The Cigarette Ruse
But Saint George Preca did not die. He outlived his father and doctor by many years, and had celebrated his 82nd birthday before he passed away. Our joy is not only that he lived so long, but that he used his time so well.
As a seminarian, he used to go to the Grand Harbour, board the foreign ships there, and introduce himself to Greek, English and French sailors by offering them a cigarette. His lively intelligence and exquisite humour entertained the men who had been so long away from land and soon the young cleric would lead his audience to spiritual matters. Many a sailor must have been impressed by this gentle man who sought so willingly the good of his neighbour.
The cigarette ruse was to be used again and again. Knowing that a group of youngsters were in the habit of meeting together regularly, Saint George Preca struck up a steady friendship with them. Sometimes he was rebuffed, more often than not he was gladly received so that gradually his advice about spiritual matters was as welcome and accepted as his chattering on other things. Soon the group of youths who met in the vicinity of the Hamrun Parish Church, chief among them being Eugenio Borg, grew and grew so that premises had to be rented where their meetings could be held.