Circular Letter of the Prior General
“And she gave birth to her first-born son” (Luke 2,7)
To All the Members of the Hospitaller Family of Saint John of God
My Dear Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers and Friends,
As Christmas draws closer, I am writing to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, praying that the God-Child will be in all our hearts, and shed His light to dispel the shadows in our world, which so frequently fill the lives of so many people with pain and suffering.
The Midnight Mass Gospel tells us that it was while Mary was in Bethlehem, that the time came for her to give birth to her firstborn son. That was the moment chosen by God to take flesh, to cast out the shadows, and to bring life even at a time when life was struggling, in order to fill the world with hope. Consistently with Jesus’ own lifestyle, He wished to be born poor, like the poorest of the poor, far away from home and from the home of Joseph and Mary, and in a stable in Bethlehem, ‘in the periphery’, unnoticed by the world’s grandees. And that is where Mary gave birth, and it was there that new life shone out, and the joy of Jesus’ parents burst out in the cold night air, together with the jubilation of the shepherds on hearing the angels’ message, and the rejoicing of the people who needed, and still need today, their Saviour to come. Let us welcome Him with joy! For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men (Titus, 2,11).
She gave birth! What a wonderful expression and, above all, what a wonderful event that happens every day, bringing light to life, allowing life to continue, opening up the prospects for new possibilities and hopes for the parents who have brought a child into being, and also for society and the world, to which the new-born child will belong. It fills the home with joy, and changes the lives of the parents by making their own life fruitful, filling their existence with meaning. Whenever a child is born, God’s love becomes a reality, as the bringer of life. It calls to mind the first Christmas, because a new child is born, loved and desired by God, a child of God, who, even if abandoned by its own parents, will never be abandoned by God.
In the Order’s Apostolic Centres we have a wide variety of sick and vulnerable people, and people in need. And in many of Centres, we have Units in which thousands upon thousands of new human beings are born every year. To cite only the case of Rome, more than eight thousand babies are born every year in the Order’s two Centres in the city. When I think about and see it, I am overjoyed to know that our Houses are places which bring joy to so many parents, and are sources of new life for so many people. Our Maternity Units are like the stable in Bethlehem where the Lord was born, and for which we must always care for and organise appropriately, so that, unlike what happened to the Child Jesus, the parents and the new human beings coming into life there, are greeted with the same hospitality and love which God holds out to them.
Unfortunately, things are not always like that. Very often, children are conceived but, for various reasons, they never see the light of day. Many others come into being, to live under conditions of extreme social poverty and can only expect a very difficult existence, because their parents are unable to provide them with their bare necessities. Many others are abandoned. Everyone needs to acquire a more acute social awareness and a greater sense of responsibility, to ensure that all who are conceived are able to see the light, develop and live in dignity. The Child of Bethlehem was also born under difficult circumstances and is stands solidly with all of them and with their parents, and calls on parents to lovingly welcome in their children, as Jesus and Mary welcomed Him.
Many babies are born with health problems, even in our own Maternity Units. We must therefore be ready to welcome in these new lives under these circumstances, accompanying their parents and giving them the best possible medical, psychological and spiritual care. They, and those I referred to above, are our Lord’s favourites. Their lives are a source of joy for Him, and the Child Jesus stands solidly with them, for the joy of the parents because their lives are of great value for the whole of humanity. I thank all the members of our Family who perform your mission in our Centres and Mother and Child Units, helping life to be born, whatever the conditions, caring for and accompanying it, and providing the assistance and support that the parents and their babies need.
It is Christmas! The birth of a child, the Son of God, brings joy and hope, new life-blood, which will renew the world, to make it possible for things to change, so that the sufferings, conflicts and contradictions we experience can be overcome. It is a time for rejoicing with all those who are being born in any part of the world. It is a time to pay tribute to all the mothers and fathers who welcome new life and their new-born children with immense joy. It is a time to show solidarity and, above all, to support all who are experiencing the greatest difficulties of all kinds, because Our Lord loves them all, and the Child of Bethlehem has been born for all.
To all of you and your loved ones – Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers, Benefactors and Friends of the Order, and all our sick and needy guests in our Centres – I send my best wishes for a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2017; and to all of you, Brothers and Co-workers, who will be serving the guests in our Centres, especially on Christmas Day, my most heartfelt thanks and gratitude because over these few days you will be the visible face of the Hospitality of Saint John of God.
Speaking personally, and on behalf of the whole Hospitaller Family of Saint John of God at the General Curia, Brothers and Co-workers, I wish you all a Happy Christmas, full of peace and hope.
Bro. Jesús Etayo