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. It should be noted that 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.