The Second Vatican Council says in Art. 2 of its Decree on the contemporary renewal of religious life "perfectae caritatis" from October 28, 1965: "Contemporary renewal of Religious life means: permanent return to the roots of every Christian life and to the spirit of the origin of the individual institutes, but at the same time their adaptation to the changed conditions of the time. This renewal is to be put into effect under the motivation of the Holy Spirit and under the leadership of the church according to the following principles:

  1. Last norm of religious life is the imitation of Christ as described in the gospel. It must be the supreme rule for all institutes.
  2. It is to the profit of the church, that the institutes have their individuality and their particular tasks. Therefore the spirit and the essential intentions of the founders and the healthy traditions, which constitute together the heritage of every institute, must be faithfully researched and preserved ..."

The latter has been the task of this work. In doing so I neither claim to have described totally what the charisma of my patron saint, the Blessed Gérard is all about, nor that there were no room for amendments to what I have written. Therefore I will be most grateful for every stimulus for further studies and for every suggestion for improvement. If I had succeeded to bring out the indispensable basis of every service under the Maltese cross, like it was lived and laid down by the founder and his first successors, my big wish would be fulfilled, to make a little contribution to the renewal of this order, who I feel so deeply attached to.

When we look today onto the essence and the work of the order, we may joyfully state that it did not only start with the Second Vatican Council to tackle this renewal with lots of energy. But renewal is no singular procedure, but means a perpetual change, a lasting flexibility according to the demands of the time. Renewal means also, but not only, an outward change, but essentially also a permanent inward change. I.e. every member of the Order and every helper in the works of the Order must be prepared to continuously reflect and if necessary to repent, as far as the nature, the contents, the aim and the type of his service is concerned. Especially in our times, where we often complain about secularisation, diminishing of faith, selfishness and so on, every individual has to question himself, keeping the aim of the Order in the back of his mind, again and again, what for and how he does this service: Is it really the pure love to God and the neighbour, which motivates him to meet the suffering Christ selflessly in the needy fellow man? The future of all who serve under the Maltese cross is being shaped and determined by the answer to that question. Only, if we are able to respond to this question with a clear "Yes", have we been faithful to the intentions and aims of the founder of the order.

The aim "tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum" (Protection of faith and service to the poor) is an inseparable unity. It must not and it cannot be divided into its two parts. Because the service for the faith lacks credibility, if it doesn't result in the helping deed, and all aid for the poor, even if it may emanate from the very best intentions and be perfectly organised, remains a miserable fragment, if it is not part and parcel of the imitation of Christ, who is the only one who can and who will bring the good, which he started in us, to perfection.

This leads to the consequence for the running of our service, that we always have to see the needy in its unity of body and soul. Physical healing and spiritual welfare are inseparable. But the aim "spiritual welfare" must not be mixed up with psychological health. The latter is just part of physical health. As we rightfully call for caring for those entrusted to us also psychologically, this does not free us from the task of the pastoral care, i.e. care for the spiritual welfare of our protégés. As the salvation of man lies in his communion with Christ, it is our task through our service to bring people closer to Christ in such a way that they can have en encounter with him which has an effect on their salvation. Our service thus is knowingly and essentially also missionary service. Thus we take part as God's instruments in his plan for the world's salvation. The essential difference of our service to the work of other relief organisations is in the fact, that we do not and shall not only heal, but that we are called to sanctify.

Service to the needy motivated by faith in imitating Christ is genuine service towards salvation, is truly divine service.

This is, and nothing else was and will be the task of everyone serving under the Maltese cross. This aim is not only our only justification to exist, but an inward duty, but also the highest honour and distinction of all who follow the ideals and example of Blessed Gérard.

Fr. Gérard Lagleder O.S.B.

Blessed Gérard
This page is part of the publication: Blessed Gérard and his "everlasting brotherhood": The Order of St. John of Jerusalem


Sovereign Military Order of Malta The Maltese Cross Relief Organisations of the Order of Malta The Order of Malta in Africa Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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This page was last updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 14:41:30