"Return to Granada..." Feast of St. John of God

Return to Granada...

My dear Brothers, Co-workers and Members of the HospitallerFamily of Saint John of God,

I am with all of you in spirit as you celebrate the Feast of St John of God, our Patron and Founder, and send my very best wishes of fraternity and hospitality to all the Members of the Hospitaller Family of Saint John of God. I know that you have made careful preparations for the day and I urge you all to thoroughly enjoy yourselves celebrating it.

As you know, we shall be celebrating the Provincial Chapters in every part of the Order in the course of the first six or more months of 2014. So far, we have celebrated the Chapters of the four Provinces of Asia and Oceania, and of three European Provinces. Next week, we shall begin celebrating the others following the calendar with which you are all familiar.

This is a very important time for the whole Order and offers us the opportunity to listen to what the Spirit of the Lord is telling us, so that we are able to know and plan the future, faithful to our Charism and our mission of Hospitality. This is also the way we can continue to keep alive the memory and the spirit of Saint John of God, whom we are celebrating today.

The theme guiding all the Chapters is Living hospitality hopefully and boldly. This theme is very much in line with the words that Pope Francis has used in many speeches and writings, and in particular in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, where he tells us: “Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!” (109). These are the attitudes we must adopt as we face up to the present and the immediate future, so that we can make the right response which our Lord, the Church and the world today are expecting from us.

In St John of God we find the inspiration and the example of a man who responded to the calling of the Spirit in his life, faithfully, hopefully and boldly. And it was out of nothing that he built up his work of hospitality for the sick, the poor and the needy, deploying a strategy based on love, service and boundless self-sacrifice.

With this in mind I would like to recall one particularly meaningful moment in the life of St John of God which is particularly important to the life of the Order in our present circumstances. I am referring to the moment following his conversion and thetime he spent in the Royal Hospital, where he had been committed as a lunatic. After being discharged and under the guidance of St John of Avila, he visited Guadalupe and on his way home he stopped over at Baeza to see Master Ávila. After spending a few days with him St John of Avila told him:

"Brother John, you ought to return to Granada, where Our Lord is calling you at this moment. He knows your intentions and He will show how to serve him; always keep him before your eyes in everything you do... (Castro XI)

John returned to Granada, content, and with no other weapons but his faith and trust in God, his hope in the advice given to him by Master Ávila, and his boldness, as a man embarking on a mission filled with enthusiasm and conviction. But it was not easy for him to begin his mission, as we know from his biographer, Castro. Fear and a sense of shame paralysed him in the early days until he succeeded in overcoming them, for the power of God which dwelt in him was much stronger.

This event in the life of our Founder is a source of inspiration to us, and at the present timeit will help the whole Hospitaller Family of Saint John of God. Our Lord is calling us and sending all of us, Brothers, Co-workers, Communities and Provinces, to Return to Granada. For each and every one of us, Granada is the place to which our Lord is sending us. We are frequently tempted to give way to fatigue, fear, our own limitations and for many other reasons. Like John, you may even feel ashamed and powerless to respond to our Lord’s calling. But John also stands as testimony to the fact that it is possible to overcome all this, and to enter into our own personal Granada. To where the Lord is sending us. There is no going back.

I think this call is also particularly relevant to the Provinces and all the other entities of the Order today. This is no time to doubt, or to let time pass by passively, or to cling only to what gives us a sense of security. This is the time for us to return to Granada, to rediscover the mission, and facilities we need to perform it. It is the time to be bold and to renew the  hope and optimism of the gift we have received. We can be sure that it may be difficult for us at times, but nothing and no-one must make us stray from our path, so that we can reach the place which is waiting for our arrival, to be able to continue delivering the fruits of hospitality.

I wanted to share this brief reflection with you regarding an event in the life of Saint John of God at that particular time. I think it may provide us with light and inspiration for the times through which we are living now, and in particular as we celebrate our Provincial Chapters. I invite you to think about it and meditate on it, in the certainty that it will be beneficial to all of us.

Once again, I send you all my very best wishes for a happy feast of Saint John of God. On that day in particular let us keep in mind all the world’s sick, poor and needy, and all the victims of violence, hunger and poverty. Let us continue to pray that the Order’s Provincial Chapters will be held successfully. And let us pray that our Lord will give us the hope and the boldness we need to continue manifesting Hospitality according to the spirit of Saint John of God.

United with you in our Lord and St John of God, I send you all my fraternal best wishes.

 

Bro. Jesús Etayo

Superior General

 

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