I hope you have been reading Austen Ivereigh's reports from Rome these past few weeks, where events have occurred that will define important aspects of church growth in the future. Within Ivereigh’s excellent reporting is a story within a story, perhaps unnoticed but important nevertheless.
As many of you probably do, when I see a long list of names in a news story--such as the list of 20 new cardinals Ivereigh described--I scan them very quickly. This time, one of the names stood out on the list--the only person not in line to be a metropolitan archbishop or a curia member. How is cardinal-designate Paolo Sardi’s work as Pro-Patron of the Order of Malta going to be different than the 19 other cardinals on the list?
To understand Sardi’s ministry, one most know about the Order of Malta, a group whose history goes back nearly 1,000 years. For hundreds of years there was a military function, as well as a commitment as “hospitallers,” meaning these Knights provided medical care for pilgrims and others. The military function ceased many years ago, and in the modern world a special focus is to establish and support children’s hospitals in poor nations. The Order is able to respond quickly to humanitarian crises in any part of the world, and for this relies a great deal on the generosity and support of its members.
The Order of Malta Web site notes: “The Order of Malta is a worldwide, lay, religious order which seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctity of its members through the Church and her work with the sick and poor and witness of the Catholic faith.” Current works in the United States included Port Ministries, Chicago, A Safe Haven for Newborns, Haitian Health Foundation, Our Lady's Inn and many more.
Ongoing spiritual development of the members is very important, and there are conferences, workshops, Masses and devotions, web-based spiritual readings, and an annual Pilgrimage to Lourdes in which each member brings a “malade,” a person in need of some kind of healing, to the shrine for prayer and support. This event is often a deeply moving spiritual experience, and a compelling first person account has been written by Father Jim Martin.
One of the Order’s current works has been to produce and distribute an eight episode TV/DVD Series, “Living Your Faith,” which is a national television discussion on “The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” This series is hosted by Jane Hanson and several theologians of the Catholic University of America. Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Principal Chaplain of the American Association of the Order of Malta, has sent this series to each bishop in the United States for airing on television or as part of parish-wide religious instruction. You can watch a few of the episodes on YouTube, including the one below.
William Van Ornum