The other day while talking with a friendly local shopkeeper, I was told that there would be a procession in honour of St.Joseph taking place tonight. I thought this would be interesting, and a chance to get a real feel of the Maltese people and their beliefs or traditions. Before I came here I did not know anything about Malta or its people, so time for me to do some observation and learn.
In the evening I set off to the church to see what was happening, there were a few locals already seated, and more people started to arrive. Bit by bit the church filled up and prayers started. I found it interesting to hear Malti (Maltese) being spoken, which is an Arabic language, spoken well it has a nice sound to it. A group of local young girls gathered around the altar and started to sing. It was soon after that I went home for a while to put some warmer clothes on as I was freezing, but having returned the church service was still going on and I decided to wait outside rather than make a disturbance of doors opening and shutting. Anyway there were things to see on the square, I saw more and more people gathering. I decided to sit at one of the tables and order a coffee while waiting. A little later there was a commotion, someone had parked a van where it should not be as it would be interfering with the procession, two police were making sure the van was gone, but the driver was not happy and gave voice to that. Mothers with children, some quite small, were waiting too, all of us now eager to see the procession coming down the steps of the tastefully lit church, it had become quite dark by now. Finally the massive doors were swung open and some of the priests appeared carrying flags, candles and a cross, followed by a dozen or so men dressed in white robes, and wearing white gloves, carrying the very heavy statue of Jesus being taken down from the cross, I thought that it would have been a statue of St.Joseph.
The crowds filled the whole large square by now, they were quiet, the sound of the church bells loud and beautiful filled the air. A feeling of devotion hung over the crowd as they walked behind the priests and statues praying as they went, I retreated into the background so as not to be disrespectful, and quietly went on my way home to the apartment.
Processions do not take place much anymore anywhere and it is to see tradition living on, and people living with this sense of timing of the season’s passing. I am glad to have witnessed this evening’s happening. I would say that half of the population of Marsaxlokk, which is said to be 4000, was in that procession tonight.