It amazes me that one saint leads me to another. In reading about Mother Mectilde de Bar, I came
across Bl. Columba Marmion and his name leads me to another. Here is a great friend of the Blessed.
DESIRE-FELICIEN-FRANCOIS-JOSEPH MERCIER born in 1851 was a Belgian cardinal and a noted Thomist scholar. His scholarship gained him recognition from the Pope and he was appointed as Archbishop of Mechelen, serving from 1906 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1907.
Mercier is noted for his staunch resistance to the German occupation of 1914–1918 during the Great War.
Desiré Mercier was born at the château du Castegier in Braine-l'Alleud, as the fifth of the seven children of Paul-Léon Mercier and his wife Anne-Marie Barbe Croquet. He entered the minor seminary at Mechelen in 1861 to prepare for the church. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Giacomo Cattani, the nuncio to
on 4 April 1874. Father Mercier continued with graduate studies, obtaining his licentiate in theology in 1877 and a doctorate in philosophy from
the University of Louvain. Belgium
One of his maternal uncles was the Reverend Fr. Adrien Croquet a missionary to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in western Oregon near the Pacific coast, where his surname was anglicized to Crockett. In the 1870s, a Mercier cousin, Joseph Mercier, joined their uncle Fr. Croquet in
. He married a
woman of one of the Native American tribes
resident there. Today, several thousand descendants of Joseph and his wife are
members of the tribe. Oregon
In 1877 Father Mercier began teaching philosophy at Mechelen's minor seminary as well as becaming the spiritual director. His comprehensive knowledge of St Thomas Aquinas earned him the newly erected chair of Thomism at Louvain's Catholic university in 1882, a post he held till 1905. It was here that he forged a lifelong friendship with Dom Columba Marmion (See previous BLOG). Raised to the rank of Monsignor on 6 May 1887, Father Mercier founded the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the
in 1899, which was to be a
beacon of Neo-Thomist philosophy. Louvain University
His reputation within his field gained the recognition of Pope Pius X, and he was appointed as Archbishop of Mechelen and Primate of Belgium on 7 February 1906. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 25 March taking as his episcopal motto: Apostle of Jesus Christ.
With the overrunning of
and the exile of both the King and his government Cardinal Mercier acted as the
rallying point for Belgian resistance to German occupation. He was also
one of the cardinal electors in
the 1922 papal conclave, which selected Pope Pius XI.
By the time he returned from the election of the new Pope, Benedict XV,
the majority of the country was in German hands. Belgium
Publishing open letters (which were subsequently picked up by Allied and neutral newspapers) the Cardinal criticized the German occupation force. Ordinarily he could have been expected to be arrested and perhaps even shot for his subversive views - regardless of his position as a cardinal, but his unusually high profile, and popularity among German Catholics, ensured his continuing liberty, aside from a brief period of arrest in January 1915.
Cardinal Mercier exerted continuous (and ultimately successful) pressure upon the Germans to cease deporting Belgian laborers to factories in
Germany, and campaigned against Germany's incitement of 's
Flemish population. Belgium
Cardinal Mercier suffered from persistent dyspepsia and in early January 1926 he underwent surgery for a lesion of the stomach. During surgery, the anaesthetized Cardinal held a conversation with his surgeon.
In his final days, he was visited by King Albert and Queen Elizabeth, Lord Halifax, and family members. He entered a deep coma around 2:00 p.m. on 23 January and died an hour later, at age 74. The Cardinal was buried at St. Rumbolds Cathedral.
The Cardinal had a great devotion of the Sacred Heart.
“I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctuary of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity”.