Circular Letter of the Prior General
“She laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2,7)
To all the Members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
My dear Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers and Friends,
With Christmas approaching, I wish to offer you my best wishes, praying that the God Child will be born in our hearts, pouring out peace and joy in the lives of each of you and your families, and the lives of all those who are suffering from sickness, violence and marginalisation.
At Christmas we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. God never leaves us our fate, but He became flesh of our flesh, the One who shows “heartfelt mercy” to His people (cf. Lk 1,78). His merciful love for men and women was crowned by His decision to take flesh and stand in solidarity with human beings.
And He did so in the most amazing way, being born into poverty, lowering Himself to the extreme, to proclaim the dignity of all people, regardless of their condition, their state or their abilities. This is how Jesus was born, this is how He became flesh, in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. This is how our God became human. It all began a Child who was born in Bethlehem, the Son of God. There the joy of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds and the Wise Men who had seen and followed the star until they found the new-born child, placed in a manger.
She put him in a manger. There was no place for them in the inn. Our Lord continues to stand in solidarity especially with all children, and their mothers, who are still being born today into poverty and difficulties, and with all the mothers who are giving birth to their children beset by so many difficulties, without help or care, and above all the mothers who are suffering in their desire to be able to raise them properly with insufficient resources or suffering from sickness caused by childbirth.
This year I would like to refer briefly to these mothers and their children, for whom Our Lord is born this Christmas and whom we are called to care for and help, according to our charism and our mission of hospitality, as we are already doing in many places where the Order is present.
Just over a month ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Order’s centres in Malawi, both in the recently-created capital city Lilongwe, and in Mzuzu, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Irish Brothers and Co-workers in this beautiful land. The mission they have established here superb and wide-ranging: mental health and addition care, programmes for street children, for women suffering hardship, the elderly, training various specialties in health sciences etc. But I was especially impressed by the report on the Maternal Mental Health programme, caring for mothers with mental health problems, before and after childbirth, most of them as a result of brought a new life into being, which sometimes causes great suffering to these mothers with consequences that cause suffering to the newborn babies.
There are so many mothers suffering from depression, anxiety and even psychosis, mostly caused by poverty, violence and the lack of of family and social help. This is a serious problem, but it can be dealt with and overcome with appropriate help. Our Services in Malawi are running a programme for this purpose, and thank God, with their help, and with preventive support through training and other instruments and by offering the right treatment, they are able to bring a smile to the faces of many mothers who are finding it very difficult to take pregnancy forward and raise their children for the reasons I just mentioned. We pay tribute to them and all the mothers in the world experiencing these situations, and we care for them. It was for them that the God Child was born, to make them smile and enjoy their motherhood and their children, just as Joseph and Mary did, despite their poverty, with their child lying in a manger.
I offer my thanks to all members of our Family in Malawi and everywhere in the world, as you perform your mission by caring for and helping expectant mothers in difficult situations, and the newborn babies, accompanying them and providing the support they need.
It is Christmas. On a cold night Our Saviour was born. Let us welcome him with joy, for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all (Titus, 2:11). Let us spend this Christmastide in the hope that the light of the God Child will cast out all the shadows that are darkening our world. Let us join the Child Jesus in committing ourselves to fostering the dignity of all human beings, especially the most vulnerable, through hospitality in the manner of St John of God. By so doing, as Pope Francis told the Capitulars on February 1 this year, we shall be icons of God’s heartfelt mercy.
I wish you all – Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers, Benefactors and Friends of the Order, the sick and all the guests in our Centres and your families – a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2020. And to all the Brothers and Co-workers who will be spending these days at the service of the guests in our Centres, particularly on Christmas Day, I offer sincere thanks and gratitude appreciation on behalf of the whole Order.
Speaking for myself and the whole Hospitaller Family of St. John of God at the General Curia, Brothers and Collaborators, I wish you all a Happy Christmas full of peace and joy!
Brother Jesús Etayo