Saint Mary Mother of Mercy
FEASTDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
The story of Our Lady of Mercy/Saint Mary Mother of Mercy/Our Lady of Ransom begins with St. Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. At the age of 25, he took a vow of chastity and made over his vast estates to the Church. After making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Montserrat, he went to Barcelona where he began to practice various works of charity. He conceived the idea of establishing an Order for the redemption of captives seized by the Moors on the seas and in Spain itself; they were being cruelly tormented in their African prisons to make them deny their faith.
In effect all the Christians of Europe, and above all of Spain, were praying intensely to obtain from God the remedy for the great evil that had befallen them. The divine Will was soon manifested. On one night, August 1, 1218, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Peter Nolasco, to his confessor, St. Raymund of Penafort, and to the king, and through these three servants of God established a work of the most perfect charity, the redemption of captives. On that night, while the Church was celebrating the feast of St. Peter in Chains, the Virgin Mary appeared first to St. Peter Nolasco, saying that she indeed desired the establishment of a religious Order, later known as the Mercedarians, bearing the name of her mercy. Its members would undertake to deliver Christian captives and offer themselves, if necessary, as a ransom pledge.
The Order, thus solemnly established in Spain, was approved by Pope Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy. By the grace of God and under the protection of His Virgin Mother, the Order spread rapidly. Its growth was increased as the charity and piety of its members was observed; they very often followed Our Lady's directive to give themselves up to voluntary slavery when necessary, to aid the good work.
It was to return thanks to God and the Blessed Virgin that a feast day was instituted and observed on September 24, first in the Order, then everywhere in Spain and France. It was finally extended to the entire Church by Pope Innocent XII. Pope Leo XIII encouraged the devotion by making this feast proper to all the dioceses of England, with a focus on how Our Lady ransoms us from the slavery of our sins, and brings us the grace of conversion.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mercy
O Holy and Immaculate Mother of God, Mother of Mercy,
hear our prayer.
You responded in love to the captives who cried out to you from their oppression,
breaking the chains of their bondage.
Be with us as we seek to be heralds of God's love and freedom.
The Word of God became flesh through your fervent and pure love.
We ask you, dear Mother,
break the chains of our slavery
(mention in silence any need or addiction or difficulty)
for free of them,
we are able to imitate your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mercy
O Blessed Virgin Mary,
who can worthily repay you with praise and thanks
for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent!
Receive our gratitude,
and by your prayers obtain the pardon of our sins.
Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven
and enable them to make our peace with God.
help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful,
pray for your people, plead for the clergy,
intercede for all women consecrated to God.
May all who venerate you feel now your help and protection.
Be ready to help us when we pray,
and bring back to us the answers to our prayers.
Make it your continual concern to pray for the people of God,
for you were blessed by God
and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world,
who lives and reigns forever. Amen.