The annual Mass for the Feast of Blessed Gerard provides us with an opportunity to revisit our original raison d’etre and recall the antiquity of our Order. In the coming twelve months we shall celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Papal Bull, Pie postulatio voluntatis. That reminds us that we were defined as an exempt religious order, directly responsible to the Holy See in providing care for the sick and also temporal and spiritual defence of the Faith. Those three words should never be far from our reflection of what it is for which we stand. Paschal II, who issued that bull has gone down as one the weakest pontiffs of his age. His reign was beset by opposition from the German Emperor, Henry V and three anti-Popes, Theodoric, Albert and Sylvester. But perhaps, despite his known timidity and weakness he may have been prophetic in one sense. Under pressure at home and beset by enemies he reached out to a new and vigorous source of spiritual and militant support emerging from the re-conquest of the Holy Land. By giving pontifical approval to the Order he linked his office directly to its future medicinal and military mission. He would not be the first or the last pope to seek to resolve major issues of contention in the Church by a bold and novel initiative appealing to the loyalty and generosity of Christian souls.
Down through the centuries, the Order has continually reprised its original terms of reference in relation to its role in charitable endeavour and loyalty to the Catholic Faith. Even in the darkest times of the Order’s history in different parts of Christendom, the flame of fidelity to the needy in body and soul and to the Holy See has never been entirely extinguished.
The urgency and exigency of that sacred trust still continues to inspire and draw volunteers and supporters to our banner. Today, we have (thank God) no difficulty in attracting helpers to assist the general effort of aid to the needy or an increasing number of candidates for the specific vocation to religious life that is still the very core of the Order’s existence. The afflicted in every accessible place still benefit from our ministry. The call to defend the moral, metaphysical and doctrinal truths of the Church is also being increasingly answered.
And yet, if we are honest, we know that all is not entirely as it should be. Was it ever? Sometimes the appearance of tranquillity on the surface can be misleading. It is only the when the boat begins to rock that the awareness of troubled waters becomes apparent. So, it becomes imperative that all hands be on deck and alert to do battle with the elements. The spiritual conflict in which we have to engage is a perennial one that is a necessary part of the larger cosmic struggle that goes on unseen.
The world is being won for Christ with heroic souls fighting against apparently insuperable odds and supernatural enemies. Nobody present in this church as a true believer can be indifferent to this reality. But it can make us timid or confused about what to do next. Fortunately, the leadership of the Church today is in stronger hands than was the case in 1113.
Nine hundred years after Paschal II, we are fortunate to have at this moment, occupying the Throne of the Apostle, a pope of indomitable courage, accessible wisdom and indefatigable effort. In his recent and timely call to Catholics everywhere, identified in his document “Porta fidei”, issued in preparation for the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI has issued a summons to serious prayer and reflection about the past 50 years. He is not asking for slogans, schemes, programmes or renewal, structural changes or soundbite spirituality. The refuse tips across the country have long since been filled with unread heaps of such useless documents. He is asking for sound doctrine and faith to return to all our churches, schools, seminaries and religious institutions. He is holding up for our edification and education, the consideration of the positive fruits that have come and could still come from a proper assessment of the Second Vatican Council.
This is no easy task for us. Our minds and our culture have been for so long conditioned to the false interpretations and misrepresentation of the Council’s documents that many faithful and clergy are still in thrall to them. We need to rid ourselves of these notions. If our original purpose of radical attachment to tuitio fidei and obsequiem pauperum still has the same vigorous application for us as it had in the 12th century, it is our duty to rally to the Pope’s call for spiritual reawakening. One way accessible to all of us is that of St Therese of Lisieux- making every little action of service count as a gesture of love and even the smallest prayer offered one of utter sincerity and devotion. Such apparently inconsequential elements have the power to move mountains.
Let us not look to see where others are going wrong or who else will lead the charge. Unity and strength comes with the resolve to individually do the best we can under the banner of St John, despite our differences in temperament, age, talent and gender. May Our Blessed Lady of Philermo, St John Baptist and Blessed Gerard come to our aid. Amen.
Blessed Gerard, pray for us.
This Saturday, the 6th of October, is the First Saturday of the month and the first anniversary of this project which was initially started on Facebook in answer to the request of the Grand Master to pray for an increase of vocations of professed knights of the Order. Our Brethren in the United States, who have responded to this initiative, offer us the following opportunity for Tuitio Fidei - without the professed we cannot pursue this necessary work of the Order.
We are invited to consider making a holy hour praying for the intentions of an increase of vocations to the First Class or Professed Knights of the Order and the sanctification of all members and their works. If you cannot make a full hour please try and offer at least a few minutes of the day asking Our Lady of Philermo for her intercession for these intentions. Since we started this day of prayer we have had one vocation to the novitiate and another who has recently begun the process toward entering formation. Let’s pray that we can see at least five new vocations by next October. Below are two prayers for vocation which may be of assistance.
Eucharistic Holy Hour Prayer for Vocations
O my Jesus, I have come to spend this hour alone with you, in humble petition for an abundant increase in vocations to the professed knights of our Order. You have said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to His harvest.” Encouraged by your words I come into your presence and confidently present my prayers in your sight. Graciously bestow upon Your Church an abundance of vocations to the professed knights. Enlighten the minds and hearts of many to respond to your invitation to heroically labor for the salvation of souls through service to the poor and in defense of the Faith. Gather under the standard of the eight pointed cross a multitude of men willing to give their very lives for the sake of the Gospel. May all those who feel your call stirring in their hearts join the ranks of those already working for the new evangelization of the world. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Vocation Prayer for Professed Knights of the SMOM
Blessed Gerard, in the early days of the Order, your example and zeal prompted many young men to follow you in serving Christ in “our Lords the Sick” As the founder of our Order, continue to inspire talented and devoted men to consecrate their lives to God as professed knights. Through your intercession, lead to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem generous and sacrificing men, willing to give themselves fervently to the apostolate of tuitio fidei and obsequiem pauperum.Our Lady of Philermo prepare your sons to be worthy of the grace of the Hospitaller vocation. Inspire their hearts to become learned of God, that with firm determination they might aspire to be “champions of the Faith and true lights of the world.”St. John the Baptist as patron of our Order strengthen with courage and conviction those called to wear the eight pointed cross of the Order. Pray that they may be filled with constancy, strength, and zeal to be witnesses of Christ’s saving presence in the world, serving Him faithfully and beyond reproach. Amen.
Oremus pro invicem.