Blessed Ignatius Falzon: A Passion for the Gospel and for Malta

A man of great passion for preaching the Gospel and the teaching of the Catholic faith

These were the words which Pope Saint John Paul II used when declaring him blessed together with a priest, Father George Preca and a nun, Sister Maria Adeodata Pisani OSB. I am speaking of Blessed Ignatius Falzon whom the Church in Malta. July 1st is jubilantly celebrating his obligatory memorial in the Church in Malta.

We, as Maltese, still remember that unforgettable day of May 9, 2001 on the “Granaries” of Floriana, when Pope St John Paul II beatified Blessed Ignatius or Nazju as we affectionately call him in our much esteemed Maltese language. On this great, intelligent, humble, prayerful and ardent apostle of the faith, particularly within the field of evangelization, the Polish Pope said during his homily of beatifications:

The Servant of God Ignatius Falzon also had a  great passion for preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith. He too put his many talents and his intellectual training at the service of catechetical work. The Apostle Paul wrote that “each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Blessed Nazju was one who gave abundantly and cheerfully; and people saw in him not only boundless energy but also deep peace and joy. He renounced the worldly success for which his background had prepared him, in order to serve the spiritual good of others, including the many British soldiers and sailors stationed in Malta at the time. In his approach to them, few of whom were Catholic, he anticipated the ecumenical spirit of respect and dialogue, which is familiar to us today but which was not always prevalent at that time. Ignatius Falzon drew his strength and inspiration from the Eucharist, prayer before the Tabernacle, devotion to Mary and the Rosary, and imitation of Saint Joseph. These are fountains of grace from which all Christians may drink. Holiness and zeal for God’s Kingdom flourish especially where parishes and communities encourage prayer and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. I urge you therefore to cherish your Maltese traditions of piety, purifying them where necessary and strengthening them with sound instruction and catechesis. There would be no better way of honouring the memory of Blessed Nazju Falzon (no.4-5).

Blessed Nazju went a long way to arrive at such a degree of holiness. Despite the fact that he was the son of Judge Giuseppe Francesco Falzon and Maria Teresa née Debono, born in Valletta, the capital city of Malta, and was the brother of Mgr Francesco Falzon-Debono, Rev. Calcedonio and Antonio, and being himself a lawyer by profession, Blessed Nazju forgot himself and his ambitions and simply rendered himself a servant of Christ. Already from childhood he showed extraordinary signs of kindness and generosity towards the poor. His life story tells us that he helped generously the needy and also provided legal advice for free. Even if he had a brilliant mind, his civil and canon law preparation which ended up in his graduation from the University of Malta in 1833 only served to make him a humble servant of Jesus and his people.

Nazju was a man of prayer. As we read attentively his story we become more aware with his daily attendance at Mass as well as of his devout reception of Holy Communion. Blessed Nazju had a strong filial love towards Our Lady and St Joseph. He was a great sponsor of the magnificent Church dedicated to St Joseph at Msida.

As a Franciscan Tertiary Nazju followed the holy trail of Saint Francis. The more he spent time with Jesus the more he felt his call to be an apostolic. In fact, Blessed Nazju’s apostolic life was really remarkable. He purposely studied assiduously the English language to communicate with the British soldiers who, in those days, were coming to Malta in large numbers due to the Crimean War. Deep within his heart he felt the responsibility to be prepared for such a great evangelization mission within his beloved country. Hence, on the 21st of December 1828 he put on the clerical habit and, three years later, he received the minor orders. Like Saint Francis whom he loved so much, Blessed Nazju did not deem himself worthy to keep studying for the priesthood. Therefore, he spent the remaining years of his life teaching catechism to the British soldiers and sailors. On the example of Saint Paul, Malta’s Father in Faith, Blessed Nazju rented a house at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered (Acts 28:30-31). Later on Nazju moved to the Jesuit church at Valletta wherein he used to assemble them.

Nazju’s evangelizing mission had wonderful results. Aided by the grace of God he managed to prepare some 650 Protestants for baptism. In addition, he also set up prayer groups aimed at Catholic servicemen prior to their leaving for the war. These servicemen who saw in Blessed Nazju their father in faith, entrusted him with their precious belongings before going to the area of the conflict, so that, in case they died, Nazju would send them to their loved ones at home. Nazju wrote and published a prayer book which bore the name The Comfort of the Christian Soul for these servicemen in Malta. Moreover, to strengthen his catechetical mission, Nazju managed to bring many religious books from England to distribute them among the soldiers and sailors who were in Malta during that time.

Since Nazju’s health was precarious, so much so that he suffered heart attacks quite often, he died at the age of 52, on his birthday. He is buried at the Franciscan Church known as Ta’ Ġieżu, in Valletta. Nazju was an excellent advocate for Jesus Christ and his saving message. His unusual kindness … kindled (Acts 28:2) the fire of the Gospel in those whom Divine Providence made him meet on his way. He welcomed [them] all (Acts 28:2) and shared with them the riches of his sound catechetical preparation and instruction. His outstanding witness reminds us of the second spiritual work of mercy, instructing the ignorant in the faith. How many Nazjus we need today both in Malta and in the entire world! How many people who dedicate their lives for the Gospel are in demand in this day and age where ignorance of the truth is so rampant!

Blessed Nazju intercede for me in front of Jesus so that, like you, I fulfil my baptismal calling of bearing witness to Christ in the way I live and also through my edifying words. Amen.



Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.