Benedict Menni, prophet of Hospitality
Saint Benedict Menni was a man passionate about God and humanity, who dedicated his entire life to the practice of Hospitality in an effort to make the message of the Good Samaritan a reality.
“A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him.”
Benedict Menni was not indifferent to suffering and vulnerability. He dedicated himself to the promotion of holistic health, particularly among those suffering from mental illness, thus expanding hospitality.
He was born in Milan (Italy) on 11 March 1841, the fifth child of the 15 born to his parents, Luis Menni and Luisa Figini.
Witnessing the Brothers of St. John of God who cared for the wounded soldiers arriving at Milan station from Magenta (a service that Menni himself practised as a volunteer) influenced his decision to join the order.
In 1860, he entered the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, changing his name from Angelo Ercole to Benedict. He studied philosophy and theology, first at the Lodi Seminary and later in Rome (Pontificia Università Gregoriana). He was ordained as a priest in 1866.
Pope Pius entrusted him with the complex mission of restoring the defunct Hospitaller Order in Spain, a task that began in 1867.
The restoration of the Order in Spain was followed, at the end of the 19th century, by a similar restoration in Portugal and, in the early 20th century, in Mexico. On 31 May 1881, he founded the Congregation of Sisters Hospitallers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
He died in Dinan (France) in 1914. His remains rest at the Motherhouse in Ciempozuelos (Madrid, Spain).
He was a man of inexhaustible charity and exceptional leadership, invariably seeing the whole person with creative generosity, and seeking the good in the vulnerable.
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23 June 1985, and subsequently canonised on 21 November 1999.
His sanctity is a beacon for all of us who experience hospitality.