Sunday, June 29, 2008


The brothers have returned from the retreat, spiritually rejuvenated and physically rested. It was quite an experience, and every year it is an adjustment, to take some time -- roughly 6 days -- to isolate oneself from then hustle and bustle of the city. As religious, we are called to be separate from the world, yet, with all things, the world does come in and is a distraction to the daily living of the religious life. We, yearly, take some days to draw closer to God and return to the fundamentals of what it means to be a religious friar.

This year our Retreat Master was a Jesuit Father--Fr. Patrick T. Brannen, SJ. His talk was preeminently on the Evangelical Counsels -- Chastity, Poverty, Obedience. Uniquely, though, his conferences dealt with the "Dangers of the Vows"--yes, that is right... the 'DANGERS' of the vows. When I first heard that I though, WHAT??!?!!??!?! The vows are dangerous; what can be so detrimental to the Vows: vows which have been professed by countless religious and saints in the history of the Church. They're dangerous? 'no, Father', i thought. But as the conferences progressed over the course of the retreat and, after Fr. Brannen had given us an article written by a fellow Jesuit--Fr. J. Courtney Murray, SJ--the 'danger' of the vows became quite clear.

The vows are solemn promises made to God to be drawn closer to Him in a radical living out of the eschaton in the present age. Our lives, as religious, by our vows, are to be incarnations of the heavenly life, while hear on earth. We are to give witness to the faithful of their end, aim, purpose -- happiness with God in the BEatific Vision. What noble thoughts? What a brilliant and humbling mission. You may ask, 'brother, this is all nice.... but how can the vows be dangerous?'.

The Church, in Her wisdom, calls for those who are in religious formation to be of a certain age before making profession of vows. Some would see this as simply a practical and civil matter of legality. But then we may also, perhaps, read that the Church calls for a certain maturity, a certain state of intellectual growth to be already present before one progresses further in the state of religion. Despite a certain level of maturity to be expected upon religious profession, the living of those vows--chastity, poverty, obedience--demands maturity. Take the vow of poverty...

Poverty is a renunciation of personal ownership and the right of disposition of material for the sake of the kingdom of God. Some religious who profess consecrated poverty lack the mautiry necessary to grow in responsible use of goods. Poverty demands a dependence upon the Divine Providence of God and the community. This dependence can then lead one to become childish in the ways of material goods -- irresponsible, clingy, needy, immature.

The article goes through each of the vows. Unfortunately, Murray did not finish the article and did not give solutions to the problems. In fact, he never wanted the paper published; it was done so posthumously. Perhaps, though, we can think of solutions to these problems, these dangers of the vows.

Many, I think, take an overly external approach to the Evangelical Counsels and neglect the internal aspect that is necessary in the faithful living out of the vows. Then, again, others emphasize the interiorization of the vow to the detriment of the vow-as-sign to the world. In this latter case, we see the evidence of religious exercising 'poverty' by living in their own apartments, driving the newest car, wearing the newest fashions -- all to be "with" the people. The key, the balance, is to have both -- interior and exterior. Though, the interiorization of the vow is first, since we cannot authentically live the vow unless we first have the spirit.
In Domino
A Mercedarian Friar

Saturday, June 21, 2008


The simply professed will be leaving for their yearly retreat before professing their renewal of vows. Please pray for us in the coming week....

In Domino,

Mercedarian Friar

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mercy, not sacrifice

The Holy Father in his weekly Sunday Angelus addresses a probing topic that touches the heart of every Mercedarian. In his address to the people gathered in St. Peter's Square, His Holiness, took up the Gospel from the Mass of the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time. He said:

"Jesus, the Word made flesh, has, so to say, 'identified' Himself in this oracle of Hosea. He made it His own with all His heart and carried it out with His actions, even at the cost of upsetting the sensibilities of the leaders of His people. This word of God has come to us, through the Gospels, as one of the summaries of the entire Christian
message: true religion consists in loving God and neighbour. This is what gives value to worship and to the practice of precepts".

The vocation of every Christian faithful is to live out the precept of loving
God and neighbor. None of us are exempt from this calling; none of us can
afford to be deaf to the voice of Christ speaking to us through those in
need--our neighbors who live next door, our family, our friends at school or work. Even inour own day when the institution of marriage is constantly bombarded by him who would wish to see it destroyed--and by him, I mean Satan, himself.
Daily I see children who come from broken homes, who come from places where the living out of the Christian family is non-existent. Parents are working two, three, or four jobs, the children think that a family dinner consist in gathering around an
'image box' eating McDonalds, Burger King, or a microwave dinner.

This is the real crisis in society -- the breakdown of the family. The Church
has cried out in recent years that the family is the 'domestic church'; through
it the Church's mission of spreading the Gospel reaches to the heart of the person, in a more closely intimate way. Within the past few days, it has come to the attention of the World that the Holy Father has appointed a new President for the Pontifical Council for the Family

His Eminence, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, has been appointed to carry on and to lead the work already underway in this body. The Cardinal, known for his pastoral skills, will hopefully prove to be an asset in the area of promoting, defending, and proclaiming the Church's teaching on family life.

Now, back to the issue of the Christian vocation of mercy, and not sacrifice. Acts of mercy must stem from an interior recollection and motivation. St. Peter Nolasco, guided by an overwhelming inner motivation of the love of Christ lived out this commandment of Christ. His spirit animates us all to visit and redeem Christian captives. Our visitation is a daily exercise of Christian charity to our friends and, even, our family. We have experience often little children approaching us asking about Jesus--Who He is, and how can they know Him even more..... This is evidence of the mission that, as Mercedarians, we must carry out. The daily loving of both God and neighbor.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Alone and Abandoned

"Do not leave us alone; do not leave us isolated and abandoned". His Excellency, Archbishop Sako, as the article describes, begs the world for assistance. The Holy Father has also called for the world's response to the growing exodus of Christians from Iraq, indeed from the whole of the Holy Land.

Reading this article, I could not help but to call to mind, perhaps, the possible internal confusion and despair being felt by those Christians, who remain in Iraq. We can all relate to the human experience when faced with difficult situations; situations that seem to go on without any hope of reprieve or respite. The easy thing to do is to simply give in. Centuries ago, Christians, when enslaved and held captive by the Mohammedans, at times, apostasized from the Faith. I fear that we will begin to see this happen again.

"Recently the Christians have been singled out as scapegoats, [have been] exploited or eliminated. In some areas of Iraq, Christians suffer through emigration, rape, kidnapping, extortion, threats and killings carried out with religious motivations." The message of Christ obligates us to respond to the crisis. I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink. Our brothers and sisters in Iraq and the Holy Land are suffering. How will we respond?

A Mercedarian Friar