Saint Publius

22nd January

It is in Acts 28, 7-10 that there is a mention of Publius in a very prominent way. However this Saint is woven strongly in the Maltese tradition. It was 60AD. Malta was under Roman rule. The Maltese few in number were considered as barbarians because they did not speak neither Latin nor Greek. The Romans had chosen Publius, a Maltese of high prestige to keep order and to administer Roman law on the island. He was given the title of Protos or Prince, as representative of the people.

A ship on its way to Rome with 276 people on board, most of them prisoners, including Saint Paul, was shipwrecked on the Maltese shores. In Acts, St. Luke relates, “ In the neighbourhood, there were estates belonging to the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius. He received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.” At the same time, St. Paul cured Publius’ father who was seriously ill with dysentery.

Publius definitely made sure that during the three months that the shipwrecked people had stayed on the island were provided with basic needs. Besides, he would have made sure that the Maltese had put on board the provisions that were needed when another ship was ready to take the crew and prisoners back on their way to Rome. (Acts 28, 10).

When St. Paul left the island with the others, Publius, not only continued to represent Roman law on the island, but also became a promoter of Christian beliefs. In this sense he started to carry out the role of Bishop on the island of Malta. It is believed that St. Publius was martyred during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Hadrian. The Maltese people are grateful to St. Publius because it is through him and St. Paul, that Christianity reached Malta and continued to thrive since that early time in the history of Christianity.

There are only three lines in Acts where Publius is mentioned. However, one is immediately struck by his earnestness in safeguarding human life. He did not just feel sorry. He was a man of action, organizing for their food and housing, welcoming them all, without being judgemental. It did not make any difference to his attitude that they were prisoners, even though he was not going to gain anything in welcoming them.

Discuss with the children if they are aware of similar situations, happening in the Mediterenean. Lead them to express their views if they are older, if they are still young make them aware (in a gentle way!) of the heartbreaking situation of the ‘migrants on boats’. 

Lead the discussion to go for children to appreciate the value of saving lives, irrespective of skin colour, cultures and beliefs. Explore their attitudes when they might meet the children of these asylum seekers and refugees in school. Let them find ways how they can make these children more welcome.

Even from the limited information we have of St. Publius, the qualities of his generosity and hospitality shine through. These qualities add up:

  • to action
  • to show love 
  • It involves sharing what we have with others, by being generous and exercise hospitality

During this pandemic it’s not the ideal time to host friends, not even members of the extended family! But perhaps you can still plan a hospitable invitation to an aunt/ grandparents in your ‘bubble’ and make it special by encouraging the children to organize it and helping to carry it out.  

Consider going through items that are still in good condition, items like clothes, blankets, toys, games, and propose to give them away as a family to a refugee centre. Malta continued to uphold the Christian beliefs preached by St. Paul guided by the followers of St. Publius. The leaders of the Maltese Catholic Community are the Archbishop, the Bishop who helps him and the Bishop for Gozo. The previous Bishop of Gozo is now a Cardinal and resides in Rome.

Encourage the children to get to know the names of these Church Leaders. You can mount them up on a chart with their names and photos. You might suggest they write a letter/email to them, introducing themselves, thanking them for their pastoral work, promising them prayers.

St. Publius is one of the Patron Saints of Malta. He is also the Patron Saint of the parish of Floriana. Let the children find out about the Patron Saint of their parish/town/village.

Dedicate a Family Prayer Time for our Church leaders. Let the kids mention them by name : Parish Priest, Bishops, the Pope.- Thank God for providing us with these people to guide us in our Faith.

  • Ask God to continue giving them strength and courage to carry out God’s will.
  • Pray for all migrants, for those who have been forced to leave their country, for those who might be in danger of being lost at sea or in storms during these winter months.
  • Put them under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, Mary the Mother of God!

Saint Publius was the first Maltese Bishop. After Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, Saint Publius was courageous enough to welcome and hosted him for 3 days, even though he did not know Saint Paul. Saint Publius was a great leader because he kept the Faith alive and was not afraid to be a true witness of Faith in hard circumstances.

Let’s learn more about Bishops!
Watch the below video to learn more how Bishops are selected.

Dance and Sing!

Let’s remind ourselves how we should keep our Faith alive by dancing and singing with this worship song!

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.