Two great victories – the end of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 and Malta’s deliverance during WWII. – Each are celebrated in September by the Maltese-American community in Detroit, with a special Mass to honor Our Lady of Victory. As in past years, Michigan Area members participated in the celebration, held September 10th at Most Holy Trinity Church in Detroit.
On September 8th, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady – is tied to the Great Siege: The Ottoman Empire set out to crush Christianity in Europe and established a base in Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller (Order of Malta). So critical was Malta’s position to Europe that Queen Elizabeth I observed, “If the Turks should prevail against the isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom.” Despite being vastly outnumbered, the Maltese forces withstood the siege and drove out the invaders; on September 8, 1565, the remaining Turkish army left Malta. During WWII, Malta was again under siege, this time by Italian forces bombing the island; the siege was lifted on September 8, 1943 when Italy capitulated to the Allies. The Maltese credit both victories to Our Lady’s intercession, hence the title, “Our Lady of Victory.”
This year’s celebration was the 14th annual “Festa Il Victoria.” Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Charles Kosanke, pastor of Most Holy Trinity. Twenty Dames, Knights, and candidates from the Michigan Area attended. Members of the Order participated in the procession of Our Lady of Victory, featuring a statue of Our Lady commissioned in Malta.
The Mass was also an occasion to honor Our Lady of Philermo, patroness of the Order. During the Great Siege, the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Philermo was housed in the Church of San Lorenzo in Birgu, Malta, also known as “Victorious City.” According to legend, a pure white dove came to rest upon the icon and remained there for hours as a sign that the island would soon be delivered from the siege.