Grace: It doesn’t rain. It pours

Xunta de Galicia Christmas Card

2020: What a Year!

What could have happened but didn’t!

I have written before and will reiterate it again, “If you want to make God laugh, share with him your plans!”

Having launched XirCammini last year, 2020 was the year when we really should have taken off in terms of local and overseas trekking. In 2019 we walked together in Malta on a weekly basis and travelled on Spanish Caminos (Camino Primitivo and Camino Inglés x 2), 5 Celtic Caminos (x2), Via Jacobi in Switzerland, St. Augustine’s Camino in Kent, UK, various short trekking trips to Sicily and also a 2-week end-of-year trekking trip in Sri Lanka where we immersed ourselves in a completely different culture. Late in 2019 we also undertook training to support the UK Confraternity of St. James with volunteers in 2020 to help run a donativo albergue on the Camino Norte that CSJ administers.

We even started 2020 well with a couple of hiking trips in Sicily.

Then Covid-19 struck!

The rest of the itinerary for 2020, i.e. Caminos in France, Spain, Slovakia, Ireland, Italy and a repeat of Sri Lanka, as well as the much-awaited Universal Peace Walk® that we had to launch in March 2020 all had to be shelved. Initial despair gradually turned to a stoic acceptance of what we could not change.. and the year ambled on.

 What did happen!

Wed Walks in Summer

2020 gave us more time for quiet reflection. At a personal level we had more time for our loved ones. We also had time to sort the wheat from the chaff and re-evaluate what is really important in our lives.

For XirCammini, we learned to adapt to the harsh reality of not being able to walk in large groups or trek overseas. It was all part of our journey and not the end of the world.

We

  1. Urged people to walk solo or in small groups between March and June 2020 and posted photos of solo/small groups of a maximum of 3 persons to encourage others to follow suit;
  2. Immediately helped to recoup and reimburse all accommodation and internal travel deposits in connection with the overseas treks. All were 100% reimbursed thanks to the goodwill of the overseas partner organisation with whom we collaborate;
  3.  Re-commenced weekly groups walks with a bang in June, attracting between 50 – 100 people per weekly walk. Managing these, with leaders and sweepers, were a challenge but they prepared us for what followed and gave us the nucleus of leaders for when Covid-19 proverbial hit the fan again.
  4. Re-0rganised in eight groups of 10 people each (maximum 80 people) with 8 different routes each Wednesday between July until October, following strict Covid-19 protocol.  Despite it being summer the concurrence was very high. People were committed. We managed this thanks to the commitment of the leaders that helped in the planning and led small groups every week.
  5. Continued to provide route advice when the groups of 10 had to be disbanded (6-person limit imposed).

We are encouraged by the fact that people have continued to exercise in fresh air in the company of others and this has proven to be therapeutic during these times of increased stress.

In this respect, XirCammini continues to reiterate that it is not an exclusive group. On the contrary, XirCammini has proven to be a movement urging individuals to walk (whether alone, with us or with others) and also urging others to start leading walks.

Something that really shone through 2020 is a spirit of positivity and altruism.

 Your Generosity: Our Greatest Achievement in 2020

Although the above required planning, effort and commitment, our greatest achievement in 2020 was harnessing the generosity of XirCammini members and friends over the last few weeks.

For this I wish to thank John Darmanin and John Chircop for driving the ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ Initiative and for the Committee’s counsel. But mostly I wish to thank all of you who donated freely towards this worthy cause, including also the volunteers who helped in each of the collection points and in delivering the goods to the inner-harbour parish. 

When grace flourishes it does not rain; it pours. Not only did we fill the parish office but also most of the stairwell of the office. I personally fought back tears when we delivered the goodies, overwhelmed by your generosity.

.. and it does not stop there. Gifts keep on coming in. A pharmacist calling to deliver more boxes, a baby products/clothing firm filling 2 of our cars with an assortment of items as we ponder who best to donate to.

The words, “Thank you” are a very poor vehicle to express the gratitude welling up within.

2021: .. the journey continues

When measures relax again we hope to re-introduce the weekly walks as well as roll out an itinerary for overseas trekking, air-travel permitting. For example, we are keen to walk the Tochar Phadriag for the feast of St. Patrick or trek the Cork Peninsula to Gougane Barra over the Easter Recess and undertake Caminos in Spain and more Celtic Caminos after that. But it all depends on how the situation vis-à-vis, vaccination, air travel and people’s perceptions continue to unfold.

Famous last words: It’s never about the numbers or the destination. It’s all about the experience of the journey. Keep walking | keep smiling | keep safe.

Never forget to smile, even when life is hard

Introduction: Woes are relative

Quoting Pope Francis, “one of the most needed virtues of modern time is hope.. no matter how hard life gets; this is often expressed in the simple act of a smile.”

Misfortune does not rest. It is seemingly unaware of Christmas recess or Summer break.

We know this all too well from the Covid-19 experience that spread relentlessly across the world.

Because most of us have had it relatively good for so long we may have moaned at our “mis-fortune”, perhaps not understanding that at the end of the day misfortune is relative.

We often need to look outside of ourselves to realise this. Nothing brings this point home more than a post from our friend and fellow hiker Carmel (https://www.facebook.com/carmel.pace.73/posts/10213892387183474) who in March 2020 lost his wife and everything else except the clothes on this back and nine months later there is no equitable end in sight. There are other severe personal misfortunes that hit close to home such as illness, death, loss of employment of a main bread winner, insolvencies and so on that make most of our “woes” pale in comparison.

We are our own enemies when we do not look beyond ourselves and be the change this world sorely needs.

 “Lend a Helping Hand”: Looking outside ourselves

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And in Mother Theresa’s words, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

We may not be able to individually change the whole world but we can change the world of a few individuals around us.

Within this spirit, XirCammini has launched the “Lend a Helping Hand” initiative for this Christmas:

https://www.facebook.com/events/371338264126193/?acontext=%7B%22event_action_history%22%3A[%7B%22mechanism%22%3A%22search_results%22%2C%22surface%22%3A%22search%22%7D]%7D

In a nutshell, we are asking our XirCammini community and their friends, to put together a basket with 5 items, i.e. tinned food item and dried food item, a prepared beverage (excluding alcohol and soft drinks), an item of toiletry (or feminine hygiene) and a Christmas goodie.

We are not stipulating how much one should spend on putting the basket together (“il-qalb kollox”). Our only request is that in each bag, we have at least one of each of the above items.

These will be donated by XirCammini on behalf of all donors to one of our inner harbour parishes who run a food bank for the less fortunate in our society. We may not be in a position to bankroll banquets, but we will collectively put food on the table of (and Christmas goodies to children) who otherwise might go without.

We have organised 5 “drop-off” points for 12th December between 10:00 and 12:00 as follows:

  • Ghajn Dwieli Car Park – John Darmanin 99476595
  • Pembroke Parish – John Chircop 79618619
  • Xemxija Kiosk Car Park – James Portelli 79046942
  • Ta’ Qali Car Park (opposite US embassy) – Mark Mifsud 99440318

Conclusion: Advent | Anticipation

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation. The anticipation of Christmas. A time of goodwill.

For those who believe, Christmas finds its fulfillment in Easter which, in turn, is meaningless without the rite of passage of Good Friday.. the ultimate act of giving. So, in a nutshell, Christmas derives its substance solely and directly from an act of selfless giving. And, in giving, we receive.

There is no grey area around this: Christmas is all about giving. The rest is only wrapping and without it, all the lights, colour and noise would be meaningless.

We can change the world one thought at a time, one child at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time, one city, one state and one country at a time,” Bryant McGill.

And in Dillon Burroughs, “God is calling you to change the world one life at a time and one small step at a time. Begin today where you are.”    

Have faith | We will walk together again

It’s uncanny how all the odds have recently been staked against a pastime that is providing many not only with physical activity in the outdoors but also psychological relief and social networking in smaller groups.

Law

Sadly, following the latest set of Covid-19 related regulations, this week will be the last XirCammini Wed Walk for the time being. The XirCammini Wed Walks will be stopped until further notice. This does not mean that you have to stop walking. We encourage you to continue walking solo or in small groups and if you need ideas of routes please feel free to contact any of the XirCammini group / walk leaders.

Please also post photos (with masks on if of yourself) of walks on the XirCammini FB Group to encourage others to be out and about and to keep spirits high. We can all do with a generous dose of positivity under the current circumstances.

While we would have loved to continue with our Wed Walks, the problem for XirCammini is that we would need to double the number of leaders and walks to handle the same groups each week. We had already regrouped into smaller groups (max 10), taking our Wed walk routes from 1 to 8 every Wednesday. Managing 8 walks (and up to 80 people) each week already had its challenges. For this I would like to thank all of those who stepped up to the plate and volunteered time and energy to lead the smaller groups. I cannot thank you enough.

The new regulations coming into effect this Thursday would mean that we would have to double our Wed Walk itineraries. To manage 16 walks per week and to manage the downside risk (i.e. an infringement even in one group or notification and investigation protocols in case of and an outbreak in one group) poses a significant burden on volunteers relentlessly trying against all odds to make this work. Hence the reason for regretfully having to postpone the Wed Walks until further notice.

Logic?

Regretfully,  if one is smoking in public then one can do away with the mask.  When jogging, semi-naked, on promenades and spraying sweat over everybody else one does not need to wear a mask. Hunters or trappers on public land requisitioned from the public by the government for the hunters and trappers .. that’s probably also okay. In many cases paths leading to such woodlands have been obliterated making it more difficult to detect any infringements (not just infringements related to Covid-19 regulations) or to apprehend culprits.

But, apparently, Maltese hikers are mere mortals who do not deserve to indulge in physical exercise that also does a wealth of good to their mental state unless they wear masks even in the non-urban outdoors and in small groups and observing social distancing regulations. Everybody else, bikers, cyclists, joggers, and until recently revelers in or outside bars and clubs can be trusted to observe the rules. Foreign outdoor-activity groups (could it be that one solo septuagenarian single-handedly disfigured Malta’s natural heritage with red paint without ‘local’ help?) can also be trusted. But local hikers who have walked the proverbial extra mile, modified and structured weekly walks, and managed them in a way so as to continue this pastime safely .. they are lesser mortals.

Life

Life itself is a journey and every bed of roses is also a bed of thorns. Notwithstanding the odds do not stop walking. Whether solo or in small groups permissible by the law take as much fresh air in the ever diminishing Maltese countryside or close to the sea as you possible can. Positivity is a great medicine. This is scientifically proven. It is also scientifically proven that  exercise in fresh air boosts not only physical but also mental health and wellbeing. Maybe step up to the plate, find a few walking buddies within the allowed regulatory limits, create your ‘bubble of buddies’ and continue with your walks.  Ask for some routes, do whatever it takes and continue walking.

Life is a journey | Keep walking | Keep smiling | And, whatever you do .. stay safe.

Wed Cluster Walks: Ultreya

Introduction

A fortnight ago, we reluctantly communicated the decision that we would be stopping the weekly ‘Wed Walks’ (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/). We took the decision with a heavy heart because Wed Walks had started to gain momentum attracting between 50 to 100 walkers each week. As a result of various calls to re-consider, and with the assistance of various persons that stepped up to the plate to lead smaller groups, XirCammini has put in place a calendar and itinerary of walks that rotate per cluster group.

 

Cluster Groups: How will it work?

Last week we re-communicated through our website and on social media (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/wed-walks-with-your-help-we-can-carry-on/) that Wed Walks will continue, albeit in a different format, i.e. in groups of 10 on a rotating itinerary of walks. This means that several walks in various parts of Malta will take place each Wednesday evening with group sizes bring curtailed at 10 per group. Persons participating in these groups are persons who answered our poll and/or concurrently interacted with us at the time. Groups and itineraries are now fixed until the end of September when the scheme will be re-evaluated in the light of Covid-19 developments. By now, all persons who interacted with us in this respect would have been allotted an FB Chat group informing them of the leader and fellow group members and of the first walk. We ask for your understanding not to request changes because (a.) putting the whole plan into place was a significant endeavour and (b.) volunteers (who otherwise also have full-time jobs and personal responsibilities) undertake all the work on a voluntary basis by sacrificing personal time.

Thank you.

 

Risk Management Considerations

Some have asked, “Why all the work (and fuss) when outside events have a 300-person limit?”

If we had to provide one succinct answer to the above question, it would be, “To reduce the probability of spread and to lessen potential consequences in the event of Covid contagion.”

What does this mean?

  1. If you are in a group of 10 persons that does not change from one week to the next, the probability of coming into contact with an infected and/or asymptomatic person is much less than if you are walking with a group of 50 or more people that change each week.
  2. Similarly, if you an asymptomatic carrier the possibility of transmission is to a smaller group of people instead of the whole group. This also significantly reduces the burden on contract tracing and swabbing for the health authorities.

Why have we continued with the walks?

The short reply would be because of an overwhelming response to do so notwithstanding the circumstances.

The underlying response is that – even under normal circumstances – several people are benefitting whether physically, psychologically, emotionally or spiritually when participating in these Wed Walks.

Covid-19 has heightened some of the fears, concerns, anxiety, stress and loneliness and in some cases increased real or perceived isolation. Within this context, these walks have become even more relevant for our well-being.

This being stated, they had to be ‘re-engineered’ to respect the realities we are living in and the directives from health and government authorities in this respect.

Health Directives: Our 10 Commandments.

By participating in these walks, walkers bind themselves to the following directives. Help us to continue providing you with walks:

  1. DO NOT join a walk if you are sick, running a temperature, have a cough, or experiencing trouble to breathe;
  2. DO NOT join a walk if you or persons close to you have recently (i.e. during the last fortnight) returned from overseas from a country with whom there isn’t an established ‘safe-corridor’;
  3. When we meet AVOID ANY FORM of physical contact with others (i.e. shaking hands, hugging, kissing etc.) and try to maintain a 2-metre physical distance;
  4. AVOID touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Carry and use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, tissues, and other hygiene products constantly on a trek. Please also dispose of these responsibly;
  5. USE soap and water if hands are visibly dirty;
  6. COVER your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing;
  7. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES invite others to join your cluster for the weekly Wed Walk. Cluster leaders have instructions to turn away anyone who is not pre-registered in the respective cluster.
  8. GIVE your leader a telephone number on which you can be contacted in case these are required (a.) for further announcements by your leader and/or (b.) for us to share with Health Authorities if asked e.g. for contact tracing.
  9. By participating in your cluster you are CONSENTING to providing your telephone contact number and to us sharing it with health authorities if required.
  10. You also agree that you are participating freely in such walks and freely assume any risks arising from such walks. You hold XirCammini harmless and free from any liability for any accident, illness, injury, loss or direct or indirect consequences of such accident, illness, injury or loss.

Conclusion: A Word of Thanks.

I want to thank the Committee members who participated in the discussions and assisted in bringing this plan to fruition and also to the persons who kindly offered to lead cluster groups. These walks would not have been possible without their assistance. In choosing leaders, XirCammini:

  1. Decided the overall direction, encouraging a change in thinking;
  2. Empowered people and will continue to support them to achieve;
  3. Provided an overall framework for effective implementation and leader guidance, aligning clusters and facilitating ‘cluster’ decisions;
  4. Created a system that is flexible to respond to changes and improvements.

In other words, this was and will continue to be an exercise of leadership in action.

A lot of thought, planning and execution went into the process. The success of these walks now hinges on response and cooperation of walkers in each group, the ultimate beneficiaries.

Wed Walks: With your help we can carry on!

Introduction

In our post of yesterday (https://xircammini.org/covid-19/covid-19-keep-calm-carry-on-in-smaller-groups/) we postponed the XirCammini Wed Walks until the end of September because of the prevailing, uncertain Covid-19 situation. However, we have had overwhelming feedback to find a feasible solution that does not involve complete postponement of walks that we were compelled to re-consider.

We understand that the Wed Walk is proving to be beneficial whether physically, psychologically, emotionally and /or socially to several people. At the same time there are significant ‘burdens’ (and understandably so) placed on organisers under the present circumstances.

A compromise to carry on

Coming up with a compromise that (a.) provides an opportunity for individuals to continue to meet and walk in small groups and (b.) respecting our social responsibilities to combat Covid-19 is not easy. But, as XirCammini, we do have a proposal as follows:

  • We roll out Wed Walk Clusters from Wednesday, 112th August but with a big difference.
  • A poll will be published on our social media group platform asking walkers to inform us whether they wish to join the Wed Walks or not. This is a ‘once only’ poll and people who opt out would opt out from now until the end of September (when the situation will be reviewed). THERE WILL BE NO ADDITIONS / CHANGES ONCE THE GROUPS ARE FORMED EVEN IF PEOPLE DROP OUT OR DO NOT TURN UP;
  • The ‘cut off date‘ of the poll is Friday, 7th August 2020. Persons answering after this date will not be included;
  • Those who opt in will be divided into groups of 10 (9 + 1 leader) and they remain in that group until the end of September;
  • Events will be ‘group-specific’ (i.e. for each 10-member group). Persons CANNOT under any circumstance:
    • Change groups; or
    • Invite others to join them

If you do, you and your invited friends will be asked to leave;

  • Anyone joining will have to respect health directives. Group leaders will also be asked to collect phone numbers of each member in their 10-member cluster in case these are required for contact tracing by health authorities;
  • Continuation of walks will always be subject to health authority directives. It is important that we respect directives by the Superintendence of Health at all times;
  • People participate at their own risk. No liability can be accepted by the organisers for any injury, illness, infection or loss occurring during the walks;
  • People are reminded that this is not a leisurely walk. Whoever commits to join commits to maintain a brisk pace and keep up with the group.

Conclusion: Be respectful

For those who intend to join we kindly ask you to be respectful towards your Cluster Leader and Cluster Members as well as to any health directives that are issued from time to time.

For those who opt out for the time being we understand. But, we also ask you to be respectful of those who decide to continue with the XirCammini Wed Walks. There may be a story that we are not privy to behind every face and a reason that we cannot decipher moving every pace.

We may all be on the same journey yet each person’s motive or destination is different.

Covid-19: Keep Calm | Carry on (in smaller groups)

Regrettably we will be stopping the Wed Walks until further notice to respect the spirit of the law in the ensuing Covid-19 situation.

This is clearly articulated by the Superintendence of Health in bold, red script their latest regulations.

We shall re-assess the situation towards the end of September with a view to re-initiating the Wed Walks from Wed October 7th, 2020.

It is a decision reached with a heavy heart especially since, from the June re-opening, each Wed Walk attracted between 50 – 100 walkers. Recognizing the physical, psychological and social benefits of exercising outdoors, we strongly urge people to continue to walk solo or in very small groups (the current regulatory definition of a cluster is 10) and to observe health regulations in doing so. If we can be of assistance with hiking ideas please reach out to us via our FB platform.

In conclusion, the ones most in need of such walks are the ones who are most likely to retreat quietly until publicly available again.

Can I please ask all others to ‘step up to the plate’, take the initiative, call and continue to interact with people to whom these walks offered sanity or a well-being opportunity. We’re all pilgrims on the same journey in life even when calamity prevents us from walking.

latest Directives by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health

Jubilee Year 101 & Santiago

With the Jubilee Year for Santiago de Compostela fast approaching the debate on whether there are any rules regarding the year (calendar or liturgical) that it should follow as well as other questions surrounding the topic.

The only ‘rule’ regarding the Años Xacobeos in Santiago is that it occurs when the feast of St. James falls on a Sunday. However, other Jubilee Years declared by the Catholic Church have also been observed in Santiago outside this rule, such as the Year of Mercy in 2016. ‘Jubilee’ is not with reference to an anniversary but to ‘iubilare’ meaning rejoicing.

The following is a ‘Jubilee Years 101’ in general with some specific reference to Santiago. St. James and/or the Camino where these cross paths:

  1. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela follows a Calendar year when it comes to the Years of Jubilee. The coming year’s (2021) may also be extended into 2022 as thanksgiving following the ordeals of this year.
  • Jubilee years in general (unlike the one of Santiago) tend to follow a Liturgical year starting with the first Sunday of Advent and generally extending until Epiphany after the 2nd Christmas.  It follows the ‘life-cycle’ of Jesus from the preparation of his coming on earth (Advent) until the preparation of the second coming (Christ the King, before the following Advent) and generally extending into the Christmas festivities beyond that until Epiphany. However, they do not necessarily follow this pattern. The 2000 Year of Mercy was inaugurated on Christmas Eve 1999 and the Doors of Mercy were closed on Epiphany of 2001.
  • Historically, in Christianity Pope Boniface VIII instituted the Jubilee Year once every 100 years in the early 14th century and the event is intrinsically tied to pilgrims then visiting Rome. Its biblical basis is found in
    • Leviticus (Hebrew: yōḇēl) where Jews declared a year of emancipation and restoration every ‘seven weeks of years’ (i.e. every 50 years not 100 years) where slaves were liberated and debtors freed from their debts; and
    • Luke 4: 18-20: Recalling Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth reading, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Latin: Iubilare). According to the Catholic Church it is a time of spiritual indulgence and remission from sin and, hence, a period of jubilation (rejoicing) based on the ‘Joyful’ message of redemption in the above passage proclaimed by Jesus anointed to deliver us.
  • Pope Boniface VIII probably instituted the Jubilee Year to generate money from pilgrims visiting Rome and also to garner support for the spiritual and, then also, temporal supremacy of the Papacy in the face of his on-going feud with Philip IV of France (who was heavily indebted to the Church and also to monastic chivalry orders). After Boniface death, Clement V was elected Pope through the connivance of Philip IV and – together – they crushed the Templars; ridding Philip IV of a substantial part of his debt. Pope Clement V’s appointment is of significance to the Camino de Santiago because Templar lands and properties along the Camino were transferred to the Knights Hospitalier of St. John of Jersulem and Rhodes (Later the Knights of Malta).
  • Pope Clement VI changed the Jubilee Year from a once in 100 to once in 50 years’ event in the Papal Bull, Unigenitus.
  • Towards the end of the 14th century, Pope Urbanus VI changed the cycle from 50 years to 33 years based on the earthly life of Christ.
  • Pope Boniface IX published the Papal Bull Antiquorum habet fida relatio offering a pardon of all their sins for pilgrims visiting the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome, at least once a day (for thirty days in the case of inhabitants and 15 days for visiting pilgrims). 1400 was not really a ‘year of deliverance’ since a 2nd wave of the plague was killing over 500 pilgrims and inhabitants a day in Rome!
  • While Pope Martin V in the early 15th century followed on the 33 year cycle, his successor Pope Nicholas V reverted to the the 50 year cycle and his successor – Pope Paul II – reduced it to a 25-year cycle which is still practiced in Rome until today. Because of wars in Europe at the time, the Pope also permitted Jubilee Years to be held in specific churches in one’s own country rather than in Rome. It is probably during the papacy of Martin V (or his successor Eugene IV) during the earlier part of the 15th century that the Jubilee Year in Santiago was instituted though it echoed the plenary indulgence granted by Calixtus II in 1122 to pilgrims visiting Santiago in the years when the Saint’s day fell on a Sunday. Pope Alexander II also earlier bestowed plenary indulgences in 1063 to Christians who came to Spain to fight against the ‘infidels’. The Reconquista continued in Spain until 1492.
  • 1500 sees the start of the tradition of the ‘opening of the door of mercy’ (echoing Christ’s words, “I am the door…”. Pope Alexander VI (the notorious Papa Borgia) opened the door at St. Peter’s and designated cardinals to, simultaneously, open those of St. John Lateran, St. Maria Maggiore and St. Paul’s in Rome. An estimated 200,000 pilgrims were present in Rome for that Jubilee Year. Pope Alexander VI is also the Pope who entrusted the confraternity of the Knights of St. James (founded in Leon 1170) to the King Ferdinand the Catholic of Spain in 1492.

I hope you found this ‘Jubilee Year 101’ interesting. You can read more about the Jubilee Year and Holy Door in Santiago by following this link by Marly Camino:

Madonna tad-Dawl

On the Wed Walk of 8th July we traversed the old parochial confines of the Zejtun to Zabbar close to the church of Our Lady of the Light (Madonna tad-Dawl).

It struck me as odd how a 17th century church was dedicated to Madonna tad-Dawl, a Marian devotion that did not take root in Malta as much as other better known Marian devotions and that reached Malta in the early to mid-18th century.

The church of Our Lady of the Light (Madonna tad-Dawl), on what were the 17th century parochial limits of Zejtun and Zabbar, was earlier dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. However, it appears that some time after the creation of the Zabbar parish in 1615 the church of St. John the Baptist on the Zejtun / Zabbar limits (il-Bidni) was deconsecrated by the church as it fell into disuse. A year before the creation of the Zabbar Parish by Bishop Baldassare Cagliares (1615) the South had suffered a devastating attack (albeit a pyrrhic victory for the Maltese and the knights). As a result, inhabitants moved away from some of the coastal areas in the South until these were better fortified between the reigns of Grandmaster Wignacourt and Grandmaster De Redin.

It was re-consecrated again as a church in the 1730s by Bishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan and in the 1750s it was dedicated to the Lady of the Light (Madonna tad-Dawl) when this Marian devotion reached our shores from Sicily. Although strong for a period of time, this particular devotion was relatively short-lived. The icon associated with this devotion – Mother Mary pulling a child away from the devil – is associated with a dream of a Sicilian Jesuit who then propagated this devotion of the Madonna as a Protector from evil.

There is one other church dedicated to Madonna tad-Dawl, i.e. in Zebbug on the confines of the village before descending into Wied Baqqiegha. This church, earlier known as tal-Qassis Nardu and dedicated to the Nativity, was re-consecrated as Madonna tad-Dawl in the 1730s also during the time of Bishop Paul Alpheran de Bussan.

The old parochial confines of Zejtun and Zabbar

We Strike Gold!

In the words of appreciation by Alberto Núñez Feijóo, President of the Autonomous Community of Galicia:

 The above is taken from his letter to the Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago – of which XirCammini is part – on being awarded the Casteleo Medal.

The Castelao Medal is awarded by the Galician Government to people and organisations in recognition of exceptional work they do from which the Galician region benefits.

Pilgrimage Tips from the Jacobean Council

The following is a translated excerpt from the latest meeting (25th June) of the Jacobean Council regarding re-commencing the Camino.

“The Executive Commission of the Jacobean Council held its second meeting on June 25 during the health crisis with the aim of preparing the Camino de Santiago before its re-activation in the “new normality”.

The importance of offering the pilgrim information on the new situation of the Camino de Santiago during the health crisis was one of the prevalent conclusions of the Commission.

To this end, we highlight:

https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/consejo-jacobeo/en/para-el-peregrino.html

Recommendations for the Camino de Santiago during the health crisis COVID-19

The Jacobean Council includes in this section all the recommendations that may be useful for pilgrims and all agents of the Camino de Santiago during the health crisis with the aim of minimizing the risks of contagion. The fulfillment of all these recommendations will contribute to allow the continuity of the Camino during the duration of the pandemic.

It is necessary to take into account that, in the state of new normality, each Autonomous Community can establish its own rules regarding capacity restrictions, group activities, public transport, etc. which can be consulted in the links in the right column.

If you are thinking of doing the Camino, download these tips to help you on your pilgrimage:

Before Departing
On the Camino
Applicable to the Albergue

Conclusion

Where in doubt please always err on the side of prudence. The Camino has been with us for centuries and will be with us after this episode. Life is more fragile.

Buen Camino.