Our Lady of Merced or Mercy September 24th.In the early part of the thirteenth century of the era of our Lord, the greatest and fairest part of Spain lay crushed under the yoke of the Saracens, and countless numbers of the faithful were held in brutal slavery, with the most lively danger of being made to deny the Christian faith and of losing everlasting salvation. Amid such sorrows the most Blessed Queen of heaven came mercifully to the rescue, and showed how the greatness of her motherly love was fain for their redemption. Holy Peter Nolasco, in the full bloom of the treasures of godliness as well as rich in earthly wealth, was earnestly pondering with himself how he could succour so many suffering Christians dwelling in bondage to the Moors. To him appeared with gracious visage the Most Blessed Virgin, and bade him know that it would be well pleasing in her own sight, and in the sight of her Only-begotten Son, that an Order of Religious men should be founded in her honour, whose work it should be to redeem prisoners from Mohammedan slavery. Strengthened by this heavenly vision, the man of God began to burn with wonderful charity, nursing in his heart the one desire that he himself and the Order which he should found might exercise that love, greater than which hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John xv. 13.)
Upon the same night the same most holy Virgin appeared to the Blessed Raymund de Penafuerte, and to James, King of Aragon, charging them concerning the founding of the Order, and desiring them to help in raising up so great a work. Peter betook himself forthwith to the feet of Raymund, who was his confessor, and laid the matter before him, whom also he found taught from heaven, and to whose governance he right humbly submitted himself. Then came King James, who appointed to carry out this revelation, which himself also had received from the Most Blessed Virgin. The three took counsel together, and all with one consent entered upon the institution of an Order in honour of the said Virgin Mother, to be placed under the invocation of St Mary of Ransom, for the redemption of captives.
Upon the 10th of August, in the year of our Lord 1218, the above-named King James decreed the establishment of this Order, thus already conceived by these holy men. The brethren take, (in addition to the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience,) a fourth vow, whereby they bind themselves to remain in pawn with the unbelievers, if need so require, for the liberation of Christians. The King granted them the right to bear on their breasts his own Royal blazon, and obtained from Gregory IX. the confirmation of this Institute and Order so nobly marked by brotherly charity. God Himself, through the Virgin Mother, gave the increase, causing this Institute speedily and prosperously to spread through all the world, and to blossom with holy men, great in love and godliness, to spend in the redemption of their neighbours the alms which are committed to them by Christ’s faithful people, to that end, and some whiles to give themselves up for the ransom of many. That due thanks might be rendered to God and to the Virgin Mother for the great blessing of this Institute, the See Apostolic among other well-nigh countless favours bestowed upon it, permitted that this special Feast-day should be kept and this Office said.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.