Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cardinal Newman and Malta

This letter has appeared in the Sunday Times of Malta today. It is written by Fr Louis Caruana a Maltese priest based in Heythrop College, London. You can find the link here.

As Malta is preparing for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to mark the 1,950th anniversary of St Paul's shipwreck, and as Britain is preparing for John Henry Newman's beatification later this year, it is worth recalling a poem writing by Newman about St Paul's arrival in Malta, which he dated February 9, 1833.
St Paul at Melita
"And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat."
Secure in his prophetic strength,
The water peril o'er,
The many-gifted man at length
Stepp'd on the promised shore.
He trod the shore; but not to rest
Nor wait till Angels came;
Lo! Humblest pains the Saint attest,
The firebrands and the flame.
But, when he felt the viper's smart,
Then instant aid was given;
Christian! Hence learn to do thy part,
And leave the rest to Heaven.

When writing this poem, Newman had been an Anglican priest for eight years, most of them spent at Oxford University. He was touring the southern Mediterranean, and his travels included a stop in Malta.
He was on the island between January 10 and February 7, 1833, but because of quarantine regulations and his own fragile health, he saw little of the island. They sailed for Naples via Messina, and it was at Messina that he completed this short but significant poem. He became a Roman Catholic 12 years later.

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