Posts Tagged ‘Casa Vanilla’

  • A life of prayer

    From left - Sr. Aloisia Bajada and Rev. Mother Abbess Sr. Michelina Mifsud.jpgThe monastery's garden that was originally a quarry.jpg

    The chapel adjacent to the monastery.jpgThe monastery's crypt.jpg

    The concept of life as a cloistered nun has often intrigued people. How could one choose to deny oneself the privilege of freedom and instead opt for a life locked up in a monastery, when the rest of humanity dreaded even the thought of it?

    As I knocked on the heavy door of the Monastery of the Augustinian Cloistered Nuns of St Catherine which is located in Republic Street, Valletta, I wondered how I was going to probe for an answer to this dilemma. Soon, a female voice responded from the intercom and when I identified myself, the door opened automatically and I stepped inside. The sight of three barred windows amid a thick white-washed wall bound me at a standstill and I stood there in silence and awe, unsure of what I was expected to do.

    Indeed, I was quite surprised when Rev. Mother Abbess Sr. Michelina Mifsud called me in, for I had believed that this interview would take place behind bars and that I would never have the opportunity to look at her face.

    “This would not have been possible if you had come to us about eight years ago,” responded Sr. Michelina as she read the question in my eyes. “At that time, you would have needed a special permit in order to contact us, and on your arrival, I would have sounded a bell so that all the other nuns would know that you’re here and they would retire to their rooms until you left.”

    “Necessary communication with people used to take place only behind those bars,” she continued to explain. “We could neither read newspapers, nor hear the radio or watch television. Our lives were meant to be completely shut from the rest of the world so that we could focus only on God and our prayers. None of the nuns could get out of this monastery except when they needed aid for serious health reasons. We could not even visit our parents when they were sick and if they died, we were not allowed to attend their funeral. However, at times, our close family members could come to see us at the monastery and we greeted each other from behind the bars.”

    I felt dumbfounded and looked down at the floor, searching for a way to question her how and why, until I could not resist no more and spoke out.

    “This style of life does not make us feel miserable because this was our choice,” responded gently Sr. Aloisia Bajada who had joined us silently. “Our faith keeps us strong and prevents us from feeling depressed. Certainly there are moments when life gets pretty hard but whose does not? I am sure that even though you did not choose to become a cloistered nun, you too have to make several sacrifices for your family. So, you see, there is not so much difference between us.”

    I watched them closely, trying to sense any strange move or reaction which might reveal a hint of unhappiness but instead I was met with sincere serene demeanour which was almost saintly.

    “Sometimes even we find it difficult to understand and explain our vocation,” expanded the nuns. “We tend to regard it as a gift from God.”

    We started to walk around the monastery and here I was in for another revelation. For the nuns did not live within some somber building but in a spacious and historical palace which was constructed during the period of the Knights of St John.

    “This monastery has a long and interesting history,” told me Sr. Aloisia as she watched me admire the old paintings hanging on the walls, the colourful painted floor tiles and the exquisite architecture. “In my earlier years, it was my joy to delve within this monastery’s ancient archives which go back to 1606. They narrate detailed incidents and engaging stories which took place in this building and in the lives of the nuns that lived here hundreds of years ago. Surely, it is a pity that very few people have ever laid eyes upon them!”

    At 88 years, Sr. Aloisia is the oldest of the remaining six nuns in this monastery. I was delighted by her passion towards the history of this place which has been her home for the last 70 years. As she led the way ahead, she informed me that originally this building was the residence of Marquis Giovanni and Katarina Vasco Oliviero, and it was known as Casa Vanilla. In 1576, this couple went through a rough time when their son contracted the plague, and in desperation, Katarina, who was a devotee of St Catherine, pledged to donate her house to the Church if her son survived. The boy did survive and Katarina was adamant to keep her word. However, when in 1611, she got to know of a group of girls known as ‘Orfanelle della Misericordia’ who had decided to become cloistered nuns and were taking care of children with family problems, she decided to give her property to them.

    In order to change this palace into a monastery, the couple had to buy some of the neighbouring properties so that they could accommodate about 45 nuns, 15 girls and a chapel. This is why today, this monastery stretches out into Republic Street, St Christopher Street, Strait Street and also a section of St Dominic Street. Incidentally, within a year from their testament this noble couple died and since their son had already died before them, the cloistered nuns of St Catherine inherited all that remained.

    By time, it became customary for some of the girls of the nobility to take their vows and join this monastery, and this included Grandmaster Manuel Pinto de Fonseca’s sister. Certainly, these girls brought with them generous dowries which supported a comfortable life. However, in 1714, the monastery required huge structural changes and much of the money ran out. Then, in 1798, when the French occupation took over Malta, the nuns found themselves in a dire state of poverty and they could not afford to take care of children any more. The number of nuns dwindled to eight but once the French left our islands, new nuns joined the monastery and life started afresh.

    We entered into a lift which took us straight up to the monastery’s huge roof. A breath-taking view of the splendid architecture of the other Valletta buildings welcomed us and a fresh breeze whirled around us. The nearby wide blue sea was shiny and tempting, and we could see sea-gulls gliding smoothly over its surface.

    “How can we feel restricted when we have all this to enjoy?” the two nuns asked me with a bright smile on their faces.

    We stood together in silence, relishing the stillness and the beautiful environment which surrounded us. Then, the nuns shared with me what had led them to make this particular choice in life.

    “Look down there,” asked me Sr. Aloisia as she indicated far below at the monastery’s garden which originally was the quarry from which the stone for this building was extracted. “During World War II, that garden suffered a direct hit and the nuns went to seek refuge at Ta’ Ċenċ in Gozo. I was 16 and from Xagħra and I did not even know what a cloistered nun was. One day, I saw some creative sewing which they had done and I felt curious to meet them. However, people told me that this was impossible, unless I wanted to join them. I felt terrified at the idea that they could keep me with them and yet finally some older friends accompanied me to see them and I liked the nuns’ company. As time went by, I continued to think about them and when I was 18, I was sure that I wanted to join those nuns who had in the meantime returned to their monastery in Malta. And here I am.”

    “I was also 18 when I took my vows and became a cloistered nun of this monastery,” told me Sr. Michelina. “Ironically when I was younger, a priest who often watched me visiting and praying daily in front of St Rita, had suggested to me that I should consider becoming a nun and I was furious! Oh, I want to enjoy life, I told him. The life of a nun is not for me! However, some time later, he convinced me to meet the Rev. Mother Abbess of St Monica who in turn invited me to spend some weekends with them whenever I wanted. Somehow, I liked the idea and little by little I got very close to these nuns until I could not imagine any other life but to stay with them. Then, one day, I went to visit Frenċ tal-Għarb and without even knowing me, he made a cross upon my forehead with some oil that was blessed by the Virgin Mary and he told me that I would soon become a cloistered nun in the Monastery of St Catherine and that eventually I would die there. When I returned home to my father and told him about this, he swore that I would not withstand the life of a cloistered nun for more than 15 days. And yet here I am still after 51 years!”

    We went down again and this time I was shown the crypt where all the cloistered nuns of this monastery get buried. Interestingly, in this crypt, one finds also the tomb of the son of the original owners of this building.

    From there, we moved on to the small chapel wherein the nuns attend to pray. “After 1963, we received new regulations and many things changed. One of these included the possibility of receiving the public in our monastery, even if we still stand behind bars. Indeed, within these last years, many individuals have sought us for spiritual help and advice. Many more have chosen to join us during mass and so people have grown more accustomed to our presence and I think that their respect towards us has increased, now that they know us better,” told me Sr. Michelina.

    “Through these encounters, we want to show people that life does not end when you become a cloistered nun. We simply start a new chapter of a life which is simpler and closer to God. We have our daily chores, we pray and help others, and we also enjoy developing our talents in sewing, crochet and art.”

    “We miss absolutely nothing here except the need for more nuns to join us as we are too few now and most of us are also too old,” admitted Sr. Aloisia.

    I cherished their warm hug when they embraced me before I left, and for a moment I felt a distinct sense of happinness. Yet once the monastery’s door closed behind me, I was concerned about how these nuns will live, once they will be too old to take care of each other? And what will be this monastery’s destiny if one day these nuns will all fade away?

    (This article was published in Focus Valletta Supplement in The Times of Malta dated 1st October 2014)

    2014.10.01 / no responses / Category: Times of Malta


    Is-sorijiet tal-klawsura minn dejjem kienu jintrigawni. Qatt ma stajt nifhem l-għażla tagħhom li jinqatgħu kompletament mid-dinja biex imorru jingħalqu wara erbgħa Mix-xellug - Il-Vigarja Swor Aloisia Bajada u Madre Michelina Mifsudħitan. Spiss kont nipprova nimmaġina x’tip ta’ persuni jistgħu jkunu u x’inhu dak li jwassalhom biex jieħdu deċiżjoni drastika bħal dik. Dak il-wiċċ mistur għad-dell tal-grada ċkejkna kien ikompli jqanqalni biex niskopri l-emozzjonijiet u l-ħsibijiet moħbija wara dawk l-għajnejn baxxuti. Iżda fl-istess ħin kont rassenjata li ser nibqa’ bil-kurżità għax kont naf li lil dawn is-sorijiet ma tistax tkellimhom kif ġieb u laħaq.

    Għalhekk tistgħu taħsbu kif bqajt meta dan l-aħħar irċevejt ittra mingħand il-ħabib tiegħi Ralph Micallef fejn infurmani li kien irreferini biex niltaqa’ mal-Madre tas-Sorijiet Agostinjani tal-Klawsura ta’ Santa Katerina! Nistqarr li domt ftit intella’ u nniżżel qabel ċempilt lill-Madre. Kont qed nipprova nara kif ser inpoġġi l-kliem ma’ persuna bħal din. Imma lanqas ħaqq kemm ħlejt ħin għax Madre Michelina laqgħatni b’ġentilezza u ħlewwa kbira u bla eżitazzjoni aċċettat li niltaqgħu.

    Tlajt it-telgħa wieqfa ta’ Triq ir-Repubblika b’ċerta trepidazzjoni u hekk kif wasalt quddiem il-bieb tal-monasteru ntbaħt li min jaf kemm għaddejt minnIl-kamra fejn jiltaqgħu man-nies quddiem dan il-post mingħajr ma qatt kont naf x’kien. Ċempilt il-qanpiena tal-bieb u kif identifikajt ruħi, l-bieb infetaħ waħdu. Imbuttajtu l-ġewwa u dlonk sibt ruħi f’kamra bi stil antik mill-isbaħ. Quddiemi wkoll tfaċċaw tliet itwieqi mbarrati bil-ħadid miżbugħ bajdani. Waqaft ħdejhom imma l-Madre sejjħitli bi tbissima u daħħlitni ġewwa.

    “Bħalissa għaddej xi xogħol ta’ restawr. Kellhom jgħaddu 500 sena biex irranġajna l-faċċata tal-monasteru. Imma ftit taż-żmien ilu għal naqra ma ġratilnix diżgrazzja kbira hekk kif waqa’ xi ġebel għal isfel waqt li kienet għaddejja l-purċissjoni ta’ San Duminku minn quddiemna. Imn’Alla ma weġġa’ ħadd. Bdejna x-xogħolijiet ħames snin ilu u l-ispiża telgħet mhux ħażin. Imma meta ġew il-bennejja, l-ġebel tant kien iddeterjorat li bidlu 40% minnu. Sfortunatament il-fondi qed jixxuttaw u l-bqija ser ikollu jitħalla kif inhu għalissa,” bdiet tispjegali l-Madre hekk kif bdejna mexjin minn kamra għall-oħra.

    Ma’ l-ewwel impatt tiegħi mal-post intbaħt li kont diġà żbaljata fuq punt wieħed! Is-sorijiet tal-klawsura ma kienux jgħixu wara erbgħa ħitan imma ġo palazz storiku u spazzjuz li kien  jesa’ fih erbgħa sulari.

    “Dan il-bini jiftakar lill-Kavallieri ta’ San Ġwann,” fetħet id-diskursata l-Vigarja Swor Aloisia Bajada li ngħaqdet magħna hekk kif ratni nammira l-ġmiel tal-madum prezzjuż u kkulurit, l-arkitettura mirquma u l-pitturi antiki. “Fil-fatt dal-monasteru għandu storja mill-isbaħ u tmur lura għal snin twal. Dnub li ftit biss jafuha.”

    “Din taf tgħidlek l-istorja tal-monasteru fuq ponot subgħajha,” qaltli bi tbissima l-Madre.

    Swor Aloisia hija soru ta’ 84 sena iżda akkost l-età tagħha hija persuna vivaċi, ċajtiera u b’memorja mill-aqwa.

    “Jiena l-hena tiegħi nidħol fil-profond ta’ dak kollu li nagħmel,” kompliet tgħidli. “Għalhekk spiss kont nintefa’ fl-arkivji tal-monasteru nqalleb fil-manuskritti u d-dokumenti antiki ħalli nitkixxef aktar dwar il-ġrajja ta’ dal-post li ngħix fih. Sibt illi l-arkivji jmorru lura sal-1606 u huma miżgħuda b’dettalji ferm interessanti dwar dak kollu li għaddew minnu s-sorijiet. Uħud mid-dokumenti huma bil-Latin però rnexxielna nsibu lil min jittraduċielna xi xogħol għat-Taljan u jien qlibt parti minnu bil-Malti.

    Oriġinarjament hawnhekk kien hawn id-dar tal-Belt tal-Markiżi Giovanni u Katarina Vasco Oliviero li kienet magħrufa bħala Casa Vanilla. Fl-1576 it-tifel tal-koppja marad bil-pesta u ommu li kienet devota ta’ Santa Katarina għamlet wegħda li jekk binha jfieq, hija tagħti d-dar tagħha lill-Knisja. It-tifel fieq u ħu Katarina, li kien ukoll prokuratur tat-Teżor ta’ l-Ordni, fakkar lil oħtu fil-wegħda li kienet għamlet.

    Il-Markiża wettqet il-wegħda tagħha imma meta fl-1611 hija saret taf bi grupp ta’ tfajliet imsejjħa l-‘Orfanelle della Misericordia’ hija ddeċidiet li ddawwar id-deċiżjoni tagħha u minflok għaddiet il-Il-monasteru minn fuq il-bejtproprjetà lilhom. Dawn it-tfajliet kienu qed jieħdu ħsieb lil xi tfal li kellhom il-problemi fil-familja u matul is-snin kienet ġiethom il-vokazzjoni reliġjuża għall-ħajja tal-klawsura. Biex id-dar setgħet tinbidel f’monasteru ħalli tkun tista’ tilqa’ fiha lil madwar 45 soru u 15 il-tifla, il-Markiżi bnew kappella mal-ġenb tad-dar u xtraw ukoll xi bini tal-madwar. Huwa għalhekk li llum hawn dal-kobor kollu tant li l-ħitan tal-monasteru jmissu ma’ Triq ir-Repubblika, ma’ Triq San Kristofru, ma’ Strada Stretta u anki ma’ parti minn San Duminku. Sa sena wara mit-testment, il-markiżi mietu u hekk kif anki binhom kien laħaq miet qabilhom, is-sorijiet tal-klawsura wirtu anki l-ġid kollu tal-Markiżi.

    Fl-1714 il-monasteru kellu bżonn xi tibdiliet strutturali u tant intefqu flejjes illi eventwalment ma kellhomx biżżejjed fondi biex ikomplu l-kappella. Fl-1798 s-sorijiet kellhom anki jieqfu jieħdu ħsieb it-tfal minħabba li kienu waqgħu f’għaks kbir.”

    Ma tridx wisq biex tifhem kemm spejjeż jirrikkjedi post bħal dak. Kelli kurżità kif jiffinanzjaw ruħhom dawn is-sorijiet?

    “Fi żmien il-Kavallieri kienu bdew jidħlu bosta tfajliet nobbli bħala sorijiet tal-klawsura u dawn kienu jġibu doti kbar magħhom. Fil-fatt waħda minnhom kienet Swor Marianna Pinto, oħt il-Gran Mastru Pinto nnifsu. Tul is-snin dan il-ġid akkumula mhux ħażin u l-monasteru kien jgħix permezz tar-renta fuq l-artijiet u mill-flus li dawn is-sorijiet ġabu magħhom. Illum naturalment l-istorja nbidlet imma għallinqas għad fadlilna biex ngħixu permezz tal-imgħaxijiet li nħolqu mill-bejgħ ta’ xi bini li kien proprjetà tal-monasteru.”

    Fil-kunvent kien hemm kwiet perfett tant li konna qisna qegħdin weħidna f’dak il-post. Xtaqt inkun naf kemm hemm sorijiet?

    “Bħalissa qegħdin 10 sorijiet u sfortunatament għandna 4 minnhom morda. L-ikbar soru hawnhekk tgħodd l-età ta’ 88 sena u l-iżgħar waħda għandha 60. Ilna madwar 25 sena ma jkollna vokazzjonijiet ġodda hawn ġew.”

    Impressjonanti! Allura x’jiġri jekk jilħqu jonqsu s-sorijiet kollha?

    “Jiena qatt ma naqta’ qalbi,” weġbitni bil-ħlewwa l-Madre li issa ilha tmexxi l-monasteru għal dawn l-aħħar ħames snin. “Nemmen ħafna fil-provvidenza t’Alla u npoġġi t-tama kollha tiegħi fih. Iżda nammetti li bħalissa l-ħajja pjuttost iebsa hekk kif ħafna mis-sorijiet kibru mhux ħażin u jridu jieħdu ħsieb lil sħabhom morda apparti li jridu jkomplu bil-faċendi u d-dmirijiet ta’ kuljum.”

    “Din l-istorja diġà ġrat fl-1798 meta s-sorijiet kienu xjieħu kollha u kien għad fadal tmienja biss. Tant kienet gravi s-sitwazzjoni li soru minnhom li kienet tiġi mill-familja Preziosi, kellha tmur lura għand qrabatha biex jieħdu ħsiebha fl-aħħar ġranet ta’ ħajjitha. Imma hawn hu l-kobor tal-Mulej; appena mietu dat-8 sorijiet, minnufih daħlu 16 oħra u l-ħajja kompliet,” serrħitli rasi Swor Aloisia.

    F’dal-punt deherli li kelli nistaqsi x’wassalhom biex saru sorijiet tal-klawsura u l-istejjer li rrakkuntawli żgur li ma bsarthomx!

    “Fi żmien it-tieni gwerra dinjija kienet waqgħet bomba ġol-ġnien tal-monasteru u għalhekk is-sorijiet kienu marru jsibu rifuġju f’Ta’ Ċenċ Għawdex. F’dik il-ħabta jiena kelli 16 il-sena u lanqas biss kont naf Il-Vigarja Swor Aloisia Bajadax’jaħbtu das-sorijiet tal-klawsura. Jiena kont mix-Xagħra u darba minnhom wara li rajt xi xogħol tal-ħjata tagħhom urejt ix-xewqa li niltaqa’ magħhom. Sħabi daħku bija u qaluli ‘Mela dawk ser ikellmuk? Dawk trid tkun ser tidħol magħhom biex jiftħulek.’ Imma jiena kelli kurżità kbira biex nara x’ikunu dawn is-sorijiet li ma joħorġu qatt u finalment ikkonvinċejt lil sħabi li kienu ikbar minni biex jeħduni għandhom. Tgħidx x’biża’ kelli li jdaħħluni veru magħhom għax jien kull ma ridt li naqta’ l-kurżita’. Imma meta morna serrħuli rasi li kont għadni żgħira wisq biex nidħol magħhom imma li jekk ridt stajt nibqa’ nżurhom. Hekk għamilt u bdiet tiġi wkoll ħabiba tiegħi miegħi. Ftit ftit inġbidna lejn il-ħajja ta’ dawn is-sorijiet sakemm darba minnhom, meta għalaqna t-18, inżilna Malta (fejn kienu rritornaw is-sorijiet) u ngħaqadna magħhom. Kienet l-aqwa għażla tiegħi tant li jekk nerġa’ nitwieled nerġa’ nagħżel dit-tip ta’ ħajja,” ikkonfermatli Swor Aloisia.

    “Jiena wkoll kelli 18-il sena meta dħalt soru tal-klawsura u daqs Swor Aloisia konvinta mid-deċiżjoni tiegħi. Imma għandek tkun taf li l-ewwel darba li saċerdotMadre Michelina Mifsud issuġġerieli li nidħol soru tgħidx kif ħtaftu. Kien jarani ninvista lil Santa Rita kuljum u darba qalli “Inti għax ma tidħolx soru? Dejjem insibek quddiem Santa Rita.” U spirtu pront weġibtu ‘Għandix nidħol soru! Jien irrid ingawdi ħi’. Kont tfajla fuq ruħi u dejjem nittanta x-xemx għaddejja għax kont inħobb ħafna nitkellem man-nies. Xorta waħda das-saċerdot baqa’ sakemm laqqagħni mal-Madre ta’ Santa Monica u minn hemm bdejt ngħaddi xi weekends għandhom sakemm ftit ftit trawwimt minnhom u verament tħajjart nidħol soru. Niftakar li ddeċidejt li nidħol soru ma’ ta’ Santa Rita u meta wissewni li dawk kienu sorijiet tal-klawsura, għalkemm ma kontx naf wisq dwarhom, bqajt insostni li magħhom ridt nidħol. Xi xhur qabel kont mort inżur lil Frenċ tal-Għarb u waqt li għamilli s-salib fuq moħħi biż-żejt tal-Madonna, bla ma jaf xejn fuqi kien bassar li jien kont ser insir soru tal-klawsura mal-monasteru ta’ Santa Katarina u li kont ser immut hemm ġew. Meta finalment dħalt magħhom, missieri ħalef li ma kontx ser indum aktar minn ħmistax hemm ġew u s’issa ilni 47 sena.”

    Qomna minn fejn konna u bdejna mexjin lejn il-kappella tal-monasteru. Minnufih laqtuni ż-żewġt itwieqi magħluqa bil-gradi li kienu misjuba wara l-artal.

    “Il-ħajja tal-klawsura kienet ħafna aktar iebsa qabel imma aħna konna nafu għal xiex dħalna u ma nsibu l-ebda problema bir-regoli li rridu nimxu magħhom.

    Erbgħa snin ilu ma kontx ser taqbad u tiġi hekk kif għamilt illum u noqogħdu ndawwruk ma’ kullimkien. Min jaf kemm permessi ridt biex stajt biss biss tkellimna. Mal-wasla tiegħek kieku kont indoqq qanpiena biex is-sorijiet l-oħra jinġabru kollha f’kamarthom ħalli ma jiltaqgħux miegħek.

    Lin-nies stajna nkellmuhom biss minn wara dawk il-gradi. La stajna nisimgħu radju, la naraw televiżjoni u lanqas naqraw gazzetti. Konna għal kollox maqtugħin mill-bqija tad-dinja biex inkunu nistgħuIl-kappella bil-gradi wara l-artal niffukaw biss fuq it-talb u fuq Alla. In-nies ftit li xejn kienu jafuna għalkemm dejjem urew qalb tajba magħna. Però naħseb li kienu jaħsbuna nies imdejjqin ħafna peress li konna dejjem imsakkra hawn ġew. Ħadd minna ma kellu permess biex joħroġ barra ħlief għal bżonn biex immorru għal xi kura. Lanqas jekk jomordu l-ġenituri tiegħek u wisq anqas għall-funeral tagħhom ma stajt tattendi. Hawnhekk setgħu jidħlu biss familjari, sal-kuġini u nitkellmu minn wara l-grada. Barranin ħadd.”

    Il-madre ratni nitmeżmeż u ma flaħtx ma nistaqsihiex għala bniedem għandu jaċċetta li jiċċaħħad tant, sempliċiment għall-fidi? Imma t-tnejn qabżu fuqi u rrispondewni…

    “Aħna ma nħossuniex imċaħħda. Din hija t-tip ta’ ħajja li għażilna. Nammettu li ġieli jiġu mumenti iebsa bħal kif jiġu fuq kulħadd. Imma permezz tal-fidi tagħna, lanqas biss inħossu n-nuqqas li qed titkellem dwaru inti. Kultant lanqas aħna stess ma nkunu nafu kif ser infissru din il-vokazzjoni tagħna. Imma biex forsi nagħtuk ħjiel infakkruk li għalkemm inti ma dħaltx soru bħalna, m’għandniex dubju li tagħmel bosta sagrifiċċji biex tara l-familja tiegħek kuntenta.”

    Is-sorijiet għarrfuni wkoll li wara l-Koncilju tal-1963 l-affarijiet inbiddlu xi ftit.

    “Issa nistgħu nitkellmu mal-pubbliku għalkemm dejjem minn wara l-grada. Lanqas biss ngħidlek kemm jiġu nies kuljum jitolbuna l-pariri jew biex jiftħu qalbhom magħna. Barra minn hekk it-telefon ma jieqafx minuta.

    Sirna wkoll nistgħu nsewgu ċertu programmi fuq ir-radju u fuq it-TV. F’dawn l-aħħar erbgħa snin qegħdin ukoll noħorġu nisimgħu l-quddies man-nies minflok narawha minn fuq il-monitor minn wara l-artal tal-kappella. Kienet esperjenza sabiħa wisq meta rajna l-attendenza tan-nies tfawwar il-kappella wara din il-bidla. Fejn qabel kien ikun hemm wieħed jew żewġ persuni, illum il-kappella tkun mimlija nies. Joqogħdu anki jkantaw magħna u tgħidx kemm jieħdu ħsiebna meta xi waħda minna ma tinżilx għall-quddiesa. Nifhem li dan kien pass il-quddiem għax b’hekk in-nies saret tafna u tfittixna u nġibdet ħafna lejna. Tneħħa l-misteru ta’ x’seta’ konna u fejn ħafna ħasbuna strambi u ma nafux immorru man-nies issa setgħu jifhmu li aħna m’aħniex ħlief bnedmin bħalhom li ddeċidejna li niddedikaw ħajjitna biex nitolbu għall-bżonnijiet tal-popli kollha u tad-dinja.”

    Imma ngħid jien mhux aħjar tmidd idejk u tagħmel xi ħaġa milli toqgħod titlob biss?

    “Aħna nagħmlu ħafna xogħol fil-monasteru imma t-talb huwa d-dedikazzjoni tagħna. It-talb għandu qawwa kbira quddiem Alla u t-talb tagħna kontinwu jservi biex min ma jafx jew m’għandux ċans jitlob, nitolbu aħna għalih. Il-Papa xebbaħ lis-sorijiet tal-klawsura mal-power station tal-Knisja u sostna illi li kieku m’hawnx dat-tip ta’ sorijiet, il-Knisja tkun fqira ħafna.

    Peress li aħna ddedikati lil Alla, nkunu nistgħu nidħlu f’intimità miegħu u nwasslulu t-talb kollu ta’ dawk li jkunu rrakkomandaw ruħhom f’talbna. Fil-fatt kull fil-għodu fl-5:45am l-ewwel talba tagħna L-inħawi tal-madwar minn fuq il-bejtdejjem tkun dedikata għall-bżonnijiet ta’ dawk li jkunu kellmuna, għall-morda, għall-ġerarkija tal-Knisja u għal dawk kollha li għandhom bżonn l-għajnuna t’Alla. Noffru wkoll diversi quddisiet għall-benefatturi tagħna kemm ħajjin u anki mejtin.”

    It-tnejn li huma saħqu miegħi li ma jħossuhomx magħluqa u li qatt ma jixxenqu għal barra. Biex ifehmuni aħjar iddeċidew li jtellgħuni fuq il-bejt u għalhekk it-tlieta li aħna rkibna l-lift għal erbgħa sulari ‘l fuq.

    “Qabel dal-lift ma kienx jeżisti. Konna nitilgħu fuq il-bejt kull nhar ta’ Ħadd u biex niċċajtaw aħna u telgħin it-taraġ bl-ikel ta’ nofs inhar f’idejna konna nagħmlu tabirruħna li sejrin sa San Pawl il-Baħar. Veduta minn fuq il-bejt tal-moansteruIllum m’għadnix nifilħu nitilgħu dak it-taraġ kollu imma l-bejt sabiħ wisq!”

    Ma ridtx wisq biex nifhem hekk kif xrifna barra għall-frisk tal-arja. L-għoli tal-post jippermetti xeni mill-isbaħ li jinfirxu sa fuq il-baħar.

    “Għidilna kif tista’ tħossok imsakkra f’dal-ġmiel? Tant hawn sabiħ li bla ma trid tidħol f’meditazzjoni. Fl-istess ħin in-nies tant huma qrib li ma tħossok waħdek qatt. F’xi ġurnata sabiħa mhux darba u tnejn li nitilgħu hawn u noqogħdu nitpaxxew bid-dgħajjes sbieħ għaddejjin.”

    Ressquni qrib ċint li jagħti għal isfel fuq il-ġnien. Ommi ma kif inħsadt! Kemm kien hemm għoli!

    “Hawn dan l-għoli kollu għax hawnhekk kien hawn barriera minn fejn inqata’ l-ġebel kollu biex inbena l-bqija tal-monasteru. Issa ħares hemm isfel ara, hemmhekk hemm il-kannierja fejn jindifnu s-sorijiet li jmutu.”

    Dħalna ġewwa mill-ġdid u s-sorijiet ħaduni f’kamra minn fejn huma jittawwlu biex jaraw il-purċissjonijiet għaddejjin. Xtaqt inħoss kif iħossuhom huma wara dik in-nisġa ta’ Il-ġnien kien barriera minn fejn inqata' l-ġebel għall-bqija tal-biniħadid u għalhekk ersaqt qrib u ttawwalt barra. Minn wara t-toqob tal-grada stajt nara n-nies għaddejjin b’ħajjithom fit-triq ta’ taħtna u fl-uffiċini faċċata u bla ma naf kif ersaqt bil-ħeffa lura hekk kif għajnejn raġel minnhom iltaqgħu ma’ tiegħi malli rnexxielu jilmaħni. Il-Madre tbissmet u talbitni nsegwiha għax issa xtaqet tniżżilni fil-kannierja.

    “Nippreferi li nilħqu nidħlu qabel jidlam għax nibża’ mill-mejtin u niddejjaq nidħol hemm fid-dlam.”

    Issa kien imiss lili nitbissem. Fl-istess ħin stagħġibt kemm kien għadda ħin u lanqas biss indunajt.

    “Aħna ngħixu għal dejjem fil-monasteru tagħna u meta mmutu nindifnu hawn ukoll.”

    Ma kien hemm xejn tal-biża’ fil-kannierja. Anzi! Bħal kif kien hemm fil-bqija tal-kunvent kienet teżisti sensazzjoni ta’ paċi u serenità.

    “Hawnhekk ma jonqosna xejn ħlief aktar vokazzjonijiet. Bħal kif stajt tara b’għajnejk stess aħna ngħixu ħajja pjuttost trankwilla u ferħana. Dejjem insibu fhiex nhedew uIl-kennierja - faċċata hemm il-qabar tat-tifel tal-Markiżi huwa biss iż-żmien li issa qed irażżnilna kemmxejn il-pass. Min jaf kemm organizzajna attivitajiet bejnietna u kemm ħadna gost flimkien bl-aktar affarijiet sempliċi. Għax wara kollox x’ifisser li tkun ferħana fil-ħajja jekk mhux li tħossok sodisfatt bl-għażliet tiegħek u bil-ħajja li tkun għext?

    Issa inti għaddejt dal-ftit siegħat magħna u nixtiequk li twassal din l-esperjenza lill-oħrajn. Jekk hemm xi tfajliet li jixtiequ jiġu jaraw kif ngħixu, aħna nilqugħom b’idejna miftuħa u min irid jista’ anki jqatta’ xi xhur magħna biex jara kif imur.”

    Kont kurjuża kif it-tfajliet li jidħlu magħhom jistgħu jkomplu jesprimu ruħhom apparti bit-talb?

    “Min jidħol hawn ma tispiċċax ħajtu imma sempliċiment jibda paġna ġdida minnha. Min għandu xi talent ċertament li ser isib skop għalih għax hawnhekk jiġu ħafna nies jitolbuna biex naħdmulhom bosta affarijiet li jirrikjedu sengħa bħal ħjata, crochet, ganutell, pittura eċċ.”

    Iż-żewġ sorijiet ħadnuni magħhom daqs li kieku konna ilna nafu ‘l xulxin is-snin u waqt li rregalawli kuruna mill-isbaħ wegħduni hekk..

    “Issa inti benefattriċi tagħna wkoll u mill-lejla ser tibda tkun fit-talb tagħna.”

    Kliemhom imlieli qalbi. Laħaq dalam x’ħin ħriġt minn hemm u jkolli ngħid li kif l-għodwa ċediet għall-miġja ta’ lejl ġdid, daqstant ieħor fehemti kienet inbidlet. Għafast il-kuruna f’idi u hekk kif ħaffift lejn il-karozza biex nasal malajr ħdejn żewġi u binti, f’moħħi fhimt ċar li kull għażla kapaċi twassal għas-sodisfazzjon tal-ħajja.

    (Nota: Dan l-artiklu ġie ppubblikat fit-Torċa tad-19 ta’ Settembru 2010)

    2010.09.19 / 3 responses / Category: Torca - Perspettivi