Saint of the Day – 1 July – Blessed Ignatius “Nazju” Falzon OFS (1813-1865) Catechist, Confessor, Evangelist, Apostle of seamen, the poor and the marginalised, Apostle of the Passion of Our Lord and of the Blessed Virgi Mary, Doctor of Civil and Canon Law, Writer. He spread devotion to both the Stations of the Cross and the Holy Rosary in all his works – born on 1 July 1813 at Valletta, Malta and died on 1 July 1865, Valletta, Malta, aged 52. Nazju was baptised on 2 July in the Church of Porto Salvo with the names of “Rocco Angelo Sebastiano Vincenzo Naju Rosario Falzon.” Patronage – Catechists.
Blessed Nazju Falzon was born at 49, Strait Street, Valletta, the capital city of Malta. His parents were Giuseppe Francesco Falzon, a doctor of laws and Maria Teresa Debono, the daughter of a Judge.
Nazju had three brothers – all four boys became lawyers and two of the brothers entered the Priesthood. His brother Anthony became a lawyer and married, while his two brothers Kalcidon and Francis, became Priests.
Nazju was instituted a cleric when he was only 15, receiving three years later the Minor Orders from Bishop Publius M Sant OFM. Cap, at the Jesuit church in Valletta but he did not wish to be Ordained as a Priest, as he felt a deep sense of unworthiness, despite the local Bishop’s fervent encouragement. At the age of 20, Nazju graduated as a Doctor of Civil and Canon Law from the University of Malta. He became a lawyer to obey his father and to be able to help the poor who needed his advice, free of charge.
At the time of Nazju, poverty in Malta was rampant after being plagued several times by cholera. Nazju’s love for the poor knew no bounds. He collected the rentals of the many fields his family owned, in different parts of Malta, to be able to help the poor. His love towards the poor knew no limits. His charity was so great, that on one occasion his brothers chided him, saying that his prodigality was ruining the family. However, he took great pains to conceal all his good deeds from the eyes of the people, because he was careful not to yield to the temptation of pride. And although he came from a well-to-do family and of a high social standing, he always manifested poverty. Nazju Falzon led a rather secluded life, shunned all vanities and performed acts of mortification. He blushed whenever he was shown appreciation or was praised by others. He affirmed he was a poor sinner and he attributed to God all his good qualities.
His apostleship consisted in teaching the Christian Catechism to boys and girls in Valletta. Nazju was in fact a pioneer in the teaching of Catechism to the poor children of Valletta. His love for the teaching of Catechism was demonstrated by the fact, that when his family went to Birkirkara. to their summer residence at 284, St Julian’s Road, he went to but primarily to teach Catechism to children at St Helen’s Basilica.
Another branch of his apostolate was the teaching of religion to British servicemen. At the time of the Crimean War, their number amounted to about 20,000. Those who were interested were brought to his own home for lessons and prayer. More grew interested in this and it forced him to move and he soon found a new home for his work, at a Jesuit church in the capital of Valletta. The soldiers would leave their valuables with him if they had to go to the battlefield, in the knowledge, that he would pass them on to their loved ones if killed or missing. Nazju converted 656 Protestants, 4 Arabs and 2 Jews to the Catholic Faith.
Nazju derived his energy for his apostolate from his love for the Eucharist. He received Holy Communion daily and spent quite a long time giving thanks. Nazju used to help Marianna Agius, the family servant in her work to enable her to go to Church to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion daily.
He was a great devotee of the Passion of Our Lord and prayed the way of the cross daily. More than once he was seen elevated from the ground lost in ecstasy.
He had an immense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary too and recited the little office of Our Lady daily, together with more than fifteen decades of the Holy Rosary.
Nazju had also a great love for St Joseph. He helped, financially, towards the building of the Parish Church of Mesida which was to be the first Church in Malta, to be dedicated to St Joseph. He died embracing a picture of St Joseph. His love for St Raphael, the Angel guide inspired his guidance of the children, the seaman and the poor and St Joseph Benedict Labre, was his inspiration for poverty of life.
A long time sufferer of heart spasms, he died on the 1 July 1865, as he had foretold, the day of his 52nd birthday. The Funeral Service was held the following day in Ta’ Ġieżu Church in Valletta, where he was also buried in the family vault in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in the Church of the Franciscan Minors, Mary of Jesus in Valletta.
The Beatification miracle involved the 1981 cure of a man stricken with cancer, who was totally cured. He was Beatified by St Pope John Paul II on 9 May 2001, in Malta, when he said:
“The Servant of God Ignatius Falzon also had a great passion for preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith. He too, put his many talents and his intellectual training at the service of Catechetical work. The Apostle Paul wrote that “each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Blessed Nazju was one who gave abundantly and cheerfully and people saw in him, not only boundless energy but also deep peace and joy.
He renounced the worldly success for which his background had prepared him, in order to serve the spiritual good of others, including the many British soldiers and sailors stationed in Malta at the time. In his approach to them, few of whom were Catholic, he anticipated the ecumenical spirit of respect and dialogue, which is familiar to us today but which was not always prevalent at that time.
Ignatius Falzon drew his strength and inspiration from the Eucharist, prayer before the Tabernacle, devotion to Mary and the Rosary and imitation of Saint Joseph. These are fountains of grace from which all Christians may drink. Holiness and zeal for God’s Kingdom flourish especially where parishes and communities encourage prayer and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. I urge you, therefore, to cherish your Maltese traditions of piety, purifying them where necessary and strengthening them with sound instruction and Catechesis. There would be no better way of honouring the memory of Blessed Nazju Falzon. Amen.”