HISTORY OF OUR LADY OF MERCY
Recompiled by SCTJM
THE BLESSED VIRGIN MOHTER AND PETER NOLASCO
The title “Merced” is first of all “mercy”. The Virgin is merciful and her children should be also. This means that we must come to her first of all with the desire to become like Jesus merciful.In the year 1203 Peter Nolasco a lay man began the freeing of the captives in Venice, freeing with his own wealth 300 captives. He forms a group willing to place their goods in common and organizes expeditions to negotiate the freeing of the slaves. Their trade as merchants made this work easier. They would trade to rescue slaves. When their money ran out they formed confraternities to raise funds “almsgiving for the captives”. But there comes a time when all help is exhausted and Peter Nolasco intends to enter a religious order or retire to the dessert. He enters a stage of reflection and profound prayer.
It was during the time in which Muslims would plunder the coasts and would take Christians as slaves to Africa. The horrendous condition of these victims was indescribable. Many would loose their faith thinking that God has abandoned them. Peter Nolasco was a merchant. He decided to invest his fortune to free the greatest number of slaves possible. He would remember the phrase from the Gospel: “But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20).
THE VIRGIN RESPONDS
Nolasco asks God for help, and as a sign of divine mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary responds that he should found a liberating congregation. The night of August 1 through 2 of 1218, the Blessed Virgin appears to Peter Nolasco, to Raimundo de Peñafort, and to King James I of Aragón and communicates to each one of them her desire to found a congregation that would free captives. The Blessed Virgin Mary moved the heart of Peter Nolasco to formalize the work that he and his companions were already doing. The Blessed Virgin calls Peter Nolasco and reveals her desire of liberator through an order dedicated to the freeing of the captives from the Muslims, exposed to loose their faith. Nolasco responds to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Nolasco-“Who are you, that to me, and indignant servant, ask me to accomplish such a hard task, of such great charity, that is so pleasing to God and of such merit to me?:
Blessed Virgin Mary – “I am Mary, the one that gave flesh to the Son of God, taking it from my pure blood, for the reconciliation of the human race. I am the one that received the prophecy of Simeon, when I offered my Son in the temple: contradictedpierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35).”Blessed Virgin Mary – do not doubt in nothing, because it is the will of God that an order of this kind be founded in my honor; it will be an order in which the brothers and professed, in imitation of my Son Jesus Christ, will be destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel (that is to say, among the Christians) and they will be a sign of contradiction for many.”
Nolasco- “Oh Virgin Mary, mother of grace, mother of mercy! Who could believe (that it is you who send me)?
A LAY CONGREGATION
That is how it was at the beginning. The first location was the hospital of St. Eulalia, next to the royal palace in Barcelona. There they would take in the homeless, poor, and captives that had returned from the moor lands and had no place to go. They continued the labor that they were once doing of creating conscience of the slaves in order to raise money to free them. They would go out each year on expeditions to liberate the slaves. St. Peter personally continued his trips seeking Christian slaves. En Argelia Africa, they made him a prisoner but he was able to obtain his liberty. Taking advantage of his gifts and skills as a merchant, he organized with success collections for the slaves in many cities.
Besides the three vows of religious life, poverty, chastity and obedience, they made a fourth vow: to dedicate their lives to free the slaves. They were committed to take the place of a slave that was at risk of loosing their faith, when there was not enough money for their rescue. That is what St. Peter Ermengol did, a noble man who entered the order after a immoral youth. This fourth vow is what distinguished the new community of the Mercedarios. Pope Gregory IX approved the community and St. Peter Nolasco was named General Superior. King James would say that the conquest of Venice was due to the prayers of Peter Nolasco. Each triumph they achieved he attributed to his prayers.
DEATH OF SAINT PETER NOLASCO
Peter Nolasco, at 77 years old, pronounced Psalm 76: “We thank you, God, we give thanks; we call upon your name, we declare your wonderful deeds. And with your strong arm you rescued the captive and oppressed.” And then he fell asleep in the mantle of Our Lady. His intercession obtained many miracles and he was canonized in 1628.
In the year 1696, Pope Innocent XII extended the feast of Our Lady of Mercy for the whole Church, and set its date for September 24.
PRAYERS TO OUR LADY OF MERCY
-Our Lady and Virgin of Mercy
we beg you that through your maternal intercession before your Son Jesus Christ, you obtain for us the true freedom of the children of God and that you make us free of any slavery, so that we may experience the joy of salvation. Amen.
-Mary, Mother of God, gift from Christ to all men. The Blessed Trinity sent you to Barcelona, as messenger of liberty and mercy, so that through Peter Nolasco, you may show yourself co-redemptrix, mediator, Mother of all, tenderness of God for the poor.
Mother of Mercy, teach us to value our Christian faith, make us capable of loving with merciful charity, transform us into bearers of your peace.
That your kisses may melt the violence that envelops us, until we recuperate, in your maternal mantle, the hope of family, that the world may be transformed into a home.
Bless this, your city which proclaims you its patron and its princess and delights itself in calling you Mother.