Friday, 20 October 2017

Praying for Malta

I pray today for my home country of Malta. With its natural beauty, its historic buildings, its magnificent churches and the friendly people, the image that is being portrayed right now, even in the international media, is very negative after a heinous murder of a local well-known journalist this past Monday. 53 year-old investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car explosion, leaving a husband and three sons devastated, and a whole country in shock. 
I pray today that peace and harmony will reign again in Malta, that freedom of expression can be respected, and that the authorities will collaborate to find the criminals and whoever is behind this crime. I pray today that people will learn to respect each other prudently and gently, by what is said and what is written. Give strength and courage to all journalists and bloggers so that they will never feel inhibited by what they investigate and write about. May the love and friendship that is so evident in many Maltese families continue to be enhanced and admired, even in the midst of tragedy. May common sense prevail, so that we can continue to reap the fruits of our identity, the basis of which comes from our faith. May God give eternal rest to Daphne, and the courage, perseverance and fortitude to her family and friends. 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The North American Martyrs

The eight North American martyrs, also known as the Canadian Martyrs, the Jesuit Martyrs of North America or the Martyrs of France, included six priests and two lay brothers. They were heroic members of the Society of Jesus who were martyred in North America in order to bring the Faith that is necessary for salvation to the Huron, the Iroquois and the Mohawk Indians. Five of the eight North American martyrs were put to death in what is now Canada, and three of them in New York State. There is a shrine to the United States' martyrs at Auriesville in New York, and there is a shrine to the Canadian martyrs at Fort Saint Mary near Midland, Ontario. The names of the eight North American martyrs are: Saint Rene Goupil, a lay brother martyred in 1642 in New York State, Saint Isaac Jogues, a priest, Saint John de Lalande, a lay brother, martyred in 1646 in New York State, Saint Anthony Daniel, a priest, martyred in Canada in 1648, Saint John de Brebeuf, Saint Charles Garnier, Saint Noel Chabanel and Saint Gabriel Lalemant, all priests, and all martyred in Canada in 1649.  
Saint Isaac Jogues, after thirteen months' imprisonment by the Mohawks, had several fingers cut off of his hand. He went back to Europe, but returned again to North America and was killed by tomahawk blows at Ossernenon, now called Auriesville, in New York State. Saint John de Brebeuf declared before he died, "I have a strong desire to suffer for Jesus Christ." He was tortured terribly, and a burning torch was put into his mouth, which strangled him.  Saint Rene Goupil, thirty-five, was the youngest of the martyrs, and cried "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" as he died. Saint Noel Chabanel was thirty-six, and Saint Isaac Jogues and Saint Gabriel Lalemant were thirty-nine. The oldest of the eight North American martyrs, Saint John de Brebeuf, was fifty-six when the Indians killed him. They were canonized June 29 of 1930 by Pope Pius XI. Their memorial is October 19, and September 26 in Canada.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

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 chapter 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.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Prayer

The prayer is attributed to Mary Stuart:
Keep us o God, from all pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding, and leave off all self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense, and meet each other face to face without self pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.
Let us take time for all things, and make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straight forward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize that it is the little things of life that really create differences; that in the big things in life, we are as one.
And let us not forget to be kind, Lord.

Monday, 16 October 2017

St Margaret Mary Alacoque

St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690)
The Saint who started and spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Margaret Mary Alacoque was born on July 22, 1647 at L'Hautecour, Burgundy, France. She was sent to the Poor Clares school at Charolles on the death of her father, a notary, when she was eight years old. She was bedridden for five years with rheumatic fever until she was fifteen and very early developed a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She refused marriage, and in 1671 she entered the Visitation convent at Paray‑le‑Monial and was professed the next year. From the time she was twenty, she experienced visions of Christ, and on December 27, 1673, she began a series of revelations that were to continue over the next year and a half. In them Christ informed her that she was His chosen instrument to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart, and instructed her in a devotion that was to become known as the Nine Fridays and the Holy Hour, and asked that the feast of the Sacred Heart be established. Rebuffed by her superior, Mother de Saumaise, in her efforts to follow the instruction she had received in the visions, Margaret Mary eventually won her over but was unable to convince a group of theologians of the validity of her apparitions, nor was she any more successful with many of the members of her community.
She received the support of Blessed Claude La Colombiere, the community's confessor for a time, who declared that the visions were genuine. In 1683, opposition in the community ended when Mother Melin was elected Superior and named Margaret Mary her assistant. She later became Novice Mistress, and saw the convent observe the feast of the Sacred Heart privately beginning in 1686, and two years later, a chapel was built at the Paray‑le‑Monial to honor the Sacred Heart. Soon observation of the feast of the Sacred Heart spread to other Visitation convents. Margaret Mary died at the Paray‑le‑Monial on October 17, 1690 and was canonized in 1920. She, St. John Eudes, and Blessed Claude La Colombiere are called the "Saints of the Sacred Heart"; the devotion was officially recognized and approved by Pope Clement XIII in 1765, seventy‑five years after her death, and the feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated every year on the Friday following Corpus Christi. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

A Beautiful Death

It was the most beautiful death I ever experienced, and I wish everybody could leave this earth the way Margaret did. Since she could not receive Communion as she was so weak, with her eyes wide open, I had just blessed her with the Blessed Sacrament and traced the cross with the Sacred Host from her forehead to her lips, and from ear to ear, said a prayer and gave Communion to her daughter Jane sitting next to her. Then she took a deep breath, and ever so peacefully slipped into eternal life. Of course I had visited her every day to pray with her, and even though she could not receive Communion over the last few weeks, she always insisted on a similar blessing with the Sacred Host. A few days earlier, when she was very weak, and we thought it was the end, after my prayer she opened her eyes, and smiled and said ‘I’m still here – Father Julian, I’m not leaving so quickly, you know.’ I believe I witnessed a miracle on that Monday evening, as the last thing Margaret saw on this earth was Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and then a few seconds later, the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes in heaven, was Jesus in person.
Margaret has been a blessing to so many people during her last year and a half at Hilltop Gardens, our Retirement Home in Naxxar. Ever since I arrived here and started the English Mass, she will be here punctually to distribute the English leaflets. She was a major catalyst in bringing in more people to attend the Mass, and now we have a packed church every weekend. Let us remember her children, in-laws, relatives and friends. They’ve covered thousands of miles over the last few months, to Australia and back, and with the frequent flier mileage they accumulated, they should have a free trip to the moon and back. Lord, grant Margaret eternal rest.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Miracle of the Sun

The people who braved the terrible rainstorm which struck Fatima on October 13, 1917 had gone there because of the promise of a miracle - they knew that something exceptional was going to happen. The previous July, Our Lady had told the three Fatima children that she would perform a miracle in October.
At noon, Our Lady appeared to the children, and after repeating her requests for the daily rosary, and promising that World War I would soon end, she said to them plaintively and sadly: “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because He is already so much offended.” Then, while the three seers saw visions of the Holy Family, the crowd of at least 70,000 people were mesmerized as the Miracle of the Sun unfolded. What happened was so incredible that even non-believers couldn’t deny it, as this report, which appeared in the secular Lisbon paper O Dia, indicates: “The silver sun … was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. A cry went up from every mouth and the people fell on their knees on the muddy ground. … The light turned a beautiful blue as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands. The blue faded slowly and then the light seemed to pass through yellow glass. … People wept and prayed with uncovered heads in the presence of the miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.”
José Almeida Garrett, a young lawyer, reported that “The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl. Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight.”
Eyewitnesses to the miracle said that the sun danced in the sky, the color of the whole landscape changed successively, and the sun seemed to come down towards them, so that many of the crowd thought it was the end of the world. Something else that suggests that the miracle was genuine is that the people at the Cova felt the heat of the sun as it approached them. Their clothes and the ground – which had been soaked by the torrential rain – were dry at the end of the miracle.
Fatima, and the Miracle of the Sun in particular, are great “signs of the times” that have been given to the Church and the world by God through the Blessed Virgin. Within the Church, especially in this centenary year, we really ought to be taking both the great miracle and message of Fatima much more seriously.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Fatima Centennial

Along with Lourdes and Guadalupe, Fatima is the most visited country as far as religious pilgrimages are concerned. And as if to further accentuate its importance in history, May 13, 1917 was replicated in 1981 for a moment of importance, although in a negative way. On that day Pope John Paul II was shot inside the Vatican Square and almost died. But he recovered enough to make a pilgrimage a year later on May 13, 1982, to thank the Blessed Mother for her intervention in saving his life.
But very much like Lourdes and Guadalupe, the quietness of these small little villages was turned upside down when the Blessed Mother appeared to 3 young children, Francisco and his sister Jacinta Marto, and Lucia dos Santos. Nobody would believe them at first, and they were almost imprisoned for fabricating lies. But eventually, religious leaders, priests and bishops in Fatima, Portugal investigated the whole story and found it to be true, with the Vatican officially proclaiming that the apparitions were believable. Francisco and Jacinta died shortly afterwards, but Lucia became a nun and lived into the third millennium in a monastery in Portugal, being visited by 2 Popes. 
Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.
A huge basilica was built on the spot where the Blessed Mother appeared to the children, encouraging them to pray the Rosary, and pray for the conversion of souls. She even gave the children some well-kept secrets, which were only shown to the reigning Popes, but we know now that they spoke about the conversion of Russia and other tragic events that took place over the years, and other historic events which were predicted, like the end of World War I.
Thousands of pilgrims visit Fatima every year, and the devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary spread far and wide. And today being the 100th anniversary of the last apparition, I am sure thousands of people are visiting Fatima as they re-live the miracle of the dancing sun, which took place exactly 100 years ago today, in the presence of thousands of Portuguese folks, as well as the three children. Jacinta and Francisco were beatified and may soon be canonized. Lucia may be beatified eventually, but since she lived a long life, much more investigating has to be done by the Vatican, especially reviewing her letters and other writings.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

USA out of the World Cup

Ever since 1986, the USA soccer/football team has always been represented in the World Cup Finals. But not next year, when the World Cup finals will be held in Russia between June and July. The USA team was eliminated yesterday after a surprising loss to Trinidad and Tobago, a country with a population of 1,353,895. The teams that have so far qualified for the finals are: Russia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, England, Spain, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Poland, Egypt, Iceland, Serbia, Portugal, France, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, Columbia. The final will host 32 teams, so there is room for 9 more teams, most of them from Europe and Africa.
The fact that the USA did not qualify this year is even more stunning when you think that soccer/football has shown a tremendous resurgence of interest in the USA, including a professional Major League Soccer league, as they have for American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey. But the biggest surprise is the fact the small country of Iceland has qualified for the finals for first time ever. In case you were wondering, the population of Iceland is 332,529, even smaller than Malta, which is 445,426. And the population of the USA is 323,127,513. Yes, that means that a country with three hundred thousand people made it to the finals, while a country with three hundred million people didn’t!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Pope St John XXIII

Pope St John XXIII (1881-1963)
Some call him a revolutionary Pope. Others see him as having destroyed the traditional church. Yet others love him for the innovation and aggiornamento he brought to the Catholic Church. When the Cardinals elected him in 1958, after 20 years of Pope Pius XII, they thought they will have a brief papacy and then move on from there. But how mistaken were they.
Born in 1881 in Sotto il Monte, Bergamo, Italy, he was one of 13 children, although many of his siblings died at a young age, but three of them lived to see him elected Pope. He was ordained a priest in 1904, and was soon chosen to be secretary to the Bergamo Cardinal. He had to serve in the armed forces during World War I, both as a chaplain and as a stretcher-bearer. Then he became spiritual director in the Seminary, and Director of the Missionary Office. By 1925 he was already a bishop as a delegate to Bulgaria, and later on as Nuncio to France during World War II, when he helped many avoid the concentration camps. In 1953 he was elevated to Cardinal and made Patriarch of Venice. When Pope Pius XII died he went to the conclave with a return ticket to Venice.
Vatican Council II in session.
But the other cardinals surprisingly elected him and he chose the name John XXIII. Quickly he set his sights on renovating the church, and called the Second Vatican Council, which meant a lot of work and coordination to bring to Rome all the bishops of the world. Many people said he was opening a window for some fresh air to the church, but it ended up to be more like a hurricane, with all the changes that resulted from the promulgation of the decrees of Vatican II. He died on June 3, 1963 and Pope Blessed Paul VI was elected to continue the work of Vatican II. John XXIII was canonized along with Pope St John Paul II on April 27, 2014. He kept many diaries in his youth and during retreats, all of which were published in the classic ‘Journal of a Soul.’ He was a very much beloved Pope and joked frequently, even about his size. When he was asked how many people work in the Vatican, he answered “About half!” On another occasion, he said that Italians usually ruin themselves in three ways, women, gambling and farming. Then he said “and my family chose the most boring way.” We thank him for the changes he brought to the Catholic church, especially that we can celebrate Mass in our own language, and have lay people actively involved in our liturgies and pastoral work. His feast day is not the date of his death, but the day that Vatican Council II started on October 11, 1962.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Simple Prayers - part 2

Father, help me not to put too much importance in possessions. Let me never forget that possessions are meant to enhance life, not to be the focal part of living. Amen.

Heavenly Father, stay close to those who are grieving and release them from their sorrows. Heartache is draining and makes life lonelier. I pray You will help them. Amen.

Loving Father, do not forsake me as I start my day with overwhelming problems. Guide me with Your loving hands and protect me from harm. Amen.

Dear Lord, there are times when I hunger for faith, feel lost and lonely with doubt. Guide me though this darkness. Amen.

Father, I pray that my words and actions will not hurt anyone today. If I cannot speak and act kindly, let me be silent. Amen.

O Father, I am a link in a chain that connects all of your children. Lead me on the path to strengthen that connection. Amen.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Simple Prayers - part 1

Lord, when my hopes have been dashed to pieces and my dreams shattered, keep me close to You, and let me feel the flow of your strength into my heart. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I want to be your follower. Take my hand and tune me into the needs of the suffering and hungry. When I serve them, I serve you also. Amen.

Our Father, I need to feel the joy of Your presence – Your gentle voice of assurance and the comfort of Your arms enfolding me. Be with me today and always. Amen.

Father, some friends are deeply troubled and although I’ve listened to their problems many times, soften my heart and grant me patience to listen again if they need me. Amen.

Deliver me from gossiping, Lord, and give me the moral strength to defend the person being gossiped about. Amen.

Dear Lord, help me to remember to be more understanding of my loved ones’ limitations. Keep me from asking more of them than they are equipped to give. Amen.

Father, when I have been unjustly accused or scolded, I feel so humiliated and unworthy. Help me to restore my self-esteem. Amen.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Zuzana Ruzickova

Zuzana Ruzickova (1927-2017)
Zuzana Ruzickova, who survived Nazi concentration camps and a Communist dictatorship in the former Czechoslovakia to become one of the world’s most renowned harpsichordists and a leading interpreter of Bach, died on Sept. 27 in Prague. She was 90. Ms. Ruzickova is widely credited as the first harpsichord soloist to record Bach’s complete works for keyboard instruments — passionate and spirited music that was the one constant in a turbulent life in which she survived the gas chambers, devastating disease, slave labor and crippling hand injuries. “Bach provides a sense of order in a world of disorder,” Ms. Ruzickova said. Her husband, the composer Viktor Kalabis urged her to be “the Jew who brought Bach back to Germany” and to “play Bach to make them realize that there is another Germany, that Hitler didn’t destroy all the great culture.”
Ms. Ruzickova was born on Jan. 14, 1927, in Pilsen, Bohemia, the daughter of a prosperous Jewish family. She performed slave labor for the Germans in Hamburg, returned home with her hands too enfeebled to strike a keyboard, and survived renewed anti-Semitism in Communist Czechoslovakia. Moreover, the Czech regime condemned the harpsichord itself as a feudal and religious instrument.
When Ms. Ruzickova was 15, the family received what the Germans called “an invitation” to Terezin, which the Nazis considered a model concentration camp for the cultural elite. Her grandparents and father died of disease there. Within six months, she and her mother were shipped to Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, where she survived the gas chamber twice — first after lying about her age, and then when the camp’s routine was upset by the Allied invasion on D-Day. She and her mother were then transferred to bomb-ravaged Hamburg, where she repaired oil pipelines, worked in a cement factory and dug tank traps. 
Cover of one of the 100 records she recorded of Bach's works.
Early in 1945 they were shipped again, this time to Bergen-Belsen, a German concentration camp, where tens of thousands died from malnutrition and disease. She weighed 70 pounds and had malaria when the camp was liberated that April. With her hands badly damaged during the war, Ms. Ruzickova practiced 12 hours a day to catch up after it was over. She attended the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague from 1947 to 1951, when she gave her first harpsichord recital.
After Czechoslovakia became part of the Soviet bloc, she refused to join the Communist Party. But the country’s Soviet-backed regime indulged her, content with confiscating much of the foreign currency she had earned. She never defected because she and her husband feared for their relatives in Czechoslovakia. Ms. Ruzickova made more than 100 recordings. Her monumental project of recording Bach’s complete keyboard works took a decade, starting in 1965. The underlying message of this post is: Never, ever give up!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

How I pray the Rosary

Today being the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I thought of sharing with you my various methods in which I say the Rosary. Our family said the Rosary as a family every evening. My father used to lead it daily, ending with the Litany of Our Lady of Loreto in Latin. Obviously the tradition stayed with me as I daily recite the Rosary in various ways. Most of the time, I say the Rosary by myself using one of my many Rosary beads. But over the past 20 years or so, with the accessibility to tape recorders and CDs, I have recorded many versions of the Rosary, either myself or from other sources. Back in 1992, which is exactly 25 years ago, I recorded my best Rosary with a friend of mine in my parish of St Anthony’s in Rocky Point. I used background music for each decade and so many people liked it so much that I must have recorded or burned dozens of copies, which are now being used in New York and Oregon.
I also recorded other Rosaries in Maltese which I then transferred them onto CDS, which I used frequently, playing them on my IPad. I have also recorded various Rosaries I said before funerals in the Cathedral at Baker City, Oregon, and a treasured Rosary is the one led by my dear friend Fr Benedict Groeschel, CFR. Lately I have been using the Diocesan Rosary, an idea which I devised and which I shared with the Malta Bishops, one of whom just this week 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. I am presenting an illustrated talk on the History of the Rosary at Hilltop Gardens on Monday October 23 at 7 PM, and repeated on Tuesday October 24 at 10:30 AM. Pray the Rosary.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The best and worst of everything

The most destructive habit – Worry
The greatest joy – Giving
The greatest loss – Loss of self-respect
The most satisfying work – Helping others
The ugliest personality trait – Selfishness
The most endangered species – Dedicated leaders
Our greatest natural resource – Our youth
The greatest ‘shot in the arm’ – Encouragement
The greatest problem to overcome – Fear
The most effective sleeping pill – Peace of Mind
The most crippling failure disease – Excuses
The most powerful force in life – Love
The most dangerous pariah – A Gossiper
The world’s most incredible computer – The Brain
The worst thing to be without – Hope
The most deadliest weapon – The tongue
The two most power-filled words – ‘I Can’
The greatest asset – Faith
The most worthless emotion – Self-pity
The most beautiful attire – A Smile
The most prized possession – Integrity
The most powerful channel of communication – Prayer
The most contagious spirit – Enthusiasm
The greatest feeling ever – Being thanked.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Saint 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.
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. Her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her sufferings as an offering to God on behalf of the Church and those in special need, especially great sinners and the dying.
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. She had taken deeply into her heart, God's gospel command to "be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful" as well as her confessor's directive that she should act in such a way that everyone who came in contact with her would go away joyful. For many years her diary was condemned, and even the image of Jesus as she portrayed was abolished. However everything changed when Pope John Paul II was elected Pope. Her case was re-opened and by the year 2000, the Divine Mercy Sunday was established and to be celebrated the Sunday after Easter. On the same day in the year 2000, St Faustina was declared a Saint. 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. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

St Francis of Assisi

Probably one of the most beloved and well‑known Saints, even among non‑Catholics, St Francis became affectionately known as the patron saint of animals. And in his honor, we bless our dogs, our cats, our lizards, horses and noisy cockatiels every year. He became one of the Church's most efficient reformers and started by reforming himself. The son of a cloth‑merchant, one day he stripped naked in the local piazza and gave his father Bernardone everything he had, including the clothes he was wearing. Instead he put on him a simple robe and gathered around him a few other men (among them St Anthony) and thus started the Franciscan order.
The catalyst for this move came after a vision he had at the church of San Damiano, when Jesus spoke to him through the famous colorful cross and asked him to go and rebuild his church. This meant literally and figuratively, because he did fix the dilapidated church, but also founded an order which is still going very strong around the world, 800 years after its foundation.
Later in his life, St Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ and also inspired St Clare to start the female counterpart of the Franciscan Order, the Poor Clares. He was also known to have created the first nativity during the Christmas midnight Mass, taking the image of the baby Jesus down to the crypt, where he had already placed a donkey and cow and a manger with straw.
To many of us, St Francis may seem out of touch with reality, rather than a profound philosopher. But that's exactly the kind of people the church needs even today, down‑to‑earth workers, with a good scale of values and who know where their priorities are. Francis lived a short life, born in 1181 and dying in 1226, but in his short life, he started a revolution of love, compassion, charitable work and encouraged everyone for a life of poverty, a lifestyle that all the Franciscans around the word still imitate.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

I Love Las Vegas

I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but once I did cross the border between Oregon and Nevada. It was beautiful country in Northern Nevada, and the only peculiar thing I remember is seeing a bunch of wild donkeys crossing the road in front of me, just as cows do so frequently in Oregon. Another cute story I heard about Las Vegas is about the Cathedral, dedicated to the Guardian Angel. When people attend church there on weekends, many of them, instead of putting money in the collection, they throw chips from their Casinos. Then on Monday morning, a monk goes around the Casinos and exchanges the chips for money.....and yes, they call him the chip-monk. It’s true.
But today my heart goes out to the Nevada people and possibly many from California and Arizona who last Sunday were happily gathered to attend a Country and Western concert, all in their cowboy boots and cowboy hats, enjoying an evening with friends. Then within a few minutes their lives were shattered by a senseless act of terror precipitated by a solitary gunman. Close to 60 people are dead so far and over 500 injured with gun-shot wounds. Countless families and individuals destroyed, others have their lives turned upside down, and may young holiday-makers, tourists and visitors see their lives go up in flames. Parents losing their children, children ending up orphans, and loved ones separated for ever by a cruel act of horrible evil.
My major recollection of driving through Nevada.
Let us pray for the victims, for the injured, for the survivors and those who helped the injured, for their families and friends. Let us pray for the people of Las Vegas, who now add their city to a list of towns and villages known and remembered for terrible tragedies, Colombine in Colorado, Sandy Hook in Connecticut, Orlando in Florida, San Bernardino in California, Aurora in Colorado, Virginia Tech in Virginia, Killeen in Texas, and others. May the Guardian Angel of each victim walk with them into their new heavenly home, precisely as they leave this earth in the feast of the Guardian Angel.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Guardian Angels

Todays 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. Ive 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 1962 Apostolic Exhortation by Pope St. 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 Popes conversation becomes much easier.  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, 58 years ago.
What my Guardian Angel Stephen looks like.
St Bernard on the Angels
He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. "These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need.
So let us be devoted and grateful to such great protectors; let us return their love and honor them as much as we can and should. We should then, my brothers and sisters, show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father. Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are loyal, prudent, powerful. Why then are we afraid? We have only to follow them, stay close to them."

Sunday, 1 October 2017

St Therese of Lisieux

Real photo of St Therese, the 'Little Flower' (1873-1897)
Generations of Catholics have admired this young saint, called her the "Little Flower", and found in her short life more inspiration for their own lives than in volumes by theologians.
Yet Therese died when she was 24, after having lived as cloistered Carmelite for less than ten years. She never went on missions, never founded a religious order, never performed great works. The only book of hers, published after her death, was a brief edited version of her journal called "Story of a Soul." But within 28 years of her death, the public demand was so great that she was canonized.
Therese was born in France in 1873, the pampered daughter of a mother who had wanted to be a saint and a father who had wanted to be monk. The two had gotten married but determined they would be celibate until a priest told them that was not how God wanted a marriage to work! They must have followed his advice very well because they had nine children. The five children who lived were all daughters.
Tragedy and loss came quickly to Therese when her mother died of breast cancer when she was four and a half years old. Her sixteen year old sister Pauline became her second mother ‑‑ which made the second loss even worse when Pauline entered the Carmelite convent five years later. Therese’s parents were eventually beatified in October 2008 and canonized in October 2015.
When her other sisters, Marie and Leonie, left to join religious orders (the Carmelites and Poor Clares, respectively), Therese was left alone with her last sister Celine and her father. She wanted to enter the Carmelite convent to join Pauline and Marie but how could she convince others that she could handle the rigors of Carmelite life. When the superior of the Carmelite convent refused to take Therese because she was so young, the formerly shy little girl went to the bishop. When the bishop also said no, she decided to go over his head.
Another authentic photo of St Therese
Her father and sister took her on a pilgrimage to Rome to try to get her mind off this crazy idea. Therese loved it. It was the one time when being little worked to her advantage! Because she was young and small she could run everywhere, touch relics and tombs without being yelled at. Finally they went for an audience with the Pope. They had been forbidden to speak to him but that didn't stop Therese. As soon as she got near him, she begged that he let her enter the Carmelite convent. She had to be carried out by two of the guards!
But the Vicar General who had seen her courage was impressed and soon Therese was admitted to the Carmelite convent that her sisters Pauline and Marie had already joined.
Her romantic ideas of convent life and suffering soon met up with reality in a way she had never expected. Her father suffered a series of strokes that left him affected not only physically but mentally. As a cloistered nun she couldn't even visit her father before he died.
She knew as a Carmelite nun she would never be able to perform great deeds. Therese took every chance to sacrifice, no matter how small it would seem. She smiled at the sisters she didn't like. She ate everything she was given without complaining ‑‑ often given the worst leftovers.
When Pauline was elected prioress, she asked Therese for the ultimate sacrifice. Because of politics in the convent, many of the sisters feared that the family Martin would take over the convent. Therefore Pauline asked Therese to remain a novice, in order to allay the fears of the others that the three sisters would push everyone else around. This meant she would never be a fully professed nun. Upon their father’s death, now Celine also entered the convent. Four of the sisters were now together again. In this small convent they now made up one‑fifth of the population. Despite this and the fact that Therese was a permanent novice they put her in charge of the other novices.
Then in 1896, she coughed up blood. She kept working without telling anyone until she became so sick a year later everyone knew it. She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24 years old. After she died, Pauline put together Therese's memoirs and sent 2000 copies to other convents. Within two years, the Martin family had to move because her notoriety was so great and by 1925 she had been canonized. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

What one person can do

My child, I’ve often heard your question. Now this message is my answer.
You’re concerned about the hungry in the world, millions who are starving....and you ask “What can I do?”  - Feed One!
You grieve for all the unborn children murdered every day....and you ask “What can I do?”  - Save one!
You’re haunted by the homeless poor who wander city streets,.....and you ask “What can I do?”  - Shelter one!
You feel compassion for those who suffer pain, sorrow and despair,....and you ask “What can I do?” – Comfort one!
Your heart goes out to the lonely, the abused and the imprisoned,.....and you ask “What can I do?”  - Love one!

Remember this my child....two thousand years ago the world was filled with those in need, just as it is today, and when the helpless and the hopeless called out to me for mercy, I sent a Savior. Hope began with only one!

Friday, 29 September 2017

The Archangels

'The Three Archangels' by Filippino Lippi
Today is the feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Michael ‑ the angel of Judgment ‑ is known as the champion in the fight against Satan and the other devils as well as the guardian of the faithful especially at the time of death. Frequently he is portrayed crushing the devil’s head with a lance. Gabriel ‑ the angel of Mercy ‑ is the messenger from God in St Luke’s gospel who foretold the birth of John the Baptist, “Be not afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.” Six months later it was Gabriel who appeared to Mary at the Annunciation saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” Raphael ‑ the angel of Healing - was sent by God to heal Tobias of his blindness and to deliver Sara from the devil in the book of Tobit.
We tend to underestimate the presence of Angels in our lives. However they are gaining popularity as we see many angel pins on people’s jackets, posters and paintings of various angels are showing up at card stores. And of course at Christmas, there are the angels on ornaments and hanging on nativity scenes. We sing about the angels in several of the Christmas carols. Angels were also present at Jesus’ tomb when the women went to anoint his body and found the tomb empty. But we are reluctant to accept their actual existence. This is certainly a departure from our childhood when we prayed to our Guardian Angel at least daily. As children we believed that there was truly one angel whose job was to look after us, who would always hover around us ready to protect us from all evil and to communicate our desires and needs to God. The feast of the Guardian Angels is in 3 days, on October 2. There are other inferior angels whose names also have interesting meanings: Uriel – the Fire of God; Selaphiel – Intercessor of God; Jegudiel – Glorifier of God; Barachiel – Blessing of God, and Jeremiel – the Exaltation of God.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

An Appeal

I pray on my knees today in my chapel, asking for help. It’s a simple appeal to get more visitors to this blog. I’ve heard many people recently and over the years telling me how much they enjoy visiting my blog every day. I hope they keep checking it daily, as I place a post every day, ever since 2012 when I started blogging. There were a handful of days when I did not have access to the Internet and I could not post anything. But as you all know, I’ve been faithful to my mission of sharing some food for thought every day.
My appeal is very simple. May I ask each visitor to share this blog with at least one other person on your mailing list, or a dear friend, whom you think would appreciate this blog. And whenever someone writes to you in a surprising, unexpected way, let them know about the blog. There is always something inspirational which may surprise you. It could be a simple quote, a prayer, reflection, anecdote, life of a saint, interesting story, or one of the many photos with a message.
I appreciate your effort in this, and I will let you know in a few weeks if I find an increase in the visits. Presently I am getting an average of 100 visits daily. My hope is that we can double that number. Just this past week, I got these visitors from these countries: USA – 297, Malta – 172, Armenia – 25, Spain – 10, Germany – 7, Portugal – 7, Brazil – 6, Ukraine – 5, Philippines – 4 and Pakistan – 4. Plus many others.
I personally do not use Facebook, but when someone shares the address of my blog through Facebook, the number of visitors at least triples itself. So anyway you can share the address will be helpful. Let them know that scrolling down on the right hand side, you can click on Older Posts, and feast yourself with much more food for thought. My old blog from the USA is still active, and there are over 1500 posts there to feast on at this address:   www.fatherjulian.blogspot.com

This blog already has 520 posts, and counting. I thank you for visiting, for sharing and for appreciating Dun Giljan's blog.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Oman galley leaves Malta

Galley from Oman leaving Grand Harbor in Valletta, Malta.
Continuing on the exit of the galley from the Grand Harbor of Malta, I can tell you that the flag belonged to the state of Oman, a country in the Middle East, with its capital city being Muscat. As the sun rose over the harbor, the galley sailed away, precisely at 8 AM, as was advertised beforehand. I thought for sure that it would leave later, but sure enough the Omanis seem to be extremely punctual. I waited to see if the sails would open, especially with all those sailors hanging precariously on the beams, but it was not meant to be. However the last photo shows what it would have looked like with its full regalia and splendor.
Passing through the breakwater and into the open Mediterranean Sea.
Sailors show the flag of Malta on the left, and the flag of Oman on the right.
The Oman galley sailing through the open seas.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Galley leaving Malta

Massive galley leaving Malta's Grand Harbor. No shots were fired!
Yesterday I left home very early to capture the departure of a beautiful galley that was anchored for a few days in the main harbor of Valletta. Obviously my intention was to take a few photos of this galley, hopefully with its sails open. Even though I was disappointed as the sails never came down, I still got some good photos which I will share over two days as they capture the whole process of leaving a harbor with the sailors positioned to open the sails. They were hanging on the horizontal beams of the galley, ready to unfurl the sails, which they probably did as soon as they got into the wind outside the harbor. 
Sailors precariously positioned on the beams ready to unfurl the sails.
One of the photos show the sailors with two flags, one of which was the flag of Malta, half red and half white with the George Cross on the top corner on the white part. I was curious to find out to which country the other flag belonged to, and after a little research I did, but I’ll keep you guessing until tomorrow, to see if anyone is able to find out and reveal the mystery country.
Galley passing by one of the fortifications built by the Knights of Malta
Sailors waving to the people of Malta