The purpose of this post is to introduce you to Saint George Preca by telling you the major points in his life and why he is the patron saint of The Becoming A Light To The Nations Show.
Outside of his home country of Malta, Saint George Preca is mostly unknown but his example of helping lay Catholics learn about the mysteries of God will guide my work here in the United States.
Saint George Preca (pronounced pray-ca) was a priest of the archdiocese of Malta with a passion for educating — in Catholic speak, to catechize — working class lay Catholics. During his life (1800 – 1962), the idea of teaching the truths of Jesus Christ to uneducated laity was revolutionary, so much so that some thought Saint George to be insane; however, through great faith and two powerful spiritual experiences, Saint George preserved becoming a person whose life we are called to model.
Growing up around the Maltese capital of Valletta, he was formed in Carmelite spirituality and sensed a calling to the diocesan priesthood.
While at the seminary, Preca was assigned Father Aloysius Galea as his a confessor. (When a person says they have a confessor, they are telling you they have one priest who hears their confessions so they are getting consistent spiritual guidance.) Shortly before Preca was ordained, Father Galea died. Preca said that Galea appeared to him a few days later and told him: “God has chosen you to teach his people.”
In response to this message, Preca started writing a rule (guidelines) for group that would help in the formation of the laity.
Father Preca was ordained in the Archdiocese of Malta in 1906. While serving his parish duties, he also worked on building the group he envisioned to help the laity. He invested countless hours preparing men to catechise laity with a particular focus on the spirituality and theology of the Incarnation (God becoming fleshing and dwelling among us in the form of Jesus). This is a focus on the basics. If we can understand — as well as humans can understand — what it means for us that God came to Earth in the form of Jesus, that will go a long way in helping each of us to live a saintly life.
He called the group the Society of Christian Doctrine but they are better known by their Latin nickname: MUSEUM. This is an acronym for the Latin phrase “Magister, Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus” which translates to English as “Lord, would that the whole world follow the Gospel”.
The MUSEUM members were laity encouraged to life an exemplary life, who were well formed in the fundamentals of the faith, and sent to teach the faith to the people.
The Boy And The Cart
In 1910, Father Preca had another mystical experience that strengthen his calling for the work God had given him.
One morning he came upon a boy Father Preca thought to be about 12. The boy was pushing cart with a bag full of manure, which would not have been an unusual site. The boy turned to Father Preca and said, “Lend me a hand!”
When Father Preca put his hand on the cart, he said that he felt an extraordinary spiritual sweetness and he never could remember what happened to the boy. He came to understand the boy was Jesus and that the Lord was asking him and his followers to help him with nurturing the Lord’s field and vineyard with sound doctrine and formation.
He would need this understanding because within the a few years, the MUSEUM came under attack. By 1914, archdiocese leadership ordered Father Preca to disband the MUSEUM. He told its members because of his experience with the boy and the cart, he trusted that this work was in the hands of Jesus.
He continued in his priestly duties, continued to write, and continued to teach as he always has with a focus on the working-class laity. The only thing he could not do was anything related to building the MUSEUM.
After further review of what Father Preca was doing, permission was granted by the Archbishop in 1932, and the society spread across Malta helping the laity understand the calling that Jesus placed on their lives.
I love this story because it shows that we are always to be faithful those who are placed in authority over us (Hebrews 13) even when think our leaders are wrong. I would suspect that was a test for Saint George by Jesus to ensure he would be faithful to the Church.
When reading the lives of the saints, its seems their ideas and activities are stonewalled not because they are heretical or wrong because they are different and challenge the status quo (the conventional wisdom). Not always the easier path.
Malta’s Second Father in Faith
During Father Preca’s life, Malta gained its independence from England, which of course meant English would have been the official language of the government. Italian was the language of the educated and those in the metropolitan centers. Father Preca would have functional in both languages, however, all of his writings are in Maltese, the language of the common people. Like Jesus, he focused on the lowly.
From 1932 until his death in 1962, Father Preca wrote, spoke, and built to bring Jesus to all of Malta. The MUSEUM is active today in Malta, but also in Australia, Albania, England, Kenya, Peru, Poland, and Cuba.
In many ways, he was not that much different from Saint Paul the Apostle when he spent 3 months in Malta after being shipwrecked. He used this time preaching the Gospel before another ship picked them up and he continued to Rome. Read about this event in Acts 27 and in the beginning of chapter 28.
Father Preca’s cause for beatification was opened in 1975. He was beatified by Saint John Paul II in 2001 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, and his feast day is May 9. Saint John Paul II called Saint George “Malta’s second father in faith” with Saint Paul being the first.
Patron Of This Apostolate
In the spring 2014, I was looking for a patron for my apostolate of helping lay Catholic adults learn why and how to live lives worthy of their calling through the wisdom of Vatican II. Serendipitously my wife Fran was reading about the saint of the day on May 9.
After reading about Saint George’s passion for helping the laity to understand their role in the church and to be properly catechized, it was obvious that Jesus was offering the right patron saint for the job.
With what I understand is my calling, I am asking Saint George Preca to intercede for me and this apostolate to help you and I grow in holiness as we learn more about how to live our life worthy of our calling.
Saint George Preca, pray for us