Thursday, 18 October 2018

Saint Luke

Known to have been a doctor and an artist, St. Luke is best known as the author of the third gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles. A Greek himself, he addressed his writings to Gentile readers. He also accompanied St. Paul on some of his journeys and shared in his sufferings. Luke wrote excellent popular prose with an artist's skill at painting picture stories. Demonstrating an unusual commitment to accuracy, he appears to have fastidiously checked his facts. In fact, archaeologists have confirmed many details that he reported in the Acts.
Some of Luke’s main themes - prayer, the Holy Spirit, and mercy - suggest that he was a compassionate, spiritual man. He aimed his books to persuade Gentiles that the Christian story was true. So he made it more accessible to them by filling his gospel with accounts of Christ’s openness and mercy. He also made a strong emphasis on the role women played in Christ’s ministry. A few stories and parables are found only in Luke, like the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Magnificat, the Presentation, Jesus lost in the Temple, the parable of the prodigal son, the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and others.
Luke’s Christian ministry can be followed in the Acts of the Apostles. Up until the 16th chapter of Acts is written in the third person, much like a historian recording facts. The voice of the narrator then changes to first person and scholars believe this is done at a time Luke first joined Paul at Troas in the year 51 AD. Later on, the book of Acts switches back to third person and scholars believe that this reflects a period in time when Luke was not present during the events that are recorded. His detailed writing can be found in a special way in chapters 26 and 27, which details the account of the shipwreck of St Paul in Malta. Many oceanographers and navigators still study this chapter to study navigation and nautical details of 2000 years ago.
Tradition says Luke lived a long life without marrying and that he died at age eighty-four. Luke is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting the image of Mary. He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice - the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world. Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons, and many hospitals are named after him.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

St Ignatius of Antioch

St Ignatius was a disciple of St John the Evangelist – he had converted to Christianity and became friends with most of the apostles. St Peter then nominated him as the third bishop of Antioch, where he served for 40 years. Very often he was asked to renounce his faith, but he remained strong.
He was tied with chains and was sent to Rome to be thrown in the amphitheater to be eaten by wild animals. Great festivities were being held when he arrived in Rome and as soon as he was thrown into the Colosseo, two lions attacked him and was killed instantly. Some pieces from his body were saved and were kept as relics, buried first in Antioch, then taken to Rome. He is now revered in St Clement’s church in Rome.
On his way to Rome, he had visited various communities and wrote 7 letters to them before he died, among them the Smyrnians, Filadelfians, Romans, Trajans and to Polycarp. He used for the first time the expression ‘Catholic’ which means universal. When Trajan ordered his martyrdom, he did not perceive that more Catholics will join the church than leave. His writings are well respected since he wrote from what he heard first-hand from the apostles, who knew Jesus up close and personal. He is one those saints who is revered by Catholics, Protestants as well as Orthodox Christians.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Honoring our murdered Journalists

Jan Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia
Viktoria Marinova and Jamal Khashoggi
Four prominent journalists have been killed over the past year, raising the serious fear that the freedom of expression has been challenged, attacked and brutally violated. A year ago today, Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered next to her home. Last February 21, young Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová were killed in Slovakia. Just two weeks ago a Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova was founded murdered. And a few days ago Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, and an author was reported missing and presumed killed. As the only United Nations agency with a mandate to promote freedom of the press, UNESCO works to ensure the protection, respect, and fulfillment of press freedom and the rights and safety of journalists. Its mission is to defend freedom of expression, one of the foundations upon which democracies are built, and an inalienable human right set down in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a fellow journalist (Leħen is-Sewwa since 1986,) I appeal for prayers that all journalists will be protected in their duties and that their freedom to express their views will be safeguarded and honored. Let us pray for all these innocent victims and their families. 

Monday, 15 October 2018

The other 5 Saints

The banners of all the 7 Saints canonized yesterday, during the canonization ceremony.
I wanted to share with you a little background about the other 5 Saints that were canonized yesterday along with Pope St Paul VI and St Oscar Romero. Here is a little bit about each of them, all of them beatified over the past 20 years by either Paul VI or John Paul II.

Francesco Spinelli (1853-1913) was born in Milan, Italy, a holy priest who started a community of young woman dedicated to the adoration of the Eucharist. He then started a congregation called Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament.

Vincenzo Romano (1751-1831) was a priest from Naples, whose ministry was characterized by his special attention to those most in need, and his commitment to educating children and young people. When in 1794, the town of Torre del Greco was almost completely destroyed by a violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Vincenzo Romano spearheaded both the material and spiritual rebirth of the community.

Maria Catherine Kasper (1820-1898) was born in Germany and spent her adolescence working in the fields and even breaking stones for the construction of roads. In this context, she chose to found an Institute of Sisters at the service of the humblest social classes. In 1848 she opened the House of the "Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ", where the poor of the country were welcomed. The Congregation spread rapidly, even outside Germany and Europe, reaching the Americas and, later, India.

Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus (1889-1943) was born in Madrid, Spain and her family moved to Mexico where she met the Sisters of the Abandoned Elders and entered the Institute in 1908. After making her first vows in 1911, she was sent to Bolivia. As she became aware of the increasingly problematic social situation there, Nazaria founded the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church to serve the poor and assist women. Her life was in grave danger both in Bolivia and in Spain during the civil war from 1936 to 1939.

Nuncio Sulprizio (1817-1836) was born in Pescara, Italy. Orphaned of both parents at the age of six, he was cared for by his maternal grandmother, who taught him to seek Jesus present in the Eucharist and to invoke the Blessed Virgin. When his grandmother died Nuncio was entrusted to an uncle, with whom he worked as a blacksmith. Hard work and ill-treatment caused him to contract bone tuberculosis. He moved to Naples and was admitted to the Hospital for Incurable Diseases. He died there aged only 19. Pope Leo XIII declared him a model of young people.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Two new Saints meet

Pope Paul VI meeting Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1979
This is a historic photo of Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero meeting in the Vatican towards the end of the 1970s. Today they are both being canonized in the same ceremony at the Vatican by Pope Francis. Pope St Paul VI followed Pope St John XXIII to finish the Vatican Council II, and will always be remembered as the Peace Pope, going as far as introducing the World Day of Peace in 1968, which is still being celebrated every January 1st. He spent most of his young life as a Bishop and Cardinal in diplomacy, being secretary to Pope Pius XII and helping him during the Second World War by saving thousands of lives hiding them in Rome and Castelgandolfo. He will be the 4th Pope of the 20th century to be canonized. 
The two banners displayed today at the Vatican, honoring 2 news Saints
St Oscar Romero, after serving as a humble parish priest in various parishes, was made a bishop in 1977, and he himself defended his people in El Salvador against the military terrorizing his country, and he was murdered while saying Mass on March 24, 1980. May they both look over us as we pray through their intercession for peace in Central America and all around the world, and harmony and transparency in the Catholic church.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Photo with a saint

I go back today to 1966 when in July, August, and September I spent two months serving as an altar boy at the Vatican with 20 other altar boys from all around Malta. We stayed in the Pre-Seminary dedicated to Pope St Pius X, just above the sacristy of the Vatican, and served Mass every morning in the various side altars spread all around the basilica, sometimes as many as 5 Masses, helping priests from around the world. In the afternoon, we were usually taken on various excursions and outings, or walks around Rome. Then in mid-August, we had an audience with Pope Paul VI in Castelgandolfo, and after a group photo, we were each asked to kiss his ring, and the photographer took a few photos of altar-boys. And lo and behold I was lucky enough to have a memorable photo with the future saint. I treasured this photo all my life, and tomorrow, October 14, it will have an even more special meaning to me as he is being canonized by Pope Francis. Along with him, the murdered Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero will also be canonized. More on them tomorrow. In the photo, you can also see the then-Archbishop of Malta, Michael Gonzi, and our director Canon Joseph Delia, besides the Pope's body-guard.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Prickly Pears

One of Malta’s most loved and ubiquitous of fruits is in abundant supply and yet severely underutilized: the prickly pear – remains untapped as a commercial resource by farmers while foreign entrepreneurs have already realized its potential. Granted that thorns are a major deterrent, and so, prickly pears here in Malta are relegated to being used as windbreakers for fields and borderlines between main roads and farmland
Despite growing on the Maltese islands for 368 years, the miracle aspect is yet to be exploited. We know that the prickly pear has come all the way from Mesoamerica. That’s why Mexico has a prickly pear on its flag. The Knights brought it all the way from the Caribbean in 1650 but the first written reference to the plant in Malta is in Francesco Agius de Soldanis’s historical reports sometime around 1750.
The prickly pear grew so fiercely and abundantly in Malta since that time that for a while it featured on Malta’s coat of arms as well. Prickly pears are everywhere you look in Malta. Entrepreneurs have not yet invested in the plant and do not yet know how to market the fruit. And yet the Sicilians on the other hand, are using Malta’s very own prickly pear strains to make jams, syrups, drinks, even cosmetics, and they are making a great deal of money. A recent study led by the University of Malta even discovered that chemicals extracted from the fruit could help delay the two major diseases of aging: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. No wonder it is dubbed “miracle crop” in dry regions.
In Malta, farmers are not yet ready to invest in the prickly pear so they just plant it in dry land and not as a major crop. Abroad, there are farmlands completely committed to the plant, planted in very fertile land and irrigated regularly to bear the healthiest fruit. Malta is lucky to have nothing less than 15 varieties of prickly pear. Sicily has just five, three of which are Maltese. 
A large prickly-pear tree next to a wayside chapel
This colorful fruit grows abundantly in the dry countryside, and it has been used to produce a liqueur, which is quite popular in Malta. But there is so much more we can do with its potential. Personally, I wait every August for some friends and parishioners who bring me a bunch of them, as they do faithfully with local oranges in December, loquat in June, grapes in September and pomegranate in October.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Pope St John XXIII

Pope St John XXIII visiting a children's hospital.
Although few people had as great an impact on the 20th century as Pope St. John XXIII, he avoided the limelight as much as possible. The firstborn son of a farming family in Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo in northern Italy, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was always proud of his down‑to‑earth roots. After his ordination in 1904, Angelo returned to Rome for canon law studies. He soon worked as his bishop’s secretary, Church history teacher in the seminary, and as publisher of the diocesan paper.
His service as a stretcher‑bearer for the Italian army during World War I gave him a firsthand knowledge of war. In 1921 he was made the national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He also found time to teach patristics at a seminary in the Eternal City.
In 1925 he became a papal diplomat, serving first in Bulgaria, then in Turkey, and finally in France (1944‑53). During World War II, with the help of Germany’s ambassador to Turkey, Archbishop Roncalli helped save an estimated 24,000 Jewish people.
Named a cardinal and appointed patriarch of Venice in 1953, he was finally a residential bishop. A month short of entering his 78th year, he was elected pope, taking the name John after his father and the two patrons of Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran. His wit soon became proverbial, and he began meeting with political and religious leaders from around the world. In 1962 he was deeply involved in efforts to resolve the Cuban missile crisis.
His most famous encyclicals were Mother and Teacher (Mater et Magistra 1961) and Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris 1963). Pope John XXIII enlarged the membership in the College of Cardinals and made it more international. In 1962 he convened the Second Vatican Council where all the bishops gathered in Rome to discuss many issues facing the church, and this led to great reform, especially in the way we celebrate the liturgy. "Good Pope John" died on June 3, 1963. St. John Paul II beatified him in 2000, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

School excuses – from parents

Norman Rockwell - At the Principal's office.
The following is a collection of "actual excuse notes from parents (including spelling) " from the Office of Educational Assessment at the University of Washington. You have to use your imagination when reading and trying to understand some of them, but I hope that for a little change of rhythm, this post brings a smile to your face.
My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.
Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.
Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31,32, and also 33.
Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.
Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.

Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
Chris will not be in school because he has an acre in his side.
Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea and his boots leak.
Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father's fault.
Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.

Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.
Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.
Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a hangover.
Please excuse Steffi, she has been sick and under the doctor.

Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache, and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, with fever and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Precious gifts

I opened two gifts this morning when I woke up – 
they were my eyes.

These are some other precious gifts we can give to each other:
Listening to others without interrupting.
Letting a friend open his or her heart, being attentive to what they are saying and not thinking of how you are going to respond.
Passing a sincere compliment like ‘great job today,’ or ‘nice meal today,’ ‘you look great in that color.’ Comments like these can easily change someone’s mood.
Helping others with a smile.
Giving a little space to others, especially siblings living in the same house.
Offering to say ‘I’ll pray for you today.’
Sending an e-mail for no particular reason, just to say ‘Hello – I’m thinking of you today!’

Monday, 8 October 2018

Cathedral Dedication and Consecration

The Mdina St Paul's Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul, commonly known as St. Paul's Cathedral is the Cathedral dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle. The Cathedral was founded in the 12th century, and according to tradition it stands on the site of where Roman governor Publius met St. Paul following his shipwreck on Malta. Today is the anniversary of its dedication and consecration. Since the 19th century, liturgical functions have been shared between this Cathedral and St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. The first Cathedral which stood on the site is said to have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it fell into disrepair during the Arab period (the churches in Malta were looted after the Aghlabid invasion in 870).
The Old Cathedral destroyed by the Sicilian earthquake of 1693
Following the Norman invasion in 1091, Christianity was re-established as the dominant religion in the Maltese Islands. A Cathedral dedicated to St. Paul was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Cathedral was built in the Gothic and Romanesque, and it was enlarged and modified a number of times. It was severely damaged in the 1693 Sicily earthquake, and although parts of the building were undamaged, on 11 April 1693 the decision was taken to dismantle the old Cathedral and rebuild it in the Baroque style to a design of Lorenzo Gafà. The choir and sacristy, which had survived the earthquake, were incorporated into the new cathedral. Works began in 1696, and the building was almost complete by 1702. It was consecrated by Bishop Davide Cocco Palmieri on 8 October 1702. The Cathedral was fully completed on 24 October 1705, when work on the dome was finished. It is considered as Lorenzo Gafa’s masterpiece.
In the late 1720s, some medieval houses to the south of the cathedral were demolished in order to make way for a square, the Bishop's Palace and the Seminary (now the Cathedral Museum). The square in front of the Cathedral was enlarged in the early 19th century following the demolition of some medieval buildings. The Cathedral was damaged in another earthquake in 1856, when the 18th-century frescoes on the dome were destroyed. Many of the paintings around the Cathedral were done by famous artists like Mattia Preti, Giuseppe Cali, and the three Sicilian brothers Vincenzo, Antonio and Francesco Manno. The dome was damaged a few times and the present work belongs to Mario Caffaro Rore. Many artifacts from the pre-1693 Cathedral survived the earthquake and were reused to decorate the new cathedral. These include a late Gothic–early Renaissance baptismal font dating back to 1495.
Inside the Mdina Cathedral
Most importantly, let us remember that this feast is a great reminder that WE ARE THE CHURCH, the Mystical Body of Christ, and in spite of the beautiful churches we have, where we gather as parishioners to pray, we the humans and the Christians form the church, because as Jesus said once 'where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.'

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Diocesan Rosary

On this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which the church celebrates on October 7th each year, I like to share with you the method of saying the Diocesan Rosary, an idea which I devised and which I shared with the Malta Bishops, one of whom suggested it to his priests. Before each Hail Mary, I mention the name of one or usually two parishes in Malta and Gozo. A few of the Hail Maries are dedicated to various Diocesan organizations, like the Chancery, Cathedral, Seminaries, Hospitals, Nursing homes, Sisters, University, other religious organizations, etc. All 50 Hail Maries have a special dedication, and this connects the people gathered with a previous town or village they lived in. I am trying to promote this Diocesan Rosary as much as possible, especially since it takes just 2 to 3 extra minutes to recite, but it brings together the entire Diocese and all the parishes become closely connected. I use it on the First Friday of each month at my Hilltop Gardens chapel, and since I have also recorded it on my IPad, I use it often on my own. It can certainly be adopted for each Diocese in the world, or local communities, changing the names of parishes to other special groups they like to include. It can also be adapted to include family members, each Hail Mary dedicated to siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, and aunts, up to 50. I am also planning to do a Rosary dedicated to all the residents and members who attend my chapel, a Hail Mary for those who are present for the Rosary and Mass. Or even dedicated to their deceased loved ones. They will sign in their names, 50 in all, a day or two earlier. Pray the Rosary!

Saturday, 6 October 2018

‘Here I am !’

The very devout Rogers family from Texas were always united and exemplified Christianity at its very best. The parents Christopher and Judith always encouraged their children to build an intimate relationship with Jesus. They frequently asked the children on spiritual themes to see if they are really preparing themselves appropriately for a solid youth and adulthood. One day they asked the younger child Jimmy to express himself about what heaven means to him. And Jimmy answered in this way: ‘Heaven is a special place, and when we get there an angel comes over and opens a big book, and starts calling names. And when he comes to our family, the angel says ‘Daddy Rogers!’ and dad responds ‘Here I am!’ Then the angel calls ‘Mommy Rogers!’ and mom responds ‘Here I am!’ Then he calls ‘Susie and Morris Rogers!’ and they respond ‘Here we are!’ and because I am the youngest, I have to stand on a box so that he can be sure I am there as I respond ‘Here I am!’'
It was the middle of May 2016 when the Rogers family was hit by a terrible tragedy. Little Jimmy was hit by a car when waiting for his school bus. He was in critical condition and surrounded by his family praying, he lost his life a few days later. But just before he died, Jimmy moved a little bit in his bed and tried to move his lips. Then, to the surprise of everyone, he uttered the words, very clearly heard by everyone ‘Here I am!’ By those three words, he was able to relieve some of his family’s anguish and remorse. With those 3 words, both his father and mother felt a sense of peace, and both knew exactly where little Jimmy was.

Friday, 5 October 2018

St Faustina Kowalska

St Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938)
Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in a small village west of Lodz, Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third of ten children. When she was almost twenty, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members devote themselves to the care and education of troubled young women. The following year she received her religious habit and was given the name Sister Maria Faustina, to which she added, "of the Most Blessed Sacrament", as was permitted by her congregation's custom. In the 1930's, Sister Faustina received from the Lord a message of mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world.
Her entire life, in imitation of Christ's, was to be a sacrifice - a life lived for others. At the Divine Lord's request, she willingly offered her personal sufferings in union with Him to atone for the sins of others; in her daily life she was to become a doer of mercy, bringing joy and peace to others, and by writing about God's mercy, she was to encourage others to trust in Him and thus prepare the world for His coming again.
She wrote and suffered in secret, with only her spiritual director and some of her superiors aware that anything special was taking place in her life. After her death from tuberculosis in 1938, even her closest associates were amazed as they began to discover what great sufferings and deep mystical experiences had been given to this Sister of theirs, who had always been so cheerful and humble. The church had condemned her revelations until Pope St John Paul II was elected Pope and confirmed that her story was true. She was eventually canonized in April 2000, the same month that Pope John Paul introduced Divine Mercy Sunday on the Sunday after Easter. The message of mercy that Sister Faustina received is now being spread throughout the world; her diary, Divine Mercy in my Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to the Divine Mercy.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Prayer to St Francis of Assisi

Dear St Francis, we thank you for the immense good that was accomplished by many of your Franciscan fathers, brothers, and sisters over the past 800 years. Your love towards nature, ecology, and animals inspires us to be more appreciative towards everything that we are surrounded with, especially the beauty of nature and everything God gave us to admire, cherish and treasure. Teach us to show respect towards the environment, by keeping our air clean, avoiding littering and showing negligence towards the little countryside we have left in our small island. Let us keep our seas clean, our streets without junk, dirt and clutter, and our air without any unnecessary fumes which cause health problems and do no good to anybody.

And we know how much the Maltese people love their pets and animals, and so we pray today for our four-legged friends and more, including centipedes. From dogs to cats, from birds to fish, from cows to horses, from chicken to rabbits, from ducks to baby chicks, as well as the many exotic animals that are being brought into Malta, we pray that everyone cares for them and takes care of them. And even though we do not fancy some other animals, like mosquitoes, snakes, and rats, we hope they don’t cause any damage to us and to other animals as well as the environment.  As we say in the famous prayer you taught us, make us all instruments of your peace, and remind us to sow seeds of love while eradicating hatred, and above all spread a message of friendship towards everyone, respect towards nature, towards each other and every gift we are surrounded with. We pray also for our present Pope Francis, who took your name, and like you, have a special love for the poor, and showed a spirit of poverty in his life and in his messages. We pray all this through your intercession, dear St Francis of Assisi, patron of nature and animals. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A Reason, a Season or a Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON... it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. Sometimes they die. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. Your need has been answered, and now it is time to move on.
When people come into your life for a SEASON it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Our Guardian Angels

Today’s feast of the Guardian Angels reminds us of the protection we always received from our Angels, who were assigned to us when we were born. I’ve always been aware of the presence of my Guardian Angel, whom I named Stephen, and on many occasions, I knew he was with me, no doubt about it. A sweet painting of the Angel watching over a few children crossing a bridge, or near a precipice comes to mind whenever we think of this feast. A 1962 Apostolic Exhortation by Blessed Pope John XXIII says that Guardian Angels can help us at a physical level, lifting us up, keeping at bay some dangerous animal or thing, drawing our attention to danger by means of a noise. Similarly, they can intervene on a psychic level too. George Huber wrote a book entitled “My Angel will go before you,” and in it he recalls two stories of Popes who depended on their Guardian Angels. Pope Pius XI denounced Stalin, confronted Hitler and resisted Mussolini, but he said he always relied on his Guardian Angel right through the entire day. He even told one of his apostolic delegates, Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII that whenever they have to be persuasive in their arguments against someone who appears adamant, we let our Guardian Angels take it up with their own Angels, and once they establish an understanding, the Pope’s conversation becomes much easier.  Pope St. John XXIII, in a private conversation with a Canadian Bishop, attributed the idea of calling an ecumenical council to his Guardian Angel - it was through his Angel that God gave him the inspiration to convoke Vatican Council II, almost 60 years ago.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Quotes from St Therese

St Therese of Lisieux 1873-1897
Today being the feast of St Therese of Lisieux, I offer you a few quotes from this beloved saint:
“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors' defects ‑ not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”
“God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.” 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

A Poem for Computer users over 50

A computer was something on TV
From a science fiction show of note
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of a goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment
A program was a TV show
A cursor used profanity
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age
A CD was a bank account
And if you had a 3‑in. floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to the garbage
Not something you did to a file
And if you unzipped anything in public
You'd be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire
Hard drive was a long trip on the road
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived
And a backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife
Paste you did with glue
A web was a spider's home
And a virus was the flu.

I guess I'll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head
I hear nobody's been killed in a computer crash
But when it happens they wish they were dead!

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Prayer for police officers and firemen

On this feast of the Archangels, today I want to share a prayer I wrote, offered for police officers and firefighters, whose patron saint is St. Michael. The other two Archangels are the Angel Gabriel and St Raphael.
Heavenly Father, on this feast of Saint Michael, we pray for the protection of all police officers who risk their lives to defend our safety and livelihood. May they serve us faithfully and dutifully as they try to keep order in our towns and villages. May St Michael intercede for them in tough times and in stressful situations. As they drive around and patrol neighborhoods, we pray for caution as they intervene in critical domestic situations. May we always thank them for their selfless love and dedication they have for their vocation. We pray also for all fire-fighters whose job is also always critical and dangerous. As their duty is to save people from fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other calamities, may they find the support, encouragement, and motivation not to give up in their challenging duties.  We are grateful for the sacrifices they go through in keeping everyone safe and sound. Let us remember also those 300+ police officers and fire-fighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, as we pray for their families and promise support and our heartfelt thoughts.

Friday, 28 September 2018

The moon and the planes

The moon serves as a sail to a yacht 
I share with you two photos of the moon at an unusual angle and planes in photos taken at the right time. 
The moon floats on a Dubai building
A plane rises up to meet the Divine Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
A seagull competing with the Red Arrows

Thursday, 27 September 2018

St Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent was born of poor parents in the village of Pouy in Gascony, France, in 1581. He attended school under the Franciscan Fathers and he impressed so many people that a gentleman chose him as guardian to his children, and he was thus able to continue his studies without being a burden to his parents. In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for theological studies, and there he was ordained priest in 1600.
In 1605, on a voyage by sea from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell into the hands of African pirates and was carried as a slave to Tunis. His captivity lasted about two years until Divine Providence enabled him to escape. After a brief visit to Rome, he returned to France, where he became chaplain to the family of Emmanuel de Gondy, a Count and General of the galleys of France. It was the Countess de Gondy who persuaded her husband to support a group of able and zealous missionaries under the leadership of St Vincent, who would work among poor tenant farmers.
In 1617, De Paul founded the "Ladies of Charity” from a group of women within his parish. He organized these wealthy women of Paris to collect funds for missionary projects, found hospitals, and gather relief funds for the victims of war. In this, he had the help of St. Louise De Marillac, and they eventually became known as the Daughters of Charity. After working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley-slaves, St Vincent returned to be the leader of what is now known as the Vincentians. These priests, with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability, were to devote themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages. At the same time, he began to preach missions.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the works of St Vincent, but charity was his predominant virtue. It extended to all classes of persons, from forsaken childhood to old age. In the midst of the most distracting occupations, his soul was always intimately united with God. Though honored by the great ones of the world, he remained deeply rooted in humility. The Apostle of Charity, the immortal Vincent de Paul, died at Paris, September 27, 1660, at the age of eighty. He was canonized in 1737 and he is the patron of charitable societies.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul, a charitable organization dedicated to the service of the poor, was established by French university students in 1833, led by the Blessed Fredric Ozanam. The Society is today present in 132 countries. De Paul University in Chicago takes its name from Vincent de Paul and St. John's University in Queens, New York was founded in 1870 by the Vincentians, as was Niagara University in 1856.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Blessed Pope Paul VI

Giovanni Battista Montini is the 4th Pope to be canonized from the 20th century and will be elevated to sainthood on Sunday, October 14, along with Archbishop Oscar Romero. I treasure a photo I have with him kissing his ring as an altar-boy at the Vatican in 1966. His liturgical feast will be celebrated on this day, the day he was born.
Born in Concesio, near Brescia on September 26, 1897, from a well-respected family, his father was in the Italian parliament and two other brothers were a doctor and a lawyer. He studied at the Brescia Seminary and was ordained on May 29, 1920. Montini started working at the Vatican Secretary of State office and has never worked in a parish atmosphere. He was very much admired by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII,) and was his secretary for many years.
He used to take care of much of the correspondence of the office and helped many refugees of the war by finding a place for them. Around 15,000 of them were given shelter in Castelgandolfo, besides many others that were hidden at the Vatican and around Rome. This led Mussolini to criticize Pius XII as well as Montini saying that he pokes his nose where he shouldn’t.
In 1954 Montini was made Archbishop of Milan with 1000 parishes and 2,500 priests and 3 and a half million Catholics, possibly the largest Archdiocese in the world. He was very beloved and probably would have been elected Pope in 1958, but was not made a Cardinal yet. But Pope John XXIII elevated him to a Cardinal right away after his election and was close to him when St John XXIII started the Vatican Council in 1962. When he died, Montini was elected Pope with the name of Paul VI, and one of his main duties was to finish the work of Vatican Council II. He also did many other reforms at the Roman Curia, like eliminating many Vatican soldiers and keeping only the Swiss Guards. He traveled outside Rome and was very influential in many ecumenical projects. Among the most famous encyclicals were Populorum Progressio, Mysterium Fidei, and Humanae Vitae on birth control and procreation. Paul VI died of a heart attack on August 6, 1978. The process of canonization was started in 1993, and he was beatified in 2014.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Bus seat

Last Sunday I had to use a bus, and as soon as I got in a very crowded one, I was ready to spend at least 30 minutes standing crushed with other passengers as is usually the case with many of the buses in Malta. However, a young lady, maybe 20 to 25 years old, probably a tourist, as soon as she saw me, gave up her seat for me to sit. At first, I politely refused, but she insisted, and I sat down. My first thought, of course, was 'do I look like an elderly person?' We were always taught to give up our seat for an elderly person, nuns, priests and pregnant women. And many times I did that gesture which was always appreciated. But I never thought the time will come that younger people would offer me their seat. However, I instantly made a resolution that if an elderly person comes on the bus, I will give up my seat, and sure enough, two stages later, an elderly lady comes on and I gave her my seat. So here I was standing again crushed, this time close to the young girl who had originally given me her seat. I wanted to thank her, but she was so absorbed listening to her iPod with ear-phones, that she must have realized that the elderly lady deserved the seat more than I did. Yes, there are good samaritans still in this world, and as they say, a kind gesture deserves another one. A good deed by an unknown tourist ended up in one of my blog posts and surely will end up in one of my homilies, sooner or later.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Malta Military Tattoo

All the participants together, with the people showing appreciation by lighting their cell-phones.
I attended yesterday to a spectacular Military Tattoo held in the capital city of Valletta. Among the participants were the Malta Police Force Band and the Armed Forces of Malta Band, as well as their precision Drill Teams, a group of bagpipers from around various Maltese Boys Scouts groups, Irish step-dancers, a US New Orleans type jazz group, and the Italian Bersaglieri. The Tattoo was held three times, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and everyone enjoyed the displays and the sound of marching bands.
The Irish step-dancers were quite a hit.
The Armed Forces of Malta marching band

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

St Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968)
Today we commemorate two anniversaries relating to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. It was exactly 100 years ago on September 20, 1918 that he received the stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ on his hands and feet and side. And it was 50 years ago today, September 23, 1968, that he died, at which time the stigmata disappeared from his body. He was beatified in 1999 and canonized in 2002 both celebrations led by Pope St John Paul II. St Pio was born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy and was ordained a Capuchin priest in 1910. His popularity brought many people to confession and was instrumental in having a large hospital built in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he lived most of his life. The hospital is called Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (The House for the relief of suffering.) Padre Pio suffered a lot during his life, not just because of his stigmata. He was stopped for a while from saying Mass in public and from hearing confessions. But he was re-instated and the crowds at San Giovanni Rotondo increased. He once heard young Karol Wojtyla's confession and predicted that one day he would become a Pope - he became Pope St John Paul II.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

6 best doctors

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) founder of Apple died at the age of 56, a billionaire, and beloved by everyone who owns an iPod, Ipad, and iPhone. This is what he wrote when he was nearing the end of his life: “I reached the peak of my success in the business world,,,,but other than my work, I have little happiness. After all, all the wealth that I have is something I am now used to. At this stage of my life, as I rest on my bed looking back on my life, I realize that all the wealth I was so proud of, does not make any sense to me. You can employ someone to drive you around in your car or find someone to generate more money for you, but you can never find anyone to take away your sickness. You can always find things that you have lost or misplaced, but there is one thing that, when you lose it, you cannot find it again – your life! Whichever stage of life you are in right now, you will someday have to come face to face with death. So, treasure the love for your family, love your wife, love your friends. Take care of yourself and others too.
We think that the older we get, we also become wiser. We start to discover that a watch that costs $300 shows the exact time as a watch that’s worth $30. We start to understand that inner joy does not come from the material things we own. When traveling on a plane, whether you fly first-class or economy, if the plane crashes, you will probably die either way. So please understand that true joy is found in having good friends, siblings with whom you can talk to, laugh and share jokes. Do not educate your children to be rich – rather educate them to be happy. To such an extent that when they grow up, they will appreciate not the price of things, but their true value. Eat your food as if it was your medicine. You were loved when you were born. You will be likewise loved when you die. There is a big difference between being a man and being human. The best 6 doctors in the world are: the light of the sun, rest, exercise, diet, trust in yourself and your friends.”

Friday, 21 September 2018

Malta’s Independence Day

Prime Minister George Borg Olivier on September 21, 1964
Malta was ruled over the past 2 millennia by the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spanish, the Knights of St John, the French and the British. Following a Maltese constitutional referendum in 1964, approved by 54.5% of voters, on September 21st 1964, Malta became an independent state as a Constitutional Monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State.  So September 21st every year is celebrated as Independence Day or Jum l-Indipendenza in Maltese, this year being the 54th anniversary. One can say that both Labor Leader Dom Mintoff, as well as Nationalist Leader and Prime Minister George Borg Olivier contributed towards the attainment of Independence. On December 1st 1964, Malta was admitted to the United Nations. In 1965 Malta joined the Council of Europe, and in 1970, Malta signed an Association Treaty with the European Community. Malta was declared a republic on December 13th, 1974 and in 2004, Malta finally became the 25th nation to join the European Union. 
The plaque that celebrates this historic date is placed in the capital city Valletta, and says: 'Il-poplu Malti jifraħ bir-rebħa ta' l-Indipendenza ta' dawn il-gzejjer il-lum 21 ta' Settembru 1964' (The Maltese people rejoices with the victory of the Independence of these islands, today September 21st, 1964) 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Korean Martyrs

With North Korea and South Korea talking to each other and hinting at peace in the war-stricken peninsula, it is appropriate that the church honors today the Korean martyrs, men, and women who were slain because they refused to deny Christ in the nation of Korea. The faith was brought to Korea in a unique fashion. The intellectuals of that land, eager to learn about the world, discovered some Christian books procured through Korea’s embassy to the Chinese capital. One Korean, Ni-seung-houn, went to Beijing in 1784 to study Catholicism and was baptized Peter Ri. Returning to Korea, he converted many others. In 1791, when these Christians were suddenly viewed as foreign traitors, two of Peter Ri’s converts, named Paul and Jacques, were martyred.
The faith endured, however, and when Father James Tsiou, a Chinese, entered Korea three years later, he was greeted by four thousand Catholics. Father Tsiou worked in Korea until 1801 when he was slain by authorities. Three decades later the Prefecture Apostolic of Korea was established by Pope Leo XII, after he received a letter smuggled out of Korea by faithful Catholics. In 1836, Monsignor Lawrence Imbert managed to enter Korea. Others arrived, and they worked until 1839, when a full persecution started, bringing about the martyrdom of the European priests. Young Korean seminarians were sent to Macau for ordination.
The first native priest, Andrew Kim Taegon, returned to Korea in 1845 and was martyred the following year. Severe persecution followed, and Catholics fled to the mountains, still spreading the faith. In 1864, a new persecution claimed the lives of two bishops, six French missionaries, another Korean priest, and eight thousand Korean Catholics. The Korean martyrs of 1839, 1846, and 1867 were canonized in Korea in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. During that ceremony, the Pope said: “The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by lay people. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today's splendid flowering of the Church in Korea.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

St Januarius

St. Januarius (San Gennaro) is a patron saint of and former bishop of Naples in the 4th century. Januarius and his friends were initially sentenced to be eaten by the lions, tigers, and bears at the Naples amphitheater. Although the beasts had been starved for several days before the day of the planned transformation of the Christians into animal crackers, the beasts refused to attack Januarius and his colleagues. The spectators at the amphitheater were frightened by the indifference of the starving animals to the Christians and rumors began to circulate that the Christians had magical powers and were possibly protected by their god. The governor of Campania ordered their immediate beheading and Januarius' body was later returned to the Cathedral in Naples.
Over a century later, it was purported that a vial of St. Januarius' blood surfaced and was preserved and permanently fixed in the metal reliquary in the Cathedral of Naples. Thousands of people assembled to witness this event in the Cathedral, three times a year: on September 19 (Saint Januarius day, to commemorate his martyrdom), on December 16 (to celebrate his patronage of both Naples and of the archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (to commemorate the reunification of his relics). 
The Cardinal of Naples shows the liquified vial of San Gennaro's blood.
Sometimes the "blood" liquefies immediately, other times it takes hours. When the Cardinal brings the vial to the altar that holds the saint's blood, the people, who gather by the thousands, pray that the blood becomes liquid once again. If the miracle takes place, the officiant proclaims, "Il miracolo é fatto!" and waves a white handkerchief. Then a Te Deum is sung and the reliquary is taken to the altar rail so the faithful can kiss the vial. The priest conducting the service chants "The miracle has happened." The choir and the congregation respond with a Te Deum, and prayers are offered to St. Januarius. There have been a few instances when the substance in the vial had not liquefied and the faithful believes that it is a sign of impending peril. Five times when liquefaction has failed there have been major disasters, the latest being an earthquake in southern Italy that killed 3,000 people in 1980.