A Prize-Winning Soup Kitchen

A Prize-Winning Soup Kitchen

The Soup Kitchen OFM Valletta, run by the Francican friars, is the Malta winner of the 2023 European Citizen’s Prize. This Franciscan initiative was nominated by MEP David Casa.

This prize that is annually awarded by the European Parliament goes to projects which are organized by people or organizations which promote: (1) mutual understanding as well as closer integration between people in the EU; (2) Cross-border cooperation which builds a much stronger European spirit; (3) EU values and fundamental rights. In his very intriguing address to the European Parliament and to the Council of Europe on Tuesday, 25 November 2014, in Strasbourg, France, Pope Francis boldly said: The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.

Totally open to the transcendent dimension of life, the Valletta Soup Kitchen OFM, for the last two years, has put to practice what Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: I was hungry and you gave me food (Matt 25:35). Since the day of its official opening, that is on 25th August, 2021, it has never stopped for a minute feeding thousands of people all year long. The MEP David Casa, in his nomination of the Valletta Soup Kitchen OFM, praised this holy initiative started by the Maltese Franciscan Friars. He also said that people like Fr Marcellino are on the forefront of the fight against social exclusion, ensuring that those on the periphery do not suffer deprivation of basic material needs.

In article 7, 2 the General Constitutions and the General Statutes of the Order of Friars Minor says: The friars are to recall that the highest poverty has its source in Christ and his poor Mother; mindful of the words of the Gospel, “Go, sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor,” they are to seek to share the lot of the poor. The Valletta Soup Kitchen OFM is a powerful example and a very tangible expression of what the Constitutions and the Statues are saying. The friars were bold enough to restore the 1584 refectory and undertake a five-year restoration project to convert such a historical building into a work of mercy at the service of the most poor and vulnerable of the Maltese society.

Inspired by the universal love of the Father, the Valletta Soup Kitchen OFM offers its services to every person, irrespective of his and her culture, creed and custom. Moreover, it is a prophetic initiative that is practically responding to the needs of the ever increasing number of homeless people in Malta. Fr Marcellino Micallef OFM, the friar responsible for running the Soup Kitchen, said: These people deserve to be treated with dignity. That is why when you enter the kitchen, instead of seeing a sign that reads, ‘wait to be seated’ like at a restaurant, it reads ‘wait to be served.’ They will be treated as guests.

The attitude behind such a sign is that the poor are our brothers and sisters. In his first message for the World Day of the Poor on 13 June 2017, Pope Francis said: 

I invite the whole Church, and men and women of good will everywhere, to turn their gaze on this day to all those who stretch out their hands and plead for our help and solidarity. They are our brothers and sisters, created and loved by the one Heavenly Father. This Day is meant, above all, to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter. At the same time, everyone, independent of religious affiliation, is invited to openness and sharing with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity. God created the heavens and the earth for all; yet sadly some have erected barriers, walls and fences, betraying the original gift meant for all humanity, with none excluded.

Let us also remember that the date of the official opening of the Valletta Soup Kitchen OFM reminds us of the day Saint Faustina was born, namely 25 August 1905 in Głogowiec, Poland. Regarding this point Jesus himself told Faustina: … I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it” (Diary742). 

An encouraging word for the friars and all the people who lovingly volunteer to help in such a holy initiative comes from the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, when he said: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

May the Valletta Soup Kitchen example be copied by other Church and voluntary associations not only in Malta by in every country under the sun.

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap