The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

Musings and prayers

Noel Grima Wednesday, 7 April 2021, 09:18 Last update: about 2 months ago

It-Tpespisa tat-Tama. Author: Ray Francalanza. Publisher: Horizons / 2021. Pages: 312pp

Fr Ray Francalanza is an Augustinian priest who has held various offices in his Order in Malta and who has generated a following of mainly young people inspired by his unconventional approach to faith

Born in Zejtun, he spent his childhood in the UK where his family was living. Then they returned to Malta and the young Ray became an altar boy. He however joined the Augustinian Order and studied in Italy.

He was ordered priest in Malta in 1990. His first pastoral mission was to foster vocations. Next he became rector of St Augustine's College in Pieta where he stayed for six years until 2000. Concurrently he was chosen to form part of a parliamentary commission on education and also chairperson of Church schools in Malta.

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In 2000, he moved to Paceville and became the rector of the Augustinian church there, creating the youth group, Lift - Living in friendship together - at around the same time, I reckon, that the Millennium Chapel was active there.

Meanwhile, he continued with his studies and obtained a doctorate.

In 2010, he became parish priest of St Augustine parish in Valletta and three years later was elected as Provincial of his Order in Malta. While occupying this post, he began exercising his priestly mission in far-off Bahrija where he still remains.

This book is a collection of his musings, interspersed with prayers, accumulated through all these years. I have dwelt so long on the various roles he has occupied because in a way they shed light on his various roles through the years.

Many of his musings/prayers seem to be speaking notes or even sermon notes. Others are more personal reflections and musings.

A sizeable amount of them complain about lack of support or even worse from those around him. Considering the amount of offices to which he was elected, this is rather strange, or rather not strange at all, in most communities, even religious ones.

Of course Fr Ray is never specific, except on one occasion. He says that when still a boy he was influenced by a good priest from Zejtun, whose daily Mass he served, Dun Karm Galea. I remember this priest even if I was not living in Zejtun then.

Fr Ray says this priest had a walking disability but was made fun of "by those who ought to have been better".

I remember the priest and I also remember the cruel laughter. It is to Fr Ray's credit that he followed the priest's example rather than joined those who scoffed at him. Here in Zejtun there are others who remember the priest with gratitude.

Most of the reflections and prayers he penned are of the intimistic sort, without any social context provided. That is clearly a choice and leaves a reader rather at a loss. On the other hand, to be more clear and explicit, would possibly drag the author down to the level of controversy.

Considering the vast amount of reflections included, this book is the product of many years of writing. Some of the reflections are quite stunning and he sometimes comes up with some surprising insights.

 


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