Monday, August 31, 2015

Late summer nature photos

As the weather starts to change between August and September, many nature surprises appear when you least expect them. The fires raging in Central Oregon right now gives the sun a red/orange complexion, and wildlife animals are on the move, preparing for winter. Unusual flowers appear all over the neighborhood. So enjoy these photos I took over the past few days.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Feast of Saint Julian

Statue of Saint Julian (1893)
Today my hometown celebrates the feast of Saint Julian, culminating with a festive procession with the statue of the saint, crafted out of paper-mache by Carlo Darmanin in 1893. The present church was built between 1961 and 1969, and opened officially in 1969, replacing the older, smaller church which was shown in yesterday's post. The present church is semi-circular in form, and with a modern architectural style, as you can see from the photos I took in 2006. 
The new church dedicated to Saint Julian, opened in 1969.
The celebration of the feast includes marching bands, fireworks, but mostly Masses held over a whole week for various parish groups, like children, the youth, members of religious organizations, young couples, etc, besides  a solemn Mass with choir and orchestra held in the morning of the feast day.
The procession with the statue of St Julian

The church packed with people welcoming the statue after the procession

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My childhood church

The main altar of the old St Julian's church
This weekend, my hometown of St. Julian's celebrates the feast of its patron saint with lots of celebrations, culminating with a procession with the statue of Saint Julian tomorrow evening. My hometown church, 200 years old  is seen decorated with its finest outfit. This is the church where my parents were married, where all of us children were baptized, where I served hundreds of Masses as an altar-boy, and celebrated hundreds more as a priest. Tomorrow I will share photos of the new church and the statue of Saint Julian.
One of the 4 side altars in the same church

Friday, August 28, 2015

St Augustine and St Monica

The feast of St Augustine is placed just one day after that of his mother St Monica. Spending her entire life praying for his conversion, she certainly deserved to become a Saint herself. Augustine was born in the city of Tagaste, Algeria, in 354 AD to a Christian mother. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and became a Manichean. Later he converted to Christianity, being baptized by St Ambrose, and became a bishop of Hippo, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church, and is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Some of his writings are strictly autobiographical, even though very theological in thought. The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography are still read around the world.
As a young man before his conversion, he taught in North Africa, Carthage and Rome. It was only when he arrived in Milan that his life started to change. In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy. Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan telling him in a sing-song voice to tolle lege ("take up and read"). He grabbed the nearest text to him, which was Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened it at random to 13:13-14, which read: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa.
In 391 he was ordained a priest and became a famous preacher, while 5 years later he was made bishop of Hippo. Augustine died on August 28, 430. Among his famous quotes are these:   

“You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.” 
“To sing once is to pray twice.”
“Love, and do what you will.”
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The candles heavier than the cake

I thank God today for letting me reach the age of 30, after 33 years of experience and hard work. God has blessed me with a loving family and many extended families in Malta, New York and here in Oregon. As busy as I always am, I ask that God will give me many more years to be able to work in his vineyard. These grainy photos taken throughout the years from 1952 until now show mainly the change in hairstyle, otherwise thank God everything seems to be going well. 
The recent photos show me with two of our children at the Vacation Bible School, Madeline Lorenz dressed as Mother Teresa, also born on August 27, 1910, and Sophia Denning. The other one shows one of the over 30 couples I married over the past 12 months, Kate and Nate Blamey.
At  St Francis new church, Bend, Oregon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Going to church

One day the local pastor was making his parish rounds and visited with an elderly man who was not a good churchgoer. He used the old excuse that he said his prayers at home and did not need a congregation around him. As they sat around an open fire and talked about many things, the pastor took one of the brightly burning twigs out of the fire and set it aside on the edge of the fireplace. Gradually as they talked, the fire on the twig kept getting lower and lower until it eventually went out. At that point the pastor looked the parishioner in the eye and put the ember back into the fire where it came aglow immediately. The old parishioner got the message. He learned how important it is to be a part of a Church community.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Red Marbles

A touching story that shows that it’s what we do in our lives that counts the most. . . . .
During the waning years of the depression in a small southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller's roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used extensively. One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas.
I paid for my potatoes but I was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.
"Hello Barry, how are you today?"
"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. Sure look good."
"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"
"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."
"Good. Anything I can help you with?"
"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."
"Would you like to take some home?"
"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."
"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"
"All I got's my prize marble here."
"Is that right? Let me see it."
"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."
"I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"
"Not exactly .....but, almost."
"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."
"Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller."
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile, she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps." I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later, I moved to Utah but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering.

Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go I agreed to accompany them. Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men.  One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts, very professional looking.
They approached Mrs. Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes. Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. "Those three young men, that just left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size they came to pay their debt.
"We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but, right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."
With loving gentleness, she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles. Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds. Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Saint Bartholomew

St Bartholomew statue at St John's Lateran, Rome
All that is known of St Bartholomew with certainty is that he is mentioned in the Gospels and Acts as one of the twelve apostles. His name means "son of Tolomai" (or Ptolemy) and scholars believe he is the same as Nathanael mentioned in John’s Gospel, who says he is from Cana and that Jesus called him an "Israelite...incapable of deceit, a person in whom there is no guile." He was a close friend of St Philip, because they are always mentioned together.
After the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India. Other traditions record him as serving in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. Along with St Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the st century. Thus both saints are considered the patron saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church. However, it is in Greater Armenia that Bartholomew saw his end where he was flayed or skinned and beheaded by King Astyages. The famous Last Judgment painting by Michelangelo shows St Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The face of the skin is recognizable as Michelangelo's, as if the artist wanted to show how much he suffered under Pope Julius, who wanted the Last Judgment finished sooner.

Michelangelo's Last Judgment - St Bartholomew
Of the many miracles performed by St. Bartholomew before and after his death, two very popular ones are known by the townsfolk of the small island of Lipari, off the coast of Italy. When St. Bartholomew's body was found off the shore, the Bishop ordered many men to take the body to the Cathedral. When this failed due to its extreme weight, the Bishop then sent out the children. The children easily brought the body ashore.
The people of the island of Lipari celebrate his feast day annually. The tradition of the people was to take the solid silver and gold statue from inside the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew and carry it through the town. On one occasion, when taking the statue down the hill towards the town during a procession, it suddenly got very heavy and had to be set down. They managed to lift it but had to put it down a few more times. Within seconds, walls further downhill collapsed. If the statue had been able to be lifted, all of the townspeople would have been killed.
During World War II, the Italian Fascist regime looked for ways to finance their activities. The order was given to take the silver statue of the Saint and melt it down. The statue was weighed, and it was found to be only several ounces. It was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. In reality, the statue is made from many pounds of silver and it is considered a miracle that it was not melted down.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prayers appreciated

Plumes of fire from the Canyon City fire.
With the vast number of fires ranging on the west coast of the United States, I ask for prayers for the people in the path of the fires, these who lost property, and for the firefighters who are risking their lives fighting uncontrollable fires. One of the biggest fires is in Canyon City, just 2 miles south of John Day which was my first parish here in Oregon. I know some of my former parishioners who lost their homes. At least 30 homes were destroyed. 
The burnt area in Grant County, marked in red. (click to enlarge)
Another fire is south of Baker City, my former parish, and another one is in Madras, 40 miles north of Bend. The smoke is all over the place, and visibility is very hazy and thick smell of smoke is just about everywhere. Let us pray for those who lost lives, homes, property, those displaced form their homes, and the brave fire-fighters who are doing the best they can to contain these wild fires. 

Fires raging on Route 395, heading south on Starr Ridge mountain pass.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Queenship of Mary

Stained-glass window from Baker City Cathedral from 1958
Mary the Queen of Heaven or the Queenship of Mary, is a Catholic feast day, created by Pope Pius XII on October 11, 1954, The feast was celebrated on May 31, the last day of the Marian month but Pope Paul VI moved the feast day to August 22, one week after the feast of the Assumption. Assumed into heaven, Mary is with Jesus Christ, her divine son. Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood of Jesus Christ, her only son, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation.
In a way we can say that many feasts of Mary parallel those of Jesus. We have His Ascension and her Assumption, we have his suffering on Good Friday, and her feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. We have his birthday on Christmas and her birthday on September 8. We have his conception in Mary's womb on March 25, and her conception in St Anne’s womb on December 8.
Most of the images and paintings of Mary portray her with the child Jesus and others with St Joseph. Yet there is quite a portfolio of paintings that has Mary being crowned. Accentuating the positive, it is better to see Mary being crowned with angels around her, instead of seeing her suffer under the cross of Jesus, and yet both are important to emphasize, because one would not have been possible without the other.

The prayer mostly associated with her role as Queen is:
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
It is said that when St Bernard heard these words being sung in a church, he uttered the words: O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! And his words were then added to this prayer.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pope Saint Pius X

Pope St Pius X (1835-1914)
Saint Pius X was born on June 2, 1835, his name being Giuseppe Sarto, He was the first Pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. He was one of 11 children, and though poor, his parents valued education, and Giuseppe walked 3 miles to school each day. Pius X was a fervent reformer of Church practices and regulations such as the Canon Law, his most important reform, which for the first time codified Church law in a central fashion. He was a pastoral pope, encouraging personal piety and a life-style reflecting Christian values.
Pope Pius X was a Marian Pope, because for him there is no safer or more direct road than Mary. She is uniting all mankind in Christ. He was the only Pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience at the Parish level and pastoral concerns permeated his papacy. The Catechism of Pope Pius X is short and direct. His teachings were considered equally down to earth and practical. He favored the use of modern language in Catechesis. Frequent communion was a lasting innovation of Pius X, because before his time, people could only receive communion once a month and, on special occasions, on Sunday. He was also instrumental in introducing the custom of First Holy Communion for young children.
Like his predecessor, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) Pius opposed modernism, a school of thought, which claimed that Catholic dogma itself should be modernized and blended with 19th Century philosophies. 

Personally Pius combined within himself a strong sense of compassion, benevolence, poverty, but also stubbornness, and a certain stiffness. He wanted to be pastor and was the only Pope in the 20th century who gave Sunday sermons every week.
His charity was extraordinary, filling the Vatican with refugees from the 1908 Messina quake, long before the Italian government began to act on its own. He rejected any kind of favors for his family, his brother remained a postal clerk, his favorite nephew stayed on as village priest, and his three sisters lived together close to poverty in Rome.  He often referred to his own humble origins, taking up the causes of poor people. AI was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor." Considered a holy person by many, public veneration of Pope Pius X began soon after his death. He died August 20, 1914 and was canonized in 1954, after his body was exhumed and displayed under a side-altar where priests can celebrate Mass, many of which I was lucky to serve as an altar boy in 1966.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Born in 1090, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian monastic order. After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. The little community of reformed Benedictines at Cîteaux, which would have so profound an influence on Western monasticism grew rapidly. Three years later, in 1115, Bernard was sent with a band of 12 monks to found a new house at Clairvaux, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux would soon become inseparable. Bernard became a popular preacher, promoting the devotion to the Virgin Mary. In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which Bernard traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar who soon became the ideal of Christian nobility.
On the death of Pope Honorius II, a schism broke out in the Church. King Louis VI convened a national council of the French bishops, and Bernard was chosen to judge between the rival popes. Bernard devoted himself with renewed vigor to the composition of the works which would win for him the title of "Doctor of the Church". In 1139, Bernard assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran. Having previously helped end the schism within the Church, Bernard was now called upon to combat heresy.

Following the Christian defeat at the Siege of Edessa, the Pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard's life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at age 63 on August 20, 1153, after 40 years spent in the cloister.
He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints and was canonized by Pope Alexander III 18 January 1174, only 21 years after his death, a pretty fast canonization in those days. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church. He became remembered as the Mellifluous Doctor, the Honey-Sweet Doctor, for his eloquence. The Cistercians honor him as only the founders of orders are honored, because of the widespread activity which he gave to the order.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wedding Anniversary prayer

This is a prayer which can be said by parents, especially on their wedding anniversary, to be read preferably by the parents together:
Dear Lord, we stand before you today as we celebrate another Anniversary of our Marriage.
We thank You for standing by us through good times and bad, in sickness and in health.
And after all these years full of life and love, successes and failures, joys and disappointments, bumps and bruises, tears and smiles, hugs and kisses, we look forward for more happiness and contentment with our children, family and friends.

We look back and reminisce the work we accomplished throughout these years.......
25,347 diapers changed, 23,589 bottles filled, 9,651 baths given, 14,432 meals prepared,
421 trips to the Doctor’s Office, 475 Baseball and Basketball Games, Practices and Scrimmages, 679 homeworks and school projects done at 10 p.m., 27 spankings, 38 teachers’ Conferences, 5,642 texts, 527 Religion classes, 728 trips to Sunday Mass, 100s of “I Love You”, “Sorry” and “Thank You”.......and we can honestly say that they were all worthed ! Continue to bless our Marriage, Lord with the respect, commitment and love we show towards each other. And may we always remember that the biggest gift we can give to our children is the Love and Faith we share together.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Happy Ending

My Honda CR-V stuck in snow
(Continued from yesterday).........
And so I started walking forward, sloshing through mud and more snow which was getting more frequent as I walked on. This made me realize that if I ever had made it through that first patch of deep snow/ice mixture, I would certainly not have made it any further. The snow was deep and the gravel was very muddy, but at least I created enough traction to walk on, occasionally falling into the foot-deep snow covered with ice which appeared strong enough to hold my weight, but at some areas was not as strong. The snow kept falling intermittently, and at one moment it was coming so hard that I had to seek shelter under a pine tree, of which there were millions. But I stayed on the main road not knowing what kind of wildlife was in the area. Luckily there was hardly any movement all along the 10 miles remaining. By 12 noon I had covered 3 miles and I was wondering what Teresa and her mother Anna Mae were thinking, as we had agreed to meet at her house for lunch. At this time I had lost all interest in photography and I carried my camera just because I had taken hundreds of pictures so far on my trip and did not want to leave it behind in my car. Besides it was light and kept it occasionally around my neck and at times in my plastic back, so that I can put my hands in my pocket to kept them warm By 12:30 PM I had finally reached the Cottonwood campgrounds, but to my disappointment everything was closed and locked up, and worse yet, the sign said :”Open June to September.” There was absolutely no sign of life, no cars and undoubtedly no one ever came close to the entrance in months, as the snow was in the middle of the road and no tire marks were anywhere to be seen.

But at least I was now walking on black-top, besides the occasional stretch of snow, especially in the areas where the sun does not hit or where the pine trees do not let the sun to shine anytime during the day. Since snow was abundant everywhere, I came to the conclusion that this campsite is located in the high mountains, probably around 6500 feet above sea level. Other than an occasional chipmunk and some birds, mostly crows, there was no sign of life. But there were a few creeks or small rivers that gurgled down water or melted snow. One sign of hope was the signpost that read Mile 6 on the side of the road. These are mileposts that usually go down towards the main road. So as I continued to walk and hope that the next milepost will be 5, I thought to myself “6 miles ain’t that bad, and besides I walked 3 NYC marathons in 1985, 1986 and 1987, and with the 4 miles I had already walked, 10 miles should not be an impossible task, as long as there are not many hills.” And to my advantage, the rest of the way was completely downhill, a non-stop twisting and turning road that must be pretty busy in the summer months, but completely desolate today and throughout the winter months.
I started timing myself between each mile, which I covered in an average of 18 minutes. Snow and sun intermingled their participation in this ordeal, but my constant moving kept me warm and focused on my goal to get out of this alive. Three rosaries and three Novenas of Divine Mercy filled my time between each mile, and to my great relief Mile 5 led to Mile 4 and then Mile 3 and Mile 2 as I kept my eyes for the last sign that said Mile 1, finally ending my descent as the time now was 2:30 PM, hoping to hear some traffic in the distance and eventually the sight of cars whizzing by Route 140. Cows in a nearby fields and an adjacent ranch gave me the first sign of human and animal life, other than the chipmunks and crows. The long road that leads to the main road finally appeared and even though I could not see any cars go by for a full two minutes, thinking that this was simply a start of another abandoned side street, a truck finally went by and then another car, knowing that I was finally safe. As I reached the intersection of the end of Cottonwood Drive, I stood by the side of the main road, Route 140, hoping that the first car will stop and pick me up. But that was not the case. An Idaho license-plated car whizzed by and ignored me, a Penske truck and another car went by and thereupon I realized that this part of the ordeal is going to be the most heart-breaking. If these drivers knew what I have been through, and that my car was stuck in the snow on top of the mountain, they would have treated me better, but all they saw was what appeared to them as a homeless man with a plastic bag and a Yankees baseball cap, flagging them down. After three more cars went by with the same result, I thought of plan B, and half a mile down the road was a ranch with plenty of cows pasturing. That’s where I headed hoping to at least make a phone-call to the Albertson’s. My cell-phone all along showed the same message “No service,” and this is as helpless as seeing that annoying clock showing 12:00 flashing in your face after a power failure.
Reaching the ranch, I met two men working and after explaining to them what had happened to me, I asked if I could use their phone and called Anna Mae, since I knew Teresa would be there, hanging out after lunch and waiting to pick up the children from school, as it was now 3:25 PM. The two guys at the Drews Valley ranch were very nice to me, and one of them told me that two weeks he got stuck in the snow on a 4-wheeler up on Cottonwood mountain. I don’t think he went as far as I was stranded at, but he understood my predicament, and after thanking them, I waited for one of the Albertson boys to pick me up.
Sure enough, Mark and his father Leo arrived within half an hour, and mercifully picked me and listened patiently to my story. Since Mark apparently has a dog, I noticed afterwards that my black jacket was completely covered with dog hair, which was quite an ordeal in itself to pick out one by one. Drews Valley ranch was 23 miles from Lakeview and the Cottonwood drive was 7 miles from town. I told Mark and Leo that there was no way they could reach my car from the black-topped road from where they had picked me up, since there was a large amount of snow on this side of my stranded Honda, and assured them that the only way in was from the other entrance, from where I actually had started. So off we went, and both Mark and Leo calmed me down and convinced me that they will pull out my car without any problem. I explained to them the fact that it wasn’t buried deep in snow, but was precipitously close to an embankment, and I was afraid it might fall or tumble down, hurting me and damaging the car beyond repair. So up the hill we went, twisting and turning as I had done 8 hours earlier. I had no doubt that my car was still where I left it, as I was sure that not one single car went up there after me. Even Mark found it hard to maneuver some of the turns as his truck is bigger than my car. He even put on his 4-wheel drive contraption as he started going over the snow. The sight of my car was a sign of relief for all of us and after turning his truck around, they both hitched my Honda from the back and pulled me out in 3 seconds. After getting two big hugs and plenty of smiles from me, we turned around and headed home, with both Leo and Mark making sure I was right there behind them, at least for the first 4 miles down the muddy and snowy hill. From then on I stopped to take a few more photos but did not prolong my return home, after a long and scary day, a day to remember …..and a memory to forget.
So many thoughts crossed my mind through all this. What if I persisted in trying to get my car out by myself and fell down the embankment, hurting myself? What if I fractured a bone, what if I bled to death? What if I froze to death, since the temperatures were way below freezing overnight. How could I have walked the remaining 10 miles if I got hurt? Would they have got the Search and Rescue team to look out for me? Would I have stayed up there all night long and waited for someone to rescue me? I had enough gas for maybe 100 miles or so. Therefore starting it every hour to warm myself during the night would probably have done the trick. But maybe after all, I did make the best decision - to walk on, even though I was between Cougar Peak and Grizzly Peak. But thank God I only found that out after my ordeal. If I discovered that before, I would have certainly stayed up there in my car, waiting for help. But my courage and my determination won the biggest victory for me that day. It was a traumatic experience that I will never forget as long as I live. And even after driving 1158 miles and taking 1084 photos, the one thing that will stick to my mind during this week is the possibility of having lost my life up on a mountain surrounded by cougars and bears. It surely was....a day to remember …..and a memory to forget.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A day to remember....a memory to forget

This is a true story that happened to me back in May 2007.....I wrote in a journal I kept and since it is long, I divide it in two read the happy ending tomorrow.....

Thursday May 3, 2007
A day to remember….a memory to forget
It was a day to remember and a memory to forget for me. It started like every day this past week as I woke up at the Molthans and ready to hit the road for more pictures to add to my already growing collection of wild life photography. After the usual ritual of having breakfast with the Theall girls, I made plans for the day and Theresa suggested that I should try driving through the Cottonwood forest. She said that it should take no longer than two hours, this way I can be in time for lunch at her mother’s today.
The drive through Cottonwood was supposed to start on the main road, head towards the mountains, reach a campsite which is used during the summer months, and continue down the mountain and exiting at another part of the main road.  The map showed it as a simple 26 mile trip which should have been a piece of cake for me. I started with a good gravel road, and since there are some new houses in the area, the road will probably soon be black-topped, but the gravel access so far is very good. Since I arrived at Oregon 4 years ago I was never a fan of gravel roads but these past three days I have somehow changed my mind, especially after the 25 miles I drove on it yesterday around Goose Lake, mostly muddy gravel which turned the color of my car from dark green to light brown because of the mud that splattered on my Honda yesterday during my muddy trek. But yesterday’s was a joy ride compared to what was ahead of me today. 

After stopping for some scenic pictures around lower Cottonwood Lake, I meandered through a thick forest that became more wild and savage as I went along. Since there is a campground on top of the mountain, I was told that many campers use this road between June and September, but apparently it’s pretty desolate between September and the end of May, when the prep work starts to welcome the campers and summer visitors.
The gravel turned to an inferior quality as I was 10 to 12 miles into my drive, and I also noticed some snow on the side. At 16 miles I found some of the snow on the road, but it was not thick, at least not yet, and moreover I noticed absolutely no tire marks anywhere, which made me conclude that I was pretty alone up there. 

According to the detailed Oregon map, the gravel was supposed to turn into black-top or asphalt 20 miles into the trip, but I still had 4 miles to go, as more snow appeared on the road, while the gravel was getting muddier and muddier as some of the snow continues to melt. But not much was melting today as the temperature was around 40 degrees, and besides, as soon as the clouds roll in, the temperature dropped to around freezing point, which was obvious from the intermittent snow and hail that fell as I continued my climb. As I was to find out later, I was climbing between Cougar Peak (at 7919 feet) and Grizzly Peak (at 7768 feet) and along Cottonwood Creek. As I continued in my dirty Honda CRV, twisting and turning my never-ending ascent, the patches of snow was getting more frequent, and one section was too much for my car to handle. I got stuck in 6 inches of snow! The first reaction is to put your car on reverse and try to get out slowly. But my tires spinned and spinned and my car did not budge. I got out of the car and looked around my four tires which were all deep in snow. The snow had actually turned to ice, and without any loss of time, I started digging some of the ice and snow from around my tires. But all I had to work with was the snow brush drivers keep in their cars which they use to brush off the snow from their windshield. It wasn’t the best tool for this Herculean task, but that’s all I had to work with. 
As the sun peaked periodically from behind the clouds I took my jacket off as I was sweating and battling with the ice in a relentless way. Every few minutes, I would start the car again and try to move backwards, but not much progress was being made. Besides, I was about three feet from an embankment and was afraid that the car may get close to the edge. The front was actually moving towards this dangerous precipice but I continued to chop off more ice and clear off more of the snow under my tires. Skinning my knuckles and praying for inspiration of what is the rational thing to do, I kept digging more and more, clearing the space behind the wheels, ready for another attempt to start my car and try as I might to get out of this dilemma. With sleet and hail falling while the sun making a sporadic appearance to give me hope that not all is that bad, my attempts to reverse the Honda proved fruitless. The  slight movement it made, it moved a few inches back but it also turned a few inches towards the right, moving ever more dangerously towards the drop or embankment, which was not very deep, but enough to see the car roll over, if it ever went down. After an hour and 15 minutes digging and digging without much discernable progress, I realized I had a major decision to make. Since I saw no car tire marks on the patches of snow, I concluded that no one ever comes up there in the winter, and I was sure that no one will come to help me out. Worse yet, if I persisted in trying to reverse my car, I was going to jeopardize my life if I fall in the embankment, not to mention damaging my car, probably beyond repair. 
An important sign that I ignored
At that point I had driven 16 miles, and according to the map I had another 10 miles to get to the main road at the other end. I also noticed that I had 4 more miles of gravel road and the remaining 6 miles on black-top. If I decided to go back  to my starting entrance, that’s 16 miles of gravel road in total wilderness. So I made up my mind to start walking, and of course 10 miles are better than 16, even though I had no idea how hilly or dangerous the 10 miles down to the main road will. Moreover, I was not familiar with the terrain, and my fear of cougars and bears was constantly on my mind since I was walking between Cougar Peak and Grizzly Peak. The weather was cold but not unbearable, and at least I had a light jacket and was wearing sneakers. My other thought in the back of my mind was that since 4 miles further down there is a campsite and the black-top starts, I figured there should be some cars going by to the campsite. Well, these were only presuppositions and wishful thinking on my part as I was soon to find out.

Putting a note on the dashboard of my car reading “Fr Julian Cassar – 947-0972 – staying with the Molthans/ Leo and Anna Mae Albertson – got stuck in the snow!” I packed some items in a plastic bag like a bottle of water, some fruit and nut bars, my wallet, car keys, my camera and my cell phone (which was useless as every time I looked at it, it read “No Service.”) Thereupon I bid goodbye to my Honda, not knowing if I’ll ever see it again, but hopeful that I can be rescued and that someone will return with me to help me pull it out later on or tomorrow.
And so I started walking forward, sloshing through mud and more snow which was getting more frequent as I walked on. . . . . . .(read the end of this story tomorrow)

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Life isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about how many friends you have. Or how accepted you are. It’s not about if you have plans this weekend or if you’re alone. It isn’t about who you’re dating, who you used to date, or how many people you’ve dated, or if you haven’t been with anyone at all. It isn’t about whom you’ve kissed. It isn’t about sex. It isn’t about who your family is or how much money they have. Or what kind of car you drive. Or which school or College you attended. Life isn’t about how beautiful or ugly you are. Or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on, or what kind of music you listen to. It’s not about if your hair is blonde, red, black or brunette. Or if your skin is too light or too brown. It’s not about what grades you get, how smart you are, or even how smart everybody thinks you are, or how smart standardized test say you are. It’s not about what clubs you’re in, or how good you are at “your” sport.

But, Life is about who you love and who you hurt. It’s about who you make happy or unhappy purposefully. It’s about keeping or betraying trust. It’s about friendship, used as a sanctity or as a weapon. It’s about what you say and mean, maybe hurtful, maybe heartening. It’s about starting rumors and contributing to petty gossip. It’s about what judgments you pass and why. It’s about whom you have ignored with full control and intention. It’s about jealousy, fear, ignorance and revenge. It’s about carrying inner hate and love, letting it grow, and spreading it. But most of all, it’s about using your life to touch or poison other people’s hearts in such a way that could have never occurred alone. Only you choose the way those hearts are affected, and those choices are what life’s all about.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Prayer to the Blessed Mother by Saint Bernard

A statue of Mary in one of the Maltese parishes, Ghaxaq
As we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, I share with you one of my favorite prayers dedicated to the Blessed Mother, written by Saint Bernard, who wrote many other prayers to Mary, including the Memorare:
O you, whoever you are, who feel in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land, if you do not want to fall apart in the tempest, do not avert your eyes from the brightness of the star, Mary, Your Mother. When the wind of temptation blows up withing you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at the Star, call out to Mary, Your Mother.

When you are being tossed about by the waves of pride, or ambition, slander or jealousy, gaze up at the Star, Mary, Your Mother. When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering against the protective shield of your soul, gaze up at Mary, Your Mother. When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by your heavy conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgement appals you, and you begin to lose heart in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary, Your Mother.

Keep her name on your lips, Keep her in your heart. Follow the example of her life and you will obtain the favor of her prayer. Following in her footsteps, you will not go astray. Asking for help, you will not fall into despair: thinking of her you will not err. While she keeps hold of your hand, you will not fall or stumble. With her protecting you, you will not be afraid. With her leading you, you will not tire. Enjoying her protection, you will reach the goal. Her kindness will see you through the end.  There are so many things I take for granted. May I not ignore them today.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

St Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Maximilian was born in January 1894 in Poland and was one of 5 sons to his devout parents. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. In 1907 Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome and was inspired to organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional leaflets, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata" and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.
Maximilian went to Japan where he built a monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time. He provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalan├│w. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports.

On February 17, 1941 he was arrested again by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place. The guards accepted this move, and Franciszek was spared and eventually lived until the late 1990s. During the time in the cell St Maximilian led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid. 
Franciszek Gajowniczek with St John Paul II during canonization
Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek, who was still alive, and his entire family. Franciszek died on March 13, 1995, aged93.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sand Sculptures

A few photos today of some amazing sculptures made from sand on an unknown China beach. This is an annual event that is held in various places in China. (Click on each photo to enlarge.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Santa Marija feast

The Cathedral church with the statue of the Assumption
In anticipation of the feast of the Assumption this coming Saturday, I want to go back 9 years and share 3 photos of the festivities held at the Cathedral parish in Victoria, Gozo, one of the Maltese Islands. Week-long festivities are held with marching bands, special Masses, fireworks and the big procession on the evening of August 15. 
The beginning of the Assumption procession
These photos I took in 2006 show the beloved statue of Mary being taken out in procession, and just before it enters the church late in the evening. Beautiful decorations are hung along the streets, with festive lights as dark descends. This celebration will repeat itself over the next few days. Moreover, 9 other parish churches in Malta celebrate the feast of the Assumption with similar processions and decorations.
Brightly lit banners hung along the streets of Victoira, Gozo, Malta