Agathe Hug. Malta, Morocco, Mexico. Holy Masses “in covenant with…” on Saturdays in August were and will continue starting with Macedonia and then Malta followed by Morocco and Mexico . When thinking about Malta, you may think of the “Eurovision Song Contest,” in which Malta always participated, with a few exceptions during the last few years; Malta never won, but they were in some of the top spots. In 2002 and in 2005, they were in second place. Others think about mail order businesses, others think about Saint Paul, who was shipwrecked on one of these islands and used the chance to share the Good News… (or: to evangelize).
The territory of Malta covers three inhabited islands, and there are four that are uninhabited in the Mediterranean Sea where no one lives. I have never been there, but I suppose that on the islands not inhabited by anyone, there must be birds and small animals. Vegetation is scarce because there is almost no water.
In fact the lack of water is the major problem of Malta. According to United Nations’ data, Malta is the country with the least amount of water on the entire earth. There is no potable water or permanent rivers. The Maltese do not know what flowing water is from their own experience, because there is none on their island. Sweet water is only obtained from very deep wells, but it is salty when it is extracted in large amounts. Therefore, it is necessary to desalinate sea water. But fossil energy is needed for this, and it is also very scarce and expensive proving how precious water is. During the summer when many tourists arrive on Malta, the island receives water from Sicily through tanker ships.
Malta was a British colony. It became independent in 1964, and since 2004, it is the smallest state in the European Union. Did you know that Malta once belonged to the African continent? 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared, there was an isthmus between the south of Sicily and the north of Africa. It divided the Mediterranean into two basins. The climate was much hotter than it is now. 60 million years ago the sea level rose and covered this isthmus, where presently there are coral calcite sediments and shells. The islands of Malta arose from this place in the Mediterranean. And they are on the African continental plate. If I have briefly recounted that the isthmus would submerge and finally break it would take some 13,000 years, but let’s not deal with geological analysis here.
In Malta, “one is” Roman Catholic. 98% of the population is Catholic; according to the constitution, it is the religion of the state. The majority of the population lives its religion. There are 365 Catholic churches in Malta, the native Catholics say that they have a church for each day of the year. This is related to what it says in the Acts of the Apostles (28:1-11) in reference to St. Paul’s shipwreck on the small rocky island of Selmunetta. That is how he arrived in Malta. The islands welcome many pilgrimages that follow the footsteps of St. Paul. Many of the facades of the buildings are decorated with images of saints.
It always fascinates me to find where there are Schoenstatt brothers and sisters. The land that surrounds him, its climate, and its history always marks people. But I do not precisely know how the Schoenstatters from Malta are. In any case, the Pilgrim MTA is there and above all there are people who regularly visit the schoenstatt.org web page in English. If these people would like to communicate, the rest of the world would be very HAPPY. Beloved Maltese brothers and sisters, next Saturday, we will pray for you although we do not know you personally.
The kingdom of Maghreb, as the Moroccans are called, is totally different. The name Morocco was imposed as a derivation of the name of the former capital: Marrakech. Don’t we think about the Moroccans of Marrakech in the “The Thousands and One Nights”? It is the prototype of eastern life.
For me, since my childhood, Moroccans have been related with positive emotions. In the small town where I grew up, after World War II, we had French occupational troops, who were really Moroccan soldiers. They gave the children the first chocolates of their lives, and they allowed them to get on their tanks. This positive experience was transmitted to me through my older brothers.
80% of the population is Berber. Islam is the state religion. Approximately 99.8% of the people are Muslim, 90% of them are Sunnis. 1.1 % of the inhabitants (69,000) are Christian (the majority Catholic) and 8,000 are Jewish.
Transmitting the Christian message to Muslims is punished. Christian writings are not authorized. The conversion of a Muslim to another religion is not punished according to the law, however, the Christians, with this Muslim background experience social pressure and a kind of isolation. Christians frequently practice their faith secretly for fear of reprisals. The foreign Christian can practice his/her faith, but they are observed by the authorities. In March of 2010, the Moroccan government began to expel many Christian foreigners with the excuse that they had evangelized Muslims. The Roman Catholic Church has thirty-nine parishes to which 24, 000 people in the Archdiocese of Rabat and Tangier belong.
And what about Schoenstatt Moroccans? It is a very difficult question. In any case, there are people who regularly visit the schoenstatt.org web page. And according to the news from Brazil, there are also Pilgrim MTA.s that visit homes. And also, here is an invitation to Moroccans: please communicate with us if it is possible! We would be very happy to know about you! I know a famous Schoenstatter, who was born in your wonderful country, and I can gladly put you in contact with him…
On the last Saturday of August, Mexico will be at the center. Books could be written about Mexico and Schoenstatt. Personally, I have never been to Mexico, I only arrived in Texas almost on the border. The Sisters of Mary who work in Mexico have their provincial house in Lamar, Texas. I ate a Mexican special meal at the Sisters’ house: tamales, (corn breading filled with different fillings) and I drank a warm drink made with corn flour dissolved in milk or boiled water, strained, and if necessary sweetened with honey. Corn flour gruel can be made in many different flavors. I recommend it. It is very, very delicious!
Life in Mexico
It is not easy to live in many places of the country because of the drug problem, and in parts, it is very dangerous. There are approximately forty thousand military and five thousand police in the drug war (named as such since 2006) against the approximately three hundred thousand members of the Mexican cartels (among others, those of Sinaloa and of the Gulf) and of paramilitaries (the Zetas among others). The drug cartels fight with the most modern firearms, they even have grenade launchers and hand grenades.
In 1823 Mexico separated from the territory of Guatemala, which was later formed into the independent states of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras. At the end of the Mexican-American War, fought from 1846 to 1848, and ending with the signing of the Guadalupe -Hidalgo Treaty, Mexico lost its northern territories, which later became the states of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado in the United States of America. After the revolution of 1911, the strict separation between the Church and the state provoked the persecution of the Christians.
87% of the Mexicans are Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church has sixteen archdioceses, among them the largest is the Archdiocese of Mexico, and additionally there are seventy-three dioceses and three territorial prelatures.
An increasing Protestant minority of 7.5% of the population exists. The Anglican community represents the Anglican Church of Mexico, and it comprises six dioceses.
3.5% of the population does not profess any religion, and 0.36% practices other religions, Islam among them. Religion is of great importance in certain sectors of the Mexican society, most of all in the native population and less among the inhabitants of the big cities.
Schoenstatt in Mexico
In Mexico there are Schoenstatt Fathers, Sisters of Mary, the Family Work, youth. and mothers. In other words, the complete range of possibilities of belonging to Schoenstatt is given; of course, the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign is widespread, and a multitude of pilgrims visit the Shrines, especially the one in Queretaro that can bring thirty or forty thousand pilgrims to it on October 18.
There are four daughter shrines in Mexico: Queretaro, Chilapas, San Luis Potosi, and Monterrey that always attract many, many pilgrims. Of course, they cannot be compared with the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the National Marian Shrine located in a neighborhood north of Mexico City. Twenty million pilgrims visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe annually; it is presently the largest pilgrimage place in the world.
There is always news about Schoenstatt life in Mexico on schoentatt.org and also among others, on the website of the Monterrey Shrine: http://www.schoenstatt-mty.org/