Reverencing the Bible
By Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

SpiritualityMany of us have been privileged to be in the presence of someone on his or her deathbed. In such a setting we are understandably concerned about listening to every word that the dying person is saying and about choosing our own words carefully. It is with that degree of reverence that we should approach the Bible: with halting humility.

The language of the Bible is more poetry than prose. It doesn't so much describe an event historically as it seeks to lead us into the experience itself. We can change the meanings of words, but an experience changes us. Good biblical interpretation finds the balance between words that get us started and encounters, which are beyond words.

Just before he delivers the Ten Commandments to Moses (Exodus 19), God appears in "a dense cloud" and Mount Sinai is "wrapped in smoke." Moses is not permitted to see God's face. And yet, Yahweh speaks to him and gives Moses the word of God. At the Transfiguration (Matthew 17), Jesus appears to several disciples, his face shining "like the sun" and his clothes "white as light." Afterwards Jesus cautions them: "Do not tell the vision..." In these examples we observe the spiritual tradition that balances darkness and light, presence and absence, speaking and silence, seeing everything so well that you do not need to see anything in particular.

Again and again, the Bible finds the balance between knowing and not knowing, between using words and having a humility about words. To read the Bible well, we need to appreciate that balance and allow the Spirit to stir its meaning for us. But for most of us in the contemporary West, it is an uphill struggle. We often prefer to read the Bible literally and to turn to it for precise answers to our questions.

Need for Grounding
Ours is a time of such cultural and spiritual change that the human psyche struggles to handle it all. The September 11 terrorist attack on U.S. soil has shaken us to our core. No wonder many of us look for certitudes to help ground us. Without consciously tending to, we seek to make God our private property by taking biblical language literally and reading it from our own perspective and our own cultural interpretation. When we do this, we lapse into a kind of blinding time capsule that does not enlighten at all. God gives us just enough light for the next faith-filled step, never a blueprint for all of life.

The well-intended "Jesus Seminar" offers an example. Here scholars comb through New Testament texts in an effort to determine if Jesus did say this or that and did or did not use certain precise words. When we exclusively take that approach, we lose more than we gain, although I do not deny that it is often helpful. We risk moving out of sacred space and trivializing what we have—or might have—experienced. We risk declaring victory before we have even struggled. We settle the agonizing dust by giving ourselves answers, when the raised dust instead might reveal to us the right question.

Journey of Faith
Though we often wish it were so, the biblical God is not a cure-all, a fix for the human paradox or a cosmic answer man (or answer woman). The God who lives inside of history, uses it and suffers from it gives us basic truths on which we can rely. But he doesn't give us all the answers to protect us from our history. In fact, God leads us into the dilemma of our lives and invites us into a daring journey that will always be faith. Always, it seems, God comes to us disguised as our life.

The Bible offers us hope, but it does not offer an escape from life. It is in life that we meet God. So very little in our lives is ever resolved or solved, settled or answered. There is only the crisis itself, the struggle. The outgrowing of the need for an answer takes us in the direction of eternal life. Our God calls us to stay in the struggle—still wanting to know, but as persons of faith being willing not to know. All because we can trust the One who does know.

RICHARD ROHR, a Franciscan priest from Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. His newest book is Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

(Taken from New Great Themes of Scripture, a 10-part audiocassette series available from St. Anthony Messenger Press, A7090, $49.95.)

Nov 2001

back to top



The Province publishes a number of books and pamphlets, which are available at minimal cost to interested persons. To order copies email us at provincial@oh.org.au





The Spiritual Family of St John of God


- Spiritual Family of St. John of God was founded in 1995 and is simply a union of prayer that gathers together persons.....

Click the image at left to view


Caritas"Caritas"- This Publication is no longer being published.



"John of God - Father of the Poor"

- a profusely illustrated and reader-friendly life of St. John of God by Brian O'Donnell o.h.; this 52 page booklet is available for $10 plus postage.

Click the image at left for a preview.



"John of God - Loco in Granada"

- an historical account of John of God and his times by Rev. José María Javierre, translated for the original Spanish into English by Benedict O'Grady o.h.; available for $20 plus postage.



"Hospitality - Yumi Ken Soim Ol"

- the highlights of the history of the first 25 years of the Order in Papua New Guinea by Brian O'Donnell o.h., available for $10 plus postage.





Issue 17 October - December 2013
Issue 16 July - September 2013
Issue 15 April - June 2013
Issue 14 January - March 2013
Issue 13 October - December 2012
Issue 12 July - September 2012
Issue 11 April - June 2012
Issue 10 January - March 2012
Issue 9 October - December 2011
Issue 8 July - September 2011
Issue 7 April - June 2011
Issue 6 January - March 2011
Issue 5 October - December
Issue 4 July - August 2010
Issue 3 April - June 2010
Issue 2 March 2010
Issue 1 December 2009

back to top




Saints and Blesseds

Blessed Virgin Mary
St. John of God
Blessed Eustace Kugler
St. Benedict Menni
St. John Grande
St. Richard Pampuri
Hospitaller Martyrs
Blessed Olallo

Blessed Virgin Mary

MarianThe Feast of the Patronage of Our Lady is celebrated by the Brothers of St. John of God on the third Saturday in November. St. John of God always had a great devotion to the Mother of God and this has continued throughout the life of the Brothers. The General Chapter of the Brothers held in 1736 instituted this special feast of the Order.

Tradition also added to this Feast where the Brothers in France placed themselves under the protection of the Mother of God. The story goes - "In order to meet their debts the Brothers sought alms in every quarter. But they were not able to keep up the payment on the building work that had been done and were threatened with eviction unless they could pay twenty thousand francs. They did not know where to turn for the money. One of the Brothers received two hundred francs from his relatives. Instead of putting it towards the debt, Br. John decided to buy a statue of Our Lady with it, consecrate the Province to her maternal protection and trust that she would find a way out of their difficulties. On the 19th November 1826, Brothers and patients knelt before the statue of Our Blessed Lady and she was appointed Superior-General. Her intervention was both rapid and efficacious. Within a few days two cheques arrived which were quite unexpected, and enough to meet immediate needs. The letter containing one of the cheques was addressed to the Superiors of the Brothers of St. John of God and the postmaster would not hand it over at first believing it was not for them. But the Brothers saw in this a delicate gesture on the part of Our Lady and reward for their trust in her. Since that time every year on the third Saturday of November, which is now the feast of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin, the Brothers gather in front of the same statue and place themselves and their patients and hospitals under the protection of the Immaculate Mother of God."

From The Story of the Hospitallers of St. John of GodBrother Norbert Mc Mahon, O.H.

back to top

St. John of God

St John of GodIt is now five centuries since the birth of St. John of God. The example of his life is still inspiring people, his work has spread throughout the world. What was it about this man that led so many people to want to help him in his ministry in Granada in the 1540's? What is it that still inspires the thousands of people who comprise the family of St. John of God today?

St. John of God was born John Ciudad in 1495 in a small village in the south of Portugal called Montemor-o-Novo. At the age of eight, in circumstances that are still a mystery, John left home. He was reared by a Spanish family in Oropesa. The greater part of his life was spent as a rootless wanderer, working as a shepherd, soldier, bookseller and labourer and covering in his travel the countries of Europe and North Africa.

When St. John of God finally settled in Granada around the age of forty he underwent a conversion experience so dramatic in its intensity that he was placed in a psychiatric hospital. His brief experience of the kind of treatment meted out to the afflicted gave him an insight into, and understanding of, the real needs of the sick. He decided to devote the rest of his life to caring for those in need.

John's motivation was his great love of God and Our Blessed Lady. "Whatsoever you do to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to Me." This was the yard stick by which John measured his service to others. His love encompassed everyone, the sick, orphans, widows, prisoners and the poor.

John was a warm and human person. In his hospital he created an atmosphere of welcome, peace and hospitality. When a patient was admitted he would first wash him and feed him and then pray with him. He was a great listener and had empathy with people which encouraged many to come to him with their problems. Even when he could not help, he would listen and give words of encouragement.

People were impressed by John's sincerity and by the worth of his service to others. He was able, therefore, to tap their generosity and involve them in his work. They gave him food, they gave him money and many volunteered to help him with his work. They called him John of God. John created an equal partnership between benefactors and those in need, each helping one another. To the benefactors he would say, "...who wants to do well for the love of God?" and he would ask the poor to "pray to the Lord for those who have been good to you".

Because he believed that everyone was equal in the sight of God, John moved effortlessly across the social divide. He was as much at ease in the presence of the Duchess of Sessa as he was with the sick and poor in his hospital. He created a family of St. John of God which compromised the nobility, the middle-class, the poor, his volunteers and his paid staff, all with the one purpose of serving God by serving those in need.

John was a great advocate of those who had no influence. He used his contacts with the nobility and those in power to educate them about the conditions of the poor. He had an inquiring mind which was always searching for new ideas and better ways of doing things. He had a missionary spirit, traveling to beg for alms and then using what was collected to serve the people of the local area. Above all, John taught by example.

By faithfully following his example, the Order of Brothers formed after the death of St. John of God has passed on John's way of serving those in need. It is called 'Hospitality' and after five centuries it remains the charism of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.

Mediation on St John of God
By Word
By Song


back to top

Blessed Eustace Kugler

click here to view his life

On the afternoon of Sunday 4th October 2009, in Regensburg Cathedral, the beatification ceremony for Brother Eustace Kugler took place. Brother Eustace , if he were still alive, would not have sat as the main person in the front row, but somewhere to the side or on one of the rows to the back, for modesty was one of his most outstanding personal characteristics. He never placed himself at the centre, but was always concerned only with serving his neighbour and his Order. There are many instances in the life of Brother Eustace that prove that this claim of absolute personal humility and modesty is well justified. One of the most convincing of these is a photograph in which, at the consecration of the Brothers’ hospital here in Regensburg on 19th June 1929, he did not sit at the centre of the festive table, but rather at the side in a corner of the t-shaped table arrangement. The fact that the Provincial Eustace Kugler was not even mentioned in any of the eulogies on the completion of this magnificent work was something he accepted with cheerful serenity. And yet, the realisation of this double hospital — a block for men and one for women — in the difficult economic times of the Weimar Republic was Brother Eustace’ very own achievement. It was a top managerial performance par excellence. The choice of location in Regensburg was a prudent and future-oriented decision. At the time, Regensburg was the only large city in Bavaria which did not have a modern hospital. Brother Eustace managed to raise the enormous financing sum of 8.3 million Reichsmarks. What this sum actually represents is illustrated in a comparison with the annual budget for the City of Regensburg: the revenue budget of Regensburg at the time - 1927/28 was 8.1 million Reichsmarks. The construction costs for the hospital amounted to 8.3 million. In other words, the City of Regensburg itself could not have afforded to build a modern hospital on this scale at the time!

Eustace Kugler was a successful manager! He, who as Provincial, steered the fate of the Bavarian Province of the Order of Saint John of God from 1925; he, who with the Regensburg hospital executed the biggest construction project of the Brothers of Saint John of God in Bavaria since they settled here in 1622. He did not at all fit the stereotype of a modern-day manager. He had no academic qualification, and did not have the worldly appearance of the successful man. On the contrary - he was the son of a village blacksmith from Regental; the former blacksmith's apprentice with only a primary school certificate, who had a slight limp following an accident on a building site in Munich in the mid-1880s. With his tattered habit, his well-worn brief case, his decrepit shoes and the battered black hat, he was the embodiment of apostolic poverty and humility. The secret of his success was not in a theory-laden manager training, but on quite a different level. When he was addressed by critics inside the Order about the risk of financing the hospital in Regensburg, he responded simply, "I've already arranged that with the Lord. We have everything we need."

And here we touch on a central reason why Brother Eustace Kugler was beatified: Not due to the balance sheet of his achievements, which he could present for the 21 years of his being Provincial from 1925 to 1946:

- the completion of the hospital in Regensburg, one of the most modern hospitals, conceptionally and architecturally, in Germany;
- the increase in the number of members of the Order in the Bavarian Province by 50 % from 275 in 1925 to 412 in 1935;
- the increase in the number of beds of the Brothers of St. John of God in Bavaria by 77 % from around 2500 in 1925 to 4400 in 1935 V.

None of those counts in the beatification process, what counts is the exemplary way that in an Order of mercy and brotherly love - the Order of Saint John of God -he realised Christianity for his time and in his place. Among the many servants of this Order he stood out with a spirit of servitude which was unsurpassed. As Provincial of the Order he was not above carrying the luggage of a candidate seeking to join the Brothers of Saint John of God. As Provincial he helped cleaning the vegetables in the kitchen. He even did night duty in the hospital and emptied the urine bottles. In a period of Fuehrer cult, he never ceased to remind his brothers about their true leader: Christ in the tabernacle. And he had an exemplary relationship with his Fuehrer, with Jesus Christ: He was connected to Him in constant dialogue, in constant prayer. This is where he got his strength in life, also in the last phase. When he fell victim to stomach cancer. Eustace Kugler was an exemplary figure in the love of God and the love of one's neighbour, in life and in death. And this is why the Church did elevate him to the honour of apotheosis!

View Beatification
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


back to top

Saint Benedict Menni

Click here to View Life Story

Benedict MenniThe typical apostolate of the Brothers of St. John of God is to care for the sick and those who are in need. For this reason from the very beginning, the Hospitaller Order was recognized by the Church as a Congregation of Religious Brothers with exception of not more than one priest in each community acting as chaplain. Saint Benedict Menni was one exception, being an ordained priest in Rome on October 14, 1860. In those years, the Spanish branch of the Hospitaller Order died away as a consequence of laws issued in Portugal in 1834 and in Spain in 1835. Saint Benedict Menni was sent to Barcelona on April 6, 1867, to restore the Hospitaller Order in these countries.
After a long struggle, often times dangerous, he was not only able to gather many vocations - almost a thousand from 1867 to 1903 - but also founded in Spain, Portugal and Mexico, 22 hospitals for every kind of sickness, especially for people suffering with psychiatric illness and children with disabilities. Theses people were the most neglected by the public health care at that time.

He also founded a female branch of the Order, the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today, the Sisters are present in 20 Countries with almost 80 communities. The Mother House of the Sisters is in Ciempozuelos, Spain where the body St Benedict their founder is venerated.

In April 1893, St. Benedict returned to Spain as Provincial to face allegations of sexual abuse. The case known as the ‘Semillan Case’ was to be in the courts for the next seven years. This particular court case was not only to humiliate St. Benedict but also the Catholic Church. In the end none of the accusations could be substantiated and the judge dismissed the case against him. He also had to face insults made towards him by his own brothers in leadership. Through all of these difficulties he grew in relationship with those who suffer.

He was declared Blessed in 1985 and his Canonization was celebrated in November 1999. His feast day is April 24, the day he died in Dinan, France in 1914.

The secret of his life lies in his true, heroic detachment by which he always considered himself a docile instrument in the hands of God, without giving room to his personal ambitions or human plans.

back to top

St. John Grande

John GrandeSt. John Grande, a Brother of St. John of God, was born at Carmona, Seville, Spain, on March 6, 1546 into a very devout Christian family, baptized in the parish church of San Pedro where he was educated from the age of seven to twelve as a choir boy.
He began work as a trader, but shortly afterwards he went into retreat in order to discern his vocation. At that time he took the name of "Juan Pecador" -- John the Sinner -- the name which stayed with him until his death.

In 1565 he started a new life in Jerez de la Frontera serving God through his work with prisoners, the poor and the incurably sick. To help them he begged for alms and founded a hospital, which he called Our Lady of Candlemas.

In 1574 he joined the Order founded by St. John of God in Granada. His great energy and specific Hospitaller spirituality drove him on to live the Gospel as the Good Samaritan, practicing mercy, living in very close contact with the
sufferings of the destitute and the incurably sick, sustained by a deep interior life, self-sacrifice and prayer while performing his extraordinary apostolate. He was outstanding for his love for the Passion, the Eucharist and Our Lady; he
was a great mystic of Hospitality.

His hospital and his companions, whom he formed in accordance with "The Statutes of John of God”, were the fruit of this deep Apostolic/Hospitaller Spirituality. In the company of these companions he founded other Centres at Medina Sidonia, Arcos de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Mara, San Lcar de Barrameda, and Villamartn.

At the request of the Archbishop of Seville he carried out reform of the health care services, reducing the number of ospitals, reorganizing them and improving care for those in the greatest need. In doing this, silently and extremely fficiently, he proved himself to be a pioneer in rationalizing the health care system in the Jerez area.

At the time when the town was stricken by great plague epidemics and emergencies he stepped up his care and charity work, as well as his prayer and acts of penance, and in 1600 he gave up his own life as a martyr of charity while caring for the victims of the plague.

Beatified in 1853 by Pius IX he was canonized by John Paul II on June 2, 1996, and his Feast is celebrated on June 3, the date of his death. He is the Patron Saint of the Diocese of Jerez de la Frontera and his remains lie in the Diocesan Shrine of St. John Grande in the hospital of the Brothers of St. John of God that bears his name, in Jerez.

back to top

St. Richard Pampuri

Richard PampuriRichard Pampuri lived nearer to our times. Born at Trivolzio, a small city in the north of Italy in 1897, he graduated from his medical studies in 1921, after which he worked as a rural health officer assigned in a poor area near Milan. Even now, the people of that area still remember him for his charity.

Wishing to dedicate himself to the sick in a more complete and total way, he entered the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God in 1927. The Formation house was inside the general hospital managed by the Brothers in Brescia. There he made his Religious Profession on October 24, 1928.

He was entrusted with the free dental clinic for the poor. Many people came to the clinic not only because of Brother Richard’s professional competence but also because of his kindness and gentleness in treating the patients.

Many times he also gave money and food to the needy patients and showed great sensitivity to all. Once there was a malnourished boy who came for dental treatment. After treating him, Brother Richard pretended to ask for money. The astonished boy replied, "But I don't have money to pay." Immediately Brother Richard offered money telling him, "Don't worry, if you can't pay me, I will pay you."

Unfortunately, he started to have some health problems in the beginning of 1929. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, an incurable sickness at that time. His health was to become worse, until he had to be confined in the hospital of the Brothers in Milan on April 18, 1930. There he died in the evening on May 1, the date of his liturgical feast since he was proclaimed blessed in 1981. His body was bought to Trivolzio, his birthplace, where it is venerated in the same parish church he was baptized. Pope John Paul II declared him Saint in 1989. The Pope said, "The short but rich life of Richard Pampuri urges the medical doctors, his colleagues, to carry out delicate professional with commitment, to animate it with Christian, human and professional ideals, so that it will become a true mission of social services, of fraternal charity, of true human growth."

The life of Saint Richard Pampuri was so short that truly there was no time or opportunity to perform great undertakings. Nonetheless, his life was very meaningful because he held on to a principle, which he formulated during his preparation for the Religious Profession, he upheld that: "To do the least of things with great love." It was precisely his daily adherence to this principle that led him to true holiness transforming his medical activities into a mission of charity.

back to top

Hospitaller Martyrs

MartyrsWhile St. Richard Pampuri attained holiness through the ordinary activities of life, a good number of St. John of God Brothers had to face the ordeals of martyrdom before attaining the glory of Heaven.In the history of the Order are listed martyrs in Belgium, Poland, Columbia, Chile, Brazil, Philippines and especially in Spain where during the Civil War of 1936, ninety-eight Brothers were killed due to hatred towards their faith.

The process of beatification was successfully completed for a group of seventy-one Brothers whose martyrdom happened in Spain. Pope John Paul II set October 25, 1992 as the date for their solemn beatification in the Vatican.

Among those seventy-one Blessed, there are seven young nationals of Colombia who after their Religious Profession had been sent to Spain to complete their formation. In the history of the church, they are the first from their country to be venerated.Consequently, it is worth mentioning their names: Arturo Ayala, Esteban Maya, Eugenio Ramirez, Gaspar Paez, Juan Bautista Velazquez, Melquiades Ramirez, Ruben Lopez. They were shot in Barcelona on August 9, 1936.

Among those Blessed Martyrs is a Spanish Brother Guillermo Llop, who lived for ten years in the Roman Province as Master of Novices and later as Prior in Frascati, near Rome. Brother Guillermo was born in Spain in 1880. At the age of eighteen, he received the habit of the Order. He was with the Roman Province from 1912 to 1922, distinguishing himself especially in the care of the wounded in the First World War. In 1922, he went together with other Brothers to revive the Order in Chile.In 1928, he returned to Spain and at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was madePrior of the Mental Hospital in Ciempozuelos, near Madrid. Although there was an open persecution against the religious and the priests, he decided to stay together with the entire Community to care for the patients, until one day, theywere imprisoned. On November 28, 1936, he was shot and his last words were words of forgiveness for his executioners.

back to top

Blessed Olallo

OlalloSignificant events in the life of Blessed José Valdés Olallo
1820: Born in Havana Jose Olallo Valdes, 12 February.
1835: professed as a Brother of St. John of God. That same year reached the Convent Hospital San Juan de Dios in Puerto Principe (now Camagüey) and is devoted heart and soul to the care of patients.
1866: leper's brother Juan Manuel Torres, who for 10 years Olallo provides the appropriate material and spiritual aid.
1876: Dies, January 26, Fray Juan Manuel Torres. Jose Olallo left alone in the hospital and only brother of the order in Cuba and America.
1887: In December, Jose Valdes Olallo falls seriously ill.
1889: On March 7 Olallo Father dies.
1889: On March 10 he is buried in the cemetery of Camagüey in a given niche. That same year a letter is published under the title "Crown Funeral", dedicated to religious devotee.
1889: On April 14, the City agrees to construct a niche for himself and dedicate a park and a street.
1989: On March 7, on the centenary of his death, he requested permission to begin the process of canonization of Father Olallo.
1991: The first day of February in Rome approved the diocesan process of Camaguey.
2006: Pope Benedict XVI approves the heroic virtues of the Father Olallo and venerable name.

View his Beatification
News item 1
News item 2

back to top