Fathers of Mercy
Badge of the institute
|Misericordia motus est
"He was moved with mercy"
The founder, Jean-Baptiste Rauzan, was born at Bordeaux on 5 December 1757, and died in Paris, 5 September 1847. After completing his ecclesiastical studies, he taught theology and sacred eloquence and later was chosen Vicar-General of Bordeaux where he inaugurated a missionary movement to save the faith in France.
So effective was their preaching in the Diocese of Troyes, that they won the favour of Emperor Napoleon I, and received from the Government, unsolicited, subsidies to defray the expenses of their missions. This favour, however, was short-lived, for owing to Napoleon's quarrel with Pius VII, the society, which was called the Missionaries of France, was suppressed. In 1814, at the suggestion of Cardinal Fesch, Father Rauzan rallied his co-labourers, adding others, among whom were the young Vicar-General of Chambéry, de Forbin-Janson, afterwards Bishop of Nancy, Denis-Luc Frayssinous, who founded St. Stanislaus's College and instructed the young missionaries in sacred eloquence, Legris Duval, the St. Vincent de Paul of his day, Le Vasseur, Bach, Armand-Benjamin Caillau, Carboy and others.
Starting with renewed zeal, the Missionaries of France not only evangelized the French cities of Orléans, Poitiers, Tours, Rennes, Marseilles, Toulon, Paris and many other places, but established the Works of St. Geneviève and the Association of the Ladies of Providence in many parts of France, rendering valuable service to the pastors. Father Rauzan founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Clotilde for the education of young ladies. He was befriended by the royal family, who not only assisted him financially, but gave him the celebrated Mount Valerian, at that time the center of piety, and later one of the principal forts protecting the capital.
In 1830, during the second Revolution, the Missionaries of France were dispersed and exiled and their house in Paris sacked. Father Rauzan went to Rome, where he received a paternal reception from Gregory XVI, who encouraged and authorized him to found a new society, to be known as the Fathers of Mercy. The Papal Brief of approbation, which also contains the constitutions, was given 18 February 1834, and on 15 March of the very same year a second Brief, affiliating the new society to the Propaganda Fide, and the former Missionaries of France accepted these constitutions on 8 December the following.
Among its members have been such influential and eloquent preachers as Mgr Faillet, Bishop of Orléans, Mgr. Duquesnay, Archbishop of Cambrai, Victor-Felix Bernadou, Archbishop of Sens, who later became a cardinal. The Fathers of Mercy resumed their missionary labours in France, only to meet again the disasters which befell all religious societies through the decree of expulsion in 1880. However, through the influence of their many friends in Paris, and claiming the enforcement of the authorization given to the society by the restore Bourbon king Louis XVIII in 1816, the Fathers of Mercy retained their mother-house in Paris until the separation of the Church and State in 1905, when they moved to Belgium.
In 1839, at the suggestion of Bishop Hughes of New York, Mgr. Forbin-Janson introduced the Fathers of Mercy into the United States, their first field of labour being in the Diocese of New Orleans. Bishop Potiers of Mobile, Alabama, then invited them to take charge of Spring Hill College. Two years later, Fathers Lafont and Aubril were sent to look after the increasing French population in New York City, where the Fathers of Mercy took charge of the parishes of St. Vincent de Paul, Manhattan, and of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Francis de Chantal, Brooklyn. They also have a house of studies in Rome, houses in Belgium, France and other places. By a decree of Propaganda (August, 1906) The Very Rev. Theophile Wucher was named Vicar General of the Institute for three years and took up residence in New York.
In their activities the Fathers of Mercy embrace all works of apostolic zeal. One of their chief characteristics is, that they must at all times consider themselves auxiliaries of the secular clergy, and in every way conform to the will of the bishop in whose diocese they may labour. The end and mode of life the congregation imposes upon its members differs little from that of any secular priest.
Currently the Fathers have one house, their Generalate, which is located in Auburn, Kentucky at South Union.
The Community Chapel of Divine Mercy
In the spring of 2006 the Fathers of Mercy began construction on the Chapel of Divine Mercy. This chapel took over 2 years to construct and in August 2008 was consecrated, by Most Reverend John Jeremiah McRaith. It is now open to the general public.
Annually there are several events held at the Fathers of Mercy Generalate and now in the Chapel of Divine Mercy. These include the Divine Mercy celebration, the Corpus Christi picnic, and the Feast of the Assumption picnic.
The Fathers of Mercy define their charism as:
Nature: We are a religious clerical congregation of pontifical right.
General Purpose: The honor of God and the sanctification of our members.
Specific Purpose: The following of Christ and the perfection of the individual members through our apostolate for the propagation of the Faith and the salvation of souls.
Character: We are entirely ordered to the apostolate, with our primary focus on the Spiritual Works of Mercy. This apostolate may be undertaken among those without the true Faith or among the faithful living in rural or neglected areas. The primary apostolate of the Fathers of Mercy is the preaching of parish missions and retreats; we also assist bishops with the staffing of rural parishes.
Spirit: Our work emphasizes the Mercy of God: Our venerable founder, Father Jean Baptiste Rauzan, provided us with the "Father of the Prodigal Son" as our model, as well as the scripture verse: "He was moved with mercy" (cf. Luke 15:20) as our motto.
Missionary spirit and zeal for the salvation of souls: This is seen in our preaching parish missions to believers, in our parish work, in our missions to non-believers, in our administration of the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist, and the preaching of the Word of God.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our specific form of devotion is to the Immaculate Conception, because we were placed under this title of Our Lady by Pope Gregory XVI when he approved our Congregation in 1834, some twenty years before Pope Pius IX defined the dogma in 1854.
Obedience to all lawful authority - ecclesiastical and civil: We are especially obedient to the Pope, to the Bishops in whose dioceses we are serving, and to our Superior General.
Sound Traditions: Devotion to the Rosary: We recite five decades of the rosary every day and celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th with great solemnity. Our Founder, Father Rauzan, often prayed the Rosary knowing that it was the best means that his missionaries had for winning souls for the honor of God and their own sanctification.
Seeking the protection of the Blessed Mother: We end all our spiritual exercises with the ancient prayer Sub tuum praesidium:
We fly unto thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God.Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers,O Ever Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our members consecrate themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary every year on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th. We have a yearly novena to our Lady under this title, and this is a solemnity proper to our Congregation. The original Constitutions drawn up by Father Rauzan affirmed the belief that one goes surely to Jesus through Mary. Placing ourselves under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we profess our Final/Perpetual Vows on August 15th, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we try to schedule all of our Ordinations on a Marian feast day.
Distinctive habit: Our habit, given to us by our Founder, which he adopted from the secular clergy, is a black Roman cassock with a black cincture. In addition, a badge with the emblem of the Congregation - the Return of the Prodigal Son - is worn on the upper left side of the habit.
Dedication to personal reform: Each member is required to undertake mental prayer and an examination of conscience twice a day.
- "The Fathers of Mercy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Fathers of Mercy
- Fathers of Mercy, "Elements of the Charism of the Fathers of Mercy," , August 21, 2008.