Solemnity of St John of God
Circular Letter of the Prior General
Always have love, for love is the mother of all virtues
To all Brothers and Co-workers, members of the Hospitaller Family of St. John of God
I send you all my very best wishes for the Feast of our Founder, St. John of God, and invite everyone to prepare for, and joyfully celebrate the Solemnity of our Patron on 8 March.
John of God was above all a saint, a man of God, with a deeply-rooted spirituality that he radiated and witnessed to throughout his life, especially following his conversion, by dedicating himself wholly to the sick and the poor for love of God. All we know comes mainly from the accounts of his biographer Francisco de Castro and many other witnesses who had known him in life, and who had seen what he did or had heard others speaking about him. We also have five priceless Letters, the only writings that we have kept, in which he sets out and expresses his thoughts, his Gospel-inspired hospitaller spirituality and his life driven by his passion for God, devoted unconditionally to serve the vulnerable and the neediest people.
All his letters are an inexhaustible well of Gospel wisdom. On this occasion I would like to recommend all of you to read and ponder on his third letter to the Duchess of Sesa, the last one he wrote, probably in the last few days of her life. In the religious environment of their time and using the language of those days, St. John of God gave the Duchess, and all of us, a real treatise on spirituality, Christian life and ultimately on holiness which is built up, day after day. He ended the letter, with great clearsightedness offering a perfect summary in a few choice words: above all, always have love, for love is the mother of all virtues.
In this, he echoed St Paul’s words about love in his first Letter to the Corinthians: "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love". (13:13). And also the words of St. Augustine, whose Rule was given to our Order, where he said, "love, and do what you will. If you hold your peace, hold your peace out of love. If you cry out, cry out in love. If you correct someone, correct them out of love. If you spare them, spare them out of love. Let the root of love be in you: nothing can spring from it but good." (Homily VII, paragraph 8). As Benedict XVI also said in his encyclical Deus Caritas est: "Faith, hope and charity go together.... Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God". (39)
St. John of God had expressed it earlier, in different words, in his letter to Louis the Bautista with that very familiar expression we all know so well: "Always have love, for where there is no love, there is no God, even though God is everywhere" (15). And it was from his own life that he came to know and experience God as love, living as the great icon of the Good Samaritan, bearing witness with his life to God’s merciful love for men and women, especially the poor and the sick.
It is at the inexhaustible well-spring of God's charity and love that St. John of God invites us, as Brothers and as members of the Hospitaller Family, to drink every day to live our hospitaller vocation. Doing everything for love, seeking the good of all people, with a heart that is sensitive to the needs of others, and practising hospitality to those most in need.
Let us renew every day the love that God gives us, to offer it to others wherever we may be. The Order has many Apostolic Works throughout the world. More than the numbers, what is important is is that in all of them we take care to ensure that we perform our mission with charity, with love, with hospitality. To do this, we must all follow the inspiration of our Founder, always caring and acting with love, because where there is no love, there seems to be no God.
This is the cornerstone of our vocation, our mission and our project of hospitality to which we are all called. Let us make it live every day, and the future of hospitality will always live on, because the world and the Church cannot survive without it, without that Samaritan love and charity that St. John of God practised, and whose legacy we have all received.
As always on these occasions, I wish to announce to the whole Hospitaller Family of St John of God the result of the 2019 campaign to help the Houses of Venezuela with the "Shared Solidarity Food" project to feed many needy people in Caracas and Maracaibo. This campaign began with a few contributions from the Provinces at the last General Chapter and we extended it throughout 2019. The total raised was 307,423.34 euros, thanks to the generosity and solidarity of everyone, for which I sincerely thank you all once again. We will shortly let you know more details about this campaign.
This year's 2020 campaign will be for a project of the Velloor House (India) "Creating a facility for an early detection and intervention programme for differently-abled children". We will be sending you the necessary information shortly. Once again, I thank you for your generosity and ask you to support this cause, to be able to continue enhancing our service to differently-abled people, especially children.
May the invitation of St. John of God to always have charity encourage us to grow in the service of the weakest and most vulnerable in our society, making the love of God present in our world in the manner of St. John of God.
United in Our Lord and St. John of God, I send you my fraternal best wishes.
Brother Jesús Etayo