You believe in God? So what? All religions are the same.
If this is what you think, you are part of our mission territory. But if you are a man with a passion to bring Jesus Christ to this kind of person, we want to talk with you.
For nearly eight hundred years, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy has been rescuing people from various forms of captivity. Today, an ignorance, or even an indifference, about the saving message of Jesus Christ binds men to a slavery of shallow thought, following whatever is popular at the moment. We care about these people.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI warned, “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
Not Following Trends
We friars in the Order of Mercy join with Pope Emeritus Benedict in his words, “An ‘adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ.”
The Mercedarian man, following the charism molded by our Order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco, is trained and prepared to redeem others from today’s forms of captivity.
Is God calling you to become a Mercedarian friar, as a priest or a brother? Our men here in the United States are growing year by year, and we have high hopes for playing an important part in the re-evangelization of our society. Will you join us? Why not begin a dialog with us as you journey toward your God-given vocation?
Contact our vocation director, Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M. today:
Essential to the Charism of the Order of the BVM of Mercy is a profound concern for the True Faith. It is for this Faith that hundreds of friars have exercised the 4th Vow and given up their lives for Captive Christians in danger of losing the Faith. In October 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith. Here is a Mercedarian perspective on this Holy Year:
Eight hundred years ago a man followed in the footsteps of his father and took up the family merchant business. He like many other young men had the desire to live a life of adventure and purpose. The merchant business offered him an opportunity to travel far from his residence of Barcelona into Muslim occupied parts of Southern Spain and abroad. Yet as he traveled, experienced danger, and earned a solid living Peter Nolasco felt that something was missing. He desired more. Not just more money or adventure, but a greater purpose to his life. While traveling through Muslim occupied lands, Peter was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) when he saw the captive Christians. They were striking in appearance: dirty, smelly, and gaunt from hunger. As Peter investigated further, he was stunned by the deplorable living conditions of these men, women, and children who were treated as slaves in bondage and chains. They like Isaiah’s suffering servant were “despised and rejected by mankind…like one from whom people hide their faces…”
It was not their pitiable appearance that most affected Peter. Rather it was that they were Captive because of their Catholic Faith. Peter knew that the faith was the most precious gift that a person could have. It was for our faith that Jesus offered Himself as a captive and was crucified. Peter was filled with sorrow when he heard that thousands were renouncing the True Faith in order to obtain their freedom or a better standing in society. For Peter, the Captives were most poor and impoverished of all people for one reason: because their faith was in serious danger.
Now in 2013 we as Catholic Christians are celebrating the Year of Faith. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called this year in order to re-enkindle a love for the Faith in a world that is longing for meaning. People’s faith is still in danger today. Modern forms of Captivity are choking and stifling people’s faith to the same degree that Islam did in the early 11th Century. For this reason, the Successor of St Peter the Apostle feels pity for the captives who throughout the world are losing the most precious gift that we have, our faith. As Benedict says in the inaugural letter opening the Year of Faith, “Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.” “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).” Just as St Peter Nolasco realized in the early 1200’s, faith is the gift given only by God’s grace which changes our lives and opens the door to salvation.
In his Moto Proprio letter, Benedict sheds some light on new forms of captivity which expose people to “the abandonment of the practices of the Christian life and the loss of their faith (Mercedarian Constitutions #4)”. The Pope Emeritus states:
“It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”
How true it is today that people think of their faith as an aspect of their cultural or family history, but do not realize the impact that faith can and should have on one’s whole life. For our forefathers, faith was the impetuous behind their love of family and country; it impacted every decision that they made. Yet, today the effects of increased secularization, both within and without the Church, have caused one’s faith to be viewed as a personal belief which should not have an impact on others. People often state they are Catholic, but this reality has little or no impact on their lives.
Much of the problem stems from poor catechesis in our nation over the past fifty years. Truly whole swathes of the Catholic population are ignorant of the basic tenants of the Faith. Long held Christian virtues, such as love, are so watered down or obscured that they are hardly recognizable. When faced with difficult moral Truths many will reject them as fanatical, since they don’t have the understanding of the foundational principles. As Benedict says:
“Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God.”
We have to be able to know the Faith in all its beauty to be able to truly accept it. Thus, people in the United States are held in bondage, not by Islam, but by ignorance. People are giving up the precious gift of faith because they cannot see the beauty and importance of it. It is Easter Faith in the Resurrection that truly changes people’s lives. The Faith of the Church gives one a perspective on life that makes sense of suffering and trials; gives meaning to everything. Truly Faith gives us a “new vision”, which changes our life in ways unimaginable.
The task for future redeemers is to present the foundations of the faith which have sustained Christians for over 2 thousand years. It is for this orthodox faith that so many have died for. It is presented for us in the Creed which stretches back to the early Church. Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the Creed from memory. St Augustine recounted this as he handed over the creed to the newly baptized:
“…the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.”
The Year of Faith is focusing our attention on the Creed and the fundamental principles that are contained within it. Yet as Mercedarians we must ensure that these principles are presented in a way that is appealing and understandable to today’s Christians. It is for this reason that we “visit” the captives; come to understand them while showing true Christian compassion for them. Here we learn to present the foundations of the faith to a generation which is hungering for truth and meaning.
May this Year of Faith be an opportunity for us to reach out to those held captive by ignorance of the Faith. Through the merits of Christ’s Precious Blood may many “chains be broken” as Catholics discover the precious treasure which is hidden before their eyes. The priceless gift of our Catholic Faith!
Fr Richard Rasch, O. de M. has been blessed to serve the Order in a variety of capacities from Prision Ministry to Pastor to Vicar Provincial. Here Fr Richard answers some question about his vocation story:
So, Father Richard, could you tell us a little about your family?
I grew up in a Middle class family. My father was Lutheran. My mother was Catholic. Many times we would go to Lutheran Services at 8am & Catholic Mass at 12noon. Both of my parents were very faithful and devoted to church. They gave good example to us in living Christianity in their daily lives.
When did you first consider Religious life and/or Priesthood?
I think the first time I thought about it was in High school. I always had the desire to go to Catholic High School, but my Father could not see spending the extra money. So I went to a public school all my life. After that I went to community college for two years. After saving some money, I was able to enroll in a Catholic College, Niagara University, to complete my bachelor’s degree.
How did you first discover the Mercedarian Friars?
I first knew Mercedarian from Niagara University. There were several friars attending the University. At that time the Order had a house near Niagara Falls on College Avenue. Different times I would stop by to pray with the community while I was in college.
What are some of positions that you have held in community and how have you served the Order over the years?
I have been in a variety of capacities from taking care of youth to prison chaplaincy, to hospital chaplaincy, to being pastor, to superior, and, also, Vicar Provincial. I was Vicar Provincial of the United States Vicariate for 4 terms (12 years).
What have been your greatest joys in Religious Life?
One of my greatest joys is preparing people to die. One of the hospitals that I was chaplain at was mostly cancer patients. I got to know the patients and their families’ real well. I ended up doing many of the funerals of these patients as well. Just being there with them and going through those difficult times was powerful. There are people that still keep in touch with me even now years later. I had their mothers or fathers funerals and they still remember me. They send Christmas cards each year. It amazes me. This is one of my greatest joys.
Another great joy is taking care of community service workers (those assigned by the courts, in lieu of, or in addition to, other criminal justice sanctions). My background is in a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice. I have worked for several years as a Prison Chaplain. To me the prison and hospital suited me better personality wise and ministry wise.
Do you have any suggestions for those young men who are starting to begin to think about being religious and/or a priest?
The Holy Spirit will direct you where He wants you. Be patient with yourself and be patient with the community. The grace of God is there with you to guide you.
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.
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
Fr. James Chia, O. de M. has been assigned to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, FL. There he will be the Assistant Pastor. The Newly Ordained will be kept busy administering the Sacraments, visiting the sick, preparing couples for marriage, teaching catechism, and a variety of other pastoral tasks. Here are some pictures from Fr James’ Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Petersburg:
On November 24th, Deacon James Chia was Ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The liturgy took place at St. Ignatius Parish in Yardley, Pa. Present were friars, family and friends of Fr James. Here are some pictures from the weekend:
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.
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?
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,
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?
Wherever the Mercedarian Friars are in the world one is likely to find groups of dedicated lay people living “the redemptive spirit”. Among the most important of these is the Third Order. This confraternity of lay mercedarians are found in several parts of the United States including: LeRoy( NY), Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Petersburg, and Atlanta.
The Constitutions of the Order tell us that the Third Order is “an association of lay people integrated into the Mercedarian family, which participates in the redemptive spirit.” (Constitutions of the Order of the B.V.M. of Mercy, #117). Members of the Third Order know and cherish the spiritual treasure of the Order so they are able to realize the Mercedarian ideal, according to the directives of the Church and of the Order, in keeping with the circumstances of each country. Here is some local activities of our Thrid Order in St. Petersburg, Florida:
Deacon Scott Brentwood, O. de M. is an American Mercedarian Friar studying Canon Law in Rome. Over the past 3 years, he has been giving our readers updates on his experiences as a religious preparing to become a Canon Lawyer. Here’s his latest ponderings from his second semester at the Gregorian:
Just a quick update to let everyone know how things are going here in the Eternal City.
I trust all is well back in the United States; here things are rather quiet.
We began our second semester at the Gregorian in mid February, and I must admit that this semester is rather challenging – Temporal Goods of the Church, Processes (inner workings of the various tribunals, but specifically tribunals for nullity cases), the Relationship between Religious Professions and the State, Penal Law, a Praxis in Penal Law, a Praxis in Rotal Matrimonial Jurisprudence, and Canonical Latin. I also have a seminar on the Apostolate of Institutes of Consecrated Life in the Local Church that requires a 20 min presentation based on a text I have to write. Most of these are interesting, but it is a rather heavy load,especially given that everything is done in Latin (primarily) and Italian. Fiat voluntas tua.
Aside from school, there is very little going on – I have 4-6 hours of class every day, and with 1.5 hrs total spent on the METRO (subway) going to and from class, there is little time to do much else. I still find myself in various places throughout the city…churches mostly… or an obscure museum… but the majority of my time (lately) is spent with books, or with translating etc. in preparation for the Chapter.
I have been spending more time with our friars in the Generalate, and last week I was invited by the General for lunch. After a nice meal we spent the next few hours chatting about various things, and as he too had studied Canon Law, we discussed briefly what was going on with the revisions for the New Constitutions. From a juridical point of view, this really is an exciting time for the community… as we prepare for the eighth version of the Constitutions of the Order.
Aside from that, as I said before, all is quiet. I hope everyone is well, and I will be in touch soon.
Fr. Ken Breen, O. de M. and Fr Vincent Pinella, O. de M. worked together for 13 years to establish a formation house in India. There efforts have born great fruit as over 30 friars have completed formation and been ordained priests. Here is a letter from Fr Vincent telling of the joyful news of a new house and apostolate for the Mercedarian Friars in India:
Dear Fr. Ken,
Sorry if it has been a long time since I send you an e-mail. But I was thinking to write you in these coming days in order to let you know about the new house which we have opened in Tamil Nadu. Last Friday, February 3rd, Fr. Cyril, Fr. Antony, and Bro. Victor took charge of the substation of Patlur in the Salem Diocese. There are 60 Christian families of good tradition living there. Another substation with 30 families, has been entrusted to our religious as well. It is 3 Kilometers from Patlur. Fr. Jaison, Fr. Siju and myself have accompanied our brothers as they went to their new assignments. The bishop couldn’t come, because he was participating to the Conference of Indian Bishops in Bangalore. It was the first Friday of the month so, more or less, all the priests were busy with functions in their churches. Only Fr. Francis, Vicar Forane, and Fr. Michael (a parish priest where the substation is located) were present. Fr. Antony celebrated mass in Tiruchengode in order to allow Fr. Francis to accompany us to the new substation.
Everything was simple and good. At 6.30 p.m., we celebrated mass followed by a small reception and supper with porrotas and vegetable curry. In this place, there is a round new beautiful chapel and the old chapel in good condition where the religious will stay as accommodation. Two small bathrooms are here and nearly 3 cents of land. It is located not so far from the river Cauvery, therefore, they have good water.
In these months till the Provincial Chapter they will work in that area, looking also for a future land and to discern if it will be the proper place or we will go to another substation suggested by the bishop. This decision will be by the new government after the Provincial Chapter. The bishop assured us that, after making the final decision, he can erect the substation as a parish. It seems that the three religious are happy.
Please send this report to the other community of USA, because I will send to Fr. Provincial the same in Italian to be sent to the Italian community. About the emblems, we need a good number (at least 100) of metal. If you arrange those in cloth is also good.