Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God.—St. John of God, the founder of this religious institution, was born March 8, 1495, at Montemor Novo, in Portugal. In his fortieth year he was drawn strongly to God‘s service and began a wonderful life of prayer, penance, and charity towards his neighbor. Pressed by the love of God, and of Christ’s suffering members, he founded his first hospital at Granada in Spain, where he tenderly served the sick and afflicted. It is related in his life that one day the Lord appeared to him and told him that He was much pleased with his work, and for that reason He wished him to be called John of God. After ten years spent in the exercise of heroic charity, he died March 8, 1550. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII; in 1690; and was declared heavenly patron of the dying and of all the hospitals by Pope Leo XIII, in 1898.
The charity of St. John of God was destined to be perpetuated among his brethren, whom he had formed by his lessons and example. His first companion Antoni Martin was chosen to succeed him as superior of the order. Thanks to the generosity of King Philip II, a hospital was founded at Madrid, another at Cordova, and several others in various Spanish towns. St. Pius V approved the Order of the Brothers Hospitallers in 1572 under the rule of St. Augustine. The order spread rapidly into the other countries of Europe, and even into the distant colonies. In 1584 Pope Gregory XIII called some of the Brothers to Rome and gave them the Hospital of St. John Calybita, which then became the mother-house of the whole order: Brother Pietro Soriano was appointed first superior. Brother Sebastiano Arias founded the hospital of Our Lady at Naples and the famous hospital of Milan. At that time a holy servant of God and of the poor joined the brotherhood and shed great lustre upon the order by his burning charity and profound humility: Blessed John Grande, who was beatified by Pius IX in 1852.
The first hospital of the order in France was founded in Paris, in 1601, by Queen Marie de’ Medici. In the stormy days of the French Revolution the Brothers were expelled from the forty hospitals where they were caring for 4125 patients. But since then some large new hospitals have been established. The order is governed by a prior general, who resides in Rome; it is now divided into eleven provinces, with 102 hospitals, 1536 Brothers, and 12,978 beds, distributed as in the following table:
In addition to these a hospice of the order has been established at Nazareth. In 1882 a home for demented patients (male) was founded at Stillorgan near Dublin, Ireland. The house at Scorton, near Darlington, Yorkshire, was founded in 1880 for the reception of male patients suffering from chronic infirmities, paralysis, or old age. It is supported by charitable contributions and payments for inmates. It is pleasantly situated in a very healthy country district.
The Brothers undergo a special course of training in order to fit them for carrying out their various works of charity, to which they devote their life. In some provinces some of them are even graduates in medicine, surgery, and chemistry. The members are not in Holy orders, but priests wishing to devote their sacred ministry to the Brothers and patients are received. After the example of their founder, they seek their own sanctification and their patients’ spiritual and corporal welfare. To the three solemn vows of religion they add a fourth, of serving the sick for life in their hospitals. They also perform the usual duties and pious exercises of the religious life. They assist daily at Holy Mass, meditation, the recital in choir of the office of Our Lady, and spiritual reading. Young men of good disposition, sound health and possessing aptitude for the order, and resolved to serve God generously in the religious life are received from the age of fifteen to thirty-five. The religious habit is usually given to postulants after three months. The time of novitiate is two years, after which the novice pronounces the vows which, although simple, are perpetual. Three years later, he can be admitted to solemn profession.