Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rabat - St. Paul's Bay - Burmarrad - Vittoria, Gozo

May 8, 2011

Peace and Good,

I began the week in the city of Rabat. You might notice that this name might sound familiar. It literally means fortress, so many cities in the Middle East received that name. Technically, Malta is not part of the Middle East, but it was under the Arabs for some 150 years. Next door to Rabat is another city named Mdina, which likewise is a name that should sound familiar (there is a Medina in Saudi Arabia).

All of the towns in this part of Malta are fortresses. In the 1560's, Malta was invaded by the Turks who, after a seige of a few months, went home. The Knights of St. John (which eventually became the Knights of Malta) protected it against the Muslims until the days of Napoleon. It was occupied by French troops for a little over a year, and then the Britist took over and governed it as a protectorate until the 1960's.

From Rabat, I travelled to St. Paul's Bay. This is a beautiful bay on the northern part of the island. It is a tourist area. A town of some 12,000 people during the winter explodes to over 60,000 during the summer. There are no very nice beaches right there, but in the bays not far away are some beautiful beaches with fine white sand.

The friars in St. Paul's Bay are very busy between the parish and other responsibilities that they take care of (e.g. Fr. George works on the diocesan tribunal).

While I was there, we had the funeral of one of the friar's grandmother. The island is small enough that most of the friars in the province can be there for those events. This was already the fourth time in two weeks that we had gathered together. It is so different from the States where our friars are often hundreds of miles away.

Nearby is a smaller parish called Burmarrad which is staffed by three friars. I visited there on Wednesday.

Then, on Friday morning, I took the ferry over to the neighboring island (which is still part of the republic of Malta) called Gozo. It is one third the size of the island of Malta with about 1/10th the population.

I will hear back to the main island this evening. I will continue to be in Malta until Saturday when I fly back to Rome.

The churches all throughout the island are incredible. They are heavily boroque with little angels and gold leaf everywhere. Many of them have a number of tombs under the Church floor (the tombs are not raised, they are flush with the level of the floor, decorated with beautiful colors of marble).

I finished a few works this week. The first is called Ethan From by Edith Wharton. This was one of the first novels which did not try to have a happy ending. It is about a farmer who does not really love his wife and she does not love him. A young cousin of his wife comes to his farm to help his wife who suffers from psycosomatic illnesses. He slowly falls in love with her, but the wife knows and makes life miserable for the two of them. The farmer and his young love even try to kill themselves by crashing their sled into a tree, but only end up broken and disabled, which leaves everybody miserable.

A second work was a short work by Nathanael Hawthorne called a Select Party. It is the story of heaven in an almost Mark Twain approach. It is nice, but not all that serious.

A third work was a biography of Peter the Great by Jacob Abbott. He has written a number of short biographies that I have read on major historic figures. They were written for school children in Britain around the year 1900, and so they are simplified, but informative.

Peter comes across as modern in his attempt to modernize his country, and yet medieval in his cruelty and capricious decisions. It is hard to get a read for him. You have to admire the city he built, St. Petersburg, but then you have to realize that thousands of people died building it. He is a very complicated figure.

I hope you have a good week.

fr. Jude


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