Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
The gospel of Wednesday, 16 November, of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary time, spoke about investing well. In the Gospel taken from Luke 19:11-28 Jesus recounts the parable about the use of what God has given us. The moral of the parable is crystal clear: the more we invest the more we gain. On the other hand, the less we invest the more we loose what we were given to invest!
On that unforgettible Wednesday morning, precisely at 8.46 am, the Franciscan Capuchin Friars, the Maltese Church and society have lost one of their most great people, Fr Joe Saliba OFM Cap. I had the joy of knowing Fr Joe for, practically, 23 years. Moreover I had the privilege of working with him at Mater Dei Hospital as one of my fellow hospital Chaplains for more than three years.
Fr Joe was an excellent investor. He invested in the best investment ever: God’s Kingdom. He gave completely his faithful allegiance to the best businessman that can ever exist: Jesus Christ . In the Matthean Gospel Jesus taught us that “every sound tree bears good fruit” (Matt 7:17). Fr Joe’s holy life bore abundant good fruit. From the early days of his call for the Franciscan Capuchin consecrated life, this ardent Marsa man for Jesus, clearly understood and wonderfully interiorised Saint Paul’s encouraging words to the Colossian Community: “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7).
The good fruit the Holy Spirit did in and through Fr Joe is undoutedly abundant. I would like to limit myself to some of his main virtues. The first virtue which excelled in Fr Joe’s consecrated life was his availability for everyone. He was always there tohelp generously. One of Fr Joe’s favourite bible verses that piloted his life was thefollowing: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). How many times he volunteered to help me in my shift? Especially when, as the need called for, I was called to work extra ours? How many times Fr Joe relieved my other brother chaplains from their stressful mission by working extra hours to help them get back their strength?
Paraphrasing some phrases from Pope Francis’ homily, delivered at the Jubilee for Priests celebrated in Rome on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on Friday 3 June 2016, Fr Joe’s priestly heart was modelled on that of the Good Shephered. He compassionately and consistently reached out to everyone, “above all to those who are most distant”. In Pope Francis’ words, Fr Joe was “stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one. Not only [did] he keep his doors open, but he also [went] to seek out those who no longer wish to enter them. Like every good Christian, and as an example for every Christian, he constantly [went] out of himself. The epicentre of his heart [was] outside of himself. He [was] centred only in Jesus, not in himself. He [was] not attracted by his own ‘I’, but by the ‘Thou’ of God and by the‘we’ of other men and women”.
But from where Fr Joe attained such a power to do good for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health? Surely from the Tabernacle! If I wanted tofind Fr Joe I knew where to find him: praying before the Tabernacle! His love for theEucharistic Jesus filled him with the necessary energy he needed to keep giving his life to his brethren, especially the sick.
Fr Joe strongly believed and lived Pope Francis’ reflection which was addressed to us priests, at Cassano all’Jonio on June 21 2014. “When we priests are before thetabernacle, and we pause a moment there, in silence, then we feel Jesus’ look again on us, and this look renews us, it reanimates us …”
Thank you Fr Joe for being such a generous, praying, humble and joyous priest! Pray for us to be wise investors as you certainly were!