A Permanent State of Mission

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.

Danger of Losing the Faith

General Cepeda, Mexico
General Cepeda, Mexico

The region of General Cepeda, Mexico is located 221 mile 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

3 PopesOne 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 channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation(EG #27).”

How to be Missionaries

The Whole Gang
The Whole Gang

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.

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”.

61470_10101109594305978_961339706_nPrayer 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.

Some helpful links:










The messiness of family life is not an obstacle, but an invitation to holiness

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Dec. 29, 2013

What a joyous time we can have during the Christmas season! The family all gathered around the table with everyone so well dressed. All the food looks sumptuous… everyone is smiling…. Okay, now it is time to get real!! In all likelihood this is not the family life that we know. Even if we worked incessantly to create this perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas, it would likely just be a façade covering over the many problems that family life brings. “Life is messy” as my mother would always say. We shouldn’t glorify the messiness or encourage it, but we do our best to deal with it.

holyfamily This is what the Holy Family did. We can be tempted to look at Jesus’ family as perfect and unattainable. However, a closer look at the Gospel reveals a very complex and muddled situation for the Son of God to be born into. There were many obstacles and challenges for Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus.

Storm of difficulties

Joseph, an ordinary man, is put at the center of a brewing storm of difficulties, trials, and down-right evil which is descending on this poor little family. It would be a mistake to minimize the troubles which the Holy Family had. Joseph’s search for a suitable birthplace for this special Child left him with no choice, but a smelly stable. The foster-father of Jesus had little time to dwell on his own failure, since he would be sent in haste from one place to another.

Shortly after the Divine Infant’s birth, the angel once again spoke to Joseph in a dream telling him to “Rise, take the child and flee to Egypt…” There in Egypt we can only image what troubles the migrant family must have experienced in a strange land. Joseph had to find some inexpensive lodging and likely do backbreaking work to support his family. Then, after a period of time the foster-father was once again summoned to immediate action: “Rise, take the child and go to Israel…”

Relying on dreams


On the road again, the less than ideal birth of Christ
On the road again, the less than idea birth of Christ

Loading up the family once again they must sneak out in the night trusting in the dreams of Joseph. While on their way, the Lord once again speaks to Joseph in a dream telling him to avoid the ruler Archelaus. This family, called blessed by the Shepherds and the Three Kings, is being tossed about from one place to another. Hardly the appropriate welcome to the birth of the King of Kings. But, God chose to come into our world of messiness and to live in a family afflicted with problems of all sorts. It all would have seemed like nonsense to those experiencing it, but God was in all of the chaos. His prophets had foretold it all. The Holy Family’s winding path leads them right to where God wants them, Nazareth.

One might ask, “Why is all this difficulty assaulting such a good family?” Well, this is the mystery of good and evil. The one who comes to concur death will certainly be opposed by the Prince of Darkness. Yet, evil has no answer to humble service. What is more humble than a simple carpenter and a young virgin walking through strange lands? Joseph and Mary do not seek to do great things. They simply do what they can trusting God’s grace and focusing on His voice.

Family reveals the Trinity


The journey is long.
The journey is long.

All families, to a lesser degree, must struggle with the reality of evil which opposes the domestic life. The family is the most ancient institution of humanity. Union of husband and wife which brings forth children reveals the mystery of the Trinity. This is a powerful sign of the Divine in our world. As Blessed John Paul II says, “As the family goes so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Therefore, the family is the foundation of any healthy civilization. It is in the day-to-day aspects of the family that children first learn virtues or the good habits, which make them good citizens. They learn such essential virtues as “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…” These indispensable lessons are learned not in a perfect environment, but in the messiness of family life.

Family shines like light

As we look at Jesus’ family, we must not be discouraged by our troubles. Yes, we sin and fall, but the message of the Holy Family is something we all can follow: humility. By focusing on listening to God’s voice and responding to His grace we can do much good through family life. A good Christian family has problems, but they handle it with God’s grace. Individual failings can always be forgiven. No one is excluded. Yet, we must not glorify the messiness or enable sin. It is always a fine line which must be walked, with prudence and love. Walking together as a family we can each grow in holiness, becoming a light to those around us. The family becomes a producer of good and holy people to build up society. Fit citizens for our nation and, most importantly, for Eternal Life.





Christmas Miracles: St Raymond gives women with infertility hope

During the Christmas season our minds necessarily are turned to the birth of a poor child in a manger. There is something so human so compelling about the Nativity scene. It is unique to our frail human condition and while at the same time so beyond imagination. God comes to us in a way which both beckons us to Him and makes us feel safe approaching the Creator of all things. This way is through a baby. Each time we see an infant we want to smile. We want to approach this human being which is so helpless and beautiful. But not all feel this way when they see a baby.

Miraculous births are one of God's specialties
Miraculous births are one of God’s specialties

There are those women, increasing in number, who desperately want to have a child, but cannot because of infertility. Certainly this is not a new problem the Scriptures are filled with stories of women who were “barren”. Since for the ancients children were considered a blessing, they were seen as cursed by God. Left to feel as if they were less than a woman or a wife. However, for several of these women their “barrenness” was to be an opportunity for God’s powerful intervention in our world. What seemed to be a curse would become a great blessing! Take for example Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who was “childless because she was not able to conceive (Gen. 11:30)”. Yet, the Lord enabled her to bear a son at the age of 90 (Gen. 17:15-17). In the last week of Advent, we also remember the two other miraculous births. First, the birth of Samson to a woman who “was barren and had borne no children (Jg. 13:2).” Second is Zechariah and Elizabeth who “had no child, because Elizabeth was barren (Lk. 1:7).” To both of these couples God intervened through an angel to announce that they would give birth. Each one of these cases of miraculous births became for all times a prophecy or foreshadowing of the one event which took place in the Incarnation. The birth of Christ was the ultimate miraculous conception as God became man in the womb of a virgin.

However, all of this may be of no consolation to a woman who is childless. As one infertile woman explains, “Until very recently, I never noticed all the pregnant people constantly surrounding me. I noticed baby clothes, because they were cute, but not in the heart-wrenching, horrible way I notice them now. Everyone is pregnant, and there are babies everywhere, or so it seems to me.” Yes, for a woman, created to give life, it is a strange paradox to be childless. They and their husbands experience the loneliness of being unable to relate to so many friends who have children. These woman must live with stigma which goes with being childless. The questions about, “When are you going to have a child?” The assumptions about things they may or may not be doing or have done to prevent conception. But, possibly the worst is the recognition that having a child is a blessing from God one which they have not been given. They can’t help but see child baring as a “reward from God”.

16% of women have difficulty conceiving a child
16% of women have difficulty conceiving a child

The Christmas season may be especially painful for these woman. For they must attend parties and family gatherings answering the inevitable questions. Children running around the Christmas tree. Parents speaking about the enjoyable holiday traditions that they have with their families. Making cookies and wrapping gift, while noticing the immense joy in their child’s eye. Proudly exchanging professional pictures of their children in a Christmas scene. What a joyful season for those woman with a child, but what a painful experience for those who are unable to conceive.

Even the sight of the Christ Child in the manger can be a painful reminder. Yes, the Baby Jesus is an image of Hope for us all, but also a reminder of what may never be for those infertile. It may even make them avoid the Nativity scene or cringe at the sight.

However to remain focused only on the physical birth of a baby in Bethlehem is to miss the entire meaning of the Incarnation. Jesus says in Luke 4:18 that he was sent “proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” He is the Emmanuel or “God with us” and not just any normal child born in poverty. This is the source of hope that we must impress upon those women who are held captive to infertility. Jesus does care immensely for them and their painful situation. And, He did and still does perform miracles.

A saint that helps the infertile.
A saint that helps the infertile.

One of the ways Christ chooses to perform miracles is through His Saints. These are His intimate friends who are united with him in heaven. They intercede on our behalf all the time and have a special interest in those who invoke their assistance. There are many saints who are patrons of women who are unable to conceive, but one of the most powerful is St. Raymond Nonnatus. This Saint has perform numerous miracles on behalf of women seeking to conceive. St Raymond’s life story shows forth the immense power of God to work miracles. Raymond was born in the beginning of the 13th Century in Spain. He was given the surname of Nonnatus or not born because he came into the world through an inspired and urgent incision which his uncle made with a dagger in the abdomen of Raymond’s mother who had died. Raymond’s unusual birth would be a sign of the wonders God wished to do through his life. Raymond would grow up into a very pious man who gave his life to God as a priest in the Order of the BVM of Mercy.


The St Raymond kit
The St Raymond kit

Since St Raymond’s death in 1240, he has been invoked as the patron of expected mothers. For over 700 years women have turned to him for help in conceiving and childbirth. So many miracles have occurred that it would be difficult to count. Here in the United States, the friars of the Order of Mercy have promoted devotion to St Raymond since they came to the country in the 1920’s. Since the 1950’s the popularity of the St Raymond’s Guild has grown in America. The Order has shipped thousands of St Raymond kits throughout the United States. These kits are composed of the Magnificat book (prayer book for expectant mothers and Christian families), St Raymond holy card, blessed candle, and blessed St Raymond water. The blessed candle, water, and prayer book are to be used by those desiring to have a child and expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy.
For each one of us, the Advent season offers an opportunity to walk with Mary who is expecting the Messiah. What a beautiful spiritual analogy to lead us into prayer and works of charity in the days preceding Christmas. However, let us not forget that for infertile women, whose number has risen to 15%, this can be a painful image. Christ came to bring light to those in darkness. Women in need not remain in the darkness of the shame of infertility. God still performs miracles. He gave St. Raymond life through the intercession of his uncle. And for hundreds of years women have been given hope through St. Raymond’s powerful prayers.

Christmas is a time for miracles. The greatest of all miracles occurred when God became man in the womb of a humble virgin. Surely, the Christ Child knows the pain of those women who are childless. Jesus wishes them to come to Him believing that God still performs miracles! Through the intercession of St Raymond Nonnatus patron of childbirth and Christian families may the Lord continue to perform miracles this Christmas. May many women, who long to give life, continue to have their prayers answered in powerful ways!

For more information on the St Raymond Guild contact: (585) 768-7426




The Mercedarians attend REACH Philly and learn about the New Evangelization

The Friars recently attended REACH Philly, a prayer breakfast conference sponsored by FOCUS. Here are some of the highlights of the morning:

reach-philly-logoOne of the fastest growing youth movements in the Church is FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). This group was founded in 1998 in response to Blessed John Paul II’s call to a New Evangelization. This evangelization is now carried out in over 74 campuses throughout the United States by over 361 missionaries.

In an effort to “reach” out to the broader Church, FOCUS is sponsoring New Evangelization Prayer Breakfasts throughout the United States. The purpose of these events is to unite and equip Christ’s whole Body for the new evangelization. Here in Philadelphia the REACH Prayer Breakfast was held on Friday, May 10th. Clergy, religious, and parishioners from all over the Northeast met to listen to talks given by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F. M. Cap., George Weigel, Sr Joseph Andrews Bogdonawicz, and Brian Gail.

Over_six_thousand_young_people_pack_the_main_ballroom_for_the_SEEK_2013_conference_in_Orlando_FL_Credit_Jason_Siegel_for_FOCUS_CNA_US_Catholic_News_1_8_13The morning began with the Rosary followed by the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. During his homily, Archbishop Chaput exhorted all to follow the example of St. Damien of Molokai who memorial we were celebrating. The Archbishop explained that Damien did not intend to go to the leper colony in Molokai, Hawaii. His brother, who was also a priest, had volunteered to go, but fell ill before departing. Damien volunteered to go in his place. This is often how God works in our lives; he opens doors for us, but we must have the courage to take chances so that Lord can do great things through us. Archbishop Chaput, also, went on to explain that we must be willing to preach the full Gospel and be at times ridiculed for it.

After Holy Mass, Brian Gail, author of the popular book Fatherless, as MC introduced everyone to the topic of the New Evangelization which is carried out by FOCUS on college campuses. These courageous young adults invite college students to a relationship with Jesus Christ, which can fill the void left by an increasingly secular culture. They do this mainly through bible studies which are meant to lead into deeper questions of life and it’s meaning.

Mr. Gail introduced Sr Joseph Andrews of the Dominicans Sisters of May Mother of the Eucharist who spoke to us of our responsibility to be generous with the Gospel message we have received. We must bring this to the world with “TLC or Truth, Love, and Courage”. Our culture which is sickened with the disease of relativism must be confronted with the truth about freedom. Sister explained that “Freedom is for the sake of truth”. And, “There is no freedom without truth”. Our new Holy Father, Francis, is showing us the way to confront the culture with love. To allow people to live without purpose in the name of tolerance is to lack love for them. For “truth sets us free to love…”. But loving others means that we may have to charitably challenge them, as Pope Francis says, “with courage and frankness.”

110430American Ca.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79Sr Joseph Andrews was followed by the keynote speaker George Weigel a famous Catholic theologian, author, and spokesmen for the Church. Dr. Weigel presented the historical perspective behind the New Evangelization. The Church is now at the beginning of a new stage in Her history. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, She was, what Dr. Weigel calls, living “Counter-Reformation Catholicism”. This time spanned over 400 years. 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 1960’s.

Vatican II accelerated the shift from the Church of the Counter Reformation to the Church 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”. Dr Weigel explained that the 2nd Vatican Council differed from previous Councils because it did not provide the Church with a “key” to interpret it’s documents. This is why there has been so much confusion over the past 40 years about what the council fathers really intended. However, Weigel says the Lord has provided His Church with the proper interpretation through the pontificates of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The last two pontificates have given the Church a solid interpretation of the 2nd Vatican council, which can be understood as “Communio of Discipleship in Mission” . Weigel, one of the foremost experts in the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, explained that the Jubilee Year of 2000 was all about the New Evangelization. The central event of this year was the Pope’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Here Blessed John Paul II symbolically carried the Church to the place where God had entered into human history.

Young Catholics Attend Youth Rally With Pope Benedict XVIThe Pope announced at the end of the second millennium of Christian History that the Church was to once again “put out into the deep” for a catch: “Duc in altum” (Lk 5:4). This, Dr Weigel, says completes the term of institutional protection and points to the need to go forth engaging a more hostile culture with the truth of the Gospel. Pope Benedict XVI, who was also at the 2nd Vatican council, further solidifies the council fathers intentions. During Benedict’s pontificate we are given a clearer understanding of the liturgical and catechetical aspects of our faith. We are taught by Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI that our faith is very rational and extremely relevant to our culture. In fact, the culture desperately needs the truth of the Gospel to prevent it from crumbling. The “air has become hostile to the Gospel” and even to objective truth.

Pope Francis’ pontificate is shaping out to be one of conversion and action. The Church is now in the period of the New Evangelization which requires the Catholic to be alert and on the offensive. Dr Weigel explained that “a kept Church has no future in the world in which we are living”. Christians must resist the temptation to hold onto our faith as private rather than living and missionary.

Mercedarian master with Pope FrancisIt is here, in these storms of the New Springtime, that the Lord has risen up groups such as FOCUS. How ironic that it begins with the youth? It began in 1950’s Poland with young Karol Wojtyla going as a University Chaplain “hanging” out with College Students. It continued as he, Pope John Paul II, went against all odds in 1993 to begin the World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. Now, it continues with FOCUS which takes the saving message of Jesus Christ to Universities throughout the United States. They have a simple method: prayer and share. The missionaries give up 2 years of their lives to go to a designated University. Here they begin to pray for their peers growing up in the Culture of Death. Then, they share the message of life with all who will listen.

As a religious, we the Mercedarian Friars, are blessed to know that so many young adults are generously sharing the message of the Gospel. We are inspired to REACH out to those around us with greater zeal. The New Evangelization is not just for religious and priests, nor is not just for young adults, this is the new model for our Church today and in the future. Let us not be left behind or caught up in obsolete models, but embrace the New Evangelization with our whole being!!

For more information: http://www.focus.org/



We Fish for Those Lost in a Sea of “Who Cares?”

Mercy men in church
Ordination of 2 men
Easter fire
Mercedarian master with Pope Francis

You believe in God? So what? All religions are the same.

If this is what you think, you are part of our mission territory. But if you are a man with a passion to bring Jesus Christ to this kind of person, we want to talk with you.

For nearly eight hundred years, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy has been rescuing people from various forms of captivity. Today, an ignorance, or even an indifference, about the saving message of Jesus Christ binds men to a slavery of shallow thought, following whatever is popular at the moment. We care about these people.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned, “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

Not Following Trends

We friars in the Order of Mercy join with Pope Emeritus Benedict in his words, “An ‘adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ.”

The Mercedarian man, following the charism molded by our Order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco, is trained and prepared to redeem others from today’s forms of captivity.

Is God calling you to become a Mercedarian friar, as a priest or a brother? Our men here in the United States are growing year by year, and we have high hopes for playing an important part in the re-evangelization of our society. Will you join us? Why not begin a dialog with us as you journey toward your God-given vocation?

Contact our vocation director, Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M. today:

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Read the Greetings from Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M.

A Mercedarian Perspective on the Year of Faith

Essential to the Charism of the Order of the BVM of Mercy is a profound concern for the True Faith. It is for this Faith that hundreds of friars have exercised the 4th Vow and given up their lives for Captive Christians in danger of losing the Faith. In October 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith. Here is a Mercedarian perspective on this Holy Year:

St. Peter Nolasco founder of the Order.
St. Peter Nolasco founder of the Order.

Eight hundred years ago a man followed in the footsteps of his father and took up the family merchant business. He like many other young men had the desire to live a life of adventure and purpose. The merchant business offered him an opportunity to travel far from his residence of Barcelona into Muslim occupied parts of Southern Spain and abroad. Yet as he traveled, experienced danger, and earned a solid living Peter Nolasco felt that something was missing. He desired more. Not just more money or adventure, but a greater purpose to his life. While traveling through Muslim occupied lands, Peter was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) when he saw the captive Christians. They were striking in appearance: dirty, smelly, and gaunt from hunger. As Peter investigated further, he was stunned by the deplorable living conditions of these men, women, and children who were treated as slaves in bondage and chains. They like Isaiah’s suffering servant were “despised and rejected by mankind…like one from whom people hide their faces…”

It was not their pitiable appearance that most affected Peter. Rather it was that they were Captive because of their Catholic Faith.  Peter knew that the faith was the most precious gift that a person could have. It was for our faith that Jesus offered Himself as a captive and was crucified. Peter was filled with sorrow when he heard that thousands were renouncing the True Faith in order to obtain their freedom or a better standing in society. For Peter, the Captives were most poor and impoverished of all people for one reason: because their faith was in serious danger.

Now in 2013 we as Catholic Christians are celebrating the Year of Faith. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called this year in order to re-enkindle a love for the Faith in a world that is longing for meaning. People’s faith is still in danger today. Modern forms of Captivity are choking and stifling people’s faith to the same degree that Islam did in the early 11th Century. For this reason, the Successor of St Peter the Apostle feels pity for the captives who throughout the world are losing the most precious gift that we have, our faith. As Benedict says in the inaugural letter opening the Year of Faith, “Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.” “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).” Just as St Peter Nolasco realized in the early 1200’s, faith is the gift given only by God’s grace which changes our lives and opens the door to salvation.

The Charism of the Order is to free Captive Christians
The Charism of the Order is to free Captive Christians

In his Moto Proprio letter, Benedict sheds some light on new forms of captivity which expose people to “the abandonment of the practices of the Christian life and the loss of their faith (Mercedarian Constitutions #4)”.  The Pope Emeritus states:

“It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”

How true it is today that people think of their faith as an aspect of their cultural or family history, but do not realize the impact that faith can and should have on one’s whole life. For our forefathers, faith was the impetuous behind their love of family and country; it impacted every decision that they made. Yet, today the effects of increased secularization, both within and without the Church, have caused one’s faith to be viewed as a personal belief which should not have an impact on others. People often state they are Catholic, but this reality has little or no impact on their lives.

Much of the problem stems from poor catechesis in our nation over the past fifty years. Truly whole swathes of the Catholic population are ignorant of the basic tenants of the Faith. Long held Christian virtues, such as love, are so watered down or obscured that they are hardly recognizable. When faced with difficult moral Truths many will reject them as fanatical, since they don’t have the understanding of the foundational principles. As Benedict says:

“Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God.”

We have to be able to know the Faith in all its beauty to be able to truly accept it. Thus, people in the United States are held in bondage, not by Islam, but by ignorance. People are giving up the precious gift of faith because they cannot see the beauty and importance of it. It is Easter Faith in the Resurrection that truly changes people’s lives. The Faith of the Church gives one a perspective on life that makes sense of suffering and trials; gives meaning to everything. Truly Faith gives us a “new vision”, which changes our life in ways unimaginable.

Fr Matthew teaching the Faith.
Fr Matthew teaching the Faith.

The task for future redeemers is to present the foundations of the faith which have sustained Christians for over 2 thousand years. It is for this orthodox faith that so many have died for. It is presented for us in the Creed which stretches back to the early Church. Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the Creed from memory. St Augustine recounted this as he handed over the creed to the newly baptized:

“…the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.”

The Year of Faith is focusing our attention on the Creed and the fundamental principles that are contained within it. Yet as Mercedarians we must ensure that these principles are presented in a way that is appealing and understandable to today’s Christians. It is for this reason that we “visit” the captives; come to understand them while showing true Christian compassion for them. Here we learn to present the foundations of the faith to a generation which is hungering for truth and meaning.

May this Year of Faith be an opportunity for us to reach out to those held captive by ignorance of the Faith. Through the merits of Christ’s Precious Blood may many “chains be broken” as Catholics discover the precious treasure which is hidden before their eyes. The priceless gift of our Catholic Faith!





God Will Give us the Pope we Need and not the One that we Want

The following is a homily given by Fr. Matthew Phelan, O. de M. a Mercedarian Friars.It refers to the end of the Benedict XVI’s pontificate and the beginning  of the conclave to elect a new Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI goes off into the sunset.
Pope Benedict XVI goes off into the sunset.

Today’s readings in the Ordinary Form of the Mass (Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Lent), as well as in the Extra-Ordinary Form (Feria Quarta infra Hebdomadam II in Quadragesima) are apropos as we enter the last hours of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

In the first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah (18:8-20), we hear the classic human response to the difficult prophetic word that flows from God: “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word” (NAB). They represent the words of the denial of truth and reality. “We’ll believe what we want to believe.” “Who are YOU to tell me what to do?”

The prayer of Jeremiah — “Heed me, O LORD, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life?” (NAB) — expresses a similar sentiment to that of Esther that we hear today in the Extraordinary Form: And now, O Lord, O king, O God of Abraham, have mercy on thy people, because our enemies resolve to destroy us, and extinguish thy inheritance (Douay-Rheims).

These words ring just as true for us today.

The role of the prophet is not to tell us what we want to hear—although that can legitimately happen when we are in a state of Grace and our wills are tuned to God’s will. Rather, the role of the prophet is to tell us what we need to hear. What happens then? There are those who do not like the message. (If we are honest, we must admit that we are among them at times.) Rather than changing their ways, those who do not like the message shoot the messenger. (Pardon the use of such an expression while so many are apoplectic about the mention of firearms—but it is the expression that fits.) People want a messenger that tells them that everything is fine and dandy—even if it is not. “It makes us FEEL better.” “It doesn’t hurt our FEELINGS.” “Don’t OFFEND me.” That’s why our nation (and Western Civilization) is in such trouble. People do not want to face truth—but they want to pretend everything is fine. So, we believe those who lie to us and make us feel good.

530773_382498868494040_1239013768_n“The Titanic is filling with water!” But some say, “She is unsinkable!” I’ll believe them. “Um…. Excuse me…. The ship is listing.” But we say, “Impossible! Unthinkable. Unsinkable.” So, we refuse to take the women and children to the lifeboats, and order another drink from the bartender.

The spirit of the world—popular culture and the media—keeps asking the question: What do you want to see in the next pope? Our answer should be—WHO CARES WHAT WE WANT!!! The proper question is—WHAT DO WE NEED? Not, what do we FEEL we need, or THINK we need, but what DO we NEED. Of course, that is a question that only God can answer to the full. What we can say, by faith is this: “No matter what—if the Pope is to be a true prophet, he should be a man of humility and courage.”

There is the old saying—He who enters the conclave as POPE, leaves it as CARDINAL. The one who desires to be pope is like the sons of Zebedee in today’s gospel (in both forms of the Mass) Matthew 20:17-28. Whether he politics himself (as they do in Mark’s gospel) or get’s someone else to do his bidding (as James and John send their mother to do in Matthew’s gospel), he is more concerned about his own glorification than in Christ’s. We have had popes like that in history, but God is in charge. Therefore, we survive. Our hope, however, is not only to survive, but to flourish. Ultimately, this is not measured merely in numbers, but in the depth of our union with God and one another.

The cup that a pope must drink is to be the same cup of the prophets and the cup of Christ himself—the cup He passed to his disciples: the cup of subversion and rejection, the cup of envy and contempt. Hence, courage is needed for the pope to be a prophet that tells us what we need to hear.

Of the four popes in my lifetime, the only pope that was not hated by the world was John Paul I. He was only pope for 33 days—so he did not have time to upset people. He smiled. But, if people followed the life and his actions of John Paul I, and delved into the beauty and truth in his literary works when he was (Albino Luciani) Patriarch of Venice, they would eventually find reason to hate him, too.

Fr Matthew Phelan, O. de M.
Fr Matthew Phelan, O. de M.

One might say that John XXIII was loved by the world. However, in this writer’s opinion, people loved the “caricature” of him more than the prophet that he truly was. The images created by modernists and “uber-traditionalists” do not necessarily match the reality of the man.

We have only hours left in the pontificate of a truly humble and courageous prophet. We pray for Pope Benedict and pray that God sends us another successor to Peter who has the humility and courage to tell us all what we need to hear. We pray, also, that we will not punish the messenger.

Rev. Fr. Matthew H. Phelan, O. de M. Local Superior, Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, Philadelphia, PA

Is there Any Greater Captivity than the Taking of Innocent Life?

For 800 years, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary has stood in defense of human dignity when it was threatened. Today, 1.3 million pre-born babies are killed in American per year! The blood of these children cries out for justice with a cry greater than that of Cain’s blood. We read in Genesis 4:10, “The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” NO ONE is free to ignore or silently tolerate the grave evil of abortion and it’s effects on our society.

Stephanie Gray,Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

Knowing this Br. Daniel Bowen, O. de M., pro-life coordinator at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, organized a world renowned speaker to give a presentation at the Seminary.  Her name is Stephanie Gray and she is the Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.  She has spoken around the world on abortion and has debated abortionists, professor, and leaders in the abortion movement.  She has also spoken at various elementary, high schools and universities in North America.

Stephanie spoke to us about her work and how her organization is ending abortion in Canada through presentations and in the streets activism with abortion imagery.  Her talk at the seminary was extensively about her strategy on fighting abortion called the “Endthekilling” plan.  She also explained how to talk about abortion to others and the importance of knowledge, wisdom, and character when talking about the abortion issue.

She explained that in the past atrocities had been ended when the injustice was exposed, and the culture confronted by the injustice. As long as it remains hidden, people can ignore the horror of great atrocities such as slavery, the holocost, and race killings. Stephanie showed how images were used by abolitionists  and civil rights leaders to shake people out of their apathy. The audience “gasped” when they saw a picture of a young black boy brutally beaten in the deep South out of hatred for his race. This horrific image was disseminated throughout the United States in the 1950’s. It was this image, which Rosa Parks was thinking of when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in  Montgomery, Alabama.

We were so glad that she could take time out of her busy schedule to talk to the seminarians and laity, and to show us how to end the genocide of abortion.  The pre-born child is the most helpless person in our society, captive to the will of others, completely unable to receive the Sacraments of the Church.  We must work so that all children have equal protection in our society and we pray to St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron of pre-born children, that abortion is ended and for the repose of the souls of the fifty million children legally killed in the United States.

St. Raymond Nonnatus (not born) pray for us!

Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform


Between 2,000 and 3,000 Christians, Imprisoned in Inhumane Conditions for the Faith in Africa

Almost 800 years after St Peter Nolasco and his followers first began ransoming Christians in danger of losing their faith, there are still areas of the world where the reality of forced apostasy still exists. Michael Carl, a veteran journalist, published this article on the news Website wnd.com entitled:

‘Renounce your faith or stay in prison’

‘African North Korea’ jails thousands of Christians

A Map of Eritrea

A human rights organization is issuing an alarm over the number of Christians who have been locked up in Eritrea, where government officials have given them the ultimatum, “Renounce your faith or stay in prison.”

Citing data from the U.S. State Department, International Christian Concern says Christians have been arrested and held without charge, and conditions are deteriorating.

Sources report more than 3,000 have been put behind bars, the report said.

“According to the report by the United States State Department released yesterday, the government of Eritrea ‘demonstrated a trend toward deterioration in respect for religious freedom,’” the ICC report said.

The State Department also said the Eritrean government “subjected religious prisoners to harsh conditions and held them for long periods of time without due process.”

International Christian human rights group Christian Solidarity International documents Eritrea’s incarceration rate in a separate report.

“There are 20,000 people imprisoned in Eritrea – often referred to as the North Korea of Africa,” the report said.

Christians are a large part of the prison population, and they often are held without due process, according to the report.

“Between 2,000 and 3,000 of them are Christians, imprisoned in inhumane conditions – without trial or charge – in detention centers where torture is rife,” CSI said. “Thousands of Eritreans flee every year, risking the government’s shoot-to-kill border policy in appalling bids for freedom.”

The report continued: “Even if they manage to escape, as refugees they often face desperate and dangerous conditions, as well as the threat of kidnap, torture and forcible organ harvesting by Bedouin people traffickers in the Sinai.”

Jonathan Racho, the Middle East analyst for ICC, said the reason for the government’s action isn’t complicated.

“Their goal is to get the Christians to renounce their faith,” Racho said.

St. Peter Nolasco & his followers worked tirelessly to ransom those endanger of losing their christian faith.

The government, he said, is communist and doesn’t like competition.

“The communist officials are enraged to see millions of Eritreans worship God instead of worshiping communism,” Racho said.

He said the best thing Christians can do is pray, then act.

“ICC is alarmed by this latest report about the Christians in Eritrea. It is high time for the international community to pressure Eritrea to release the prisoners,” he said.

Eritrea occupies slightly more than 115,000 square miles along the Red Sea on the northern edge of Ethiopia. The CIA Fact Book says the country has a “transitional government,” and a legislature that is made up “entirely of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ.”

WND reported in December 2009 that the Eritrean government arrested 30 women members of a faith mission and detained them in shipping containers for several weeks.

Michael Carl is a veteran journalist with overseas military experience and experience as a political consultant. He also has two Master’s Degrees, is a bi-vocational pastor and lives with his family in the Northeast United States.

Original Article: http://www.wnd.com/2012/08/renounce-your-faith-or-stay-in-prison/

Our Contemporary Cross: A Reflection on 1Cor 1:18-25 [NAB]

On Friday, March 2nd, after the Stations of the Cross, Fr. Matthew H. Phelan, O. de M. gave a stirring reflection on the meaning of the cross to our contemporary culture:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,

Those who reject the cross are really rejecting Christ. Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves Xian that say of Catholics: “Why do you put Christ on the cross. He was raised from the dead.” Perhaps to those Christians who lived in the Roman Empire, the image of a cross was enough of a reminder. Crucifixion as torture and execution was present reality to them. To us it is a religious symbol, so we need to be reminded what the cross signifies: torture, ugliness, and death. Many want to clean up the Christian message and make it look nice and easy. Jesus did the work. We are off the hook. We have it made. All is warm and fuzzy! This, of course, is an attitude for disaster. There is no resurrection for us without the cross. Not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. We have to do the will of the Father—not our own will.

…but to us who are being saved [the cross] is the power of God.

To take up our cross means to embrace a life of self-sacrifice—daily. It means dying to self and putting on Christ. The cross is ugly. This self-emptying with Christ will get ugly. It is never easy, but God will give us the strength we need.

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”

There is nothing new under the sun. The evil one is intelligent and persistent but not very creative. It’s the same thing over and over again. This is why those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. Evil is cyclical, because people do not pay attention. The pride of the tempter rears its head in every age. Socrates held that “wisest was he who knew nothing.” In other words, those declare themselves wise will perish. Those puffed with intellectual pride will be humbled. It is the truth that Mary proclaims in her Magnificat, he has scattered the proud in their conceit, he cast down the mighty from their thrones. This is why Mary is the seat of Wisdom. Through her humility, she bears the very source of true Wisdom.

Where is the wise one?

The spirit of the anti-Christ thinks itself too wise to need God, or his body the Church. The so-called intellectuals tell us the Church is an irrelevant relic of the past. We are too sophisticated to need her. Well, we will find more true wisdom from the soldier in the foxhole than from the self-proclaimed intellectual. Those who point out the arrogance are labeled as out of touch and too extreme to matter.

Where is the scribe?

Apparently, in our country the scribes are in the seats of government, looking for ways to write policies, edicts, and laws that stomp on religious freedom. They declare that one person’s so-called man-made rights trample the God-given rights of another. My right to comfort trumps your right to life—put it in writing. My right to not feel bad about myself trumps your right to practice your religion in the public square—write it down. My right to believe in relativism is more important that your right to believe in objective truth—remove any reference to universals.

Where is the debater of this age?

Apparently the debates of this age are brought before Congress to tell us that not only do we have a right to choose sin—which no one denied—but, others should pay to enable my sin! We should be able to chose sin, and have someone else pay for the consequences. Of course, where will this stop? The clever debaters—and, frankly, even the least talented debaters—will be able to ride this tyrannical slippery slope to chaos!

Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?

Yes, He has. We don’t know if we should laugh or cry because the foolish are too foolish to even recognize it. As it says in the Book of Proverbs, As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. We all struggle with this, but as Catholics, hopefully we humbly place ourselves before God’s mercy. Better to say what a fool I was than what a fool I am.

For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom,

If we were to come to know God through our own effort, we would soon declare ourselves God. Hence, we must be humbled. We only know God through the action of His Grace.

it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith.

It is through emptying ourselves—as did Christ—that we are filled with Grace. Our faith is a paradox—an apparent contradiction, but not actually so. Our faith is filled with paradox—with statements, propositions, and situations that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact they are true:

· Three Persons, One God.

· One Divine Person, two Natures, human and Divine.

· The Body and Blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.

· A virgin Mother.

· We die to self in order to live.

This all seems in the eyes of the world to be foolishness—but these are salvific truths!

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The more we are broken down, the stronger we become. The more Christian blood is spilled, the more Christian life is increased. The more the world tries to sterilize or shun the Cross—the more the world tries to rid itself of suffering apart from the Gospel—the greater the horror, atrocities, and injustices will be. The more irrelevant they think that we Christians are, the greater our vitality will be. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.


Is your faith a bastion for martyrdom?

The Mercedarians gave a talk to a FOCUS group  just outside Philadelphia, PA. Answering the Church’s call for a new evangelization, FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith.

Fr Joseph gives a talk to FOCUS missionaries

Is your faith a bastion for martyrdom? The leaders of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students faced this question during their missionary retreat in Pennsylvania. To help the FOCUS leaders commit more radically to the Lord so as to better witness to the students at universities to whom they minister, Fr. Joseph Eddy, O.de.M. provided the missionaries with inspiring talks on martyrdom, and the example of the martyrs of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
Martyrdom, the true and highest gift of witness to Christ and the Faith, is a grace given by God. But all the faithful are called to perfection, to the same heroic witness of charity. This entails imitating Christ so as to fulfill His Father’s will and to nourish our faith with an incessant commitment to the Gospel. This is why the FOCUS Missionaries attend Mass and make holy hours with the Eucharist several times a week, so that they can be with Christ and take Him out to the students and even the world, to “consecrate the world itself” to God (Lumen Gentium).
The Mercedarian Order was founded by St. Peter Nolasco through the Blessed Virgin Mary, to participate in the Lamb of God’s sacrificial, ransoming mission for the redemption of the world, specifically by freeing Christian captives in danger of losing the Faith. The Mercedarians today continue to seek the same freedom of captives in danger of giving up the one, true Faith. The friars, in professing the Fourth Vow (the Blood Vow), willingly choose, in charity, to give up their lives for the redemption of captives, should it be necessary.
But, there is another martyrdom that exists and that is practiced by the faithful of the Church. It is the white martyrdom of community life. This daily dying of those undergoing the ordinary sufferings of family and community life enables true sanctification. Then, these souls, by their witness, can encourage others who are struggling to persevere in the faith. Praying constantly for faith, living theological hope, and begging for the strengthening of captive Christians, martyrdom was a grace given to some Mercedarians for the glory of God, the ultimate witness of Christ’s love and Truth. Today, when the world attacks faith through skepticism, hedonism and all forms of self-idolatry, Jesus’ call to perfection remains. We may or may not one day be a martyr like St. Serapion and other Mercedarians. But it is certain that we must be holy, endure the white martyrdom, and follow the will of God for the sake of the conversion of the world and the salvation of the Church in trial. That total love which Christ gave us on the Cross—and the love that He asks us to give to others—is nothing but the same heroism of a martyr’s love.

A Mercedarian Postulant

One Friar finds Christians in Danger of Losing their Faith in the Hospital

Br Daniel Bowen, O. de M., a Mercedarian student, spent his summer assisting at Metro Hospital in Cleveland. Here is his experience of Hospital Chaplaincy:


Br Daniel and Fr Justin



We read in Sacred Scripture that if one member suffers in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, all the members suffer with that member (1 Cor 12:26). This is why all baptized Christians are called upon to share in the ministry of mutual charity by doing all one can to help the sick return to health, by showing love for the sick, and when possible, by celebrating the sacraments with them.  This past summer I was given the extra special opportunity of assisting in this ministry by being assigned to an apostolate at  Metrohealth Hospital  (Main Campus) in Cleveland, Ohio assisting Father Justin A. Freeman, O. de M. with his duties as the Catholic Chaplain. This was my first experience of ministry in a hospital setting.

I discovered that there is a great need today in the hospitals!  It is a place where, despite the best staff and facilities available (Metrohealth being one of the best), a person can still feel frightened being in an unfamiliar environment and with the condition of an unexpected injury, illness or disease.  It is in such a place where someone can be challenged by his or her own mortality. This can cause someone to look back over their life and perhaps question their future.  Oftentimes, it can be a moment that God permits to allow someone the opportunity to draw closer to Him. But, of course, since we are given freewill by God there is a choice to be made. Hence, it is here, in the hospital, where a Christian is in danger of losing his or her Christian faith.

As a Mercedarian religious, this spoke to my heart giving me the understanding of why Christ must be present in such a place.  Christ must be able to be present to His people both in word and deed, both in the person of His ministers and most importantly in His sacraments. Earlier this summer, in May 2011, I was officially instituted into the Ministry of Acolyte with my seminary classmates. Among the many blessings that this ministry bestows on one, is the awesome ability to bring Holy Communion to people.  This was the most important duty that I was able to perform at the Hospital: to bring our Eucharistic Lord, the Body Blood, Soul and Divinity to his people. I also made referrals for Father Freeman of those patients that were in need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) and The Anointing of the Sick.

However, it was not all just what Father Freeman and I were able to give to the patients, staff, volunteers, friends and family members in way of the Sacraments, witness and encouragement. No, it was also what they all gave to me. In my encounters with everyone at Metrohealth I met Jesus Christ, Himself. Sacred Scripture records these words of our Blessed Lord: “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt. 25:36). Yes, Christ’s compassion toward the suffering and sick goes so deep that He identifies himself with them.  And in every patient, and in every encounter, I was blessed to meet, know, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. I was there to be with and listen to our Lord in His concerns and sufferings and to witness the faith of our Lord on the cross.

Perhaps this gets at the heart of why our Lord commanded his disciples to “Heal the Sick” (Mat 10:8). Not just for their sake, but also for our own. We are all called to be in right relationship with God, our Father, and to be in right relationship to our brothers and sisters. One might call this right relationship love, and oh, how desperately this is needed today.  Yes, I learned much this summer. Yes, perhaps I helped a bit, but hopefully in the end, I pray, I loved all the more.

Brother Daniel Bowen, O. de M.