Martyrdom and Charism — The Ransom of Christian Captives


Are we Christians headed toward persecution in the United States? This and many questions are raised and discussed in the following paraphrased transcription of the below video talk, given by Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M.  The first part is an introduction to the Mercedarians’ fourth vow, and afterwards Father takes a deeper look at white & red martyrdom.

Martyrdom is something that’s ever ancient and ever new. A charism is a spirit that the founder had when the community was started. The community starts under the bishop. It’s a slow process leading to pontifical approbation.

A charism is living Christ’s life. It is an aspect of Christ’s life that has been given to its founder. His/Her daughters or his sons carry the charism on for the length of the community’s existence.

Captive for Christ

The Order of Mercy was founded in the twelfth century. At that time the Muslims were creeping in. The purpose of the Crusades was to do something about this and prevent Europe from being taken over. Many people were taken captive… Imagine if your cousins or uncles were taken away – they just disappeared. The captives were probably taken to north Africa. Imagine the opening scene from Les Miserables, where the prisoners are working on a chain gang.

If the captives renounce their Christian faith, they can move up in society. Perhaps they would not have to work in a chain gang any more. There was great pressure to leave the faith.

Our founder Peter Nolasco was a merchant. As he went into the African areas – the Muslim-controlled territories – he would sell his goods. As he did this, he would see his fellow Christians who were suffering. He was cut to the heart by this suffering.

The real reason Peter mourned the captives was because of their loss of faith. He saw that they were losing their eternal salvation. He began collecting his money to buy them back. He gave all his property away. Although he was not a wealthy man, he was very shrewd. He was also a strong man, and a humble man, and these virtues helped him a lot.

It was not long before others came to follow him. Most people do not start out with the idea to start a religious community. Likewise, in Peter’s case it was, “I am going to help these people,” and others followed him.

“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18)

But he was soon criticized. Others thought he was creating a market for the Christian captives. Greatly hurt, St. Peter took the matter to prayer. In a vision, Mary appeared to him, telling him that Christ desired that he found a community dedicated to ransoming these Christian captives. With the support of the king and the bishop, St. Peter began the Mercedarian Order, sending his friars – two at a time – to ransom the Christians, who would return, still in their chains, to Spain.

Our charism is the fourth vow – if necessary, we would give up our own life to save someone in danger of losing their faith. On occasion, the friars would take the places of those in captivity, exchanging their freedom for the prisoners’ freedom.

In Saracen lands, opposition was everywhere for the first Mercedarians. They were slapped, stoned, beaten, wounded, and dragged through the streets. In their first century, their white habits bore witness to the blood of over one hundred martyrs.

St. Serapion was Irish by birth, born around 1179. He was enlisted as a soldier in the service of Richard the Lionhearted, and later Alfonso VIII who was fighting the Muslims in Spain. There he met Peter Nolasco, and joined the order. Eventually, he was one of the two friars chosen to take part in the ransom mission. There was not enough ransom money, so Serapion offered to stay behind if the remaining captives were freed. While the Mercedarians rushed to collect money for Serapion’s own ransom, the Muslims grew impatient, and crucified the saint. He was declared a martyr, and is the patron saint of the sick.

“To bear witness to the light” (John 1:7)

The term for martyr comes from the Greek word meaning “to bear witness.” A witness testifies to a fact that they have seen and experienced. The reality of the early Church was that witnesses to Christ could easily be imprisoned or killed.

Once again we are seeing this in Iraq, parts of Africa, and China. Every single day, Christians in the early Church faced death, and all the apostles, except John, suffered a martyr’s death. At the crucifixion of Christ, Mary’s heart was “pierced with a sword.” At her side was St. John, who suffered his “white martyrdom,” or spiritual martyrdom, as well.

Today’s martyrs are those who have never seen the risen Christ, but are so firmly convinced of the truth of Christianity that they gladly suffer death rather than deny these truths. In our Order, thirty-three Mercedarian friars were martyred during the Spanish Civil War – 18 of whom have already been canonized, and the rest are going through the process.

Lumen Gentium says,

Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested His charity by laying down His life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and His brothers. From the earliest times, then, some Christians have been called upon — and some will always be called upon — to give the supreme testimony of this love to all men, but especially to persecutors. The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world — as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood. Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross. (no. 42)

This time period is heading towards the possibility of persecution in the United States. We may believe we could never have ISIS here, yet we have on demand abortion clinics, same-sex marriage, and other open affronts to Catholicism, to the point that the culture tells us, “you can’t believe same-sex marriage is wrong,” and “you can’t tell a women abortion is wrong.”

Living the fourth vow would be impossible without the virtues. We are called to give Christ’s witness to the culture. Both white martyrdom (spiritual) and red martyrdom (by blood) are great gifts to God. White martyrdom prepares us to be open and ready for the possibility of martyrdom by blood – the ultimate sacrifice which unites us to Christ on the cross. The virtues of generosity, self-giving, and courage are necessary, and one must die to self daily.

An offering of self

By Baptism we share the role of priest, prophet, and king. As priests, we are called to offer sacrifice for the salvation of the world. (Romans 12 … “I appeal to you brethren… offer yourselves to God”) All our daily activities and hardships — if borne patiently — can be offered as a spiritual sacrifice, united to the sacrifice of the Mass. We offer ourselves as Mary did — she is the perfect example of white martyrdom. She gives her total Yes at the Annunciation and never takes it back, even when told by Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart. We give our “yes” at Baptism, Confirmation, and each time we receive the Eucharist. Like Mary standing at the foot of the cross, we stand at the foot of the altar, and give our “amen” at every Mass.

As prophets, we are called to be teachers — spreading the Gospel by our lives and words. Confirmation gives us a special strength to witness to the Gospel, as well as holding us to a higher standard to do so.

By sharing in Christ’s kingship, we realize that to be a king is to serve. In married life it is for your family, as a priest, your flock, in religious life for your community. Christ is the perfect king who laid down his life for his subjects. When we perform works of mercy, we are serving others as Christ did.

By sharing daily in the role of priest, prophet, and king, we build up virtue to prepare for the possible crown of martyrdom. The Mercedarians’ fourth vow to offer one’s life if necessary, reminds us that our lives are important and should not be thrown away. The early Church actually had the problem where people would go out of their way to look for martyrdom!

Definition of Martyr

U. of Florida Newman Center

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.


St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron of families, pray for us!

Fr. Eugene Costa, O. de M. has been the Order’s novice master for over 35 years. He imparts a little of his “pearls” of knowledge to us about St. Raymond Nonnatus.

SSt.-Raymond-statue-in-LeRoy-NYat., Aug. 31, 2013
Feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus

Just a little thought for today’s feast.

How wonderful that we bring the statue of Saint Raymond Nonnatus to our parish of Our Lady of Mercy. And I think it is so important for us to realize a few facts about him.

Saint Raymond Nonnatus is the patron for life, for expectant mothers, and for families.

He was one of the original companions of Saint Peter Nolasco in the early 1200s. He was chosen as a priest and as a ransomer for the Christian captives. Now it is important for us to realize that in the General Chapter, when they chose him, it was because of three factors: he could speak to Moslems, he was very holy, and he was heroic in that he would die for the faith. So, he was chosen.

And as we know, Saint Raymond did go on campaign for the Christian captives – to save them. And while he was there he suffered for the faith – for the truth. And the Pope, because of his great heroic sanctity, made him a cardinal.

Patron for families

Now it is important for us to know that Saint Raymond is not only the patron for life, and for expectant mothers, but also for families. How we need a patron for families! And we need this intercessor because we all must realize, we must know that in our families there are trials, difficulties, crosses and disappointments. Saint Raymond wants to be an advocate for us.

Fr Eugene
Fr Eugene

I would like to share with you something about this statue. Notice that he has the palm of martyrdom – Saint Raymond did not suffer death, but he suffered for the truth, and proclaiming that truth. There are three crowns on the top of that palm of martyrdom.

The first crown was that he was confessor to the truth. He proclaimed the truth, he lived the truth, he suffered for the truth and the papacy gave him the office of cardinal because of that. Saint Raymond’s statue is on the Colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The second crown is that he was truly a saint, very holy, for he loved the faith. He is shown always with the monstrance because of his true sanctity and his purity which he kept all his life.

St. Raymond Nonnatus redeemer of captives and miracle worker

 St. Raymond Nonnatus is one of the most beloved saints for Christian families. He was born in the early 13th century. Raymond was nonnatus or “not born” since he was taken out of his dead mothers womb by his uncle. His miraculous life continued as he enter the Order of Mercy and became a heroic redeemer of Captives. Here is his story:


Patron of families
Patron of families

One of the most illustrious Saints of the Order of Mercy for the redemption of captives was St. Raymond Nonnatus.

His Superiors chose him to go to Africa, to pursue in the midst of the barbarians of that country the pious purposes for which the Order had been divinely instituted. This mission filled him with great joy.

On reaching Africa he took up his abode in Algeria a place to which the pirate ships conveyed the Christian prisoners whom they had captured on the high seas, and where they were exposed and sold as slaves in the market-places, or awaited the ransom demanded for their deliverance.

The number of these captives was so great at the time of the Saints arrival that he had not sufficient money to redeem them all. But as his charity for these unfortunate people embraced them all with out exception, he resolved to deliver them all from their terrible bondage. To accomplish this, having purchased as many as his limited resources permitted, and having agreed concerning the amount of ransom demanded for the rest, he procured their liberation, offering himself as a hostage till such time as the money required would be sent.

The Saint was then loaded with chains ; but he thanked God from his inmost heart for having given him this opportunity of suffering something for the love of Him Who had died on the Cross to redeem the whole world.

It would be impossible to describe the cruelty of these barbarians towards him, or the sufferings they caused him to endure during the time of his captivity. They were so great that the Cadi or Judge of the place, fearing that he would die under them, and that thus he would forfeit the money he hoped to receive, gave command by sound of trumpet to all concerned that the hostage was not to be further molested, and that if he should die on account of the treatment he received at their hands, he would hold them responsible for his death, and that they themselves would have to pay the ransom agreed upon for his deliverance.

120Raymond availed himself of this opportunity to perform heroic works of charity among the Christian captives who arrived day after day, and were subjected to the most unheard-of cruelty. He would visit them in their dungeons and console them, and encourage and confirm them in their faith. He extended his charity even to the infidels, instructing them when opportunity offered in the truths of the Catholic Religion. Many, even amongst the most obstinate, embraced Christianity, and among them two Moors of high rank, who received the Sacrament of Baptism at his hands.

These good works of St. Raymond could not long remain concealed. The Pasha, named Setim, was informed of them, and, being filled with anger, ordered him to be cruelly beaten with rods.

This sentence was carried out with excessive severity, but it was far from restraining the zeal of the holy apostle. He continued to instruct those who manifested any desire to learn the truths of the Christian Faith, and to console and strengthen in their torments those among the Christians whom he perceived to waver in their resolution, or whom the hardship of their condition placed in the danger of renouncing their Faith.

A padlock was placed on St Raymond's lips.
A padlock was placed on St Raymond’s lips.

When the Pasha heard of this further despising of his commands, lie ordered him to be scourged in all the streets of the city ; then he pierced his lips with a hot iron rod, and joined them together with a padlock, the key of which was entrusted to the care of the Cadi, who only allowed it to leave his hands when it was necessary to give his prisoner food. He also ordered him to be thrown into one of the deepest dungeons and loaded with chains.

In this sad condition the holy man could not open his mouth to publish the praises of God, but it did not hinder him from opening his heart to speak to Him the language of love by prayers, desires, and holy thoughts. One day as his mind was occupied in pious contemplation, he fell into an ecstasy. His gaolers coming to give him some food, found him in this state prostrate on the ground, his head being supported by his right hand, while the fingers of the left were lying on a book open at his side, and were touching the following verse of Psalm cviii. :“O Lord my God, take not the word of truth from my mouth.” Seeing this, they were astonished, but this astonishment became greater when they heard him utter, with his lips still closed, another verse of the Psalmist : “Thy word, O God, endureth forever.”

The Moors attributed this to enchantment, and to make him cease speaking they beat him with rods and struck him with their feet, then left him with his lips still fastened, without giving him anything to eat.

St. Raymond lived for eight months in the midst of this cruel treatment, which he bore with unparalleled constancy. At the end of that time the religious of his Order arrived with the money that had been fixed upon for his release. The Cadi, who was a man of great avarice, was not satisfied with the amount they had brought, and desired still to retain him. The man of God himself, inflamed with charity for his neighbour, would willingly have remained to console his dear captives in their afflictions, but his brethren succeeded in obtaining his

release, and he returned with them.

St Raymond’s Feast is August 31st. He is the Patron of expected mothers, pre-born babies Christian families and those falsely accused.

The catechism in examples (1908)

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

Author: Chisholm, D
Volume: 5
Vol. 5
London : Burns Oates & Washbourne ltd
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Call number: AKD-5986
Digitizing sponsor:
Book contributor:
Regis – University of Toronto
regislibrary; toronto

Problems with infertility go to St Raymond Nonnatus!!



Groups such as Life Teen are challenging our generation to radical generosity with God

Today’s world is filled with so many examples of infidelity. This is especially the case in marriage. The news outlets are constantly occupied with juicy stories of politicians, sports figures, and celebrities who are unfaithful to their vows and promises. The priesthood and the consecrated life is not faring much better. It is no wonder that many young people struggle to make life long commitments. The statistics and their real life experiences show that this is impossible or not worth it.

301550_10151606535662034_655092057_nWe are certainly in trying times, but as St Paul says, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20).” With the eyes of faith we can notice signs of the New Springtime of the Church.  One of these signs is the work of Life Teen a lay missionary movement in the Church which focuses on evangelizing and strengthening the faith of today’s youth.

This summer Fr Ken and I had the opportunity to spend time at one of Life Teen’s missions, the Edge camp in Hiawassee, Georgia. This camp offers middle school students from Life Teen parishes the chance to have an experience of their faith which is steeped in the Sacraments, Scripture, and Church teaching, yet also really fun. The theme for this year’s camps was Fearless with the symbolism of climbing the mountain of faith.

Hiawassee Missionaries
Hiawassee Missionaries

What was most impressive to us as Religious friars about the Life Teen movement is the fearless commitment that its members are freely giving to be missionaries. These young adults, often in their 20’s, are offered the opportunity to become true missionaries for a few weeks, a summer, or even for several years. This commitment to living all the radicalness of a missionary is freely offered and must be freely accepted.

When reflecting on this “movement of the Spirit”, one is drawn to thank God and the missionaries for their sign of fidelity to something greater. In fact, this is what Pope Francis did July 28th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in an encounter with the volunteers at World Youth Day (another instrument of the Holy Spirit today). Pope Francis stated that “I could not return to Rome” without having thanked all the volunteers for their “countless” acts of loving service to the pilgrims in Rio. Fr Ken and I felt a similar gratitude for the dedication and countless hours of work and prayer which we experienced in the missionaries at Camp Hiawassee. What better words than the Pope’s to express the youthful enthusiasm shown in the service of the Gospel:

“With your smiles, your acts of kindness and your willingness to serve, you’ve shown it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Their example, he said, was in the model of St. John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord. “Every one of you,” he said, “was a means … to meet Jesus. And this is the most beautiful service we can give as missionary disciples, to prepare the way so that all might meet, know, and love the Lord.”

Fr Ken on the trampoline with the youth
Fr Ken on the trampoline with the youth

The Pope recognized in the commitments and service made at World Youth Day an opportunity to learn the virtues which promote fidelity to the higher calling of marriage, priesthood, and consecrated life. Francis challenged the volunteers to even greater generosity:

“God calls you to make definite choices … to respond to your vocation is to move towards personal fulfillment.” “God calls each of us to be holy … but he has a particular path for each of us.” Some, he said, “through family life in the sacrament of marriage.” He noted that many consider marriage “out of fashion,” and added that “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many (say) it is not worth making a life-long commitment, a definitive decision, forever, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

“I ask you instead to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide. Yes, I am asking you to rebel! To rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary, and ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, of true love.”

He re-iterated, “have courage to swim against the tide, to be happy.”

How ironic that we find God and personal fulfillment only when we are able to give ourselves as a sincere gift to another or to all in consecration (Gaudium et Spes, 24)? Yet this has always been the truth, but it is today a revolutionary act. We need rebels who will step out in faith and make lifelong commitments trusting God’s grace. The culture has taught us to doubt. To doubt that God is faithful once and for all time. To doubt the grace of our baptism which calls to that same fidelity in our lives. Certainly fidelity is not intended to be easy, but it is the path which the Lord gives each individual to holiness.

Fr Ken working in small groups at camp.
Fr Ken working in small groups at camp.

Groups such as Life Teen International are signs that the Holy Spirit is at work giving young adults the tools that they need to make lifetime commitments. This is a process and God’s ways are mysterious. Yet, the witness of young adults giving one or more years of their lives to live as true missionaries is a huge step in trust in God and courage. After making this step, the individual missionary is fitted with all the necessary training and support to live the commitment. They learn the essentials of the faith and the Church’s teachings on mission. The missionaries study the life teen mission statutes and make certain promises to support Catholic community living. However, the most important support that they receive is from a prayerful Catholic community. The Life Teen community prays the liturgy of the hours in common each day. They also have Eucharistic Adoration with meditation and sharing on the Scriptures.

It is easy to see how this missionary apostolic movement is truly forming its members to live their baptismal call to holiness. Those who take part in the mission, whether through summer staff or service staff or full-time missionaries, are begin prepared to be those “revolutionaries” who can be witness of fidelity to their vocations in the world. Some will become married people who will raise children for the kingdom of God. Others will be ordained priest who will stand in the place of Christ in parishes throughout the world. Still others will feel a call to the even more radical life of the evangelical counsels, becoming witnesses of the life to come.

Whatever the call, we thank God for raising up movements such as Life Teen, which are preparing the soil for the New Springtime of the Church. Teaching the youth about the God who is always faithful. Then giving them the tools to step out and make lifetime commitments. To live our call to imitate God in His faithfulness and in the process truly find ourselves through our vocation.

                                                                                                                                       Fr Joseph Eddy and Fr Ken Breen,

                                                                                                                                        Order of Mercy

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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!!

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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

Blessed John Paul II Encouraged the Mercedarians in their Redemptive Charism

Wherever Modern Man Is Held Prisoner

On May 23, 1980, the Holy Father received the twenty-six members of the ordinary general chapter of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Ransom, led by the Master General, Fr. Domenico Acquaro, O. de M. and by the Procurator General, Fr Bernardo Arrieta, O. de M.

Blessed John Paul II delivered the following address.

Blessed John Paul II
Blessed John Paul II

Beloved Brothers of the Order of Our Lady of Ransom,

With deep joy I share with you these moments of intimacy, at an informal meeting which, I trust, will serve to draw even closer the ties of affectionate communion between your institute and the Pope.

I know that you are gathered in Rome for the general chapter, to which all the religious of the Order, engaged in apostolic work in nineteen countries of different continents, are looking with such hope.

I thank you for your visit, with which you desire to manifest to me your feelings of faithful adherence to the Magisterium of the Church. I wish to take the opportunity to confirm my deep esteem for you ancient and well-deserving Order, which of for over seven and a half centuries has been doing everything in its power for the most afflicted and oppressed members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

The mission that your founder, St. Peter Nolasco, entrusted to you, in the direct work of ransom and help the prisoners, and by which all his apostolic activity in parishes, hospitals for the poor, teaching and missions was imbued, is prolonged today in a charism of service to the Faith, to project a ray of hope and to offer the assistance of Christ’s charity to all of those who find themselves subjected to new forms of captivity in our society: in prisons, in suburbs of poverty and hunger, among those addicted to drugs, in areas of materialism in which the Church is persecuted or reduced to silence, etc.

It is a vast field in which your religious spirit and the total availability opened up by the generous practice of the evangelical counsels and the profession of your fourth vow has to dedicate itself unreservedly. That will be the way to be faithful to your charism today, along the lines laid down by St. Peter Nolasco and already contained in the original constitutions of 1272.

Our Lady of Mercy
Our Lady of Mercy

There is no doubt that your vocation calls you to a demanding ecclesial commitment. In order to keep this dedication alive, you must be souls of deep interior life and renew your strength in contact with the Model of all perfection: Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Savior. Therefore, I repeat to you: “Your houses must be above all centers of prayer, meditation and dialogue—individual and communitarian—with Him who is and must be the first and principal interlocutor in the laborious succession of the hours of every day” (Address to Religious Superiors General, November 24, 1978). In this sublime school the religious will quench his thirst for God, which must be a characteristic of his life (cf. Ps. 63:1-2), and will be filled with that great love that gives a new meaning to his own existence (cf. Redemptor Hominis, no. 10).

Speaking to religious whose founder placed such importance on devotion to the Mother of God and ours, I cannot but exhort you to maintain and deepen this great Marian love which is a characteristic note of your Order. Take from the “Mother of mercy” and “Consolation of the afflicted” an example and inspiration at every moment. She will guide you to her Son and will teach you the value of every soul, on whom to lavish zealously the care of your ministry.

Encouraging you in your resolutions, I repeat to you my confidence; I pray for you and I impart my special blessing to each one of the members of your Order.


St. Peter Paschal or Paschasius was born at Valencia, Spain. When he grew up in years he embraced the ecclesiastical state, which he adorned by his many virtues. St. Peter left his post in 1250 to join the Order of Mercy and he received the habit in the Valencia Cathedral at the hands of Arnaldo of Carcassonne.

St Peter was one of the first theologians to say Mary was Immaculately Conceived.

His learning and his piety pointed him out as a worthy successor to the Bishop of Jaen, who had a short time previously been called to receive the reward of his labours ; and from the first moment of his promotion to that see he became renowned for his zeal in the redemption of the Christian slaves who were captured by the Moors, and for the conversion of the infidels. So powerful were his words that many of the Mussul mans renounced their errors to embrace the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The followers of Mahomet were filled with anger when they heard of these things, and while the Bishop was on a visit to Grenada they seized him and cast him into prison. The faithful of Jaen learning that their beloved pastor had been reduced to slavery by these wicked men, collected a considerable sum of money and sent it to the Bishop, that he might thus procure his deliverance. The Saint received their gift with gratitude, but instead of spending it for his own ransom he employed it to procure the freedom of many women and children, whose weakness gave him cause to fear that they might not remain steadfast in the profession of their Religion.

St. Peter continued, therefore, to be a prisoner, and was treated with great cruelty by the infidels because of their hatred for the Christian name. One privilege they, strange to say, granted him that of offering up daily the. Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

One morning during his long imprisonment, when he had made his preparation for saying Mass, during which he had used the discipline to mortify himself in order to obtain from God strength and perseverance for his poor Christian slaves who were so inhumanly treated, he was disappointed at finding no one present to serve it. He went towards the door which led into the prison, to see if there was anyone near who could come to assist him. At that moment Jesus Christ Himself appeared to him under the appearance of a little boy of four or five years of age, clad in the poor garments of a slave, and asked him of what he was in search. “My dear child” replied the Saint, “I am looking for someone who may be able to serve Mass.” “I will gladly do that, my Father, if you will only accept of me.” The Saint, who had never before seen the child, asked him who he was. “I will tell you who I am when you have finished Mass.”

St. Peter Paschal then offered up the Holy Sacrifice with a feeling of great devotion, such as he had never before experienced ; and when he had finished his prayers of thanksgiving he asked the little boy several questions concerning the truths of our holy Faith, to all of which the child gave answers so full of wisdom that the holy man gazed upon him in wonder. Finally he put to him this question : “Tell me, my child, who is Jesus Christ ?” The little boy answered : “I am Jesus Christ ; it is I Who was crucified for your salvation, and for that of the whole world ; look at My hands, and My feet, and My side, and you will recognize the wounds I received during My Passion. Because you have of your own choice remained prisoner, in order that you might procure the freedom of my captive children, and because, to obtain their freedom, you spent the money sent to you to procure your own, you have made Me your prisoner.” Having said these words, the little boy suddenly disappeared, leaving the Saint filled with exceeding great joy.

The Mahometans, revering the sanctity of their prisoner, resolved to grant him his liberty if only he would promise never to write or to say anything against the law of Mahomet. The Saint, desiring to obey God rather than man, refused to agree to this, and continued, as he had always done, to write and to preach against it. The Moors became exceedingly angry, and beheaded him as he knelt at the altar making his thanksgiving after Mass. This took place on the sixth day of January in theyear 1300. vies dcs Saints, Petits Boll., xii. 55

St. Peter with the Child Jesus.

 The catechism in examples (1908)

Author: Chisholm, D
Volume: 5
Subject: Vol. 5
Publisher: London : Burns Oates & Washbourne ltd
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Call number: AKD-5986
Digitizing sponsor: MSN
Book contributor: Regis – University of Toronto
Collection: regislibrary; toronto

St. Augustine: “A Journey to Oneness of Mind & Heart”

St. Augustine of Hippo is one of the Christian world’s most beloved and well-known saints. His life “represents every aspect of the human life experience with all of its problems, sorrows and failures.” (Pope Benedict XVI). Augustine’s feast this year on August 28th is particularly meaningful as his life is captured for the first time in a major motion picture Restless Heart: The Confessions of St. Augustine.

St. Augustine has a special significance to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy since we follow his rule of life. On August 10th 1218, Bishop Berenguer de Palou officially and solemnly constituted the Order and gave them the Rule of Saint Augustine as a norm for their life in common. This rule would shape the way that the friars live their life of prayer, penance, and witness for the next 794 years.

St. Augustine was ahead of his time

The Rule of St Augustine is the shortest of all the major rules, but quite possibly the most profound in its understanding of the human person. Augustine was in many ways “ahead of his time” in his understanding of the psychology, spirituality, and philosophy of man. He was not afraid to combine Pre-Christian philosophy and his vast experiences to the teachings of Christianity. How did he get so much wisdom? Well, Augustine by God’s grace was able to unite his problems, sorrows and failures to the Cross of Christ. He knew that the limitless God can use “all things to work for the good of those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Augustine struggled so much in his life to overcome his own limitedness before he finally gave his restless heart to the God who has no limits. The Confessions reveal a man who gave himself passionately to whatever he did. Before he met the Creator, Augustine fell in love with the creation and the goodness that he found within it. His passion lead him to practice hedonism or the doctrine that pleasure is the goal of life and is man’s highest good. Augustine’s love of wisdom led him to philosophy and rhetoric. He practiced Manichaeism, or a form of dualism which denied the dignity of the body and personal responsibility for sin. After becoming disillusioned with this, Augustine went to Platonism or the belief that the Ideas alone give true knowledge as they are known by the mind. Augustine surrendered himself without limit to these things, but the restlessness continued.

Disinterested in Christianity

Despite the promptings and prayers of his mother, St. Monica, he remained disinterested with Christianity, which to him seemed simple and lacking in wisdom. Yet, one day the Lord spoke to his heart and he “took up and read” the Sacred Scriptures again. This time Augustine’s restless heart was opened to the wisdom of God, which to men appears to be foolishness. In his characteristic zeal, Augustine left everything to follow Christ. He longed to abandon the world to live in community with like-minded brothers studying Sacred Scripture and Philosophy. Yet, this was Augustine’s desire and not God’s. In the Lord’s providence, he was chosen to be bishop of Hippo. Here Augustine was forced to come face to face with so many of the errors or “isms” he had abandoned. In his diocese, were those who had forsaken Orthodox Christianity to follow Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. Augustine’s cross would be to face once again the errors and sins of his past, but this time as a shepherd of souls.

Dangers of the “-isms”


Monica prayed for Augustine for years until he finally responded to God’s grace.

In today’s society, there are modern forms of captivity which cause people to lose sight of the truth of the Gospel. These “-isms” plague people, as well as leave them in danger of losing their faith. The greatest of these errors is Modernism. It states that religion is essentially a matter of experience, personal and collective. There is no objective revelation from God to the human race, on which Christianity is finally based, nor any reasonable grounds for credibility in the Christian faith, based on miracles or the testimony of history. Essentially the modernist believes that faith is personal and comes from the emotions and not from doctrine or revelation. Modernism comes from the late 19th Century and has given birth to so many of the destructive thoughts of our time: Materialism, Radical Feminism, Individualism, Secularism, and Relativism. Ultimately, modernistic thought is based on the individual, not God or His revelation transmitted through the Church. The modernist is skeptical of all things. This thought pattern breeds narcissism and doubt. Not unlike Augustine’s time, these errors have penetrated to the depths of our society, the family, and even aspects of the Church.

As Christians, and particularly Mercedarians, we must combat the effects of Modernism in our society, family, and Church. How do we do this? Well, we can look to St. Augustine as a model of tireless defense of the Truth. He used faith, reason, and courage to shepherd his people who were in serious danger of denying their faith. Augustine challenged the Manicheans and Donatists to debates. He embraced philosophy and explained the reasonableness of the faith to the people of his time. All that is true, beautiful, and good can lead us to God.

Christianity is profoundly reasonable

Augustine was not afraid to debate and answer the questions of his opponents, because he knew that Christianity is profoundly reasonable. Amazingly, Augustine also used the media to promote the orthodox teaching of the Church. He used propaganda such as songs and pamphlets to catechize the people of his time. Augustine also used his sermons to teach the faith. He lived in a time where people turned to speakers for entertainment. Augustine appealed to his listener’s emotions and deepest desires by using clever “play on words.” Augustine faced much criticism for his strong defense of the orthodox faith. He was at times isolated and threatened. Yet, he courageously stood firm for the sake of those whose faith was in danger.

We too can learn from St Augustine to be clever, reasonable, and courageous in our defense of the faith. Ultimately, Modernism is a system that leads to self-destruction because it leads to individualism, narcissism, and doubt. Those who adhere to these beliefs are basing their belief in themselves and their own emotions or feelings.

We are saved with others

God is Trinity; a communion of divine persons. We who are created in His Image are called to that same communion. The human person is not meant to attain salvation alone. We are saved as a communion or Church. This is why St. Augustine wanted to go away with like-minded brothers to grow in the wisdom and understanding of God. The Rule he established for this life in common states that “all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring God in yourselves.”

It is destructive to follow modernism and focus only on my emotions or my personal beliefs. We are a part of a much greater Communion of Saints. In communion with them we follow the One, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which reveals to us the mysteries “hidden from time past (Col. 1:26).” We learn from each other and support one another on the journey to Oneness of Mind & Heart.

See also:

Video trailer: Restless Heart: The Confessions of St. Augustine

The Rule of Saint Augustine

Jesus Invites all to Come to His Wounded Side to Find Divine Mercy and True Freedom

The word Merced means “price paid”, Jesus paid the price for our sins by his blood. This Sunday we give thanks and glorify the Lord for his Divine Mercy.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is based on a private revelation of Jesus to a Polish religious sister before World War II. The private revelation was accepted by the Church and the devotion has rapidly spread throughout the world. Christ appeared to Sr. Faustina over a period of several years and taught her to pray for an out-pouring of Divine Mercy on sinners throughout the world. One of the most popular aspects of the devotion is the Image of Christ with white and red rays bursting forth from his wounded side. The Doctrine of God’s Divine Mercy expressed in St Faustina’s diary is not a new teaching, but only a reminder to the world of God’s greatest attribute, His mercy.

The word Mercy, according to Webster’s Dictionary originates from the 13th Century term Merced. Merced means a price paid. The 13th Century was a difficult time for the Church in Europe. For several centuries, Islam had been creeping up into Spain and other Christian countries by force. They enforced their Suria Law on all living in those concurred lands. Christians were prevented from openly practicing their faith and were treated as second class citizens unless they would apostize or renounce the Catholic faith. Some were even held in bondage and cruel captivity for holding to their Christian Faith. A letter dating from 1311 gives us an idea of the magnitude of the crisis facing Christendom. King James II of Aragon informed Pope Clement V that there were 30,000 “wretched” Christian captives in the Moslem-held kingdom of Granada and that “500,000 renounced their Catholic faith and embraced the Mohammedan sect locally.” Seeing the so many in danger of losing their faith, St Peter Nolasco, under the inspiration of the Blessed Mother, founded the Order of the BVM of Mercy of the redemption of captives. They would raise money to buy back Christians in danger of renouncing the faith and take them to Christian lands. The Order, also known as the Mercedarians, took a 4th Vow to be willing to offer their own lives in order to pay the price of the captive’s freedom.

The Mercedarians did not come up with this idea of redemption. Jesus Christ is the authored redemption when he paid the price on the Cross for all sinners. Just after His death, John’s Gospel tells us that a soldier took a lance and thrust it into Christ’s side. At that moment, blood and water flowed out from his side as a symbol of the Sacramental life of the Church. The Precious Blood is the payment for our sins and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The water is the Sacrament of Baptism, which cleanses us of Original Sin and personal sin.

When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina he was clothed with an ankle length white robe and out of his open side were the rays of God’s Divine Mercy. The rays were red for the Precious Blood and white for the cleansing water. To His wounded side the Savior invites all people to have their sins paid for and be washed clean by Baptism. This is Divine Mercy. We deserve strict justice by our sins, but instead, for no reason but Love, Jesus offers us mercy. He welcomes us to live the life of God. Jesus offers mercy to all people. His death on the cross was offered once for all. But not all accept the Divine Mercy.

There are many reasons people do not accept God’s offer of Mercy. One is because they do not believe that they have a debt to be paid. People today do not recognize that they have sin. Sin is a lack of love and is opposed to God who is Love. The Old Testament tells us that “the just man sins 7 times a day”. For the unjust it must be much more! Another reason people do not accept the Divine Mercy is because they do not believe that the debt has really been paid. Unfortunately we, like St. Thomas, doubt that Jesus is paid the debt of our sins. How could any man take away my sins? My sins are just too great! We often cannot forgive ourselves for what we have done, let alone allow God to forgive us.

Divine Mercy is offered to all, even the worst sinner! Jesus appears to us today, as He appeared to St. Faustina. He appears in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. Like in the Gospel today, Christ shows us His wounds. He has risen from the dead and these wounds are no longer a source of shame to him, but trophies. The Glorified Body is beautiful beyond compare to those who look upon it. The most beautiful aspect is the wounds, which show us the entire price paid for our redemption. When we come to Confession, we come to Jesus and “touch his wounded side”.  We realize that God is truly merciful! Though we deserve to be condemned by justice, instead he forgives everything.

The Divine Mercy devotion has been given to us in these times to help us realize that Jesus will forgive us always, but we need to accept his offer. Accepting Jesus’ mercy means just coming to His Body the Church and receiving it “from his wounded side”. Then, we must sincerely try to be merciful with others. Other people hurt us deeply with their sins. We see people who live very sinful lives. Yet, we do not have the authority to condemn. Instead, we can offer our mercy to them. We can pray for those who hurt us deeply. We can let them know that the debt of our sins was paid for those who wish to receive Divine Mercy. We, like the Mercedarians, can help to free them from their captivity to sin. We do this by bringing them spiritually and literally to the wounds of Christ. From these wounds flow rays of red and white, which cleanse us all from our sins. Divine Mercy is open to all of us. Let us be ministers of God’s Divine Mercy to each other!