A Mercedarian Journel From Rome

Deacon Scott Brentwood, O. de M. has been studying in Rome for the past two and a  half years. Recently, he was ordained a deacon. As he has in the past, Deacon Scott shares some of his reflections about his experiences in Italy:

Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria where Deacon Scott was ordained.

Happy Epiphany! (In Italy it is celebrated on the proper day…but this is in anticipation to Sunday for you in the USA)

Just a little update to let you know how things are going, and to wish you well in this Christmas Season. The academic year has gone well so far – my classes are rather interesting, and all is well. In Italy, the first semester runs from October until January, so I am currently on a break…but must finish the semester when we start back next week.

Aside from that there really is not much to say – I normally have 6 hrs of class every day…and that alone occupies the majority of my time. I still do manage to find some time for some reading, reflecting, and time to just relax (though not too much). I did, however, want to write a little of what I have been up to since my last update.

My Deaconate Ordination was December 10 at our Sanctuary of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia – one of the oldest houses in the Order (since 1334). I had spent time before preparing, but nothing truly prepares you for the experience until you go through it yourself. Reading the rite, witnessing others perform it…does not really scratch the surface of the encounter one has during their own Ordination.

I arrived in Bonaria a couple days before the Ordination, but as everything had been prepared well in advance, there was nothing that needed to be done for the Ordination itself. The Formators Meeting was to begin the day before, so there were many friars there that I did not know – mostly from Spain – so I took the opportunity to get to know them.

The Ordination itself was at 7:30 pm, presided over by the Archbishop of Cagliari, Archbishop Giuseppe Mani. The entrance hymn was “O God Beyond All Praising,” sung in English (the rest of the Mass was in Italian), and there were many people in the Basilica. I remember it all felt overwhelming. The points that stick out though, are when I placed my hands in those of the Archbishop for the promises, the prostration during the litany, being vested, receiving the Book of the Gospels, and the offertory which had a Sardinian twist. A musician playing a traditional Sardinian instrument led the offertory procession…which included several youth dressed in traditional Sardinian attire.

Deacon Scott holds the Chalice during the doxology.

The whole experience was phenomenal, but to me the most rewarding part was being in one of our oldest Sanctuaries, surrounded by numerous priests/brothers of the community, knowing that those in the USA were ableto participate via internet; those who would have been there but could not had the ability to witness it…including my family, of which none were here in Italy for.

The next day – Sunday – I proclaimed the Gospel for the first time as a Deacon.

We returned to Rome where there was a week of classes left before the winter break. I was one of the Deacons for the Canon Law Faculty Mass for the end of the year, and the next day I left for Carpignano to celebrate Christmas with our community there. When I arrived, I was surprised to see that the Sanctuary itself was closed…for a renovation project to restore it to what it was before the earthquake of the 1980’s. The smaller side chapel had became the church for daily Masses, and the social hall across the street was now the church for Sundays and other celebrations. The work here should be done by May though.

While here I have done many things…such as going on a day retreat with the youth/choir, which ended with us seeing the Christmas lights at Salerno. The Christmas celebrations were beautiful (including Midnight Mass at Midnight), and the next day – Feast of St. Stephen – there was a baptism by yours truly. The choir performed a couple of concerts – all very well done – which included a couple Christmas carols in English. The pronunciation was a little off on a few words, but it was heart-warming to hear. I preached at all the Masses today (Epiphany), and the people gave many compliments. To top it off, it snowed today; I miss winters with snow, so today was a real treat.

I return to Rome on Monday, and will have a couple weeks of class before the second semester starts. I will say that being in Carpignano has been a very rewarding experience, and there is a part of me that is not too excited about heading back to the lectures and note-taking. Then again, the other part of me is looking forward to getting back to my normal routine!

Well, that is all I have for now. I wish you a Happy Epiphany, and I will be in touch!

In Christ,
– Rev. Bro. Scott, O. de M.

Nineteen Mercedarian Friars Named Martyrs by Vatican

Held up as heroic witnesses to the Catholic faith in a world that spurns belief in God, a Mercedarian priest and his 18 companions who were killed in the Spanish Civil War took a step closer to canonization in Rome Dec. 19.

Photo of church ruined in the Spanish Civil War
Some of the martyrs were burnt, some were shot, and some died of exposure and starvation. Shown above is a  Spanish church destroyed during the civil war.

Servants of God Mariano Alcala Perez and eighteen companions of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy were confirmed as martyrs by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints, which stated that they were killed “in hatred of the faith in Spain” between 1936 and 1937.

“This has been a long time in coming,” stated Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M., the order’s vocation director in the United States. “These men courageously chose death rather than deny their faith,” and are greatly admired by the Mercedarian brethren and others. We have been praying for this for several years, and thank God for their recognition by the Church.”

To Be Recognized as Blessed

Mariano Alcala Perez, Servant of God
Mariano Alcala Perez, Servant of God

The next step will be their formal recognition as “blessed,” which should take place in Spain sometime next year, and then the process continues toward canonization as saints.

The Mercedarian Order counts as among victims of the war 27 of its friars during this time of strife, between 1936 – 39, at which conservative rebels, led by Francisco Franco, successfully battled an atheistic regime then in power.

About one thousand Spanish martyrs have been beatified or canonized by the Church, and for some two thousand additional martyrs, the beatification process is underway. In all, nearly 7,000 priests, religious, nuns, friars and monks were martyred during what is known as Spain’s Red Terror.

Widespread Bloodshed

It was a time of widespread bloodshed involving tens of thousands of civilians, as well as great animosity against any Church personnel, as well as many pious lay persons.

The victims were executed and tortured. The official report released in 1939 by the Very Rev. Alfred Scotti, the Order’s superior general, paints a horrible picture of suffering and hatred. In the Madrid house of the Order, nine priests were assassinated and four were killed in the College of St. Peter, Madrid. Another four were killed in the house at Harencia. At Olivar, in Aragon, ten priests were killed; four at Barcelona, six at Lerida, and three at the famous House of Ransom.

“The ways of their death were various,” according to the report, carried in the July 21, 1939 Catholic Herald, in the United Kingdom. “Some were burnt, some were shot, some died of exposure and starvation.”

Spared for Only a While

The report states,

The Rev. Mariano Pine Turon was made prisoner …. [and then] killed. His corpse was burnt. At the same period the Rev. Mariano Alcala Perez, former Superiorof the Order, was made prisoner. At the time his life was spared because of his great age. Later, when he testified that he was a member of the Order of Mercy, he was shot…. The Rev. Tomas Carbonell Miguel, Provincial of the Order in Aragon, was discovered in a house near the convent in Lerida. He was dragged to the cathedral and shot….

NearLerida, the Rev. Edouardo Massanet and Jose Uragui were battered to death. The Rev. Thomas Campo Marin was shot, with 68 other prisoners, in the cemetery at Lerida. The Rev. Fauetino Gazulla Galve, well-known historian, died of wounds, following a bombardment.

Killed for Saying “Jesus”

The report continues, “The Rev. Jose Rene Prenafreta was killed in Barcelona, for having pronounced the word ‘Jesus.’” Other priests killed include the Rev. Francesco Gargailo Gascon, Manuel Sancho Agutlar, Antonio Gonzalez Penin and Francesco Mitja.

The material damage to the Order in Spain shows a pointed hatred. “The church in Barcelona and house of the Order have been destroyed,” the report says. “In Lerida the church was turned into a cinema with a wine bar. The house in Olivar was destroyed. At Puig the church was pillaged and the statue of the Virgin cut into pieces.”

Only “Fault” — Believing in Christ

In one of Pope John Paul II’s canonizations of the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, he said,

To this glorious band of martyrs belong many Spanish Christians, executed out of hatred for the faith in the years 1936-1939 … during the wicked persecution unleashed against the Church, its members and its institutions. Bishops, priests and religious were persecuted with particular hatred and cruelty; their only fault – if one can express it that way – was believing in Christ, preaching the Gospel and leading the people on the road to salvation. The enemies of Christ and of his teaching believed that by eliminating them, they could make the Church completely disappear from Spanish soil.

(John Paul II, “Decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” 1992)

The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy was founded in Spainin 1218 and is present in Pennsylvania, three other states in the United States, and in numerous other countries in Europe, South/Central America, Africa, and India.


Catholic Herald, in U.K., “Fate of an Order in Spanish War.”
Hagiography Circle, “Martyrs of the Religious Persecution During the Spanish Civil War.”
Oblates of Mary Immaculate postulation website, “Spanish Martyrs.”
Order of Mercy website in U.S., Historical Synthesis.
Wikipedia, “Spanish Civil War,” and ”Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.”
Zenit, “7 Advance Closer to Official Sainthood.”

The Amazing Story of Our Lady of Bonaria

Hidden on the shore of an Island west of Italy is one of the Church’s secret gems, the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. This Basilica has been staffed by the Mercedarian Friars for over 675 years. Here is the incredible story of this holy place:

The Shrine Church of Gothic-Catalan style

Due to the Catalan and Aragonese expansion in the Mediterranean, in 1324, Infante don Alfonso had a castle and a church built in Sardina. The church was located on the hill of Bonaria on the south-eastern part of the town of Cagliari. As king, in 1335, he donated the church to the Order of the BVM of Mercy with the obligation to send two religious immediately, then six more after the death of the rector of the church, Guillermo Jordán, who died in 1348. The Mercedarians accepted the donation and they established themselves there.

In March 25, 1370 a sailing-ship from Spain was caught in the middle of a violent storm. The crew jettisoned the entire cargo included a heavy chest into the ocean. As soon as the chest touched the water, the storm suddenly calmed down miraculously.

The chest was found at the port of Bonaria by the townspeople. However, no one was able to lift the chest out of the shallow water on the shore. The townspeople hurried up the hill to get the Mercedarian Friars to assist them. The friars easily lifted Chest out the waters and took it to their church. Upon opening the chest all were amazed because it contained a wonderful statue of the Madonna holding the infant Jesus in her left hand and a lit candlein her right one. The Child Jesus holds a ball in his left hand and reaches out to grasp a candle standing on a ship model held by his mother. It accurately records the wind’s direction though it is in a draftless room.

In the hall next to the sacristy is the chest which contained the statue.

Soon, devotion for the Madonna spread both in the island and in the world, particularly among sailors who invoked her to be their patroness. The “conquistadores” gave the name Buenos Aires to the capital of Argentina as a sign of their devotion to the Madonna of Bonaria which, in fact, means “good air”.

On September 13th 1907, Our Lady of Bonaria was proclaimed patroness of Sardinia by Pope Pius X, and the unfinished church was later raised to the rank of minor basilica by Pius XI. On April 24, 1970, Pope Paul VI visited this famous shrine and celebrated an open-air Mass addressing the pilgrims on the need of veneration of the Mother of God. Pope John Paul II came to Bonaria as a pilgrim on October 20th, 1985.

On Sept, 7th 2008, Pope Benedict XVI came to honor Our Lady of Bonaria for the celebration of the first Centenary of her proclamation as the highest Patron of Sardinia. Here is a news agencies account of the event:

A renewed society must come from young Christians, says Pope Benedict

Rome, Italy, Sep 8, 2008 / 10:22 am (CNA).- Shortly after arriving on the island of Sardinia on Sunday morning, Pope Benedict presided over Mass for 100,000 people at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. In his homily, the Pope challenged his listeners to help young people encounter Christ, and through this new generation of Christians, evangelize politics, the economy and the working world.

The Mass took place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Bonaria, the island’s patroness, a fact recognized by Pope Benedict.

He called on the faithful “to give thanks to Mary for her protection and to reiterate our faith in her, recognizing her as the ‘Star of the new evangelization’.”

Invoking the help of Our Lady of Bonaria, Benedict XVI underscored the need for the people of Sardinia to bring Christ “to families, small domestic Churches and cells of society.” Families “today more than ever need trust and support at both a spiritual and social level,” the Pontiff added.

If Sardinian society is to be renewed, it must come from young people who “by their nature are bearers of fresh energy,” he continued. Turning to Our Lady again, the Pope implored her help for the Sardinian church in developing new initiatives to reach the young, who “are often victims of a widespread nihilism.”

With Mary’s intercession, “May she help you evangelize the world of work, of the economy and of politics, which needs a new generation of committed lay Christians, capable of seeking solutions of sustainable development with competency and moral rigor,” the Pope prayed as he closed his homily.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI performed an act of consecration to Mary which concluded with the gift of a golden rose to Our Lady of Bonaria.

The American Friars holding the actual statue the day the Pope came.

On Saturday December 10th @ 1pm (American Eastern Time) Br Scott Brentwood will be ordained to the Sacred Diaconate at this Holy Shrine. It can be viewed live on www.bonaria.eu (on right side transmission button or Trasmissione in diretta Ss.Messe giorni festive Ore). Please keep Br Scott in your prayers as he prepares for this day.

One of the oldest houses in the Roman Province is getting a make-over

In the town of Nemi, located in the hills south of Rome, the Order of the BVM of Mercy has a large friary which was for many years was used as a formation house. This beautiful building is overlooking the volcanic Lago di Nemi.  The house is connected to a famous shrine chapel entitled Santissimo Crocifisso (most holy cross). The shrine and the friary have a long history.

Nemi Friary

The Santissimo Crocifisso shrine was built in 1637; the adjoining monastery housed a community of Franciscan monks before they were replaced by the Mercedarians. The shrine draws its name from the story of the crucifix that surmounts the building. That crucifix was crafted in 1673 by a Franciscan friar, Vincenzo da Bassiano. He reportedly was frustrated in his efforts to carve the face of Christ, and resigned himself to leave the task unfinished, going to sleep and planning another effort the next day. When he awoke, however, he found the image sculpted exactly as he had wanted it. This miraculous crucifix became a source of veneration for the people throughout Italy.

Santissimo Crocifisso (Most Holy Cross)

In the late 1800’s when then Master General and reformer Peter Armengol Valenzuela arrived in Rome, the Order only had two convents: Saint Adriano and Cagliari. On March 19, 1881, the Master General acquired Nemi, a former Franciscan convent put up for auction. For many years thereafter the house was used as a formation house for postulants and novices of the Order.

A recent event occurred at the friary in 2006 news agencies gave this report:

 Pope makes surprise personal pilgrimage August 23, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI quietly slipped out of Castel Gandolfo on August 22, to make a private pilgrimage to a shrine in the nearby town of Nemi.

The Holy Father made the unannounced trip on Tuesday afternoon, leaving his summer residence with small police escort and making the 10-mile trip by car to Nemi, where the Santissimo Crocifisso (Most Holy Cross) shrine is located.

The Pope was accompanied by his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, and a few members of his staff, the Media news agency reports. After praying before the Blessed Sacrament, they joined the Mercedarian priests who administer the shrine for Vespers.

Later the Pope visited the Mercedarian monastery. His stay in Nemi was about two hours.

From all indications, it appeared that the Pope had planned the visit so that his arrival would be unexpected. This was the second such pilgrimage of his summer stay at Castel Gandolfo.

Over the years this once famous site has fallen into disrepair. A large scale reconstruction was begun to bring this ancient building back to its original beauty. This project has taken several years of work. During the work the house was really in bad shape: The interior walls were missing with dust and debris everywhere.  The windows were still the original ones….many with broken glasses.

Recently the restoration is nearing completion. For the first time in years, a retreat for the friars in Italy took place at in Nemi. Br. Scott, an American studying in Italy had this to say:

“There have been MANY changes with renovations to Nemi: the outside has been repainted/repaired, new windows, and new floors in the 3nd (old Novitiate and Postulancy) and 4rd floors (rooms for visiting students during the summers).  The old Novitiate Chapel (later a makeshift library/storage) was redone with new flooring, windows, etc., and is now a small “meeting room.”  The old cells were too small, so interior walls were removed to enlarge the rooms….and private bathrooms were put in for every individual room.  The 3nd floor now has individual rooms for 20, with an additional 10 on the 4rd (which are larger than the ones on the 3rd floor, so each room on the 4th floor technically could hold two instead of one).  This is in addition to the rooms reserved for the community on the 2nd floor.  At night there are small, blue LED lights that illuminate the hallways so you don’t have to turn on the larger lights.  Also, air conditioning/heating was placed in every bedroom where previously there were neither.  We used the smaller refectory (the former novice/priests’ refectory) as opposed to the larger one used formerly for postulants and those coming for our school (work is still not finished there).”

A new chapter begins in the history of this ancient house. In the future, the Province hopes to hold retreats, Chapter meetings, and other large gathers. There overlooking Lago di Nemi we can remember our past and look forward to the future!!


One of our own is to be ordained to the Sacred Diaconate

It is with Joy that the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary announces the ordination of Br. Scottston Brentwood, O. de M. to the Sacred Diaconate. This solemn liturgy will take place on Saturday, December 10th at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Sardinia, Italy. (http://www.bonaria.eu/public/index.php)

Br Scott and his mom at the Solemn Vows.

Br Scott has been in formation with the Order since August 2004.  Over the years, Br Scott has gone through the normal formation program of a 9 month postulancy, a canonical year of novitiate, and several years in Simple Vows. He completed a Masters of Divinity and Masters in Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary just outside of Philadelphia, PA. After completion of his seminary program, Br Scott was asked by his superiors to move to Rome and prepare for further studies. During his first year in Rome, brother worked hard to master the Italian language. He took courses and practiced each day with the Italian friars.

In the fall of 2010, Br Scott began his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University pursuing a Licentiate in Canon Law. This program is academically challenging and takes three years to complete. However, Br Scott has done very well in his studies and continues to become more fluent in Italian.

On June 29th 2011, Br Scott and Br. James Chia, O. de M. made their Solemn Vows in the Order at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Philadelphia, PA. This was a joyous event for the brothers as they consecrated themselves to God and the Order through the vows of Chastity, Poverty, Obedience, and the 4th Vow of Redemption.

The next step in Br. Scott’s journey is ordination to the Sacred Diaconate. Brother was recently approved by the provincial council to be ordained a Transitional Deacon. The Sacred Diaconate is a ministry of service, and the lowest rank of holy orders, below the priesthood and the episcopate. The deacon is ordained into the service of Christ by the Sacrament of Holy Orders administered by a bishop. He receives an indelible mark on his soul to enable him to function as Christ who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28)”. The Second Vatican Council lists the deacon’s liturgical and pastoral functions: “to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services” (LG 29).  In all these ways, Br Scott will prepare himself to one day be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood of Christ.

Join us in praying for Br Scottston as he prepares to receive this beautiful Sacrament. By it he will be more configured to Christ who serves us all.

Notes from the Novitiate: The Montserrat Shrine.

Fr Eugene, the Order’s novice master, speaks to us about the inspiration St Peter Nolasco found while on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat.

Dear Mercy Family,

It was at Montserrat, in Spain, that St. Peter Nolasco gained the supernatural courage and strength that sustained him in his work for the captives.

Montserrat Shrine

We see in our Saint (St Peter Nolasco) a fundamental progression within the Marian perspective.

First: A road from Mercy to Mary. We already know that mercy or the redemption of captives was achieved without taking Jesus’ mother into account. Yet at a specific time, Peter discovered the in depth connection binding the work of mercy with Mary’s ecclesial presence. From then on the paths are joined. Mary is linked to the program of liberation. She is the model, the inspiration, and the beginning of the redemptive work. Upon reaching the end of the path, one discovers Mary as “the radical expression of mercy”; she is the depth and the inner stability of all apostolic works.

Second: From then on we understand the road leading from Mary to the Mercedarians. Uniquely, Peter Nolasco discovers that Mary is the foundation of mercy and freedom. She sustains and determines the meaning of the liberation movement, giving it a maternal and mysterious aspect, always receptive to the Heart of Jesus and of His Loving Father (Constitutions of the Order of the B.V.M. of Mercy, #7).

At the end of that process the paths are mutually fruitful and complementary, so much so that St. Peter’s redeeming endeavor is forever called the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. From then on St. Peter’s Friars, Sisters, and the Third Order will always consider Mary as the Mother of Freedom, the one who encourages the redemptive plan of mercy, and sustains it with her presence. Mary specifies, promotes, and gives meaning to God’s liberation among mankind. This is why we can begin from Mary as Mother of Compassion; she appears as the Mother of Captives: the Blessed Mother came to Peter Nolasco and enabled him to understand the mystery of God’s redemption made visible in people’s distress and captivity.

As our older sister, Mary is the first and most privileged disciple of the Lord. She shows us the road of faith lived in accordance with the teaching of Jesus and His redemptive work. The imitation of this type of committed discipleship brings us to discover the essential moments of service and sacrifice, from the Church to others. Mary “presides over and inspires our prayers” (Constitutions #73). She brings us the risk to live faith, challenge to trust, which is not void but rather authentic acceptance of the Divine Will.

Yes, the Marian way of our Mercedarian commitment is being in love with God, so completely, with surrender and abandonment, which is a tradition of choice by being for others in mercy to secure true liberation in Christ.

Let us always say: Yours in Christ through Mary,

Fr. Eugene Costa, O. de M., Novice Master

The Week that would Change the World

For many of us, the 1st week of August means the “dog days of summer”. This is the time when the summer heat can be oppressive. It is in this time of year that many of us take vacations spending time at a local pool or at the shore. In Spain things are not much different. August can be painfully hot in Spain so most people head to the beaches or other spots to “beat the heat”.

The Blessed Virgin appears to St Peter Nolasco

As August approached in the summer of 1218, Peter Nolasco, a young Spanish merchant, was enduring the summer heat in a much different way. For several years now, he had been working with friends to redeem captives who were in danger of losing their faith in Moorish Lands. Many of these Christians were in real danger of apostatizing in order to obtain their freedom and even preserve their lives. For Peter and his companions something had to be done. For several years, they dedicated themselves daily to collecting alms from the pious faithful throughout the Province of Catalonia and the kingdom of Aragon. Many were ransomed and their faith was preserved, but many more were left to suffer at the hands of their captors. It became clear to Peter that the problem of captivity was too great for such a small band. He wondered what could be done to preserve the faith so many.

In his fervent prayer, Peter sought divine inspiration to be able to continue God’s work which he had started. At that point and in these circumstances, during the night of August 1, 1218, a special intervention of Blessed Mary occurred in Peter Nolasco’s life: an amazing Marian experience which illumined his mind and stirred up his will to transform his group of lay redeemers into a Redemptive Religious Order. The experience was so profound that it touched the very fabric of Peter’s being. He now knew what must be done.

The next day, Peter Nolasco went to the royal palace to explain his project to young King James I and his advisers, the first of whom was the Bishop of Barcelona, don Berenguer de Palou. Peter’s plan, inspired by God through Mary, was to establish a well-structured and stable Redemptive Religious Order under the patronage of Blessed Mary. The King was very pleased with the project and gave his approval and support to the endeavor. He would even give his “coat of arms” to be worn as a sign of the kingdom’s support and protection.

On August 10, 1218, the new Religious Order for the Redemption of Captives was officially and solemnly constituted at the main altar erected over Saint Eulalia’s tomb in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Barcelona. Bishop Berenguer de Palou gave Peter Nolasco and his companions the white habit that they would wear as characteristic of the Order; he gave them the Rule of Saint Augustine as a norm for their life in common and he gave his authorization for the sign of his cathedral, the Holy Cross, to be on the habit of the Order. After that, Peter Nolasco and the first Mercedarians made their religious profession right there before the bishop.

That was the beginning of an Order that was destined to endure for nearly 800 years. Countless captive Christians have been aided by this Institute. Several women’s communities, lay confraternities, and other groups have been inspired by the same spirit given to Peter Nolasco on that night of August 1st. Truly that first week of August 1218 was a week that would change the history of the world and influence millions for centuries.

So as we endure the heat of early August, let us thank God for sending his mother, Our Lady of Mercy, to inspire this great work of redemption.  She is the one who first inspired it and continues to do so today.  What started in Spain has now spread to four continents. May this mission of redemption continue to grow throughout the world in order that all may be free to practice the Catholic faith.


Amazing India

Fr Ken Breen, Mercedarian priest, spent 13 years as a missionary in India. Here is his story.

It all began in the fall of 1996.  I attended our 3 week once in a lifetime permanent formation encounter taking place at our community in San Felice, Circeo, Italy and it was during this time, seeing photos of the children adopted by our parishoners in Italy and hearing our Provincial‘s concern: a longing for someone to go to help out at our emerging formation program. Strangely enough, we were joking about sending people to India and for some reason I just said, “okay, I’ll go!”

I don’t know really why I said it.  And all I can recall at that very moment was the certain closeness of St. Teresa of Lisieux, the little flower giving me a certain comfort that this was the right thing to do. As I look back on it, it is no surprise that this has come about in my life since I heard my father’s mother was interested in India and my Mom has been part of a Little Flower mission circle all her life.

The biggest challenge was the visa. I never could get a residential visa without the risk of rejection so I had to go all those years as a tourist, consoled by the words of Jesus: “The birds of the air have nests and the foxes have lairs but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

So off I went and began a journey where I was so amazed at the depth of culture in this wonderful country, a culture of faith that allows us to cultivate more easily the fruit of vocations to our own Order, the Order of the BVM of Mercy and my principal work there throughout the years has always been the teaching in English medium (no need to learn the local languages). My classes were in either the subjects mainly about our Mercedarian Charism and Religious life as the Novice Master or assistant, and/or teaching phonics and insight into the dynamics of the English language.  My hobby there was dealing with all the computer and audio visual needs, but all in all, it was a great adventure in the amazing ways of our wonderful Lord’s call to a new and more abundant life lived now in the joy of giving and loving (Bl. Mother Teresa) and following our Redeeming Savior, Jesus Christ.


In Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy,

Fr. Kenneth Breen, O. de M.


ROME, ITALY –  Br. Scottston Brentwood, O. de M. shares with us the newest installment of his reflections from Eternal City…

Hello everyone,

I realize I have been rather silent lately, but with the changing weather my sinuses etc have been in open rebellion, I find I’m constantly tired from thinking in two languages simultaneously, and I have been racking my brain with the various past tenses in preparation for my exams.  On Friday, I had my exam to determine if I move up to the next level, and I am happy to say that when the grade was given out afterward, I was told I was “optimal.”  Thus, all IS truly well in the “Eternal City.”  I will strive to be more attentive to writing you – forgive my silence.

I thought I’d share something I did for school with you.  The following is my thoughts on the Italian Language as well as some examples of the differences between English and Italian.  For those who know Italian, I’m sure this will bring back some memories.

I will write more as time allows.
-Fra. Scott-

Google Translators and my Thoughts on Italian…(in English

One of my Italian friends who is learning English enjoys typing various English sentences that he understands into the online translators and makes fun of the translations that are made in Italian.  I did not comprehend this until I tried it myself.  WOW!  I was honestly surprised at the MISTAKES.  Some I could understand, but in some cases, you would type something like, “I went to the store,” and the translation said, “I did NOT go to the store.”  Now I see why a human translator is indispensable for inter-lingual communications.  I can only presume how pathetic English speakers appear in the eyes of those who employ translations from these “online tools.”   Such is life.

When I studied Anthropology I learned that language is a reflection of the culture from which it derives.  If you truly wish to understand the outlook of a culture, you MUST learn the language AS they use it.  I can attest that with Italian this is true.  I submit as my evidence Italian traffic.  In Italy, everything is a suggestion – traffic lights, traffic lanes, stop signs, even parking places.  There are more exceptions to the rules than there are applications OF the rules.  The same holds true for the language.

So what is unique about the Italian Language?  Personally, I think it is almost impossible to learn it!  The grammar is a THOUSAND times more difficult than English, and though most think, “Italian is like Spanish or French,” it is the Spanish speakers who have the hardest time in class (I have had many Spanish speaking classmates).  One teacher became frustrated with one Spanish student and finally said, “Remember, when you use ‘Se’ in Spanish, it is ‘Si’ in Italian, and when you use ‘Si’ in Spanish, it is ‘Se’ in Italian, unless it is a combined pronoun with an indirect object or…” the list continued.  The student(s) continued to make the same mistakes, however.

Some other things to consider with Italian:  When we say things like “I am taking a class” in English, in Italian it is, “I am making a class.”  When we say, “It is cold today,” in Italian it is, “It makes cold today.”  If you want to say, “I am cold,” in Italian you MUST say, “I have cold.”  If you say the literal “I am cold,” it means your personality is reticent and few people like you.  The same principle pertains to the verb, “finished.”  To say the English equivalent of “I am finished working,” you MUST say, “I have finished working.”   To say “I am finished” means you are physically deceased.

In English we use the present and future tenses a LOT.  In Italian, they use the present and PAST.  To say, “yes, yes, I underSTAND” (present tense – si, si, io copisco), in Italian you MUST say, “yes, yes, I underSTOOD” (past tense – si, si, ho copito).  One Italian friend said once, “You could never be Italian.”  When I asked why, he retorted, “Because you use the future tense, and Italians do not.”  In speaking, Italians NEVER use the future tense.  It is found only in books (if its found at all).  For example, “Today I am going to class (present tense), and tomorrow I WILL go to class (future tense)” in SPOKEN Italian would be, “Today I am going to class (present tense), and tomorrow I am going to class (present tense).”

For me, the past tense in Italian is the bane of my studies.  English has four past tenses, but Italian has five.  I now understand and use four of the five, but the fifth (passato remoto) is hardly ever used in North or Central Italy…only in the South of Italy is it used, so I will not worry about it at the moment.  Still, for school, I have to know it.

In Italian, the word meaning, “to like something” does not exist as it does in English.  In Italian, to “like” something is worded as an INDIRECT object.  For example, “I like books” in Italian would be, “To me, the books are pleasing.”

My litany could continue, but I will spare you the rambling.  My point to all of this is merely that Italian as a language is VASTLY diverse when contrasted with English (or any language for that matter).  Also, in order to understand where the Italians (or any other culture) are coming from, you must learn the language – the way in which they think, is the way in which they speak.  You cannot understand where they are coming from if you cannot think in the same manner as they do.  Grammar is one ASPECT of a language, but I am confident if you looked at our own language you would see that what the grammar says we should say and what we ACTUALLY say are usually different.  Therefore, I will keep studying this language, as futile as it may seem.  I said before it is ALMOST impossible to learn…I did not say it WAS impossible…

Earthquake Effects Chilean Province

SANTIAGO, CHILE  – In a message to his Mercedarian confreres throughout the world, Fr. Mariano Labarca Araya, Provincial Superior of the Mercedarian Province of Chile, thanked all of us for our prayers, greetings, and fraternal presence in spirit.

Severe damage
Severe damage

Fr. Mariano informed us that all of the Mercedarian friars, sisters, and family members were well. Praise the Lord! Though he has lived through seven earthquakes, Fr. Mariano has found this one to be especially difficult and life changing.

The church and convent in Rancagua were severely damaged, requiring the Province to move the novices to Santiago. The tower of the Church in Melipilla suffered serious damage, where as  the gymnasium in Valpraiso suffered relatively minor damage. As of yet, the Province has not been able to receive direct communications from Concepción, however they have heard that the church suffered damage and our school has structural damage. Amazingly, there is little or no damage at the convent in Concepción.

The Mercedarian sisters in Constitución were affected by the tsunami. At their home for the aged, they were able to save the lives of the elderly and themselves by fleeing to higher ground. Unfortunately, two of the elderly lost their lives. The sisters and those in their care are currently taking refuge in a shelter.

Fr. Mariano also said that the home for the newborn children in Talca is suffering from lack of food, but the religious are working to bring them assistance.

As you may have read in the media, Chile is the most modernized of the South American nations, however, Fr. Mariano says that the “mega earthquake” has made them aware of how fragile the communications network can indeed be. Communication, energy, banking, commerce, and groceries are severely limited. Our brothers and sisters are learning to be “content with the simple things in life.”

The Mercedarians here in the United States continue to offer our prayers for our brothers and sisters in Chile, and ask all of you for your continued prayers and support.

Here is a SMALL sampling of the damage:


ROME, ITALY – Journal Installment # 5

Just a note to say hi…and let you know that not only am I still alive, but that I am also doing well on this side of the Atlantic.

I’m starting to assume that things are settling down for me as I’m back to writing…a practice which proves that things are “back to normal.” As such, I thought I’d share this one…which in so many words describes how I’m doing…and what I’m thinking…

I hope you enjoy it, and know that I think of you often.

God Bless!
-Bro. Scott-

There is Something About Rome…

I remember that it was the airport. Yes, it was the airport. I remember it now – so many people…I’ve never seen this many people in one place before. Its so hot. So hot, and there are so many people. Which way do I go? Oh I see it now.

No – it was not the airport, it was the house. Everyone is so friendly, but I cannot understand them. Why can’t I understand?? Its simple, but it just doesn’t make any sense. This way? Yes, thank you. No, not the house, it was school…a classroom with other students. A classroom in a school with other students. Chat, chat try to learn, but no, that wasn’t this either.

Maybe it was the streets. Buildings only six stories high but so so close. The buildings aren’t tall, but they are so close they block out the sun. My ankles hurt. Wow, my ankles hurt. Its the cobblestone streets. The stones hurt your ankles after a while. Maybe the fountains that perpetually flow. Yes, that’s it – the flowing fountains. No, not the streets. It can’t be. Not the fountains…those are everywhere.

Maybe it is the art. Yes, its the art. Everywhere art, art, art. The art paralyzes my eyes. My eyes are overwhelmed by the cornucopia of statuary. No, art is nothing, it’s the architecture. Every building is different. So many different colors. So many different styles. Why are they so different? Where are the glass walls? No.

It was the lights. Every window is glowing with some light. The stores glow dimly in the evening twilight. No, not the light of the windows, it’s the light of the Christmas decorations hanging over the streets. Twinkle here, twinkle there…no…not those, it’s the music. The sound of instruments on the street. My ears filled with the sounds of ages past…music harking back to days of simple melodies when words were not important. WORDS MEAN NOTHING, its just the music. No, not the music, it’s the smell. The smell of fresh flowers. Fresh flowers and fresh fruit. No, not those – the smell of fresh pasta. No thank you, I’m not looking for anyone at this restaurant, but can I have your card?

Where is it? Where is it?? Oh now I see. Just around the corner and take a left. Brrrr…its starting to get cold. Why didn’t I wear a thicker jacket? You know it gets cold at night. You know it gets cold at night and yet you once again wore a thin jacket. Oh there it is.

Why didn’t I know this place before? Maybe I did…maybe it was here the whole time and I just didn’t see it. It had to have been here, but I didn’t see the sign. I didn’t see the sign nor the tables evenly spaced inside from the street. There they are – there are my friends…they were here the whole time and I didn’t know…I didn’t know…

It doesn’t matter now…I am where I’m suppose to be, and that’s all that matters now… I’m here, and I was always suppose to be here…

Installment #6

OK – so things have been busy lately, and I’ve slacked off on the “weekly” updates. haha. Not to overwhelm, this is the update up to Christmas. All is well here in the Eternal City, and I’m having a good time with the friars here. We’ve even had some fun with the others from the Generalate (I’ll put that in the next update)…and more roasting of foods over open fireplaces (still strange to me). Hope everyone is well!

-Bro Scott-

On Saturday, December 5 I went downtown – MAJOR mistake! There was a massive Communist/Anti-Berlusconi demonstration that literally consumed the entire city. All of the streets were blocked off, the Carabinieri were EVERYWHERE (guarding important places in case violence breaks out), and there was even a communist concert right in front of St. John Lateran!!! On a side note, there is a wonderful place for tiramisu just south of St. John Lateran in Re de Roma.

The following few days were rather uneventful. On Wednesday I discovered a few pen stores. This in and of itself brought a smile. This inspired me to locate some art supply stores which I did the following day.

On Friday I finished the book I was reading – Oceano Mare by Alessandro Baricco (highly recommended) – took care of some errands, and went to the art supply store I had found the previous day.

Thus I ended Week 10.

On Sunday, December 13 I finished writing etc. a text on my experience of Rome – “Something about Rome” – which was a good reflection of my thoughts thus far.

Wednesday was yet ANOTHER strike/shut down of the entire public transportation from 8:30am-5pm. I did not go to school as my classes were from 9:30am-1pm.

Thursday I had an exam to determine if I move into the next level for my language classes. It was rather easy in parts, but I am still having problems with the passato prossimo, the reflexive, and the imperfect (this was discussed on the day of the strike). The future tense and the imperative were a breeze. The following day was our last day of class, so after a celebration at school with all the students for the end of the year/Christmas, we went for coffee and gelato. On Saturday I went for another goodbye party with some friends of mine.

End of Week 11.

On Sunday, December 20 I went with Bros. Sergio and Carmine downtown with the youth of the parish. We went to St. Peters for confessions and the Pope’s Angelus Address then headed to downtown for food. Next we headed to the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona (I was apparently the walking, human map who had to navigate the twisting streets) where after some time with all the temp. vendors, we headed to the Piazza di Spagna for photos and headed home.

On Tuesday, December 22 I went with Fr. Eligio and Bro. Sergio to Orvieto. We stopped to pick up some flowers for the church before heading to our house there. The house there is VERY old, but very beautiful. After heading to the cathedral (one block away) and some shops nearby, Bro. Sergio and I headed back home to Rome via our parish in Orvieto.

The following day I spent with Fr. Stefano doing various errands.

Christmas Eve – Midnight Mass in the parish – literally standing room only.

Christmas – surprisingly the normal routine, but pranzo was yet again a large, many-plated affair.

End of Week 12 and 3 Months in Italy!