Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 4(1966)3(225-226)
FIORINI BONAVENTURA, I Frati Minori Convenutali a Malta (c. 13701-1965). Estratto da "Miscellanea Francescana". Pp. 305-348. Roma,. 1965. FIORINI BONAVENTURA: Il culto a Sant’Antonio nell’isola di Malta. Estratto dalla Rivista "Il Santo", pp. 200-280, Anno V, fase. 3: Padova, 1065.
These two pamphlets written by Chev. Fr. Bonaventura Fiorini, O.F.M. Conv., cover subjects which may be considered as two important branches of the history of Malta. The history of these islands would be incomplete were we to leave out the history of the monastic orders for these were established in Malta during the late Middle Ages, and, as in other countries, influenced the life of the people. It gives us therefore great sarisfaction to see in print the story of the Minor Conventual Friars from the date of their first monastery in Malta, about the year 1370, narrated in its important details up to the year 1965.
Because of the lack of documents the history of our Middle Ages, including that of the monastic orders established in these islands, can only be fragmentary and incomplete. It is only in the late 16th century that we have more documentary evidence on which to base the narration of facts.
In the first pamphlet the Author follows the trend of events as furnished by contemporary evidence or by the work of historians. The pamphlet is ably annotated and complied in a style which makes it comprehensible and easy to follow.
Fr. Fiorini narrates the vicissitudes of the Friars Conventuals under the Order of St. John, the difficulties encountered under the Bourbons – it should be remembered that the Maltese monasteries formed part of the Sicilian province., Then [p.226] follows the period under the French occupation and that under British rule. In the year 1810 the local community was abruptly separated from the Sicilian province and placed directly under The General of the Order in Rome, represented in Malta by a Commissario. In 1905 Malta became a Province in its own right under a Provincial who was elected locally. The Province was placed under the protection of St. Paul.
The new local Province was instrumental for the re-establishment of the old Franciscan Province in England in 1907, which had been suppressed for at least three and a half centuries.
It is gratifying to observe that the Franciscan Minor Conventuals have today eleven Convents and houses forming the local Province: six in Malta and five abroad.
The second pamphlet, as the name shows, deal; with the local devotion to St. Anthony, a cult typically Franciscan. It is difficult to think of the religious life of the Middle Ages without this saint who was venerated throughout Europe. This devotion locally must have been introduced, it is surmised, by the first Franciscans who came to Malta about the year 1370.
After a short introduction the Author give; us a list of iconography of St. Anthony to be found in Malta and Gozo. The list is extensive and it is interesting to study the various paintings of St. Anthony, the artist who painted them, and the locality where they are to be found.
The Author mentions the devotion to St. Anthony held by members of the Order of St. John— among these were Grand Masters and high dignitaries of the Order.
Fr. Fiorini further gives the number of churches dedicated to St. Anthony and describes the statues found in churches and others carried in procession for the feast of this saint. There is a list of streets bearing this name and it is interesting to find this both in Gozo and in Malta. There are localities named after St. Anthony.
St. Anthony, an early follower of the much loved St. Francis of Assisi, has throughout the centuries inspired many and been invoked for all anxieties, and faith in his intercession has helped many over difficult periods.
E. R. Leopardi