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The Election of a New Government and a Surprise Visit

Mercedarian Friar - Saturday, June 06, 2015

The following is a continuation of the highlights of the Provincial Chapter in Nemi, Italy. The Chapter began May 30 and concludes June 6th.

 

DAY 4:

 

COMMUNICATION OF 2 JUNE 2015

This day began with Mass in honor of our Holy Father Peter Nolasco, in this year especially dedicated to him on our journey towards the Jubilee of 2018.

 

The particular prayer intention was for the Mercedarian Superiors and the whole Mercedarian Family. At 9.15 am we began the session by continuing the reading of the reports. It was time for India, and the report was read by the community Edacochin. Then followed Elantikara and Cuddapah.

 

After the questions, there was a pause, and we returned at 11 am.

Information was presented regarding the communities of Munnar, Patlur, and Eraviputhenthurai. Then came some information about the vocational-formative work in the Mission of India.

 

Before lunch, there was an unplanned event: there was the singing of the National Anthem of Italy, given today, as it is the feast of the anniversary of the Republic of Italy.

 

In the afternoon we entered into the programming phase, for which, after the methodology of the work was given, we were divided into 4 groups formed by 8-9 Religious composed of those from Italy, USA, and India.

 

It was a good way to experience the diverse sensibilities and perceptions, and to understand the various languages, cultures, ages, etc. that can be gained from the lessons and examples that help to increase communion in the Roman Province.

 

At the end of the work by the work groups, we returned to the Assembly where the various secretaries of the groups gave a synthesis of what was said in their respective groups regarding the first area, the fraternal life of the community.

 

The path that was traced that will help us follow a journey which will bring us closer to the goal that we ourselves will travel for the next triennium: The first witness is that the Religious offer to the world is their own consecration, lived in fraternity in the local and provincial community.

 

DAY 5:

 

COMMUNICATION OF 3 JUNE 2015


At 7:30 am, the day began with the Liturgy of the Hours (the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer) and the communitarian prayers.

 

Afterwards, we returned to the Assembly for the reading of the Verbale and the vote on the group work in the area of Religious Life.

 

A very touching moment of this day was the visit of the Archbishop of Erbil (in Iraq), Mashar Warda, who was present in Rome for a few obligations and accepted the invitation to visit the Chapter Assembly.

 

In the presence of all the Capitulars, Archbishop Warda gave information that very clearly “provoked” us: the Christians of Iraq are fleeing because of the continual persecution. In 2003, there were nearly 1.2 million Christians in Iraq, now in 2014, it was reduced to 300,000: in ten years they were reduced by 25% of what they were before, and the persecution continues.

 

There is a real sale of Christian slaves, especially women and children, that they take to sell in markets.

We then returned in time to that which regards the Islamic violence confronting the Christians that do not have many possibilities to flee: either they convert to Islam, or they pay a tax, or they leave. Many times, however, they are killed.

 

For us Mercedarians the Archbishop asked of us:

- Prayer above all else

- To spread information to others about this theme

- Economic support

- To support the social-educative services, and bring them forward.

 

The Diocese of Erbil is, in fact, welcoming thousands of families fleeing persecution.

 

The Roman Province has “twinned” itself with the Diocese of Erbil, and now, has remembered it in prayer and in the donation of several thousand Euro.

 

We continued our group-work for programming the next three years, and the evening ended with Mass and the recitation of Vespers in honor of St. Charles Lwanga and Company, martyrs, while the intention of the prayer was for the dead, especially those of the last triennium.

 

DAY 6

 

COMMUNICATION OF 4 JUNE 2015

The day began with the Holy Mass and Morning Prayer celebrated according to the ordinary intention: for vocations and their formation.

 

The first gathering of the assembly was dedicated to the vote of the program, prepared by the Commission and then discussed in some cases, which was worked on in the four work groups.

 

As the vote was rather quick, we divided into geographic groups (one for India, one for the USA, and two for Italy) to integrate, if it was needed, the various areas of the program with initiatives and instruments of a more “local” flavor.

 

These initiatives were then presented in the Assembly and approved.

The election phase began in the afternoon with all of the Superiors giving their envelopes containing the verbale and the ballots with the votes for the new Provincial Government.

 

These ballots were opened by the scrutinizers, who counted the votes, and after the formal verification of the correct number, we proceeded to the scrutiny of the vote, at the end of which, Fr. General announced the candidates for Provincial and the Provincial Council.

After a break, we returned to the Chapel for a penitential service with the exposition of the Eucharist. Fr. Giovannino Tolu gave the Capitular Fathers a reflection on three biblical themes: the Transfiguration, the perfume of Mary that she used to anoint the feet of Jesus, and the raised hands of Moses.


The cry of joy of Peter in the Transfiguration is our cry: it is good that we are here! We want to tell the world that we do not know any other joy than to share the tent where Jesus dwells, brighter than the sun.


Mary at Bethany loves without calculating and evaluation. For many, the Consecrated Life is a waste and Religious are wasting this life. However, we choose to waste it only for Jesus, and for the captives. Only with charity to the captives, the oppressed, the imprisoned, and the least of society can we feel the fragrance of God’s love.


Moses on mountain was supported in a way that kept his hands raised.

It is a mystery, the strength of raised hands.

Who prays is like one who has hands on the wheel of history.

Without prayer you go off the road, you do not get to where you want to go.

 

DAY 7:

 

COMMUNICATION OF 5 JUNE 2015

With the Holy Mass of the Holy Spirit, presided over by the Master General Pablo Ordone, we opened the day dedicated to the election of the new Provincial Government.

 

The General, in his reflective homily, spoke of the Holy Spirit as a door to peace in the hearts of the community to help facilitate dialogue. A real dialogue, without closures and fictions that makes us consider ourselves all-important within this Mercedarian community that God has dreamed up for redemptive mission.

 

The Spirit helps us in our discernment to lead us into a profound and existential friendship with Him; a friendship crossed by the Love of loves, able to say it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

 

The Holy Spirit opens us to the frontier mission, invited to go outside of ourselves, of our presence, of that which “was always this way.”

 

At 9:30 am, the Chapter Assembly, after fulfilling the rites, proceeded to elect our Fr. Provincial: the result was that Fr. Francesco Podda was reelected, and he accepted the grave obligation.

He then took the oath and gave the profession of faith.

 

After a break given by the President of the Assembly, we began the vote for the election of the Provincial Councilors.

 

These were elected:

- Eugenio Caramia - Samuele Salis - Stefano Defraia - Efisio Schirru

 

These, after the election, took the oath.

 

The Religious shared fraternal greetings of peace and well wishes with those elected.

XXXII Provincial Chapter of the Roman Province 

 

General Government Website

 

 

XXXII Provincial Chapter of the Roman Province

Mercedarian Friar - Tuesday, June 02, 2015

 

The Provincial Chapter occurs every 3 years. Superiors and those chosen as representatives “examine the state of the province and to foster its progress in all aspects…” It is also a time to “verify common work and seek together the signs of the will of God, with a great sense of responsibility in regard to the community that they represent (CO 242).” To keep all of our 3rd Order, friends and benefactors informed, we offer this short summary of the proceedings:


DAY 1

On 30 May 2015 at 9am, with the Holy Mass in honor of our Most Holy Mother, we began the 32nd Chapter of the Roman Province that includes 13 Italian communities, 6 from the USA, and 6 from India.

Present were all 38 Capitular Fathers; Fr. General spoke of Mary as a model of our Consecrated Life, and Inspirer of every Mercedarian work.

At 10:30 am, the Capitular Asslembly opened with the prayers prescribed by the Ritual, and the greeting of Fr. General which, making reference to the teachings of the Holy Father Francis, invited all to fall in love with the Mother of Mercy, keeping in our hearts attention to the peripheries of freedom.

Then, the Chapter passed to concrete aspects:

 

- Fr. General nominated Fr's. Nunzio Masiello and Matthew Phelan as moderators

 

- He then nominated Fr's. Aristotle Franco Wellesly and Sergio Girau as Scrutinizers

 

- The Assembly voted for the election of the Secretary of the Chapter: Fr. Stefano Defraia was elected, and Fr's. Eugenio Caramia and Francesco Podda will assist him in his work

 

- The Liturgical Commission - for the animation of the celebrations will be composed of Fr's. Pasquale Agostino, David Spencer, and Martin Naduvilezuthaikal

 

- The Commission in charge of Communications was formed with Fr's. Sundar Raj Madalaimuthu, Scottston Brentwood, and Efisio Schirru

 

- The responsibility of the "Convocator" at various points was given to Fr. Justin Freeman

 

In the afternoon, at 4 pm, Fr. Sandro Barlone proposed to the Assembly a reflection on the Chapter as a time of dicernment, leaving some points for personal prayer and meditation.

 

At 6 pm, the Assembly held a session of listening and dialogue.

At the conclusion of the day, all prayed Vespers together, and celebrated the Saturday Mercedarian Devotions.


DAY 2


Today, in the Universal Church we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, which overrides the Feast of the Visitation, the titular feast of the Roman Province, which, however, we still wanted to remember.

At 7:30 am, we all returned to the renovated chapel for the celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayers.

 

Special booklets were prepared for the liturgy with the texts in both Italian and English, as our Province embraces brothers of the two languages. This is why the liturgy was today, as well in the coming days, will have this diversity of languages, in a communion that goes beyond words and finds unity in prayer.

 

After the prayers, and a moment for breakfast, we returned in the Capitular Hall for the second session which began the Informative Phase.

The first to speak was Fr. Francesco Podda who, as Provincial, presented the report on the state of the Province and of the triennium which just ended.

We were given some information: as of 30 May 2015, the provincial community was composed of 110 in Solemn Vows, of which 96 are priests, 4 are non-clerical brothers, and 10 are Solemnly Professed and on their way to becoming priests, 6 of which are already ordained Deacons. The Religious are distributed among 25 communities, of which 13 are in Italy, 6 in the USA, and 6 in India.

 

At the moment, there are 18 Simply Professed in the Province, of which 2 are in the USA, and 16 in India.

There are no Novices, however, there are 17 Postulants, of which 2 are in Italy, and 15 in India.

 

Next followed the reports of the Vicar of the USA, Fr. Kenneth Breen, and of the Delegate of India, Fr. Vincenzo Pennella, who gave information on the actual situation in the USA and in the Mission of the India.

 

In the afternoon, it was possible to ask the three speakers questions, and then, as time permitted, we began to hear the reports of the local communities. We began with Alghero, followed by Cagliari.

 

At 7 pm, the Holy Mass and Vespers were celebrated.


DAY 3

The intention of the prayer today is for the oppressed and persecuted, while the liturgy reminds us of St. Justin Martyr: a beautiful event since two of the Capitular Fathers celebrate their name day. They are the Fr’s. Justin Freeman of the USA and Justin Alex of India.

 

After the celebration of the Office of Readings, Morning Prayers, the community prayers and breakfast, at 9:15 am, we had the session of the Chapter which took up with the reading of the reports of individual houses for those related to Italy. We began with Carpignano, followed by Florence, Naples, Nemi, Orvieto, and Padova.

There were some relative questions to be answered and clarified, then there was a break.

 

At 11 am, we continued with the other reports: Palermo, S. Maria della Mercede - Rome, and the Studentato (St. Peter Nolasco).

In the afternoon we took up the reading of the reports of San Cataldo, San Vito dei Normanni, and with these, we concluded the part related to Italy.

Afterwards we followed with information from the Vicariate of the USA: beginning with Mt. Carmel in Cleveland, and followed by St. Rocco (also in Cleveland) and Our Lady of Lourdes in Philadelphia.

 

After a break, we continued with reports from the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy in Philadelphia, Le Roy, the Nolasco House in St. Petersburg FL, and the report of the Formators in Italy. The one responsible for formation in the USA combined the data of this area to the report of the local community.

 

After dinner there was a time of celebration in honor of the Community and of the brothers who were celebrating their name day, and we spend some time in healthy leisure.

 


Soon to be "Saint" John Paul II's address to the Order

Mercedarian Friar - Saturday, April 19, 2014

Next week, on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014, Blessed John Paul II will be canonized. All the world will be watching as this amazing figure will be formally recognized as a Saint. John Paul "the Great" was the longest reigning pope in modern history and brought the Church into the new millennium. It is estimated that more people saw him in person or via television than any other person in the history of the world. The message that he brought to the world was of great hope. As Mercedarians, we remember Pope John Paul II fondly as sharing with us an intense devotion to Mary. Here is an address given by the Pope to the entire Order:


Maintain the Entire Spirit of the Gospel

On May 22, 1986 the Holy Father received in audience the members of the General Chapter of the Order of the BVM of Mercy (or Ransom). He addressed them in Italian.

 

Reverend Father Master General,

Dearest Brothers,

 

1) It is with the greatest joy that I granted your request for a meeting, dear representatives of the esteemed Order of Our Lady of Ransom, on the occasion of the General Chapter of your religious family.

 

I greet you all cordially, and through you I greet all your brothers and sisters of the Institute, scattered in their communities through eighteen different countries--mostly in Latin America--continuing the work of your founder, Saint Peter Nolasco, in accordance with the demands of the Church and of modern society.

 

As you know, last year I sent a letter to the Master General and through him to the entire order, on the occasion of two major anniversaries in the history of your family: the 800th anniversary of the birth of your founder, and the 750th anniversary of the approval of your Order by my predecessor, Pope Gregory IX.

 

In that letter, I reiterated the trust that the Apostolic See still places today in the charism of your religious family. For so many centuries, in its own special ways, your family has served the cause of human dignity, of freedom of faith and of Christian life, especially in areas where these values are most seriously violated.

 

2) On this happy occasion, it is a joy for me to encourage you in your commitment to the realization of the ideals and intentions of your founder within the contemporary socio-historical context. However different this context may be from that of his day, there is still need for guidance towards the same essential values of justice, compassion, liberation, reconciliation, and peace. In particular, I would like to appeal to you to maintain, increase and spread the intense devotion, that stems from your very origins, to the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who participated in such an exemplary manner in the redemptive task of her divine Son. Only thus will your Order be able to preserve whole and unaltered that evangelical spirit, that profound yearning for redemption and liberation of man, that has always been its essential quality—liberation of man from every misery, slavery and oppression, beginning with the fundamental one of sin.

 

Persevere in the Task

 

3) In the course of your long history, you too, as indeed other long-lived Orders, have been tested by historical events, some very difficult and painful. Your ancient tree has often felt the fury of storms: however, deeply rooted in faith and in communion with the Church and the See of Peter, it has victoriously resisted to this day. It is essential that your Order should persevere with renewed energy in its mission, for today the needs are immense, and there are many opportunities for intervention by your Order, so wisely instituted and providentially approved 750 years ago.

 

Persevere with tenacity in the task you have undertaken, totally aware that you are fulfilling a very useful role in the Church and in the world. However, this can only be true as long as you remain diligently faithful to the holy resolves of your profession, guaranteed and codified by the Church, and as long as you know how to fulfill these resolves in accordance with the legitimate demands of current realities, in harmony with the reforms now being introduced as a result of the Council.

 

On these conditions, a vast field of activity is open to your spiritual family: through evangelization and mission, the possibility of a large increase that would inspire and attract new and youthful enthusiasm for the cause of the Order and for the aim it serves—the liberation of man in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.

 

4) The richness of the inspiration of your founder is clearly manifested through the centuries, particularly in its capacity to express itself not only in the form of male religious life, priestly and lay, but also in female religious life, both active and contemplative, as well as in the lifestyle of the secular members. All these various modes and degrees of living the spirit of St Peter Nolasco find in this spirit their necessary unity and coordination, however different the various forms appropriate to each of them.

 

Therefore, I appeal to you all, priests and lay members, men and women religious always to be united among yourselves, as sons and daughters of one and the same father and patron, joining your forces more and more in a true spirit of fraternal love and cooperation, exchanging and sharing in a true spirit of communion those gifts that are proper to each, for a better realization of the common objectives of your diversified spiritual family.

 

May Our Lady of Ransom be for all the Mother and Model, in particular as you live your “fourth vow.” The very title of your Marian devotion that gives its name to your Order as well, is in itself a marvelous life programme: it speaks of compassion, redemption, conversion and forgiveness. These are the very same values for which the Son of God came to earth, became incarnate and gave up His life for us. May He therefore, through the intercession of Mary, be your light and your strength today and forever.

 

Dearest brothers, it is in this spirit that I express the hope that the work of your Chapter will contribute to the realization of the suggestions that I have offered, for the good of modern humanity and the coming of the Kingdom of God. With all my heart I give my special blessing to all the brothers and sisters in your spiritual family.

 

Date set for Canonization 

 

Blessed John Paul II Bio

 

Generalate Website 

A Permanent State of Mission

Mercedarian Friar - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On January 1st 2014, 40 Catholic men and women departed on a  nine day mission to General Cepeda, Mexico.  Among those who attended were two Mercedarian Friars to assist with the Sacraments and promote the Order.

 

The region of General Cepeda, Mexico is located 221 miles from the Texas border. The area surrounding the city is mostly desert, however over time many tiny villages have sprung up. The “Ranchos” and “Ejidos” are composed of 10 or so adobe houses. Each “Rancho” has a small chapel, but the people only occasionally see a priest. At times, the residents can go up to 3 or 4 months without the Sacraments. Absence of catechesis and the Sacraments can have devastating effects on the people’s faith. Protestant and non-Christian sects take the opportunity to proselytize the people. Some Ranchos have gone from 100% Catholic to 94% Jehovah Witness. One wonders if this would occur if the Church was able to better tend to Her sheep.

Family Mission Company arrived in General Cepeda in the 1980’s with the intent of aiding the diocese in reaching out to the poor with a missionary spirit. They open their doors to many who wish to exercise their baptismal call to mission. It was to this place that Life Teen organized a mission experience and opened it up to young adults. Several of these Catholic youth, have already made a courageous commitment to be part-time or full-time missionaries to the youth in the United States.

 

The Shift

 One might ask the question: What is the reason to go all the way to Mexico when there is such a need in the United States? This is certainly a legitimate question. In fact, Pope Francis expressed this need in his recent Apostolic Exhortation that all Catholics throughout the world are called to be in a “permanent state of mission” (EG #25). Many such as Dr. George Weigel would argue that there is a dramatic shift going on over the past 40 years in the Church’s relation to the world. In the 400 years prior to the Second Vatican Council, we lived what might be referred to as “Counter-Reformation Catholicism”. It was characterized by defense of the Church’s doctrine in response to criticism from Protestantism and Rationalism. This philosophy was effective in preserving the faith and evangelizing thousands in South America, Asia, and parts of Africa. However, it was not equipped for our contemporary culture which began to take shape in the 20th century.

The pontificate of Blessed John Paul II gave us the concept of the “New Evangelization”. This new method of Church life is vastly different from the old model since it seeks to “engage” the culture rather than “solidify and protect one’s own beliefs”. Pope Benedict continued this call by giving us the foundation to bring out into the world. He gave us much clearer understanding of the liturgical and catechetical aspects of our faith. Now, Pope Francis dreams of “a missionary option…so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation(EG #27).”

 

How to be Missionaries

All of this is sounds nice, but it must be practically put into action. We need to learn how to be missionaries. One way to do this is to step back and go on a classical missionary experience to gain a better understanding of the essential aspects of “mission”. The Family Mission Company’s mission at General Cepeda offers such an experience. The members of the mission had to collect funds for their trip from local parishes or sponsors. After meeting in Houston, we all traveled almost 12 hours in vans from Houston to General Cepeda.

 The whole gang

From the beginning each member was asked to foster a missionary heart or attitude. Several virtues were to be embraced. First, we were to realize that a certain type of austerity is essential for mission. As our Holy Fathers says, “…I want a Church which is poor and for the poor (EG 198).” We must live as the people we serve. For North Americans this can be a great penance.

Several sacrifices are inherent in living this region of Mexico. The desert climate was warm during the day, but cold at night. The houses do not have any heat so an individual room can get as cold as 30 to 40 degrees at night. Secondly, water is a precious commodity which must be used with limits. So each missionary was only allowed to shower every other day. Toilet paper is scarce and cannot be flushed down the toilet, but must be put in the trash. The missionaries took turns each day cleaning the bathrooms and doing other service duties. The food was of a very good quality, but we were encouraged to use moderation and “eat what is placed before you”.

Prayer was a central part of the mission experience. Each morning we began the day with prayer. Every activity was initiated with prayer and praise. The tendency to complain was offset by an emphasis on gratitude. Each day we were asked to give thanks for everything individually and communally. Thus, we attempt to escape what Pope Francis calls the “deadly habit of complaining (EG #82).”

Besides the Masses and home visits, each missionary was encouraged to engage in alms giving. In and around General Cepeda, there are many people living in poverty. This poverty is not like anything we would see in North America. On a daily basis many people come to the door seeking alms. Often times, it is for serious medical issues or even money to provide for the very necessities of life. The missionaries were told of these requests and invited, if they wished, to give assistance.

Due to the recent heavy rain in the area, many homes were significantly damaged. Each day a group of missionaries would go out to do Work Projects. This particular week we were able to build a roof for a family. Their roof had collapsed during the heavy rains and they did not have the means to get it fixed.

                                                                                               

                                                                                                         Missionary Disciples

In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis has called each one of us to move from an attitude of “self-preservation” to a “permanent state of mission”. Everyone is called to this by their Baptism, but as the Pope says, “…we no longer say that we are disciples and missionaries, but rather that we are always missionary disciples (EG 120).” Being missionary means perpetually going out to invite all to experience the love of Christ. We do this by speaking the truth with love to our relatives, neighbors, and in the workplace. However, we always recognize that the greatest witness is living a good and generous life. Living simply and sharing freely is the strongest Gospel proclamation that we can give.

Those of us who attended the General Cepeda Mission are grateful for the experiences that we had. We do not leave the mission behind, but it comes with us. As “missionary disciples” we now know better how to take part an active part of the New Evangelization which is to be lived in all places and at all times.

Mercedarian Martyrs Among those Beatified as Witnesses to Christ's Redeeming Love

Mercedarian Friar - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Have you ever wondered whether you would have the strength to face martyrdom?

Hundreds of men and women faced that challenge not too many years ago in Spain, and they valiantly gave up their lives rather than deny their holy faith.

On October 13th, five hundred and twenty-two worthy Catholics were beatified in Tarragona, Spain for their martyrdom during the Spanish Civil war. It was during the already bloody war that the period known as the Red Terror began in 1934. Violence began when thirty-seven seminarians, priests, and brothers were killed for holding firm to the Catholic faith.

The violence quickly escalated. As anti-Catholic sentiments were fueled, Churches were burned, and sacred religious items such as tabernacles, altars, and statues were desecrated. Perpetrators did their best to erase Catholicism from Spain.

Among those martyrs declared blessed were nineteen friars of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. Following the example of Fr. Mariano Alcala Perez - the former Master General of the Order – they remained steadfast to the Church unto death. With the spiritual life of Spain under attack, the Mercedarian friars held a special mission due to their fourth vow, “to be willing to offer their lives for those in danger of losing the faith.”

From as early as the Order's genesis in 1218, the Mercedarian friars have valued their own lives secondary to the salvation of others. Again, during the Red Terror, these priests and brothers administered the sacraments and preached the Good News in the face of violent persecution.

Active Participation in Christ's Sacrifice

So great was their sacrifice, that it bears repeating, that these martyrs were honored not as casualties of the war, but as Catholics singled out and killed for their Catholic faith during Spain's oppressive regime. Although some were offered mercy if they denied the Church, they willingly gave their lives for the the greater glory of Christ's kingdom. According to the witness of those present, their final words were the proud cry of “Long live Christ the King!”

Sunday's Beatification Mass was held in Tarragona, Spain, and presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Holy See. The Cardinal spoke of the modern message given to us by the martyrs, the elimination of rancor and hatred, replaced by forgiveness, as well as conversion of the heart.

The Cardinal remarked, “With their charity, the martyrs opposed the rage of evil, as a powerful wall opposed the monstrous violence of a tsunami. By their gentleness, the martyrs deactivated the homicidal weapons of tyrants and executioners, conquering evil with good. They are always actual prophets of peace in the world.”

What better witness to God's mercy is there than the persecuted forgiving their
tormentors? This symbolizes in a special way, the charism and mission of the Order of Mercy. Surrounded by the violence of death, the light of Christ's redeeming love shines forth brightly from his faithful servants, these Mercedarian friars.


The Martyrs Forgave their Persecutors, and So Do We

Mercedarian Friar - Monday, October 21, 2013

Homily of His Excellency,

Jaume Pujol Balcells

Archbishop of Tarragona, Spain

We celebrate the first Vespers of Sunday. Sunday, says St. Jerome, is "the day of the Resurrection, the day of the Christians, our day." [1] In the late afternoon of Good Friday, our Lord died with the Psalms of his people on the lips and introduced "into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 83). We offer with joy this evening sacrifice, united to the Lord Jesus.

Pope Francis on screen, canonization
Pope Francis delivers his welcome message on the giant screen during the canonization.

Sunday shines more than the other days, but on [this] Sunday, the glory of the Lord shines in a special way in his martyrs. They ennoble the holy Churches of the Lord. The martyrs demonstrate the power of God's grace and presence of the Holy Spirit, because no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12.3). They are the witnesses of the Lord. And his martyrdom is "praise and glory of grace" (Eph 1.6). So they glorify the King of martyrs as he [the Lord] is the cause and foundation of Christian martyrdom. He is "the faithful witness" (Rev 1:5). His life and death are an Easter proclamation that "the birthday of the saints, the Church proclaims the paschal mystery in the saints who suffered with Christ and have been glorified with him" (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 104).

This Church of Tarragona, ecclesia Pauli, sedes Fructuosi, receives you all with affection and joy and gives to you all the kiss of peace and of communion.

In the first place, greetings to Cardinal Angelo Amato, who tomorrow morning, in the name of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, will proclaim the blessedness of this great multitude of brothers.  Greetings to the Cardinals, to my brother Bishops. Also, to you, dear priests and deacons. To you dear Religious Brothers and Sisters, joyful because of the glorification of your brothers and sisters.  To all the holy people of God, who with praise and joy, venerate and celebrate the glory of the martyrs.  Peace to all.  Let us all be joyful in the Lord and may the gesture of the venerable and ancient Lucenaria be eloquently put: Lumen Christi cum pace!  We radiate, brothers and sisters, this light bearer of  peace.  The joyous peace of the disciples of Christ, that he has given us and that nothing or no one can take from us.

The glorification of our brothers and sisters, as I wrote in my pastoral letter, is not made against anyone nor even in the favor of anyone.  The martyrs are of the Lord, belong to the victory of the Lord, and not of that of men.  They are an annunciation of peace and of reconciliation.  It is simply the Church that, returning to the tradition of the first centuries, cannot forget those who died for the Lord and for the Gospel.  They were written in the book of Truth by their blood.  They are those that followed the Lord intimately.  As we have heard in the Canticle of this Vespers service: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps" (1 P 2:21).

Martyrs of Spanish Civil War posterWhen our martyrs are beatified tomorrow in the Sunday liturgy, none of us will experience one iota of resentment for those who persecuted them.  Neither shall we have the satisfaction of having an act of historic justice done in a worldly way.  How can we not forgive if all of them died, in imitation of the Lord, with words of forgiveness on their lips?  The first fruit, one could say, the first grace of these new martyrs, would be the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation. The Lord redeems the whole of history always, and these, the martyrs, redeemed with their silent immolation, that story of death, shameful. The Lord looks with compassion on one side and the other, the Lord looks with compassion on both the executioners as on those who died.  The ultimate gaze of the martyrs was this: a gaze that forgave.  May this gaze also be our gaze.

Martyrdom is the most perfect expression of faith, of hope, and of charity.  The martyr, in his total commitment to God loves the Lord in the most intense and possible form, with whole heart and as the only thing needed. He humbly experiences and accepts his total nothingness and the absolute necessity to be sustained by grace, he deeply obeys the will of God and freely allows himself to be stripped of all he possesses in the world, including his own life, so participating in the poverty of Christ on the Cross.

We evoke, then, with an immense and tender love, the biographies of our martyrs.  All were men and women of God, who, in sanquine, "washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb." First to our brother bishops of Lleida, Salvi Huix, the bishop of Jaén, Manuel Basulto, and are beloved Manue Borràs, auxiliary bishop of this archdiocese, and many brother priests who lived their martyrdom as the last Eucharist, offered not in the sacrament, but in their own person.  Of some manner, one can say that they received the martyrdom in persona Christi for the grace they had received in their priestly ordination.

Next, to our Religious Brothers and Sisters who brought to fulfillment the proper charisms and initialed their act of profession with their own blood.  They proclaim how each charism can be lived to the point of giving one's own life.

Then, to the seven lay martyrs, worthy representatives of the holy people of the Lord.  As it is said in the preface of the saints: for in crowning their merits, You crown the gifts You have given them.

It is characteristic of Christians to leave the past, they have been glorified and my predecessor in this headquarters, the venerable Cardinal Vidal i Barraquer Fransec D'Assis, from exile, with sadness and deep conviction, writes: "I console them did not miss God's mercy. "they live in Christ and in the communion of saints intercede for us," his death was a gain. "For us to live in the present, a present that is always time for Christians of grace.

Martyrs of Spanish Civil War coverLet us put ourselves in tune and in obedience to our Holy Father Francis.  He so insistently tells us that the Church is not self-referential from the Church of the Lord.  Certainly, it is not the Church that glorifies her saints. It is the Lord who does it! There must not be even a hint of self-glorification present among us this Sunday. We should be the Church that participates in the mission and in obedience to the Son, who with the strength of the Holy Spirit goes out of herself and wants to be radiant with the light of the Lord of glory, that destroys and unmasks all the darkness of the world.  And that comes humbly to meet a society where men need a greater love, where the poor are to be loved and the Church should have in her a celebration of life, since Christianity is an affirmation of life. An announcement of the saving love, from the conviction that there is no human existence is not loved by God.

And for another part, our martyrs were not ashamed of their baptism, their priestly condition, their religious consecration or their being Christians, Catholics.  In a limited moment they did not hide or renege their condition.  I ask the Lord, through the intercession of our martyrs, that our Christians may leave all anonymity, they don't hid the treasure of the faith, that they may be a light in the bushel to illuminate all.  Never shameful of the faith!  The world needs these Christians!  "The world needs evangelists, who are not sad or discouraged, impatient or anxious, but servants of the Gospel, whose life radiated the fervor of who they have received, before all in themselves, the joy of Christ."2

Whoever expressed our feelings better than anyone else is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the soloist of the people of God. She gives soul and song to the Church and is it now we will sing in the Magnificat: "The Lord has remembered Abraham and his descendants forever." Yes, the Lord's mercy to our martyrs accompanied in the dark hour of the day of his martyrdom, and gave them a glimpse of the dawn of the Day of Resurrection. The Lord accompanies us. He always " leads to his Church to perfection through love". The Lord be with those who will come after us and believe in Christ. It is the mystery of the Church, earthly and heavenly, glorious and pilgrim. The Saints are the first fruits of the heavenly Jerusalem. It ecclesial communion, is the mystery of Pentecost: " One Lord, one faith, one God and Father." The martyrs help us live this ecclesial communion. Let us rejoice in the Lord, as said the Bishop of Tarragona, holy Fructuoso moments before his cruel martyrdom of 259 January 21: " I’ll never go without mercy and the promise of the Lord in this world and the other." Amen.

+Jaume Pujol Balcells

Metropolitan Archbishop and Primate of Tarragona 

Tarragona, October 12, 2013

 1.) In die dominica paschae, CCL 78 (1958) 550

2.) Pablo VI, Exhort, ap. Sinodal, Evangelii nuntiandi, 80



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