The Kinnie Club

On the Shoulders of Men

On the shoulders of men is a story that has sat in my drafts folder now for almost two years. It is a story that has played in the back of my mind, churning over, words jumbled and undone. I have tried to write it. Sat down to start and finish the draft. Yet each time it seems I stumble on the words. Stumble on the message. Stumble on the heart.

On the shoulders of men is not a story about religion and it is not a story about race. The only place the story can begin and end is with tradition.

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On the tiny island of Gozo, part of the Malta archipelago of islands, exists the village of Fontana. In that village stands a church. The foundation stone of the church was laid on January 29, 1893. The church was consecrated twelve years to that day on January 29, 1905 and was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The spectacular village feast is celebrated each year in the first week of June. The church is considered to be a national sanctuary of the Sacred Heart.

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On the foundation of the church starts my story. Fontana is my Dad’s village. It is where he was born, where he grew up and where among the thousand fold population his family still live. As a little girl I ran down the streets of the village. I sat in my Nanna’s balcony. And I am sure on many occasions played in the church.

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On the streets of Fontana dance the stories of my Dad’s childhood. The days he spent with his brother decorating the church for the feast. The time he spent as an altar boy. The story of how his father died in a fireworks explosion as he prepared for the feast, when Dad was only eighteen months old.

On most days I love Dad’s stories, but other days the stories render me silent, for part of me is sad when I hear them. I am sad that my boys will only ever hear these stories; they will never feel these stories. Never feel the ache and burn that they beg as my Dad remembers not the stories but those days. I am sad thinking that maybe one day these stories will be lost forever. No story tellers left and the stories only tatters of the life they once had.

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On the shoulders of men is where I find hope. For once a year the tradition of the feast in Gozo is celebrated here. Right here, at our local church with our local community. While we pay our respect to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we pay more so our respect to the tradition that the celebration holds.

On the shoulders of men I see the dedication to keeping the stories alive. I see the humility in the faces of those who carry the statue. I see the abandon of ego and the surrender to faith. The weight of the statue though heavy in its strain, is not a burden but an honour.

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On the shoulders of men my sons are raised high. Raised high to see the tradition, raised high to be part of the tradition and raised high to carry forward the tradition. Every year there is a chance to tell the stories and a chance to feel the stories. With each tale there is a chance to remember the stories for generations to come.

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On the shoulders of men my sons learn the ways of the past. They learn the ways of their great grandfather and their grandfather. Watching the celebrations, being part of the celebrations, my sons learn that if they do not hold onto this as part of their future so much is at risk to be lost.

What family traditions do you hold close to your heart?

  • LydiaCLee

    What a lovely post. I need to think about that some more before really commenting. The stories are as important as the traditions, as they’re part of it, aren’t they? Or do they just become, as you say ‘tatters’?

    • I don’t know if we can ever draw a line between the stories and the traditions, perhaps once upon a time when life was more slow, more simple. Today it seems that the stories and the traditions need to co exist with each other x

  • Lovely Josefa. My Dad wrote his biography a few years ago and updates it regularly.Even though it’s not the same as hearing and feeling the stories, I know that at least his stories and his life will live on and be held close.

  • A lovely and heartfelt post Josefa, it’s hard thinking forward to future years, but we all have to enjoy what we’ve got while we still do.

  • A beautiful story and beautiful memories. I love hearing the stories about your family and Malta. How sad your grandfather died in a fireworks explosion. I’m sure the story of these traditions will be kept alive through your sons. I can’t quite think of what traditions we have in our family. Nothing as interesting as yours at any rate 🙂

    • I sure do hope that they will keep them alive Renee, and I hope as a family we can add to these stories and traditions xx

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    What a wonderful tradition. Being Australian through and through I feel like we missed out on many cultural traditions and experiences as children. I think I will just live through other people like you

    • Oh Natalie I’m sure there are many traditions you could share, but living through the stories of others is something we should all treasure in today’s connected society xx

  • love this! Good job sister! x

  • Beautiful Josefa. It’s funny how some memories just hold us, more than we hold them.
    I’m sad my kids will never hear my dad telling the same stories over and over and over again, until they know them all themselves. It annoyed me as a kid, but now I look back at those memories fondly.

    • I really like the idea of memories holding us Jess, rings true in so many ways xx

  • This is going to be a beautiful story when you get it out of your head. I cannot wait!

    • I think part of is down here….but part of it needs to keep brewing before I write the rest xx

  • Loree

    Beautiful writing Josefa. I am not much of a follower of the tradition of the village festa but I respect that, for many, it is important. Having said that, maybe my lack of interest is caused by a surfeit of the celebrations that take place throughout the summer.

    • Oh Loree you guys live through these week in and week out! We have the privilege of celebrating this only once a year and it is in the middle of winter! So the celebrations are hardly the same. One day I hope to bring my boys over to Fontana and Xewkija so they can see for themselves what it feels like to celebrate a festa 🙂

  • Lovely post Josefa. My parents are both German so I have grown up with a lot of European traditions, many of which I continue to do with my own children as I think it is important that they remember and feel connected to their heritage. I do feel sad sometimes to think that when my parents’ generation of family and friends are no longer with us that the true spirit behind many of these traditions and stories that I hold so dear to my heart will no longer be around. It’s amazing how even now my father can tell me stories that I have never heard before even after all these years!

    • I think it is amazing too, when mum or dad tell me a story now, that I have not heard before. Makes me wonder how many stories will go untold?

  • I always love reading posts about family traditions. You have such a beautiful gift of writing about them and allowing me to be nostalgic with my own family history and traditions. I hope you are able to get the story finished. It sounds intriguing! X

    • I think family traditions are one of the most important things we can cherish, and I love that my little stories can be a gateway to nostalgia about your own family stories and traditions, love that xx

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