29 January 2022

With the Saints through Christmas (35):
29 January 2022, Saint Dominic

The Basilica of Saint Dominic, also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Fair Havens and Saint Dominic, is one of the three parish churches in Valletta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Malta last week, and in Valletta it seems as though every street – or every second street – inside the walls of the capital of Malta, is named after a saint.

Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

I have been continuing my Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during the Season of Christmas, which continues until Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation, next Wednesday (2 February);

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This week, I am continuing to reflect on saints and their association with prominent churches or notable street names in Malta, which I visited last week. This morning I am reflecting on the Basilica of Saint Dominic, also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Fair Havens and Saint Dominic.

Saint Dominic (1170-1221), was a Castilian priest and founder of the Dominican Order. He is the patron saint of astronomers, and his feast day is 8 August. Another great Dominican saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was commemorated in the Church Calendar yesterday (28 January 2022).

The Basilica of Saint Dominic in Valletta, also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Fair Havens and Saint Dominic, is one of the three parish churches in the Maltese capital. It is administered by the Dominican Order whose convent is behind the church.

The land the church and convent are built on weas given to the Dominicans by the Grand Master of the Order of Saint John or the Knights of Malta, Pierre de Monte. The architect Girolamo Cassar was commissioned to draw up the plans. The first stone was laid on 19 April 1571.

The parish was formed on 2 July 1571 by a decree from Pope Pius V, considered as the benefactor of the construction of Valletta. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Fair Havens because of the large number of sailors who went to the small chapel built by the Dominicans before building the large church to thank the Virgin Mary for their safe return to harbour after long and dangerous sea voyages.

The papal decree also declared that the parish of Saint Dominic would be the principal parish church of the city.

The church was closed and declared unsafe on 24 July 1780 after it was damaged by earthquakes and severe storms. A new church was built on the same site of the original church 25 years after it was closed.

The new church was opened and blessed on 15 May 1815. The church was given the status of a minor basilica on 25 March 1816. The church was finally consecrated on 15 October 1889 by Archbishop Pietro Pace.

The wooden altar candle holders were stolen from the church, but were found online when their new owner tried to sell them.

The church is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.

Saint Dominic (1170-1221) … a statue outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Fair Havens and Saint Dominic in Valletta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Mark 4: 35-41 (NRSVA):

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

The new church opened in 1815, became a minor basilica in 1816, and was consecrated in 1889 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 January 2022) invites us to pray:

We pray for peace and reconciliation worldwide, and an end to religious conflict.

Yesterday: Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, Valletta

Tomorrow: Charles King and Martyr

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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