Ancient Order of Friars Sees Vitality in U.S.

In an ornate church west of Philadelphia, a tiny bell rings and three robed men file in and walk towards the sanctuary. In the pews, a congregation of white-robed men and also local parishioners rise, and begin chanting in an ancient, almost never-heard language.

Three Mercedarian men
Mercedarians wear white

“Tota pulchra es Maria,” the group intones in Latin, or “O fairest Virgin Mary.” The men are brothers and priests of the Order of Mercy, and the group boasts of a good number of young faces.

“It’s encouraging to find that this ancient order is attracting men today. The traditions of chant, common prayer, and evangelistic outreach is very appealing today,” said Fr. Joseph Eddy, 33, who has been the group’s vocation director, or recruiter, for the past year for the order.

Known formally as The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the U.S. vicariate of the group, which covers the entire country, boasts of ten men in formation against a backdrop of 22 solemnly professed friars. “That’s a healthy sign,” Fr. Joseph said. “The older orders such as ours tend to struggle to get vocations. God is blessing us with these new men, and we look toward a grace-filled future.”

The order’s friars, which consist of brothers and priests, wear crisp white habits, pray the Divine Office together, and live a community life based on the Rule of St Augustine. The men teach in schools, administer parishes, and do other work.

No wonder the order is doing well. Traditional groups tend to be those that are attracting vocations today, according to a 2009 study by the well-respected Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

The Order of Mercy, also known as the Mercedarians, has its U.S. motherhouse in Philadelphia. The Salve can be heard on their popular YouTube channel. Or visit the Facebook page of Fr-Joseph Thomas Eddy.

(Feb. 14, 2011)

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