Solemnity of Our Lady, Patron of the Hospitaller Order
Circular Letter of the Prior General
My Dear Brothers, Co-workers and Members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
On 16 November, on the third Saturday in the month, we shall be celebrating the Solemnity of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the Hospitaller Order, as the Patron of our Hospitaller Family of St John of God. I wish you a very happy Feast Day, urging you all to carefully prepare for it, and to celebrate it with joy.
Ever since the time of St John of God, the ever-virgin Mary has occupied a central place in the life of our Order. The Bramante painting accompanying this letter reminds us of Mary’s assistance and protection of St John of God when he was a soldier at Fuenterrabía (Spain). Today we still sense her protection and her patronage as Our Mother, whom we venerate as the Queen of Hospitality. She continues to accompany our Family, teaching us by her example and her presence to practise hospitality and to renew it at every moment in history just as St John of God did.
As in the previous Sexennium, I should like to place this new Sexennium under the protection of Our Lady’s Patronage, praying that she will guide the whole of our Hospitaller Family of St John of God over the coming years to ensure that by implementing the lines of action issued by the General Chapter and the message that Pope Francis addressed to the Order, we can faithfully respond to all the challenges that may arise by renewing hospitality in the manner of Saint John of God.
During the first week of October we convened the Assembly of Major Superiors of the Order in Rome, as we do every year. The central theme of the Assembly this year was: preventive care and protection of vulnerable people, along the lines of the Declarations of the last General Chapter. It is a grim and grievous issue for vulnerable and abused, for the victims. It is also sad grim the abusers, particularly when taking place in institutions and places where people expect care and protection. And this unfortunately occurs in every social environment, including the Church and in Institutes of Consecrated Life.
Our Assembly also mentioned the way society and the Church are demanding respect for Creation, for the Earth, for the environment. Pope Francis wrote the 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, appealing to us to care for the earth through what the Pope calls integral ecology, which clearly incorporates or the human and social dimensions (Cf. 137). The ecological crisis is called to us to undergo profound interior conversion...an “ecological conversion” to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience (Cf. 217). Ours must be a commitment by each one of us personally, each community and all our Apostolic Works and ultimately the whole Order. The last General Chapter urged us, in its declarations, to commit ourselves to encouraging respect and care for creation. The General Government wishes to promote this sensitivity throughout the Order.
My dear Brothers, these are two highly topical issues that urge all the Hospitaller Family of St John of God to re-read afresh, and in contemporary terms, the hospitality of St John of God. Our apostolic mission today includes appealing for and being committed to caring for creation, in the light of the encyclical Laudato Si and to caring for and protecting vulnerable people, which means all those for whom we care in our Centres and who come to us expecting a welcome, health, peace, love, mercy and security – in short, hospitality.
Contemplating our mission of hospitality in terms of the two appeals requires us to update hospitality, to respond to the challenges we are confronted with today. It is of course not easy and demands conversion, change and commitment, giving up trying to defend ourselves and, as St John of God did, placing those in need, particularly the most vulnerable and the victims of maltreatment and any kind of negligence or abuse at the very heart of all we do, because that flies in the face of the very essence and existence of the hospitality which we are called to practise and offer to others. We must drive forward appropriate and adequate formation for both Brothers and Co-workers and draft the policies, protocols and procedures needed in all the Provinces and Centres where they do not yet exist, in order to guarantee and safeguard security for everyone.
As we proceed in this direction we can sense the company of Our Mother and Our Lady of the Patronage by our side. She inspires us as we strive to show improved care for her sons and daughters, and our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. She will continue to accompany and lead us on as we work to promote a healthier and more secure world, that is more welcoming and fraternal for everyone. We must always turn to her, for in her we find peace and love, and permanent inspiration to continue responding to the calling of her Son, as she repeats to us the words she uttered the Wedding at Cana: do whatever he tells you (cf Jn 2,1-11).
Speaking personally, and on behalf the whole Hospitaller Family at the General Curia, I send you all my best wishes for a happy celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Patronage. I pray for her blessing on our Order, on the sick and all the members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God.
With my fraternal best wishes,
Brother Jesús Etayo