Friday, 18 August 2017

A Clenched Fist vs an Open Hand

The Difference between a Clenched Fist and an Open Hand
A clenched fist represents anger,
 aggression, jealousy,
 rebellion, frustration,
hatred, superiority
and punishment.
A clenched fist is always ready to destroy and annihilate,
to hurt, kill and mutilate,
to inflict injury without regrets,
to show hatred, to challenge and to attack, to tear up plans,
 to criticize mercilessly,
 to show resistance to Peace,
to put someone down, to turn people away,
to destroy the spirit of a happy person, to discourage the
enthusiasm of a child full of life,
to have no respect for life,
to show opposition,  and to turn away from God 
An Open Hand represents love,
forgiveness, giving,
sharing, openness,
encouragement, hope,
patience and tolerance.
An Open Hand is always ready to show compassion,
to give advice, to share a smile and give a helping hand,
to feed the hungry and
alleviate thirst, to show leniency and concern,
to work and help clean up,
to change a diaper and nurse a wound, 
to heal a broken heart,
to applaud an effort, to give another chance,
to cheer up, comfort and console,
to reconcile with a friend,
to be open to life and growth, and to return back to God

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The invasion of Malta

With a population of 420,000 and a limited space of 112 square miles, Malta has very limited space to offer to tourists, but nonetheless, an estimated 200,000 tourists are presently vacationing on our small island. That is half of the Maltese population, which also means good business for hotels and restaurants and other souvenir shops and entertainment places. This is the shut-down season for many establishments, as well as the Ferragosto holiday time in Italy when the Italians leave their homes and head to the beaches and mountains and recently, to the Maltese islands with their Fiats, Lambrettas and Alfa Romeos. An Internet technician just this weekend was saying that more than half of the IT traffic going on in Malta right now is coming from foreigners. This means all the contacts being made through Iphones, cell-phones, Ipads and Internet browsing is predominantly being done by tourists and foreigners who happen to be vacationing here right now. And this in an island where there are more mobile phones than people, and where Internet use is one of the highest in the European Union. The presence of cruise liners is also very significant, even though the visitors stay only one day and move on to other destinations.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Maltese Balconies

The elaborate Balcony at Naxxar.
Most buildings in Malta are made of limestone, of which there is a plentiful abundance in quarries. Much of the limestone can be carved into columns and other decorations around doors and windows. Most impressive are the balconies that were carved of limestone which are still in perfect condition, even 300 to 400 years after their creation. The two photos posted here are from two separate houses in two different towns in Malta, specifically Naxxar and Balzan. 
The Balcony at Balzan...notice the Fleur-de-Lys in the center.
One can see and admire the intricacy of the carver or sculptor who created beautiful carvings that welcome any visitor into a beautiful vintage home. Usually the design is complemented in the front door as is the case in the Naxxar house, now known as Palazzo Nascario.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Assumption of Mary

The Icon of the Dormition of Mary
We honor the Blessed Mother today as we see her assumed into heaven body and soul. However, it was only in 1950 that Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption through an encyclical ‘Munificentissimus Deus.’ But it was in 451 that in the Council of Chalcedon, the Bishop of Jerusalem St Juvenal proclaimed that Mary did die in the presence of the apostles. However when St Thomas asked to open her coffin, it was empty, which shows that she was taken up into heaven in a mysterious way. In those days the tradition started which celebrated the Sleeping of Mary, the Dormitio. It was celebrated along with her Assumption on August 15, and this was in the Eastern churches. The Western churches, that is Rome, and all of Europe celebrated only the Assumption of Mary, but not the Dormitio, also on the same date, August 15. The doctrine of the Assumption teaches that at the end of her earthly existence, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up (assumed) body and soul, into heaven. This means that there are two human bodies with God in heaven, Jesus and Mary. 
Today we turn to Mary and ask for her protection on our families, our children, our parents, our elders, and all those who are in need of prayers for any particular reason. This prayer by St Gabriel Possenti is one of the most consoling prayers to Mary: “If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you; if you are troubled, she will console you; if you are sick, she will bring you relief; if you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her.”

Monday, 14 August 2017

St Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian was born in January 1894 in Poland and was one of 5 sons to his devout parents. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. In 1907 Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome and was inspired to organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional leaflets, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata" and helped form a community of 800 men.
Maximilian went to Japan where he built a monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time. He provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanów. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports.
Franciszek Gajowniczek with Pope John Paul in 1982 after the canonization.
On February 17, 1941 he was arrested again by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place. The guards accepted this move, and Francizek was spared and eventually lived until the late 1990s. During the time in the cell St Maximilian led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek and his family.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Santa Maria Convoy

SS Ohio entering the main harbor at Valletta on August 15, 1942.
Seventy-five years ago on August 15, Malta was on the verge of starvation and days away from a possible surrender to the Axis forces led by Nazi Germany. But a last-ditch, high-risk effort to supply the island with direly needed fuel and food paid off, despite heavy losses, when the American tanker, the SS Ohio, was towed into Grand Harbour at 9.30am on August 15, 1942, to cheering crowds.
Children cheering and waving flags as they welcome the SS Ohio.
This August marks the 75th anniversary of the Operation Pedestal – popularly known as the Santa Marija Convoy, given the date on which the SS Ohio was towed into port, which not only saved Malta from surrender but also arguably turned the tide of WWII in favour of the Allies. Operation Pedestal was ultimately a tactical disaster, given the great losses sustained, but it was also a clear strategic victory for the Allies. The fuel supplies helped ensure that the Malta-based fighter planes would protect ships unloading in future supply operations.
Medal issued this year to commemorate the 75th anniversary.
The fuel also gave a substantial boost to Malta-based operations against Axis shipping lines, which sank a substantial proportion of Axis convoys to North Africa. SS Ohio was towed into Grand Harbor to cheering crowds and a band playing Rule Britannia. The crowd fell silent as the ships entered harbor, men removed their hats, women crossed themselves and a bugle sounded Still. The tanker discharged oil into two tankers and water was pumped in at the same time, to reduce the chance of structural failure. Ohio sank to the bottom of the Grand Harbor just as the last of the fuel was emptied. 
Painting in Qrendi church depicting the arrival of Operation Pedestal.
But thanks to the prayers of the devout people of Malta, they had prayed to the Blessed Mother to save them from starvation. And these included my own parents who were teenagers back then. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mother of our Children

This is a very precious photo sent to me by friends from the USA. It shows twin boys Emrys on the left, and Henning on the right approaching the yellow flowers and the statue of the Blessed Mother situated at the church of St Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho. It speaks to me about the innocence of children and how the Blessed Mother can protect them as they grow up, from infancy to adulthood. Reflecting on this photo, I share with you this prayer as we approach the feast of the Assumption.
Most Blessed Virgin Mary, we ask for your protection on all of our children and young people. You who raised Jesus with such love and affection, we implore you to do the same with our precious children. Help the unborn and inspire their mothers to continue bravely with their pregnancy, in spite of pressures to terminate. Keep all our children safe in parks, pools, schoolyards, neighborhood streets and wherever they gather to play. Encourage them to focus on their school work and pay attention at class, while doing the work and projects assigned to them. Remind them always to be respectful of their parents, especially as the turbulent teenage years approach, and may they continue to communicate with each other, not simply through texting and Facebook, but through the simple method we all grew up with, talking face-to-face, and listening to each other constructively. We realize that as they grow up, they somehow lose their sweetness and joyful spirit, but do not let them lose their closeness and affinity to their parents, siblings and families. Blessed Mother, bless the spontaneity and innocence of our children, and as you accept a simple flower from our two boys in this photo, accept also their hopes and dreams, their plans and projects for the future. We ask this prayer through Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Saint Clare

St Clare with the Monstrance, painting at St Francis church, Rabat, Malta.
Clare was a beautiful Italian noblewoman who became the Foundress of an order of nuns now called "Poor Clares." She was born July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio. When she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach, her heart burned with a great desire to imitate Francis and to live a poor humble life for Jesus. So one evening, she ran away from home, and in a little chapel outside Assisi, gave herself to God. St. Francis cut off her hair and gave her a rough brown habit to wear, tied with a plain cord around her waist. Her parents tried in every way to make her return home, but Clare would not.
Soon her sister Agnes joined her, as well as other young women who wanted to be brides of Jesus, and live without any money. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Yet they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time. Once, He saved them from a great danger in answer to St. Clare's prayer. An army of rough soldiers came to attack Assisi and they planned to raid the convent first. Although very sick, St. Clare had herself carried to the wall and right there, where the enemies could see it, she had the Blessed Sacrament placed. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters. "O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now," she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: "I will keep them always in My care."
At the same time a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could. St. Clare was sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she said that no pain could trouble her. She died on  August 11, 1253. Many stories and allegorical tales have been created with St Francis and St Clare, including the popular movie and phrase “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” But the fact is that both St Clare and St Francis laid a foundation for what to become one of the most influential orders of priests, friars and sisters, the Franciscans. Many other Orders splintered from the original Franciscans, but the foundation of each group remained always a life of poverty and good Christian example, a life detached from the materialism of this world.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

St Lawrence

Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons in Rome who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" he said. "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. "in three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels, chalices and candlesticks to have more to give away. The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church and lined them all up. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"
In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, he even joked, "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr's reward.
St Lawrence is one of thousands of martyrs who were mercilessly killed by the ruthless Emperors in the first 300 years of Christianity. Others were crucified, sent to the lions, beheaded, burned, tied to a tree and arrows shot at them, others were skinned or had parts of their body taken out or cut off. With St Stephen he is the patron saint of deacons.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942)
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (born as Edith Stein) was born in 1891 in Breslau, Poland, and was the youngest child of a large Jewish family. She was an outstanding student and was well versed in philosophy. She received the doctorate in 1916 from the University of Gottingen and started to teach at the University of Freiburg. She was an atheist as a young person, but one day, she started to read the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, and eventually became interested in the Catholic Faith, and in 1922, she was baptized at the Cathedral Church in Cologne, Germany. Edith left the University of Freiburg and started tot each a Catholic girls school in Speyer, run by the Dominicans. Eleven years later, in 1933 Edith entered the Cologne Carmelite convent. Because of the ramifications of politics in Germany, Edith, whose name in religion was Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was sent to the Carmel at Echt, Holland. She wrote a letter to Pope Pius XI condemning Nazism, and even though her letter received no answer, and it is not known for certain whether the Pope ever read it. However, in 1937 the Pope issued an encyclical written in German, Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Anxiety), in which he criticized Nazism, listed violations of the Concordat between Germany and the Church of 1933, and condemned antisemitism. When the Nazis conquered Holland, Teresa was arrested, and, with her sister Rosa, was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. One day, they asked all the girls in that camp to strip naked, promising them a cleansing shower, but instead Teresa, aged 51, and all the other women died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. In 1987, she was beatified in the large outdoor soccer stadium in Cologne by Pope John Paul II. Out of the unspeakable human suffering caused by the Nazis in Western Europe in the 1930's and 1940's, there blossomed the beautiful life of dedication, consecration, prayer, fasting, and penance of Saint Teresa. Even though her life was snuffed out by the satanic evil of genocide, her memory stands as a light undimmed in the midst of evil, darkness, and suffering. She was canonized on October 11, 1998.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

St Dominic

Statue of St Dominic in his church at Valletta, Malta
St Dominic was born on August 8 1170 in Calaruega, Spain. Dominic's parents are named Felix Guzman and Joan of Aza. The story is told that before his birth his barren mother made a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Santo Domingo dos Silos, and dreamed that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth, and "seemed to set the earth on fire". This story drew resonance from the fact that his order became known, after his name, as the Dominican order, Domini canus in Latin which a play on words interpreted as Domini canis: "Dog of the Lord." At Dominic’s baptism, his mother saw a star shining from his chest, which became another of his symbols in art, and led to his patronage of astronomy.
Beautiful painting of St Dominic by Giuseppe Cali in his church at Valletta.
He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Palencia. He was a Canon of the Cathedral of Osma, Spain and joined the Augustinians at first. Dominic had a lifelong apostolate among heretics, especially the Albigensians, and especially in France. He founded the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans) in 1215, a group who live a simple, austere life, and an order of nuns dedicated to the care of young girls. Dominic’s ideal, and that of his Order, was to organically link a life with God, study, and prayer in all forms, with a ministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His ideal: contemplata tradere: “to pass on the fruits of contemplation” or “to speak only of God or with God.” St Dominic died on August 6, 1221 in Bologna, Italy. His holiness was such that he was canonized only 13 years after his death, on July 13, 1234, by Pope Gregory IX.
Statue being taken out in procession from his church.
The spread of the Rosary, a popular Marian devotion, is attributed to the preaching of Saint Dominic. The Rosary has for centuries been at the heart of the Dominican Order. The feast of Saint Dominic is celebrated with great pomp and devotion in Malta, in the old city of Birgu and the capital city Valletta. The Dominican order has very strong links with Malta and Pope Pius V, a Dominican friar himself, aided the Knights of St. John to build the city of Valletta.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Saint Cajetan

Saint Cajetan (1480-1547)
Like a few other saints, like St Francis De Sales and St Alphonsus, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life — first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia. Born in 1480, his life took a characteristic turn when he joined the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome, a group devoted to piety and charity, shortly after his ordination at 36. When he was 42 he founded a hospital for those with incurable illnesses at Venice. At Vicenza, he joined a “disreputable” religious community that consisted only of men of the lowest stations of life — and was roundly censured by his friends, who thought his action was a reflection on his family. He simply sought out the sick and poor of the town and served them, but was criticized for this.
Cajetan and three friends decided that the best road to reform the church was in reviving the spirit and zeal of the clergy. One of them later became Pope Paul IV. Together they founded a congregation known as the Theatines, named after the town of Chieti, where their first superior‑bishop had his see. They managed to escape to Venice after their house in Rome was wrecked when Emperor Charles V’s troops sacked Rome in 1527. The Theatines were outstanding among the Catholic reform movements that took shape before the Protestant Reformation. In Naples he founded one of many charitable, non-profit credit organizations that lent money to help the poor and protect them against usurers. Cajetan’s little organization ultimately became the Bank of Naples, with great changes in policy.
When Cajetan was sent to establish a house of his congregation in Naples, a count tried to prevail upon him to accept an estate in lands. He refused. The count pointed out that he would need the money, for the people of Naples were not as generous as the people of Venice. “That may be true,” replied Cajetan, “but God is the same in both cities.”
He died on August 7, 1547 in the Kingdom of Naples. His remains are in the church of San Paolo Maggiore in Naples; outside the church is Piazza San Gaetano, with his statue. He was beatified in 1629, by Pope Urban VIII. On April 12, 1671, Cajetan was canonized together with St Rose of Lima and St Luis Beltrán. He is the patron saint of workers, gamblers, job seekers and unemployed people.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Transfiguration

We celebrate today the feast of the Transfiguration, the occasion when Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor. With them were the apostles Peter, James and John. After Jesus was surrounded by a cloud of bright light, Peter uttered a phrase that has remained quite significant and controversial in some ways. He was instantly overcome with a state of euphoria, and wanted to somehow crystallize himself in that moment, when he said to Jesus “Lord, it’s so good for us to be here, let me build three booths here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” We act like Peter sometimes when we’re enjoying life and going through a stress-free period of our life. We are on vacation, enjoying a beautiful trip, a spectacular scene, spending time with friends, and we don’t want it to end. We feel on Cloud Nine and want it to last forever. But reality is different, just as it was different with Peter and the other disciples - there was much work waiting for them, especially after Jesus ascended to heaven. It is the same with all of us. Vacation time will soon be over, and many people will be back to work, back to their normal routine. Hopefully the joyful euphoria they experienced will help them spread a spirit of happiness and joy, as was the case with the apostles after they took over the baton from their Master and led Christianity in its first few years. In the meantime, let's Listen to Him!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

From Tennis Pro to Nun

Sister Andrea Jaeger, a Dominican nun
We’ve heard the story of Dolores Hart, a female actress who acted with Elvis Presley and became a nun, Sister Dolores. Now comes the story of a former Number 2 tennis star who has become a Dominican nun, dedicating her life to helping children suffering from cancer.  Andrea Jaeger rose to stardom in the early 1980s, reaching the final of Wimbledon and the French Open, as well as semi-finalist at the Australian and US Open, She was only 15 when she was seeded in a Grand Slam tournament, and had accumulated quite a record against other superstars, 3–17 against Chris Evert, 4–11 against Navratilova, 2–8 against Tracy Austin, 6–8 against Hana Mandlikova, and 2–4 against Pam Shriver. She claims a turbulent relationship with her father who often punished her for not trying harder on the court. A major shoulder injury at the age of 19 ended Jaeger's career prematurely in 1985. Seeing this career-ending injury as a door to a spiritual awakening, she went to college and obtained a degree in theology. After retirement in 1987, she has prominently dedicated her life to public service, charities, and philanthropy. In 2006, she became "Sister Andrea" and professed as a Dominican sister.
Andrea Jaeger as a tennis player in the early 1980s
Jaeger used her winnings from tennis ($1.4 million) to create the Silver Lining Foundation in 1990. Located in Aspen, Colorado, the organization transported groups of young cancer patients to Aspen for a week of support and activities, including horseback riding and whitewater rafting. The foundation also provided money for reunions, family campouts, college scholarships, medical internships, and other programs for children who could not travel. The organization had other powerful backers, both in the world of sports and elsewhere. The first contributor was John McEnroe. Many high-profile celebrities were also involved, including Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and basketball star David Robinson. Jaeger has since established the "Little Star Foundation", reaching on average 4,000 kids annually.


Friday, 4 August 2017

St John Baptist Vianney

St John Baptist Vianney (1786-1859)
The patron saint of priests, St John Marie Baptist Vianney, whose feast we celebrate today, was born in Dardilly, France on May 8th, 1786. He was meant to be a holy priest, even though he had a very tough time in his studies, especially Latin. When he was ordained, he was sent to a little town in France called Ars, which was very liberal and had no faith at all. The bars and taverns were always filled with people, while the churches were always empty. However he gently changed the whole town as people went to confession, attended Masses and with his patience and holiness, transformed a simple town into a pilgrimage site. He was known as the Cure of Ars and used to spend hours hearing confessions from people travelling many miles from neighboring towns and villages. He died in Ars on August 4th, 1859, aged 73. John Baptist Vianney was canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. He was made the patron of all parish priests during the Year of the Priest. These are some of his popular quotes:
"Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When the heart is pure and united with God it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by a marvelous light."
"Man has a noble task: That of prayer and love. To pray and love, that is the happiness of man on earth."
"When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun."
"I tell you that you have less to suffer in following the cross than in serving the world and its pleasures."
"Prayer is to our soul what rain is to the soil. Fertilize the soil ever so richly, it will remain barren unless fed by frequent rains."

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The value of friendship

The Russian Gymnastics team, Yelena 2nd from left, Svetlana 1st right.
In the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney Australia, the games produced  the expected number of records, spectacular performances, the usual drug-related stories, and one touching story of friendship, generosity and altruism.  In the women’s Gymnastics, one of the stars was the Russian Svetlana Khorkina who had already won a few medals when she realized that her compatriot and team-mate Yelena Zamolodchikova received no medals. So when they came to the vault apparatus, Svetlana gave up her spot to Yelena, so that she’ll get at least a chance to win one medal. Yelena grabbed the gold to the delight of her friend, who applauded her emotionally from the stands. A day later, they were both competing for the last medal, the floor exercises. Svetlana went first and she was leading all through the end. But at the end was her friend Yelena, who did the impossible, and won the gold, with Svetlana taking the silver medal. For a few seconds Yelena was left by herself, oblivious of what had happened, and Svetlana remained seated, stunned. 
Yelena Zamolodchikova receiving the high scores for her routine.
Then she got up, went to Yelena, much shorter than her, and gave her one of those maternal hugs, as if to say, “I’m so proud of you!” Svetlana will always be remembered for her unselfish gesture, much more than her gold medal. Khorkina ended up with one gold and one silver, while Zamolodchikova earned two golds and one silver. That’s the spirit of sportsmanship, friendship, and the spirit of the Olympic Games. 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Saint Peter Julian Eymard

St Peter Julian Eymard 1811-1868
Born in France in February 1811, Peter Julian Eymard worked at his father's trade as cutler until he was 18, when he went to the seminary at Grenoble. In spite of his poor health, he was ordained a priest in 1834. He served as a parish priest for several years, then in 1845 he joined the Marists where he worked as a well‑respected spiritual advisor with seminarians and priests. He worked with other lay organizations promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Eucharist. He rose to the position of Provincial of the Marist Society at Lyon in 1845. In 1856, due to disputes with the Marists, Eymard left them and founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and 2 years later founded the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, a congregation for women.
The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament began working with children in Paris to prepare them to receive their First Communion, even though this custom was only approved in 1909 by Pope Pius X. It also reached out to non‑practising Catholics, inviting them to repent and begin receiving Communion again. Eymard was a tireless proponent of frequent Holy Communion, another idea approved by Pope Pius X in 1905.
Eymard overcame a number of difficulties to reach his goals, including poverty in his family and in his community, his father's opposition to his only son’s desire to be a priest, years of serious illness and pain, and the difficulties of getting diocesan and papal approval for his new Order. Eymard was a contemporary and a friend of other saints including Peter Chanel, John Vianney and Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marists.
The French sculptor Auguste Rodin received counsel from Eymard when Rodin entered the Congregation as a lay brother in 1862, having giving up art after the death of his sister. Eymard recognized Rodin's talent and advised him to return to his vocation. Rodin later produced a bust of Eymard. St. Peter Julian died on 1 August 1868. He was beatified in 1925, and canonized by Pope John XXIII on 9 December 1962. His Order runs a church in New York City where they have perpetual adoration of the Eucharist.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Touching Real Stories

These are some touching stories that actually happened. Always remember that the best sermons are lived, not preached.

Today, after my 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug. When I tensed up, she realized I didn't recognize her. She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said: "On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center."

Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I'm working on for my Psychology class. When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said;
"Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile."

 Today, I asked my mentor - a very successful business man in his 70s- what his top 3 tips are for success. He smiled and said; "Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing."

Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying. And just before he died; he licked the tears off my face.

Today at 7AM, I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went into work. At 3PM I got laid off. On my drive home I got a flat tire. When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too. A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job. I start tomorrow.

Today, I was feeling down because the results of a biopsy came back malignant. When I got home, I opened an e-mail that said, "Thinking of you today. If you need me, I'm a phone call away." It was from a high school friend I hadn't seen in 10 years.

Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe. He said he hadn't eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy. Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating. The first thing the man said was, "We can share it.”

Monday, 31 July 2017

St Ignatius of Loyola

St Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556
St. Ignatius was born in 1491 in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball shattered his leg and subsequently, a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he started reading the Bible and the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith.
Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.
He was a gifted spiritual director, and was very active in fighting the Protestant Reformation and promoting the subsequent Counter‑Reformation. St Ignatius died at the age of 65 in 1556. He was canonized on March 12, 1622.  There are 38 members of the Society of Jesus who have been declared Saints. So many other Jesuits have become Cardinals, Bishops and great writers. And since March 2013, we even have the first Jesuit Pope, Jorge Bergoglio, our beloved Pope Francis.
St Ignatius of Loyola quote: “To give, and not to count the cost; to fight, and not to heed the wounds; to toil, and not to seek for rest; to labor, and not to ask for any reward; save that of knowing that we do Your will” 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Just wait and see.....

A visiting Pastor was attending a men’s breakfast in Farm County.  He asked one of the impressive older farmers in attendance to say grace that morning.  After all were seated, the older farmer began “.......Lord, I hate buttermilk......."
The Pastor opened one eye and wondered to himself where this was going. Then the farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord, I hate lard.......”
Now the Pastor was worried.  However without missing a beat, the farmer prayed on, “And Lord, you know I don’t care much for raw white flour.......” Just as the Pastor was ready to stand and stop everything, the farmer continued,  “But Lord, when you mix ‘em all together and bake ‘em up, I do love fresh biscuits.  So Lord, when things come up we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we just don’t understand what you are sayin' to us, we just need to relax and wait ‘till  You are done mixin’, and probably it will be somethin' even better than biscuits.  Amen."
And as we know, biscuits come in all kinds of shapes and textures, and variety, just as we all have different personalities, which we have to accept without questioning. Sometimes we don’t understand what the Lord is doing through us, until something extraordinary happens, and you realize how He can use us in a truly extraordinary way. We don’t understand why some things happen in such a way, until the whole picture is in place, and then we thank God we were part of the plan.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Saint Martha

Vincenzo Campi - 'Saint Martha in the kitchen'
Now you see why she complained to Jesus, that she was left alone cooking while Mary sat down to chit chat with Jesus. I always had a soft spot for St Martha. She was criticized by Jesus for not sitting down at his feet and listen to Him as her sister Mary did. Poor Martha was respecting the rules of hospitality, and having such an honored guest, she was probably preparing some snacks to serve when Jesus arrived, possibly unexpected. This painting by Vincenzo Campi gives Martha a lot of reason to complain, as she had a quite a meal to prepare, with fish, poultry, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, carrots and all kinds of vegetables. Of course it may be exaggerated, but is funny in a way. But whenever I look at it, and see Jesus talking to Mary in the background, I always feel sorry for poor Martha. I would say “Hey Lord, first things first - let’s just prepare a few snacks for us all, and then we can sit and chit-chat, while nibbling on the snacks, or feast on the big meal that Martha probably prepared.” St Martha is the patron saint of housekeepers, housewives and waitresses. And guess what? Mary does not have a liturgical feast dedicated to her in the liturgical calendar. She is also known as Mary of Bethany. But the church realized that Martha was treated a little bit unfairly and gave her July 29 as her annual feast day.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Pretzel

One of the most popular snacks in every household is definitely the pretzel. A carefully prepared dough of specially selected ingredients is formed into pretzels with a real twist, salted and slowly baked for extra crunchiness. The popular pretzel of today was developed long ago by a monk in about 610 AD at one of the monasteries in the mountains between Southern France and Northern Italy. After baking bread, this imaginative monk took leftover dough and rolled it into a strip and formed it to represent  a child’s arms folded in prayer. He called it “pretiola”, which is Latin for “little reward”, and gave it to the little children for learning their prayers. The Church prospered and this precious “pretiola” found its way over the Alps into Austria and Germany where it became affectionately known as “Bretzel” and the “Pretzel” as we know it today.
As you enjoy the delicious satisfaction of a pretzel snack, or a pretzel’s accompaniment to drinks, salads or other fond food items, remember that pretzels are baked not fried. So, have a clear conscience because ounce for ounce Pretzels have less fat and calories than many other snacks, including nuts, potato chips, cookies and cakes. They are a source of energy while still being low in fat, yet crisp, crunchy and plain good tasting.
'Bretzel' stained glass window in Frieburg's Münster Church.
Pretzels hold an honored place in the marriage ceremony. A wood cut dating 1614 and copied from a stained-glass window in a Cathedral in Berne Switzerland depicts the pretzel used as a nuptial knot in a royal marriage. After a while, wishing on a pretzel became common, particularly at weddings when the bride held one side of a pretzel and the groom held the other side. They pulled on a pretzel, and each got a piece in their hand, very much similar to what we do with a wishbone from a chicken after it’s been dried and washed clean. So, other than a tasty snack, the pretzel remind us that it is a symbol for excellence in many accomplishments, especially towards our children when they pray, and also as a symbol of love when used as a nuptial knot between couples.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Balance in your life

Many people frequently ask the important question: how do you keep balance in your busy, hectic life? Well, here are some practical suggestions:
Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special. 
Don't set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.
Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as they were your life, for without them, life is meaningless.
Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life.
Don't give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.
Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us to each together.
Don't be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.
Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find time. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.
Don't run through life so fast that you forget not only where you've been, but also where you are going.
Don't forget, a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.
Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.
Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.
Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.
Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, and Today is a gift - that's why we call it "The Present!"

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Prayer for Grandparents

Today being the feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Mother, and grandparents of Jesus, I share with you this prayer for all grandparents and all those who depend on them.
Dear God, please bless my grandparents. Thank you for the life they gave my parents and for the life they give to me. For the ways they helped me and made me strong, I give thanks. For the ways they love me no matter what, I rejoice. For the ways they have paved the road that leads me here, I am grateful. 
Let them grow in wisdom and joy in life. Let them find peace and rest from their work. Let them be healed of every sickness and pain. And let them see with their own eyes the glory of your Son, Jesus, in the love of their children and grandchildren.
Grandparents bestow upon their grandchildren the strength and wisdom that time and experience have given them. Grandchildren bless their grandparents with a youthful vitality and innocence that help them stay young at heart for ever. Together they create a chain of love linking the past with the future. The chain may lengthen, but it will never part... There’s a special kind of love that grandchildren have for their grandparents.  It’s filled with respect for their wisdom and accomplishments; with gratitude for the values they’ve given us...with delight in the stories of our family that they remember and share.
It’s a special kind of love that’s built on a lifetime of caring and giving. It’s the kind of love that’s felt for you my dear grandparent, today and always. Grandparents are a family’s greatest treasure, the founders of a loving legacy, the greatest story tellers, the keepers of traditions that linger on in cherished memory. Grandparents are the family’s strong foundation. Their very special love sets them apart. Through happiness and sorrow, through their special love and caring, Grandparents keep a family close at heart.
And to those who are no longer with us, we pray that they are enjoying eternity in peace and joy for ever.