From Monday 1 till Friday 5 July 2019, the Provincial Chapter of the Maltese Capuchin Province was celebrated.
This 69th Chapter, since the Maltese Capuchin Province became autonomous from the Syracusan Capuchin Province in 1740, took place at the Holy Cross Friary at Floriana. Fr. Roberto Genuin OFM Cap, the General Minister of the Capuchin Order, presided the Chapter. He was flanked by Fr. Pio Murat OFM Cap, one of the ten General Councilors that aid the General Minister in his service to the whole order.
As it is now the prevalent custom the Chapter started with the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. The Red Mass, as it is often referred to, is in itself the Church’s old expression of dependence on God’s guidance for this special moment in the life of the Province. As a Provincial fraternity, we invoked the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to be our advocate or counsellor at this important point in the history of our Province. As I sang with my brothers the Veni Creator Spiritus, Come Creator Spirit, in other words that 9th century hymn which is universally regarded to have been composed by the Archbishop of Mainz, the Frankish Benedictine Abbot Rabanus Maurus (780-856), spontaneously came into my mind and heart two quotes from the Johannine Gospel. In John 14 Jesus says: And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever… But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14: 16. 26).
And there we all were, assembled and praying to the Father to send on us, in Jesus’ Name, the Holy Spirit once again. That life-giving Spirit, who alone can teach us how to live the Franciscan Capuchin charism of brotherhood, understood of course in the broadest of senses, in the world and Malta of today. We fervently prayed to the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and bring to our minds the charism we have been called to live closely to the people.
I was very touched by the prayer which we, the capitulars, prayed at the beginning of each session that we held. This prayer stemmed from the Trinitarian Koinonia of that God the Father who is love, Jesus Christ who is grace and the Holy Spirit who is fellowship. We were all aware that our weak spirit had to be strengthened by the love, grace and fellowship of the Triune God.
Then, kicking off from the Trinitarian Fraternity, we prayed for our immanent fraternity, made up of human beings who do good and err at the same time. We prayed that we may understand each other, be united in our aspirations, and accept our limits. We implored the Trinitarian Fraternity that each one of us may feel and make his own, the needs of others, their moments of weakness, worries and distress. We implored the Triune God, our Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier, that our discussions may not divide us, but bring us closer together in the quest of truth and good. Thus we prayed because we were conscious that each of us, living his own life, may let others live their own to the full. Hence, in so doing, we may share together each one’s moments of joy, acknowledging [God] as the source of all true joy in order that, animated by Him, we may love one another as [the] Father loves us. Completely empowered by the Father’s love we earnestly prayed that we may seek what is truly good for the others as well as that our fraternity may not be shut in itself, but open and available, sensitive to the needs of the Church.
The values of mutual understanding, unity in aspirations, acceptance of limitations, making ours the needs of our brothers, walking together towards the truth, respecting each other’s space, recognising God’s eternal love for us, fraternal love, fraternal discernment and open fraternity for the needs of the Church, were definitely sealed by the great blessing that St Francis desired from his heart to impart to his friend, Brother Leo, when he wrote to him: May the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord let his face shine on us and be gracious to us. May the Lord show his face to us and give us his peace.
I strongly believe that it was this powerful blessing that helped us discuss between ourselves our future as a province. It was this blessing that oriented us towards that interprovincial collaboration which our Order direly is asking from each and every province that makes up its diverse circumscriptions. As it was rightly stressed throughout the Chapter, our presence and ministries had to keep being animated by prayer. That kind of prayer that goes far and beyond our convents so as to embrace everyone. In that sense how insightful was Fr. Andrew Galea’s speech regarding the importance of the life of prayer in fraternal life. This anointed talk made us all aware that prayer leads us to be a living prayer. Such was the life of Francis! So much so that one of the first disciples of St. Francis, the poet and hagiographical writer, Thomas of Celano, observed that Francis of Assisi, gradually, moved from saying prayers to become a “living prayer.”
Such a shift occurred because the Poverello undertook his faith itinerary from simply attending Mass and physically building churches to founding his prayer life on transforming relational encounters with the poor and the marginalised, the people of the periphery of his times. In this perspective Dr. Nadia Delicata’s reflection on evangelisation made perfect sense since it reminded us that the most powerful way we, as Franciscan Capuchins, can evangelise today is, precisely, by offering our fraternal accompaniment to those who suffer, especially the sick, the inmates, the migrants and those afflicted by life’s challenges, wherever they may be.
It is my prayer that the newly elected ministers, Fr. Effie Mallia OFM Cap as provincial minister, Fr. Hayden Williams OFM Cap as the Vicar Provincial and the first councilor, Fr. Silvester Bonavia OFM Cap as the second councilor, Br. Miguel Żammit OFM Cap as the third councilor and Fr. Carmelo Aquilina OFM Cap as the fourth councilor, guided by the Holy Spirit and our fraternal collaboration as brothers, help us move to this evangelical direction and persevere in it.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap