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

Youtube Video:


Mercedarian Friars Spotlighted in Vintage 1951 Video

The 1950’s debuted rock and roll, pop art, and booming sales of television. That was part of the cultural scene in America. But what was going on in religious orders? And in Spain, especially with such men’s orders as the Mercedarian Friars?

The Spaniards endured a bitter civil war that lasted from 1936 to 1939. The official history of the Mercedarians, or Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, states that, “A collusion of liberals, socialists, Marxists and masons imposed the 1931 Constitution which was nothing less than a frontal attack against the Church and religious orders.”

In fact, 19 Mercedarian Friars who died during the war were named martyrs by the Vatican in 2011. The Nationalist force, however, led by General Francisco Franco, was eventually victorious, and now Christians were finally free to practice their faith.

Video Offers Glimpse

A black and white video – in Spanish naturally – that was filmed in 1951 by the Mercedarians has been made public by the Order recently. (See all of our videos on YouTube.) Although the clip sidesteps the recent civil strife — no doubt as to avoid bitter memories — it relates the noble calling of Mercedarian men that began centuries ago in this country.

With stirring music, it shows everyday community life: the celebration of the old Latin Mass, eager young friars studying subjects both ancient and new, chores, praying in choir, recreation, and the beautiful architecture of their monastery.

Mercedarian friars in class, from 1951 video
The video features Mercedarian seminarians in class.

The video discusses the Order’s foundation, the early martyrdom of its members, and life within their huge and ancient monastery. Only eleven minutes long, and clearly made to attract new vocations, it shows young men in clean white habits not only praying and studying, but sewing, reading the newspaper, playing handball against a wall, washing clothes in an outdoor cistern, and enjoying a lively game of ping pong.

“We don’t wash clothes in outdoor cisterns any more — at least in the U.S.,” joked Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M., vocation director of the U.S. province. “But the noble history of the Mercedarians, the devotion to communal prayer, and the spirit of fraternity among the friars is the same.”

At Work, Prayer, and Rest

In the video, two friars play chess while another, older friar is seen leaning back in his garden seat, apparently in quiet sleep with a prayer book in his lap. A group of friars say common prayers in an outdoor garden while one man reads the Hail, Holy Queen in Spanish. In another dramatic scene against the backdrop of the monastery’s tall arches and towers, hooded friars carry long, lit candles down a stairway and enter the chapel for a ceremony in which they receive a blessing from a priest shaking the aspergillum, a tool used to sprinkle holy water.

Mercedarian men singing the Salve
Mercedarian friars receive a blessing during the Saturday Salve.

The Saturday Mass and the Salve

This is the Saturday Mass of Saint Mary, along with the singing of the Salve in her honor, and it is a beautiful custom. It is a fact that in 1307, Galcerán de Miralles donated three pounds of wax to the church of Santa María de Bell-lloch so that, every Saturday, it would have lighted candles during the celebration of the Mass of the Virgin and the singing of the Salve.

“The friars in the video are taking part in one of the oldest rituals of our Order, ‘the Saturday Salve,’” Fr. Joseph said. “This beautiful rite, which we still do today, was started by our founder, St. Peter Nolasco to give honor to Mary on her day, Saturday. This immemorial Marian custom was also performed in thanksgiving when the redeemers returned with the redeemed Christian Captives.”

Mercedarian men singing with gusto
Singing with great gusto

At the end of the video, one priest walks down the hallway shaking the aspergillum, with holy water, at the doors as a good night blessing for the men.

Active in Four States

The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy is active in Pennsylvania, New York, Florida and Ohio in the United States, with its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. Active in twenty-two countries, it was founded in 1218 in Spain to support the work of ransoming Christian captives from the Saracens. The Mercedarians take a “Fourth Vow” — to give one’s life for someone in danger of losing their Christian faith.

Do you have a vocation as a Mercedarian friar? Read a letter from our vocation director, or visit our Mercedarian Facebook page. Contact Vocation Director Fr. Joseph Eddy, at

The Loving Hand of Mary Leads One Man Back to the Church and to her Order

Scott Anderson is a man of his time. He has experienced the struggles that come from our society today, and found that Christ is the answer to all of them. Here is his story:

Our Lady of Mercy with baby Jesus playing with the shield of the Order

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest just outside of Chicago. I was sent to Catholic school for the first nine years of my education, during which time I had fostered a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Heavenly Mother; a relationship that would eventually ransom me from my own bonds sin.

A revert to the faith, I fell away from the Church during my high school years, due in part to the poor catechesis that I had received as a child and up into adolescence. In high school, I started searching for my faith, it wasn’t until four years later that I would be inspired to return to the Catholic Church. I began to instruct myself in the teachings of the Church, and quickly realized that all I had been looking for was right in front of me. During this time, I would greatly rely on the comfort and strength I had received from my devotion to Our Blessed Mother, in order to bring me back into full communion with the Church once more.

Scott with Br. Vincent at the Ordination of Fr. Scottston

Until I had begun the work of catechizing myself I had never known of the Church’s doctrines on the Real Presence, Holy Days of Obligation or Fasting outside of Lent; I had a poor understanding of the Sacraments as well, all of which are essential to our Divinely appointed position as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Despite the nine years of religious education that I had received, I was still ignorant in our most basic teachings. The poor evangelization of the people of God- which, so often, leads to the falling away from the faith- is all too common of a problem and I knew I had to find some way to dedicate myself to this cause. It was the Mercedarians’ great zeal for evangelization that inspired me to look deeper into this community. After experiencing their great reverence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the orthodoxy of their teachings, their love for the Virgin Mary and the great devotion they have for living out their Fourth Vow of Redemption- I knew I had to apply. After all, who else would vow death in order to save the faith of another?

I am now just beginning the next step in my discernment process and I am greatly looking forward to when I can fully dedicate my life to Jesus through Mary and the evangelization of His people.

Piissima Mater de Mercede. Ora Pro Nobis.

Love for the Unborn Leads One Man to Find a Greater Call to Free the Captives

Nicholas McLeod is preparing to enter the postulancy program in Philadelphia this Fall. Here is his story:

Nicholas McLeodWhen I was in grade two my teacher asked us to interview the person who you wanted to be when you grew up.  I interviewed my parish priest.  That I think was the first sign of my call to the priesthood.  I come from a family of six and I grew up near Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  I moved to Toronto, Ontario when I entered grade 9 and then moved up to Ottawa to attend University where I graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce in Accounting and Management of People and Organizations.

I had rejected my Catholic faith in High School, but when I saw a video of what abortion did to pre-born children I knew that I was pro-life.  So in University I co-founded the pro-life club on campus and who were my fellow members, but Catholics.  So in second year one of them asked me to go on a retreat with them.  I went, and it was there that for the first time I experienced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  I could not help but fall to my knees and I made my first real confession.  Once I had opened my heart back to God, his call once again reached my ears.  He wanted me to work for him.

I searched for orders but I was not satisfied with any of them, until I found the Mercedarians.  What first drew me to them was their progressive view of liturgy.  I loved that they celebrated the extraordinary form of the mass and offered the ordinary form so reverently.  When I heard the story of St. Peter Nolasco and the Saints of the order, I knew that this is where I belonged.

St. Raymond Nonnatus, Patron of the UnbornSt. Raymond Nonnatus in particular caught my attention.  As a full time pro-life activist in  Canada with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform I feel that God is really calling for me to minister to  the pre-born child, who is dehumanized, killed and experimented on both in United States and Canada.  St. Raymond–the patron saint of the pre-born–demonstrated the courage and self-sacrifice that every pro-lifer must have in order to save children from being decapitated, dismembered, and disembowled through abortion.  He continued to speak the Gospel of Christ, even when his lips were padlocked shut.  In the same way we have to speak the Gospel of life, even when we are silenced and persecuted for it.

If I could sum up the Mercedarian mission in one word it would be re-evangelization.  St.  Peter did not seek to ransom anyone, he sought out specifically Christians who were losing their faith because of their captivity.  I am excited to participate in that mission to give my life for the freedom of those enslaved by ignorance, despair and other captivities which are causing them to lose their faith. St. Raymond, Ora pro nobis.


The Novitiate Set to Begin on the Feast of the Holy Redeemer

Two young men prepare for their next step in their journey toward becoming Mercedarian Friars.

Scott is measured for the Habit of Mary

On August 29th, Postulants, Vincent and Scott, began their initial formation in the Order of the BVM of Mercy. They were just answering the Lord’s call to “come and see”. Over the next 9 months they would live in the Order’s House of Studies and experience the Mercedarian religious life. Vincent and Scott followed the house horarium or schedule. The horarium helps religious to live a rythem of prayer, communal meals, work, and recreation. The postulant often finds in the schedule a sense of peace and joy that comes from communion with God and others.

The postulancy program also offers the candidate an opportunity to study the Catholic faith and apply it. Each week, Vincent and Scott, attended a class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Also, twice a week they received further formation from the Master of Postulants. These classes were in human formation, Spiritual Theology, the virtues, and Mariology. Besides their classes, Vince and Scott, spent four days a week getting apostolic experience at Lankenau Hospital, Saunders House Nursing Home, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.

Vince is measured for the Habit of Mary.

Now after 9 months of experiencing the religious life, Vince and Scott are preparing themselves to begin a very important year, the Novitiate. The Novitiate is the opportunity for a young man to “Come and Live” the life of a religious. It is a canonical year from July 8th to July 9th of the following year. Under the direction of the Master of Novices, the novice will study the history of religious life, the vows, the Rule of Saint Augustine, the documents of the Church concerning religious life, the Mercedarian Order, and it’s saints. During this time, the novice will also become more aware of the customs and traditions of the Order, in particular, those associated with Our Blessed Mother who is honored as the foundress of the Order.

Vince and Scott’s next step in formation begins July the 8th 2012 when they are invested in the “Habit of Mary”. No doubt this will be an exciting moment for each of them, but the real journey has just begun! Now they must impress Mary’s “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 (Const. #154).” The habit is to be the outward sign of their future consecration.

Please keep both Vincent and Scott in your prayers as they begin the novitiate this July 8th.

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

Are you called to be a friar? 7 Quick questions

Answer these seven quick questions on our new survey and you might find that you have a vocation to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. Your interests, deepest desires, and lifestyle might be indications that you do.

Fr. Justin Freeman, O. de M., just ordained
These seven questions might start you thinking. (Click photo)

Do you have a deep interest in the Catholic faith? When you see a priest or brother, do you sometimes think, “I could do that”?

Take the survey.