The History of
The Order of Malta
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta (commonly known as the "Order of Malta") is a religious order of the Catholic Church. Members of the Order seek to glorify God through their work with the poor and the sick and their witness of the Catholic faith. The birth of the Order dates to 1048 when merchants from Amalfi built a church, convent and hospital in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. The Order of Malta became a religious order by a Papal Bull of Pope Pascal II in 1113. When the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land fell in 1291, the Order settled first in Cyprus and then, in 1310, on the island of Rhodes where the defense of the Christian world required a strong naval force. The Order built a powerful fleet and sailed the Eastern Mediterranean, fighting many famous battles for the sake of Christendom. In 1523, after six months of siege against the fleet by the army of Sultan Suleiman, the knights were forced to surrender Rhodes. In 1530, the Order was granted possession of the island of Malta by Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII. The fleet of the Order, then one of the most powerful in the Mediterranean, contributed to the ultimate destruction of the Ottoman naval power in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
Mission of the Order Today
The Order of Malta remains true to its inspiring original principles summarized in the motto: "Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum" (defense of the Faith and care for the poor and the sick).
Defense of the Faith
Defense of the Faith, Tuitio Fidei, has been one of the two charisms of the Order of Malta from its beginning 900 years ago when members of the Order wielded swords in defense of the Catholic faith in the Holy Land. Today knights and dames are called to defend the faith using more modern means. As His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, said in addressing the Order in 1997, “Today the defense of the faith means above all the witness to the truth of Christianity by what one says and what one does….”
Members are obliged to the sincere and open profession of the Catholic faith. As such, they endeavor to steadily continue their religious education and spiritual development—through prayer and reading and meditating on the Gospel, the Catechism, and other principal documents of the Church and the Order.
Since its inception, and in keeping with the mission of the Order, the Order has emphasized and fostered among its members a charism of personal service and sacrifice. Among the Order’s more well-known Hospitaller works are:
Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem
Five hundred yards from the birthplace of Christ, the Order’s hospital provides modern gynecological, prenatal, obstetric, and neonatal intensive care to women and infants irrespective of their national origin, religion, or ability to pay.
Each May, knights and dames from around the world travel to Lourdes, France to learn firsthand what belonging to the Order of Malta really means - devotion, service, and fellowship, as they minister to the sick and disabled.
The worldwide relief agency of the Order is currently operating 100 projects in over 20 countries in Africa, Asia and America.
In addition to participating in the worldwide works of the Order of Malta, the Houston Region is involved in local activities in the defense of the faith and in aid to the sick and the poor throughout the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
These projects include hospitaller activities at:
Mamie George Community Center
The Order coordinates a Catholic Charities distribution program that provides groceries to over 400 families monthly.
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center
The Order brings Holy Communion to and share prayer and fellowship with patients at Houston’s Veteran Administration Hospital.
The Order answers the call to feed the hungry by serving them at Martha’s Kitchen where on a daily basis 380 meals are served.
Knights and Dames from Houston travel to Lourdes with Malades (sick) from the Houston area.
The Knights and Dames are in service to the Malades and pray and care for them for the week long Pilgrimage to the Grotto where Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858.
Annually, the Houston Region coordinates an Archdiocesan-wide Mass for the Anointing of the Sick, as well as an annual Mass for the Sanctity of Life. Additionally members of the Houston Region participate in retreats, special Masses and studies to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Faith and their own spirituality.
The Daily Prayer of The Order
Lord Jesus, Thou hast seen fit to enlist me for Thy service in the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. I humbly entreat Thee, through the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin of Philermos, of Saint John the Baptist, of Blessed Fra’ Gerard, and of all the Saints, to keep me faithful to the traditions of our Order.
Be it mine to practice and defend the Catholic, the Apostolic, the Roman Faith against the enemies of religion. Be it mine to practice charity towards my neighbors, especially the poor and the sick.
Give me the strength I need to carry out this my resolve, forgetful of myself, learning ever from Thy Holy Gospel a spirit of deep and generous Christian devotion, striving ever to promote God’s glory, the world’s peace, and all that may benefit the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.
Membership in the religious lay Order of Malta is by invitation only.
Membership for knights and dames is based upon completion of a year of formation under the guidance of the Federal Association and two sponsors, and approval by the Sovereign Council in Rome.
There are 33 knights and dames in the Federal Association in Houston. Volunteers for the Order's service activities are always welcome.