Getting to know the Church

Originally posted on Facebook, 13th April

I was supposed to study Church-State relations in Malta, but had hardly any knowledge about the Church I was going to study.

I was raised in a Protestant family in Rotterdam. My mother told me that, before she was married, she was employed as a pharmacist’s assistant. Her employer was a Catholic, ‘but a very good man’, she would always add. When I was twelve years old we spent our summer holidays in the province of Limburg, in those days a Catholic stronghold. I still remember someone telling to me: ‘If you were born here and not in Rotterdam, you would have been a Catholic just like us’ and that sentence influenced me for life. I’ve always found the connection between believers much more relevant than their differences. However, I had a lot to learn about the Catholic Church in general and about the Maltese Catholic Church in particular. Dun Charles gave me a booklet we the order of Mass in English, which helped me to follow mass in Maltese. I learned my first Maltese words in mass.

Two years later Father Joseph Carabott, parish priest of Marsascala, started teaching me ‘everything’ in the sacristy of St. Anne’s parish church on warm afternoons during siesta time.

Father Joe became a lifelong friend. I was present at his installation as Archpriest of Siggiewi and later as Archpriest of Mosta too (in which he came from the altar and embraced me). Finally he became a Monsignor. In spite of his dementia he always recognized me when I visited him at Dar tal-Kleru, where he spent the last years of his life. I tried to find his grave near the old parish church of Zejtun, in vain unfortunately.

I must admit that, as a non-Catholic I have always felt very welcome in the Maltese Roman Catholic Church.