Jesus Christ # 2
Fr Preca undertook his spiritual journey based on a Christ-centered spirituality. This is confirmed from his own writings and special programmes that he devised for the Members on special feasts.
His spiritual journey to Christ was not of an emotional nature but in the manner indicated by the Church. He was quite conscious that nobody can build a healthy relationship without knowing the one whom he is going to love. So Fr preca studied earnestly the basics of Catholic Dogma. Through this study he became conscious of the person of Jesus Christ, and the salvation that he brought us from sin. The teaching of Dogmatic Theology he received from the Seminary was not enough for him, so he continued studying St Thomas Aquinas and the Church Fathers. When reading thoroughly the "Readings for December", it seems to me that l am reading a doctor of the Church. In these pages Fr preca imparts a lot of reflections on the Incarnation of Our Lord, while at the same time composing a Christological Treatise.
But we are certainly mistaken if we affirm that of Christ he had intellectual knowledge only. Fr preca strengthened this knowledge by praying, contemplating and imitating Christ. The "School of Bethlehem" is an example of how the Founder based his teaching on Jesus Christ on prayer and meditation, while proving his assertions by using Sacred Scripture. In this way he was an excellent teacher of giving others the Christ of Dogmatic Theology and that of meditation, in a balanced and interwoven way. Scholars like Hans Urs Von Balthasar affirm that even Doctors of the Church, like St Francis de Sales and St Alphonsus de Liguori, failed in this synthesis.
Fr preca used extensively Sacred Scripture to meditate on the person of Jesus Christ. This can be proved from the episodes in The Watch , in which in a simple but clear manner he devised short meditations for all Members of the Society. If a Member prays The Watch daily, he can experience how the Founder reflected about Christ in a simple manner. The Mansions composed for first the Friday of every month is another example of how the Founder meditated, sometimes on insignificant details, which appear in certain narratives in the Gospels.
The Founder fixed all his attention on two episodes in Christ's life: the incarnation and his passion and death on the cross. While the Latin Tradition emphasized Christ's death with great celebration of Good Friday, the eastern Church highlighted the Incarnation. Also great saints like St Francis of Assisi meditated on these moments of Christ's life.
In fact Fr preca was very devout of the Incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ For him the Incarnation was a mystery and a message that ought to be remembered and celebrated. He wanted everybody to wear the badge showing the words " Verbum Dei caro factum est ", but gradually became a distinctive badge of the Society of Christian Doctrine. Like St Francis of Assisi who devised the first crib, Blessed George preca initiated in Malta the procession with Baby Jesus on Christmas eve. He was so fond of meditating about the Incarnation that he wanted this procession to be carried inside the centres every 25th day of every month.
With equal vigour, he also contemplated Christ dying on the cross. He used to encourage Members to install a devout crucifix in the chapel of every centre and promoted in Malta the holy devotion to the Lord's wounds. His aspirations and reflections beneath the crucifix can be clearly seen in the The Great Book . It consists of fifty meditations drawn from Christ suffering until death.Unlike the trends of his time, Fr preca was a balanced writer and shunned all false and emotional devotions. So he meditated on Christ Crucified as perfect model of instruction and example: "Jesus Christ, the true and only Master of all humanity, and through whom God has communicated to us the knowledge of eternal life, is slain on the cross thus emphasising, by his example, what He had taught. Who does not see the importance of good instruction in this zeal of God to give us his very Son to teach us not only by word but also by example" (page Forty-three - "The Necessity of Good Instruction")
This lesson attests how keen was Fr preca in his devotions based on sound theology. Although he kept on stressing that Christ's role was that of Teacher, he never failed to grasp that all Christ's teaching would have been in vain, unless he redeemed us from sin. He was so familiar with Jesus that he used to present him in diverse manners: as a Teacher with his students and followers, and as a Medical Doctor in a hospital consisting of different wards. These images show how the Founder depicted Christ with symbols full of meaning.
God willed that Fr preca thread the way from meditation to contemplation. The latter is a human activity aided by grace by which the person involved finds spiritual delight in thinking about a mystery of faith or fixing his gaze on Jesus Christ or other persons of the Holy Trinity. Blessed George preca used to go in front of the Tabernacle and pray by reminding Christ a story from his life. He named this prayer "The exercise of Friar Franku". From this contemplation he devised the Holy Week programmes that show that the Founder had infused contemplation, which God gives to those persons in advanced stage of spiritual life.
Fr preca was not content to contemplate Christ alone. He followed the maxim " Contemplatio aliis tradere" , which means"giving the fruits of contemplation to others". He used to give conferences about Christian doctrine and he was well aware that to love Jesus is to give him to others. The meaning that he gave to the name MUSEUM ("may the whole world follow your Gospel") is of a missionary nature. In fact he dedicated himself to this ideal by word, example and writings.
He so loved Christ that he was ready to follow him even among tribulations. The short essay named "Six Apostrophes on God" show us that he was united with him in a most intimate way, reserved for those who had undergone the night of the senses and of the spirit. In the night of the senses, the persons involved do not experience sensible consolations but darkness, while in that of the spirit one becomes so conscious of his faults, that one thinks that he is going to hell. We do not know for certain whether Blessed George preca underwent this spiritual experience but it is true that he had to suffer many hardships for promoting Christian Doctrine.
So, in this manner, he followed Christ even when his Superiors ordered him to close all the branches, and like Christ he forgave all those who were hindering his noble and holy work.
All his life was "with Christ, in Christ and for Christ". He so loved him that he was determined with all his strength to remain a loyal follower until his death. Even a few days before meeting Christ in heaven, he was reading the Gospel of St John without tiring himself.
Angelo Xuereb sdc
Qala – Gozo