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.

Ordained to the Service of Christ

Mercedarian Friar - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It was a cold rainy day in Western New York. Certainly, not a day to delight in, much less to travel. Despite these unfavorable conditions Mercedarian friars, sisters, and third order traveled for miles to witness one of our own ordained to the Transitional Diaconate. Br. Daniel Bowen, O. de M. had been preparing himself for many years to receive this most precious Sacrament.

 

That evening in the church of Our Lady of Mercy, our brother was called by the Church to be conformed to the service of Christ. After the Gospel, Deacon David stated "Let Br. Daniel Andrew Bowen, O. de M. who is to be ordained deacon please come forward." These simple words were the culmination of many years of formation. The Church was indeed calling Br. Daniel.

 

In a beautiful homily, Bishop Edward Grosz summed up to honor to be bestowed saying, "He will make himself a servant to all. As a minister of the altar he will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord's body and blood to the community of believers. It will also be his duty...to bring God's word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptize, to assist at marriages and bless them, to give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial."

 

As the Mass continued, Br Daniel affirmed his own free decision to commit his life to the service of Christ. Then, in a profoundly symbolic gesture, the future deacon lay prostrate in front of  the bishop and the community of believers. Together as one, we united our voices in a litany evoking the intercession of all the Angels and Saints for our chosen brother. 

 

Invigorated with the approval of the Church and the intercession of the Heavenly Host, the candidate was called forth to receive the "indelible mark" upon his soul. Kneeling before at the foot of the sanctuary, the bishop laid his hands upon Br. Daniel's head. This simple gesture constituted the "matter" of the Sacrament. Then, standing, the bishop stretched out his hands over candidate using the ritual prayer of ordination. This prayer constituted the "form" of the Sacrament.

 

And just like that..the Church had a new deacon. Deacon Daniel was invested in the stole and dalmatic by Deacon David. Immediately, the newly ordained began his service by preparing the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

 

On a rainy cold day up north, the Holy Spirit warmed the hearts of us all. We have a new Deacon. Jesus tells us in Mt 20:28 that he, "...did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Every deacon is ordained to follow in Christ service.

 

Congratulations Deacon Daniel Bowen, O. de M. ! May the Lord be your strength and you serve his flock!

 

Diaconate USCCB

Wikipedia Deacon

Br Daniel's Solemn Vows



 

 

 

Revival in St Petersburg: 3rd Order brings new life and excitement

Mercedarian Friar - Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sue Tambasco is the president of the 3rd Order in St. Petersburg. Recently she took some time to answer some questions about their collaboration in the Order's redemptive ministry.

 

1) How many members are in the 3rd Order in St Petersburg? Any new members?

We currently have nineteen active members. Of these seven are fully active, while five show up when they can (age and health problems). We are excited to now have seven brand new members to the 3rd Order.  Also, we have three who are interested to enter formation.

 

2) What is attracting so many lay people to desire to share in the spiritual goods and redemptive‎ work of the Order?

                This is a good question. Things were not always so good with the 3rd Order. I took a two months away from the 3rd Order to be with my parent helping them out and sort through health issues (Dad 92 and mom 90 this year.) I am the primary caregiver. I let the vice president take over. I than took off for a week of prayer and solitude to evaluate my life. It came to me that we need to start over. My main question was what was keeping people from looking at the 3rd Order. What were the excuses I heard? Who in the 3rd Order was capable of doing anything? How did outsiders look at the 3rd Order?  What were my challenges with the 3rd Order that could be someone else's? Would we be able to revived this 3rd Order or not? No one wants to be part of a sinking ship. 

                The first change we made was to change the meeting time. Weekends were out. There are only four a months compared to 25 weekdays. People were not willing to giving up their weekend. Professionals look at this as relaxing time, parents for kid’s sports, and people like me were having to make choices between meetings and family events. We moved to nights that created another of issue. Many member don't drive at night. We set up a way younger members would pick them up and found some really do drive at night.  We skipped having a Mass each meeting, most were already attending daily mass. We limit the meeting to 1 very structured hour. If you have been part of a network group you can understand this and these are the type people we trying to look at the Order. Those in the professional world realized this would be one intense hour, no wasted time in their schedule. We include prayer for our monthly mission, time to share (optional: 2-3 people)) how the Mercedarian Spirit played out that month in some way in their life, news, and 30 minutes of formation.  Those 5 years or more in the 3rd Order must go to formation 4 times a year, the other meetings they have the option to spend time in the chapel praying for the new people.  We allow only half the active group to pray so there is always active members in formation with new people. 

                We opened the year with inviting new people to an open meeting... ok... two of us invited people and people and people. One other brought an aunt not really interested but to bring someone. The priest also invited some. We put it in bulletins, on the Diocesan calendar, and 2 of us went thought dozens of brochures.  At the meeting set people shared what the Order meant to them, Father shared a little history, we gave them the meeting outline, and we had food!  It set the tone, brought in new interest and God has taken it from there. We will be a scheduling another open meeting for in two months. Hopefully with the new member it will grow again. 

                 One other thing I see as very important. The group loves seeing all our priest at the meetings, even to just stop in and say hello. For them to get to know all the Priest, not just the spiritual director, has allowed then to grow and experience the order in a greater way. It makes them aware of the bigger family they are now part of, lets them see different missions and personalities are priest have. 

 

3) What are some of the redemptive activities of the 3rd Order? (collecting goods etc.)

                When the Master General was here last, and the time before, we had a chance to talk. He supported and encouraged us to continue our mission. Each month we pray and collect for a community need. The list is compiled at the beginning of each year and times for the receivers needs. Sometimes we have a place selected but will contact them as we get closer to see what is needed. Examples school supplies for needy kids when school starts, blankets for the homeless when winter begins,  food for the food banks when school get out and needs are up etc. We also include the Orders local house and Seminary. We started this program for a couple reason. One; many of our members are up in age and could not do more than this. Two; it puts the Mercedarian name out in our community at many levels and locations.

                However, now that our 3rd Order is growing we are now in the process of picking a secondary mission that is hands on. I have met with three small groups from our Lay Order for input. We have decided on a adopting a nursing home or special needs home. This has been wild in many respects, some of the member insist they need intense training, some will not go in neighborhoods they have not been in thinking they are not safe, some say no nursing home since they just lost parents, and so on. I realize I will just need to make a decision and let God take over the rest. I have a certain one in mind but need to find time to talk with Father James (who handles Eucharist Ministers at St Jude's) and one more person who I know is often there. Hopefully it will be sorted out in the next few weeks. 

The Cathedral of St Jude 

Mercedarian 3rd Order

 

 

Sharing in the Spiritual Treasury of the Order

Mercedarian Friar - Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Order which has been around for 800 years is blessed with an treasury spiritual and temporal gifts. The call to lay down one's life for the captives has produced abundant fruit. From our Saints to martyrs to thousands of holy souls reigning in heaven. Naturally, Catholics from all states of life have a desire to be a part of the Mercedarian family. For centuries, lay people and diocesan priests become third Order members of the community.

 

The third Order is an association of faithful Catholics. The primary vocation of each member is the universal call to holiness which is manifested in their state in life: either diocesan priesthood, married, or single. Those who have joined the third order have a secondary call to live out a certain spirituality which gives meaning, direction, and purpose to their life.

 

Many members of the Third Order are living in the lay state. Their apostolic purpose is to evangelize and sanctify and to infuse a Christian spirit into the temporal order. Though works of mercy and charity they bear witness to Christ. Their called to serve “the Mission of the Church”, which is to “make disciples of all nations”. The laity are indispensable to the New Evangelization called for by each of our last three popes. This is a contemporary effort ensure that the saving message of the Gospel may be known in all its richness by all people through the earth.

 

From the very beginning, the Order of the BVM of Mercy has incorporated devote lay people wishing to participate in its redeeming work. These individuals share in the spirituality of the Order and collaborate in the work of redeeming captives in danger of losing the faith. In their daily lives, the members have the same intense love for the Virgin Mary under the title of Mercy, cultivate the same spirit, promotes fraternal bonds and form the “Mercedarian Family”. Inspired by the spiritual values of St. Peter Nolasco, they work to free the captives present in their communities through the exercise of the Corporal Works of Mercy. As a result of their promises they share in the spiritual treasury of an 800 year old family whose members include untold martyrs, holy virgins, and many devote souls reigning with Christ in heaven!

 

Spirit and Mission of the Order:

 

The following is essential to manifest the Mercedarian Charism:

1) Imitation of Christ the Redeemer

2) To model ourselves after Mary

3) To be imbued with the spirit of St. Peter Nolasco

4) To discover those who continue to suffer as captives

5) To grow in holiness and pray daily for the captives

6) To pray for vocations to the Mercedarian friars and sisters

7) To carry out the Mercedarian mission of redemption today

8) To practice Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy

9) To share in the graces and benefits of the spiritual treasury of the Order

10) To know and cherish the Mercedarian Saints and their lives of holiness.

 

Special thanks to Gary Privitera and the Third Order Newsletter of LeRoy, NY

 

For more information contact

Administration and Novitiate

Mercygrove / Saint Raymond Novitiate

7770 East Main Rd., LeRoy, NY 14482

Phone: 585-768-4703 Fax: 585-768-4702

 

Watch 3 people make their promises: Third Order Promises


Wikipedia Third Order

 

Mercedarian Memories: Remembering a friar who did the "little things"

Mercedarian Friar - Saturday, June 21, 2014

We continue our look at the friars who have shaped the United States Vicariate. Today, Fr Eugene Costa, O. de M. tells us about the life of Fr Demetrius Marciano, O. de M.

 

Fr Marciano on the right1) When did you first meet Fr Marciano?

 

I first met him at our St. Rocco’s Parish in Cleveland, OH in 1972 (St Rocco’s is the Order’s parish in Cleveland).

 

2) Do you know anything about his history and/or background?

 

Fr Marciano was born September 17th 1891 in Rome, Italy. He came to the United States with his family when he was 9 years old. After arriving in the country, they settled in Girard, OH. Fr Marciano was a “delayed” vocation for his time. He was 31 years old when he entered. Prior to entering the Order, Fr Marciano was as a leather worker and a movie projectionist at a theater.

 

In the year 1924, Fr Marciano joined the community. He was the last of the students to complete their novitiate in Rome, Italy. After the canonical novitiate year, Fr Marciano came back to the States and studied at St Charles Seminary in Baltimore, MD and later at St Mary’s Seminary in the same city. He was ordained a priest September 19th 1936 at St Rocco’s in Cleveland.

 

 

Fr Marciano’s life would be one of humble service. He was never to be a superior or pastor, but only a simple friar. After ordination, he was assigned to Holy Redeemer parish in Youngstown, OH. Fr Marciano had many different assignments over the years including St Rocco’s parish from 1961-1976. He was assigned to the House of formation in LeRoy from 1976 until his death. While in LeRoy, NY he served the Order and the local church in many different capacities. He was the confessor to the Sisters of Mercy at Mercygrove in LeRoy.

 

Fr Marciano served God as a priest for more than 50 years. He died on August 6th 1990 only a month short of 100 years old!!

 

What are some of the virtues or positive qualities that Fr Marciano had?

 

Father was very faithful to the horarium or the daily schedule of the local community. Even into his elder years, he was prayerful saying 3 rosaries each day. Fr Marciano showed a special love for the Order’s Saints in his speech and example. He was very strict in living the vow of poverty. Fr Marciano was an example of hard work and dedication to the community.

 

For those of us that never met Fr Marciano, what is one or more story(s) you can share with us? (Something which can be passed down to future generations)

 

Well, there is always the famous stories about him and the relic of St Raymond. St Raymond Nonnatus is the patron of Christian families, expected mothers, and the unborn. Fr Marciano had a great devotion to him and would often bless women with this relic. He would tell them to have more babies! As a result of this some of the women in town would avoid him!

 

Fr Marciano would do many of the “little things” to save the community money and time. He would pick strawberries used for dessert and lettuce to make soup with. Father would also collect dented cans and take them to the supermarket in order to get some money for the local community. These were simple things, but they showed his love for the community.

 

Rest in Peace Fr Marciano and all the deceased of the Order!

 

Patron of Expectant Mothers and Families: St. Raymond Nonnatus

Mercedarian Friar - Thursday, May 15, 2014

Much heated debate today is on the family. This only makes sense because healthy families are the foundation of any just society. During a press conference held in Philadelphia, USA Vatican officials announced the theme for the 2015 World Day of Families, which will center on humanity's universal vocation to love. It will be 'Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.'" The Mercedarian embrace this theme since so many families are in danger of losing the faith. We offer this reflection on the Patron Saint of Christian Families:

Nearly all women hope for the safe delivery of the child in the womb. And some couples have difficulty conceiving a child, and earnestly pray that God may grant them this wonderful gift.

It’s helpful to know that the patron saint of safe and healthy deliveries is a man who himself was born in a most unusual way.

St. Raymond Nonnatus came into this world about the year 1200 in the rugged Spanish region of Segarra. For many years, Raymond’s parents waited for a child to come. Raymond’s mother made a pilgrimage to the St. Nicholas' hermitage in the area with that intention.

She finally became pregnant. But near the end of her pregnancy, she became gravely ill and died. The life of Raymond, still in the womb, was saved by the Viscount of Cardona, who used his dagger to cut open the womb and lift Raymond out. This event earned Raymond the name “Nonnatus,” Latin for “not born.”

Like many saints, the call to holiness manifested itself to St. Raymond during his childhood. His education came from the priests, and often Raymond would visit St. Nicholas' hermitage, drawn to the peace of the monastic cells.

While the Holy Spirit pulled Raymond toward religious life, his father distracted him from this calling. The devil also coordinated attacks to tempt and distract him, but by the protection of the Virgin Mary, the young man persevered.

As a youth, Raymond met the friars of the Mercedarian Order, who inhabited the St. Nicholas Chapel and surrounding buildings. The Order of Mercy, founded by St. Peter Nolasco in 1218, went about collecting alms to be used for the redemption of Christian captives.

To these friars, Raymond revealed his secret — and that was, inspired by the Virgin Mary, he had made a vow of perpetual virginity, and wished to join her Order — the Order of Mercy. Raymond’s father was reluctant about his 21-year-old son’s joining the order. Yet, Raymond’s godfather, the Viscount, convinced him to change his mind. Thus, Raymond donned the white robe of the Mercedarians.

Mature beyond his years in virtue, Raymond soon made his profession and was recommended by the prior to continue his studies and apply for priestly ordination.

The pious Raymond Nonnatus was chosen by the Master General of the Order of Mercy for the sacrificial role of redeeming Christians who had been captured by the Moors. Imprisoned under terrible conditions, the Christians would often be offered freedom if they denounced Christ and followed the religion of Islam.

The special charism of the Mercedarian Order was to ransom these Christians who were in serious danger of losing their faith. Raymond's first rescue mission took place in 1224, in Valencia, Spain. Two hundred and thirty-three Christian captives were ransomed from the Moors. Next was the Moorish city of Algiers, where the Mercedarians ransomed 140 more captives. Over the next several years, Raymond and his companions made two more redemptions, rescuing another 378 Christians.

The final redemptive mission took place in Algiers in 1236. With all the ransom money spent, St. Raymond offered to stay behind as a hostage with the remaining Christian captives. Along with ministering to the prisoners, he preached to the Muslim guards, condemning the teachings of the prophet Mohammed.

So enraged were they that the Moors put an iron padlock through his lips, and he endured this for eight months before returning to Spain.

Not long after, Pope Gregory IX appointed Raymond a Cardinal.

Nearing the age of forty, St. Raymond became gravely ill at the Cardona Castle. Realizing he was dying without a priest, Raymond prayed desperately for Viaticum – the final reception of the Eucharist. It is written that Christ himself appeared in a vision, and after receiving the Eucharist, Raymond's soul was taken home.

His Order sought to bury him in a nearby cemetery of the Order, while the residents of both the castle and local parish wanted the honor of keeping the saint's remains at the St. Nicholas hermitage. To settle their claims, the disputing parties agreed to place the Saint's body on a blind mule, which would lead the body to the place of its burial. The animal plodded along for a long while, straight to the Saint Nicholas hermitage!

Why is this 13th century saint relevant today? St. Raymond is not only recognized as the patron saint of pregnant women, but of infertile couples, families seeking holiness, and travelers. With today's difficulties and threats against the family, his intercession is particularly powerful – and needed!

If you would like to pray to St. Raymond, get the St. Raymond Nonnatus Kit, which includes blessed St. Raymond water, a blessed candle, a brochure, and other items. It is available from the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.

 www.MercySacramentals.org

World Meeting on Families Philadelphia

More on St Raymond

 

An Easter Reflection on the Gift of Freedom

Mercedarian Friar - Thursday, May 01, 2014

The following is based on a reflection from the 3rd Sunday of Easter (Luke 24:13-35)

One of the greatest gifts of being a parent is to recognize tangibly the beauty of life that God creates and blesses. Seeing your child run about with such joy and innocence is often a moment of contemplation for many. They may wish whimsically that they could keep them at 3 or 4 years of age forever. We all know too well the harsh realities of this world. How many, who began with the same innocence, have gone down a dark path.

 

However, we also deep down know that we can’t keep them in a bubble or “try to dominate the rhythm of life (Pope Francis, E.G. #82)” which must play out as it will. Yet, this fact doesn’t stop many from becoming what is popularly coined helicopter parents; hovering over their children trying to prevent the wrong choices. These parents, who know well the dangers of life, have all the best intentions for their children. But, is this how God our Father deals with us?

 

We see in today’s Gospel that Jesus has a much different way of treating his beloved. He profoundly respects the freedom of the disciples and chooses to quietly invite rather than force or even pressure. For there is no coercion in Love. This Road to Emmaus is more than just a physical walk, it is a powerfully symbolic spiritual journey. Jesus comes upon these two distraught disciples walking and takes pains to hide Himself. The passage says, “…their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” The Lord just simple asks them questions as a fellow traveler. “What are you discussing as you walk along?” “What sort of things… (have taken place in Jerusalem)?” The two men go on to explain the mystery of the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus is encouraging them to engage their whole person in the mystery; mind, senses, and soul. The hidden Lord reveals the deeper meaning of Sacred Scripture as they walk along the way.

 

Then, the time for a choice has come to the disciples. A turning point in their journey…in their lives. Will they welcome the hope-filled, but challenging messenger or go along the way returning to their former manner of life secure in their ignorance. Jesus will not force Himself on any of us even though He loves us dearly. The choice is truly free with no coercion. The two make their choice by saying, “Stay with us…” So they have made a more profound free decision to open themselves up to a great mystery. A life changing decision is made so casually as the walk along the way. Finally, “in the breaking of the bread” their “eyes were opened and they recognized him.”

 

What a profound lesson we receive in the Gospel about the life long journey of faith. It becomes even more powerful if we realize that the gift of New Life is being offered in such a gentle invitation. This is not our way is it? No, as humans, we would try to control the situation. Try to ensure that a person we loved made the right decision. But, then choice of faith would not be free or fully embraced.

 

Throughout history human beings have used coercion and/or force to prohibit religious freedom. It happened within the Church in times such as the Spanish Inquisition. Just as often, it has happened in the world through atheistic communism or the enforcing of Islamic Sharia law. In fact, our own Religious Order, the Mercedarian Friars, was founded by in Barcelona, Spain in 1218 to ransom Christians held captive by Muslims and pressured to renounce their faith. St Peter Nolasco, the founder (Feast May 6th), lead the community to offer everything even their lives, if necessary, for those whose religious freedom was threatened.

 

Today, we face new forms of coercion from Secular Governments who wish enact laws which threaten the commonly known beliefs of Christians. This is the case with the HHS Mandate which forces religious institutions to provide coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. The Second Vatican Council document Dignitatis Humanae states: "This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such ways that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits."

 

Jesus, the Lord, profoundly respects the freedom of each individual even if this means that they continue on the way without Him. This sort of radical respect for free will is what leads us to learn the supernatural skill of journeying with others. God has placed a desire for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in each of our hearts which leads us to Him. We must resist any attempts to control or force those who are adults, but instead appeal to the innate desires in their hearts. God’s grace is more powerful than any of our efforts and He givens abundant opportunities for us to choose Life. Let us respect the freedom of others and demand that ours be respected as well so that all may have the same chance to embrace Christ freely. This is the way of the Father; the way of a true Christian parent.

 

Happy Feast of St Peter Nolasco! May 6th

 Third Sunday of Easter

Declaration on religious freedom

Evangelii Gaudium: Apostolic Exhortation 

One women's love for Our Lady of Mercy leads her to establish a 3rd Order

Mercedarian Friar - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

From the foundation of the Order in 1218. St Peter Nolasco and the friars were assisted by lay people. These became the 3rd Order. Wherever the friars are so are the dedicated lay men and women helping the ransoming mission. However, sometimes the Holy Spirit reminds us that he is in charge. This happened when he inspired Mary Virginia Fant to establish the 3rd Order where there were no friars present. The small group has grown to over 50 active members Here is the story:

 

Small beginnings

Mary Virginia Fant first established the Georgia Chapter of the 3rd Order of the BVM of Mercy, upon her return to the United States from Rome Italy at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. There she was asked to serve as the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary.

 

The Spirit blows where He wills

Later Mary Virginia was offered the opportunity to move to North Georgia to head a group home for unwed mothers. Feeling that this was not quite what Our Lady wanted her to do and having a strong yearning to go out into the community she declined the offer.

Mary Virginia and Beverly White later moved to St. John the Evangelist Church where they met with then pastor, Father Vincent Douglass C.Ss.R, who gave them a blessing to go out and bring the people to the church.

 

The 3rd Order begins to take shape

Mary Virginia, Beverly and one more person, gathered clothing and prepared food to distribute among the poor immigrants living in the shadows of St. John. Initially, they would distribute the food and clothing on Saturday mornings. During this outreach, Mary Virginia began telling the people about Our Lady of Mercy and asking them if they would like to receive her in their homes to pray the Rosary. They all opened their homes to Our Lady thus opening their hearts to her Son and began attending Mass and receiving the Sacraments.

 

Captivity of the marginalized

The Third Order gained more members, mostly Immigrants from Mexico. As the number of families attending St. John grew, we knew we needed to help them organize into a group that would help with the liturgy and serve in the Mass. While the children were in Religious Education classes. Mary Virginia would meet with the parents to plan special liturgies and feast days which included The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We worked alongside St. Joseph Hospital ‘s Mercy Mobile delivering healthcare to the poor in south Atlanta.

 

 

3rd Order

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.

The "simple friar" from the small town

Mercedarian Friar - Monday, December 02, 2013

Every family has it's patriarchs or those who paved the way for a new generation. The Order of Mercy, being a spiritual family, possesses many of these friars who are deceased and yet live on in our memories. Today we remember one such friar Fr Luigi DiTalia, O. de M. The following is an interview with Fr Eugene, the Order's novice master, who lived and worked with Fr Luigi for many years.

Fr Luigi processing at Mass
Fr Luigi processing at Mass

 

When did you first meet Fr Luigi?

In about 1967, I first came to know Fr Luigi. In the beginning, I had difficulty understanding his Italian accent. But came to know him, little by little, as truly a father for our community. He never asked anything from us what he wouldn’t do himself. He was a great community builder. A great leader of our community and a very humble friar.

 

How many years did you get the pleasure of working with Fr Luigi? (As solemnly professed)

About 6 or 7 years. He was superior and I was novice master. Fr Luigi always had a great sense of wisdom. He would say “Prudence and common sense are essential for religious life and for living the vows”. He just had great wisdom and advice for people for problems and difficulties. One of the things I liked about him was he would meet you one on one. Fr Luigi always kept confidences and really appreciated those who were in the community.

 

What are some of the virtues or positive qualities that Fr Luigi exemplified especially for a Mercedarian Religious?

I think he exemplified poverty. Very much so. He was a person who would be more willing to give than to receive. Though he, also, had common sense in poverty. We never starved. We didn’t have a lot of things, but what we had we appreciated everything more. He was truly a good religious. A kind religious. A genuine religious. He was honest and very sincere.

Fr Luigi accepts the vows of one of the friars
Fr Luigi accepts the vows of one of the friars

I think that not only the Mercedarians loved him, but the people in LeRoy, NY loved him. For so many years he was stationed there. He was known as “the simple friar”.

I think also he was a real leader who lead by example. He was a father to us more than a superior. He could combined those two qualities. Truly a person concerned about vocations. Concerned about the Mercedarian way of life and the fraternal life. This is one thing that he insisted upon. He and Fr Marciano really lived the fraternal life which is a key to understanding the religious life.

 

Can you tell me any story that you remember about Fr Luigi? One of those stories about one of our founding fathers in the USA that we can pass down from generation to generation.

I heard that one time he said in LeRoy he had difficulty with the language. He said one of his first sermons was, “I am Fr Luigi and I love you all!” This was because he had so much difficulty with the English language at first. He did tell a story one time about how he suffered in the war. He said that he was one of the “Brown Shirts” because they had to be at that time. But I don’t remember the details.

Fr Luigi (center) with several of the friars
Fr Luigi (center) with several of the friars

 

Lastly, I know that in those last years there was a time when Fr Luigi had a stroke. How do you remember those last years? They were times when you were realizing that you were not going to have this great presence with you much longer since he was one of the real “rocks” here in the US for the Vicariate. Can you say anything about those last years and how he handled the suffering?

I think that those last few years were difficult for him, but he still had a true sense of being a real Mercedarian and a real model for us in a different way. Though he often couldn’t be at chapel because of his infirmities. I remember him saying the rosary and always at the third hour, the Hour of Mercy he would put on the television and pray the Divine Mercy chaplet.

But what I think really was significant is that he never gave up during these times and he was very serene and accepting of his suffering. These sufferings are for the Order, for the Vicarate. Even though he could not lead he led by his prayerfulness and his holiness. He never gave up. Human existence we can get upset about things, but most of the time he was very accepting of his sufferings.

And, he tried as best as he could to lead others by his example and his advice. At times he would turn to people and talk to people privately. He would give them advice which was very fruitful. He was a leader then by prayer rather than by being in charge. He lead by his example, by his prayerfulness, by his faithfulness and consistency in loving our Order.

Rest in Peace Fr Luigi! May your soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace!

 

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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