The cold yet fine weather encouraged many families to attend the feast of San Anton Abbati at Rabat. The arrival of the procession bearing the saint’s ancient statue and accompanied by Augustinian monks filled children with enthusiasm, children who had taken along their animals to be blessed.
The traditional feast of Sant Anton Abbati, the saintly protector of animals, goes back to the time of the Knights who used to send along their horses to be blessed, was celebrated today with the statue being carried out from the Church of St Mark, accompanied by the L’Isle Adam Band.
Each year the attendance of horses and ponies is eye-catching but also domestic pets, some of them unusual, to be blessed by the Augustinian Provincial from the Rabat Convent, Father Raphael Abdilla.
The increasing awareness of animal welfare has made attendance at this winter event more popular with some families bringing along animals that had been abandoned, many of them because of disabilities.
Those that brought along their animals were given the traditional Sant Anton sweetened bread, a tradition that also goes back to the past when Augustinian monks distributed bread among the poor.
The statue of Sant’ Anton Abbati is often seen in the company of a pig as explained by Father Raphael regarding the life of this saintly hermit who lived alone in the desert.
Fr Raphael said the saint’s life had been filled with hard when he was tempted by the devil and the devil is thus symbolised by a pig and in one of the statues the pig is at his feet and this brought about the connection with animals.
The actual feast day is 17th January but is celebrated on the nearest Sunday in a religious and folkloristic manner and is the first one in the year where animals receive blessing.