Circular Letter of the Prior General
He is risen!
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
We are reaching the end of our Lenten journey, and Easter is almost upon us to celebrate the joy of Christ's Resurrection. And so I am sending my Easter greetings to the whole Family of St John of God and to all your loved ones and the guests in the Centres and Services of the Order, praying that our Risen Lord will fill you all with comfort and hope. Happy Easter!
The whole world is living through a very particular moment because of the coronavirus pandemic which is producing so much suffering, with so many people falling sick and dying. As I write this Easter letter to the whole Order, the situation is very dire in many parts of the world, especially in Europe, and it is expected to take time before we shall get through this distressing period, which will also cover Eastertide. Indeed, in many parts of the world this year, Holy Week and the Solemnity of Easter will not be celebrated in the customary manner. Many people will only be able to follow it on the television or celebrate it in their homes. The important thing is to ensure that it does not pass unnoticed, because this year will also bring Easter and the Resurrection - the very foundation stone of our faith, our hope and our life.
Beset by so much pain, suffering and death, more typical of Good Friday than of Easter, it is hard to offer any cheering words or even mention joy and life, let alone resurrection. But, we must pin our trust and our hope wholly in the Lord of Life in which He also experienced suffering and humiliation, and even death on the cross, but was sustained and resurrected by His Father.
This is why the angel’s words to the women recounted in the Gospel of St Matthew are more topically relevant to us and all humanity at this time: Do not be afraid, for Jesus, who was crucified, is not here; he has risen. This is the message of this year’s Easter to a frightened world and Church, suffering from an unprecedented and unexpected pandemic. There is such much pain, which I am certain will yet continue for some time to come. Let us not forget that, in all the pain, the Christ of Good Friday remains crucified with all those who are suffering from the consequences of this pandemic. But let us lift up our eyes, for with Christ Himself we are called to life and to Resurrection. We might sum up the message of this Easter in the secular motto that has become popular in Italy over these days: Tutto andrà bene- all will be well. Fear not: He is risen, and with Him we shall overcome.
You know from the news we have been reporting how much this pandemic is affecting the Order in the world, and especially how the Hospitaller Family of St John of God worldwide is engaging with the rest of society to curb and try to halt the pandemic. Unfortunately, a large number of our own Brothers and Co-workers have fallen victim to contagion and some have even lost their lives. We pay tribute to them for their generosity and dedication, in the certainty that they are now living forever with the Risen Lord. We shall never cease to keep all of them in our prayers.
I wish to thank and call to mind all those who are working on the front line every day, as true and faithful sons of St John of God, who is certainly proud of you. Hospitality involves giving everything generously, especially at such times as these. We must do so responsibly, taking all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others, but we must make sure that the sick and the poor are being cared for, especially those in greatest need and who risk being excluded and passed by, such as the homeless, migrants, the disabled and others.
With my Easter letter I am therefore attaching the testimony of one of our Co-workers from Madrid. His words, and above all his faith and commitment, united with that of our entire Family of St John of God worldwide, are a message of hope, life and resurrection.
I commit the entire Hospitaller Family of St John of God to the special protection of our Founder and St John Grande who died infected in a plague epidemic. And I also place it under the protection of St Richard Pampuri, whose Jubilee Year at the request of the diocese of Pavia will close on 1 May this year, in which we have also played a part, especially in the Lombardy-Veneto Province. Lastly, we pray for the protection of Blessed José Olallo Valdés, of whom we celebrated the 200th year of his birth on February 12th. They, and so many others, lived through similar or even the very same situations as the one we are now having to come to terms with. Never did they waver in their trust, faith and hope in the Risen Lord, and they teach us to be bold, and not to fear, as the Angel of the Lord said, because He is risen! and therefore Tutto andrà bene – all will be well.
The General Government and the entire Hospitaller Family of St John of God at the General Curia wish you al a HAPPY AND BLESSED EASTER!.
Brother Jesús Etayo
Testimony of a Co-worker during the COVID-19 pandemic
(Sent by WhatsApp to a Brother)
Good afternoon, Brother.
Difficult times to do anything other than offer all my encouragement and support.
I trust your health will allow you to perform all your duties.
Over here, I have moved on to perform my professional work with the patients, which is what the House most needs at this time.
Obviously this is a difficult situation for all of us, as the very pillars that uphold our idea of society are quaking beneath us. None of us have ever experienced a situation like this, or anything like it.
Working with these people as they look at you with wide open eyes, not knowing whether they will live or die, clinging to a smile to avoid thinking that things might get worse, and knowing that a kiss, a caress, a hug will come up against the barriers of gloves, masks, gowns, etc., they essentially speak through their eyes. Eyes that, looking out over the mask, express all the pent-up feelings that their mouth cannot put words to, and feelings of anguish and uncertainty, and also, - why not? – also the certainty that eventually everything will be over.
Seeing Jesus in others is an ability that faith in Christ alone can reveal, and that, dear Brother, is something I feel very compellingly at this present time. Seeing the eyes of the suffering Lord behind the eyes of the patient who is looking at me, makes me overcome the fatigue, concern and distress.
What good Samaritans people can be, without knowing it. What good followers of John of God, without knowing him. How topically relevant is the charism, how precious his legacy!
I thank you Brother, and the Order, for standing by the bedside of the suffering, and for allowing people like me to see Jesus in that bed.
As always, I am at your disposal.
With my warmest best wishes,
Angel Alberto Garcia
Nursing Auziliary at the San Jose Institute Foundation
Brothers of St John of God
Madrid, 22 March 2020