Like the Franciscans, the Order of Malta was founded by a saintly layman in the Middle Ages.
By contrast, religious lay persons have continued to govern the Order of Malta throughout the years. These religious live by the twin charisms: witnessing to the truths of the Catholic Faith and of humbly serving the poor and sick as “our lords”.
The vocation of the Order of Malta is best summed up by the epitaph of its founder Blessed Fra’ Gerard:
11th century Jerusalem was a tumultuous time and place, inhabited by people of many faiths. Blessed Fra’ Gerard’s Christian discipleship during that period continues to inspire today’s Knights, Dames, Provisional and Auxiliary Members, and volunteers, as they serve throughout the world.
The spirituality of the Order is centered on the vocation of service given to each of its members by the Holy Spirit. Seeing Christ in the faces of the poor and sick, Gerard took in needy pilgrims and offered them shelter, food, healing, and safety during their stay in Jerusalem and security on the pilgrim routes to and from Jerusalem.
The Order has endured military defeats, loss of property, and reduced vocations at various times over the centuries, only to emerge in the current era stronger than ever. Why is that? Our founder said it best:
In addition to aspiring to humility in service, the members of the Order are sealed as one by a deep prayer life, and a strong sense of community in Christian faith, hope, and charity. Additionally, all members receive a subscription to Magnificat for daily meditations and liturgical insights.
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In 1992, Pope Saint John Paul II, instituted the World Day of the Sick.
Beginning on February 11, 1993, World Day of the Sick has been celebrated every year on or near the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes as a special time of prayer for healing and comfort as a community of all the faithful.
The feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes was chosen because of her intercession for the poor and sick and the Order’s devotion to her.
Most of the Western Association locations organize and sponsor World Day of the Sick Masses each year, where many thousands of people receive the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick.
Throughout the centuries, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta has been blessed by those Saints, Nuns, Knights, Dames, and Chaplains who exemplify the twin charisms: witnessing to the truths of the Catholic faith and humbly serving “our lords” the poor and the sick.