10 February 2023

Praying in Ordinary Time
with USPG: 10 February 2023

The Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck is one of the oldest churches in Valletta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

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

These weeks, between the end of Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, are known as Ordinary Time. We are in a time of preparation for Lent, which in turn is a preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

In these days of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday later this month (22 February), I am reflecting in these ways each morning:

1, reflecting on a saint or interesting person in the life of the Church;

2, one of the lectionary readings of the day;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

The Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck (left) in Valletta traces its origins to the 1570s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Throughout the Western Church, the Church Calendar today commemorates Saint Scholastica, sister of Saint Benedict and Abbess of Plombariola (ca 543).

However, in Malta, today (10 February) is the Feast of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck in Malta (‘Nawfraġju ta' San Pawl’). Saint Paul the Apostle is the patron saint of Malta, the country with the most holidays in the European Union. Since 2005, any holidays falling on Saturdays or Sundays do not add an extra day to the workers’ leave pool.

The Collegiate Parish Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, Valletta, also known as simply the Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, is a parish church in Valletta and one of the oldest churches in the Maltese capital.

Saint Paul’s shipwreck on Malta is described in the Acts of the Apostles, where Saint Luke writes: ‘After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta’ (see Acts 28: 1).

The Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck traces its origins to 1570s. It was designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, and completed in December 1582. The church was handed over to the Jesuits and a new church was started in 1639.

The church hosts fine artistic works, including a magnificent altarpiece by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio and paintings by Attilio Palombi, and Giuseppe Calì.

A wooden statue of Saint Paul was carved in 1659 by Melchiorre Cafà, a brother of Lorenzo Gafà, who designed the dome. The statue is paraded through the streets of Valletta on the feast day of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, 10 February, sometimes during heavy rain.

The church also claims to hold the relic of the right wrist-bone of Saint Paul, and part of the column from San Paolo alle Tre Fontane, on which the saint was beheaded in Rome.

The façade of the church was rebuilt in 1885 to a design by Nicholas Zammit.

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

The statue of Saint Paul above the door into the Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 31-37 (NRSVA):

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

The façade of the church was rebuilt in 1885 to a design by Nicholas Zammit (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Christianity in Pakistan.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Nathan Olsen.

The USPG Prayer Diary today invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for a greater understanding between Muslims and Christians. May we be generous in our appreciation of the unfamiliar and strange.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The noticeboard outside the Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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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