By Lydia O'Kane
The Hospitaller Order of the Brothers of Saint John of God was founded in 1572. They are also known as the Fatebenefratelli, meaning the Brothers of Mercy, and carry out a wide range of health and social service activities in 389 centres in 46 countries. Greeting the Order in the Vatican on Friday on the occasion of its 69th General Chapter, Pope Francis focused on three themes: Discernment, closeness-hospitality and shared mission.
Looking at discernment, the Pope described this key theme as “a fundamental attitude in the life of the Church and in consecrated life.” He said, “to remember the past gratefully, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope would be impossible without adequate discernment.” Pope Francis went on express the hope that this General Chapter “would remain in the heart and memory of the Congregation as an experience of dialogue and discernment…” He also urged those gathered “not to make the Hospitaller Order a closed army…” He advised them to “dialogue, debate and plan together…always listening to the voice of so many sick people and of those who need you, as Saint John of God did”.
Passion and Compassion energies of the Spirit
Speaking about the second theme, closeness and hospitality, he said passion and compassion were energies of the Spirit that “will give meaning to your hospitaller mission, that will animate your spirituality and give quality to your communal fraternal life.”
The Good Samaritan
Then taking his cue from the scriptures, the Pontiff invited the congregation to look to the figure of the Good Samaritan for inspiration saying, “the urgency of reaching out to those in need leads him to put aside his plans and interrupt his journey. Concern for the endangered life of the other brings out the best in his humanity, and makes him tenderly pour oil and wine on the wounds of that half-dead man.” The Pope stressed that like the Good Samaritan, the Order must be at the service of life, creating "Samaritan" networks for the benefit of the weakest, with particular attention to the sick and poor….”
The third theme: “shared mission”, underlined the Pope, was one of real urgency, “and not only because we are going through moments of scarcity in vocations, but because our charisms are gifts for the whole Church and for the world.
“I encourage you”, Pope Francis said, “to take care of your formation, without neglecting to form the laity in the charism, spirituality and mission of Christian hospitality,” and to make sure through their good works “the witness of the spirituality which nourished the life of Saint John of God is never lacking.”