Benedict Menni offered his whole life to humanity. He pledged all his years for its good.
If you would like to learn more about him, and discover his style, the most outstanding aspect of his overwhelming personality, pick up a Bible, open it at St. Luke’s Gospel and read:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. (…) a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.”
This man, the Good Samaritan of the gospels, is the truest, most faithful portrait that could be painted of Benedict Menni.
He was born in Milan (Italy) on 11 March 1841, to Luis Menni and Luisa Figini, the fifth of their 15 children.
Together from his family background, something destined to mark the lives of all men, four episodes would have a particular influence on his decision to become a Brother of St. John of God:
- A spiritual retreat at the age of 17
- The advice of a hermit in Milan
- His daily prayers before a picture of the Virgin Mary
- The example of Brothers of St. John of God caring for wounded soldiers arriving at Milan station from Magenta, a service in which Menni himself was also involved.
He joined the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God in 1860, changing his name from his baptismal name of Ángel Hércules, to Benedict. He studied philosophy and theology at the Lodi Seminary and then at the Roman College (the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome). He was ordained priest in 1866.
Pius IX then entrusted him with the difficult task of restoring the extinguished Hospitaller Order, which he began in 1867.
The restoration of the Order in Spain was followed, at the end of the XIX Century, by that of the Portuguese Order and, at the beginning of the XX Century, that of the Mexican Order. On 31 May 1881, he founded the Congregation of Sisters Hospitallers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
He was a man of tireless charity and exceptional governance skills. By the time he died in Dinan (France), in 1914, he had created 22 large centres including homes for the needy, general hospitals and psychiatric hospitals. His remains lie at the Mother House in Ciempozuelos.
He was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II on 23 November 1985 and on 21 November 1999, he was canonised, in recognition, before the church, of his extraordinary holiness.