Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Watercolors - part 3


Here are my last few watercolors for now. I always try to invent new and different styles, but they come to me from time to time. Like all other artists, you have a good stretch when you feel very productive and other periods when you feel lacking in ideas. But time always heals everything. This year has been a particularly productive period, probably because of being trapped inside most of the time. Then again not everything comes out perfect, but I still have not destroyed or ripped any of my creations, as humble and simple as they are. Again I share them with you just before the celebration of Thanksgiving, and I am forever grateful for the talents God gave me, which I am certainly not afraid of using. They won't be hanging in any museums for sure, but they are here for all of you to enjoy. 
(Click on each painting to enlarge)




Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Watercolors - part 2

Here are four new watercolors I did over the past few months. The first one is the very last one I just did, reminding me of the beautiful sunsets we experience at this time of the year. The other three are a set, which would look absolutely beautiful, when framed and one can see them hanging at an office. A few more tomorrow - all this in gratitude to Almighty God who gives us gifts and talents to use. I am sure you have many hidden talents that you have not discovered yet. So try your hand at writing, paintings, playing an instrument, singing, or simply smiling at people you meet - you will certainly cheer them up. With so many people alone and lonely, your smile may be the only cheerful thing they experience all day long. Please click on each photo to enlarge





Monday, 23 November 2020

Watercolors part 1

Over the next 3 days, in thanksgiving for the talents that God gave me, and in gratitude for the opportunity to paint and do calligraphy, I will share with you a few of my recent paintings. Some of them incorporate both watercoloring and calligraphy, both gifts that I learned on my own. I am not an artist, but I share what's in my heart with anyone who appreciates my humble artwork. I guess I developed my own style, which some people enjoy. These were all done this year, thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown. This is what happens when you are restricted in your movement. More tomorrow....(click to enlarge)



Sunday, 22 November 2020

Christ the King

The Solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. It’s a day to honor our Savior as King, who leads us with love, kindness, and compassion, unlike many other ruthless Kings and Emperors who lead with tyranny, oppression, and cruelty, many of whom were deposed by their own people. If you were to google ‘Christ the King,’ searching for images, you will come up with a large number of images of Jesus on a glittering throne, usually sitting with a soft embroidered cushion, surrounded with angels, wearing a sparkling jewel-embedded crown, with a shiny scepter in his hand. In reality, Jesus never aspired to present this image. His throne was the rugged cross, the scepter was the nails driven through his hands, his crown was made of sharp thorns, and his robe was a simple robe, for which the soldiers threw lots after he was crucified. Christ never spread a message of hatred and then taught us how to love. He never waged war and then preached peace and justice. He wasn’t rich and told us to be poor. He never escaped from anything or from anyone - except for once, when they wanted to give Him a promotion and make Him King. The feast of Christ the King as we know it now was introduced in 1925, to counteract the start of Communism in the world. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had taken the presence of Christ from the hearts of people, and the Church wanted to bring Him back into the center of their lives. The feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October until 1969, when Pope St. Paul VI shifted this feast to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, usually towards the end of November.

Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat (Christ will win, Christ will reign, Christ will rule)

Saturday, 21 November 2020

The Presentation of Mary

While the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was not generally celebrated in the West until the 11th century, it appears in most of the earliest calendars of the Eastern Churches. A basilica was built near the ruins of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Gospel of James and other apocryphal works (not included in the Bible) told the story of Mary's presentation at the Temple at the age of three. In gratitude for being granted a child after years of infertility, Mary's parents, Saints Joachim and St Anne had vowed to dedicate Mary to the service of God at the Temple. When they presented her at the Temple at the age of three, she stayed willingly, showing her dedication to God even at that young age, attending the temple regularly, similar to what children do attending their Religious Education classes. The Gospel or Protoevangelium of James is the source of many details of Mary's life that became universally accepted by the Church, including the names of her parents, the story of her birth, her age at her betrothal to Saint Joseph, and Saint Joseph's advanced age and his status as a widower with children by his first wife. When Mary left the Temple at the age of 12 after her betrothal to Joseph, she remained pure and chaste, and at the Annunciation, God came to dwell in her. Pope Sixtus IV first placed the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the universal calendar in 1472, but in the Tridentine reform of the calendar in 1568, Pope Pius V removed the feast. It was restored 17 years later by Pope Sixtus V, and remains in the Roman calendar today as a memorial. Today's Feast emphasizes our response to God's gifts. All parents are called to imitate the response of Mary’s parents by presenting their children for Baptism. Mary was called to continually give her "Yes" to God's invitations of love. In that continual "Yes" or “Fiat” she shows us the way we are all called to respond to the invitations of grace in our own lives as we grow in holiness. 

Friday, 20 November 2020

After Communion

                       
Who came into my heart? God, the creator of Heaven and Earth. God all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving. God who knows everything. He knows me and still loves me, in spite of my shortcomings. He came to me, Son of Mary. My Savior. He who performed so many miracles. The best. The most beautiful. The most loved. He who rose from death triumphantly.

Who came into my heart? He came to me, miserable as I am, so poor in virtue. He came into my home, so small and poor. Under which form He came to me? He minimized Himself so that he can enter into my life. He came in the form of bread, to show that he wanted to sustain me and feed me. He came to me with great love, with great mercy, with a desire to love Him more.

Why did He come? To eliminate my pride, my egoism, my weakness. He came as a Master to show me the way to holiness. He came as a benefactor to enrich me with his graces. He came to me as Eucharist, meaning ‘giving thanks.’ Did I thank Him? Am I grateful for such a special gift? And how do I receive Him? With thanksgiving and with great admiration for His immense love for me. So I will offer Him a crown of roses – of praise, adoration, an act of faith, love, and hope. I will give Him a bunch of resolutions to be a better person, and continuous gratitude for so many blessings received.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

The Vaccine

Dr. Ugur Sahin - Dr. Ozlem Tureci BioNTech founders.

The whole world is waiting in anticipation for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, whether it comes from Pfizer or BioNTech or Moderna’s mRNA-1273, or even Russia’s Sputnik V. We have to give credit today to two people who are the founders of BioNTech, the brains behind the discovery of the vaccine, which will hopefully deliver us from this pandemic: Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci. A recent BBC documentary I was listening to by chance in the middle of the night mentions the fact that the vaccine has to be stored at a temperature 80 degrees below zero, and some countries may not be ready with this important and crucial facility. Your fridge freezer is only 20 degrees below zero. There are 2 doses to be given in the vaccine. According to Pfizer’s preliminary findings, protection from COVID-10 in patients was achieved 7 days after the second of two doses, and 28 days after the first dose. Thank you Drs Sahin and Tureci. In the meantime, we wait and pray...and wash our hands....and keep our social distancing....and wear our mask.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Basilicas of St Peter and St Paul

The interior of St Peter's Basilica, a photo I took in 2012

Today’s feast commemorates the dedication of two of the most sumptuous churches in the entire world: the Basilica of St. Peter, the oversized jewel in Vatican City, and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, a few miles distant, beyond Rome’s ancient walls. The foundations of these two Basilicas are each sunk deep into the blood-drenched ground of first-century Christianity. The present Basilica of St. Peter was dedicated, or consecrated, in 1626. It was under construction for more than one hundred years, was built directly over the tomb of the Apostle Peter.  The former fourth-century Basilica was so decrepit by the early 1500s that priests refused to say Mass at certain altars for fear that the creaky building’s sagging roofs and leaning walls would collapse at any moment. The present Basilica, an ingenious structure built with the collaboration of Michelangelo, Bramante, Carlo Moderno, Giovanni Pannini and Bernini was officially consecrated on November 18 1626 by Pope Urban VIII. It is by far the most imposing and impressive church in all of Christendom, where major celebrations, elections of Popes, funerals, Canonizations etc, are held.

St Paul's statue outside his Basilica, another photo from 2012.
The ancient Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was consumed by a mammoth fire in 1823. The rebuilt Basilica was dedicated on December 10, 1854, just two days after Pope Pius IX had formally promulgated the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. It was started by Valentinian II on the Via Ostiense in 386, on the place where St Paul was buried. It was subsequently modified by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. It has a graceful cloister that was built in the 13th century. Of all the churches of Rome, it had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. However, a negligent fire destroyed it in 1823 and the new and present Basilica was built in the 19th century and consecrated on December 10, 1854, by Pope Pius IX. The whole world contributed to its reconstruction. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, the Emperor of Russia the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The two Basilicas were, for centuries, linked by a miles-long, roofed colonnade that snaked through the streets of Rome, sheltering from the sun and rain the river of pilgrims flowing from one Basilica to the next as they procured their indulgences. Rome’s two great proto-martyrs were like twins tethered by a theological umbilical cord in the womb of Mother Church. Pope Pius IX ruled that both Basilicas will have their dedication celebration together, on November 18. It’s interesting to note that today’s first reading in the Mass mentions Malta, after St. Paul’s shipwreck on our shores in 60 AD.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

St Elizabeth of Hungary

A beautiful sculpture honoring St Elizabeth at her death.

My first parish in Oregon was in John Day, dedicated to St Elizabeth of Hungary, and so I developed a special devotion and affection towards her, especially after I was able to get a first-class relic of the beloved saint. St. Elizabeth was born in Bratislava, a Kingdom of Hungary in 1207, the daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary. At the age of four, she was sent for education to the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, and within a few years she was betrothed to his son, Ludwig. As she grew in age, her piety also increased by leaps and bounds. In 1221, aged 14, she married Ludwig of Thuringia, the same year that he was crowned Ludwig IV, and the marriage appears to have been happy. In 1223, Franciscan monks arrived, and the teenage Elizabeth not only learned about the ideals of Francis of Assisi, but started to live these ideals. Ludwig was not upset by his wife's charitable efforts, believing that the distribution of his wealth to the poor would bring eternal reward; he is venerated in Thuringia as a saint, though not canonized by the church as his wife is. In spite of Elizabeth’s position at court she began to lead an austerely simple life, practiced penance, and devoted herself to works of charity. Her husband was himself much inclined to religion and highly esteemed her virtue, encouraging her in her exemplary life. They had three children, Hermann, Sophia, and Gertrude. Then tragedy struck - Ludwig was killed while fighting with the Crusaders. After his death, Elizabeth left the court, made arrangements for the care of her children, and in 1228, renounced the world, becoming a tertiary of St. Francis. Her family wanted her to re-marry, but she made a vow of celibacy and never married. She built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg, Germany, and devoted herself to the care of the sick until her death at the young age of 24 in 1231. St. Elizabeth is frequently pictured distributing bread to the needy in her community, and thus is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, the homeless, nursing services, widows, and young brides. She was canonized in 1235, just 4 years after her death.

Monday, 16 November 2020

St Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret of Scotland, was an English princess born in Hungary to Princess Agatha of Hungary and English Prince Edward around 1045. Her siblings, Cristina and Edgar the Atheling were also born in Hungary around this time. Margaret and her family returned to England when she was 10 years old when her father was called back as a potential successor to the throne. However, Edward died immediately after the family arrived, but Margaret and Edgar continued to reside at the English court. Agatha set out to take her children north to Northumbria. She later decided to leave Northumbria and return to the continent, but her family's ship got caught in a storm. The storm drove their ship even more north to Scotland, where they were shipwrecked in 1068. The spot they landed on is now known as "St. Margaret's Hope." Malcolm Canmore III, the king of Scotland, welcomed Margaret and her family and put them under his protection. He soon fell deeply in love with the beautiful and kind princess. Margaret and Malcolm married in 1070 at the castle of Dunfermline. Together, they had eight children, six sons, and two daughters. All of whom were raised with deep Catholic faith. They lived as a holy family, a domestic church. Margaret's kind-nature and good heart was a strong influence on Malcolm's reign. She softened his temper and helped him become a virtuous King of Scotland. Together they prayed, fed the hungry, and offered a powerful example of living faith in action. Margaret was placed in charge of all domestic affairs and was often consulted with state matters, as well. She promoted the arts and education in Scotland, encouraged Church synods, and was involved in efforts to correct the religious abuses involving Bishops, priests, and laypeople.

Her impact in Scotland led her to being referred to as "The Pearl of Scotland." She constantly worked to aid the poor Scotland, and encouraged people to live a devout life, grow in prayer and in holiness. She helped to build churches, including the Abbey of Dunfermline, where a relic of the true Cross is kept. She was well-known for her deep life of prayer and piety. She set aside specific times for prayer and to read Scripture. She didn't eat often and slept very little so she would have more time for her devotions. She lived holiness of life as a wife, mother, and lay woman; truly in love with Jesus Christ.
Malcolm supported Margaret in all her endeavors and admired her religious devotion so much he had her books decorated in jewels, gold, and silver. In 1093, Malcolm and their oldest son were killed during the Battle of Alnwick. Already ill and worn from a life full of austerity and fasting, Margaret passed away four days after her husband, on November 16, 1093. Her body was buried before the high altar at Dunfermline. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Scouting medals

I have worked with boys scouts and girl scouts most of my time in the USA. Since at this time of the liturgical year, we keep hearing the words ‘Be Prepared’, reminding us of the end of times, we also think of the Scouting Movement as this is actually their motto. I share with you today a special photo of patches and medals earned by Boy Scouts, and in particular, this one shows also the highest honor a Boy Scout can receive, the Eagle Award. It is the one on the right side, made of metal and three US colors, red, white, and blue, next to the Papal Medal of Pius XII, on the left pocket on the shirt. The other circular patches represent different projects that were accomplished by this boy scout, geography, orienteering, first-aid, camping, life-saving, rowing, hiking, navigation, cooking, etc. There is a very moving ceremony when the boy scout is awarded the Eagle Award medal, when they ask the mother of the boy to pin the medal, as she also receives a small medal, pinned by the leader of the troop.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Salutation to a new day

                      
I always start my day by reciting this prayer, a salutation to the new day ahead of you. I hope you can print it and do the same:

Look to this day!

For it is life – in its brief course lies all the realities of your existence:

The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of achievement.

For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision.

But today well-lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness,

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore to this day!

Make the best of it.

Be kind to others – smile often - complain very little.

Listen to some good music – read something nurturing,

Write something positive, send uplifting e-mails.

Remember that people do not see things the way you do.

So be patient with them, especially those older than you.

Friday, 13 November 2020

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

                          
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, was born in Lombardia, Italy in 1850, the youngest of thirteen children. Two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her 67 years. As a young girl, Francesca was taken care of by her older sister Rosa, because her mother was 52 when Maria Francesca was born. At 13, she was sent to Arluno to study under the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at the Normal School, and in 1868, at 18 she was certified as a teacher. Four years later she contracted smallpox. When she tried to enter into the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, Mother Superior refused admission, even though she saw potential in her, because of her frail health. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her siblings. One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls' school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her Bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Although her lifelong dream was to be a missionary in China, Pope Leo XIII sent her to New York City on March 31, 1889, with six other nuns. There, she obtained the permission of Archbishop Michael Corrigan to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, Ulster County, NY today known as Saint Cabrini Home, the first of 67 institutions she founded in New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and in countries throughout South America and Europe, especially Italy, England, France, Spain. Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable woman soon founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages in this strange land and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children.  She died in Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patroness of immigrants. Her beatification miracle involved the restoration of sight to a child who had been blinded by excess silver nitrate in the eyes. Her canonization miracle involved the healing of a terminally ill nun. She is buried in Washington Heights where a shrine is also dedicated to her.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Pro Life

In speaking against abortion and in favor of life, I thought these slogans can come in handy when you are defending the defenseless, unborn babies.

God created women with a womb, not with a tomb.

We protest our whales, we save our seals, we brake for animals, yet we kill our unborn babies!

Take my hand, not my life – Let Life Live!

It’s a child, not a choice!

Have you noticed that everyone who is for abortion has been born?

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Poppy Day

Known also as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, Poppy Day is celebrated on November 11th every year. A special memorial day has been observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War, to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the day is also marked by war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month." In The USA, it is called Veterans Day and is celebrated with parades in which many veterans of wars participate, proudly showing off their medals and honors received. In Australia and New Zealand, it is called Anzac Day.  

The Cenotaph in Central London

The celebration in England is held by the Cenotaph, a memorial tomb in the heart of London, where many poppies and wreaths are placed. It is a tradition that everyone wears a poppy on their chest in memory of the fallen victims of past wars, while families place poppies with a cross on tombstones and gravesites in cemeteries. Military cemeteries are particularly highlighted with flags, crosses, but especially poppies on this day, and the days preceding it. Let us remember them.



Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Maybe....

 - Maybe God wanted us to meet the wrong people before meeting the right one so that when we finally meet the right person, we will know how to be grateful for that gift.
 - Maybe when the door of happiness closes, another opens, but oftentimes we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one which has been opened for us.

 
- Maybe the best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had.
 - Maybe it is true that we don't know what we have got until we lose it, but it is also true that we don't know what we have been missing until it arrives.

 - It takes only a minute to get a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone, but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.
 - There are moments in life when you miss someone so much that you just want to pick them from your dreams and hug them for real.

 - Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.
 - May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, enough hope to make you happy.

 - Always put yourself in others' shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too.
 - The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

 - Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, and ends with a tear.
 - The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past, you can't go on well in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.
  - When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you are the one who is smiling while everyone around you is crying.

Monday, 9 November 2020

St John Lateran

We commemorate today the dedication of one of the 4 major basilicas of Rome, that of St John the Lateran. This majestic basilica was the first church to be built in Christendom. At the top of the center of the façade stands the Risen Christ, demonstrating that to enter the Church, we must enter into Christ’s body. That is why we as Church are called the “Body of Christ.” Underneath this statue is the Papal balcony, from which the Pope addresses his faithful – this is to mean that the Pope is literally under Christ as his Vicar on earth. Directly above the pillars and columns on the façade are 12 bishops of the early Church (known as Doctors) to symbolize that the visible face of the Church is found in the Bishops throughout the east and west.

St Paul's marble statue, one of 12 inside the Basilica

Then each of the foundational pillars of the basilica’s interior contains an enormous marble statue of the 12 Apostles, to symbolize literally that the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles. They are all similar in style and size, but done by different sculptors. In the back of the Church in the apse is a huge mosaic of Christ the Savior hovering over his Cross. In fact the original name of the Church was “Christ the Savior,” named so by Pope Sylvester, just after it was built by King Constantine, who legalized Christianity. In 313 AD, King Constantine stopped the persecutions and the killing of many innocent martyrs, and he built a Church on a plot of land owned by the Laterani family. It was pillaged and attacked and desecrated over the years, but it survived. However in the 9th century, it was destroyed by an earthquake, and Pope Sergius III rebuilt it and dedicated it to St John the Baptist. Later it was also dedicated to St John the Evangelist, and that’s why it is known as the basilica of St John Lateran. Now until the 13th century, this Church was the seat of the Pope, his headquarters and his Church government, but then moved to the Vatican, where he still resides, and from where all Church business is conducted. The present facade was completed in 1735, and was done after a competition among Rome’s best architects, the prize and winning design going to Alessandro Galilei.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

What Life is....what Life isn’t

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

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

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Only in America

Only in America do people drive on a parkway and then park in a driveway....
Only in America do people send goods by car and call it a shipment, then send goods by a ship and call it cargo.....
Only in America do people have their noses run and their feet smell....
Only in America can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.....
Only in America are there handicapped parking spaces in front of a skating rink.....
Only in America do people put suits in garment boxes, and then put garments in suitcases.....
Only in America do drugstores make the sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions.....
Only in America do people order a double cheeseburger, large fries, and a diet coke......
Only in America do banks leave both doors open, and then chain their 50 cent pens to the counters.....
Only in America do people leave cars worth thousands of dollars in their driveway, and leave useless junk locked in their garage......
Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of 10 and buns in packages of 8.....

And one final question that has puzzled me, especially here in rural Eastern Oregon...why is it that people have to clean up after their dogs, but not after their horses or cows?

Friday, 6 November 2020

St Leonard

The church of St Leonard-de-Noblat, France

The feast of St Leonard is celebrated in St Leonard-de-Noblat in France, where he lived, and the small parish at Kirkop, Malta, where I will be preaching on the saint tonight during the celebration of his life. He lived in the 6th century, son of nobles but wanted no honors and wanted to serve only his Lord Jesus Christ. He spent much of his life in the forests among wild animals, attracting many people towards Christianity by his example of humility and austerity. The people were very anti-Christian, but he changed many people’s lives as many men joined him in the convent he created. One of the miracles attributed to him was the healing of Queen Misigarda who was able to deliver a healthy baby thanks to his prayers. As a result, King Teodoberto offered him part of the forest and built for him a church and a convent. St Leonard tended to many of the local prisoners and prayed that they will be released, as many of them became monks, following him and living a very religious life thereafter. Various people who were sick, blind, deaf, and mute came to him and were often healed of their infirmities. He died on November 6, 569, and a bigger church in his honor was built in St Leonard-de-Noblat in Central France.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

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 610AD at one of 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 little children for learning their prayers. The precious “pretiola” made its way over the Alps into Austria and Germany where it became affectionately known as “Bretzel.”  Pretzels also hold an honored place in the marriage ceremony. A woodcut dating 1614 and copied from a stained-glass window in a Cathedral in Berne Switzerland, depicts a 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 of their hand, very much similar to what we do with a wish-bone from a chicken after it’s been dried and washed clean. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

St Charles Borromeo

St. Charles was the son of Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV. He was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy on October 2, 1538. He received the clerical tonsure when he was twelve and was sent to a Benedictine abbey at Arona for his education. In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the following year, named him his Secretary of State and created him a cardinal and administrator of the see of Milan. He served as Pius' legate on numerous diplomatic missions and in 1562, was instrumental in having Pius reconvene the Council of Trent, which had been suspended in 1552. Charles played a leading role in guiding and in fashioning the decrees of the third and last group of sessions. He was ordained a priest in 1563, and was consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Before being allowed to take possession of his see, he oversaw the catechism, missal, and breviary called for by the Council of Trent. When he finally did arrive at Trent (which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years) in 1556, he instituted radical reforms despite great opposition, with such effectiveness that it became a model see. He put into effect, measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocese, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children, and encouraged the Jesuits to be more visible and active. He increased the systems to the poor and the needy, was most generous in his help to the English college at Douai, and during his bishopric held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils. He founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of St. Ambrose (now Oblates of St. Charles) in 1578, and was active in preaching, resisting the inroads of Protestantism, and bringing back lapsed Catholics to the Church. He encountered opposition from many sources in his efforts to reform people and institutions. He died in Milan on the night of November 3-4, 1584, and was canonized in 1610. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, a patron of learning and the arts, and though he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility, personal sanctity, and unselfishness to reform the Church, of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and the nobles of the times.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

St. Martin de Porres

                             
St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579. He was the illegitimate son to a Spanish gentleman and a freed slave from Panama. At a young age, Martin's father abandoned him, his mother, and his younger sister, leaving Martin to grow up in deep poverty. After spending just two years in primary school, Martin was placed with a barber/surgeon where he would learn to cut hair and the medical arts. As Martin grew older, he experienced a great deal of ridicule for being of mixed-race. In Peru, by law, all descendants of African or Indians were not allowed to become full members of religious orders. But Martin, who spent long hours in prayer, asked to be accepted as a volunteer who performed the most menial tasks in the monastery. In return, he would be allowed to wear the habit and live within the religious community. When Martin was 15, he asked for admission into the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima and was received as a servant boy helping the poor. During his time in the Convent, Martin took on his old trades of barbering and healing. He also worked in the kitchen, did laundry, and cleaned. After eight more years, he was granted the privilege to take his vows as a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. Still, Martin was called horrible names and mocked for being illegitimate and descending from slaves. Martin was assigned to the infirmary where he would remain in charge until his death. He carefully and patiently took care of the sick people, regardless of race or wealth. It is said he had many extraordinary abilities, including bilocation, instant cures, and an excellent relationship with animals. He would feed little mice who came into the kitchen. Martin also founded an orphanage for abandoned children and slaves and is known for raising dowry for young girls in short amounts of time. During an epidemic in Lima, many of the friars in the Convent of the Rosary became very ill and were locked away in a distant section of the convent. However, on more than one occasion, Martin passed through the locked doors to care for the sick, thinking that charity is more important than obedience. In 1639 when Martin was 60-years-old, he became very ill with chills, fevers, and tremors causing him agonizing pain. He would experience almost a year full of illness until he passed away on November 3, 1639. By the time he died, he was widely known and accepted. Talks of his miracles in medicine and caring for the sick were everywhere. 25 years after his death, his body was exhumed and exhaled a splendid fragrance and he was still intact. St. Martin de Porres was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI on October 29, 1837, and canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962.  He has become the patron saint of people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health workers, and more.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Our Loved Ones

                        
The commemoration of All Souls is being observed today around the world, as people visit cemeteries to pay respect to their loved ones, place some flowers, light a candle, and say a prayer. There is a beautiful analogy of death which puts into perspective our departure from this earth. Imagine a large ship with sails leaving port, and as it sails away from you, you see it drifting away from you, getting smaller and smaller, until it appears like a tiny dot on the horizon. Then we say ‘There, – it’s gone!’ But gone only from our limited perspective, because on the other side of the horizon there is a group of people at another harbor waiting for her to arrive, and they see her as a tiny dot at first, then getting bigger and bigger, with its massive sails triumphantly in the wind. And as it reaches its destination, the people there greet her happily and rejoice in the reunion. Our death is similar to that ocean scene. Those whom we lose are gone only from our midst, but there are a great number of other people who will greet them into heaven and rejoice in their re-union with a big celebration. Our ancestors will joyfully welcome them to their new home with Jesus, Mary, and all the saints. "For those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before, but they are now wherever we are, in our hearts, in our minds, in our souls." Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may the perpetual light shine upon them. May our loved ones rest in peace.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

All Saints – New Saints

As we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints today, I thought of sharing with you a short list of new saints about whom we may not know much. In my daily Masses, I always like to highlight the lives of our saints, which reminds me of a young girl in a former parish who had an excellent description of saints. When I asked them ‘who are the saints?’ she thought of the stained-glass windows we had in our church and the light shining through them, and her response was perfect: ‘a saint is one through whom the light of God shines through....’ Yes, the Light of God shines through these saints who have done something very ordinary, but in an extraordinary way.

Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin – the parents of St Therese of Lisieux, besides three other girls, who were also, Carmelite sisters.

St Josephine Bakhita – a Sudanese girl who was sold as a slave, ending up as a nanny in Italy and became a nun, beloved by everyone who knew her.

St. George Preca – the first official Maltese saint who started a program of teaching catechism to young boys and girls and young people, a program called MUSEUM.

St. Junipero Serra – a Franciscan monk who started the missions in California, thereby bringing the faith to the west coast of the USA, establishing various Missions all along the California coast.

St. John XXIII – the Pope who convened the Vatican Council II, and changed the way we celebrate Mass.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – a discalced Carmelite nun who was a mystic and spiritual writer, besides being an accomplished pianist.

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio – a young Mexican Cristero who was martyred for not renouncing his faith during the Mexican revolution of the 1920s.

St. Antonio Primaldo – along with 812 residents of Otranto, in Southern Italy, who resisted the cruel Ottoman Empire in 1480 and were martyred for their faith.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla – she gave her life for her unborn daughter, instead of doing an abortion to save her own life for a cure for cancer.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

The Cherokee Indian

Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of passage? His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him, and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man! Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on another stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. 

We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, our Heavenly Father is watching over us, sitting on the stump (or bench) beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.  
Moral of the Story: Just because you can't see God, doesn't mean He is not there.

Friday, 30 October 2020

The Mango Tree

                      
There was a king who wanted to discourage his four sons from making rash judgments.  At his command, the eldest son made a winter journey to see a mango tree across the valley.  When spring came, the next oldest was sent on the same journey. Summer followed, and the king sent his third son.  After the youngest made his visit to the mango tree in the autumn, the king called them together and asked each son to describe the tree. The first son said it looked like an ugly, old stump.  The second disagreed, describing it as lovely - large and green.  The third son declared its blossoms were as beautiful as roses. The fourth son said that they were all wrong.  To him, it was a tree filled with fruit - luscious, juicy fruit, like pears.  

"Well, each of you is right," the old king said. Seeing the puzzled look in their eyes, the king went on to explain. "You see, each of you saw the mango tree in a different season; thus you all correctly described what you saw.  The lesson," said the king, "is to withhold your judgment until you have seen the tree in all its seasons." Like the mango tree, our lives go through seasons.  Some life-seasons seem barren and unfruitful.  During these times of unproductiveness and obscurity, we may be tempted to judge our lives as failures.  Family and job responsibilities may frustrate us from reaching career and education goals.  But we must withhold judgment until we have passed through all of life's seasons.  All four seasons of a tree are necessary.  The lonely months of winter prepare it for the fruitfulness of summer.  So do not lose heart. The season of fruitfulness will come to us just as it comes to the tree. The Scripture says, "To every thing there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap; ... a time to gain and a time to lose (Ecclesiastes 3:1,6)

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The 8 L’s of parenting

                    
LOVE your family and tell them. Spend time hugging, listening, and affirming. When you give your attention, it should be undivided.

LOOK for opportunities to find the good in your family and make comments about the good traits in the other parent and your children.

LISTEN to your children when they need to express their thoughts and feelings and model expressing your thoughts in an appropriate manner.

LAUGH with your children. A sense of humor goes a long way in dealing with the issues of life. Play together, each day is a gift you only get once.

LABOR diligently and with pride in what you do and expect the same of your children.

LEARN, learn, and learn. A good motto is, “Every day the thing to do is learn something new”. Have good books, periodicals, and information in your home. Read to your children, and for yourself, and instill a love of learning in them.

LEAVE TV and other media off. Have conversation and play be the noise in your homes, interact with one another.

LIVE life to its fullest. Take pleasure in the little things, ice-cream, the sunshine, the enthusiasm of your little ones, and the innocence of their sleep. Have candlelight family suppers – even if it is a hamburger. Sing even if you do not carry a tune, remember to encourage dreams and be thankful.

Use these 8 L’s of parenting as a guide to remember what is important in life and how you can express Love with your children every day!

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

The Treasures in You

                

There are treasures in life, but owners are few
Of money and power to buy things brand new.

Yet you can be wealthy and feel regal too,
If you will just look for the treasures in you.

These treasures in life are not hard to find
When you look in your heart, your soul, and your mind.

For when you are willing to share what's within,
Your fervent search for riches will end.

The joy and the laughter, the smile that you bring;
The heart unafraid to love and to sing;

The hand always willing to help those in need;
Ones quick to reach out, to labor and feed.

So thank you for sharing these great gifts inside;
The caring, the cheering, the hug when one cried.

Thanks for the energy, encouragement too,
And thank you for sharing the treasures in you.