Newsletter Archive


8/14/2015 - Discernment Retreat: A Time Exclusively for God

We are in the midst of the Year of Consecrated Life, where the Church is praying in a special way for an increase in vocations to religious life. Pope Francis reasserted the importance of this vocation with his announcement of this special Year. Perhaps it might serve you well to take some time from your ordinary way of life and give God some concentrated amounts of your time to discern your vocation. You are most welcome to discover our two-fold Eucharistic and Marian charism by joining us for an upcoming discernment retreat. We have one October 9-11 and next year on March 18-20 in Baton Rouge, LA. Please pray about joining us.

Join young women like yourself who are also seeking clarity from God as to where and how they should follow Him in life.

A Discernment Retreat is an opportunity to enter into the prayer of Jesus.  Before choosing the Apostles, our Lord "departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God" (Lk 6:12).  Jesus' example shows us the importance of taking time in prayer and discernment to discover God's specific purpose for our lives.  Therefore, more than a 'Come and See' Weekend, this is a moment for helping you move toward making decisions.

The Discernment Retreat involves five goals, or expectations:

Growth in the discernment process:  By now you are probably feeling more strongly called to religious life, and you have probably checked out a few religious communities and even formed a friendship with the sisters there. This retreat allows you to take a step further in your discernment.  It will provide the opportunity to have one or more personal conversations with the vocation director of our community, who will prayerfully discern with you your vocation.

Learning about the spirituality of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament: Our community was founded to spread devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament throughout the world, particularly through education. Our charism is two-fold: Eucharistic and Marian. Our devotion requires the mediation of Mary, who leads us to Jesus. Devotion to her Son in the Eucharist cannot be done without she who is the True Tabernacle and Ark of the New Covenant!

Learning about the life of Our Mother Foundress Maria del Refugio: Our Foundress Maria del Refugio was a widow and mother who sought a closer walk with Christ. Maria del Refugio felt the desire to love and serve others by bringing them to Christ, reaching out particularly to children and young people. She fulfilled her desire to start a religious community that adores Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by founding our Institute in 1910 in Mexico City; it has since spread to 12 countries.

Learning about our Apostolate: We are devoted to establishing the Eucharistic Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  We are daughters of the Heavenly King, entrusted with loving Him in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  We do so mainly through making reparation for the sins committed against our Eucharistic Lord, and by leading others to experience His love.

Sharing the life of the Sisters: As one of our guests, you will participate in the Divine Office, the celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Rosary, our communal meals, and recreation. You'll get to know us a bit, and we will get to know you!


7/30/2015 - Our Foundress To Be Declared Venerable

Only July 16, 2015 Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree announcing the heroic virtue of our Foundress, Maria del Refugio.

What this means is that Pope Francis has given the Congregation permission to declare our Foundress "Venerable." Prior to this she was recognized as a "Servant of God," which is the first stage in the canonization process. Being a "Servant of God" simply means that someone has been officially considered for the process of canonization. Upon the official pronouncement (which we will keep you aware of) we can address her as "Venerable Maria del Refugio." The next two steps after this are beatification and then ending with canonization.

This is exciting news for the Mercedarian Sisters. To have our Foundress counted among the canonized Saints would give a new avenue of area for the Holy Spirit to move and work in our Order. Please spread the word, and please ask for Maria del Refugio's intercession so that we can obtain a miracle that will move her towards beatification and finally to canonization, for our good and the good of the whole Church.

Servant of God María del Refugio, intercede for us!

Sierva de Dios María del Refugio, ¡intercede por nosotros!

Click here for the original news article:

http://www.news.va/en/news/decrees-for-the-causes-of-saints-4


7/16/2015 - Get Your Free Booklet about Our Mother Foundress

We would like to offer you a free booklet about our Mother Foundress, Maria del Refugio.  Her life tells a story of how God can take a single life of obedience and turn it into something fruitful and enduring.

The foundress became a widower, and although a second marriage could have been an option for her, once she made the commitment to a new life through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, her overriding desire was to become a nun. Nevertheless, she did have a daughter and had to seek perfection of her maternal capacity. As a mother she was strict, demanding and ever watchful; however, she was able to respect her daughter's vocation and to bring her up to respond freely to whatever destiny God intended for her.

In her experience both as a mother and in carrying out her apostolate, Maria del Refugio felt that Our Lord had entrusted her with the salvation of children and young people and therefore it was her duty to work for this salvation through example and prayer.

Request your free booklet and find out how an earnest examination of one's inner self can lead to making profound changes in the world. We only have a limited number of booklets, so get yours today!


6/12/2015 - Called to Proclaim Release to the Captives

We would like to take you through the history of the Mercedarians by introducing you to some major Saints who have played a role in shaping the order to become what it is today. The Mercedarian Sisters trace their history back to the Mercedarian Friars, the "Order of Mercy," thus we need to first look at these origins, which also leads us to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

One of the titles used to refer to the Institute founded by Saint Peter Nolasco was the Order of Mercy, or of the 'misericordia' of captives. Mary's name was added very early to this title.

The first time that Mary's name is found in a document in the title of the Order is in the bull Prout Scriptura testatur of Pope Alexander IV, issued on May 3, 1258, in Perugia, Italy. Writing to archbishops, bishops, abbots, etc., to inform them of the spiritual graces and the faculties granted to the Mercedarians because of their beneficent work for the sake of captives, the pope states: "Considering that the Master and the friars of Blessed Mary of Mercy, also called of Saint Eulalia... work with all their power..." As the pope joins the name of Mary to the term mercy, we have the denomination Blessed Mary of Mercy as part of the Order's title. From the context of the bull, it can be inferred that the name of Mary of Mercy was already known.

One should not assume that the pope would have used the name of Mary without any motive or that he imposed it by his authority. Furthermore, the pope did not send the bull directly to the friars of the Order. The logical explanation must be sought in the interdependence between the Blessed Virgin and the Order dedicated to the redemption of captives. Mercedarians were convinced that the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, intervened directly in the Order's foundation. Consequently, the legislators of the 1272 Constitutions made Mary's name official in the title by calling the Order: "Order of the Virgin Mary of Mercy of the Redemption of Captives of Saint Eulalia."

Because of this belief, the name of the first Master, Peter Nolasco, never appears in the Order's title in thirteenth century documents so that the glory and honor of the foundation would be attributed to the celestial lady, the messenger of the Trinity, whom the Mercedarian Order considers as its Foundress and Mother. Since the Mercedarian historian, Nadal Gaver (1445), this presence of Mary has been concretized in the account of the Virgin Mary's apparition to Saint Peter Nolasco, ordering him, because it was God's will, to establish in her honor an Order committed to the redemption of captives.

Here are some points to reflect upon:

How is the Blessed Virgin Mary the ideal example of mercy and of redeeming captives?

Similarly, Our Lady gave us her Son, the one who came "to proclaim release to the captives" (Luke 4:18). How is her patronage of the Order similar? How are the Mercedarians like children of Mary, who are sent to save captives?

What does this teach us about committing our lives to the Blessed Lady?

Taken from the Order of Mercy website.


6/4/2015 - What Does the Church Really Teach Regarding the Consecrated Life?

Pope Francis has declared a "Year of Consecrated Life." Why is the Holy Father drawing attention to this particular vocation within the life and mission of the Church? What exactly does the Church actually teach regarding the consecrated life?

In this eight-page ebooklet, Dedicated Totally to God, you will discover what the Church really believes regarding this sublime vocation. Drawn from the Church's official teaching as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you will gain a better understanding on the vital importance and wide variety of expressions that this special vocation can take. You will also begin to comprehend why the Pope is urging the faithful to help promote and preserve this sublime calling which serves as a visible sign of the Gospel in our world.

In this booklet you will learn:

Why the evangelical counsels perfect the virtue of charity in those who embrace them.

What form of consecrated life has existed since apostolic times.

How the consecrated life anticipates the Kingdom yet to come.

Click this link to download your free PDF copy of this ebook. Also be sure to share it with a friend or young person you know who may be discerning a vocation!

This ebook and newsletter are courtesy of the Institute on Religious Life.


5/29/2015 - You Have Spoken, Thank You!

We are entirely grateful that you took the time to give us feedback by means of our little survey. This week we wanted to share the results with you. Did you know that on average a religious-based newsletter is only opened by around 25% of the subscribers? We are blessed that our newsletter ranks higher than this average. We are even more blessed that you gave us your input as to how we can improve the newsletter to suit your needs.

First we will break down some basic numbers:

The total number of you who responded was 26.

19 of you said you would prefer to hear stories of saints in the newsletters, with Mercedarian history and tips on discernment trailing behind each at just 18.

The majority of you said that it was the lives of the saints (12) or experiences at church (11) that inspire you the most. Although, someone was wise enough to add that the witness of religious sisters has been the source of this inspiration. It's hard to believe we left that out as choice!

This is probably something everyone goes through, but 10 of you said that you find it difficult to find God's will in your life, and 9 of you expressed that spiritual discipline is difficult for you. This will definitely be a topic that we will discuss in the future, which will benefit all of us.

It was exactly 50/50 with everyone who filled out our vocation quiz. You will find the link at the end of this email. If you are seeking greater clarity with God's call, please consider filling out this quiz, if you have not already.

Finally, amidst your prayer requests and your signs of gratitude, we just want to share a couple of your personal responses from the survey (don't worry, no names will be mentioned):

"I recently read and re-read a biography of Jorge Bergoglio, 'Life and revolution' Pope Francis by Elisabetta Pique. I found the book to be inspiring and it challenged me to examine what remaining years I have. My Father-In-Law [relative???] is currently a resident in assisted care at Our Lady Of Mercy Country Home in Liberty, MO. USA. I am so grateful to the Mercedarian Missionaries who founded this. The Sisters and staff are so dedicated in providing care for the elderly. Thank You."

"I am very much grateful for your newsletter, for nourishing my spirituality, which is somehow similar to your congregation, Eucharistic and Marian. I am a young man, medical professional, from the Philippines. Hopefully I will be entering the Augustinian order this June/July because I felt called by God to priesthood. Please keep me in your prayers."

It was a joy to see such an enthusiastic response to our survey. Your dedication to reading our newsletter plays a part in helping support the increase in vocations to religious life and to Holy Orders. Whether you are called as such or not, we thank you for your prayers and for how you support us and the Church.

May we continue to implore the presence of the Holy Spirit to make us lighthouses in the often dark stormy waters of our world. Come, Holy Spirit!


5/21/2015 - Religious Possess Heavenly Goods Here Below

Since the Second Vatican Council, religious life has been shaping and changing in drastic ways.  Today we are going to begin a series from Chapter 6 on Religious from the Dogmatic Constitution On the Church, Lumen Gentium. These reflections will specifically be offered as an aid in discerning religious life.

Lumen Gentium is a profoundly deep document that stands at the heart of Vatican II. It is highly recommended that you prayerfully read this entire document, whether for the first time or again. It provides teachings on the Church that are timeless, yet up to date. Almost every sense is theologically and spiritually rich. For our purposes we will reflect upon the short section concerning religious.

Evangelical counsels: Vatican Il affirms the primary identity of all consecrated religious, which is the evangelical councils of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Catechism no. 915 tells us that "Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple."  Yet it also says that it is the explicit "profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God." What this means is that religious deliberately set themselves apart as witnesses in this world to the heavenly realities that await us, and especially the heavenly realities that are in our midst.

This means that religious have a special privilege and a corresponding great duty. Religious have the freedom of a life dedicated to the service of God, one free from the concerns of the world. However, this brings a great responsibility, whereby their vows commit them to a great service to God and the Church.  Think of marriage as an analogy:  Two people who love each other are committed to each other, but when they make vows, they have an extra commitment and promise to love and serve that person. Thus, even though we all have the duty to serve the Church, religious commit their lives to doing so in a more "concentrated" way.

When discerning a religious vocation, it is important to meditate upon (and exercise) the evangelical counsels.  Virtue is something that grows and develops. If you feel that God might be calling you to live as such, then now is the best time to grow in holiness and prepare yourself spiritually.  Regardless of what life you end up choosing, then you will be even more equipped to live life as a Christian in this world.

The Gospel of Matthew chapter 19 gives a good scriptural basis for the evangelical counsels. The connections are: chastity = the eunuchs; obedience = the children; poverty = the rich young man.  It will help you in your spiritual life and in your discernment to consider this passage.  Take time to think about the connections to each of the evangelical counsels.  The Scriptures are the privileged place to hear God speak.  Take time to prayerfully meditate upon this passage as an aid to help you on your journey. God will be walking with you...

Here are some questions to guide your meditation:

If every disciple is called in some way to the evangelical counsels, what is the difference in its meaning for consecrated religious? Or, what do these counsels look like in the life of non-religious?

The three evangelicals counsels are: poverty, chastity, and obedience. Which one do you feel that you need the most work growing in?

Do you think the counsels are an all-or-none type of thing, or do you think a person can have one without the others?

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html


5/20/2015 - We Want to Know You Better

It is always good to consider the people in your life and discover more about them and their interests, desires, and struggles. As our email list has grown, we realize that it is time for us to take a moment again to renew our knowledge of our readers.

We have a short seven-question survey that we would like you to take so that we can learn a bit more about you. This way we are not just sending out newsletters, but instead we can be assured that we somewhat know the people who are receiving the newsletters. Also, it will help us cater the content of our newsletters to better fit your tastes and needs.

So, please, take a few moments to answer these questions about your interests. You will also get our free, attractive "4 Tips for Discerning" PDF poster by taking our survey. Thank you so much!


4/26/2015 - An Epiphany of Reciprocal Belonging

Here we have the second half of the reflection by The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life entitled "Rejoice!" which is based on the teachings of Pope Francis. What we offer here is an abridged and paraphrased version for quicker reading. May we allow ourselves to be convicted by the necessity of being joy-filled Christians!

1) Listening

We are taken back, again, to the time of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah spoke of a liberation of the people in exile in Babylon. As any good prophet, Isaiah spoke by the Spirit of God to give people the hope of this liberation. Thus, Isaiah speaks the word "Comfort" (Isaiah 40:1). It is a word that requires our attentive listening. "This comfort must be an epiphany of reciprocal belonging, an interplay of intense empathy, ferment and vital connection. These are not superficial, cloying words, therefore, but mercy and deep-seated concern, an embrace giving strength and patient accompaniment in the rediscovery of faithful pathways" (no. 7).

2) Bringing God's embrace

As Christians, we have a duty to share the tender mercy of God with others. We need to ensure them (especially by the freedom we live by) that God does not want to punish them for their sins, but God wants to liberate them from their sins. God is a loving Father, waiting with open arms. "Pope Francis entrusts this mission to consecrated men and women: to discover the Lord who comforts us like a mother, and to comfort the people of God" (no. 8). This comfort and consolation can only truly be a work of the Holy Spirit, the Consoler. We must radiate the Holy Spirit to a world full of depression and degradation. Everyone deserves to know of the hope found in God, we cannot hide our light under a bushel basket. God wants to come down to others through our work and love.

3) Tenderness is good for us

"Community is the first and most believable gospel that we can preach. We are asked to humanise our community" (no. 9). Pope Francis warns religious that the monastery should not be considered a type of Purgatory, but rather a family. This family life can only be brought about by the common feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus, who makes us all one in Him. This life of Jesus in us should produce joy, a joy that radiates. However, the first sign of true family life is that of tenderness, a "Eucharistic tenderness," (no. 9) which allows us to experience a love that transcends all conflict.

4) Closeness as companionship

Community life means stepping outside of ourselves into the lives of others. Pope Francis wants us to be "servants of communion and of the culture of encounter" (no. 10). The Pope offers this as a counter to the view of religious life as an escape from the world. Instead, the life of religious should be at the service of the world. True joy is discovered when we empty ourselves for the sake of others. The joy that causes us to desire contact with the world is what draws others to God. "Entrusting to us the task of waking up the world, the Pope urges us to approach the stories of the men and women of today in the light of two pastoral categories that have their roots in the newness of the Gospel: closeness and encounter" (no. 10). Consecrated life should be lived in a parental spirit, because "the root of sadness in pastoral life is precisely in the absence of fatherhood or motherhood that comes from living this consecration unsatisfactorily, which on the contrary should lead us to fertility" (no. 10).

5) The restlessness of love

Love should urge us with a certain restlessness to seek the good of others. We must adopt the attitude of Jesus who is the Bridegroom. We must seek out for our beloved (those created and called by God into His love). We must also empty ourselves like Christ and embrace spiritual poverty. "A poor Church for the poor begins by reaching out to the flesh of Christ. If we reach out to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something, to understand what this poverty, the Lord's poverty, actually is" (no. 11). On top of the compassion we should have for the poor, Pope Francis also wants us to encounter the culture head on. We are called to bring the reason of faith to help develop an authentic culture, not to destroy it or condemn it. "The places where knowledge is developed and communicated are also the places where a culture of closeness, of encounter and dialogue can be created that lowers defences, opens doors and builds bridges" (no. 11).

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccscrlife/documents/rc_con_ccscrlife_doc_20140202_rallegratevi-lettera-consacrati_en.html


4/18/2015 - A Renewed Personal Encounter with Jesus Christ

We are now going to enter into the reflection by The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life entitled "Rejoice!" which is based on the teachings of Pope Francis. What we offer here is an abridged and paraphrased version for quicker reading. May we allow ourselves to be convicted by the necessity of being joy-filled Christians!

1) Listening:

Jesus Christ offers us joy. "Joy is the messianic gift par excellence, as Jesus himself promised: ...that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (Jn 15:11; 16:24; 17:13)" (no. 2). This promise of joy was foreshadowed as God led His people through the Old Covenant. The prophet Isaiah exemplifies the proclamation of this hope of joy. Jerusalem as mother is offered as a consoling image of God's loving care for us. "It is a gentle but true profile of a God who radiates maternal vibrations and deep, contagious emotions. A heartfelt joy (cf. Is 66:14) that comes from God - with maternal face and supportive arm - and radiates through a people who have been crippled" (no. 2).

2) Joy, the beauty of consecration

There is a joy to be found in giving one's life to God, in being totally dedicated to the self-giving service of God. Pope Francis warns us that we cannot become holy if we are sad. "In the world there is often a lack of joy. We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved." (no. 3). We are called by God to bearers of joy. However, we must pray to be docile to God's consolations and first learn to experience this joy.

3) Your calling

We are each by name called by Jesus. This is a great joy that God has such a particular concern for each and every one of us. Jesus chooses us (see Jn 15:16). A calling is something always begins with God's initiative. We must continually step out of ourselves and into God. The Pope "invites us to remain for a long time, on an interior pilgrimage, before the dawn, when, in a warm environment of friendly relationships, the intellect is led to open itself to mystery, the decision is made that it is good to set out to follow the Master who alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). He invites us to make our whole 'life a pilgrimage of loving transformation'" (no. 4). We must turn our restlessness into a longing for the God who calls us out of that restlessness into His rest.

4) Found, touched, transformed

Consecrated life is intended as a way to incarnate the Good News in one's life. In imitation of Jesus, "it is a call to take up his way of life, to adopt his interior attitude, to allow oneself to be invaded by his Spirit, to absorb his surprising logic and hsi scale of values, to share in his risks and his hopes" (no. 5). We must remain in Christ in order to continue to receive life from Christ. It is thus that we are made to be like Christ, alive in us. Jesus, then, gives the impulse to step outside of ourselves to share this life with others. This is "the resltessness of love" (no. 5).

5) Joy, a faithful 'yes'

"To persevere all the way to Golgotha, to experience the lacerations of doubts and denial, to rejoice in the marvel and wonder of the Paschal event, up to the manifestation of Pentecost and the evangelization of the peoples, these are milestones of joyful fidelity because they are about self-emptying, experienced throughout life, even in the sign of martyrdom, and also sharing in the life of the risen Christ" (no. 6). We must continue to resound our 'yes' by commitment to living the faith in every moment of every day, especially in how we make time for prayer and community. We must continually recommit ourselves to God, so that it is renewed with joy and passion. "Love is never finished and complete; throughout life it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself" (no. 6).

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccscrlife/documents/rc_con_ccscrlife_doc_20140202_rallegratevi-lettera-consacrati_en.html


4/9/2015 - Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life wrote a letter to consecrated men and women entitled "Rejoice!" based on the teachings of Pope Francis. We will take a gradual look through this document in order to continue our reflections on this Year of Consecrated Life. The letter was written as "an invitation that encourages us to impel our spirits to acknowledge the Word living among us, the Spirit who creates and continues to renew the Church" (no. 1).

Pope Francis has said that "religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up" (no. 1). This letter is intended to help awaken in religious (and all faithful) the profundity of their calling. Over the next couple of weeks we will consider the profound words from this letter. We will begin, however, by considering points of reflection from the end of the letter. Then after presenting the letter, we will return to these reflections in order to allow ourselves a deepened appreciation for what we have learned. We will now present the questions from Pope Francis to give us something to ponder.

Questions from Pope Francis:

There is joy! but - where is joy born?

Do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things?

How can I be free, how can I break free from this "culture of the temporary"?

Do we want consistent young people? Are we consistent?

Am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known?

Do we feel the restlessness of love? Do we believe in love for God and for others?

Would you speak badly of your family? Never. So why do you do so of others?

Do we know how to wait for God's tomorrow? Or do we want it today?

Is my spiritual effectiveness healthy, is my apostolate fruitful?

Do we have great vision and impetus? Are we also daring? Do our dreams fly high? Does zeal consume us (see Ps. 68:10)? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our "made in the lab" apostolic programs?

Consider and contemplate these questions. Take time to allow the faith to inspire you to greatness. We will return next week with the teachings of Pope Francis to help deepen our reflections.

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccscrlife/documents/rc_con_ccscrlife_doc_20140202_rallegratevi-lettera-consacrati_en.html


3/26/2015 - To Heal All That is Human in Christ

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life offered a presentation of the Logo for the 'Year of Consecrated Life.' Below we will briefly discuss the explanation given for the various symbols in the logo, which was designed by a married couple (Carmela Boccasile and Lillo Dellino), and which expresses "the fundamental values of consecrate life."

The overall description of the logo is: "A dove supports on one wing a polyhedral globe, and while resting on the water, it safeguards with the other wing three stars that arise from the water."

The dove on the water:  The dove serves as the quintessential symbol for the Holy Spirit, "who is the source of life and the inspirer of creativity." The dove above the waters reminds us of the Spirit of God as it moved on the waters at the time of creation (see Gen 1:2). The Holy Spirit is there to always bring new life to the world. The dove is also a calligraphic representation of the Arabic word for 'Peace' (سلام), "a reminder that consecrated life is called to be the model for universal reconciliation in Christ."

 The waters made of mosaic fragments "indicate the complexity and the harmony of the human and cosmic elements." The dove (the Spirit) above the chaotic waters leads the two together to bring about a new creation. The various gifts of the Spirit that we each possess are to be used to embrace and heal "all that is human in Christ."

The three stars:

They represent: 1) the confessed faith in the Trinity; 2) the sign of fraternity; 3) and the service of charity. The daily living of consecrated life is meant to "express the circular relationships found in the Trinitarian love."

The polyhedral globe:

It represents the earth with its variety of nations and cultures, and "it is the breath of the Spirit that sustains and leads it towards the future."

The headword: ("Gospel, Prophecy, Hope: Consecrated Life in the Church Today")

Gospel represents the essence of consecrated life, which is primarily "a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting."  

Prophecy is something we are all called to partake in by virtue of our baptism and confirmation. "This is an authentic prophetic ministry that is born from the Word and is nourished by the Word of God when this is welcomed and lived out in the various circumstances of life."

Hope is the most important virtue needed in a world that has been walking into the despairing grip and uncertainty of the darkness. "As a sign of hope consecrated life needs to be close to people and to show mercy; to be a paradigm of a future free from all kinds of idolatry."  It is thus imperative to be in solidarity with the poor (especially those who do not enjoy the wealth of Christ).

Symbols mean a great deal in the faith. The symbol of the Cross brings to mind countless thoughts and reflections. The symbols in this logo should help call to mind all that consecrated life stands for. Consider making this logo your desktop background or printing it and putting it in a special place that will help you call to mind the importance of this special Year of Consecrated Life. Also, share with someone you know the deep meaning behind this seemingly simple design. Don't let this special Year go by without recognizing its importance.  

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccscrlife/anno-vita-consacrata/logo_anno-vita-consacrata_en.htm


3/12/2015 - Obedience Leads to Wisdom

     A little over a month ago on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) it was also the World Day of Consecrated Life. It will be nice for us all to revisit what the Holy Father said in his homily on this special day.

Pope Francis beautifully portrays the scene of Mary and Joseph taking the Baby Jesus to be presented at the Temple. Mary is holding Jesus, "yet it is the Child who goes before her. She carries him, yet he is leading her along the path of the God who comes to us so that we might go to him." In a sense, even though we are all called to bring Jesus to others, really it is Jesus who brings us to others.  This way of Christ living in us is one which Pope Francis encouraged consecrated men and women "to treat with joy and perseverance."

The Pope goes on to say that in becoming man, the Son of God "condescended" (He came down), He left His exalted status as the glorified God to share in our lowly nature. This self-emptying is something we all must imitate, which is obedience to the Father's will.  The Holy Father says that for consecrated persons "this path takes the form of the rule, marked by the charism of the founder." By following this rule, "consecrated persons are able to attain wisdom, not something abstract, but a work and gift of the Holy Spirit. An evident sign of such wisdom is joy." This is exemplified in Anna and Simeon who showed a wisdom that was the fruit of docility and obedience to God.

 Pope Francis said that the "strengthening and renewal of consecrated life are the result of great love for the rule, and also the ability to look to and heed the elders of one's congregation. In this way, the "deposit", the charism of each religious family, is preserved by obedience and by wisdom, working together."  This is what makes the heritage of religious life so rich. It is a life of humble obedience, obedience to something we trust is an obedience to God.

Religious life, therefore, as the Pope says, is similar to the image of Mary carrying Jesus into the Temple (though it was really He who was leading her there). Obedience to the rule and to superiors is a way of being guided in our duty to guide others to Christ. Religious have a unique blessing to embrace this way of life.  May we all be presented to the Lord as ones who are fully renewed in spirit...in the Spirit!    

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

 http://m.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150202_omelia-vita-consacrata.html


3/5/2015 - Religious Are Heirs of the Great Saints  

We are concluding our reflection upon Pope Francis's letter to all consecrated religious on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life. Thus, we will consider the third part of the letter, whereby the Holy Father discusses the horizons for this Year.

 What are the Horizons of the Year of Consecrated Life?  

1. Laity:

Pope Francis begins by addressing the laity, because there is a great tradition of lay people who share in the charisms of particular Institutes. Thus, Pope Francis urges the laity to embrace "this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received" (III.1). We must, despite our different callings in life, embrace the reality that we are one family under God, one family that should support and enrich itself with our unique gifts.

2. The Whole Christian People:

Pope Francis encourages all faithful to recognize the great gift that religious are to the Church. He calls religious the "heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity" (III.2). Therefore, we all need to reflect upon the great debt that is due to the religious who have been the strength of the Church. We should be grateful for them. Pope Francis asks us "to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, in whatever degree possible, in their ministries and works" (III.2). Family life and consecrated life are complementary roles within the Church that should support each other.

3. Undivided Spirituality:

We should also consider the bond we have with the Orthodox Church and the life of monasticism there. The common bond is good for the Church as a whole and "the ecumenism of the consecrated life can prove helpful for the greater journey towards the unity of all the Churches" (III.3).

4. Other religions:

The Catholic Church has a rich tradition of dialogue and relationships with other religions. This Year of Consecrated Life should seize the "opportunity to review the progress made, to make consecrated persons aware of this dialogue, and to consider what further steps can be taken towards greater mutual understanding and greater cooperation" (III.4).

5.  Episcopacy:

Finally, Pope Francis encourages bishops "to accept institutes of consecrated life, readily and joyfully, as a spiritual capital which contributes to the good of the whole body of Christ" (III.5). Consecrated life is deeply a part of the Church as her heart, and this heart must be nourished. Thus, the Holy Father encourages his brother bishops to pay special attention to the welfare of religious life, particularly by showing the faithful "the value of consecrated life, so that is beauty and holiness may shine forth in the Church" (III.5).  

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_lettera-ap_20141121_lettera-consacrati.html


2/27/2015 - God and the World Expect Much From Us

We are continuing our reflection upon Pope Francis's letter to all consecrated religious on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life. Here we will consider the second part of the letter, whereby the Holy Father presents his expectations for this Year.

 What are the expectations for the Year of Consecrated Life?  

1. Joy:

Pope Francis wants religious to be an example and witness of the joy that the Gospel is supposed to bring to our lives.  The commitment to Christ is not a great burden, but instead it is a great freedom.  True evangelization will occur in the witness of how we are transformed by Christ.  The world should come to see people who are changed by religion, to see that God offers what is best for us: happiness.

2. Waking up the world:

Religious life is identified uniquely as prophetic.  It is a way of life that is meant to be a way that God speaks to the world through us.  This entails not just serving those who are poor spiritually and materially, but it also means to speak the truth with love; it means being "able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice" (II.2).  The world deserves to be given the faith that we are so blessed to share.

3. Spirituality in communion:

The fraternal charity must be re-energized in religious life, so as to show to the world the community that God desires to inspire in us.  God sent His Son as our Brother, and we must live as family so that the world can know we are Christ's disciples by our "love for one another" (John 13:35).  Institutes must also learn to build bridges of communion among each other, which will increase the global witness of fraternal communion; this will show the world that each religious community serves a single purpose: Christ.

 4. Going out of ourselves:

We must remember the primary mandate of the Gospel to "go out into all the world" (Mark 16:15).  We cannot be content with our personal or communal faith, but we must share the treasure of faith with others.  "A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope...men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine..." (II.4).

5.  Docility:

We must be open to what it is that God and others are asking of us.  Groups that are contemplative must find ways to share with others the fruits of a deep and healthy spiritual life.  Groups that focus on works of charity must find ways to share their methods and efforts with others.  Thus, "during this Year no one can feel excused from seriously examining his or her presence in the Church's life and from responding to the new demands constantly being made on us" (II.5).  

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_lettera-ap_20141121_lettera-consacrati.html


 2/19/2015 - A Great History Still to Be Accomplished!

As a means for adequately reflecting upon the Year of Consecrated Life, we are going to consider Pope Francis's letter announcing the Year of Consecrated Life.  

The pope has announced this year "on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, which speaks of religious in its sixth chapter, and of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis on the renewal of religious life."  As you probably already know, this year began on November 30, 2014 and will continue until February 2, 2016.

This time around, we are going to consider:  

What are the aims of the Year of Consecrated Life?  

***

Pope Francis states explicitly that there are three aims for this Year of Consecrated Life. Firstly, he states that we have to look to the past to learn from both the positive and the negative (but particularly to reflect upon the founding roots of a community).  Secondly, he says that we have to embrace the present moment and to be faithful to the mission entrusted to us.  

The third point naturally concerns the future. He wants us to be able to "embrace the future with hope" (I.3).  Instead of worrying about a vocation crisis, he wants us to have hope in the One for whom "nothing is impossible" (Lk 1:37).  This hope is a hope that does not disappoint, a "hope which enables consecrated life to keep writing its great history well into the future" (I.3).  

This is especially true for the youth who are embarking upon religious life. They must reflect deeply upon the reality that they are entrusted with the task of keeping alive the ever-continuing significance of religious life. They are the ones who will eventually be in leadership roles, and they need to think now about the spiritual prosperity of consecrated life. The youth, as the saying goes, are the future. They are the hope for religious life, they are the hope for the Church. The special commitment of religious to God is an ever-necessary aspect of the life the Church.   

For the full document, visit the Vatican website:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_lettera-ap_20141121_lettera-consacrati.html


2/12/2015 - You Open Your Hand and Satisfy the Desire of Every Living Thing (Ps 145:16)   ,

On January 10th, we welcomed home a new member to our growing family! Yvelyne Bernard, originally born in New York, moved to Florida when she was 15. After college, she moved to Louisiana and worked in campus ministry for 3 years. She found profound peace in our community when she came on one of our Come and See retreats, in Baton Rouge, back in October. Her official entry was scheduled for February 2nd, yet, even from the first week, she has fit in so well. It's as if she has been with us for years!     

Yvelyne officially entered the convent on February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. Praise God, her parents were able to come. Normally, the ceremony is closed, but her parents had never visited before, so this was a perfect opportunity for them to have peace of mind and heart, to know that she is safe and happy. It was a beautiful day. We are grateful to God for blessing us with vocations to our community. We humbly pray that vocations continue to come. We have a couple of women who are visiting and others who are interested or planning on visiting. Keep these women in your prayers. May they be docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Praised be Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, now and forever. Amen!   

Adapted from our new blog: "Becoming One in the Eucharist"


2/5/2015 - The Pro-Life Generation Has Arrived

On January 21st, we were blessed to be able to attend the Vigil Mass for the March for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. It is estimated that 11,000 people were in attendance. The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is always incredibly powerful, and it was especially moving to see all of the clergy, religious, and laity there. So many young people... we truly are the pro-life generation.

On January 22nd, we participated in the March for Life. It is a beautiful, peaceful march through our nation's capital to celebrate the gift of life, and to show our solidarity in defending all human life, from conception to natural death. Hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds walked together, some singing, some dancing, some praying, some chanting, some in reflective silence... but all moving as One. So many witnesses, including courageous mothers and fathers who had lost children to abortion. May we strive to build a culture of life everywhere that we go. "Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love" - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  

A letter to our Heavenly Father:

My Beloved,  

What is love? What is man that You keep him in mind, mortal man that You care for him? Who am I to have acquired Your Eucharistic Love? To have acquired You? I am seeking You. I am not far from You because of You; because of Your gifts to me: to mankind. It is by You alone that I know You are Good; that I am, in my essence, good. That You are Love, and that I can love. Love is a choice. May I always choose to love You and Your creation. May I always choose You. May I always choose Love.

I love You. Please help me to discern Your Will for me, and please accomplish it in me.

Love,

April Marie  

Taken from our new Blog: "Becoming One in the Eucharist" | Please visit and follow us!


1/30/2015 - Five Things to Consider About

Could a weekend retreat make an impact on your life? Many religious orders offer discernment retreats and Come and See weekends which provide excellent opportunities for young women to experience the sacraments and draw closer to God. Come and See weekends are casual opportunities to visit the Sisters and learn more about their life. What exactly does one of these Come and See weekends entail?   

Young women can meet the Sisters and Postulants during their Come and See weekend retreats.  

Five Reasons to Attend a Come and See Weekend:  

1. A Means to provide vocational clarity. Many young women find a Come and See very helpful in drawing closer to God and discerning their vocation in life. Whether this comes from spending silent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament or hearing advice from a sister, young women can find a sense of direction for their life, and an openness to God's call... which leads to true happiness.  

2. Based on Jesus' words. John 1:37-41 reads: "The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah.'"  

3. A Weekend of growth. The weekend will offer many opportunities to learn about religious life. There will be lectures from the sisters, time for prayer, discussion, a chance to "shadow the sisters" and experience their daily life and community living, as well as time for recreation.  

4. Meet other young women on the same journey. Maybe you've never had sisters or close Catholic friends to share your faith journey with. Be encouraged and energized on a Come and See weekend by meeting other young Catholics who are passionate about their faith, and are open to the possibility of giving everything to Christ through a religious vocation!   

5. Witness the joy of consecrated life. As our Holy Father Pope Francis said in his address to consecrated religious: "I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!" Experience the joy and peace of a religious community and the sisters who live there. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, return home to seek the will of God in your life!

  Our September Come and See weekend was a great success, with young women visiting from many different parts of the country. Their enthusiasm and love for Christ is uplifting, as their generation is the future of the Catholic Church! We are honored to open up our home to you on these Come and See weekends, and hope to better share with you our stories, our lives, and our love for Christ, our bridegroom!


1/22/2015 - Called to the Heart of Jesus  ,   

Praised be Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, now and forever!  

"Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper." (John 21:20)

As we begin the new year, many of us may have special goals for ourselves. A new year is exciting because it gives us a fresh opportunity to better ourselves in some way. I would like to present to you a daily goal for the new year: to be transformed by Love!  

If you are reading this, I think it is safe to assume that you have some vested interest in the condition of your soul. This is typically not something our worldly culture encourages us to think about, so it is really our choice (because God has given us all free will) to desire eternal life with God. This desire is really important for the spiritual journey. If you desire to become a saint, then God will make it happen....if you let Him. That is the real struggle.  

In order for God to make you holy, you have to be open to receive His love. In Scripture, we read over and over again that God is love. What does this mean? St. John says in his first letter:

We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:16-19).

God created each of us in His image and likeness. Because He is love, we were created out of love. St. John, the Beloved Disciple, knew the heart of Jesus very well and he was open to receiving this special love from Jesus. It was John who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross with Mary when all the other disciples ran and hid. St. John ran faster than St. Peter to the tomb after he heard that Jesus was risen. St. John was transformed by Love.

We are all called to this same intimate relationship that St. John and Jesus shared, but many of us find this very difficult to accept. In order to be transformed and share in this authentic relationship with God, we need to be vulnerable. This means we have to share and surrender our pains, sufferings, joys, and who we truly are with God! This is not easy and it is often very painful.

You may be thinking, "St. John had it easy because Jesus was really there with him! He got to actually lean on Jesus' Sacred Heart and be with Him." Well, if this is your line of thinking, then I have some very good news: Jesus IS still with us everyday, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

My community is very privileged to have Eucharistic Exposition everyday as a part of our lives. Just by truly being present with our Eucharistic Lord, our hearts are being transformed by His Love. A very special spiritual father of mine once told me that, "prayer is simply heart speaking to Heart." That is what we do and this is something everyone is called to do! Remember, if you have the desire to be transformed, God will respond. Even if our hearts are just a little bit open, He can work miracles. It was Jesus who said that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains (Matthew 17:20).

Allow Jesus to transform you with His love in the Eucharist. Become like St. John and lean on the heart of the Beloved, and He will make you one of His saints.

United in the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,

Katie McCloskey, Postulant   

Taken from our new Blog: "Becoming One in the Eucharist" | Please visit and follow us!


1/16/2015 - How I Heard the Lord's Call at Age 16  ,

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;

he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

(John 6:53-56)

Another time the cycle repeats: we say bye to a year that ends and receive a new year with new hopes and renewed desires. We all experience the passing of time; it is, in fact, humanly unstoppable. The challenge is to live in the present.  We are frequently reliving the past or planning the future. It is ever so difficult to remain in the present.

  When I was a 16 year old, I truly enjoyed attending "quinceañeras." Ah! Those days in which we all were coming of age: the music, the friendship, the dancing, the chatting, discovering who is going out with whom... One day everything changed. I was in the school chapel, and I heard a sister reading a biblical passage: John 15:16. "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."  This is all it took for Jesus to conquer my heart.  I had been chosen!  The impact of this invitation was not to be palpable until after I attended the next party.  The joy of preparing for it and the joy of dancing and socializing were there, but what a void it all left in my heart afterwards.  My heart now longed for something else.  It was a longing that was almost painful. Like the bride in the canticle by St. John of the Cross, I had been wounded by love.

 Where have You hidden Yourself

and abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?

You have fled like the hart,

Having wounded me.

I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

From then on, nothing satisfied me.  The sweetness of intimate talks with friends, the joy of parties, and the love of my family could not satiate this longing for oneness and intimacy with Jesus. Little by little I realized that it was only through Him that I could become really one with the whole universe; in Him I could embrace everybody; with Him I could learn to live and die in Love. My young heart was longing for Love, an infinite Love.

  How many people I encounter in the Eucharist, in my daily time of adoration, through my very poor prayers! It is in Him that we all become real brothers and sisters.  In Him and with Him we become one! We are never alone!

As Jean Corbon says in The Wellspring of Worship, God has one impatient desire, one passion, and that is "to be with the children of men." Wow! In other words, our longing for love, for oneness, is not a crazy desire. It has been implanted in our hearts by God, who Himself longs to become one with us!   We, the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, want to invite you to share in our Eucharistic-Marian spirituality. We seek to become like our Eucharistic Lord, souls that are willing to give it all; willing to be broken and given to others. May we pour out our hearts each day to the Blessed Sacrament, and, in silence, listen to the palpitations of His Heart. May we pour out our hearts to the Blessed Sacrament each day, and, through the intercession of Our Lady of Mercy, bring Christ to the rest of the world.

Men have been called into existence, but will they accept and respond? Will they gaze back into the adorable Face of God?

Taken from our new Blog: "Becoming One in the Eucharist" | Please visit and follow us!


12/11/2014 - Eucharistic-Marian Charism

Attracts New Aspirant  ,

Ines heard God calling her when she saw an ad for religious vocations at her parish!

Meet Ines Soto, an aspirant discerning a vocation to the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament!  

Born in Durango, Mexico, Ines moved to the United States in 1998. She was involved in her parish as a child, and continued this as an adult, working with children and youth at her parish. It was here that Ines received the call to religious life! Ines saw an ad about vocations, and began to look at it in light of her own life, asking herself serious questions. She sensed that God was calling her to something greater.  

While searching and visiting communities, Ines was surprised to learn how many orders there were, as well as the wide array of charisms that characterized the different orders. She was deeply attracted to the Mercedarian Sisters, but nevertheless kept looking at other communities.  

But there was no way to learn about them all! The Eucharistic and Marian charism of the Mercedarian Sisters continued to tug at her heart, and she soon contacted them. After speaking with the sisters, Ines took the plunge and applied to the community!

As an aspirant, Ines lives in the community along with the Mercedarian sisters and other women in formation, taking part in community prayer, meals, and living. With a degree from the University of Kansas already under her belt, Ines will soon begin studying for her MA in theology.

When asked about her faith journey, Ines replied, "Here I am answering God's call. Is it possible that I could be a sister? That is up to me. I trust especially in my friend and Lord, Jesus Christ."


11/22/2014 - How a Quiet Retreat Led to a Worldwide Community  , 

Ever wonder how a religious community gets started?  

The Mercedarian Sisters trace their history to the year 1910, with the founding of a community that was inspired by a profound experience at a retreat in central Mexico.

In 1896, at the age of 29, Maria del Refugio experienced a spiritual renewal at a retreat in San Miguel de Allende, in central Mexico.  This was the silent beginning of what would eventually blossom into a new order.  Sometime down the road, she found herself praying before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where she received the concrete inspiration for founding a religious institute devoted to spreading love for the Blessed Sacrament and making reparation for the sins of the world.  Thus was born a new community devoted to this very purpose on March 25, 1910.  

Eventually, Mother Maria del Refugio sought approval from her bishop for the new Institute.  After several denials, Fr. Alfredo Scotti, a Mercedarian priest (of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy), was sent to investigate the possible approval of the nascent community, whereby the community gained its official approval in 1922.

Eucharistic and Marian

Because of her contact with Fr. Scotti, Maria del Refugio became attracted to the spirituality of the Order of Mercy, which was founded in 1218.  She wanted her Institute to be put under the protection and patronage of Our Lady of Mercy, thereby sharing in the graces and indulgences given to the Order.  As Providence would have it, a Eucharistic miracle occurred compelling her even more to make the decision.  On June 11, 1946 the Institute was adhered to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy under the new name of the "Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament."  

Through the assistance of Our Lady of Mercy, the main call of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament is to become one with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. "We are called to live the contemplation of divine things and an assiduous union with God in prayer. This is our first and foremost duty." (Constitutions of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Art. 41)  

Thus, the charism of the Mercedarian Sisters is Eucharistic and Marian.


11/8/2014 - Mercedarian Discernment Events -

Where They Can Take You  

 Greetings!,

Both a Come & See Weekend and a Discernment Retreat are simple, yet powerful opportunities for one to discover where God wants them to be.  Here, we very simply want to explain the distinction between the two, and we highly encourage you to prayerfully consider making time for one (or both) of these events in your life.  It is not that you owe it to God, it is that you owe it to yourself to discover His plan for you.  

Come & See Weekend  

A Come & See weekend is a more casual opportunity that allows you time with less "vocational pressure" to visit the Sisters and witness the religious life.  Jesus invites you to "come and see" (John 1:39), to give the idea of religious life a serious consideration.  Here you will have the freedom to seek vocational clarity in the silence of God's presence.  You will get to discover in person what the daily life of religious is actually like.  Importantly, you will get to meet others like you who are considering this unique call from God.  The sense of solidarity will help you to not feel alone in the life of discernment.  Finally, you will be able to go home with a sense of joy and tranquility, both in your perception of religious life, and in your own vocational awareness.

The Weekends are held at the Mercedarian Sisters' house, 1355 W. 70th St., Cleveland, OH 44102. Phone: 216-281-9304 in Cleveland, OH.  

Read about the five points in "What Should You Expect on our Come & See Weekend?"  

Discernment Retreat  

A Discernment Retreat is an opportunity to enter into the prayer of Jesus. Before choosing the Apostles, our Lord "departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12).  Jesus' example shows us the importance of taking time in prayer and discernment to discover God's specific purpose for our lives.

More than a Come & See weekend, discernment retreats are for those who are more serious about pursuing a religious vocation.  Here you will grow in your personal discernment.  With us, you will learn specifically about the spirituality and apostolate of the Mercedarian Sisters and our Foundress Maria del Refugio.  Very importantly, you will get to participate in the life of the Sisters and experience first-hand the religious life.   

Our Discernment Retreats are held at the Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center, 17560 George O'Neal Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70817. Phone: 225-752-8480  

Read about the five points in "What Should You Expect on our Discernment Retreat?"


10/29/2014 - Is Jesus saying "Come and See"? Sign Up for our Nov. 14-16 Event    ,    

Do you have deep interest in following Christ in your life? Think you might be called to become a religious Sister?  

Then sign up for a Come and See Weekend of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. These events are casual opportunities to visit the Sisters, pray, and learn more about the Sisters' life.  

Connect with the Sisters and others like you who are considering a call from God to the religious life.

Here's what a Come and See Weekend entails:  

1. Find vocational clarity.

Many young women find a Come and See weekend very helpful in drawing closer to God and discerning their vocation in life. Whether this comes from spending silent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament or hearing advice from a Sister, you can gain a sense of direction and an openness to God's call... which leads to true happiness.

  2. Experience Jesus' words. "Come and see" is what Jesus told two disciples who were following him. "And they said to him, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see. They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day...." (John 1:37-41)  

3. Shadow the Sisters. The weekend will offer many opportunities to learn about religious life. There will be lectures from the Sisters, time for prayer, discussion, a chance to "shadow the Sisters," a time to experience their daily life and community living, as well as time for recreation.  

4. Meet others on the same journey. Maybe you've never known Sisters, or close Catholic friends with whom to share your faith journey. Get encouraged and energized by meeting other young Catholic women who are passionate about their faith, and are open to the possibility of giving everything to Christ through a religious vocation!   

5. Go home feeling refreshed. As our Holy Father Pope Francis said in his address to consecrated religious: "I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!" Experience the joy and peace of a religious community and the Sisters who live there. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, return home to seek the will of God in your life!


9/11/2014 - Five Expectations of a Discernment Retreat  

 Greetings!,    

Have you been looking for a religious community that is both Eucharistic and Marian?  

Wondering if maybe you should get to know the Mercedarian Sisters and their charism better?  

Well, you might be interested in the Mercedarian Sisters' next Discernment Retreat.

Sisters kneeling in prayer

We are daughters of the Heavenly King, entrusted with loving Him in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  

A Discernment Retreat is an opportunity to enter into the prayer of Jesus.  Before choosing the Apostles, our Lord "departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God" (Lk 6:12).  Jesus' example shows us the importance of taking time in prayer and discernment to discover God's specific purpose for our lives.  Therefore, more than a 'Come and See', this is a moment for helping you move toward making decisions.

The Discernment Retreat involves five goals, or expectations:  

Growth in the discernment process:  By now you are probably feeling more strongly called to religious life, and you have probably checked out a few religious communities and even formed a friendship with the sisters there. This retreat allows you to take a step further in your discernment.  It will provide the opportunity to have one or more personal conversations with the vocation director of our community, who will prayerfully discern with you your vocation.  

Learning about the spirituality of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament: Our community was founded to spread devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament throughout the world, particularly through education. Our charism is two-fold: Eucharistic and Marian. Our devotion requires the mediation of Mary, who leads us to Jesus. Devotion to her Son in the Eucharist cannot be done without she who is the True Tabernacle and Ark of the New Covenant!  

Learning about the life of Our Mother Foundress Maria del Refugio: Our Foundress Maria del Refugio was a widow and mother who sought a closer walk with Christ. Maria del Refugio felt the desire to love and serve others by bringing them to Christ, reaching out particularly to children and young people. She fulfilled her desire to start a religious community that adores Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by founding our Institute in 1910 in Mexico City; it has since spread to 12 countries.  

Learning about our Apostolate: We are devoted to establishing the Eucharistic Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  We are daughters of the Heavenly King, entrusted with loving Him in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  We do so mainly through making reparation for the sins committed against our Eucharistic Lord, and by leading others to experience His love.  

Sharing the life of the Sisters: As one of our guests, you will participate in the Divine Office, the celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Rosary, our communal meals, and recreation. You'll get to know us a bit, and we will get to know you!

Discernment Retreats are held at our Mercedarian Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA.


8/7/2014 - Spiritual Direction Provides Formation

And Guidance For All Catholics  ,

A spiritual director can provide valuable formation for our spiritual lives.  

Spiritual direction. This is a phrase that is often thrown about in Catholic circles, but can be confusing to some, and intimidating for others. What exactly is spiritual direction? It is a form of spiritual mentorship - most often from a priest or religious - meant to be a process of formation and guidance. Spiritual direction is open to all Catholics, whether they are discerning a religious vocation, struggle with a particular sin or obstacle, or simply want guidance in growing in their faith life. Many of the saints regularly consulted their spiritual directors!

  Often, the real question is, how do you find a spiritual director? And more importantly, what make a good spiritual director? Three questions stand out when it comes to finding a good fit:  

1. Is this person qualified to do the job? This question is the most important one! A good spiritual director should have four qualities present. He should be

Educated - Has this person studied theology and philosophy? Do they understand what the Church teaches, and why the Church holds those teachings? Are they familiar with the call to holiness and the struggles and obstacles that come with it?

Prudent - Will they make wise and thought-out decisions? Do they offer sound advice? Do they think things through in a practical and logical way?

Experienced - Whether or not they have offered spiritual direction before, they must be experienced in living their own faith life as a practicing Catholic. Do they pray daily and receive the sacraments?

Holy - Does their life reflect Christ? Are they faithful to the Church? Do others see them as a joyful witness to Catholicism?

Finally, if you are seeking advice for a religious vocation, your spiritual director should also possess interior freedom, a freedom of the mind and heart. A person with interior freedom is able to give unbiased advice, free from pre-conceived notions or attachments.

2. Will they do the job? Although priests and religious are often willing to help individuals grow in the faith, their schedules are very busy. Therefore it's important to make sure that it's practical for the person you choose as your spiritual director. You don't want someone who never has the time to meet with you! Distance and existing commitments should be taken into account when asking someone to serve as your spiritual director.  

3. Is this a good team fit? Obviously, you must get along with your spiritual director, and different personality types fit better than others. Some questions should be taken into account, such as:

Is there a sense of mutual understanding?

Can I open up my heart to this person? Can I trust them?

Are they different enough that they can challenge me in areas where I need to grow?

Does my spirituality mesh with his or her personal style?

As the saints learned, a good spiritual director can help us understand God's will, root out recurring sins, provide support, and help us grow in holiness. If you are discerning a religious vocation, spiritual direction is a beneficial tool for better recognizing and interpreting God's calling! This helpful criteria can point you in the right direction to speak to a priest, religious, or lay person who can act as your spiritual director.

 Based on an article by Fr. Scott Kallal.


7/31/2014 - Pope Francis: "Beware the Worldly Food

Which Enslaves Us"

 Greetings!,

Pope Francis on the feast of Corpus Christi  

Celebrating Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis preached about Christ present in the Eucharist. Our holy father reminded the Church that Christ is our true food, yet the faithful must be warned of counterfeits! Read on to hear some of our favorite quotes from the Holy Father.

On Spiritual Hunger:   

"Besides physical hunger, man experiences another hunger, a hunger that cannot be satiated with ordinary food. It's a hunger for life, a hunger for love, a hunger for eternity...   

Jesus gives us this food, rather, He himself is the living bread that gives life to the world (cf. Jn 6:51). His Body is the true food in the form of bread; his Blood is the true drink in the form of wine. It isn't simple nourishment to satisfy the body, like manna; the Body of Christ is the bread of the last times, capable of giving life, eternal life, because this bread is made of love."  

How Great the Lord's Love is:   

"The Eucharist communicates the Lord's love for us: a love so great that it nourishes us with Himself; a freely given love, always available to every person who hungers and needs to regenerate his own strength. To live the experience of faith means to allow oneself to be nourished by the Lord and to build one's own existence not with material goods but with the reality that does not perish: the gifts of God, his Word and his Body."   

On True Food and Tainted Food:   

"If we look around, we realize that there are so many offers of food which do not come from the Lord and which appear to be more satisfying. Some nourish themselves with money, others with success and vanity, others with power and pride. But the food that truly nourishes and satiates us is only that which the Lord gives us! The food the Lord offers us is different from other food, and perhaps it doesn't seem as flavourful to us as certain other dishes the world offers us. So we dream of other dishes, like the Hebrews in the desert, who longed for the meat and onions they ate in Egypt, but forgot that they had eaten those meals at the table of slavery. In those moments of temptation, they had a memory, but a sick memory, a selective memory. A slave memory, not a free one...  

Soon, in the procession, we will follow Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. The Host is our manna, through which the Lord gives himself to us. We turn to Him with faith: Jesus, defend us from the temptation of worldly food which enslaves us, tainted food; purify our memory, so it isn't imprisoned in selfish and worldly selectivity, but that it may be a living memory of your presence throughout the history of your people, a memory that makes a "monument" of your gesture of redeeming love."      

You can read Pope Francis' entire homily on the Vatican's website.


7/17/2014 - Anatomy of a Come and See Weekend

 ,  Young women visiting our home in Cleveland!  

Could a weekend retreat make an impact on your life? Many religious orders offer discernment retreats and Come and See weekends which provide excellent opportunities for young women to experience the sacraments and draw closer to God. Discernment retreats are for those who are more serious about pursuing a religious vocation, while Come and See weekends are casual opportunities to visit the Sisters and learn more about their life. What exactly does one of these Come and See weekends entail?   

Anatomy of a Come and See Weekend  

1. A Means to provide vocational clarity. Many young women find a Come and See very helpful in drawing closer to God and discerning their vocation in life. Whether this comes from spending silent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament or hearing advice from a sister, young women can find a sense of direction for their life, and an openness to God's call... which leads to true happiness.  

2. Based on Jesus' words. John 1:37-41 reads: "The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah.'"

3. A Weekend of growth. The weekend will offer many opportunities to learn about religious life. There will be lectures from the sisters, time for prayer, discussion, a chance to "shadow the sisters" and experience their daily life and community living, as well as time for recreation.  

4. Meet other young women on the same journey. Maybe you've never had sisters or close Catholic friends to share your faith journey with. Be encouraged and energized on a Come and See weekend by meeting other young Catholics who are passionate about their faith, and are open to the possibility of giving everything to Christ through a religious vocation!  

5. Go home feeling refreshed. As our Holy Father Pope Francis said in his address to consecrated religious: "I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!" Experience the joy and peace of a religious community and the sisters who live there. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, return home to seek the will of God in your life!


7/10/2014 - How the Rosary Saved a Former Satanist Priest

Called the Apostle of the Rosary by Saint John Paul II, Blessed Bartolo promoted the rosary until his death at age eighty-five.

 It's not often when someone wanders into the devil's clutches, and then is rescued from them so magnificently. Here is the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI about Blessed Bartolo Longo, a most amazing modern-day saint. 

"Before entering the Shrine to recite the Holy Rosary with you, I paused briefly before the tomb of Bl. Bartolo Longo and, praying, I asked myself: 'Where did this great apostle of Mary find the energy and perseverance he needed to bring such an impressive work, now known across the world, to completion? Was it not in the Rosary, which he accepted as a true gift from Our Lady's Heart?' Yes, that truly was how it happened!"

The tomb of Blessed Bartolo Longo can be found in Pompeii's Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, a church - interestingly enough - built by a former Satanist.

In 1841, Bartolo Longo was born to wealthy parents in Latiano, Italy. His parents were devout Catholics, but after his mother's death in 1851, Bartolo began to let his Catholic faith fall away. While studying law at the University of Naples, he became involved with a New Age group, and began to dabble in the occult. The movement led him into a Satanic cult, and Bartolo was ordained a Satanic priest. 

Lashing out at Catholics, Bartolo would publicly ridicule and attack the Church. However, his life was far from happy. Instead it was marked by extreme depression, paranoia, confusion, diabolic visions, and eventually a mental breakdown. In despair, Bartolo heard the voice of his father urging him to return to God, so he sought the advice of a friend who referred him to Fr. Alberto Radente. Through confession and spiritual direction, Bartolo renounced the all ties to the devil. He wrote, 

"As I pondered over my condition, I experienced a deep sense of despair and almost committed suicide. Then I heard an echo in my ear of the voice of Friar Alberto repeating the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 'If you seek salvation, promulgate the rosary. This is Mary's own promise.' These words illumined my soul. I went on my knees. 'If it is true. I will not leave this valley until I have propagated your rosary.'" 

His later writings also include this powerful quote:

"Just as two friends, frequently in each other's company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection"  

In 1871, Blessed Bartolo joined the third order of the Dominicans as a layperson and continued to foster his devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the rosary. He eventually married Countess Mariana di Fusco who helped him found a confraternity of the rosary. Bartolo devoted his life to performing charitable works, teaching catechism to young people in particular, and promoting the rosary. Bartolo also had the Church of the Most Holy Rosary built, which he donated to the Holy See. He died in 1926, saying before he died, "My only desire is to see Mary, who has saved me and who will save me from the clutches of Satan."

Saint John Paul II wrote of Blessed Bartolo in his apostolic exhortation Rosarium Virginis Mariae:

 "As a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. His path to holiness rested on an inspiration heard in the depths of his heart: 'Whoever spreads the Rosary is saved!'"

On October 26, 1980, John Paul II beatified Blessed Bartolo Longo, giving him the titles "Man of the Madonna" and "Apostle of the Rosary". Like us Mercedarian Sisters, Blessed Bartolo Longo saw the inestimable value of devotion to Mary as a way to grow closer to Christ and achieve salvation!


7/2/2014 - Bullets and Bravery: How Our Church Survived ,

Foundress Maria del Refugio braved the Mexican persecutions and anti-clericalism.

In the early 20th century, persecution was a problem for Catholics in Mexico. Our institute had been founded in 1910 by Maria del Refugio in Mexico City, and all too soon, the looming Mexican Revolution brought a government that was hostile to Catholics. By 1917, the Church's legal status was nullified by a new Constitution. Under this enactment, priests were stripped of their civic rights, religious communities were no longer recognized, public worship outside of churches was prohibited, and all religious-affiliated education was banned. 

In February of 1925, many of the Catholic schools were shut down. Out of fear, the bishops urged the directors of Catholic schools to sign a declaration observing the article of the Constitution which stated that "Religious corporations, ministers of religion, societies which exclusively or mainly carry out educational activities, and associations or societies concerned with the dissemination of any religious creed, will not involve themselves in any way in establishments which provide primary or secondary education, teacher training, or classes for workers or peasants." Maria del Refugio and her Mercedarian Sisters were among the few who refused to sign an observance to this attack on religion.

Several weeks later, government officials searched the Sisters' home with orders to shoot any priests they found. This would be one of several searches done to our convents. In these occasions, to protect the Eucharist, Maria del Refugio hid the Blessed Sacrament under her cloak, until the officials left. Many priests and religious gave their lives in this bloody wave of anti-clericalism, and Maria del Refugio was forced to send many of the Sisters to foreign countries for safety. The Sisters that remained with Maria del Refugio in Mexico often hid from persecution in the basements of nearby houses. 

Now, nearly a hundred years later, Catholics and Christians in general are struggling in this country to maintain religious freedom in the face of an increasingly hostile atmosphere of government restrictions. Although the Church in the United States has been spared bloody persecution, religious orders, Catholic schools, and universities have been threatened by the HHS mandate in a much more subtle attack. Even Christian-run businesses such as Hobby Lobby have engaged in lawsuits rather than pay for insurance which provides contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Christians recently won a huge victory when the Supreme court ruled to allow business owners such as Hobby Lobby's to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

We, the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament are no strangers to persecution, and as we have stated before, are in full support of the USCCB to stand against the HHS mandate. Christ will continue to guide his Church and will not allow the gates of hell prevail against it, no matter how strongly the devil tries to silence the Church and its faithful.


6/26/2014 - Upcoming Retreats Can Be Key

for Religious Discernment ,

Seven young ladies joined us for our last Come and See retreat.

How does a Catholic hear God's call in the world? There are many distractions in discovering one's vocational calling, but this simple acronym can help us remember four steps of discernment and "HEAR" God's calling!

HEAR:

Have a Conversation with God - Set aside time every day for prayer. Talk to God, and listen for his response.

Eucharistic Adoration - Pray in front of Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament.

Ask a Sister - Talk to a religious sister about their experience and advice concerning religious life.

Retreat - Attend a discernment retreat to see firsthand the joys, challenges, and way of life of religious sisters. 

Often, people wonder if our community has a place in the world today.

Our raison d'etre is to love and adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as well as to make reparation for the offenses He receives in this sacrament. But we also want people to fall in love and be full of gratitude for such a magnificent gift God has given us - staying with us in this sacrament, where he truly is God-with-us, the Emmanuel!

Our apostolate springs from this desire to spread the love for the Blessed Sacrament. Thus, our main apostolate is the education of children and youth. We strive to give a quality education, but above all we desire to form Eucharistic souls. Jesus said in Luke 12:49, "I have come to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing." We want to help Jesus set the world on fire, a Eucharistic Fire!

Of course, we have a place in the world today! Pope emeritus Benedict XVI triggered the "Reform of the reform" asking us to live our Liturgies, to recover a dignified celebration of the Eucharist.  It fits our spirituality wonderfully! Also, His Holiness St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have always encouraged religious involved in education to continue with that ministry,  and not to abandon it since in this secularized society, a Catholic education is needed more than in the past. 

Young ladies can form friendships and learn from other Catholics discerning a vocation to religious life.

Our community has three wishes for our upcoming retreats:  

      a) That young ladies first of all hear Jesus' call to belong solely to Him.

      b) That we give these young ladies the tools to discern if they are called to Religious Life.

      c) We want to expose these girls to the beauty of our Eucharistic-Marian spirituality and if it is God's will for them, to join the lives of over 600 sisters that already strive to set the world on fire.

 Do you want to learn more about what life is like as a Mercedarian Sister? Women 18 - 35 can sign up for one of our upcoming retreats.

Come and See Retreats, Cleveland, OH

September 12-14, 2014

November 14-16, 2014

March 6-8, 2015

April 24-26, 2015

 

Discernment Retreat, Baton Rouge, LA

October 10-12, 2014    

Visit our website to register, or learn more!


6/24/2014 - Greetings!, 

Our Mother Foundress, Sr. Maria del Refugio

Welcome to the newsletter of the Mercedarian Sisters. I'm the Mercedarian's assistant, helping Sr. Jeanette Marie, the vocation director. 

Take a look at our prior newsletters, and see what to expect!

Also, have you taken our Test Your Call survey? You might find it helpful.

And please, like us if you haven't done so already, at the Sisters' Facebook page! 

If you have any questions, just email me or Sr. Jeanette Marie at eucharistvocations@yahoo.com.

Have a great day, and God bless!

Sincerely, 

Elizabeth Simeo

Mercedarian Sisters Assistant


6/19/2014 - Pope Francis Speaks of God's Goodness and Mercy While in the Holy Land ,

Pope Francis meets with Patriarch Bartholomew at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In his homily to priests, religious, and seminarians while in the Holy Land last month, Pope Francis gave wise advice - and asked tough questions. We picked some quotes from his homily on May 26th at Jerusalem's Church of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

We, the Mercedarian Sisters, were especially struck by the Holy Father's reminder of "the grandeur of God's call and of own littleness", yet God always provides us the necessary graces to rise to His highest calling! In serving others through our order's charism of teaching and education, we, as simple sisters, become instruments of God's glory! All of us as Catholics are called to respond "yes" to God's invitation to be used as His wonderful instruments.

On Our Own Response to Jesus' Mission:

"At the hour which God had appointed to save humanity from its enslavement to sin, Jesus came here, to Gethsemane, to the foot of the Mount of Olives... Am I among those who, when Jesus asks them to keep watch with him, fall asleep instead, and rather than praying, seek to escape, refusing to face reality? ...

Or, thanks be to God, do I find myself among those who remained faithful to the end, like the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John? On Golgotha, when everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless, only love proved stronger than death. The love of the Mother and the beloved disciple made them stay at the foot of the Cross, sharing in the pain of Jesus, to the very end.

Do I recognize myself in those who imitated their Master to the point of martyrdom, testifying that he was everything to them, the incomparable strength sustaining their mission and the ultimate horizon of their lives?

Jesus' friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift which encourages us to follow him trustingly, notwithstanding our failures, our mistakes, also our betrayals."

On God's Help During Temptation:

"But the Lord's goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life. We are all exposed to sin, to evil, to betrayal. We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God's call and of own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness. Yet the Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties. He is ever at our side, he never abandons us. And so, let us not be overwhelmed by fear or disheartened, but with courage and confidence let us press forward in our journey and in our mission."

Let us continue to pray for the Church and her members, that God will shower us with His graces! You can read Pope Francis' entire homily on the Vatican's website.


6/12/2014 - Combat the Evils of the World Through the Rosary

 ,The Rosary is a combination of vocal prayer and meditation.

Previously, we have looked in depth at the Miraculous Medal and the Scapular - two Marian Sacramentals and efficacious symbols of devotion. The third Marian Sacramental we mentioned is the Holy Rosary.

Rosary - In imitation of the monks' prayer of 150 psalms, laypeople - many who were illiterate - would substitute 150 or 50 Hail Marys for their own version of the prayer. This devotion took on its current form when Mary appeared to St. Dominic around the 13th century, St. Dominic used the rosary to combat the Albigensian Heresy, which was popular in Europe at the time. The spread of the rosary has been largely attributed to St. Dominic and the Dominican Order.

The Rosary is a combination of vocal prayer and meditation, focused on the central Gospel messages of Jesus, and secondarily on Our Lady. As with all Marian prayer, the Mother of God leads us closer to her son. The three original Mysteries of the Rosary - established by Pope Pius V in the 16th century - focus on the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, and provide material for contemplation. In October of 2002, St. John Paul II added five Luminous mysteries from the public life of Jesus. 

A plenary indulgence is granted when the rosary is recited in a church or oratory or when it is recited in a family, a religious community, or a pious association. A partial indulgence is granted for its recitation in all other circumstances.The following conditions must also be met for any indulgence:

Sacramental confession,

Eucharistic Communion, and

Prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent.

Why pray the rosary? Let us listen to the advice of the successors of St. Peter.

 "Among all the devotions approved by the Church none has been so favored by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary" (Pope Pius IX)

"There is no surer means of calling down God's blessings upon the family . . . than the daily recitation of the Rosary" (Pope Pius XII).

"Meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary . . . can be an excellent preparation for the celebration of those same mysteries in the liturgical actions [i.e. the Mass] and can also become a continuing echo thereof" (Pope Paul VI).

"How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening" (Pope John Paul II).

In our Mercedarian communities, in Cleveland, OH, Lemon Grove, CA, and Baton Rouge, LA, we pray the Rosary in common every day. We find it a great way to join with our Blessed Mother in our lives and apostolate.


6/4/2014 - Graces and Devotion Flow From

The Mercedarian White Scapular  ,

The Mercedarian Scapular, or "White Scapular"

In our last newsletter, we talked about what sacramentals are, and took a closer look at the Miraculous Medal, the first of three Marian Sacramentals. Here we continue with the Scapular - and particularly the Mercedarian Scapular - a vessel of grace and devotion to the Mother of God.

Scapular - Why do Catholics wear two square pieces of cloth, attached by a string around their neck, as a sign of devotion? The Scapular originally was the long, wide piece of cloth worn around the neck by religious as part of their habit. While today's religious orders continue to wear such a Scapular, the smaller version with which we are familiar has been made available to lay people.

Many forms of Scapulars have been associated with different religious order, the most common being the Brown Scapular, which comes from the Carmelites. As a sign of their consecration and in witness to poverty, the Mercedarian friars wear the habit of the Order. It is white, of simple material, composed of a tunic, belt, scapular, capuche and shield. The white Mercedarian Scapular can be seen as a "smaller version" of the Order's habit for laypeople.

The Mercedarian Scapular spiritually unites its wearer to the work of the worldwide Mercedarian Order in its work in ransoming Christians from various types of captivity. The Sodality of the Scapular is a spiritual organization of the lay faithful who have a special devotion to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mercy and wish to be spiritually united to the work of the Mercedarian Friars in the ransoming of Christian Captives in danger of apostasy. Besides wearing the White Scapular, members offer daily prayers for the Order, the Holy Father, and suffering and persecuted members of the Church.

The wearer of the Scapular places himself under the loving protection of Mary. Like all sacramentals of course, the Scapular is not magic. Its promise of salvation depends on the interior disposition and faith of the wearer. There has been much support for the wearing of the Scapular, including these words of Pope Pius XII about the well-known Brown Scapular:

"These effects are especially secured by means of those devotions which more than others are seen to enlighten the mind with celestial doctrine and to excite souls to the practice of the Christian life. In the first rank of the most favored of these devotions, that of the holy Carmelite Scapular must be placed-a devotion which, adapted to the minds of all by its very simplicity, has become so universally widespread among the faithful and has produced so many and such salutary fruits."


5/22/2014 - Introduction to Marian Sacramentals

 ,Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

 "Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy." (CCC 1667)

 As the above quote from the Catechism states, sacramentals are are sacred signs given to the Church for the benefit of its members. As humans, we naturally long for tangible signs. Thus sacramentals are similar to the Sacraments - although to a lesser degree - both are physical reminders of God's grace sanctifying our daily lives. Sacramentals can be objects such as holy water, sacred art, crucifixes, and medals, or actions such as the sign of the cross, blessings, and exorcisms.

Sacramentals are not superstitions, and should never be treated as such. Wearing a miraculous medal or sprinkling holy water will not make God and the saints act in a certain way. Rather, sacramentals encourage devotion to God and the saints, and remind us of God's faithfulness and love. The Catechism clarifies: "Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it." (CCC 1670) 

Over the next newsletter, we will take a look at three Marian sacramentals: what they are, their origin, and the graces associated with them.

Miraculous medal - In Paris, France, 1830, Sister Catherine Labouré of the Daughters of Charity was awakened in the middle of the night by a small child. The child told Catherine to go the chapel; once there she saw an apparition of Our Lady, who spoke saying: 

"God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world. Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who seek them."

Over the course of the year, St. Catherine received two more visions of Mary, who asked to have a medal created in her likeness. Our Lady promised that great graces would be given to those who wore the medal. St. Catherine took this request to her spiritual director, and after two years of investigation, the first medals were struck. Catherine described the image of the lady who appeared to her.

"Her height was medium and her countenance, indescribably beautiful. She was dressed in a robe the color of the dawn, high-necked, with plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a white veil, which floated over Her shoulders down to her feet. Her feet rested upon a globe, or rather one half of a globe, for that was all that could be seen. Her hands which were on a level with her waist, held in an easy manner another globe, a figure of the world. Her eyes were raised to Heaven, and her countenance beamed with light as She offered the globe to Our Lord." 

On the medal, rays of light are emitted from Mary's fingers, a sign of graces being given to those who ask for them. Along the boarder of the medal is the text: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." On the back of the medal is a large "M" entwined with a cross, as well as the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Twelve stars represent the twelves tribes of Judah, the twelve apostles, and perhaps most importantly, identify Mary as the women in Revelation.

"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." (Revelation 12:1)  

Originally called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, the Miraculous Medal has become one of the most commonly worn sacramentals in the Church. As its name suggests, many conversions, healings, and other miraculous occurrences have been attributed to the medal. One well-know conversion is that of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a militantly anti-Catholic Jew who agreed to wear the Miraculous Medal and recited the Memorare once a day as a dare. He received a vision of Mary, and converted to Catholicism, becoming a Jesuit Priest.

St. Catherine Labouré's body remains incorrupt in the Paris chapel at Rue du Bac, which is visited by devout pilgrims. 

What has been your experience with sacramentals? Do you think they have helped your spiritual life? How? Let us know on our Facebook page.


5/15/2014 - All Graces Pass Through the Mother of Mercy ,

Image of Our Lady of Mercy, by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán

"I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy and your mother" (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, 330)

The Marian title, Our Lady of Mercy, has long been linked to our Mercedarian Order since our founding in early 13th century Spain. 

Founded in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy was simply called the Order of Mercy. Soon though, St. Peter Nolasco added the name of Mary to the title. Early writings from Pope Alexander IV in 1258 confirm "Mary of Mercy" as the Order's patron.

In fact, the request for the founding of the Order came from Mary in a vision to St. Peter Nolasco. It is no wonder that the Mercedarian Order was dedicated to our Heavenly Queen!

Paintings of Mary under the title "Our Lady of Mercy" began to appear in the 13th century and onward. Similar in their depiction of Mary, the paintings show her with outstretched arms, and often angels hold up her mantle. Safely under the protection of her mantle are families, clergymen, or religious orders.   

In the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul II writes further on Mary's unique role:

"Mary is Mother of Mercy because her Son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as the revelation of God's mercy (John 3:16-18). Christ came not to condemn, but to forgive, to show mercy (Matthew 9:13). And the greatest mercy of all is found in his being in our midst and calling us to meet him and to confess, with Peter, that he is 'the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16).

"Not having known sin, she is able to have compassion on every kind of weakness. She understands sinful man and loves him with a Mother's love. Precisely for this reason she is on the side of truth and shares the Church's burden in recalling always and to everyone the demands of morality. Nor does she permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her Son would thus be emptied of its power."

Mary has become our mother and advocate, the mother who intercedes for us to obtain Christ's Mercy. St. Louis de Montfort writes of her powerful intercession, "No heavenly gift is given to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. Such indeed is the will of God, who has decreed that we should have all things through Mary." Let us honor Mary as mother of Christ - who is Mercy incarnate - and turn to her for her maternal protection and intercession.


5/8/2014 - Blessed Imelda, Model of Eucharistic Joy ,

Blessed Imelda on the vigil of the Ascension.

Who are the saints, but role models for the Church on Earth? Blessed Imelda Lambertini, whose feast day is May 13th, is one such example of holy devotion to our Eucharistic Lord.

Imelda was born in Bologna, Italy in 1322. From the example of her noble parents she developed a love for the Church, assisting her mother in cooking and sewing for the poor, and attending Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours often. At the young age of nine, Imelda asked permission to live with the Dominican Sisters for spiritual formation.

To the extent of her ability, little Imelda strove to follow the Dominican Sisters' way of life, even wearing the habit. Her longing to receive the Eucharist grew, but she was told to wait three more years until she was twelve, the typical age for First Communion at the time. Although she begged the Sisters with the sincere stubbornness of a child, her pleading was gently refused. So great was her love and fervor for the Eucharist that she would exclaim, "Tell me, can anyone receive Jesus into his heart and not die?"

Again, now eleven years old, Imelda begged to be allowed Communion, but the Sisters and chaplain insisted she wait until she was older. It was the vigil of the feast of the Ascension, and she knelt and prayed after Mass. The Sister cleaning the altar soon looked up in surprise to find the Host glowing and suspended above Imelda's head! She called the chaplain, who realized that Christ himself wished that Imelda receive him. The chaplain gave the host to Imelda, who knelt in her private prayer of thanksgiving. The Sisters left Imelda in prayer, and when they returned to fetch her, she died in ecstasy with a smile of pure joy on her face.

Our Lord says in Matthew 18:3, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." May the example of this eleven-year old girl inspire us to love the Eucharistic Lord with fervent devotion. Indeed, if we were to realize how great a gift we were given, our souls would barely contain their joy!


5/1/2014 - Four Quotes From Saint John Paul II on the Mission of Consecrated Life in the World ,

What does Saint John Paul II have to say about religious life?

On Divine Mercy Sunday, Catholics celebrated the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. In honor of John Paul II, who was ever so popular with the youth of the Church, let us take a look at some of his writings on the role of the religious in the Church and in the world.

The Communion of Saints grew even larger on Divine Mercy Sunday. 

On the Paschal Dimension of Consecrated Life:

"In the different forms of life inspired by the Spirit throughout history, consecrated persons discover that the more they stand at the foot of the Cross of Christ, the more immediately and profoundly they experience the truth of God who is love. It is precisely on the Cross that the One who in death appears to human eyes as disfigured and without beauty, so much so that the bystanders cover their faces, fully reveals the beauty and power of God's love...

"This is the testimony given constantly and with deeply admirable courage by a great number of consecrated persons, many of whom live in difficult situations, even suffering persecution and martyrdom. Their fidelity to the one Love is revealed and confirmed in the humility of a hidden life, in the acceptance of sufferings for the sake of completing in their own flesh "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions", in silent sacrifice and abandonment to God's holy will, and in serene fidelity even as their strength and personal authority wane. Fidelity to God also inspires devotion to neighbour, a devotion which consecrated persons live out not without sacrifice by constantly interceding for the needs of their brothers and sisters, generously serving the poor and the sick, sharing the hardships of others and participating in the concerns and trials of the Church."

An estimated 800,000 pilgrims gather in St. Peter's Square for the canonization.

On Witnessing to Christ:

 "The first missionary duty of consecrated persons is to themselves, and they fulfill it by opening their hearts to the promptings of the Spirit of Christ. Their witness helps the whole Church to remember that the most important thing is to serve God freely, through Christ's grace which is communicated to believers through the gift of the Spirit. Thus they proclaim to the world the peace which comes from the Father, the dedication witnessed to by the Son, and the joy which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit."

On Religious Life as a Heavenly Foreshadowing:

"The consecrated life proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age, when the fullness of the Kingdom of heaven, already present in its first fruits and in mystery, will be achieved, and when the children of the resurrection will take neither wife nor husband, but will be like the angels of God. The Church has always taught the pre-eminence of perfect chastity for the sake of the Kingdom, and rightly considers it the "door" of the whole consecrated life. She also shows great esteem for the vocation to marriage, which makes spouses "witnesses to and cooperators in the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church, who signify and share in the love with which Christ has loved his Bride and because of which he delivered himself up on her behalf". 

"In this perspective, common to all consecrated life, there are many different but complementary paths. Men and women Religious completely devoted to contemplation are in a special way an image of Christ praying on the mountain. Consecrated persons engaged in the active life manifest Christ "in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God to the multitudes, in his healing of the sick and the suffering, in his work of converting sinners to a better life, in his solicitude for youth and his goodness to all."

  "Ss. John Paul II and John XXIII, Pray for us!"

On the Particular Role of Consecrated Women:

"By virtue of their dedication lived in fullness and in joy, consecrated women are called in a very special way to be signs of God's tender love towards the human race and to be special witnesses to the mystery of the Church, Virgin, Bride and Mother... In this context the consecrated woman, on the basis of her experience of the Church and as a woman in the Church, can help eliminate certain one-sided perspectives which do not fully recognize her dignity and her specific contribution to the Church's life and pastoral and missionary activity. Consecrated women therefore rightly aspire to have their identity, ability, mission and responsibility more clearly recognized, both in the awareness of the Church and in everyday life. Likewise, the future of the new evangelization, as of all other forms of missionary activity, is unthinkable without a renewed contribution from women, especially consecrated women." 

Let us not take lightly the writings of this great and holy saint! Rather, we should be inspired to pray for the religious men and women in the Church, as well as praying for clarity in our own vocations in life. You can read the full text of John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation, "Vita Consecrata", on the Vatican's website.


4/15/2014 - Christ, Wounded and Smitten, Leads us to the Poor ,

Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth.

"Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security... 

If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life."  (Evangelii Gaudium, 49)

Pope Francis' words certainly shake us out of our comfort zone. Is it wrong that we, personally, are complacent and comfortable? Is it proper for the Church to be bruised and dirty? Should not Christ's Church be majestic and beautiful? We turn to scripture with these difficult questions, particularly as we enter Holy Week. As we prepare for the Triduum and the passion, let us remember Christ, depicted by Isaiah as the Suffering Servant.

"He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed." Is 53:3-5

Can the Church truly be effective unless she imitates Christ? Clearly the answer is no. Christ was "despised and rejected by men", rejected and humiliated by the people. Crucified between two criminals, his death seemed one of derision and despair. Although it earned him scorn from the religious leaders of the time, Christ spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven to the sinners: among them tax collectors, demoniacs, and adulterers.   

The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent deals with the man who is blind from birth. The Pharisees tell him, "You were born totally in sin," and throw him out of the temple. Jesus heals this marginalized man, who asks Jesus, "Who is [the Son of Man], sir, that I may believe in him?.. I do believe, Lord." 

Pope Francis shares in Christ's special love for the poor and marginalized. He continues,

"Since this Exhortation is addressed to members of the Catholic Church, I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith. Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care." EG, 200 

"Of course, all of us are called to mature in our work as evangelizers. We want to have better training, a deepening love and a clearer witness to the Gospel. In this sense, we ought to let others be constantly evangelizing us. But this does not mean that we should postpone the evangelizing mission; rather, each of us should find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives." EG, 121

What does this mean for us Catholics today? We must not only imitate Christ's love for the poor, but remember that Christ is present in the poor and undesirable of society. "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'" (Mt. 25:40)


4/8/2014 - Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament

The Holy Father Praises the

Faith-Filled Example of Mary ,

Pope Francis prays in front of a statue honoring the Blessed Mother.

On January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Pope Francis preached on the Blessed Mother and the intercession and guidance she provides for the Church and all of its faithful. Our favorite quotes from the Holy Father's homily are shared below.

On Mary Sharing our Journey of Faith:

"Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. 'The Church journeys through time... and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary' (Redemptoris Mater, 2). Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the 'pilgrimage of faith' (Lumen gentium, 58).

"Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: 'Behold your Mother!'(Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother!" 

On Mary's Motherhood of All People:

"When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The "woman" became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!" 

On the Importance of Mary's Intercession:

"The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God's will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus: Mother of God! Mother of God! Mother of God! Amen." 

As Mercedarian Sisters, our charism is two-fold: Eucharistic and Marian. Our devotion to Mary does not take away from our devotion to the Eucharistic Lord. Rather, we recognize that as a mother, Mary brings us closer to her Son in a way we could not achieve on our own. Every May, our community honors the month of Mary with a May Crowning - both in our convent, and in our schools with the children we teach!

 You can read Pope Francis' entire homily on the Vatican's website.


4/1/2014 - New Italian Magazine Devoted to Pope Francis

Three million copies have been printed for the first month's run of "Il Mio Papa".

Just a little over a year ago, on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis stepped out as the newly elected pope. Since then, he has won the hearts of many Catholics, as well as those outside of the Church.

Now, the Italian-based publishing company Mondadori, announced the launch of their new magazine "Il Mio Papa", or in English "My Pope", which hit newsstands March 5th. At sixty-nine pages long, the inaugural issue features an article celebrating the anniversary of the Holy Father, and included a pull-out centerfold poster of Pope Francis. The first month's print run is set at 3 million, with copies available for sale at Italian newsstands for €0.50.

Dedicated entirely to Pope Francis, the weekly magazine will include the Pope's recent quotes, homilies, pronouncements, and engagements with the Church, a saint of the week, Catholic TV programs, cartoons, and an "illustrated history of the life of Pope Francis". Readers are encouraged to submit letters, poems, and other works for consideration to be published.

It may seem unusual that Mondadori - know for celebrity gossip magazines - would celebrate Pope Francis' papacy. But editor Aldo Vitali wrote that the magazine's purpose is to make the world a better place, saying, "We are people who admire and love and have a deep affection and gratitude for Pope Francis." 

"The idea for a magazine designed to report on and share the words and actions of Pope Francis came from observing how his election has stimulated a renewed interest on ethical, religious and moral issues," said Vitali. "In fact, the current Pope is a figure who, thanks to his empathy, as well as the power, the courage and the simplicity of his message, has won over everyone, both the faithful and non-believers."

Some Catholic observers expressed concern as to whether the Pope's true intentions would be faithfully reported by a secular magazine such as this. In the past year, as we have seen, there were doubts expressed about the accuracy of reporting in several of Pope Francis' interviews carried by secular publications. Time will tell.


3/26/2014 - Old Wisdom From St. Ignatius Offers

A New Perspective on Discernment

"Go forth and set the world on fire" -  Ignatius of Loyola

 In our last newsletter, we looked at the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, and his thoughts on seven qualities which must be present for authentic discernment. Taken from St. Ignatius'

Spiritual Exercises, are seven more principles. These are practical tips and techniques for discernment which can be of great value to our own discernment process today.

1. To begin, we must focus on the issue which we are discerning. This may be discerning a call to religious life, or choosing a specific religious order to join.

2. St. Ignatius advises us to pray that we can "try to be like a balance at equilibrium, without leaning to either side." This means we should ask for the grace to desire God's will, while setting aside our own prejudices and opinions.

3. Through continued prayer, we must ask for clarity to see God's will. The end goal must be God's service and praise.   

4. St. Ignatius suggests looking at things from a new angle! Imagine a person we have never met before who comes to us asking advice. He or she faces the same decision that you do, and wants your advice in responding to God's call. What would you tell this person? It is often easier to see clearly when we are giving other people advice, and through this method, we can make use of our own advice. 

5. Imagine yet another perspective: at the end of our lives we will stand face to face before Christ. When we are judged, how would we feel if we chose one path over another possible decision? Could we explain our decision to Christ? Would we be proud and joyful about the choice we made? These types of questions can help put things in perspective and examine the honesty of our motives.

6. The Church teaches the use of faith and reason. If we still do not experience inner clarity in discernment, we must turn to reason to make our decision. First, will the decision allow us to live out God's will through our lives? Secondly, list out the "pros and cons" of the decision. Do any pros or cons really stand out? Do they have spiritual merit? Finally - keeping in mind the end goal of glorifying God - how do the possible alternatives compare with the decision. 

7. We finally make a decision... but discernment is not quite over yet! St. Ignatius teaches that we must then ask for a sign of God's confirmation that our choice is the right one. Most often, this "sign" comes in the form of peacefulness. We experience inner joy and peace, and the feeling of God's presence and blessing. Contrary signs would include anxiety, darkness, or sadness.  

Taken from Warren Sazama, S.J.'s article "Some Ignatian principles for making prayerful decisions."


3/21/2014 - St. Ignatius' Seven Qualities for Authentic Discernment

"He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor." -  Ignatius of Loyola

It never hurts to learn from the examples of the saints! Born in late 15th century Spain, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit Order, and is known for his writings and guidelines for discernment. The following seven qualities which a person must have for an authentic discernment process are taken from St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises. 

1. Openness: Discernment can only take place if one has an open mind and an open heart. Any pre-conceived notions or expectations which limit us must be let go of. St. Ignatius speaks also of "attachments", or conditions which put limits on what we are willing to do. Because these limit one's freedom, they must be dismissed.

2. Generosity: Because we can not put limits on the decision-making process as listed above, one must have a generous heart and a willingness to give to God whatever he asks.

3. Courage: Building further on the first two qualities, one must have courage, should God ask something difficult of us. God's path is the only one which will satisfy us, but in no way does that guarantee that it will be easy. Our calling is out of our hands, and requires complete trust in God's providence.

4. Interior Freedom: In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius speaks of three attitudes people can have. The first is one who is "all talk and no action". Although they mean well, they never make the time or commitment to respond to God's will. The second type of person does many good things with their life, except for the central calling - which is too hard for them. Finally, the third is one who possesses true interior freedom. Their deepest desire is to respond to God's will, because God is their first priority.

5. A Habit of Prayerful Reflection on one's Experience: One must pray daily as part of authentic discernment. St. Ignatius recommends a method of prayer called "The Examen of Consciousness".

According to the steps, one begins the Examen with an awareness of God's presence and asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit

Next reflects on the day, asking how God was present. How has Christ called us through these experiences? How have we responded?

Thank God for the blessings of the day

Ask forgiveness for any faults or failure to respond to God's call. Ask for the grace to respond to Christ's call the next day.

6. Having one's Priorities Straight: Following Christ should be our greatest goal, and if so, everything else must be ordered to achieve this end. All of our choices should be consistent with our commitment to God.

 7. Not Confusing Ends with Means: All vocations: marriage, priesthood, consecrated life, are means or paths to serving and glorifying God. Too often, they are mistaken as the end goal of a person's existence. A person who confuses ends with means may choose a vocation that they want, and then try to put God into it, when it should be the other way around. God remains the first priority.

Stay tuned for part II: St. Ignatius' Seven Practical Discernment Techniques


3/11/2014 - Be Open to God's Call During

National Catholic Sisters Week

Young women meeting with our community.

This year, March 8 -14th is recognized as the first ever National Catholic Sisters Week! This new initiative is meant to increase awareness for religious sisters, and engage young women in honest discussions about religious life:

"National Catholic Sisters Week is launching the second week of March as part of National Women's History Month. It is intended to shine a national spotlight on the good works and good will of Catholic sisters. It recognizes past and present sisters, from the movers and shakers pressing the front lines of social change to the faithful praying in cloistered chapels."

Why religious life? All religious orders find joy in living as brides of Christ. As Mercedarian Sisters, one of the characteristic virtues that is required for us to practice is JOY. 

A Mercedarian Sister must be joyful even in the midst of struggles and difficult times. Of course, the only way to do it is to remain in the presence of God, especially in the Eucharist where we feel loved and loved completely. We also must show joy to others. Because we are loved by God, we cannot keep this love and joy to ourselves!

Make the Most of National Catholic Sisters Week

In light of the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life, National Catholic Sisters Week is the perfect "excuse" to reach out to a religious sister and learn more about the lives of these women! This week - and the Lenten season in particular - can also be a time of inward reflection and prayer for discovering God's calling.

Below is a beautiful reflection from Bl. John Henry Newman which is particularly insightful when our vocation seems unsure or hidden from us. We trust that God will grant us discernment and guidance in our lives:

"God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am. I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about."


3/4/2014 - Religious Life Is Not an Escape,

Pope Francis Says "You should be real witnesses of a way of doing and acting differently."

  As Spiritual shepherd of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis often meets and speaks with members of the Church. In November, he spoke to the Union of Superiors General about vocations and the role of the religious. What can we learn from what the Holy Father says? Pope Francis had many powerful quotes from this talk, which stood out to us!

Obviously, religious life is a calling, a vocation, which involves the whole person. Too often, people falsely attribute religious life as an escape, which our Holy Father warns against:

"There are four pillars of formation: spiritual, intellectual, communitarian and apostolic. The ghost to fight against is the image of religious life understood as an escape or hiding place in face of an 'external,' difficult and complex world."

While the United States may be experiencing somewhat of a lull in religious vocations, there is still much hope for the Church. Countries such as Asia and Africa have experienced a multitude of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life:

"All cultures are able to be called by the Lord, that he is free to stir up more vocations in one part of the world than in another. What does the Lord wish to say by sending us vocations from the youngest Churches?... There are Churches who are bearing new fruit. At one time they perhaps were not so fertile, but they are now. This necessitates, of course, rethinking the inculturation of the charism. The charism is one but, as Saint Ignatius used to say, it needs to be lived according to the places, times and persons. The charism is not a bottle of distilled water. It needs to be lived energetically as well as reinterpreted culturally."

Religious brotherhood - in our case sisterhood - is essential! It is the community that keeps us accountable and challenges us to grow in holiness. This community becomes our family which we are members of. According to Pope Francis, living in this "family" is not always easy!

"Sometimes living fraternally is difficult, but if it is not lived it is not productive. Work, even that which is 'apostolic' can become an escape from fraternal life. If a person cannot live brotherhood he cannot live religious life. Religious brotherhood, with all its possible diversity, is an experience of love that goes beyond conflicts. Community conflicts are inevitable: in a certain sense they need to happen, if the community is truly living sincere and honest relationships. That's life... Reality dictates that there are conflicts in all families and all groups of people." 

You can read more of Pope Francis' talk in this PDF, translated by Fr. Donald Maldari S.J.


2/26/2014 - Bl. Maria Candida Shares our Eucharistic and Marian Zeal

"How great is the love of God made bread for our souls!" - Bl. Maria Candida

Love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is one of the charisms of our Order. It is always heartening and inspiring for us when we read the lives of saints who displayed this love so perfectly.

Born in Italy in 1884, Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist was one such women. She wrote, "When I was still a child, and before I was old enough to receive Jesus in Communion, I used to rush to the front door to greet my mother when she returned from Mass. There I stood on tiptoe to reach up to her and cried, "I want God too!"

At the age of fifteen, Maria Barba recognized a calling to religious life. However, she experienced opposition from her family, so much so that she had to wait twenty years before joining the Discalced Carmelites in Ragusa. This time was filled with interior suffering, made worse by the fact that her brothers discouraged her from leaving the house alone after the death of her mother. This meant she could not attend Mass.

Upon finally entering the Carmel in 1919, Maria Barba took the name Maria Candida of the Eucharist. Inspired by St. Therese's Eucharistic devotions in "Story of a Soul", Maria wished "to keep Jesus company in the Eucharist for as long as possible." Elected prioress five years later, Maria would soon begin her own writings and meditations entitled Eucharist: True Jewel of Eucharistic Spirituality.

She wrote on the three theological virtues, 

"O my Beloved Sacrament, I see you, I believe in you!... O Holy Faith. Contemplate with ever greater faith our Dear Lord in the Sacrament: live with Him who comes to us every day... O My Divine Eucharist, my dear Hope, all our hope is in You... Ever since I was a baby my hope in the Holy Eucharist has been strong...My Jesus, how I love You! There is within my heart an enormous love for You, O Sacramental Love... How great is the love of God made bread for our souls, who become a prisoner for me!" 

Like us Mercedarian Sisters, Bl. Maria understood that the greatest model of a Eucharistic life is the Blessed Virgin. 

"I want to be like Mary," she wrote, "to be Mary for Jesus, to take the place of His Mother. When I receive Jesus in Communion Mary is always present. I want to receive Jesus from her hands, she must make me one with Him. I cannot separate Mary from Jesus. Hail, O Body born of Mary. Hail Mary, dawn of the Eucharist!"

In 1949, Maria Candida of the Eucharist fell ill, and entered eternal life in June. Her feast day is celebrated March 21st.


2/18/2014 - Seeing Through Eyes of Faith:

A New Look at Beauty and Joy

The joy of Christ casts out fear!

What if religious sisters were associated with radiant joy, youthfulness, and the pursuit of holiness? What if discerning religious life wasn't frightening, stereotyped or unusual?

This is the goal of the movement, Imagine Sisters; to normalize religious vocations by displaying the joy and love shown by these women. Their website proclaims: 

"Have you ever met a religious sister? They tend to be the happiest women on Earth. They pray, they sacrifice their lives in love and service to those in need, they live in community-and in many ways they're just like you! Whether you've been taught by sisters or you've never experienced their joy in person, Imagine Sisters has dedicated this site to passionately propose the possibility of becoming a sister in the world today."

In 2013, Imagine Sisters released the hour-long film, "Light of Love", which can be viewed online. The compelling film features honest conversations with five sisters from five different religious orders. The Sisters share their vocation stories, and their ministry to the Church: whether it is nursing, running soup kitchens, or ministering on college campuses.

The love of Christ - which is overflowing from these sisters - is apparent in their work and in their words. As one of the sisters from the film - Salesian Sister Mary Jackson - says, "A person with a cheerful heart is one who truly loves God... We are made in God's image, so to be holy is to be cheerful all the time." 

The Imagine Sisters website has some great resources such as discernment advice, dealing with a lack of support from family and friends, and a letter of encouragement from a mother whose daughter joined a cloistered order! Can you imagine yourself as a sister?

 Light of Love

Why did these five women find fulfillment in religious life? Find out in the beautiful film "Light of Love".


2/12/2014 - The Church Prepares for Year of Consecrated Life

Group photos of our Sisters, present throughout the United States and in twelve countries. 

In a gesture of gratitude to the religious life, Pope Francis announced in November that 2015 will be dedicated as the Year of Consecrated Life. In his address to the Union of Superiors General, Pope Francis spoke of the religious saying, 

"A radical approach is required of all Christians, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: They are men and woman who can awaken the world."

We are heartened and excited by this recognition from our Holy Father Francis, and hope the Year of Consecrated Life opens the hearts of the faithful to consider a religious vocation while discerning God's plan for their lives.

Here are some of our favorite quotes and words of wisdom from Pope Francis' November address.

On Education:

"Convey understanding, convey ways of doing things, convey values. Faith is conveyed through these. The educator should be up to being a person who educates, he or she should consider how to proclaim Jesus Christ to a generation that is changing. Education today is a key, key, key mission!" 

On the Unique Role of Religious:

"Religious life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction. The Church must be attractive. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world. We are speaking of an eschatological outlook, of the values of the Kingdom incarnated here, on this earth. It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. No, I do not want to say 'radical'. Evangelical radicalness is not only for religious: it is demanded of all. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. "

  On Modern Day Prophets:

"To be prophets, in particular, by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophesying... Let us think about what so many great saints, monks and religious men and women have done, from St Anthony the Abbot onward. Being prophets may sometimes involve making ruido [Spanish for noise]. I do not know how to put it... Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say 'a mess.' But in reality, the charism of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.."  

On our Weaknesses as we Strive for Holiness:

"You should be real witnesses of a world of doing and acting differently. But in life it is difficult for everything to be clear, precise, outlined neatly. Life is complicated; it consists of grace and sin. He who does not sin is not human. We all make mistakes and we need to recognize our weakness. A religious who recognizes himself as weak and a sinner does not negate the witness that he is called to give, rather he reinforces it, and this is good for everyone. What I expect of you therefore is to give witness. I want this special witness from religious."


2/4/2014 - Jan. 22: They Came, They Saw, They Marched for Life

 Greetings!,

We are greatly encouraged by the hundreds of thousands of people who braved the bitter cold to participate in this year's March for Life. Pro-lifers of all ages and faiths were present, but the large majority were young people, proclaiming themselves to be the pro-life generation. Other marches to stand up for life took place across the nation, including major cities such as Chicago and San Francisco.

Our prayers are with all those who stand up for the dignity of unborn human life!

12,000 tickets were given away for the Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center, and another 8,000 for the same event at the DC Armory.

"How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers." - Mother Teresa

Aerial view of the marchers walking past the U.S. Capitol.  

Students from Franciscan University of Steubenville gather in front of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." - Thomas Jefferson

Photos from: 

https://twitter.com/March_for_Life

http://www.lifesitenews.com

https://www.facebook.com/FranciscanUniversity

https://www.facebook.com/TexasRightToLife   

Shadow the Sisters this Spring

Would you like to learn more about the religious life? Is the possibility of becoming a sister tugging at your heart? Come visit us for a day or two, or stay overnight during our open house, which runs April 10-17, 2014.  

Young women will have the opportunity to visit our Cleveland home and "shadow us" as we go about our prayer life, community life and apostolate. For more information, and to register, please visit Shadow the Sisters.


1/22/2014 - Pope Francis to Religious Sisters:

"What Would the Church do Without You?" ,

"What would the Church do without you? She would lack your motherhood, warmth, tenderness and motherly intuition."

Can you make a difference with your life? Could you find fulfillment as a sister?

Are religious sisters relevant today? They are present in schools, hospitals, monasteries, adoration chapels, orphanages, nursing homes, convents, prisons, pregnancy help centers, missions, churches, cloisters, college campuses, and homes for the youth.

 Pope Francis said in his address to women religious superiors,

 "In short, the centrality of Christ and of his Gospel; authority as a service of love; "thinking" in and with Mother Church. These are the three indicators that I would like to leave with you, to which I add yet once again, my gratitude for your work, which is not always easy. What would the Church do without you? She would lack your motherhood, warmth, tenderness and motherly intuition!"

 As Pope Francis reminds us, Christ and his Gospel are central to the work of religious sisters. Often overlooked or misunderstood by the world, the consecrated life remains relevant today. Sisters are active in performing the corporal works of mercy - feed the hungry, visit the sick - as well as the spiritual works of mercy - instruct the ignorant, pray for the living and the dead. In these ways, the religious take part in the Church's work of evangelization, and act as the hands and feet of Christ to others.  

In fact, Pope Francis announced 2015 to be the Year of Consecrated Life, in honor of these men and women who so faithfully carry on the mission of Christ and his Gospel. 

As women, we bring a special charism of motherhood to religious life. While priests act as spiritual fathers, sisters use their gifts to act as spiritual mothers. In some countries, such as Mexico, sisters are called madres, or mothers.As Mercedarian Sisters, our sense of motherhood is expressed through our work in the Catholic schools and our prayer center. 

Would you like to learn more about the religious life? Is the possibility of becoming a sister tugging at your heart? Come visit us for a day or two, or stay overnight during our open house, which runs April 10-17, 2014.  

Young women will have the opportunity to visit our Cleveland home and "shadow us" as we go about our prayer life, community life and apostolate. If you are interested, please register online.


1/14/2014 - Overcoming A Lack of Support

During Discernment ,Following Christ's call, even amidst trials can be difficult.

 I've heard from many young women that their most difficult challenge is finding support in discerning the religious life. Whether it is from family members, peers, or someone else in their life, there is often skepticism - or even worse, opposition - in response to a religious vocation.

1.) The modern mind doesn't understand the value of consecrated religious life. Even parents can find it hard to accept their child's vocation, especially when they have hopes of having grandchildren. They may also worry that their child will be shut away in a cloister. However, your own joy and sincerity can be a testimony that you are not signing up for some terrible fate by considering the religious life! Talk with them about what attracts you to this life, what you are excited about, and how religious life will help you live your life to the fullest. Be honest, and ask what their concerns are. Perhaps they are upset because they have a flawed view of what consecrated religious life is!

2.) A support group is important to avoid discouragement. If your parents and friends support your discernment, talk with them about the opposition you feel. A lot of relief comes from talking aloud about your struggles and problems to a listening ear!

Seek the advice of someone with more wisdom and experience, such as a spiritual director. You can find a spiritual director by talking with a priest at your parish or university. Although they themselves may not necessarily have the experience or time to be your spiritual director, they will know other priests whom they can recommend. 

Another option is to get in touch with Sisters. All of the communities have a sister in charge of keeping contact with young ladies discerning their vocation. Their advice and their prayers will be of great help during this time. Keep in contact with virtuous lay people you look up to, or leaders from your church. Their prayers, wisdom, and guidance can help you through obstacles you encounter.

3.) It's essential to remember that to some degree, we must remain uninfluenced by the criticism and opinions of others. Stay steadfast in your resolve. Steer your course like a ship, catching the wind of the Holy Spirit, while keeping a firm hand on the rudder. Like Christ, you may never win the approval of the world, and must be prepared to carry his cross. 

4.) In the end, the decision to pursue religious life is between you and God. Prayer is essential to the discernment process. Strengthen your own prayer and sacramental life, lifting up in prayer your worries, concerns, and obstacles. God will not give you more than you can handle, and if you are called to religious life, he will provide the necessary graces to weather the storm, as long as you ask for them. Many of the obstacles you encounter will be spiritual attacks. 

Don't give up hope, because God's plan is perfect. Assuredly, it is not always easy, but it is the best for our fulfillment. Let us say as St. Paul did, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day..."


12/30/2013 - Come Visit Us For "Shadow the Sisters Days"

 Greetings!,

Experience our prayer and our life as

a community in Christ!

 We are preparing an Open House for women who would like to come and "shadow us" as we go about our prayer life, community life and apostolate. If you've ever wanted to get an inside perspective on life as a Sister, or ever imagined yourself living this lifestyle, consider coming to visit during this time.

 The days to visit are April 10-17. We stop on Holy Thursday because our community lives the Holy Triduum in complete silence and long hours of prayer that can be a little difficult to handle if you have not had the preparation for it!

 WHO: For young ladies, age 18 - 35.

WHAT: "Shadow the Sisters Days" You will live as the Mercedarian Sisters do in their everyday life.

WHERE: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Community in Cleveland, OH.

WHEN: April 10-17, 2014. Women may stay for one day, or may choose to stay for more, as their schedule allows.

WHY: To learn how Mercedarian Sisters pray, eat, teach, evangelize, and have fun in everyday life.

HOW: Travel to our Cleveland community. Bring casual clothes. There is no fee, although donations are accepted.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Meet the Sisters; make new friends with other young women who share your same dreams, and discern your vocation.

If you are interested, please register online.
12/23/2013 - More Than A Makeshift Bed:

The Manger Foreshadows Salvation ,

Christ, the Bread of Life

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Lk 2:7)

You've heard this Christmas reading many times, probably since you were a child. Perhaps that is why its deeper meaning is largely overlooked. Why was Jesus placed in a manger? Couldn't Mary or Joseph have held him? Couldn't Mary have found some other bed for Jesus?

The manger is more than just a makeshift crib for the Christ Child, it's a symbol of who Christ is for us! In the ancient world, the manger was used as a feeding trough, so that the animals did not go hungry.

Even as a newborn infant, Christ is portrayed as our spiritual food, the Bread of Life. Bethlehem, in fact, has the Hebrew meaning "House of Bread". Just as fitting is the Arabic name, meaning "House of Lamb" or "House of Meat". We echo the words of John the Baptist who proclaims, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29)

Often we forget that the child born on Christmas is also the Passover lamb, who will suffer and be killed to bring about salvation.  The manger - hewn out of stone - brings to mind the stone altar at Mass, where Christ's sacrifice at Calvary is made present. Christ's public ministry did not begin until he was thirty, but the conditions of his birth foreshadow his incomparable love for us.

In contemplating Christ, one can only be struck by how vulnerable he makes himself. As a child, he is tiny, without a voice of his own, and dependent on Mary and Joseph. In the consecrated host, he is exposed to our abuses and indifference. Christ patiently waits for us in the tabernacle every day, whether or not we take the time to visit.

This Christmas, celebrate the joy and peace of Jesus' birth. But also remember that his incarnation leads up to the cross, the source of our salvation! We receive the newborn Christ Child every week in the Eucharist, where he is truly food for our souls. What a great gift God has given us that first Christmas, and continues to give us today.


12/17/2013 - The Miraculous Power of the Eucharist on Display

 Greetings!,

"If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion." - St. Maximilian Kolbe

Have you ever sat and contemplated the meaning of Jesus in the Eucharist? As Mercedarian Sisters, we hold a special devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, praying before the Eucharist daily.

Why do Eucharistic miracles happen? Is not transubstantiation at every Mass enough? Our faith is based on the Church's teaching and Scripture, and we remember that Christ told Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." However, miracles strengthen our faith, and serve as reminders of Christ's overflowing love for us and his constant presence in the Tabernacle.

In 1263, Pope Urban IV investigated and confirmed a eucharistic miracle in Bolsena, Italy. There a German priest, Peter of Prague, had doubts about Christ's presence in the consecrated host. While celebrating Mass, he spoke the words of consecration, only to then notice blood seeping from the host and onto the linen corporal. The bloodstained cloth is on display in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, where Pope Urban was residing at the time.

Another miraculous reminder of the power of the Eucharist took place in Wawel, Poland in the 1300's, when a church was broken into by thieves. They stole the ciborium, but discarded it along with the consecrated hosts in a nearby marshland. As night came, frightened villagers brought to the bishop reports of a bright light shining from the marsh. After three days of fasting and prayer, the bishop led the people to the marsh, where the hosts and monstrance were discovered.

Perhaps the most remarkable Eucharistic miracle is that of Lanciano, Italy, from the 8th century. The host turned into physical flesh and the wine into blood at the consecration. From 1970-71, and again in 1981, scientific tests were performed on the still-preserved specimens of flesh and blood. The tests confirmed that they belonged to the human species. The flesh was identified as tissues from the heart, and the blood was type AB, identical to other Eucharistic miracles.

To read about more Eucharistic miracles, you can read Catholic Answers' article "Eucharistic Miracles: Evidence of the Real Presence."


12/10/2013 - Three Signs You Should Seek During Discernment

 Greetings!,

What thoughts and desires has Christ placed on your heart, in regards to religious life?

Do you ever wonder, "Will God send me a sign that I have a vocation?" 

If so, what should I be looking for?

God gives us a lot of credit. We are given an intellect and will, so God rightly treats us as rational and intelligent creatures. We must use our wits - so to speak - to comprehend God's plan. Miraculous signs still happen, but they are not God's normal way of communication. To look only for the supernatural would not be prudent. However, Christian teaching acknowledges three "natural signs" which God uses to communicate his will to us!

1) The first natural sign is a desire for religious life. Are you drawn towards aspects of the religious or consecrated life? Emotions and feelings are fleeting, but the desires of the heart will continue to make themselves known. You may still have fears or second thoughts about religious life, but is there a peace that is present when you imagine that life? Do you recognize it as a source of joy?

It is important to keep in mind that God calls us freely, and waits for our response. No one should be pressured into religious life out of a sense of guilt or debt to God, nor should they join an order because other people have painted them into that role!

2) The next sign builds on the first. It is desiring religious life... for the right reason. Are you motivated by love of Christ and service to his Church? Do you want to live your faith in community with like-minded Catholics who hold each other accountable? Is religious life a path to holiness, and a more perfect imitation of Christ? These are all good forms of motivation!

Likewise, there are incorrect reasons for discerning a vocation. A person may see religious life as a refuge from their problems. Is it an escape from failed romantic relationships, or from commitment to another person? Is it merely security against unemployment or loneliness? Or could it be a status symbol, a way to achieve recognition and respect from others?

If your thoughts include of a mix of these motivations, do not be discouraged! Until we become saints, we will not be completely selfless. If we have some spiritual motivation - even if it is not purely spiritual - God can work with that! We all have room to grow.

3) Lastly, there is the sign of fitness, or ability to live the religious life. Christ came that we might have life, and that we might have it abundantly! He does not want us to grow in holiness and community if it is continuous emotional and mental drain. If we have serious problems getting along with others; if we're on psychiatric medication, or are physically handicapped in some way, religious life is probably not our calling.

The saints lived joyfully and generously. We are called to live in imitation of them. Not everyone is cut out for religious life, just as not everyone is cut out for married life and parenthood. We must recognize if it is practical for us to live our vocation this way.

Do these three natural signs apply to you? Do they encourage you in your discernment?

Based on an article by Fr. Martin Pable, Order of Capuchin Friars Minor.


11/26/2013 -

Greetings!

How many babies do you think the Pope will kiss this year? We have a couple fun (and more serious) questions for you, because we'd like to know you a little better! Once we find out more about our readers, we can tailor our newsletters to better deliver to your inbox what you want to read. So, please, take a few moments to answer these questions about your interests. You will also get our free, attractive "4 Tips for Discerning" PDF poster by taking our survey. 

Share your thoughts

Thank you for your participation in our survey! We greatly appreciate your time and feedback.


11/19/2013 - How and Why We Practice

Motherhood, Holiness, and Poverty

 Greetings!,

"Be joyful, for it is beautiful to follow Jesus, it is beautiful to become a living icon of Our Lady"

In his address from this May, Pope Francis makes some very good points about religious life that correspond to the questions young people have! I have picked three of his quotes that relate to and can best answer the questions we find ourselves asking. 

One of the biggest concerns I hear in regards to consecrated life, is that young, Catholic women want to be mothers! This is not a desire that is opposed to consecrated life, but something that we naturally want as women! In religious life, we receive the grace of spiritual motherhood for all of Christ's children! Did you know that Pope Francis spoke about the role of motherhood within religious life? He begins by speaking about the vow of chastity which we take, and continues,

"But, please, let it be a "fruitful" chastity which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated woman is a mother, she must be a mother, not a "spinster"! Excuse me for speaking like this, but motherhood in the consecrated life is important, this fruitfulness!.. be mothers, as a figure of Mary, Mother, and of Mother Church. It is impossible to understand Mary without her motherhood; it is impossible to understand the Church apart from her motherhood and you are icons of Mary and the Church... What would the Church do without you? She would lack your motherhood, warmth, tenderness and motherly intuition!"

Perhaps in your discernment process, you have wondered if you are "holy enough" to live this lifestyle. Jesus does not make mistakes! If he is calling you, he intends to use your life to spread his glory. Further, the graces we receive allow us to live the life of adoration and service, which our Holy Father speaks of.

"Jesus, at the Last Supper, turns to the Apostles with these words: "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (Jn 15:16). They remind us all, not only us who are priests, that vocation is always an initiative of God. It is Christ who called you to follow him in the consecrated life and this means continuously making an "exodus" from yourselves in order to centre your life on Christ and on his Gospel, on the will of God, laying aside your own plans, in order to say with St. Paul: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). This "exodus" from ourselves means setting out on a path of adoration and service. The exodus leads us on a journey of adoring the Lord and of serving him in our brothers and sisters. To adore and to serve: two attitudes that cannot be separated, but must always go hand in hand."

I'm sure you have thought about the vow of poverty! Does that seem difficult for you? Fortunately it's not some meaningless, arbitrary restriction. Rather, it is an avenue which allows us to grow closer to Christ. Once we recognize it's purpose, it becomes less intimidating.

"Poverty as overcoming every kind of selfishness, in the logic of the Gospel which teaches us to trust in God's Providence. Poverty as a sign for the entire Church that it is not we who build the Kingdom of God. It is not human means that make it grow, but it is primarily the power and the grace of the Lord, working through our weakness. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness", the Apostle to the Gentiles tells us (2 Cor 12:9). A poverty teaches solidarity, sharing and charity, and is also expressed in moderation and joy in the essential, to put us on guard against material idols that obscure the real meaning of life." 

The above quotes are taken from Pope Francis' address to the International Union of Superiors General.


10/31/2013 - October Brings Beatification of Nineteen New 'Martyrs of Mercy'

 Greetings!,

The Mercedarian Martyrs: Fr. Mariano Alcala Perez and his eighteen companions

The Church bestowed on five hundred and twenty-two Spanish martyrs the title of "blessed" this month. The victims of anti-Catholic persecution during the Spanish Civil war, nineteen of these martyrs were our brothers, the Mercedarian friars of the Provence of Aragon.  

We waited in anticipation as we read the news reports of the canonization of our brethren-martyrs, whose cause was approved by Pope Benedict XVI in December of 2011. Killed during the "Red Terror" of 1934 to 1936, our brothers embraced their cross, forgiving their tormentors just as Jesus himself did. 

Administering the sacraments and preaching the Gospel in the face of anti-Catholic persecution, these priests and brothers would not betray Christ, even to spare their own lives. When captured and eventually executed, their final words were the proud cry of "Long live Christ the King!"

We Share in this Mercedarian Charism

Our foundress, Mother Maria del Refugio, started our order in 1910 in Mexico City as the Apostolate of the Blessed Sacrament. Eventually, we took on our Mercedarian Charism, and petitioned to be included into the Order of Mercy, a request which was granted in 1925. At that point, we received our name Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Several of our brother Mercedarian friars attended the beatification ceremony this October 13th, in Tarragona, Spain. Cardinal Amato preached the homily for the Beatification Mass, in which he spoke of the martyrs, 

"They did not hate anyone, [but] loved everyone, doing good to all.  Their apostolate was catechesis in the parishes, teaching in the schools, caring for the sick, charity for the poor, the assistance of the elderly and marginalized.  To the atrocity of the persecutors, they did not respond with rebellion or with arms, but with the gentleness of the strong."

"Today's celebration wants to scream again loudly to the world, that humanity needs peace, fraternity, peace.  No one can justify war, fratricidal hatred, the death of the neighbor.  With their charity, the martyrs opposed the rage of evil, as a powerful wall opposed the monstrous violence of a tsunami. By their gentleness, the martyrs deactivated the homicidal weapons of tyrants and executioners, conquering evil with good.  They are always actual prophets of peace in the world."

These martyrs leave us the message of peace and forgiveness, both of which are no less necessary today! As Pope Francis said, mercy is the cure for the "cancer" of sin and evil, which plagues our world.


10/18/2013 - Five Golden Quotes from Pope

Francis on Religious Life

 Greetings!,

Seminarians and Sisters at Pope Francis' talk

In his talk from July, Pope Francis met with seminarians, novices, and young people as a way of celebrating this Year of Faith. Our Holy Father shared much wisdom and practical advice on a variety of topics relating to religious life, some of which I have shared below.

On a Culture of Non-Commitment:

"I heard a seminarian, a good seminarian, who said that he wanted to serve Christ for 10 years, and then he would think about starting a different life.... This is dangerous! However, listen carefully: we are all, even the older people among us, we too, are under pressure from this "culture of the temporary"; and this is dangerous because one does not put one's stakes on life once and for all. I marry as long as love lasts; I become a woman religious, but only for "a little while...", "a short time" and then I shall see; I become a seminarian in order to become a priest, but I don't know how the story will end. This is not right with Jesus! I am not reproaching you, I reproach this culture of the temporary, which hits us all, since it does us no good: because it is very hard today to make a definitive decision. In my day it was easier, because the culture encouraged definitive decisions, whether for married life, consecrated life or priestly life. However, in this day and age it is far from easy to make a decision once and for all. We are victims of this culture of the temporary."

On Simplicity:

"Some will say: joy is born from possessions, so they go in quest of the latest model of the smartphone, the fastest scooter, the showy car.... but I tell you, it truly grieves me to see a priest or a sister with the latest model of a car: but this can't be! It can't be. You think: "so do we now have to go by bicycle, Father? Bicycles are good! Mons. Alfred rides a bicycle. He goes by bike. I think that cars are necessary because there is so much work to be done, and also in order to get about... but choose a more humble car! And if you like the beautiful one, only think of all the children who are dying of hunger."

On a Religious Calling:

"Becoming a priest or a man or woman religious is not primarily our own decision. I do not trust that seminarian or that woman novice who says: "I have chosen this path". I do not like this! It won't do! Rather it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me which moves me and I answer "yes". It is in prayer that the Lord makes us understand this love, but it is also through so many signs that we can read in our life, in the many people he sets on our path. And the joy of the encounter with him and with his call does not lead to shutting oneself in but to opening oneself; it leads to service in the Church."

 On Making a Good Confession:


"However, it is in our life that others must first be able to read the Gospel! Here too, without fear, with our shortcomings which we try to correct, with our limitations which the Lord knows, but also with our generosity in letting him act through us. Faults, limitations and - I add a little more - with sins.... I would like to know something. Here, in this hall, is there anyone who is not a sinner, who has not sinned? Put up your hand! Put up your hands! No one? No one. From here to the back... everyone! Yet how do I carry my sin, my sins? I want to recommend this to you: be honest with your confessor. Always. Confess everything, do not be afraid. "Father, I have sinned!". Think of the Samaritan woman who, to test him, in order to tell her fellow citizens that she had found the Messiah, said to him: "you have told me all that I have ever done", and everyone knew about this woman's life. Always tell your confessor the truth. This transparency will do us good, because it makes us humble, all of us. "But father, I have got stuck in this, I have done this, I have hated"... whatever it may be. Tell the truth, without hiding anything, without mincing your words, because you are talking to Jesus in the person of the confessor. And Jesus knows the truth He alone always forgives you!"

On a Missionary Church:

"I would like to tell you: come out of yourselves to proclaim the Gospel, but to do this you must come out of yourselves to encounter Jesus. There are two ways out: one towards the encounter with Jesus, towards transcendence; the other towards others in order to proclaim Jesus. These two go hand in hand. If you only take one of them, that is no good! I am thinking of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was a fantastic sister.... She was not afraid of anything. She went about on the roads.... This woman was not even afraid of kneeling for two hours before the Lord. Do not fear to step out of yourselves in prayer or in pastoral action. Be brave, in order to pray and in order to go and proclaim the Gospel. I would like a more missionary Church, one that is not so staid. This beautiful Church that makes progress."

Check out the entire text of Pope Francis' talk or watch the video footage below!


9/26/2013 - Forming Eucharistic Souls is Imperative to the Mercedarian Mission

 Greetings!,

We are committed to loving Jesus in the Eucharist and spreading that devotion.

I remember a saint I read about that would go out and scream: "God is not loved."

We Mercedarians experience that pain of Jesus in the Eucharist - of not being loved!

That's what our community, the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, is all about. It all started with a wife, mother and widow who became the foundress of our congregation. Her name was Maria del Refugio.

The main goal in the mind of Maria del Refugio was to found a congregation that would make acts of reparation, but above all LOVE Jesus in the Eucharist.

In other words, she wanted Eucharistic souls who set the world on fire, a Eucharistic fire.

Our Devotion Fuels a Worldwide Mission 

While our apostolate - the education of children and youth - is certainly important, it is secondary to Eucharistic devotion. Education is the means to achieve our goal of forming Eucharistic souls.

If you dream of doing something great, this is your invitation, to join the community of Mercedarians. The harvest is plentiful and the laborers few. We are about 680 sisters striving to live Maria del Refugio's dream in 83 schools and a few missions.

There is too much evangelization to do and we need more women to tell Jesus that he is our all. We need women who are ready to become Eucharist: total surrender to the Father, obedient unto death, not afraid to give it all. In return, we receive Christ's gift of eternal life.

We are in 12 countries in Central and South America, Europe and Africa. But wherever there is a tabernacle, there is home. Here in America, we live at the shadow of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus in San Diego, Cleveland, San Antonio and Baton Rouge.

But... Am I Called?

Discernment is a process that should take place before we make a decision. We cannot make decisions in the impulse of the moment, even though sometimes life puts us in that situation.   

We are always to choose good and avoid evil, and we are naturally inclined to the good. The problem is that sometimes our perception of what is good is distorted. But if we have a good conscience, then as painful as this decision making can be, we do it. The world is so good at lying to us. It falsely tells us what freedom is. 

The most difficult is when we have to decide between two good things, such as religious life and marriage. In my experience, I could distinguish very clearly between lasting joy and momentary joy.

We are having a discernment retreat in Baton Rouge this coming October 11-13. We will go over ways to discern a vocation, along with taking some of the advice of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila.

If you think you may be called to become a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, take our simple Test Your Call survey. I'll write a personal response.

Be sure to like our Facebook page for more updates and news!


8/29/2013 - Jesuit Priest Offers Four Essential Practices for Discernment

 Greetings!,

I recently came across the following article and video of Fr. James Martin of the Society of Jesus, who offered some sound vocational advice to the youth. Too often, we are plagued by misconceptions in discerning a vocation, and Fr. Marin's video is refreshingly practical and straight-forward in offering good, solid advice!  

World Youth Day Talk: Discovering Your Vocation

World Youth Day Talk: Discovering Your Vocation

Want to find your God-given vocation? Feel you might be called to become a Sister? Not sure how to go about it all?

Then click and watch this excellent talk by Fr. James Martin, of the Society of Jesus, as he shares personal examples and practical advice to folks like you who are discerning their vocation.

Fr. James bangs out not only good, solid Jesuit spirituality, but seems to be the kind of holy and prayerful priest that we all want directing our youth group. And yet he's as down to earth as ever.

In his video made for World Youth Day, Fr. James breaks down four essential practices to discover your vocation:

Don't wait for a flashing neon sign. While slogging through the daily routine of discovering one's vocation, there may exist the misconception of waiting for a call. While some of our great saints have received direction in the form of visions and voices, waiting for a supernatural calling is neither the typical nor expected way to discern.

You already have a vocation! We are made to be holy, happy, and to serve God. This may or may not mean a vocation to religious life, but we all have a vocation to become the best, holiest version of ourselves. This means we can banish the fear or trepidation that "I may have a vocation!" and instead realize that only by discovering our vocation will we be at peace.

Don't be hasty to disregard desire. Often, desire is confused with our selfish and shallow wants, but it's much more than that - it is the key to who we are and what we are meant to become. In Fr. Martin's own life, it was attraction towards service and the sacraments, which helped him understand his religious vocation. Through the deep desires of the heart, God calls us to a life which glorifies Him. To follow the desires of our heart, one must first set aside the shallow wants which lay on the surface to distract. 

Interpretation is needed - so pray for understanding. The path to Christ's fulfillment is rarely clear-cut. St. Ignatius of Loyola said, "pray to understand your desires." God speaks through peace and joy, but it can take time for emotions and distractions to settle, so to speak. Ask yourself what really gives you joy. Do not be discouraged if it takes time to

recognize what holy desires God has placed on your heart. Learn from St. Augustine who said, "Our hearts are restless O Lord, until they rest in you."


8/24/2013 - Navigating a Hostile College Environment to Thrive as a Catholic

 Greetings!,

The college scene often provides challenges to one's faith

You may be going to college this fall, so I thought I'd give you some tips on staying Catholic there, and even discerning your vocation. Are the below questions your own?

1. How does one listen to God on campus amid all the noise?

It's not easy! It can be hard enough to stay firm in your Catholic faith in college, and even harder to discern a religious vocation amidst all the distractions. In fact, Bl. Mother Teresa said, "We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence." Distractions abound, and the quiet that is found in prayer is irreplaceable for anyone seeking God's will.

However, prayer should be an essential part of our life because it fulfills our desire to love and be loved, to talk and be heard. Talk to God about your day, remain in his presence for few moments before you go to bed. Give Him an opportunity to mold your heart. Find time to read Scripture for at least five minutes every day, attend Mass, and experience God's forgiving love in confession.

Do not forget to approach Our Lady. As you walk the campus, pray a decade of the Rosary or as you fall asleep, imagine that you place your head on her lap, and like a little child falls peacefully asleep on his mother's bosom, fall asleep on Mary's lap. Find a spiritual director. Sometimes it is hard to discern how God is working in our souls, and we need someone to help us be objective. Building the foundation of your spiritual life disposes your heart to better hear the call of God. 

2. How does a Catholic college student survive an environment that is often hostile to a moral and religious life?

The college scene provides challenges to our faith, but is also an opportunity for growth. You will sometimes face opposition for being Catholic once you graduate, so build a strong foundation now by learning why you believe what you do. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you, to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander" (1 Peter 3:15-16 says).

It has been said that you are who you surround yourself with. Make your best effort to associate with friends of character and fellow Catholics. Many schools have Catholic centers and organizations, so take advantage of these.

3. What campus organizations or contacts are available?

Newman Centers and similar clubs are available, found mainly on non-Catholic campuses. These organizations minister to Catholic students and provide fellowship, community, and encourage spiritual growth. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is present on campuses in thirty-one states, and their missionaries lead campus Bible studies and evangelization outreaches.

4. Should a student find a spiritual director? How does one find a good one at either a Catholic or secular college?

Any Catholic can benefit greatly from spiritual direction. Finding a good spiritual director is the trickier part! The first step is to talk with the priests at your school or a nearby parish. You may already have a good confessor in mind or you may ask the opinions of others in finding a qualified priest who is willing to work with you.

Four qualities should be present in your spiritual director. He should be educated in philosophy and theology, and have an understanding of both the call to holiness and of the obstacles that present themselves along the way. He should be prudent in offering practical suggestions. He should have experience in traveling on his own journey of holiness. Finally, he should be holy, setting an example of virtue.

Best wishes and God's blessings in finding your vocation! Know that we pray everyday for the children and youth, especially for those young people who are discerning God's will in their lives.


8/6/2013 - A Retreat Inspired a Young Laywoman to Found the Mercedarian Sisters

 Greetings!,

Our foundress: Maria del Rufugio of Mexico City.

Did you know that a widow and mother who lived a hundred years ago made a profound impact on the world - one that continues today?

This 29-year old woman, Maria del Refugio, attended a retreat, which focused on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. These practices inspired a spiritual renewal, and Maria del Refugio felt the desire to love and serve others while bringing them to Christ. She wanted particularly to reach children and young people.

In particular, she wished to start a religious community to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, while offering reparation for the many offenses against the Eucharist. Our congregation, the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, was founded in 1910, and has continued to spread since then.

Persecution is a Cause for Expansion

By the early 20th century, the Mexican Revolution had begun. Hostile to Catholics, the Mexican government began a persecution, which threatened our Mercedarian Sisters. To prevent the Order from being wiped out - as well as to remain open to vocations - Maria del Refugio established houses for her Sisters in foreign countries. Several of the Sisters kept a low profile in Mexico City, staying away from danger in the basements of nearby houses when necessary. After the revolution, in 1929, our religious family expanded to Cuba, El Salvador, Chile, Spain, Colombia, Italy, and the United States. The Sisters ran these Catholic schools to educate children not only in academics, but also in virtues.

 Currently, the Institute has a presence in twelve countries (lately, they have opened houses in Guatemala, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Mozambique) where we take part in the New Evangelization, ministering to Catholics and non-Catholics through eighty-three schools and five missions. Our mission is to help children and youth to develop a loving relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.

 Mercedarian Sisters Today in the U.S.

In the United States, the special focus of the Mercedarian Sisters is catechizing in schools. We run schools in Ohio, California, and Texas for children ranging from pre K to 8th grade. Louisiana is home to our prayer center for the sick and terminally. Among other ministries, religious classes and spiritual counseling are offered here to children, teenagers, and adults.

The work of our Sisters and charisms of our Order can be found on the Mercedarian Sisters' website. Photo albums on the site show some glimpses into our community life. Whether it is working in the kitchen, praying as a community at Mass, or building a snowman, we strive live with the joy of Christ.

If you think you may be called to become a Mecedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, take our simple Test Your Call survey. I'll write a personal response.


7/25/2013 - Pope Cautions Novices About Culture of Non-Commitment

 Greetings!,

A vocation is much more than something you choose!

I was greatly heartened to hear of Pope Francis' recent talk to novices, seminarians and young persons at the Vatican recently. Our Holy Father touched on a great problem that I see so often: the difficulty of young people to commit. In other words, there is a tendency to "try" religious life for a few years and then change their mind.

Pope Francis did not blame the novices, or the young persons, or the seminarians gathered there that day. He said that a "provisional" culture is to blame. That is, a culture that fails to see the good of making a lifetime commitment. A culture that says, "I will choose this vocation provided that everything goes OK."

He warned, "This is dangerous!" and explained,  

I marry as long as love lasts; I will be a nun but for a "short time," for "some time," and then I'll see; I will be a seminarian to become a priest, but I don't know how the story will end. This is not right with Jesus!

My friends, I can add to the Pope's words by saying that this kind of thinking makes us fall far short of what brings us happiness, and far short of what God is calling us as sons and daughters of God. 

I have talked with young ladies who have fallen victim to this mindset. Are you are one of them? Like the Pope, I will not blame you. But I will say that the normal way of discovering one's vocation is to 1) learn about religious life and celibacy, 2) pray about your vocation, seeking the guidance of your parents and spiritual advisor, and 3) plan to eventually arrive at a firm commitment towards your calling - before too many years slip away.

Lastly, Pope Francis emphasized that one's vocation is truly a calling from God, not something that you decide. In his talk, he said,

To become priests [or] Religious - is not primarily our choice. I don't trust the seminarian, the novice who says: "I have chosen this path." I don't like this. It's not right! But it is the response to a call and to a call of love. I hear something within me, which makes me restless, and I answer yes. The Lord makes us feel this love in prayer, but also through so many signs that we can read in our life, so many persons that He puts on our path.

So, my friends: pray to find God's will for you, and fix your mind on making a commitment to your vocation in the eyes of God. He will reward you.

(Read the entire vocation talk of Pope Francis to young persons.)


7/2/2013 - Kids and Parents Urgently Need a Stronger  Catholic Formation

 Greetings!,

What is more important than helping these "little ones" towards Heaven?

Below is an interview of me that I thought you would like. It shows how our charism is integrated into our life and apostolate.

Q. What trends are you seeing in children today in the schools where you teach? In family life?

Sr. Jeanette: The education of children and youth is of transcendental importance.  It has always been a challenge, but it seems to be a real challenge nowadays. Three main factors come to my mind:

Higher rates of divorce and single parenthood leading to parents working double shifts, and therefore, not spending time with their children.

The traditional family (formed by mom, dad and children) is not the common feature in our society any more.

A secularized society in which values are not a priority or perceived as "old fashion".

Many children are pressured to leave their childhood behind at a very early age.  They do not play with cars, dolls, and dinosaurs. They play games in tablets, cell phones, x-boxes, etc., where many times they are left unsupervised or under the supervision of older siblings who initiate them in violent or impure video games.    

The Church does not play an important role in their lives; therefore, in many instances, the media teaches the moral standards and behavioral patterns.

Q. What, then, is the role of Catholic Education in society?

Sr. Jeanette: In the past, parents sent their children to Catholic Schools to support the Catholic education imparted at home. Today, many parents send their children to a Catholic School because it is seen as a haven from violence in public schools and because of the quality education they offer. Catholicity in itself is not a main decision-making factor.

It is exactly because of this that Catholic Education is now more necessary than ever. The Catholic School becomes a center for the New Evangelization. We must educate children to have a critical mind capable of discerning what is God's, what is good, immovable, true.

Being a teacher in Catholic school should not be seen as a job but mainly as a "ministry" to save souls and lead them to God.

Q. What can you say about religious life today? About the kind of attitudes and expectations of young women who may have a vocation?

Sr. Jeanette: Religious life has to be at the center of the New Evangelization, along with all the people of good will. The vocation of all of us is to be with the Lord and wherever the Lord wills us to be. In our case, as Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, we are called to be with those who are captives, in whatever form this captivity may take. 

 In 1218, at the time the Order of Mercy (known as Mercedarians) was founded, the captivity was a physical enslavement due to the not-so-healthy relations between the Muslims and Christians. However, in our days, the captivity may take many forms. We unfortunately still have physical captivity, but there are more subtle ones: first of all ignorance of Catholic teachings and its implications in all aspects of our life; addictions, not only to drugs and alcohol, but to websites, virtual games, and the media in general. 

 Our Constitutions say that it is in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, where we discover our own captivities and the captivities of our brothers and sisters; and it is from the Blessed Sacrament, from the Liturgy, that we receive the strength to free ourselves from any kind of captivity and help others to do the same in order to be witnesses of the Truth, of the eternal Truth, God.  

Q. How does the New Evangelization affect your apostolate in schools?

Sr. Jeanette: Our Institute is not a missionary institute per se; our apostolate develops mainly in schools. However, we have ample opportunities to do mission work in our schools. We encounter students who lack food, supplies, clothes, hygiene, knowledge and, most importantly, love and moral values.

The Mercedarian School must be the epicenter of truth.  It is a school where practicing Catholics and not so practicing Catholic children meet; where the New Evangelization takes flesh; where children learn that God is at the center of all scientific knowledge, and that there is no rupture between faith and science. A Mercedarian student is a girl/boy who goes out into the world with a heart full of mercy, an intellect full of truth and stands for what he/she believes. It is a Christian who evangelizes with Mary in the light of the Eucharist.

* * *

Helping Travelers on their Journey to Heaven

Sr. Jeanette Marie Estrada is the vocation director of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a teaching order based in Cleveland. In the United States, they teach catechism and other subjects from grammar schools to the adult level in Cleveland, OH; San Diego, CA; and San Antonio, TX. In Baton Rouge, LA, they operate a prayer center for the sick. They also work in the evangelization of adults.

Are you called to become a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament? Take our short Test Your Call survey. You will receive a personal response from Sr. Jeanette Marie. Also, you can follow us on Facebook.


6/25/2013 - How Do You Know if You're Called to Become a Sister?

 Greetings!,

Praying in our chapel

Our Mercedarian Sisters live a life which revolves around the Eucharist

Wondering if you are called to religious life? The below Q & A was adapted from an online question and answer session between a priest and several young persons on how to discern a calling to the priesthood. It provides a lot of insights into the vocation of the life as a Sister.

Q. I'm trying to discern my vocation and figure out what God wants for me and how I can best serve Him. How do you really know for sure if you're called to become a priest or religious?   

Lady Pious: Being "100% certain" that this is the way can be a challenge in and of itself. Typically, we walk in darkness and are only shown the next best step. All we can do is keep walking the way we think that the Lord is leading and trust that he is taking us down the correct path. If our path gets derailed, then there may be a chance to review whether this is the way to continue journeying or if we need to try another road.

Fr. Resurrexi: In my discernment, while praying upon it, I noticed imagining myself doing priestly things like celebrating the sacraments. Stop and meditate for a while, focusing on God. Then, imagine yourself saying Mass or serving as a religious. I did that, and it brought a smile to my face. From that moment it was useless to fight it. You most likely will fight it for a while though. But if the feeling keeps coming back that you should become a religious, that is usually a sign.

I had a moment with God where I knew if I didn't go to seminary I would never be content. However, not everyone gets that.... they may simply have a desire to follow God's will. Also, get a spiritual director ASAP. And if you currently face any spiritual problems or sinful activities, a spiritual director can help you work through these so that you can hear Christ clearly.

Lady Pious:  Some people tend to think along the lines of "I have a feeling God will appear in my dreams if there is something he wants me to do, or tell me something during adoration." While this sort of thing is certainly always possible, it is not the norm. We need to be careful of waiting for some great sign from above. Rather, the Lord typically speaks in a still, small voice and makes use of what we already have in our everyday lives.

More on Spiritual Direction

I'd like to add for my readers that any Catholic can benefit greatly from a spiritual director. Finding a good spiritual director is the trickier part! The first step is to talk with the priests at your school or a nearby parish. You may already have a good confessor in mind or you may ask the opinions of others in finding a qualified priest who is willing to work with you.

Four qualities should be present in your spiritual director. He should be educated in philosophy and theology, and have an understanding of both the call to holiness and of the obstacles that present themselves along the way. He should be prudent in offering practical suggestions. He should have experience in traveling on his own journey of holiness. Finally, he should be holy, setting an example of virtue.

Sr. Jeanette Marie Estrada is the vocation director of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a teaching order based in Cleveland. In the United States, they teach catechism and other subjects from grammar schools to the adult level in Cleveland, OH; San Diego, CA; and San Antonio, TX. In Baton Rouge, LA, they operate a prayer center for the sick. They also work in the evangelization of adults.

 Are you called to become a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament? Take our short Test Your Call survey. You will receive a personal response from Sr. Jeanette Marie. Also, you can follow us on Facebook.


6/18/2013 - Vocational Downloads Available for Free Each Month

 Greetings!,

If you're discerning your vocation in life, you might be helped by some additional Catholic resources. Talks from speakers such as Dr. Scott Hahn, Rev. Fulton Sheen, and Bl. Mother Teresa may be beneficial on your journey. 

Lighthouse Catholic Media

Lighthouse Catholic Media is providing Catholic speakers downloaded to your computer!

Lighthouse Catholic Media has long been taking part in the New Evangelization by distributing CD's and MP3's of inspirational and orthodox Catholic speakers. Currently, men and women aged 13-35 can sign up for their free, "Vocational Download of the Month Club".  

A Year's Worth of Vocational Resources

Here are the details for Lighthouse Catholic Media's Vocational Download of the Month Club:

A twelve-month FREE SUBSCRIPTION is available to all young men and women (ages 13-35) who subscribe.

A download of a new talk is provided every month for an entire year.

Periodic emails will be sent providing helpful discernment resources, as well as notices for special events and other offers.

Simply fill out the registration form.

The best Catholic speakers in the world provide their insights to those considering a vocation to the religious life. Of the twelve audio downloads, titles include "Vocation as the Great Adventure" by Jeff Cavins, "Myths & Misconceptions Concerning Vocations" by Fr. Thomas Nelson, and "Going on Vocation: Discovering and Discerning God's Call" by Dr. Scott Hahn.  

   Mercedarian Sisters spreading the New Evangelization    

The Sisters are present in the U.S. in four states as well as twelve countries. Are you called to become a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament? Take our short Test Your Call survey. You will receive a personal response from Sr. Jeanette Marie.

Also, you can follow us on Facebook.


6/13/2013 - Unusual Events in Our Community that Tickled Our Fancy This Week

 Greetings!, 

A joyful Sr. Jeanette Marie

Sr. Jeanette Marie is the vocation director of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She shares some interesting events in the Sisters' community. 

Anything interesting happen? Any calamities?

Sister Rosario and I traveled to San Antonio, TX to visit our sisters there, especially Sister Bertha who is close to eighty years old and has been very sick, bedridden. She is very dear to us, not only because we lived together for about seven years, but because she is a very prayerful sister, always attentive to her sisters and people's needs, always sustaining us through her prayers.

Something else that is happening is our sisters going home to visit their families. In our community, according to our Constitutions, we are allowed to visit our parents every year for fifteen days (for those who reside in the same country or neighboring countries) or one month every two years for those sisters who live far away in distant countries. Two of our sisters in my community left to visit their parents in Mexico.

Did you have an interesting school event this week?  

Our last day of school was this past Friday, June 7th. Our Lady of Mount Carmel School has a "balanced calendar". It means that we spread the school days throughout the year in periods of roughly nine weeks of class time per two to three-week periods of break time.

Did any school student do anything unusual, or something that everyone took notice of? 

The last award given during the Awards Ceremony is the Principal's Award. It holds more importance than getting the first place in the class. It is given to the student in each class that has shown to have "character" displayed through Christian actions such as helping those in need (classmates, schoolmates, teachers, staff), standing for what they believe, showing respect towards everybody, etc. In other words, it is given to the most Christlike student.  

 A Network of Mercedarian Sisters  

The Sisters are present in four states: Ohio, Texas, Louisiana and California. See the YouTube interview of Sr. Jeanette Marie and Sr. Ana, The Joy of Being a Mercedarian Sister.

Are you called to become a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament? Take our short Test Your Call survey. You will receive a personal response from Sr. Jeanette Marie.

Also, you can follow us on Facebook.


6/11/2013 - Unusual Events in Our Community that Tickled Our Fancy This Week

 Greetings!, 

A joyful Sr. Jeanette Marie

Sr. Jeanette Marie is the vocation director of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She shares some interesting events in the Sisters' community. 

Anything interesting happen? Any calamities?

Sister Rosario and I traveled to San Antonio, TX to visit our sisters there, especially Sister Bertha who is close to eighty years old and has been very sick, bedridden. She is very dear to us, not only because we lived together for about seven years, but because she is a very prayerful sister, always attentive to her sisters and people's needs, always sustaining us through her prayers.

Something else that is happening is our sisters going home to visit their families. In our community, according to our Constitutions, we are allowed to visit our parents every year for fifteen days (for those who reside in the same country or neighboring countries) or one month every two years for those sisters who live far away in distant countries. Two of our sisters in my community left to visit their parents in Mexico.

Did you have an interesting school event this week?  

Our last day of school was this past Friday, June 7th. Our Lady of Mount Carmel School has a "balanced calendar". It means that we spread the school days throughout the year in periods fo roughly nine weeks of class time per two to three-week periods of break time.

Did any school student do anything unusual, or something that everyone took notice of? 

The last award given during the Awards Ceremony is the Principal's Award. It holds more importance than getting the first place in the class. It is given to the student in each class that has shown to have "character" displayed through Christian actions such as helping those in need (classmates, schoolmates, teachers, staff), standing for what they believe, showing respect towards everybody, etc. In other words, it is given to the most Christlike student.  

 A Network of Mercedarian Sisters 

 The Sisters are present in four states: Ohio, Texas, Louisiana and California. See the YouTube interview of Sr. Jeanette Marie and Sr. Ana, The Joy of Being a Mercedarian Sister.

 Are you called to become a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament? Take our short Test Your Call survey. You will receive a personal response from Sr. Jeanette Marie.

 Also, you can follow us on Facebook.


6/4/2013 - The Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Two-Fold Charism

 Greetings!, 

A joyful Sr. Jeanette Marie

Sr. Jeanette Marie is the vocation director of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

What is your community all about, Sister?

The Institute of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament finds fulfillment in its dedication to the Holy Eucharist. In fact, the Institute was founded to spread devotion to the Blessed Sacrament throughout the world, particularly through education. Our charism is two-fold, Eucharistic and Marian.

Our devotion requires the help of Mary, hence the Marian aspect of our charism. Mary is the one who leads us all to Jesus, and devotion to her Son in the Eucharist cannot be done without her help and intercession. After all, Mary is the true tabernacle!

Our Sisters are involved in education, but recognize that Mary is the only one who can teach us to give ourselves to Jesus and to receive Jesus!

What is the mission of the Sisters?

The mission of the Sisters is to spread the love for Jesus in the Eucharist through teaching. We are in international missions, but much of the focus is on education. There, the children are taught how to pray, adore, and spiritual practices are fostered. Clearly, this is an important ministry, which we embrace wholeheartedly.

Do you teach the children how to understand the Mass?

In catechizing school children, we explain why and how we must participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. We explain the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, then they can better understand Christ's eternal sacrifice, in which we enter at every Mass. We explain that we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist in every Mass. This catechesis and knowledge will allow them to actively participate in the life of the Church.

Thank you, Sister.


5/30/2013 - Sister Ana Sees the Mercedarians as "Family"

 Greetings!, 

Sr. Ana Luisa and schoolchildren

Sr. Ana teaching the children

Meet Sr. Ana Luisa, who is one year away from professing her perpetual vows and cheerfully tells us about her experiences as a Mercedarian Sister.

Where are you from, Sister?

  I am originally from Northern Mexico. I have been in the United States for four years. I took temporary vows with the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 2008, and am currently in the Cleveland, Ohio community. 

What do you like about the Community?

  My favorite part of the Mercedarian Sisters is our community life, which is like a family. Prayer, meals, and all aspects of life are shared together. 

What is the Community's Apostolate?

 Teaching is the main ministry of our religious family, and the Sisters are present in four states: Ohio, Texas, Louisiana and California. I teach three-year olds in the Pre-K program at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and I am going to the university to get my degree in Middle Childhood Education.

Reaps and Sews

 We have an hour of prayers in the morning before we go to school, and the rest of the day includes communal adoration, dinner, recreation and free time. I also have the role of sewing for the community and taking care of the flower beds! 

Thank you, Sister.


4/2/2013 - Awesome Resurrection Banner!

 Greetings!,

Have you seen our new Facebook page? Just go to Facebook.com/mercedarians. It has prayers for, and pictures of the new Pope Francis, as well as beautiful poetry and spiritual reflections of our Sisters.

Did you see the photo of two of our Sisters quietly praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance? We want you to know that we are always praying not only for the needs of our spiritual brothers and sisters, friends, benefactor, etc., but also for the needs of all those people that at that moment may be in need of our prayers.

 Please "like" our Facebook page so that we can keep in touch with you. Make your own comments on the page, and let us know what you are feeling about prayer, about our new Holy Father, and about events in your life.

 Best wishes during this Holy Octave of Easter. If you have any questions or would just like to talk, email me at  mercedariansisters1910@gmail.com.  

Yours in Christ,

Sr. Jeanette Marie

Vocation Director

Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament


3/15/2013 - The Holy Eucharist and Our Lady of Mercy

Hi,

Thanks for taking our Test Your Call vocations survey recently. I hope it has moved you closer to finding your God-given vocation. I'm sending this occasional newsletter to keep in touch with you, and to hopefully get to know you better.

Do you know the two great pillars of the charism of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament?

They are the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and the maternal presence of Our Lady of Mercy. They form, however, one charism: Mercedarian-Eucharistic.

Our life revolves around the Eucharist. It is there, in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that we discover the actual captivities that enslave us and our brothers and sisters. It is of utmost importance that we place ourselves, like Saint John the evangelist, on Jesus' heart to experience the longings of his heart and make them ours. Every day, when we go to the encounter of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we surrender to Him everything we are and do, and we ask Him to transform us into Himself. 

Only when we allow our Lord to draw us into communion with his heart's deepest desires, can we go to our apostolates and encounter our brothers and sisters. In the evening, we go back to prayer, carrying with us the unredeemed world and present it to Jesus asking him to hasten the day when He will be all in all.

Mary, Our Lady of Mercy, accompanies us during our journey, teaching us and helping us to be transformed in Eucharist for the glory of God and the good of our brothers and sisters. 

If you have any questions about your Test Your Call survey, or would like to chat, just email me at sisterjeanette@hotmail.com.

Yours in Christ,

Sr. Jeanette Marie

Vocations Director

Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament