It’s difficult not to have heard of Fr George Preca if you live in Malta. Founder of the many Christian Doctrine centres (known as Museums) found around Malta and Gozo, he became famous with his innovative idea of reaching out to detached young men, training them and making of them young leaders who taught catechism to children at a time when teaching theology to lay people was unheard of. A year after this, he also trained young women at a time when women in Malta were not even allowed to vote. Universe of Faith talks to Ruben Pace, member of the Society of Christian Doctrine about Christmas traditions held from the very days of when their founder was still alive.
Prize giving (premjazzjoni) – As a reward for making an effort to participate in faith formation classes along the year, children and young teens are awarded a gift like a crib, a holy statue or a book depending on the age. Gifts are done by the Society of Christian Doctrine members themselves, some of who start working on the cribs in summer. Ruben explained: “We are trying to make an effort to re-use material rather buy new stuff as a sign of respect towards the environment. We hope that these statues will also serve as a reminder of Christian values and virtues when they grow up, not just nostalgia. The original idea was that Fr George wished that every family, especially the poor ones, will have a Christmas crib in their home.”
Street demonstration with baby Jesus (dimostrazzjoni bil-Bambin) – Demostrations today have a connotation with protest but Fr George simply wanted “to demonstrate” baby Jesus in the streets to remind the people about the true meaning of Christmas, he did not want it to be a procession. But why would he do that in 1921, when the Maltese were still very religious I asked? “He was already seeing that some were actually celebrating Christmas simply as a matter of culture and tradition. He wanted to remind the people that Christmas is about Jesus.” Ruben said.
Christmas novena – nine days before Christmas every museum will start a programme on the Christmas theme with children instead of the normal faith formation; videos, plays and various methods are used: “While in the young classes emphasis is put on knowing the Christmas story, the older classes usually explore a theme eg: justice ... seen in the poor and the rich of those times, Herod’s attitudes, the inn-keeper, escaping to Egypt etc.” Ruben described.
The Society of Christian Doctrine members daily attend a one hour formation class for themselves prepared from members to members. During these nine days follow a special programme entitled School of Bethlehem. Ruben explained how: “The members gather in front of the statue of Baby Jesus and reflect on themes like - Christ’s humanity, poverty, divinity, obedience, human nature, God’s providence, God’s loyalty, God’s mercy, gentleness, silence, patience and human dignity are explored and enjoyed during this time.”
Christmas is a very special time of the year at the Society of Christian Doctrine as Fr George was fascinated by the greatness of God and very much aware of the weaknesses of the human person. In the Christmas event, the Incarnation, he saw a bridge between this greatness and this weakness. He was fully convinced that it is “God’s pleasure to be with us men and women”.
Published: December 2017
6 ways how to spiritually celebrate Christmas - by the Society of Christian Doctrine - MUSEUM