Here is a ZENIT translation of the Message the Holy Father Francis sent to the Most Reverend Father Friar Juan Carlos Saavedra Lucho, Master General of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Order of Mercy.
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The Holy Father’s Message
To the Most Reverend Father Friar Juan Carlos Saavedra Lucho
Master General of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy
As the date draws near in which the Order of Mercy, and all those that unite themselves to it with spiritual bonds, remember the eighth centenary of the pontifical confirmation of this Institute by Pope Gregory IX, I wish to join you in your thanksgiving to the Lord for all the gifts received throughout this time. I wish to express to you my spiritual closeness, encouraging you so that this circumstance serves for your interior renewal and to boost the charism received, following the spiritual way that Christ the Redeemer traced for you.
The Lord makes Himself present in our life, showing us all His love and He encourages us to correspond to Him with generosity, this being the first commandment of the Holy People of God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). In preparation for this Jubilee Year, you wished to highlight three protagonists of your history, which can signify three moments of response to the love of God. The first is Saint Peter Nolasco, considered the Founder of the new community and the recipient of the charism given by God.
The heart and treasure of the Order is in that vocation, as both its tradition as well as the biography of each of the Religious is founded on that first love. In the Mercedarian Family’s rich patrimony, begun with the Founders and enriched by the members of the Community that have succeeded one another in the course of the centuries, the spiritual and material graces that you have received are brought together. This deposit becomes the expression of a history of love that is rooted in the past but that is incarnated especially in the present and opens to the future, in the gifts that the Spirit continues to shed on each one of you. One cannot love what one doesn’t know (Cf. Saint Augustine, Trinity, X, II, 4); therefore, I encourage you to deepen this foundation laid by Christ, outside of whom nothing can be built, rediscovering the first love of the Order and of one’s own vocation, to be continually renewed.
The second protagonist in this triptych is the Holy Virgin, Our Lady of Mercy or, as she is also called, of Remedy and Grace in our needs, which we entreat from God and trust in her powerful intercession. In the Hebrew original, the expression that we translate “you will love the Lord with all your soul” means “up to the last drop of our blood.” That is why Mary’s example is identified with this verse of the “Shema.” She proclaims herself “handmaid of the Lord,” and sets out “in haste” (Luke 1:38-39), to take the Good News of the Kingdom to her cousin Elizabeth. It is God’s answer to the people’s clamour awaiting deliverance (Cf. Exodus 3:7 and Luke 1:13). Thus she is teacher of consecration to God and to the people, in availability and service, in humility and simplicity and in prayer. It’s a commitment that recalls the sacrifice of the ancient redeemer fathers, who themselves remained as “hostages,” as pledge of the freedom of the captives. Therefore, I beg you that this resolution to be completely hers is reflected not only in avant-garde apostolic works, but in the daily and humble work of each Religious, as well as in the contemplative monasteries that, with prayerful silence and in hidden sacrifice, sustain maternally the life of the Order and of the Church.
The third protagonist that completes the picture of the history of the Institute is Christ the Redeemer. In Him we make a qualitative leap, as we pass from the disciples to the Master. As He did the rich young man, Jesus challenges us with a question that touches us profoundly: would you be perfect? (Cf. Matthew 19:21l 5:48). Theoretical knowledge is of no use, not even a sincere adherence to the precepts of the divine Law “since his youth” (Mark 10:20), but that Jesus looks at us in our eyes and loves us, asking us to leave it all to follow Him. Love is assayed in the fire of risk, in the capacity of putting all the cards on the table and betting strongly, for the hope that doesn’t defraud. However, often the personal and communal decisions that cost us most are those that affect our small and, sometimes, worldly securities. We are all called to live the joy that springs from the encounter with Jesus, to overcome our egoism, to come out of our own comfort and to dare to go to the periphery, which needs the light of the Gospel (Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 20). We can respond generously to the Lord, when we experience that we are loved by God despite our sin and our inconsistency.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Lord Jesus will show you a lovely way to follow Him with a renewed spirit. You will be able to have the gift received – personal and communal – grow, giving it and giving oneself completely, as the grain of wheat that can’t give fruit if it doesn’t die (Cf. John 12:24). I pray to the Lord to give you the strength to abandon what ties you and to assume your cross, so that throwing off your mantle and picking up your pallet (Mark 10:50; 2:1-12) you can follow Him on the way and dwell in His house for ever.
Please, I beg you to pray for me. May Jesus bless all the members of the Order and the entire Mercedarian Family, and the Holy Virgin take care of you.
Vatican, December 6, 2017, Memorial of Saint Peter Pascual
[Original text: Spanish] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]