Circular Letter of the Prior General
“God's grace has been revealed” (Tit 2,11)
To all Members of the Saint John of God Family
My dear Brothers, Co-workers and Friends:
As Christmas approaches, I would like to send you my heartfelt greetings in the hope that God's grace, which the coming of the Lord is bringing us, will shower light and hope on each of you and your families, on the sick and suffering for various reasons and on our world in general, which is in such great need of God's grace and love.
A year ago the world was isolated because of the Covid-19 pandemic and yet we also celebrated Christmas, and our Lord was also born, lived and suffered with us in those difficult times. This year, although things may be better, mainly because of the vaccines, the pandemic is still present and we must exercise great caution and comply with the health measures that have been put in place. Let us hope that vaccines will soon reach every part of the world so that everyone can be safe from this virus. May those who refuse to be vaccinated, also understand, for their own sake or at least for the sake of others, the need to be vaccinated in order to defeat the pandemic once and for all, as scientists and the authorities, including the Church, are advising us to do. We pray to the God Child this Christmas, for the people who are suffering the consequences of the pandemic, for whatever reason, both in our Centres and in any part of the world.
At Christmas we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation of God, His presence among us. What a great mystery, but what a great reality, what a great gift for our humanity! What would become of us if God had not had compassion on us, always poor, as we are seeing in the pandemic, almost always blind, often lost in life and ultimately abandoned to our fate in darkness, wars and conflicts that would destroy us? Yet, out of pure love God decided to become present among us, to walk with us, to share our life. By becoming incarnate through his Son, God's grace appeared in the world to offer us life and salvation. It is the greatest act of hospitality ever seen: God pitching his tent among us and graciously filling the world with life and light. Let us prepare ourselves to welcome his coming!
It is true that when we look around us, we still see much pain and suffering, much strife and aggression, lack of respect for the poorest and neediest people, for the Earth, for the environment and so many other grim situations. But in the midst of it all, this year the Child God will be born at Christmas to bring us peace, life and salvation. He is the seed that God has planted that will triumph in the world. That will be His final word.
This seed of God is present in our world in many ways and in tangible form through many acts of love and hospitality that our St John of God Family is constantly performing. In this time of pandemic we are seeing many of these acts in the Provinces and Houses of our Order, through programmes and actions that are living expressions of God's presence in the world and ultimately of Christmas. It would take up too much space to mention them all, so I would like to mention just a few examples:
In Havana (Cuba), since March 2020 and due to restrictions, the San Rafael Retirement Home has been delivering food every day to the homes of a group of about 40 sick and needy elderly people in 6 different neighbourhoods. A number of them are semi-boarders, who due to the pandemic are unable to come to the Home because of the need to isolate. The presence of God's love is also a reality in India, where our Brothers of the Poonamallee House have helped a group of poor and elderly people with food and basic necessities during the pandemic. There have been many projects to help poor and destitute people and many assistance programmes for the sick and their families during this time of pandemic, including spiritual care, which is so important in such situations. The Brothers, Co-workers and Volunteers have been true angels of God standing by the side of the sick.
The last example I would like to mention is the "Connecting Emotions" project at our Esplugues de Llobregat Social Centre in Barcelona, which aims at reducing the sense of loneliness and distress that patients admitted to the centre may suffer because they are unable to receive visitors during their isolation due to the coronavirus. To this end, family contacts are being encouraged through video calls (via WhatsApp) between inpatients and their families, where this emotional need is detected. In many other centres, similar or other types of programmes have been set up to help patients and families. Some programmes have been developed in the areas of mental health, social inclusion or drug addiction, such as the VIVO programme in the hospital in Manizales (Colombia) for the care of addictions among children and adolescents. Thank you all, because with your creativity and commitment you have understood that it was "the hour of hospitality" and you have made God incarnate present in the midst of the sick and needy, a living expression of Christmas.
Next year we shall be celebrating two events of great significance and importance: the 450th anniversary of the approval of the Order as a Religious Institute under the Rule of St Augustine, with our Religious Family being recognised as the "Hospitaller Brotherhood of St John of God" by Pope St Pius V on 1 January 1572, with the Bull Licet ex debito, and secondly we shall be celebrating our Provincial Chapters, if the pandemic permits. Both events give us the opportunity to thank the Lord for the vocation of hospitality we have received and to listen to the voice of his Spirit, to continue to respond faithfully and to discern and steer the life of the Order in the years to come, following the example and spirit of St John of God, our Founder. I urge all of us to celebrate these events with joy and with the utmost commitment.
I wish all of you, Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers, benefactors and friends of the Order, the sick and those in our care in our Centres, a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022. And also to all your families. To all the Brothers and Co-workers who will be at the side of the sick and the guests in our Centres during these days, especially on Christmas Day, my sincere thanks and appreciation for your testimony of hospitality, once again demonstrating that God's grace has appeared among us, through the Christ Child who was born in Bethlehem.
On behalf of the entire St John of God Hospitaller Family of the General Curia, Brothers and Co-workers, I wish you all a Blessed Christmas filled with hope and hospitality.
Brother Jesús EtayoSuperior General