things you see are panels carved with various religious scenes. These vary based on the prayer nut, and might be dedicated to a certain saint, religious event, or type of prayer.

But there's more! The inside panels could also open, by way of more tiny wooden hinges, and revealed even  more miniature carvings. Because of the round shape of the prayer nuts, these scenes would be spectacularly detailed, with rows of lifelike little figures. Imagine the patience and the skill one would need to create something like this!    
The outside of the Prayer Nut
In addition, the prayer nuts were often scented with a variety of perfumes, so that the scenes would be an even greater sensory experience for their owners.  The prayer nuts you see here are all from the 1500s, with most coming from Dutch regions.  These are from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. (attributed to Adam Theodrici, c.1500 - c.1525.) Today they're prized as incredible works of art and can be found in many museums.