Maybe you know Compostela and the Via Francigena. The Maltese Archipelago has its own Camino, inspired by Saint Paul and Fr Bosco.
The Bible book of Genesis is vital to the Christian ideas of the pilgrimage. Christian traditions have read these texts as depicting human beings in exile in a world often inhospitable, distant from both God and one another. Biblical narratives later emphasize this exile as a constitutive attribute of existence. Pilgrimages are, both metaphorically and spiritually, ways of removing the exile.as if walking back home.
Even superficial reading makes it clear that exile is constant throughout the Old Testament. Abraham and his descendants go from one exile to another – Egypt, the wilderness, Babylon. But the fact that pilgrimage is also prominent in many of these tales makes it clear that the two experiences (pilgrimage and exile) have common features. In fact, the many different journeys to and from exile found in Scripture are themselves pilgrimages, packed with rich spiritual significance.
Pilgrimages and exile in the Bible
These motives play a major role in Christian thought and are often summarized in one word – the Greek exodus. The Gospel of Luke (cf. Lk 9: 28-36) uses it to refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The original Greek is a compound word, formed by the prefix “ex” (outside) and “hodos” (path, road, road). Literally, exodus translates to a outgoing. In the Transfiguration, we find Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talking about the exodus of Jesus “to be performed in Jerusalem.” Luke uses the word in obvious allusion to the exodus of Moses from Egypt, and to Elijah’s departure from this world, and he came alive into heaven “in a flash,” literally. outgoing from this world, and fis other.
But this is not an exclusive feature of the gospel of Luke. All the writers of the New Testament emphasize the inevitable transience of this world. (See John 2:17; 1 Cor. 7:31; or James 1:11.) thus urging believers to understand themselves as “pilgrims and strangers on earth” or “temporary residents” whose true home is in heaven. (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). These texts helped to perceive the Christian life as a journey to that homeland – thus giving the Christian pilgrimage a distinctive dimension inside and out.
Christian pilgrimages were first made to sites associated with the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus — but also to those associated with the Church’s first saints and martyrs, and then extended to other areas of Christian life and history in general. Testimonies date back to the 3rd century, and many surviving descriptions of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the 4th century, making it clear that this practice was quite common. In addition, he was encouraged by various Church Fathers, both Eastern and Western.
Youth Faith Tourism
One is never too young to go on a pilgrimage. In fact, the youth itself is a journey, a come out of childhood in the unknown world of early adulthood. That is one of the reasons why the Youth Faith Tourism project was born in Malta.
Youth Faith Tourism is a project funded by the Ministry of Tourism and managed by The Maltese National Federation of the Past Students and Friends of Don Bosco.
Louis Debono, who is in charge of this project, explained how this reflects the genius of the 19th century pioneer in education:
Don Bosco has established an educational program based on reaching young people inwardly but through fun, through activities that allow them to enjoy life, activities that allow them to truly explore the beauty of lifeby any means – nature, sports, singing, dancing, whatever. The Camino is trying to help or support these young people to achieve this joy by experiencing the beauty of nature, and understanding the spiritual and cultural heritage, meeting people, looking at the sea, the beauty that surrounds us.
In short, young people are invited to embark on them the adventure inside and outside of the pilgrimage.
The organization, which is part of the Malta-based Salesian Family and the neighboring island of Gozo, naturally follows the values of the worldwide Don Bosco movement. The experience they offer is fourfold, as it aims to provide young men and women who join their travels with spaces that are both home-made (to feel free, accepted, and belonging). , a playground (where they can have fun and discover. the joy of common time and solidarity), a school (where one can grow in knowledge and responsibility), and a church (where one can seek and find meaning) . That is to say they offer a welcoming space where young people feel supported and accompanied on their journey of personal growth.
Youth Faith Tourism offers its projects to young people from all over the world, and introduces them to the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of the Maltese archipelago — its famous sites and places, its environment, its traditions and its cultures. By exploring what the Maltese islands have to offer, young people will be able to engage in faith activities and personal exploration initiatives. It is also a non-formal education platform, which helps them learn important life and social skills.
The Caminos of Malta and Gozo
By the famous Spanish Camino de Santiago is still the most popular of all the pilgrimage routes in Christianity, Malta and Gozo have roads their own. This should come as no surprise, as Maltese Christianity is as old as Pauline preaching. On his way to trial in Rome in the year 60, Paul was shipwrecked off the north-west coast of Malta and spent the non-navigable winter months there. During his visit, he converted the governor of the island, Publius (Malta’s first bishop and first saint), healed the sick and won souls for Christ, and established the same roots as Maltese Christianity. Luke tells the story as follows, in Acts 28:
Once on the safe shore, we learned that the island was called Malta. The islands have shown us an unusually good heart. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushes and, putting it on the fire, a viper, expelled from the heat, clung to his hand. When the people of the island saw the serpent hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must be a murderer; for though he fled from the sea, the god of righteousness would not live. ” But Paul threw the serpent into the fire and suffered no harm. People waited for it to swell or fall suddenly; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
There was a nearby property belonging to Publius, the chief officer of the island. We met at home and were shown generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul came to see him and, after praying, laid his hands on him and healed him. When this happened, the rest of the sick came to the island and were healed. They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they supplied us with the supplies we needed.
The Maltese roads offer an opportunity for individuals and groups to discover Malta through a different lens. The island, some say, is one big church. They are somehow right. It is, in more ways than one. For starters, the archipelago is home to more than 365 churches. Of course The Maltese often joked that they could attend Mass in a different church every day of the year if they wished. What may seem like an exaggeration (why so many churches in a country that is 2.5 times smaller than New York City?) Makes sense considering not only that Malta is the European country with the highest population density (just under 1300 people per square kilometer) but also the country with the highest percentage of Catholics on the whole continent: almost 98% of Maltese are (proud!) Catholics.
Well, the landscape of the archipelago lends itself to ctemperament. The routes that make up the Maltese language Camino surely explore it in its integrity. If it is true, as Augustine and other Christian philosophers have argued, that one can look at God’s perfection by looking at the great beauty of creation, Malta could be a kind of amusement park for the contemplated. : the archipelago offers exceptional sandy beaches, soaring cliffs from its pristine waters, stunning natural caves, and equally lush green valleys.
Pilgrimage through the app
While the roots of the pilgrimage extend to the very beginning of the Catholic faith and of human experience in general, Don Bosco’s innovative spirit is reflected in the Malta-Gozo Caminos.
The whole experience it is guided by an app, which means that the Camino is completely possible to complete alone (for more adventurous young people!) or in a group.The app is here for Apple and here for other devices.
The experience of the Gozo pilgrimage, for example, is divided into three routes, which can be done all together to tour the island, or individually. Each route can take about a day, allowing the pilgrim to stay on the island before starting the next route.
Aleteia had the opportunity to interview Mr. Louis Debono and Ms. Marica Aquilina, who are in charge of the project. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
The need to develop and facilitate experiences for young people to embark on a journey of self-exploration and engagement with nature, culture, and travel, is indeed evident. How did you come up with the idea for Camino and, more specifically, Gozitans?
In many countries, Camino’s idea is closely associated with a personal journey of discovery. Experiencing nature and encountering human history can help a person to delve deeper and discover riches within. But this does not happen automatically for everyone. Many people need to be supported to move from mere physical activity to spiritual activity. This Camino offers the opportunity to experience the spiritual journey, as it relates to the experience of the Apostle Paul, when he brought the Catholic Faith to Malta.
Young people are bombarded with virtuality: video games, internet, metaverses. What do you think young people can learn from a Camino like yours?
Everyone chooses to learn what they want and what they need. Being in touch with nature, the physical effort to get to the destination, and the reflections that each person is invited to work with, all come together to support this spiritual journey. We developed an app for this Camino, offering young people the chance to use their mobile phone for a different purpose. Mobile devices become a way to get in touch with their inner self.
How is this experience inspired by Salesian fundamental values?
Don Bosco has always wanted to support young people in their quest for happiness in their lives. He worked hard to create healthy experiences, inviting young people to gain an understanding of their spiritual needs. It also took young people to the countryside, not only to have fun but also to learn values and gain an understanding of God’s presence in their lives.
What are the “stations” or spiritual highlights of this Camino?
The whole Camino adventure is a spiritual experience. Participants, young and old, will have their special moments while walking on it. There are some significant religious sites of interest, such as the Ta ‘Pinu Shrine. Chapels and other smaller shrines remind us of our strong religious heritage in Malta and Gozo. Ultimately, each trip is unique. Every step of the way is an opportunity that can be as significant as the explorer does.
Be sure to visit the exhibition below to explore more of the Maltese and Gozitan Camino.
MTA and Aleteia would like to acknowledge and thank the voluntary work of Baia Dotchviri, Nicolò Sensi, and Lucia Urban Alonso, for the Salesians in Malta.