Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy

My Life for Your Freedom

The Latest from the Order

Please read the latest information about the great moments of our religious life.

Practicing on the Works of Mercy

Father Scottston Brentwood - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

 

Most college students look forward to their “spring break”. They just can’t wait to get a few days off from studies to relax and enjoy themselves before those demanding last weeks of the semester. Unfortunately, over the years Spring Break Week has gotten a very bad reputation. It seems that many seek to relax by indulging in excessive alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity. In many places, this has gone to such excesses that it would make some even in Ancient Rome blush! Yet, we must not fall into the trap of assuming that all college students are behaving in this way. In fact, many use this time to make Service Trips to impoverished areas to learn from and help the less fortunate. These young adults are certainly are examples to their peer and each one of us of true Christian Charity.

 

One such group, the Ferris State Newman Center, chose to use their spring break week to attend the Cleveland Service Retreat sponsored by the Order of Mercy. This retreat, which took place March 8th-14th, emphasized the two fold commandment of loving God and neighbor (Luke 10:27). Scripture and the Tradition of the Church has always stressed that the two most important commandments are interconnected. God is the source of charity. Out of Love the Father created life and continues to sustain it. In Jesus Christ the law is fulfilled. Christ teaches us the highest form of love in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). God teaches us how to love. In prayer and meditation, we learn how to imitate Jesus generosity in becoming a self-gift to others.

 

During this week of prayer and service, the college students were feed by the Eucharist and reflected on the words of Pope Francis. Our Holy Father has given us a vision of a Church that is in a permanent state of mission. No longer is it okay just to stay within our comfortable Christian communities. Our country is truly a mission field where people are hungering for the Gospel. The New Evangelization demands that we constantly go out of our comfort zone.

Pope Francis’ method begins with an emphasis on the Person. We are to simply encounter people where they are at. Treating them with dignity and showing them the Gospel by our actions. The gift that we bring to each person is mercy. As our Holy Father says, “This is the Lord’s most power message, Mercy.” When people encounter true love and compassion they have had a taste of Redemption. And lastly, Pope Francis tells us that this encounter takes place on the periphery. The periphery or margins means going out to the fridge of society; the outskirts there we find the poor, the elderly, and the immigrant.

 

In Cleveland, one of the poorest cities in the United States, there was no problem finding people on the margins. The students from Ferris State spent much of the day ministering to those in and around the Order’s parishes. One of these places was St Herman’s House of Hospitality. This Orthodox charitable organization is a non-profit center committed to serving the homeless and needy poor of Ohio City and Inner City Cleveland in a spirit of love and hospitality. Many hours were spent by the students serving food to the needy and sorting the donations which come in daily. Working directly with the poor in ministries like this and St Augustine’s Hunger Center provided an opportunity to put our prayer into action.

 

Along with these apostolates, the students assisted at Our Lady of Mt Carmel and St Rocco’s parishes. Time was spent moving items, cleaning desks, and a variety of other activities. While residing at on the grounds of the Order’s parish, the young adults got a rare inside view into the day to day lives of the friars and sisters. These interactions included long talks with Fr Jerome and an intense game of scrapple with Br Martin. The highlight of the week may just have been going Cleveland’s famous Malley’s Candy Shop with the friars and sisters!

 

Overall the week was an opportunity to refocus on the essentials of Christianity: Love of God and Love of Neighbor. While they could have been resting or partying, these college students instead choose to give of themselves. May the Lord continue to bless each of them as they go back to the great Mission Field which is University life in the United States! We know that they will bring many souls to the realization that Jesus Christ is the only place for the restless human heart.

 


SEEKing Something More

Father Scottston Brentwood - Monday, January 26, 2015

January 1st- 5th over 9 thousand college students from around the United States attended SEEK 2015 Conference in Nashville, TN. This event is sponsored by one of the fastest growing Catholic organization in America, Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). The conference was a truly powerful and life changing experience for all those present.

 

It is impossible to do justice to a conference with over 50 talks given by some of the biggest names in the Catholic Church. Yet as one man journeys through the weekend he can recognize some themes.

 

Coming into the miniature city which is the Gaylord Opryland Resort, these college students were leaving a university life commonly seen as the center of secular thought. That which is taught at most colleges is based on a fundamentally different world view than our Catholic tradition. These principles have to do with the definition of "the good" and the nature of the human person. With the denial of objective truth the emphasis in many Universities is put on placed solely on the individual. This is why our culture seeks fulfillment in pleasure, materialism, and obsession with appearances.

 

As Dr. Jonathan Reyes said in his Impact talk "unexamined assumptions shape our worldview". Many of us, especially young adults, are so overly occupied with work, studies, and technology that we do not examine those concepts learned from a non-Christian culture. These thoughts become beliefs which determine how we live. In our society we are taught, even subconsciously, to live by our emotions or desires rather than reason.

 

It can be scary to examine our behaviors and recognize that we may be living in a very self-centered way. This is the typical experience of so many of the young adults when they attend a conference or retreat. Coming out of the "fog" of the technology saturated culture, they are brought face to face with themselves. One can be quite overwhelmed by the whole experience. How can I ever overcome these habits? I am not strong enough to overcome these things and "swim against the tide" of the college culture.

 

This legitimate fear which must be faced. Many of the conferences speakers gave these courageous young men and women a road map based on 2 thousand years of faith and tradition.

 

The first thing is to grow in self-knowledge through prayer and study. We can learn so much from the long tradition of the Church. Saints such as John Paul II have given us a deep understanding of the dignity of the human person created in the Image of God.


This is particularly important in the area of sexuality. In opposition to common thought, our recognition of beauty and desire for intimacy is a profound call to holiness. As Jason Evert says, "what we experience as lust is meant to lead us to seek true beauty." We must know our desires which lead to sin, but see them as a call to something greater.

 

Once we come to understand ourselves we are called to respond to God's grace which leads us to freedom. Bad habits or vices are only overcome by growing in and supporting good habits or virtues. Any of the 7 traditional virtues can help a person, but some specific ones were emphasized at the conference. Dr. Reyes encouraged the young men to foster perseverance in even the small things. As the habit grows, they will find it easier to make commitments and be men of their word. Secondly, the college man can pray for and work toward magnanimity or greatness of heart. Dr Reyes encouraged them to "do great things...do hard things". Men should face their fears particularly as they strive for authentic masculinity.

 

All of these efforts are based on Judeo-Christian world-view which presumes the existence of objective truth. God is Truth and has placed the desire for this within our hearts. We need not be governed by our emotions; tossed from one thing to another with no hope. The human person is called to holiness by using their mind, heart and soul to become all that they were created to be or holy.


Time and again during the conference, we were reminded of our call to greatness. This is best summed up by Curtis Martin who quoted St Catharine of Siena. This courageous 14th century Saint may be best known for her quote, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire". With these words over 9 thousand college students were sent out to live the abundant life (Jn. 10:10); the freedom promised by the Savior. To be no longer be ruled by their emotions, but instead to order these toward what is true, beautiful, and good.

 

May God be with them as they go forth set free and aflame with God's love! Let us pray for each of these students that they may persevere in the commitments they have made to life for Christ.

 

http://www.seek2015.com/

 

http://www.focus.org/

 

http://www.jasonevert.com/

 

 

 

 

 


The New Evangelization:Shoes Soiled by the Mud of the Street

Father Scottston Brentwood - Saturday, July 26, 2014

As I came close to my gate at the airport, I thought this is finally time to relax. Two weeks of summer camp in the hills (well actually) mountains of Northern Georgia had taken its toll on me. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blessed time working with Life Teen missionaries, Catholic teens, and middle school students. As always, it was a powerful experience of authentic Christianity. All the essentials were present: the Eucharist, confessions, devotion to the Blessed Mother, and the call to service. Most impressive and weighing on my heart was the call to mission. Over the past year and a half, I like so many have been made uncomfortable by Pope Francis.  I always knew about the New Evangelization, but never had it been presented to me in such a powerful and at times piercing way. Yes, this South American has a way with words. Pope Francis possesses the gift to be able to cut to the heart with powerful images and penetrating statements.

 

So as the boarding process began, I was a bit uncomfortable with my desire to focus on myself. Shouldn’t I always be available to God at all times? Weren’t we asking the teens to be missionaries to their parents, family, and friends? As I waited for my zone to be called, the word of Fr John Ignatius, another camp priest, came to mind. He had been trying to impress upon the missionaries and teens to reach out to others by “asking if they needed prayers for something” or to even “ask to pray with the person if they were open.” This is a very uncomfortable thing for a man voted most shy in his high school class. But, the Lord had taken me so far in 20 years how could I ever say no to him?

 

Okay, I thought I will just say a little prayer to be open to help those that God will place me with on this journey. This prayer was made quickly and without much fervor. Part of me wanted to be faithful, but the other part wanted a break. After all, these weeks running around with teens had left me with a severe sunburn, massive blisters on my feet, and a cold which caused me to partially lose my voice. I deserved some rest, right?

 

Finally, the time to board had come. In my zone, just ahead of me in line were two young women dressed in 19th century garb. Hmm…I thought to myself, don’t see that every day!  They must be Amish traveling back to Lancaster, PA. But, wait… Amish wouldn’t fly on planes? Maybe they are Mennonites. No matter…there is no time to talk I reasoned since we are boarding. I boarded the plane and began moving down aisle getting looks I have become so accustom to as a priest. Nearly everyone takes a glance…some are just curious, others give little smile, and still others look the other way coldly. Oh, just a few more minutes, I thought, and I would be in my seat ready for some quiet and a long nap.

 

Where is that 18 C? Okay here it comes …wait…you gotta be kidding me! I have the aisle seat next to…those two Mennonite women! Boy…God, you have a sense of humor…a Catholic priest and two Mennonite women. I had to smile to myself, since the Lord has often put me in these strange situations. My thoughts went to what the other passengers might be thinking? And, what about these two young women? What do Mennonites think about Catholic priests? Well, they probably they don't have a positive opinion if they are anything like fundamentalist Protestants. This was too weird, it must be God's plan, but why?

 

Assessing the situation, I thought it best to play in cool and see what happens. Looking back, this was just an excuse. In fact, my whole thought process was based on presumptions. It was just as Pope Francis says, “…instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying (EG 94).” How easy it is to stay in our own comfort zone and modes of thinking instead of going out into “the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel (EG 20).” This is where I am ashamed to say that I stayed for the rest of that two hour flight. I rationalized myself into avoiding any contact with another group that I had little real knowledge of. It began with just waiting a little to not seem over anxious to speak. Then, my thoughts progressed to other excuses: I need sleep. They are talking to one another. The flight is almost over. Finally, we were landing and I had not even looked at my fellow passengers to introduce myself or asked where they were going.  The opportunity had passed and I stayed safely within my own little world.

 

Why does the Spirit lead us into these situations? What could I really have done to share the Gospel with these two women who live in such a different world? The answers to these questions are often not readily apparent. As Pope Francis says, “The gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29).” “The Church has to accept the unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking (EG 22).”

 

We do not know what the effect of our efforts will be. What we do know it that we are called today to be in a permanent state of mission. It is no longer acceptable to just protect and grow in our own faith or that of our families.  Clearly, I was wrong and failed to be a sower of seeds. I did not live out my baptismal call to preach the Gospel to all nations.

 

We are called to reach out and let the Spirit do the rest. Maybe it would have been a nice conversation or an opportunity to break down barriers or misconceptions. Or possibly there could have been a deeper discussion of faith and doctrine. Likely it would have been, at least initially, uncomfortable or even painful if I did not get a warm response. We must do the good we can even if in the process our “shoes get soiled by the mud of the street (EG 45).”

 

The New Evangelization sounds really nice on paper, but it is essentially a challenge to die to self for the Gospel. We can firmly believe that Jesus Christ is speaking to us today through our Pope who says, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security (EG 49).” At least for one day, I was the one “clinging to my own security”.

 

It’s easy to preach the New Evangelization, but to put it into practice is much harder. Yet this is how the Church began. We stand on the shoulders of giants, of the Apostles, who took the Gospel to the farthest corners of the known world. Today we, like them, are looking out into a world bruised, hurting and dirty seeking something real. This is not the place for a life of ease. We are on pilgrimage with the command to preach the Gospel. This is what it means to live the New Evangelization.  To be truly in a permanent state of mission.

 

Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis

Life Teen Website

Permanent State of Mission 

Mercedarian Youth Group to Walk the Way of St James in Spain

Father Scottston Brentwood - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fr. David Spencer, O. de M. will lead a the youth of Our Lady of Lourdes Church on an ancient pilgrimage which inspired the movie The Way. The pilgrimage goes to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. Legend has it that St. James' body was taken to Galicia by boat from Jerusalem and carried inland to where Santiago de Compostela is now located. The pilgrimage is believed by some to be one of three pilgrimages for which the sins of the pilgrim will be forgiven.

 

Here is all the details given by one of the youth:

Who are we?

 

We are the Youth of the Upper Room. Our group is based from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We gather once a week with our youth minister, Fr. David, to grow more deeply in our relationship with Christ and with one another. Our group began with 10 teenagers in December 2012; we've grown to nearly 40 teenagers, with an average meeting size of 25-30 teens. We've grown so much in this short period of time but we want to continue to grow even more in the ways of God and His Church. In the time we've been together, we've done several projects for the community around us: collecting 1000 jars of peanut butter and jam for the local foodbank, collecting money for the poor through our "battle of the sexes" penny campaign, sponsoring monthly Holy Hours for the entire community to come and pray and worship with us. 

 

Fr. David proposed to us from the start the need for us to learn to walk with Christ on a daily basis. Through our weekly study of Sacred Scripture, looking at the Theology of the Body, and learning about the Church, we've struggled with this walk, but we have walked and continue to walk with Christ. We want to continue to walk with our God. Fr. David began an initiative to take 20 teens on the Way of St. James, and so last June we began our campaign to raise the necessary funds to make this happen. We will be walking from Leon to Santiago de Compostela -- spend two weeks walking together in prayer, daily Mass, fellowship with Christ and one another.

What We Need & What You Get

 

Since last June, the youth group has worked hard to raise nearly $54,000.00. We've done this through bake sales, donut sales, t-shirt sales, participating in the Magnificat Day, here in Philadelphia, and from the generosity of other people who believe in this project. We are $7000.00 away from the final goal. The youth who were going were only asked by Fr. David to pay $500.00 toward the cost of the trip, which is $3300, per person. Many of the teens come from families of 4,5,6, or 7 siblings, so $500 is much more doable. The Chaperones who come do not receive any one of the funds raised by the teens. All proceeds go toward the participating teenagers.

 

The youth have been praying for the benefactors since day 1. For any amount that you are able to give, we will carry your intentions with us on our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The Impact

 

In our world today, a relationship with Christ is essential to one's growth in the world. Teenagers, today, are daily bombarded with all sorts of negative influences; influences that many times lead them down paths which are unhealthy and destructive. The impact of this pilgrimage will be, by the grace of God, one that will change the lives of these teens. It will not simply be a gathering of teens, but will be a walk with one another and with Christ. It will be time of silence, prayer, fellowship with other teens on pilgrimage and, undoubtedly, other people in search of something or someone (namely, God).

Other Ways You Can Help

 

Please pray for the teenagers; in fact, pray for all young people throughout the world. That they may grow in love with Christ and His Church and forge that relationship with Him which is a relationship that cannot lead to destruction, but only to fulfillment, love, holiness, and peace.

If you'd like to contribute to this event just go to Help Our Catholic Youth Walk the Way

 or by mail, please mail your donation to:

Our Lady of Lourdes Church -- Youth Group

1941 Wynnewood Rd. Philadelphia, PA. 19151


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