APOSTLE OF PRISONS APOSTLE OF MERCY BLESSED JEAN-JOSEPH LATASTE, O.P.
I spent some time in a Dominican community prior to becoming Orthodox. The community and people it ministered to were rather traditionally minded, while the Prior was much more contemporary. I learned a great deal from Father Prior in my time associate with the community. I had been ordained as a deacon rather young, and set on a study track with an eye towards canon law and administration. My diaconate assignment was to serve as secretary to my bishop, a very traditional churchman, while I finished my studies toward ordination as well as secular studies. The archbishop was not fond of flying, so anytime he needed to go somewhere, it was usually by car, with me driving. Cincinnati Ohio, Montreal, Nashua, Boston, Springfield, Hartford, New York and as far South as Richmond Virginia were all points that I knew well over a period of two years. After ordination to the priesthood, I continued to serve as the archbishop's secretary and assistant. I knew policy and procedure, canon law, liturgy, administration and all of the personal problems, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the clergy of the diocese. I didn't know squat about the pastoral care of souls. When I preached, I read from my prepared text, usually a theological explanation of the readings of the Mass.
Several issues in my life changed significantly and what was supposed to be a rather rapid climb up the ecclesiastical ladder came not only to a stop, but an outright fall to the ground. There I was in the early ninety's entering a semi-contemplative community, a priest, bishop's secretary entering my canonical year as a novice, a beginner. The man I entered with was almost thirty years my senior, not ordained, but had a treasure trove of ministry experience with the poor, sick and suffering. He had served with Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity in Washington DC and New York City. He was very down to earth and related very well to people in need. I was still detached, reading my sermon on the few times I was allowed to offer Mass and preach. (Father Prior though progressive in many ways, kept his novices humble. Maybe I'll share more of my experiences in this community, and my pastoral education in a future another post.)
The life and works of Pere Lataste were a significant part of novitiate. Mercy was a community motto in addition to "there is no past here, only the present and the future hope." I was researching some information on one of the books I have an extra copy of that I listed on eBay this evening. In my search I came upon the icon of Blessed Jean Joseph Lataste, OP that I posted above. He has long been considered by many in the Dominican Community as the Apostle of Mercy and the Apostle of Prisons due to his ministry with women in prison as well as to those coming out of prison in the Seventeenth Century France. At the time it was rare to encourage these women to enter a religious community of any kind, never mind allowing them to be treated as equals of the "choir sisters." Pere Lataste was one of the first to do this. There is a recent book, the only one in English, about his life available for less than ten dollars you might consider reading.
Every night after Compline we chanted the Marian Antiphon (usually the Salve Regina) in Latin and then recited the Prayer of Father Lataste, after which began Grand Silence until after Mass the following morning. To this day, no matter what time I go to bed, the last prayer that passes my lips is this prayer of Pere Lataste.
O my Jesus, I want to love you. Give yourself to me and grant that I may give myself to you. Make me one with you. May my will be yours. Unite me to you, so that I may live only in and for you. Grant that I may spend for you, all that I received from you, keeping nothing for myself. May I die to all for you and bring others to you. O my Jesus, many others. Amen.