SAINT JOHN OF GOD
HOSPITALITY. THE HEART COMMANDS
Allowing the heart to ‘command’ has led the Order to discover new horizons, new frontiers, new challenges and new opportunities. The Hospitaller Order of St. John of God continues to be a credible instrument in God’s hands for bringing about His reign on earth because of its fidelity to its mission. This is so not because certain members of great intellectual prowess have left us libraries full of their works, although we do have valuable works that contain the collective memory of the past and others that have interpreted the story in the light of the times they lived in.
Rather, the Order of St. John of God is what it is today because its members allowed the ‘heart to command’, to listen to the voice of the poor. A heart that sees where love was needed and acted accordingly.8 Hospitality in the way of John of God is like a golden thread that spins across centuries keeping the fabric of the Order together and intact. It is like a multicolored garment whose colors are an image of how it has been expressed in a variety of ways down the centuries according to the exigencies of time, place and the needs of people, with the charism of John’s hospitality being the golden thread binding it together.
Faithfulness to the original inspiration, that is St. John of God and the legacy of Hospitality that he has left us, is the constituent element that has enabled the Order to continue to grow. I use the phrase ‘continue to grow’ advisedly, because an organization or an organism that does not grow gradually dies. Life in an organization is measured by its ability to grow, expand and ultimately by its ability to recreate itself, and to produce results.
The Arms of the Venegas Family, which can still be seen over the doorway of the house that had once belonged to this important Granada family, bears a heart pierced by a sword, with the motto “El Corazon manda” (‘The heart commands’). With the permission of the owner Don Miguel Abiz de Venegas, John used to sleep in the doorway. However, as John had a heart that was not deaf to the voice of the poor he invited them to take shelter with him in this temporary haven. The doorway however, soon became so crowded with poor and sick people that John brought there, the people of the household found it difficult to enter and live in their own dwelling. Understandably, John was soon asked by the owners to move on and take his ‘friends’ with him. We might say that it was here that John’s style of hospitality was born – in a doorway.
8 Cf. Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 31 b.
THE CHANGING FACE OF THE ORDER
Br. Donatus Forkan, OH, Prior General