Devotion to the Mother of God
A glance at the Rule which Father George Preca wrote for his Society makes it amply clear that he wanted true Marian devotion to be one of the cornerstones in the spirituality of his Members.
In the series of spiritual talks, called in Maltese "Sajda" (from the Gospel episode of the miraculous catch), held daily for the general public in different towns and villages throughout the evenings for two whole weeks, Father Preca made it a point that an image of the Virgin, along with the Crucifix, should dominate the venues for these conferences, and that the closing talk of each series should be devoted to the Blessed Virgin. The same holds true for the conferences held every Sunday in the Society's centres. The reason for this practice is that Father George was convinced that the conversion of sinners and the perseverance of the virtuous could come about by God only through the intercession of Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Father Preca wanted that his own devotion to the Mother of God be instilled also in his followers. This is borne out by the beautiful prayers of praise to Our Lady which adorn "The Watch", which the members of the Society are bound to recite every day. For more than a hundred times a day the SDC Members recite "Blessed be the Virgin Mary" in response to the invocation "Blessed be Jesus Christ". The same laudatory phrase to the Virgin is repeated ten times each time a member visits the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Father George recommended also that at the end of the visit, just before leaving the church, the Member should make three reverential bows to the Virgin: one in honour of her Immaculate Conception, another in honour of her Divine Maternity, and a third in honour of her Assumption into heaven. Father George spread this devotion of the three bows even outside the Society, especially among the audiences at his spiritual conferences.
Another Marian practice in the Society is that whenever a Member addresses his peers to deliver a talk or give an exhortation during meetings, he opens with the invocation "May the Lord Jesus Christ be with us", and closes with "May the Lady Mary be with us", to which is replied "For He who is great, has done wondrous things for her."
A Marian prayer composed by Father Preca is the Vestis Honoris, (the 'Robe of Honour'), a hymn recited on the main liturgical feasts of the Virgin Mary and on the 7th, 17th and 27th of each month. It was a fitting choice that the main themes of this hymn of praise were selected to be depicted in the original stained glass windows of the chapel which stands above the crypt where Father George lies buried in Blata I-Bajda, Malta.
The Salve Filia Patris, ('Hail Daughter of the Father'), recited every Saturday evening after the Assignment, is another exquisite example of condensed praise:
Hail Daughter of God the Father,
Hail Mother of the Word of God,
Hail unique spouse of the Holy Spirt.
Virgin Mary, you are truly great,
for He who has done great things for you,
is awe-inspiring and holy."
But, perhaps, Father Preca's favourite was the Gaude MarIa Virgo, ('Rejoice, Virgin Mary'), which he liked to sing at the beginning of his meetings. Father George Preca wanted that the feasts dedicated to the Blessed Virgin be commemorated by his Members with great solemnity and sometimes with special programmes composed by himself for the occasion. On these liturgical feasts he recommended that the Members recite fifteen decades of the Rosary, not just five, as they do every day.
For Father George, the Virgin Mary was the kindest Mother to whom he turned in his every need. She was the Queen whose protection he always sought and in whose care he entrusted every activity of his own and of his Society. It was a fitting tribute to his life that his remains lie in the vault of the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, whose particular devotion he always sought to spread among his hearers.
Adapted from an article by the late Monsignor Giuseppe Zarb
Parish Priest of Zabbar, Malta
Preca Calling - Issue 30 (1996)