A friend of mine would always say, “Keep the Good News but pass it on.” St. George Preca lived those words throughout his life. He fell in love with the Scriptures and passed that loveon to others, in his native country of Malta, and the world. Indeed, his desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ earned him the title from St. John Paul II “Malta’s second father of faith.”
He was born on February 12, 1880 in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. His parents were Vincenzo, a successful businessman, and Natalina nee Cerevolo, a teacher. George was the seventh of nine children. As a child, George was enrolled in the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
From a young age, he felt the call to serve the Church as a priest. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Malta. As a student, George would spend time at the Grand Harbor talking with sailors, gently leading the conversations into spiritual areas. Those times set a direction to pass on the Good News to others for the rest of his life.
George was ordained to the priesthood on December 22, 1906. He wanted to dedicate his life to a catechetical ministry. Starting in 1907, he began to gather young men together, teaching them the Catholic faith. The goal was to enable them to dedicate their lives to become teachers of the faith. By 1910, he founded a female branch of this new movement. All the members were to dedicate themselves to teach the Catholic faith to the young for an hour every day. They were also to meet among themselves for ongoing formation. The community embraced a simple lifestyle, based on the gospel, and offered short prayers at regular times during the day. He called the community the Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pope. Later it was known as the Society of Christian Doctrine. Others nicknamed them the Museum since these men and women met in a rundown building. Eventually, the Society would grow in England, Albania, the Sudan, Kenya, Peru, Australia and other areas.
This was an innovative project since at the time active lay involvement in the Church was largely unknown. The local bishop ordered Fr. George to close down his centers. But local parish priests came to his defense causing the bishop to lift the ban. By April 12, 1932 the society was canonically established. In order to strengthen that formation, Fr. George, during his life, wrote 140 books on systematic and moral theology along with books on spirituality. He also translated parts of the Bible into Maltese. He called the words of Christ in the Gospel “the voice of the Beloved.”
Fr. George deepened his spiritual life by joining the Carmelite Third Order on July 21, 1918. At his profession he took the name of Franco in honor of the Carmelite Blessed Franco of Siena. From that point on, he spread devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. His dedication and love of Carmel was rewarded when he was affiliated to the Order in 1952.
Besides his devotion to Carmel, Fr. George had a deep love of the Incarnation. He had the members of the Society wear badges that read, “Verbum Dei caro factum est.” “The Word of God became flesh.” He considered the crucified Christ “the Great Book” and often spoke of the mercy and justice of God.
In spite of health issues that remained throughout his life, Fr. George worked to make Christ and the Catholic faith known through his great humility, generosity and meekness. He died on July 26, 1962 and was buried in the Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. St. John Paul II beatified him on May 9, 2001 in Malta. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him on June 3, 2007 in Vatican City.