Solemnity of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Circular Letter of the Prior General
My dear Brothers, Co-workers and Members of the Saint John of God Hospitaller Family
On the celebration of the Solemnity of the Patronage of the Virgin Mary of the Hospitaller Order, the Patron of our Saint John of God Hospitaller Family on 18 November, the third Saturday of the month, I send you my best wishes and invite you to celebrate Our Mother's feast day with devotion and joy.
One of the most precious assets today is peace. Armed conflicts are unfortunately dangerously on the increase around the world, in different ways and in different guises. Very early on, almost at the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis was already talking about a third world war (BBC News World 13.09.2014 and on many other occasions), because of the ever-increasing number of armed conflicts with new characteristics and forms, mainly due to globalisation, and the social and mass media. Some even talk of televised wars. We know the consequences: the deaths of many people, displaced persons, hunger, and destitution, etc., in many places.
In our Order there has always been a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary, under the advocation of Our Lady of Peace. Indeed, some Provinces and Houses used to be named after her until very recently (the attached photograph is of our Cordoba House in Spain). Our world has always suffered from armed conflicts and wars, in various forms. So many times, it has promised never to declare war again, but we human beings have tended to repeat the same great mistakes ever since the world began, and peace is often shattered into a thousand pieces. Without a doubt, this is also why we have always prayed to Our Lord for peace through Our Mother, "Grant us peace". And today I am calling on you earnestly to ask Our Lord to bring peace to the world, while at the same time committing ourselves to building peace. It is the peace that Our Lord grants us every day in the Eucharist, so that we may experience it and spread it to others. In this way, Our Mother of Peace is not only an intercessor, but she also accompanies us to be peace-builders within our own environments.
It is logical to assume that the wars, more or less openly declared reported in the media, affects some of our Houses and Communities in different areas of the world. Let me therefore remind us of the places where the Order is present and where their plight is most in jeopardy because of armed conflict and terrorism:
In Africa we have two centres caught up in the middle of the conflict: Batibo in Cameroon and Porga in Benin on the border with Burkina Faso. The Brothers have decided to stay on in both places, as they are practically the only healthcare resources left. But both Houses are at the heart of the conflict. A little further away, but also relatively close, are the Tanguièta Centre in Benin, not far from Porga, and the Nampula Centre in Mozambique. Nampula is further away from the actual fighting further north in the country, but they have to keep in total readiness because it could shift southwards towards the city.
In Europe we all know about Russia's war on Ukraine which has been raging since February 2022, and there we have a Community of the Order in the city of Drohobycz. This war has been dragging on for a long time. For now, the brothers are well and are doing a great deal of humanitarian and evangelising work with the help of the Polish Province and the whole Order.
Finally, the latest armed conflict has been the war in Israel, something that erupts from time to time, but this time it has been very brutal, disproportionate and atrocious, on all sides, as is always the case in a war. For the moment the war has not reached Nazareth where the Order has a House and a Community of Brothers, and a Community of Sisters, and a good number of Co-workers. I hope it never reaches there. In any case, the first thing the Superior did was to assemble everyone at the Centre and reassure them that the brothers will never abandon them and will always stay by their side. What the Brother Superior said in Nazareth is what other Brothers have always said, even those who have wars "at home". He told them, "We will stay! We cannot abandon the sick, the professionals, the people, because this is precisely when they need us the most." What an example! What a poignant testimony to Hospitality! These Brothers represent the self-effacing pride of our Order.
This year, on the Solemnity of the Patronage of Our Mother, I call upon you to pray through Our Lady of Peace to the Lord, that peace may come to the world, to every corner of the earth. Let us pray for our brothers and for the whole Family of Saint John of God living during conflict, so that the Queen of Peace will always accompany them and help them to continue to keep their faith and strength alive. To continue in such conditions is "to be true champions", and it is only possible for them to do so as a special gift from the Lord, which we ask Our Lady to give them every single day to enable them to continue bearing witness to the Hospitality that Saint John of God practised lived and inspired us to imitate, the same Hospitality for which so many Brothers and Co-workers have given their lives.
I wish you all, personally and in the name of the General Curia, a very happy Solemnity of Our Lady of the Patronage and I pray for the gift of peace for the world, for our brothers and for the whole Family of Saint John of God, that arms and terror will never cloud over the light of peace and love.
With my fraternal best wishes,
Brother Jesús Etayo