The Fatebenefratelli: the friars of the Order of St. John of God Hospital

The Fatebenefratelli: the friars of the Order of St. John of God Hospital

Fatebenefratelli is the popular term used for the monks belonging to the Hospital Order of St. John of God. The name comes from the Italian phrase: “Do good to yourselves, brothers, for love of God” with which St John of God, founder of the order, and his first companions used to accompany their work of mercy.

The Fatebenefratelli was created and has always existed as a hospital order, devoted in particular to the cause of the dying, the poor, the sick and prostitutes.

The movement began as laical in Spain during the first half of the sixteenth century, and soon became a religious community. In addition to devote themselves to the less fortunate, the brothers of the order, as in many other monasteries, followed the rules of poverty, chastity and obedience professed by St. Augustine.

The Fatebenefratelli soon also spread outside of Spain, in Europe and in mission lands. Free from territorial constraints, they went wherever they were needed, on battlefields and on ships storming the oceans, to the ends of the world.

The mission of the Fatebenefratelli was and is to assist anyone who needs help, with no ethnic, social or religious distinctions.

St John of God has led an adventurous life, before finding Faith. He had been pastor, mercenary, mason, bookseller, always traveling between Spain and Portugal, rootless, and homeless. In 1538, after hearing a sermon of St. John of Avila in the city of Granada, he realised he had to dedicate his life to others. His initial fervour was such that, taken for a lunatic, he was incarcerated in the hospital, but this only served to reinforce his decision to put himself at the service of the sick and poor. According to Lombroso, he was responsible for the creation of the first modern hospitals, where patients are divided according to disease and needs. In these structures, the friars of the Order not only cared for the sick, but they also studied medicine and surgery, acquiring the knowledge to make truly benefit the suffering.