“Who knows but that the Lord might want these two arms,
these two flames, one to rise like fire towards the divine Host,
and the other to rise and spread out like the rays of the sun!”
(St Peter Julian Eymard: Retreat Notes, 25 March 1865)
This inspiration came to St Peter Julian Eymard during what has become known as his “great Retreat of Rome” (January to March 1856). He had discerned that to be really effective, the Congregation he had founded needed to be both contemplative and Apostolic – the two arm to which he refers.
It is probably true to say that this vision of St Peter Julian is most completely realized in the Secular Institute Servitium Christi, founded in 1952, almost 100 years after his death. On the initiative of Father Godfried Spiekman, then Superior General of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, the institute was founded in The Hague (the Netherlands) on 6 January 1952 in response to the clear vision of St Peter Julian. This vision encompassed not just drawing people to adoration of Jesus Eucharistic (though this was the course very important) but also of engaging with the day-to-day lives of people, thus bringing the Presence of Christ out into the world. This was a task not just for the men of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, but also for women, including laywomen, with whom St Peter Julian collaborated extensively throughout his life. AS a Secular Institute which embraces St Peter Julian Eymard’s Eucharistic Spirituality, the “raison d’etre” of Servitium Christi is to bring Christ’s Presence into those places and situations in the world where priests and religious do not have access, and members strive to do this, whatever their situation in life.
Since its early beginnings in the Netherlands, Servitium Christi has now spread to 13 other countries: Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, Ireland, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Argentina. Sadly, there are no longer any members in France, St Peter Julian’s, homeland, or in the United States.
Over the years, new members have expressed great interest in the Institute’s origins, and attempts have been made to compile a History of the Institute which would illustrate its growth both spiritually, geographically, and in maturity and flexibility. Founded before Vatican II, significant adjustments needed to be made to the way of life, as the charism of a Secular Institute became clearer. There has been a great desire to record and express all of this journey.
This present work is the realization of this long-standing dream of Servitium Christi. Furthermore, it is truly the work of Servitium Christi, consisting as it does of texts provided by the members themselves, including very precious texts preserved from our Founder Member, Ton Golsteijn and Angelica Nuñez-Castro (Chile), Christine Stone (United Kingdom), Helena Ciklova (Czech Republic), Karola Bruker (Germany), Gene Moratalla (the Philippines – Manila), Lourdes Velasco (the Philippines – Davao), and Mary Keane (Ireland), who edited and linked the texts. The service of Mrs. Carmen Avalos as translator of the members’ Spanish texts also deserves mention and is much appreciated. It is our sincere hope that all who read this short history of our Secular Institute will be touched, inspired and informed by it.