Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”


We are pleased, in this year of the ninth centenary of our foundation to post the address from the Chaplain to the Grand Priory, Monsignor Antony F M Conlon, Conventual Chaplain ad honorem, on the occasion of the Feast of our blessed Founder. This text is rallying cry for all members of the Order to renew our hearts within the 900 year old tradition we have inherited, through true conversion of spirit, for our own sanctification and the good of Our Lords the Sick and Poor.


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.