Servant of God Joseph De Piro – reflections from his life and writings; 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Year A

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Malachi 1:14-2:2.8-10; Psalm 130(131); 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9.13; Matthew 23:1-12.


In the gospel and in the first reading this Sunday, we are reminded that we have only one Father, God who is in heaven, and that on earth, we are all equally sisters and brothers, children on this one Father. Often, in our conversation, we refer to some among us as ‘father.’ This happens especially within family circles, where the male parent is invited to be ‘father’ in the same way as God is Father, guiding and instructing the members of his family with love. Moreover, we also give our spiritual leaders the title of ‘father.’ This title reminds them, and the rest of the community, of the great responsibility they carry as they represent God the Father here on earth among their sisters and brothers. The title ‘father’ does not place them on a pedestal, above the rest of the community, but makes them servants of the community, following the example of Jesus Christ himself.

In the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds the community that he had lived out God’s motherhood during his ministry in the Church of Thessalonica. In his ministry among them, he was like a mother, caring for her children, feeding them and proclaiming God’s word to them. Paul is a model for all who are called ‘fathers’ here on earth.

The success of ministry is always attributed to God. We are only instruments in God’s hands, and we should always be grateful for the good that happens in our community.

Further Reading:

Joseph De Piro’s contemporaries felt that he had always been gentle towards them, caring for them like a nurse who tenderly cares for her children. The first members of his society called De Piro ‘Padre,’ or ‘Father.’ He was everything for them and they were totally dependent on him.

Paul shared the gospel of God and his own self with the Church in Thessalonica (cf 1Thess 2:8). Similarly, the founder shared the gospel with the first members. He regularly visited the community at Mdina, and spoke to them about religious life, or the missions. De Piro too shared the gospel with the first members and his very self; he gave them all that he was and had. The members of the society were very dear to De Piro.

Paul was grateful to God for the way the Christians at Thessalonica had received God’s Word (cf 1Thess 2:13). De Piro was always grateful to God and his providence. He had been discerning his vocation since he was 14. For some time he did not think about it anymore, until he wrote the reasons in favour and against the priesthood. In reason five in favour of this call, the Servant of God showed his gratitude to the suffering love of Jesus Christ, “The wish to give myself completely to God, he who has suffered so much for my sins.”

In his sermons, De Piro often spoke about his gratitude towards God and the divine love. This can be seen especially in his sermons about the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Eucharist, and the Sacred heart of Jesus. Here the whole sermon was an acknowledgement of divine love. Although in his other sermons the Servant of God preached about other topics, he still spoke about the divine love. In the almanac, De Piro published an article called ‘Treasures.’ Here, the Servant of God spoke about some of the gifts given to us by God: faith, fatherland and the virtue of charity. In relation to charity he wrote that it: “… is treasure above all treasures. It is queen among virtues. The fullness of perfection. God himself. Who is like God? Humanity’s first and foremost obligation is to love God our Lord. We owe Him all that we are, and all that we have.”

In the first entry in his diary, Joseph De Piro wrote that after his priestly ordination he desired to return to Malta and form part of the community of priests living at St Joseph’s Orphanage. Later he again mentioned the orphanage, this time speaking about the foundation of his missionary society. Here he clearly acknowledged that this congregation was not his but God’s initiative, “in this orphanage, God, wants to start a congregation in Malta.”

The founder also spoke about his gratitude towards God in his letters to the diocesan and the Vatican officials. In a brief note about the history of the society, written on 22nd August 1916, the founder wrote, “… Divine Providence did not fail to soothe our troubles by including sweet consolations among our setbacks….”

In his letters he often used expressions like: ‘thanks to God’ and ‘I thank Divine Providence.’

Francis Scerri, a lay catechist at the Birkirkara Oratory, spoke about De Piro’s acknowledgement of God’s help in his life, “Whenever he finished something, he went to the chapel to pray.”

De Piro’s acknowledgement of God’s help in the life of the society is witnessed most clearly in the quote from Psalm 127(126):1 at the opening of each one of the three sections of the constitutions, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.”

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