No App for Divine Grace

iPhones. Instant messages. YouTube uploads. It seems that there is no end to the technological marvels constantly being developed. And yet, God calls every man to holiness, through his mind and heart in a way that is far beyond the grasp of any man-made technology. The priest, today as in ages past, brings the God of the universe to man in order to redeem him from sin and death.

St. Peter Nolasco. Click to read more about him.
St. Peter Nolasco, founder of the Mercedarians. Our mission reaches way beyond technology.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches,

Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. (No. 2293)

The Mercedarian priest is aware of this awesome responsibility. He starts with the building blocks of what it requires. The Constitutions of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy state,

Because of the special participation in the priesthood of Christ that the presbyterate confers for the building up of the Mystical Body, the religious who are about to be ordained priests must possess a great love for Christ, whom they are to represent, and an ardent desire to serve and evangelize the people to whom they are sent.

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

Is God calling you to become a Mercedarian friar, either as a priest or a brother?

Click and read more:

>Greetings from Vocation Director Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M.
>Contact Fr. Joseph
>Mercedarian Formation
>St. Peter Nolasco, our Founder
>7 Quick Questions to test your religious vocation
>Information Form: tell us about you
>Mercedarian Facebook Page

Not on Your Bucket List

All Christians, in all walks of life, are called to holiness. But priests are called in a special way to this life. Pope John Paul II, quoting the Second Vatican Council, has said that all of the baptized are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. He added that this applies,

Br. Scott Brentwood
Br. Scott Brentwood receiving diaconate ordination

in a special way to priests. They are called not only because they have been baptized, but also and specifically because they are priests, that is, under a new title and in new and different ways deriving from the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Thoughts like these course through the minds of our friars as they approach the altar to receive the laying on of hands of the bishop in the Rite of Ordination. Indeed, the calling to the priesthood is sublime – not just another feather to be tucked into one’s cap in the journey of life.

Special Identification with Christ

As stated in our Constitutions, the Mercedarian priest has a special identification with Christ (N. 178). Our priests redeem those held in chains by modern forms of captivity. The Constitutions state that in their priestly training,

Theoretical formation must be united with pastoral practice so that, by knowing men well and loving Christ, they may be able to nourish the flock of the Lord with preference for those who faith is in danger and the most needy.

Is God calling you to become a Mercedarian friar, either as a priest or a brother?

Click for more information:

>Greetings from Vocation Director Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M.
>Contact Fr. Joseph
>Mercedarian Formation
>7 Quick Questions About a Religious Vocation
>Information Form
>Mercedarian Facebook Page

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!

Prayer: The Soul of the Consecrated Life

The Religious Life is a life of prayer. The liturgy of the hours is an essential practice that gives life to our consecration. Here one Mercedarian Friar reflects on prayer and the nourishment that it gives to his religious life.

The Eucharist, the source and Summit of our life.

1) What attracted you to Religious Life? 

Looking back I would have to say that what attracted me to Religious Life was three things: 1) To be more closely united to Jesus through the Vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, 2) To live a stable and structured life revolving around prayer and service, and 3) To live common life with other brothers united in the Lord.  It is still these three things that keep me enthusiastic about Religious Life.

2) Describe a typical day as a religious?

A typical day always begins with the praises of the Lord in Morning Prayer and Holy Mass.  After Morning Prayer there is the various responsibilities and service of the Community and the Apostolate that need to be attended to.  The community comes together at various times of the day for meals, recreation, Meditation, Rosary, and the other Hours of the Divine Office.

3) Why is prayer important to you? Was prayer always an important part of your life? 

Prayer is an important part of my life because prayer is the way that God relates to me and I relate to God.  Prayer keeps me in union with God and gives me the strength and light to do His will.  Prayer was always an important part of my life in grade school and High School.  Even though it was important to me in college I did not devote as much time to it as I should have.  Because of this I was slow to hear the “Call” of God.

4) What role does the Liturgy of the Hours play in your prayer Life?  Why is it so important to you? 

I love the Liturgy of the Hours.  It is not only a responsibility given to us by the Church to sing the praises of God throughout the day and to pray for the needs of the Church but it is a joy and an honor!  The Liturgy of the Hours keeps me united to God throughout the day.

5) How does the Liturgy of the Hours nourish or sustain you?

At times in our spiritual lives we simply don’t have the words to express to God what we want about what is going on in our lives.  The Liturgy of the Hours always seem to be able to express at any given time what I want to share with God.

6) What challenges do you face in praying the Liturgy of the Hours?  How do you meet those challenges?

The biggest challenge would be to be faithful to those Hours that are not prayed in Community. I need to make sure that a busy schedule does not keep me from those Hours.  To do that you always need to pencil in space for God in a busy schedule.

7) In what other ways do you pray? 

My favorite forms of prayer are silent Adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, reading Sacred Scripture, reciting the Rosary on my own, and walking in the beauty of nature.

8)Is there anything else about religious life or prayer that you would like to share with us? 

Religious Life is a wonderful life, very fulfilling. Prayer is the very soul of that life.


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.”

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!!


The Assumption of Mary

On this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary it is good for us to take some time to meditate on her blessed vocation.

Our Lady of Mercy

Mary was called from her mother’s womb to be the Mother of God. God chose her and prepared her for such an exalted vocation by making her the Immaculate Conception. Et macula originalis non est in te. (There is no original stain in you.) Mary is such a privileged creature; chosen to be Christ’s Mother.  Mary’s whole-hearted, fiat, response to her vocation lead her to be both the mother of the Church and a symbol of that same Church.

This feast of the Assumption reveals clearly how Mary is both our Mother and our model. Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and is called “blessed among women”. Elizabeth recognizes her blessedness, because Mary is chosen to be the new “ark of the covenant”. The old ark carried the commandments of God, but the new ark contains the God-man. Jesus fulfills the Old Law. He is himself a covenant between God and man. It is impossible that this ark could contain within it any stain of sin. Mary had to be without “spot or wrinkle”, immaculate from the moment of her conception. The Immaculate Conception of Mary foreshadows what God has called all people to be, Holy.  At the end of her earthly life it was impossible that this “ark”, this  blessed body, would in any way experience decay. God took his precious ark to himself. Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul. She received a glorified body, just like her Divine Son. In this resurrected body, Mary foreshadows the fact that we are called to receive this body at Christ’s Second Coming. Yes, Jesus will come again and the dead will be raised. Everyone will receive what is due them based on how they have responded to God’s grace. Those who are counted among the elect will receive a glorified body like Mary. Where she has gone we hope to go. Mary has lead the way for her faithful Children.

The Mercedarians have a special connection to Mary whom we recognize as the foundress and inspiration of the work of redemption. Our Constitutions encourage us to imitate her purity: In order that they may better center their lives in Christ the Redeemer, they shall be oriented toward the imitation and veneration of Mary, our foundress and Mother, impressing her image as a seal upon their hearts, so that nothing may be in their mouths, minds, or conduct that does not breathe love for the Virgin Mary.  What a challenging vocation! Yet that is the call. We as Mary’s special sons are called to imitate and venerate her in our words and actions. If we do this faithfully we will become signs, like her, of the Second Coming when all things will be fulfilled in Christ. Happy Feast to all!!


Dispatches From The Novitiate: Goodbye, Cell Phone!


Br Michael reflects on the detachment of the novitiate. No more computer, just paper and pen.

Br Daniel with Br Michael

On July 8,  I was invested with the white habit of Our Lady Mercy. It was a great day, my heart was leaping with joy as I began my novitiate.

Unfortunately, my family could not attend; it was a private ceremony with the friars, as is custom with the church and the order. However, when I make my first profession, they will all be able to come and celebrate that great day.

The novitiate is a year spent away from the world. It is meant to draw us closer to Christ and help us discern our vocation in a deeper and more profound atmosphere.

This year I will not have access to the Internet or a computer in order to grow closer to Christ with fewer distractions. (Hasta luego, my 13,389 Twitter followers! Goodbye, Xbox 360!)

I also had to cancel my cell phone. Once I take my simple vows I can no longer own a cell phone.

You might be thinking, “I could never be without my cell phone.” At first I thought the same thing, however, when I began to delve into Christ I realized there was nothing in this world more important to me than Him. I am more than willing to lose my earthly material attachments in order to wholly love God and harbor the quiet to hear His voice.

While in the novitiate my family can come to visit twice during the year and I can receive weekly phone calls.

My goals during novitiate are to grow in holiness as a Mercedarian Friar, unite myself more closely to Jesus through the practice of interior prayer, and ransom the souls from purgatory – most especially those of the deceased priests and religious.

If you feel a call to follow Our Lord, do not be afraid! This is the best decision I ever made and I am happy I took that first step.

If you do not heed the call you feel in your heart, you will always ask yourself, “What if?”

I urge you take that leap of faith and let God lead the rest of the way.


Xbox 360 Gamer Stops Running From Religious Life

Michael Bowes is preparing to receive the Habit of Mary this July 8th. Here is part 1 of his story:

Michael being measured for the habit of Mary.

I am just a few days away from entering the novitiate for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also known as the Mercedarians.

Before saying yes to the longing in my heart and entering religious life, I led a comfortable life. I worked for a Catholic charity as a web designer and was an avid Xbox 360 gamer.

Upon sharing my excitement with my fellow gamers about finding the Mercedarians, I was bombarded with many questions, mostly out of curiosity, but the consensus boiled down to “Why in the world would you choose to live that life?”

I had to explain that I wasn’t actively choosing anything and that I was merely saying yes to the call I heard from God. You see, a lot of people look at a vocation as a life decision and they begin to balance it out in comparison to their current life and situation, weighing the benefits, imagining the difficulties and asking themselves if they can really give up all their possessions.

We don’t choose a vocation to Christ as a career choice; it is not our choice to make. It is a call from Christ and only he can give it.

So how does one discern a call to serve Christ?

Imagine logging into your email account one morning and finding an email from God telling you that you have a vocation and you discover the exact place that he wants you to enter.

Wouldn’t that be simple?

Not really.

Why? Because that would take away our freedom to choose when, where, and how we follow Christ.  Part of our journey to religious life and pursuing a vocation is the path that we choose to take.


Fewer calls?

I heard recently someone say that God must not be calling people today to be priests and religious since there are so few vocations. The lack of vocations is not from God calling less frequently; it is from more people refusing to answer his call.

For many years I ran from the longing in my heart to follow Christ. I was so involved in my own life; I selfishly put God to the side while I pursued material things that I expected to bring happiness.

When I least expected it, I would again feel God calling me. It would come as a spiritual aspiration or I would have a desire to visit church and spend time in adoration. It’s like a persistent tapping on your shoulder: You may get distracted and forget about it, but the tug to pursue this feeling never goes away.

After running from my vocation for many years, I found the Mercedarian Friars online in 2008 and contacted the vocation director. After a few emails and a phone call, I was invited up for a visit.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly a few days before my vocation visit. I emailed the vocation director and told him about my loss and that I would contact him when I was ready.

I can’t explain what happened, but I forgot all about the Mercedarians and two years passed by.


Enter Mom

In January of 2010 my mom went to the March for Life. Amid hundreds of thousands of people, she ran right into the Mercedarians. I hadn’t told her about contacting the Mercedarian Friars two years prior; she had never heard of the order.

She was so excited about seeing a group of young men all in their habits, and somehow she felt this was a group that I would be interested in.

Upon getting back on the church bus and heading home, a woman from our parish grabbed my mom’s arm and told her that she believed I was going to enter the Order of the Mercedarians.

Mom called me and told me about the group she had just seen. I remember thinking to myself how familiar their name was. I checked my gmail account and was shocked to find my last email to them in 2008 – and how I had forgotten to contact them back.

God works in mysterious ways and His plan was already in motion, long before I realized it.



Br David completes his Masters of Theology

Br. David M. Spencer, O. de M., earned a Master of Theology (Cum Laude) from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in May, 2011.  Br. David used the opportunity of prayerfully contemplating, researching, and writing his thesis to explore more deeply the nature of Christian Liturgy and its efficacy in the redemptive mission.

Br. David has just completed his theological training at St Charles

Utilizing a rich trove of biblical, liturgical, and historical sources, Br. David demonstrates that liturgy is a Theophanic encounter permitting the participant to share in the Trinitarian life and in the mission of redemption.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, liturgy becomes an incarnational experience by the use of material elements, human language, and formulae.  Noting that the earthly ritual is a celebration of the single mystery proclaimed in the heavenly liturgy, the meeting of God is not a mere philosophical or emotional experience, but rather a true encounter with the Messiah.

Beginning with the central question, “What is Liturgy” and then carefully building a historical foundation with a “Lectio Divina of Jewish Liturgy”, Br. David concludes with the ‘Efficacy of Christian Liturgy in the Redemptive Mission’.  He explores the significant and deep reality of the Paschal Mystery in the life of the Church’s liturgical work. It is this efficacy, which performs the ransoming mission of Christ. It is in the liturgy that the clergy and laity are inserted into the mission of redemption – whether in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers of the Sacraments, or through participating in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist – the faithful are able to mark the points from creation-redemption-captivity-freedom with Christ.

 Br. David thus summarizes the vision of St. Peter Nolasco toward the captive Christians – that God’s embrace of His people is always oriented toward the preparation of His people for the coming of His Son, as Messiah, who would redeem his people from the darkness and ransom them from captivity. The effective fruit of Christ on His Cross transcends the limits of space and time; otherwise, we, and the generations before and after are left without the benefits of His Mission.  What, then, is the connecting point between the historic Paschal Mystery and its redemptive effect and our lives today? It is the sacred liturgical action of the Church that God uses to ransom his people and the means by which redemption is extended even to our own day.

A Friend’s Suggestion Leads to a Mercedarian Vocation

Here Br. Scott Brentwood, O. de M. tells his vocation story which leads him from a small Virginia town to becoming a friar in an Ancient Order.

Br Scott will make his Solemn Vows in June.

I spent my early years in the mountains of Virginia in a little corner of the world that still maintains a unique atmosphere of tranquility and lack of modernization all along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We had everything from trees to open fields – as rustic as one can get – but a community that was very aware of its codependence on one another.  Everyone knew everyone, and the stereotype of “small town life” very much applied.  The best comparison I can make is Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show…which is actually a 20 min. drive from where I lived.

Being in the “Bible-Belt,” faith was a very strong and present reality of every day life.  Everything started and ended with a prayer, and even when prayer in school was no longer permitted, the students still said them without the prompting of the Administration.  The Catholic presence, however, was VERY small and almost non existent.  In my house, religion was important, but not too important.  We were not as religious as other families, but I would not say it was lacking.  We said our prayers before and after meals as well as before we went to bed, but it was not a major part of my growing up.

I began to consider a vocation to be a priest when I was fourteen.  I was working at a government institution where the government distributes alms etc. to people who are poor.  Before I worked there, I thought most people only abused the program.  I thought they did not need the help but took it because it was available.  When I worked there, I discovered that this was true.  One time, however, I helped a family that really needed help, and afterward I tried to find a way to help others in more than just material ways.  At the time I did not know about the religious life, and my only real understanding of priestly life was that of the Diocese.  When I was seventeen, I decided I would pursue a priestly vocation.  I talked with the Vocation Director for the Diocese in Virginia.  He told me that the Diocese does not accept anyone until they have finished at a university.  I went to Old Dominion University.  It is a large university of 30,000 students.  I made many friends, and some of these friends also wanted to pursue a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.  When I learned about the religious life, I felt that this mode of life was what God wanted for me.  I liked the idea of living together with others who wanted to work for the same cause.  I looked into different religious congregations, but I did not find any that I wanted to join.

During the last year at my university, a friend of mine visited the Mercedarians.  When he returned, he told me I should visit them.  I said no.  I did not want to spend more time looking at congregations because I had looked at them before and did not see any that I liked.  That September, a hurricane came to Norfolk, the city of my university.  Everyone was evacuated from the university.  My family was eight hours away, so it was impossible for me to go home.  I asked the same friend if I could stay with him in his apartment downtown.  He said I could stay, but he was leaving to be with his family.  I stayed in his apartment alone.  The electricity died the first day, and the only activities I could do were study Biology, Pray, and look at the walls.  I spent more time looking at the walls than I did studying or praying.

My friend visited many different communities.  When he visited the communities, he always took cards of their saints etc. so he could remember to pray for the communities.  He would put them in the edges of other pictures.  When I was looking at these images, the images for the Mercedarians seemed different.  I thought I would call them and ask some questions I had.  I did not want to visit because the closest house was in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia was eight hours from my university by car.  When I called, I asked many questions.  I was happy with the answers.  I visited the next November.  I returned to Philadelphia the next January before returning to my university.  For my break in the spring, I returned to Philadelphia to complete the testing necessary for the application.  I graduated from my university in May, and entered the Mercedarians in August.