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Free At Last!


by Father Charles M. Mangan

September 24 was the liturgical Memorial (optional) of Our Lady of Mercy, also known as Our Lady of Ransom.

Saint Peter Nolasco (+1256) founded the Order of Our Lady of Ransom ("Mercedarians") after consulting with Saint Raymond of Penyafort (+1275), who today is the Patron of canon lawyers. On August 10, 1218, the Order was legally established in Barcelona, Spain by King James I of Aragon.

The founding of this Religious Institute was inspired by a previous appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was seen carrying two bags of coins for use in ransoming Christians imprisoned by the Moors. On August 1, 1218, the Madonna showed Saint Peter Nolasco the white habit to be worn by members of the new Order.

The Mercedarians grew in number during the next several centuries. The members of this Institute were determined to give themselves in ransom to free those Christians enslaved by the Muslims.

February 22, 1696 witnessed the extension of the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom to the Universal Church. Simultaneously, the date of the commemoration was changed to September 24.

The Mother of God is venerated under the title "Our Lady of Mercy"/"Our Lady of Ransom" especially in Barcelona, Aragon, Catalonia and in some regions of Latin America. Women and girls who have the names "Clemency", "Mercedes", "Mercedez" and "Mercy" are very fortunate to have Our Lady of Ransom for their reliable Patroness.

Given that not many will have the literal opportunity to ransom themselves for prisoners, is there an application of the Ransom "message" for twenty-first century Catholics?

Yes! Two important truths--among several--are just waiting to be learned and embraced.

First, the Most Blessed Trinity and the Ever-Virgin still care about the captives. The apparition of Our Lady in the thirteenth century had specific significance in regard to those disciples of Jesus who were unjustly deprived of their physical liberty by the followers of Mohammed. Mary continues to have concern for those Christians who are persecuted because of their faith. The Mother of the Risen Lord is also sensitive to the harrowing plight of those who are bound emotionally and spiritually--those who, in any way, are not free. Our Lady of Ransom wants to assist those who are handcuffed in body, mind and spirit. Those who are "addicted" come to mind.

Second, each baptized person has a responsibility towards the captives. Again, we are thinking here not only of those behind bars but also those who are interior captives, suffering from a mysterious imprisonment that is often more difficult to see. By our prayers and good efforts, especially the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, we join Jesus and Mary in their kindness towards the bound. Steeped in faith, hope and charity, we baptized Catholics are to be "ransomers" in our contemporary era who do all we can to liberate captives.

Jesus desires that we be ready to suffer as He did on Calvary--but always as free sons and daughters of the Living God. He does not wish that we be fastened with the manacles of desperation and despair. No one in the history of the world was as free as Jesus when He hung suspended on the Cross. Even though His sacred hands and feet were unfairly nailed to the wood stained with His Most Precious Blood, nevertheless He was free! His soul was receptive to all the His beloved Father demanded. Without compulsion, Christ chose to die for us so that we would be reconciled to His heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are to be free in Jesus. And we are to aid others as they struggle for genuine liberation. Our Lady of Mercy . . . Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us!


Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125




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