RELIGIOUS ORDERS and congregations are well known for their three solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
But only one Order in the Church takes an additional vow of hospitality and puts it into practice in running homes, hospitals and caring units for people of all ages and both sexes.
They are the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God, whose expertise in nursing and medicine is matched with a religious inspiration that makes for a unique mission in both church and world.
The colourful life of John of God continues to inspire young men to follow his example of caring for the sick and those in need both here in Britain and around the world.
Shortly before the discovery of America, almost 500 years ago, John Cidade was horn in Southern Portugal.
He tan away I t om home when only eight years of age. Finding his way to Spain he was befriended by a farm bailiff who cared for him as his own son and taught him to read and write. When he was older he was employed as a shepherd.
In 1516 when he was 21 John joined the Spanish Army then fighting the French. During one campaign he was put in charge of a considerable amount of booty.
It was stolen, and lie was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted but John was dishonourably discharged, though he later managed to reenlist and fought against the Turks.
On his way to North Africa, he worked on fortifications being built against the Moors. Returning to Spain, John set himself up as a bookseller, journeying the length and breadth of Spain. When he was about 40, he settled in Granada. A sermon by John of Avila led him to a conversion SO dramatic in intensity Mat he was placed in a psychiatric hospital (for want or a better term!).
His experience of the treatment meted out to the afflicted gave him an insight into the real needs of the sick.
Released with the help of friends, he opened his first hospital in Granada in 1537. It was run on lines far in advance of the times, anticipating some of the most important principles in the care of the sick [especially those suffering from mental illness).
John died in 1550. aged 55, having earned for himself the title "John of God" because of his heroic charity. He was declared a Saint by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690.
John of God was too humble to have ever thought of establishing a new Religious Order in the Church, but Pope Saint Pius V formed the brother into a Religious Congregation with the title "Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God".
Today the Brothers are trained in various disciplines of medicine and nursing. Sonic are ordained to the priesthood and act as chaplains to the various communities and patients.
The rapidity with which the Order spread throughout Spain. South America, and Italy was extraordinary. Only 40 years after the death of John of God, they had 79 -hospitals where more than 30,000 sick people were looked after by 600 brothers.
They crossed to England in 1880 opening a home for the physically handicapped and the
aged in Scott on, North Yorkshire. In the 1950's this was developed as a country General Hospital.
Bro A nselm Granelli