- Written by Jim Peterson
A couple of weeks ago Padre Martín was interviewed by Jason Nuñez on the John 3:30 Podcast. This week it was my turn to sit in the hot seat. I take a rather practical approach to my Catholic faith life, so I hope anyone who hears the Podcast can come away with something useful they can use in their own faith journey or prayer life.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect or where we would go in the course of the conversation, but I’m pleased with the outcome. I’ve known Jason since 2013 when we were on an ACTS team together, so it was a very comfortable interview. We were just two faithful Catholics chatting about the faith. Please give it a listen!
- Written by Jim Peterson
Padre Martín made a guest appearance on the John 3:30 Podcast hosted by Jason Nuñez in San Antonio, Texas. The Podcast was recorded on 7 March 2018. Listen as Padre Martín talks about how he founded the community, what life is like in the religious community, and hear him delve into the meaning of the video where the Lord showed his presence during the consecration while celebrating a Mass at Saint Monica Catholic Church in Converse, Texas.
There are also many other spiritual insights he provides during the wide-ranging conversation with Jason. Click the link below to listen. The John 3:30 Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts.
Video discussed during the Podcast: The Lord Shows his Presence During Mass
- Written by Jim Peterson
Looking back over the trip, now a week removed from the experience, I just smile every time I think about it. It's so much easier to talk about and explain the challenges Padre Martín, Madre Teresa, and the brothers face every day. At the same time I feel like I can convey the joys and the triumphs, the laughter and the love, because I've experienced it in such a personal and touching way. But it had to end. As we left for the airport, Padre Martín had Brother Pio drive us. Brother Benito and Brother Miguel Ángel came along as well. They said they just wanted to spend a little more time with me. It was a great compliment.
On the way to the airport Brother Benito asked about all the countries I had visited while in the Air Force. It's a long list numbering toward 35 or so, and some of them surprised him. Then he wanted to know the weirdest food I had eaten and the strangest experience. He wanted to hear about some of my adventures. I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins telling his Hobbit's tale. As we approached the airport it was Brother Pio who put it all in perspective for me. With Padre interpreting, he said he would have thought that someone who traveled and saw as much as I did would be more stuck up. Everyone got a great laugh from this. He then said I really suprised him with how full of love and joy I was. He didn't expect it at all. That was an even greater compliment.
After check-in we stayed in the food court for a while until it was time for them to leave and me to head to my gate. It was almost 11:30 pm by then. We were saying our final goodbyes and Brother Miguel said, "I really wanted to give you a gift, but I do not have any money for a gift. Will you please take my rosary? It was given to me by a very holy priest and I want you to have it." All I could think was how on earth could I take his rosary when he has so little already? I tried to refuse, but he said he would be very offended if I didn't accept it. So I relented and now have a beautiful wooden rosary blessed by two holy priests - his priest and Padre Martín who added his blessing on the spot. It was a fitting end to an incredible trip, and probably the greatest compliment.
If you are reading this and wondering if there is something you could do to help this community, there is. Find the donation button on this page and give whatever amount your heart is telling you. Trust me when I say they could use it. I've seen the need, and it is great. If you'd like to help one of the brothers you read about, please go to the Biographies page and sign up for the Adopt a Brother program. It's so easy and will make such a difference. Plus, we will put you in touch with the brother you select. If you were touched by Madre Teresa's story and would like to help her fulfill what God has planned for her and her new community, then please become part of the Missionary Sisters Sponsorship program. You can sign up for that on the Donations page. Help in all these areas is so desperately needed. These holy men and women are truly doing God's work. Help them. Please help them.
Day 1 - Prayers and Futbol!
Day 2 - Outside the Walls
Day 3 - Into the City
Day 4 - Help From a Saint
Day 5 - More Amazing Stories
Day 6 - Madre Teresa's Story
- Written by Jim Peterson
As I mentioned in the last blog post, the Sunday morning routine was quite a bit different from other mornings. Prayers started in the Oratory in the house rather than in the chapel. It turns out Padre Martín was scheduled to say an 11:30 a.m. Mass in Santa Eulalia, a small city up in the hills. As the community said their prayers, I wrote the Day 5 blog knowing there was a busy day ahead. Our Sunday breakfast was these large square tamales with a bit of chicken inside. I remember buying them in the market the other day, but they were wrapped in large green leaves and tied with string. I had no idea they were tamales when we bought them.
Before we left for Santa Eulalia we were joined by Madre Teresa of the female branch and her first Aspirant, María de Guadalupe, a young girl of 17 who moved into the female convent with Madre Teresa in May. Also joining Madre Teresa was her niece, Marice, who also lives in the convent but not as an Aspirant. She is actually a lawyer and has a sweet, bubbly personality. With Brother Pio driving the van, newly repaired after breaking down on Saturday (but still needing a new radiator), we set off for Santa Eulalia. Padre Martín told me it was only 15 minutes away, but it took over 30 minutes to get there.
I had never heard of Saint Eulalia, but she is the co-patron saint of Barcelona and was a 13-year-old Roman Christian virgin who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians in the reign of emperor Diocletian. This local church was built by the community over a hundred years ago so they would have a place to worship. As the preparations for Mass were underway, Brothers Domingo and Miguel Ángel played guitar and sang. The musical talent displayed by some of the brothers is just astonishing. There are at least four who play guitar and sing.
The Mass and homily were all in Spanish of course. Padre Martín had told me he would not be speaking as slowly during the homily and an interpretation would be difficult, so I didn't bother asking Br. Luis to try. I do know toward the end of the homily he mentioned the video we have on the website where The Lord made his presence known during the Mass in San Antonio. I have the original on both my iPhone and IPAD, so I showed it many times during my trip. The link was since posted by the brothers or other friends of Padre, and it's been viewed in several South American and European countries since then.
The Female Order
On the drive back Madre Teresa pulled out her wallet and showed me it was completely empty (it was relevant to the conversation at the time). I had several coins in my hand, so I gave them to her along with a Peruvian $20 bill. We made it back to the convent and had a very lively lunch. Madre Teresa really wanted me to visit her convent before I left, and Padre Martín had to perform a burial service so it was a good time to go. Br. Luis and I accompanied Madre Teresa and the two young ladies back to her convent. We were dropped off on a main road, and then we took two motorcycle taxis up the hill to the convent. These little three-wheeled vehicles were all over the place, and I had really wanted to try one. Once was enough!
Madre Teresa gave me a full tour of the convent explaining the improvements and plans she had to build the new order from scratch. When I say from scratch, it is in the most literal terms. There was very little furniture and many empty rooms. We sat down for a full interview so I could learn her story. She felt something stirring at the age of 13, but confirmed her calling to religious life at 16. Her family did not (and still does not) approve. She took her first vows in December of 1983 to join Canonesas de la Cruz in Lima and rotated to several houses of the Order, ending her time with the Order in Huaraz, Peru.
From 1992 she developed a great devotion to Divine Mercy. She spent about seven years discerning the calling she felt to found her own order centered on Divine Mercy. She was very nervous about it, but she knew it was the will of God and it would be okay. As an example of how her trust in God works, she mentioned how in the morning she had no money to pay the motorcycle taxi driver, but then I gave her the coins in the car, "See? Providence!" After conversations with a Franciscan Capuchin priest and another Mother Superior, she was introduced to Padre Martín. Her order did not want to let her go, and they still want her back, but she recieved approval from the Vatican to be released to found the new order, Hermanas Misioneras de la Misericordia de Dios, or Missionary Sisters of God's Mercy. She also took on her new name, Madre Teresa de la Misericordia de Dios.
Through her outreach efforts at mostly girl's schools she has about 20 young women who would like to come and "have an experience" as they call it. This is where the young women come and live in the convent for one or two weeks to see if they would like to become an Aspirant. She said it would cost about $100 each, and that would include travel for the girls. She wants to host 10 at a time. I asked about the process to become a nun, and it is somewhat similar to becoming a priest. They spend six months as an Aspirant, one year as a Postulant, and then two years as a Novice (wearing the full habit). After the Novitiate, they take "simple" vows then spend five years in formation as a "Juniorado" (in Spanish). They then take perpetual vows and recieve their ring.
Madre Teresa is so full of love and joy and trust in God. She has a great clarity of purpose about her, but she is in great need of benefactors to help fulfill her vision. Her focus this year is on getting vocations, but she knows she must also establish longer term connections with benefactors for ongoing support. It's important, I think, to emphasize again that both branches rely solely on Divine Providence for their existence. They do not receive support from the Church. They rely on people like you to be inspired to help them. I've never met a more thankful group, even for the smallest contribution.
- Written by Jim Peterson
A Homily to Remember
No one told me that the weekends start 30 minutes later and the schedule is slightly different, so I had to clarify things a bit to make sure I didn't miss anything after I was woken up at 6:00 instead of 5:30. Because we were out so late Friday night, I had to start writing the Day 4 blog Saturday morning. I also decided to get some extra sleep Saturday night instead of staying up late to write the Day 5 blog. Padre and the brothers are in the small Oratory upstairs praying right now instead of in the Chapel where they would normally be, so once again I really don't know what the schedule will be. In any case, I know I have to write the blog now while the events of yesterday are fresh.
I'll get right to the point. Padre Martín's homily was just amazing. I could write the entire blog about it, but I'll share some important points that will hopefully give you something to think about. The gospel today was from Matthew where Jesus says you do not put new wine into old wineskins. Padre said for a long time he didn't understand what Jesus meant about the wineskins. It didn't make sense. Now he understands it is not really about wineskins and wine, it has to do with having a new heart. The new wine is the grace of God that can only be poured into a new heart. If your heart is not newly changed, the grace of God cannot stay in it. It will burst out. Many people go to healing masses, retreats, or pilgrimages but their lives don't change because they're not willing to accept the change God wants them to make. They do not let their hearts become new. The new wineskin means a new heart of humility, generosity, and mercy.
Another point he made was that God doesn't have to learn how to be merciful. We have to learn how to be merciful. This is a common mistake people make, and it has to do with their pride. Conversion is only possible when human nature cooperates with the grace of God. It is not automatic. I can be in front of the Blessed Sacrament, but if I have a heart of stone, the grace of God means nothing. To underscore a point he often makes (God cannot be outdone in generosity), he told us how he said to Jesus in the morning, "I send you a thousand kisses." Jesus responded, "And I send you a million."
There was an interesting moment at the end of the homily when Padre suddenly stopped Mass and called Br. Juan Diego to the Sacristy to talk with him. The two of them stayed in there for about five minutes, then they came out and Mass resumed. I asked Padre later what it was about, and he said he had to ask Br. Juan Diego to forgive him for an incident on Friday he thought he had handled poorly. That's Padre Martín. Forgiveness is so important, and our consciences must be clean before receiving the Eucharist.
More Amazing Stories
I spent much of the day trying to finish interviews for the Biographies. Saturday is a work day with cleaning and laundry and other chores, so it was a bit of catch as catch can. First I spoke with Br. Benito. He is from the Piura province in Peru, which is about an 18 hour drive from Lima. He felt the calling to the priesthood when he was 17, but he says in the years before that it was curiosity which then turned into a decision. It turns out a friend of his attended a retreat led by Padre Martín in Piura and told him about Padre and his new community. Through his friend he made contact and entered the community in February of 2004. It was funny because when I asked him when he entered the community, he actually said "2 February 2004 at 7:00 a.m." As for his religious name, he had a devotion to St. Benedict because of his contemplative nature, but he considered a few others. As he was discerning this, Benito became stronger in his heart. He sort of laughed because now he prefers to be more active (i.e. out doing good works) rather than contemplative.
Brother Juan Diego has had one of the most interesting journeys to the priesthood I've heard. He started the interview by telling me it was the fault of the Holy Virgin that he is here. He felt the calling to the priesthood at age 19. He's now 47. His life went through many twists and turns from entering a Diocesan seminary when he was young (and he says he let his anger and the devil stop him there) to being in a different community in his mid-thirties. In his mid-twenties his father died and he was very angry with God about that. With the help of the Blessed Mother, whom he has a great devotion to, he was led to this community and joined in December of 2010. In the days I've been here I've noticed he has a great enjoyment of cooking, and he is very good at flower arrangements. He does all the flower arrangements for the community. Our interview got cut short for the afternoon prayers, so there is more work to do there.
Brother Miguel Ángel is a Postulant from Bogota, Colombia. He entered the community in October 2013 at the age of 19. He felt the calling to the priesthood at age 15 and would make jokes with his friends about being a priest. They only thought he was joking, but he felt he had to joke because he didn't want them to make fun of him. He spent three months in discernment with a Colombian priest who had a Lay community. A close friend of Padre Martín's in Colombia met him and remarked to her friend, "This boy has a vocation." He was introduced to Padre Martín when Padre was visiting Colombia in July 2013. His friends told him that Padre would ask The Lord as they were talking, and he could say no. Within five minutes Padre Martín told him The Lord was waiting with open arms for him in Peru. Their first conversation occurred right after a Mass while Padre was dressed in vestments. Afterward when Miguel saw him in his habit (the first priest he had ever seen in a habit), he thought to himself, "I want to be like him." Miguel says he has a gift of joy (which I can heartily confirm) and he wants to share that joy with the world. He is convinced many people who are sad can feel joy through him, and he realizes that this joy is a tremendous gift from God.
One last thing about Miguel has to do with Colombia's compulsory military service, and how Padre Martín had to write a letter explaining that Miguel was joining his community so he would be excused. Padre sent the letter to his friend Patricia. Miguel did not have the $5 for the bus ride to pick up the letter, so he rode his bicycle three hours each way (in the rain) to meet with Patricia and pick up the letter. He did this in one day. His father asked him why he would do this. He simply told him, "I need the letter." I think this story is worth remembering when we feel the need to complain about nuisances or small things we have to do in our lives. There are people in the world (like Miguel) who face much greater challenges, and rather than give up their situation as hopeless they persevere because they know it must be done.