A woman of God   


      " Small faith, small miracle, big faith, big miracle." 

On this bright and beautiful February morning here in Saint Paul's Bay, the old fashioned fishing village on the Northern coast of the island of Malta, we had one of the biggest gatherings at a funeral  the village had ever seen.   The church was packed to bursting point, the modest coffin was piled high with blossoms and the air was permeated with the heavenly scent of freesias.  Old Salvina had left us to meet the Risen Lord and the whole neighbourhood and environs had turned out in force to bid a final farewell and to see her gently laid to rest in the little country cemetery of Burmarrad.   

   Who was Salvina?   An eighty nine year old widow of simple tastes, humble origins and in the eyes of the sophisticated world, of no great social importance, but in the eyes of God, a distinguished aristocrat. 

  Singlehandedly, she had raised a family of five children, most of whom had emigrated to Australia and Canada and done very well for themselves, educating their children to professional level and coming back every other year laden with gifts and success stories.   Her husband Pacifico had tragically been drowned in his middle years, leaving her alone but not downhearted.    Hers was an indomitable spirit because of her unshakable trust in the promises of the Lord.  ( Phil.4:I9) " I will take care of all your needs, and 

(Hebrews I3: 5)  Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have, for God has said: I will never, never fail you nor forsake you."  Salvina believed implicitly in these comforting promises and God rewarded her trust.   She was never to insult Him


  His were the words of a true gentleman she assured us and this attitude of hers was amply rewarded.   "According to your faith be it done unto you" -

(Matt  9:29 , Mark II:22 and 9.23).     

 Small faith, small miracle, big faith,

 big miracle.  

 Jesus told us He could work no big miracle in His own home town because of the people's lack of faith.

  A professionl knitter and lacemaker, she had never run short of money in her life, and because of her outrageous generosity, even in lean periods in Malta after the war , she had been showered with orders for her exquisite work. ( Cast your bread upon the water and you will find it after many days. ( Eccl. lO:2O ).

  Salvina's name had never appeared in print, nor was she famous for spectacuar feats, but her mode of behaviour left everyone in no doubt as to the length and breath of her sanctity and hence the huge crowd at her funeral service. She had spent a lifetime of ungrudgingly sharing everything that the Lord had given to her with all of her heighbours and tourists and had gone out of her way to entertain strangers.   "I was a stranger and you brought Me in." ( Matt. 25:34).  In brief , she had spent her whole life doing little things for people and thus had brought sunshine into the life of three generations of villagers and tourists from far afield.   "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers for by so doing, some have  entertained angels unawares."(Hebrews I3).     

   Like Saint Barnabas, who had been called " the son of encouragement" because of the way in which he stacked up St. Paul in times of trial, Salvina had the gift of being able to say the right word at the right time and so brought peace and solace to many people in need. Her example of nobility and generosity bore fruit in many orchards of the human spirit.  She was a firm believer in the proverb: "A soft word turns away wrath", and was quick to diffuse an impending feud.   

Being a true mystic, she was ever ready to live out The Gospel in a concrete way.   " Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves", (James I : I9-25).    She always managed to combine intense practicality with profound mysticism and as some wise man so aptly put it:  'This is nothing extraordinary, true mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila, are always much more practical than the ordinary run of people.   They seek reality; we, the ephemeral.   They want God as He is; we want God as we imagine Him to be."

  One of the endearing things about saints is their lack of perfection and yet, their willingness to strive to be perfect as 'your heavenly Father is perfect ''(Matt.5 : 44) , and Salvina's efforts in this direction were at times heroic and all of this because of her very Irish temper.  This weakness, along with a pair of sparkling blue eyes, she had inherited from her father, one, Paddy O' Sullivan who hailed from the county of Kerry.   He had jumped ship at Malta and as a result, had never left the island.   "When I lose my temper hanini, she would tell me, "I pick up ashes"."A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards."  (Proverb 29: II ).  It is not perfection which has led men to sanctity, but the sweat and tears shed in the effort to love others as they would like to be loved themselves. 

  Salvina was no armchair Christian and was quick to remind us that the Christian way of life was no pious cul-de-sac, but rather, a Pauline adventure that embraced risk-taking and so she often embarked on expeditions for Christ's sake which shocked her more fainthearted and conservative contemporaries.  Saints such as Salvina, have surely been called the world's discoverers.   "Do not follow where the path may lead/ Go instead where there is no path/ and leave a trail." That's how it was with Salvina.

  When one approached her, one was embraced with the large smile which lit up her homely face making her suddenly look ten years younger then her 89 summers.   Had she lived in Ireland because of her jollity, sense of humour and ready wit, she would have been known as the character who was great crack, (craic in Irish Gaelic means fun and is pronounced crack).   The tenet


was indelibly printed on the table of her heart.   At a very early age she had given her will to the Lord and as a result had experienced an earlier heaven.  In all situations she thanked God, thus becoming the saint that she was. 

 I. Thess. 5 : I6, I7:I8). 


She disseminated around her an aura of total beneficence.   In the words of St. Seraphim Sarovki : 'If you have inner peace, thousands of people will be saved around you'. 

' Not merely in the words you say,                            

Not merely in your deeds confessed,                                

But in the most unconscious way                                         

Is Christ expressed.                                                            

Is it a calm and peaceful smile?                                           

A holy light upon your brow?                                              

Oh no! I felt His presence while you laughed just now.       

For me 'twas not the truth you taught,                                  

To you so clear, to me so dim,                                             

But when you came to me, you brought a sense of Him.         

And from your eyes He beckons me,                                     

And from your heart His love is shed,                                     

Till I lose sight of you, and see                     

The Christ instead. '   anon.  

What makes saints?  People who allow God to come close and reveal Himself in the minutiae of everyday life.  Then they have the strength and the grace to deal with life where others fail.      

Frances Hogan. 


'Religion is caught, not taught.   It is a flame set alight from one person to another.  It is spread by love and not in any other way. We take it from those whom we think are friendly to us.   

Those whom we think are hostile to us will never recommend religion to us.

Frank Duff.


 Fare thee well Salvina !    Ar dheis De go raib a hanam dilis!   ( May her loyal soul rest on the right side of God! )

  "He who has guided many on the true path will shine like a star for all Eternity'   ( Daniel I2 : 3 ). 


'We see things not as they are, but as we are'.


Anita kilbride - Jones,

Saint Paul's Bay, Malta. 


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