Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Feast of Malta's first Saint

St George Preca (1880-1962)
Today happens to be the liturgical feast of Saint George Preca, the first and only Saint from Malta who has been canonized back in 2009 on June 3rd. We are all proud of his presence in our lives, and even more special is the fact that many people who are still in their 50s and over remember him alive. When one considers that the USA has only 2 Saints so far (St Elizabeth Ann Seton and St Katharine Drexel) with 2 more to be canonized later this year in October (St Kateri Tekakwitha and St Marianne Cope,) the Maltese are more than honored to claim him as their first native Saint, being such a small country.
St George was born on February 12, 1880 and he founded in the early years of the 20th century the Society of Christian Doctrine, a society of lay catechists. In Malta, he is affectionately known as "Dun Ġorġ" and is popularly referred to as the "Second Apostle of Malta", after St Paul, who brought the Christian faith to the shores of Malta when he was shipwrecked in 60 AD.
Preca first came to the attention of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints which examined the scientifically unexplainable healing of Charles Zammit Endrich in 1964. Zammit Endrich had suffered from a detached retina of the left eye. The healing was declared as miraculous, and was attributed to the intercession of Dun Gorg Preca after Zammit Endrich prayed to him and placed one of the priest's belongings under his pillow. The healing took place outside of a hospital, overseen by the personal doctor of Zammit Endrich, the ophthalmologist Censu Tabone, who was later to be appointed President of Malta (died earlier this year in March - see separate entry)
On 24 June 1975, Archbishop Michael Gonzi  issued a decree initiating the process of Preca's canonization. He was declared "venerable" on 28 June 1999, and on January 27, 2000, Pope John Paul II signed the decree which officially confirmed the Zammit Endrich healing. In a ceremony in Floriana, Malta on 9 May 2001, Dun Gorg was beatified  by the same Pope along with two other Maltese blesseds,  Nazju Falzon, a cleric, and Adeodata Pisani, a nun.
Live photos of St George Preca in the late 50s
In its early years, the Society of Christian Doctrine was silenced for a while, but its identity was recognized as Dun Gorg continued to teach students and form young unmarried men (and eventually women) so that they will eventually teach others. Today, almost every parish in Malta has a group of dedicated young men teaching catechism to  the children, in preparation for their First Holy Communion, Confirmation and beyond. The Society of Christian Doctrine is commonly referred to by the acronym "MUSEUM", which stands for the Latin "Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus!", translating to "Master, that the whole world would follow the Gospel!
St. George died on July 26, 1962, and thousands attended his funeral. His body was recently exhumed and re-buried in the head-quarters of the MUSEUM society. The work he started continues on, even in foreign countries like London, Kenya, Peru, Poland, Albania, Cuba and Australia.

I was honored to celebrate his Mass this morning in my home parish of St. Julian's. Tomorrow Thursday I will be heading to Rome, and there may not be any updates until I return to the USA, May 18. God bless you all.

1 comment:

  1. What void you've left in the house, no music no cooking no nothing. Hope you had a good flight to Rome, settled in hotel and here's wishing you a great week in the eternal city before you head back to your mission in Baker city.Fr Claude my friends and Marcel phoned just after your last wave to say goodbye. Take care enjoy, will miss you terribly,your sisters Josephine and Rosemarie