Saturday, 24 March 2018

A modern martyr

Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame
A tragic day in the south of France left four people dead in what turned out to be a terrorist attack. Among the victims was a French police officer who swapped himself for a hostage in a supermarket siege on Friday, a modern-day martyr. Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame, 45, "fell as a hero" and showed "exceptional courage", French President Emmanuel Macron said. The gendarme helped bring an end to a gunman's shooting spree that killed three in Carcassonne in southern France. The attacker, a 25-year-old Moroccan, was shot dead as police brought the siege to an end. Interior Minister GĂ©rard Collomb said: "Beltrame died for his country. France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice." The violence began on Friday morning, where the attacker hijacked a car. He killed a passenger - whose body was later found hidden in a bush - and injured the driver. He then shot at a group of policemen who were out jogging, wounding one of them. He then went into a supermarket and held hostage various people. Police officers had managed to get some people out of the supermarket but the gunman had held one woman back as a human shield. It was at this point that Lt-Col Beltrame had volunteered to swap himself for her. As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation. When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed and Lt-Col Beltrame was injured, but died later at the hospital. Beltrame made the ultimate sacrifice and lived this Gospel message from John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one`s life for his friends." Beltrame probably never knew the female hostage, until she was released, but gave his life so that she can live....truly a modern day martyr.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows

Even though the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15, there is a special devotion which culminates today in many European countries, in particular my native Malta. It is by far the most devotional feast in the entire year, where people go to confession, and participate in Masses celebrated throughout the day, even in factories and places of work. This something which I did in a Car Assembly plant between 1977 and 1981, and which I am doing today in two factories, or offices of AX Holdings and AX Construction. But the highlight of the day is usually the procession with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, held in practically every parish, through the streets of the respective town or village. Normal life stops for a few hours as people follow the statue of the Sorrowful Mother, pray rosaries, sing hymns and some even walk barefoot in a sense of deeper penance. 
Thousands of people follow the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in procession.
Some women who had experienced a rough pregnancy make a vow to the Blessed Mother that they would walk with their baby in their arms if they had a safe delivery. They even go as far as kneel down when the procession pauses or stops for a brief time. Some men walk in hooded masks to protect their anonymity as they too make vows of their own, especially after a healing, a job promotion, or something good that they prayed for. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Passion Stamps

Grunewald's Crucifixion on a Cameroon stamp
Various countries have issued stamps over the years using well‑known paintings depicting the holiest of weeks. Paintings of course provide thousands of opportunities to showcase artistic representations of the last few days of Christ. Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco, Roger van der Weyden, Rembrandt and so many others have put on canvas their impression of the sufferings of Christ. It is amazing that so many non-Catholic countries issued stamps related to Holy Week, including Burundi, Cameroon, Jordan and many others. 
Set of Passion stamps from Burundi
The stamps are a meditation in themselves and offer a great source of comfort for many people, especially when used during Lent and Holy Week, just like a Christmas stamp has a definitive effect when used in the Christmas season, especially when sending Christmas cards to family and friends.
Malta stamp showing the Crucifixion statue
Austria stamp depicting the Resurrection

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Last Supper displays

One of the most spectacular displays of the Last Supper is set up annually  in the Dominican Oratory in Valletta, with a horse-shoe shaped table with meticulously prepared plates with various symbols relating to the Passion of Jesus, the 12 apostles and coat-of-arms of various Prelates. The different plates were made with the use of rice, beans, pasta, semolina, salt and lentils, all arranged to create a beautiful display of colorful symbols. 
One can see also fruit, a large loaf of bread in the shape of a donut, olives, chalices, and other ornaments. But nothing is wasted, as all the ingredients are then given to orphanages and nursing homes to be used in cooking. Please do click on each photo to see the details and precision by which these plates have been prepared.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Passion flower

Known also as the passion flowers or passion vines, Passiflora is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants, the namesakes of the family Passifloraceae. They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
The Blue Passion Flower (Passiflora Caerulea) shows most elements of the Christian symbolism
The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the lance that pierced Jesus’ side.
The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter and Judas Iscariot)
The flower's radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
The chalice‑shaped ovary with its receptacle represents the chalice or the Holy Grail.
The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
The blue and white colors of many species' flowers represent Heaven and Purity.
I took the above photo in Malta, where the Passion flowers grow profusely, especially in the spring.

Monday, 19 March 2018

A Letter to St. Joseph

Dear Saint Joseph,
Today being your feast day, I thought of writing you a few lines mainly to show my gratitude for all you did for Jesus and Mary, and for us all. Very few people are greater than you are! Because being so close to Jesus and Mary, you are also the most blessed and full of grace.
Well, if you weren’t so special and blessed, God would not have trusted you with his two most priceless possessions, marrying Mary, in spite of all the gossiping that was going on before your engagement, and then taking the role of a foster father of Jesus, protecting him, educating him and raising him from infancy to adulthood. You are fairly unknown around the world, but at least at Christmas time your image explodes all around the world with the millions of religious Christmas cards exchanged between families and friends. And your image stands prominently in millions of nativities set up at Christmas time.
We read in the Gospels that God always conveyed his messages to you in dreams and during sleep. This doesn’t mean that He wanted you to be passive, as if you didn’t know what was going on. We never see you in dialogue with Mary, or giving your opinion in stressful situations. But you let Mary handle all situations, as she dialoged with the Angel Gabriel, at the wedding at Cana, or when Jesus was lost in the temple - she spoke, and you were silent. You stayed in the background. You receive the message, and made sure it was worked out and implemented. That was your divine mission and vocation - to be a silent instrument in the hands of God. I bet you enjoyed teaching Jesus the carpenter’s trade and other duties around the house at Nazareth. I always wonder what it was like to be in that house of yours at Nazareth. Did Jesus obey you and Mary? Did he play any tricks on you? Did he say his prayers daily? What were his favorite toys? And his favorite food? Did he keep his room nice and tidy? Did he have many friends visit him at home? Did he learn his carpenter’s tricks properly? Did he have any girlfriends growing up as a teenager?
Please Saint Joseph, just as you protected Mary and Jesus, I ask you to protect our church, of which you are its special patron saint. Give us more vocations because we need priests and nuns to continue the work entrusted to them. Give us good parents, responsible and loving, ready to sacrifice their lives for their children and families, just as you and Mary did. Please pray for all workers, that they may honestly give their share of labor and dedicated in their mission, always admiring you as their patron saint, another feast we celebrate on May 1. Be patient with us, dear St Joseph, because we tend to be hard-headed and spoiled at times. Remind us always to be grateful for all the blessings that you and your Son and wife give us, day by day.
                                                                                 Signed - a friend and an admirer

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Calling Jesus names

The artist calls him BEAUTY ITSELF
The architect calls him the CORNERSTONE
The baker calls him the LIVING BREAD
The banker calls him the HIDDEN TREASURE
The biologist calls him LIFE
The builder calls him the STRONG FOUNDATION
The carpenter calls him the DOOR
The doctor calls him the BEST AND GREATEST DOCTOR
The teachers calls him the GREAT MASTER
The members of the Parish Council call him the GREAT COUNSELLOR
The florist calls him the LILY OF THE VALLEY
The geologist refers to him as the ROCK OF AGES
The horticulturist calls him the TRUE VINE
For the rancher he is the GOOD SHEPHERD
For the sick and the ill, he is the HEALER
The court judge calls him the GOOD JUDGE THAT JUDGES EVERYONE FAIRLY
The jeweler calls him the PEARL OF INESTIMABLE VALUE
The lawyer calls him the LEGISLATOR
Newspaper publishers call him the GOOD NEWS
The ophthalmologist calls to him the LIGHT OF THE WORLD
The philosopher refers to him as the WISDOM OF GOD
The preacher calls him the WORD OF GOD
The servant calls him the FAITHFUL MASTER
The student calls him the TRUTH
The driver calls him the WAY
The Christian calls him SAVIOR, LORD and SON OF GOD

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies. As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was touched, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."
Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."
Then he began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, with whom he had studied for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick. Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well). Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

Friday, 16 March 2018

God can use you

The next time you feel like GOD can't use YOU, just remember... 
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zacchaeus was too small 
Mary Magdalen was a prostitute
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer....
AND Lazarus was dead! 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Stations of the Cross

Typical station at Naxxar parish church, Malta
In every Catholic Church, you will notice usually hanging on the side walls 14 images, pictures or sculptures related to the Passion of Christ. These are the 14 steps Jesus went through before his death on Calvary. Also known as the Way of the Cross, or Via Crucis, this devotion is very popular during the season of Lent, as people meditate on the Passion and Death of Christ. This practice started during the 14th century by the Franciscan Monks, and St. Leonard of Port Maurice preached frequently about this devotion in the 18th century. Finally Pope Clement XII in 1735 gave the final guidelines, fixing the number of Stations at 14, commemorating the events related in the Gospel and from early tradition. Usually the Stations are erected on the walls of the Church, 7 on each side, but they may be placed outdoors too, as one can see in Church gardens and Retreat Houses. Most of the time, the Stations are prayed in the Church, with the people staying in their places, and genuflecting between each Station, as the leader and the altar servers move from one Station to another.
Design for Station at St Julian's parish church by Emvin and Marco Cremona
The customary 14 Stations are as follows:
1. Jesus is condemned to death            
2. Jesus accepts His Cross                
3. Jesus falls the first time.                
4. Jesus meets his mother Mary.            
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross    
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.            
7. Jesus falls the second time.                
8. Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
12. Jesus dies on the Cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
14. Jesus is laid to rest in a tomb.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI approved a new series of Stations that are based on the Gospel. They start with the Last Supper and end with the Resurrection, while dropping the two falls of Jesus. The Pope leads the Stations every Good Friday in the Colosseo in Rome, while many pilgrims to the Holy Land pray the Stations right along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows), the same street on which Jesus was led to be crucified. Some parishes organize Stations around town, as I used to do in my parishes in Oregon, visiting various landmarks while we pray for people who work there or attend particular places like hospitals, libraries, schools, food  stores, nursing homes, churches, etc.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Two vintage photos

I thought of going back in time today to share two vintage photos that would be absolutely impossible to take today. The first one show my parents with a parishioner from a parish in New York as they stand in front to the World Trade Center. This was in 1982, and one can see the ball-sculpture that was partially destroyed, as well as the base of the first few floors of one of the towers. After taking this photo, we went up on top of the towers to take a good look at Manhattan, New Jersey and Long Island.
The second photo shows the cockpit of 747 plane on route from London Heathrow Airport to JFK International Airport. This was in the days before the security measures were imposed after September 11, 2001. One could ask if they could visit the pilot in the cockpit and I was given permission to go in and talk to the crew and even take a photo. This must have been in 1981 or 1982, when everyone was trusted, including a young looking priest starting his mission in the USA. Nowadays Jumbo Jets are less common and one hardly sees them at any airport, giving way to Airbus and other 767 and 777 Boeings.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Pope Francis - Happy Anniversary

Today is the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as Supreme Pontiff. These are the landmark dates of Jorge Bergoglio:
Born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Entered the Society of Jesus: March 11, 1958
Ordained priest: December 13, 1969
Consecrated Bishop: June 27, 1992
Elevated to Cardinal: February 21, 2001
Elected Pope: March 13, 2013

To commemorate this milestone, I share with you a few important quotes from our Pope:
On the family - “In the family we learn solidarity, how to share, to discern, to walk ahead with each other’s problems, to fight and to make up, to argue and to embrace and to kiss. The family is the first school of the nation, and in the family you will find that richness and value that you have.” (February 16, 2016)

On the environment - "The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth" - from his June 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.

On Mercy - "There is no sin that God's mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father" - extending permanently his decree to allow priests to grant absolution to women who have had abortions, at the end of his Jubilee Year of Mercy in November 2016.

On Tolerance - "If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?" - groundbreaking signal of a more tolerant Church, July 2013.

On Inclusion – “We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”

On the Church - “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

On Joy - “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”

Monday, 12 March 2018

Carrying our cross

Whatever your cross, whatever your pain, 
There will always be sunshine after the rain. 
Perhaps you may stumble, perhaps even fall, 
But God's always there to help you through it all. 
I asked for Strength - God gave me Difficulties to make me strong. 
I asked for Wisdom - God gave me Problems to solve. 
I asked for Prosperity - God gave me Brain and Brawn to work. 
I asked for Courage - God gave me Danger to overcome. 
I asked for Love - God gave me Troubled people to help. 
I asked for Favors - God gave me Opportunities. 
I received nothing I wanted - But I received everything I needed! 

May God Bless You with unspeakable joy, 
Not only in the world to come, but in this world also. 
May your path be bright and full of light everywhere you go. 
May God tell darkness that it must flee at your command. 
And, I pray your feet will never stumble out of God's plan. 
May the desires of your heart come true, 
And may you experience Peace in everything you do. 
May Goodness, Kindness, and Mercy come your way. 
And, may you gain Wisdom and grow in the Lord everyday. 

Because I have received kindness, I have been spurned to be kind. 
Because I have caught the smile of another person's lips, I have found myself smiling. 
Because I have known the joy of receiving, I rejoice in giving. 
Because I have felt pain, I know what pity is. 
Because I have tasted humiliations, I know what consideration is. 
Because I have seen Christ suffering, 
I have had the courage to go on.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Pope speaks to priests

As is customary on the day after Ash Wednesday, Francis spent the morning with the pastors in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Rome cathedral. The session began with a penitential liturgy and with the pope spending almost an hour hearing confessions, and also answered some questions.
The questions were submitted by groups of priests according to how long they had been ordained. The younger priests asked how they could fully live their vocation. Francis has three recommendations: first, learn to balance commitments; second, “find your own style”; and finally, spend time in private prayer and find a good spiritual director with whom to talk over what arises in prayer.
To priests who are 40 to 50 years old and have been ordained a bit longer, Francis said theirs is a time when ideals tend to become weaker and when the weight of ministry and administrative duties start to be felt. He told them “The approach of middle age is a time of many temptations, but also the time of a second calling from the Lord, a call to greater realism about ministry and greater maturity. One cannot continue without this necessary transformation because if you keep going like this, without maturing, making a way for crisis, it will end badly. You’ll end up living a double life or leaving everything.”
The older group of priests, those ordained more than 35 years ago, asked the pope about handling change, saying “we cannot always draw on our experience to respond to new questions” raised by society. They also asked the pope how he handled that mature phase of his ministry.
While the pope said he understood their unease with the fast-changing culture, he insisted that what people need most today are things they are more than able to provide: a smile, a listening ear and offering pardon without condition in the sacrament of reconciliation. “Elderly priests,” he said, “know the trials of life and the difficulties and pain that people experience. They don’t have to talk much, but they should listen a lot.” In his own life, when he faced big changes in his ministry, he told the priests, what helped most was to spend more time in prayer and adoration before the tabernacle.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Crown of Thorns

The bushes, from which the Crown of Thorns was made, grew, and still grow abundantly, in the outskirts of Jerusalem. The monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Sinai have identified a thorn bush growing east of the large monastery wall as the same original Crown of Thorns.
With regard to the origin and character of the thorns, both tradition and existing remains suggest that they must have come from the bush botanically known as Zizyphus spina Christi, more popularly, the jujube tree. This reaches the height of fifteen or twenty feet and is found growing in abundance by the wayside around Jerusalem. According to Dr. G. E. Post, who is an expert on these matters, this plant grows in the region of old Jerusalem, especially in the area where Golgotha (or place of the Crucifixion) is said to have been. The crooked branches of this shrub are armed with thorns growing in pairs, a straight spine and a curved one commonly occurring together at each point.  Application of the powdered leaves is said to darken and lengthen women's hair.
Other sources refer to the thorns as either of two nearly leafless, very spiny shrubs or small trees of the southwestern North American deserts. Koeberlinia spinosa, with green thorns at right angles to the branches, produces small, four-petaled, greenish flowers and clusters of black berries. Another source says it could be Euphorbia milii.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile.
He died on March 3, 2018, the athlete who will always be remembered for breaking the 4-minute mile. Known as the ‘last of the gentleman athletes’ Roger Bannister was a 25-year-old medical student, and with eyes closed and mouth agape, he broke the four-minute mile barrier at Oxford's Iffley Road track on the grey, golden evening of May 6, 1954. This, one of the greatest sports stories, had unfolded at a meet between Oxford University and Amateur Athletic Association. "Three minutes, 59.4 seconds," the announcer, famously, had tried to tell the crowd but they only heard the word "three" before drowning him out. But for most of his 88 years of extraordinary achievement as ground-breaking neurologist, scholar, academic, drug-testing pioneer, sports administrator and athlete, he was implored to recount just those 3 minutes 59.4 seconds of it. This proud father of four - and grandfather of 14 - had once said that he never stopped feeling lucky to have been "the right man at the right time in the right race" but that he had also learned to appreciate its symbolic and long-lasting significance, even if it never did cease to amaze him. "It's a small part of my life, and the importance of the things I've done are centred on medicine and neurology. So in that sense, the achievement is overrated.” Indeed, if he had won the Olympic 1500m title in Helsinki in 1952 (instead, he finished fourth), he may not have attempted his sub-four-minute quest at all.
Roger Bannister in a recent photo.
In terms of his training, Bannister was no great revolutionary. He did only what he felt was enough to beat his main rival in the race to becoming the first sub-four-minute miler, the Australian John Landy, who actually supplanted Bannister's new landmark in Finland 46 days later. Yet Bannister then defeated his great rival in the "Miracle Mile" race, an epic showdown between the two sub-four minute men at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver later in 1954, a feat he actually considered greater than his Iffley Road monument. In that race Bannister clocked 3.58.8 sec, while Landy finished at 3.59.6 sec, both of them below the 4 minute historic mark.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Hail, Holy Cross

Crucifixion at St Francis church, Valletta
HAIL, O holy Cross, our strength.
Hail, O adorable Cross, our praise and glory.
Hail, O Cross, our help and refuge.
Hail, O Cross, consolation of all the mournful.

Hail, O Cross, our victory and hope.
Hail, O Cross, our defense and our life.
Hail, O Cross, our liberation and redemption.

Hail, O Cross, our sign of salvation and bulwark against the enemy.

May the Cross be for me always hope of my faith.
May the Cross be for me resurrection in my death.
May the Cross be for me triumph against demons.
May the Cross be for me mother of my consolation.

May the Cross be for me rest in my tribulations.
May the Cross be for me support in my old age.

May the Cross be for me healing in my illness.
May the Cross be for me protection in my nudity.

May the Cross be for me consolation in my life.
May the Cross be for me solace in all my difficulties.
May the Cross be for me balm in my tribulations.

May the Cross be for me medicine to my infirmities and protection against all my enemies. Amen.
Written by Saint Anselm

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Mary, Mother of the Church

'Mater Ecclesia' statue at Dar tal-Kleru, Birkirkara. Malta.
Pope Francis just introduced a new feast in honor of Mary, as Mother of the Church. This will be celebrated on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday. In 1964, Pope Paul VI declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as ‘Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother’ and established that ‘the Mother of God should be further honored and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles’. Then, in the Holy Year of Reconciliation in 1975, the Church inserted into the Roman Missal a votive Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see Mary gathered with the apostles and received the Holy Spirit, whereupon the church as born on that day. Many consider the feast of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church, and this feast will further emphasize that notion. With the present decree, Pope Francis inserts that celebration into the universal Church’s liturgy as a Memorial on a fixed date. A “memorial” is a lower-ranked feast day. Celebrations of feast days in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church are distinguished according to their importance and named either as solemnities, feasts or memorials. This year it will fall on May 21.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Jesus needs all of you

Jesus needs your feet....firmly planted on Gospel values
Your Eyes – to see the needs of the marginalized people of the world – the poor, the homeless,  the foster children, the Aids patients, , the prisoners, the refugees, the bullied, the unloved.
Your Neck – a willingness to stick one’s neck risk one’s life and one’s gifts in response to the message of Jesus Christ.
Your Heart – big enough to go outside of oneself to help.....vulnerable enough to let others in.
Your Funny Bone - easily ability to laugh at oneself and with others too. Smile! God loves you!
Your Ears – to listen attentively to the cries and whispers of the poor, the silenced, the oppressed, and to be sensitive for the needs of others.
Your Hands – willing to give and not afraid of getting soiled doing God’s work of healing a broken and wounded world.
Your Arms – ready to embrace in love, and welcome back the fallen-away from the church, and those who have gone a different road for a while.
Your Knees – willing to bend in long hours of prayer, in meditation, in reflection, in silence.
Your Feet – firmly planted....grounded in Gospel values, willing to go wherever God’s call leads to respond to the need of others.
All of you – to be a witness for Christ, and be committed to the faith, as you practice what you hear being preached, love, honesty, forgiveness, compassion, healing and concern.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Malta's flora and fauna

I share with you 4 photos of some of Malta's surprising flora and fauna, which I came across over the past week, while walking around various neighborhoods. You never know what you come across when you carry your camera with you. From a golden-colored cat smelling flowers, or posing for the photographer, to a snail venturing out valiantly, fearing to be crushed by passers by. From sweet smelling flowers to a lizard basking in the sun.
Always on the lookout for the unpredictable and the unusual in a small island which has very little to offer where flora and fauna are concerned, but you never know what you might come across, if only you have a keen eye for nature's surprising displays.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Respecting our churches

Our Lady of Grace church, Zabbar, Malta
The Sunday Gospel reading today shows Jesus getting upset at seeing the people turning his Father’s Temple into a marketplace. May we have the same respect and love of our churches as Jesus did 2000 years ago. Looking at Maltese churches, I have no doubt that the people here have loved and cherish their churches, as they’ve done over the past 500 years or more, since the time that many of them were built. I share with you three different churches, three different styles of architecture that is prevalent in the Maltese islands.
Ta' Pinu church in Gharb, Gozo, Malta.
Franciscan church dedicated to St Joseph, in Rabat, Malta.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Slogans of famous people

Albert Einstein, always with clever slogans
We all know that a desk or office is more than just a place to get work done. It can be a showcase for the occupant’s deepest convictions and most inspiring motivations, a personal forum for wisdom and humor. Here are a few interesting and thought provoking slogans and mottoes of some famous people.
There is no limit to what a person can do and where he can go, if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit. (President Ronald Reagan)
Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution. (Albert Einstein)
Lead, follow or get out of the way. (Ted Turner, broadcasting icon)
Do it right. It will take more time to do it over. (Abigail van Buren, newspaper columnist)
Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten. (Stanley Marcus, merchandise consultant)
The only legitimate happiness is honesty, hard work and the surmounting of obstacles. (Leo Tolstoy)
Nothing in life just happens. It isn’t enough to believe in something; you have to have the stamina to meet obstacles and overcome them, and struggle along the way. (Golda Meir, Israeli PM)
It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. (Colin Powell)
Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. (Thomas Edison)
If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people and things. (Albert Einstein)
The aim and final reason of all music should be nothing else but the glory of God, and the refreshment of the human spirit. (Johann Sebastian Bach)

Friday, 2 March 2018

Prayer of Forgiveness

The Forgiving Father by Sister Rigoberta (Baker City, OR)
I offer you today this prayer of forgiveness:
O God, forgive us for the faults which make us difficult to live with.
If we behave as if we were the only people for whom life is difficult;
If we behave as if we were far harder worked than anyone else;
If we behave as if we were the only people who were ever disappointed, or the only people who ever got a raw deal; If we are far too self-centered and far too full of self-pity:
Forgive us, 0 God.
If we are too impatient to finish the work we have begun; If we are too impatient to listen to someone who wants to talk to us, or to give someone a helping hand; If we think that other people are fools, and make no attempt to conceal our contempt for them:
Forgive us, 0 God.
If we too often rub people the wrong way;
If we spoil a good case by trying to ram it down someone's throat;
If we do things that get on people's nerves, and go on doing them, even when we are asked not to:
Forgive us, 0 God.
Help us to take the selfishness and the ugliness out of life and to do better in the days to come.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Lenten Exhibits

All over Malta, between now and Easter, numerous exhibitions will be held in various churches and parish halls, where crafty enthusiasts will exhibit their artwork and creations. These include miniature statues, Last Supper tables, miniature churches, especially those adorned for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. These are just a few of the exhibits, and many more will appear on this blog in the next few weeks. 
One of these photos show some posters which advertise these exhibitions, and they are posted just about everywhere. Attendance is very good, especially during Holy Week, and it is a tribute to these enthusiasts who spend months and priceless hours preparing for their displays.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Vatican snow

Most of Europe is under the deep freeze at the moment, and many countries experienced heavy amounts of snow, with the exception of  Malta. England, France and most of the Eastern European countries are covered with snow. What was a surprise though is the snow that fell in many parts of Italy which sees snow once a decade. 
This was the case at the Vatican where priests and nuns enjoyed snowball fights, tourists saw icicles at the two fountains in St. Peter’s square and took thousands of photos of the unusual snow-covered holy ground and cupola. Even a snow-pope was created with the snow that fell in Rome.
Three nuns posing with the snow-pope