THE ADORATION CHAPEL IN BALLUTA
The spiritual powerhouse in our parishes is the Adoration Chapel, where one can participate in a silent and personal Eucharistic Adoration daily. Families, friends and individuals, from the Sliema area and beyond, have over the past years, ensured that there is a continual presence before the Blessed Sacrament in a small adoration chapel in Balluta.
The Eucharistic Adoration has been a feature of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish experience since Fr.Joseph Falzon O.Carm was parish priest. It is situated in an ideal location, set on Tower Road, next to the steps leading to the Carmelite Priory’s main entrance. It is a quiet, peaceful room, with a very simple but warm design. The Sacrament is exposed daily from 6:30 – 22:00 in summer and 6:30 – 21:00 in winter. It is a true powerhouse of grace and prayer.
Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Saviour who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the “King of Glory,” respectful silence in the presence of the “ever greater” God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2628
Our dialogue with Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament is a great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication. Benediction, Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Eucharistic processions are likewise precious elements of our heritage – in full accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. (St John Paul II, Phoenix Park, Ireland 1979.)
To see Jesus visibly present under the appearance of the small white host is much more conducive to intimacy than hidden away in the tabernacle. This special experience is strenghtened by the words of our Lord himself: “Indeed, this is the will of My heavenly Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son, and believes in Him, shall have eternal life.”
The Adoration Chapel provides us with accessibility to an easy, attractive, and practical way of rendering due adoration to God as our Creator; of giving Him thanks for our redemption; of making reparation for our sins and the sins of mankind and of petitioning the good God for the constant help we need.
What are the spiritual benefits and graces attributed to the presence of an adoration chapel and program in the parish? Experience shows us that through God’s grace, the Adoration Chapel is an occasion for the return of fallen-away believers and an aid for conversions; an opportunity for the renewal of spiritual family life; it fosters in believers a desire and courage to spread the “good news” to others and helps to consolidate a greater community spirit, centred on Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament as being the heart of our parish.
The Vatican Council II had emphasized the importance of lay involvement in the Church’s mission. The Adoration Chapel functions on this principle of laity participation – a personal and intimate experience without the need of any particular intervention by the Parish Priest or members of the religious community.
The design of the Adoration Chapel in Balluta helps to create an enticing atmosphere for quiet intimacy with the Lord. People generally feel spiritually secure in a smaller ambience.
The time Jesus invites us to spend with Him in quiet prayer is spent any way we want. One may bring own prayer books, use the books in the chapel, read the Bible, pray the rosary, or just sit and relax and enjoy the sweet peace that comes from simply being in the Presence of God. You may feel that you can’t pray well at all. Don’t let this discourage you. The mere fact that you take time from your daily routine to spend it with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament pleases Him very much and is in itself a prayer of great faith. The invitation to visit the Adoration Chapel is not just for a day, a week, a month, or a year – it is an all year open invitation. It is not temporary, but ongoing, lasting and permanent.
Thanks to the commitment and devotion of many parishioners and others in the area, we are extremely blessed to have the Balluta chapel for Eucharistic Adoration in this busy part of our island. The Chapel is closed only during the Easter Triduum. So next time you are strolling along the Sliema – St.Julian’s promenade, or whenever you feel the need to break the day’s routine and spend some time in dialogue with God, remember that you will always find Him waiting for you there.
Fr Hermann Duncan O.Carm
SAINT ELIJAH AND THE CARMELITES
During the month of July the Carrmelites celebrate with great solemnity, two special feasts: Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the 16th of July, and the solemnity of the prophet Elijah on the 20th of July.
This article is about the prophet Elijah who is considered to be the spiritual father of the Carmelite Order.
Us Carmelites trace our origins back to a place called Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. Earliest historical accounts find the first Carmelites already settled as Christian hermits on Mount Carmel, a mountainous ridge in Israel (Palestine) around the year 1200, where they lived by the spring of the prophet Elijah.
These hermits did not have a charismatic person among them that they could call ‘founder’ like the Dominican’s or Franciscan’s who had St. Dominic and St. Francis as the founder of their order.
The two figures that influenced the first Carmelites were Our Lady, known as the Lady of the place, Mother, Sister and Beauty; and the Prophet Elijah, Leader and Spiritual Father of the Order.
As Carmelites we do not follow the classical rules such as the Orders of St. Benedict or St.Augustine. Carmelites have a ‘way of life’ created according to the ideals they wanted to live by. This ‘formula of life’ was written by St. Albert the Patriarch of Jerusalem given to the hermits living on Mount Carmel between 1206 and 1214.
The Prophet Elijah
Elijah was a prophet who lived in Israel in the ninth cetnury before Christ. We can say that he is one of the most important figures mentioned in the Old Testament, as he saved the true faith in a time of crisis. The story of Elijah is found in the Old Testament in the book of Kings, and in the New Testament, he is mentioned during the transfiguration of Jesus.
Elijah in the trasfiguration
Elijah is mentioned thirty times in the New Testament. He is mentioned in the Gospels of St.Mark, St.Matthew and St.Luke in the account of the transfiguation where Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah.
It is worthy that on such an occasion where Jesus appears to Peter, James and John in all His glory on a mountain, there are these two persons Moses and Elijah, who on another mountain, had another powerful experience with God.
Moses appeared to represent the Books of the Law, while Elijah appeared to represent the Books of the Prophets. These are the two principal components of the Old Testament, through which it pleased God to reveal Himself to His people. But now Jesus had come, who was not simply just another prophet, but the beloved Son of God through whom God had manifested Himself.
From then on the attention of the disciples was to be set on Jesus alone. This is why Moses and Elijah disapear and Jesus is left alone whilst the voice of the Father is heard saying “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him!”.
The Carmelites looked to Elijah as a powerful model, of how they could live their life and therefore kept him as their spiritual Father.
We pray that like Elijah we keep Christ in our foresight throughout the days of our life.
Fr. Hermann Duncan O.Carm
WIED IL-LUNZJATA IN GOZO
In the heart of Gozo, there is a truly picturesque valley called Wied il-Lunzjata (Annunciation Valley). There are two ways to get to it, one from Savina Square in Victoria in the direction of the village of Kercem, and the other from St. Augustine Square in Victoria, taking the first turning on the right towards Fontana.
The valley is named after the chapel that is found in it. The formation of Wied il-Lunzjata started long ago when rain water, after each storm, would erode the rocks and widen the sides to give it the beautiful appearance it has today. The water carried soil down and thus formed the fields that are present at the bottom of the valley. The process is still ongoing, but so slow that it goes unnoticed in a lifetime.
A stream of water passes through the valley, stifled with reeds and shrubs (Acanthus) on either side. This is one of the few streams in the Maltese archipelago that flows all year-round. It contains rare animals including freshwater crabs (qabru), snails and frogs. Dragon flies can be found hovering over the water where they also spawn. The farmed fields attract creatures adapted to open-air life. When the soil is ploughed worms and insects are uncovered and birds descend to eat them. On the side of the fields there are rubble walls which act as a shelter for several small animals such as snails and skinks. Between the stones wild plants emerge. When in the valley, you can also note the tall rock on the left hand side. Here plants such as Rucola and Capers grow in the sparse soil. There are also a number of caves of different sizes. In the less steep part of the rock, stones and soil deposit. Here the plants are larger and more dense and some small fig and carob trees grow. This rather common vegetation on valley sides is called maquis. On the side facing the village of Kerċem there is a grove of carob, olive and almond trees. The thick barks show that there are some very old trees. Near the trees wild Madder and Mediterrenean asparagus grow.
We will now take a look at the chapel. This chapel is known as the Lunzjata chapel and dates back to the mid-fourteenth century. It was founded by a royal right of patronage through Donna Sibella d’Aragona de Peregino, a Maltese descendant of the kings of Aragon who lived on our island. The first rector of the chapel was Fr Peter Barba who was chosen by Donna Sibella herself.
A similar chapel can be found in the Lunzjata valley in the limits of Rabat, Malta, which today is the property of the Carmelite Friars. It was left by Donna Sibella’s sister, Margarita d’Aragona de Peregrino, in her will of 5th June 1418, to a religious order, with the requirement that its members recite the Divine Office daily, in the designated chapel.
The Lunzjata chapel in Gozo was rebuilt and enlarged several times. Its facade is very plain. It contains a semi-circular shaped door, with a small round window above it that gives light to the chapel. The sacristy was built in 1700. Later a room was added on top, to extend the sacristy. The church also has a bell tower with three bells.
Although the chapel looks small on the outside, it looks much larger on the inside. The chapel is rectangular in shape and its roof is made of slabs supported by six arches. Below the small round window on the inside is a small wooden balcony. There is one altar in front of which is an altar table. The lovely titular painting above the altar of the Annunciation was painted by the Knight Fra Luca Garnier in 1646. It depicts Archangel Gabriel announcing to the kneeling Virgin. At the top there is a white dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit with a dazzling light emerging from it.
There are also two statues in the chapel made of Papier-mâché. One is the Annunciation made by Wistin Camilleri donated to the church in 1954 and the other is of St. Joseph. The chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Gozo Joseph Pace on the 18th of October, 1959.
There is much to say about the Valley and the chapel but in the coming months a detailed book will be published that looks at every aspect of the Lunzjata Valley namely, historical, environmental, ecological, archaeological, social and religious. The title of the book is: NATURE’S HEART OF GOZO – An Anthology of studies of Wied il-Lunzjata, and will contain contributions from Maltese leading experts. I encourage you to buy it.
Father Hermann Duncan O.Carm
SAINT JOHN VIANNEY the Curate of Ars
A lot of us have a special love towards Saint John Baptist Marie Vianney known as the Parish Priest (Curate) of Ars, due to his simple life and capacity to bring people to God. This saint, known all over the world, was born in Dardilly near Lyons in France, on the 8th of May 1786 to Matthew and Maria nee Beluse. He was the fourth child of six. His family was a family of farmers and in 1804 at the age of 18 whilst working on the family farm, he made it known to his father that he wanted to become a priest.
Two years after Abbè Balley opened a presbytery-school, John Vianney started to attend. A few years later however, he was drafted into Napoleon‘s army, but managed to escape this duty. When the French revolution finally ended, an agreement was made with the church that priests could continue their apostolic mission in the open.
At the age of 27, John Vianney entered the seminary. As his studies were all in Latin, he found it very difficult to study and many times could not understand what the teachers were asking. Despite these difficulties, he did not give up.
He had a great devotion towards Our Lady and whenever he studied, he would put Her statue infront of him and with great faith tell Her: “I’ll soon get it right”. In his first term however he was asked to leave the seminary, but Abbè Balley helped him continue his studies.
Before becoming a priest, he failed his final exam. In spite of this a private exam was held for him where it became evident that his moral qualities made up for his lack of memory and academic shortcomings. When he was examined one of the examiners was heard whispering to another, “what are we going to do with this donkey?”. When St. John Vianney heard him say this, he said “Samson managed to kill one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, imagine what God can do with a whole donkey”. He was ordained priest on the 13th of December 1815.
After becoming a priest, he was chosen to be the Curate of Ars, a small town with a population of about 370 people. Here he was renowned for his confessions and as a spiritual director of souls. This eventually made him world famous.
At the time, Ars was a remote and ‘tough’ region and when the Vicar General sent him there he warned him: “There is not much love in this parish so you need to put some in yourself”. When he left he had no idea of where the place was and after asking around, he managed to reach it. When he arrived in Ars the first thing he asked for was the Church. When he saw the state it was in, he decided to repair it as best he could. He cleaned it up and prepared it for his first Eucharistic celebration.
The French revolution lead to a religious ignorance among the people of this parish, so John Vianney did everything he could to combat this. His sermons were a great challenge to him since he had a very bad memory. As we know from the story of his life, he used to spend hours on end trying to memorise his Sunday homilies and in some instances he would spend up to seven hours trying to learn them by heart. He used to preach in a high tone and with great vigor. Indeed at the end of his homilies he would be dead tired.
The Curate of Ars opened a free school for girls which later became a boarding school but after some time, began to only accept abandoned children as boarders. He believed strongly in God’s Providence.
Everybody knew what a man of penance he was, and it was not the first time that he was attacked by the devil. Once his bed even got burnt. He was known for the wonders that he performed, including driving out demons from people. He used to hear confessions sixteen hours a day from people from all over the world. He was loved by everyone and had a childish simplicity. Once when the bishop went to Ars on an unexpected visit, he vested the Curate with a mozzetta of a Canon which made John Vianney feel very uncomfortable and so he tried to remove it.
Today he is considered a life model, a humble priest bound only to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On the 4th of August 1859 he went to meet the risen Lord, and was canonized in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Four years later he was chosen by the church as the patron saint of parish priests.
Let us pray to this saint so that our priests will have the same spirit and may inherit eternal life after death.
Fr. Hermann Duncan O.Carm