Solemnity of St John of God
Circular Letter of the Prior General
Your elder Brother, John of God
To all Brothers and Co-workers, members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
Looking forward to the Feast of St John of God, our Founder, I send you my greetings and very best wishes hoping that all of us will celebrate the Solemnity of our Patron with great joy.
In this first half of the year we are celebrating the Provincial Chapters throughout the Order, and many of them have already been concluded. The central theme of the Chapters that the Central Government has been driving forward in recent years in each case is: The future of Hospitality in the Province. This involves engaging on a crucial process of discernment, looking at the present and the future in order to continue being faithful to our Lord, the Church, the Charism and mission of the Order, and to the poor, sick and needy people in our world, who are the beneficiaries of our mission. It is a challenge that will peak next year, at the General Chapter.
I therefore greatly appreciate the boldness shown by certain Provinces who have already embarked on this process of discernment, and the progress that has been made. In particular, I would like to mention the Provinces of Spain and Latin America whose Chapters, after three years’ work, have resolved to create one single Province for the whole of Spain, and another one for the whole of Latin America, giving themselves about two years to prepare the new Provinces before they are canonically erected. Throughout this period, their sole purpose will be to remain true to the legacy of our Founder.
St John of God is the inspiration for all of us, for the whole Hospitaller Family. In his writings, biographies and other documents on his life, we see many experiences which can serve as inspiration for our own life, and for all those who approach him.
I would like to dwell, if only briefly on this occasion, on the words with which John of God signed off some of his letters: your lesser brother, John of God. They have always struck me. It is not a stock phrase. Sometimes he added the word disobedient to qualify lesser. This expresses a profound experience of humility before God and before humanity, typical of those who have experienced God’s love and His mercy. Only those who live in this way can discover the greatness of God’s love, and our smallness as human beings, and feel humble before Him and before the other people to whom they commit themselves to love, placing themselves at their service.
Indeed, it is an outstanding human and spiritual experience which was most conspicuous in St John of God, and I urge all of you to experience it for yourselves, or at least to cultivate and grow in it. True humility begins there. When it is true, it lays down the foundations on which to build a fully meaningful life of service tf God and our fellow men and women, particularly the most vulnerable and needy among them.
Humility is not only a fundamental human and Gospel-inspired virtue at the personal level, but also at the ecclesial and institutional level, and in our case, at the level of our Order and our Family. The temptation to be great and appear strong are always present in human beings and in our human institutions. There is always a temptation to strive for greatness, strength and social recognition. But they should not be our concern, and we must be very careful not to fall into this temptation, which in fact is not real at all, but a blind desire, divorced from reality.
This is also how we should see it. We are not great, nor strong, and if we do win recognition thanks to the testimony of so many Brothers and Co-workers we must accept this as part of what we are duty-bound to do, with no more merit than that. And on some occasions we have to be humble and recognise our failings and ask forgiveness. This forms part of the humility which St John of God, our lesser Brother teaches us. And each and every one of us must also be your lesser Brother to everyone else.
I am sure that if we grow in this virtue, the future of each and every member of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God will become much clearer to us, because humility lies at the heart of charity and hospitality. And here we have the example of our Founder to follow.
As usual at this time the year, I would like to announce to the whole Hospitaller Family the results of the 2017 campaign for the project “Supporting the re-establishment and improvement of the quality of care at the Quito Albergue San Juan de Dios” in Ecuador. The campaign raised a total of 410,708.73 euro, thanks to the solidarity of all, for once again I wish to offer you my sincerest thanks.
And I would also like to announce the campaign for 2018 for the “Akassato (Cotonou), in the Vice-Province of Saint Richard Pampuri (Benin-Togo)” project for an outpatient clinic and rehabilitation centre providing ozone therapy. I thank you in advance for your generosity and I urge you to support this cause so that we can continue upgrading the service we provide to so many sick, poor and needy people in this part of Africa.
I wish you all a very happy Feast of Saint John of God. May St John of God’s invitation to humility drive us on to grow as the Saint John of God Family and to dedicate ourselves radically to the least and vulnerable members of our society, by making God’s love present to them through Hospitality in the manner in which our Founder lived and attracted others to practise.
United in Our Lord and Saint John of God I send you all my fraternal best wishes.
Brother Jesús Etayo