Sunday, 24 September 2006

Our Lady of Ransom

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom. It has a special relevance to England and Wales and used to be in our national calendar, until she was replaced by Our Lady of Walsingham in 2000. A pity that we couldn't celebrate both titles since the idea behind Our Lady of Ransom was praying for the 'ransom' of England as 'Our Lady's Dowry.' The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom continues to promote the work of England's conversion, which is today as necessary as ever.

The origins of the Feast can be found in the little known Mercedarian Order. This was founded in the early thirteenth century by St Peter Nolasco and St Raymond of Penafort (who can both be seen at Our Lady's feet in the picture above) to ransom Christian slaves taken by the Muslims during their frequent raids on Europe. The Order's original name was the 'Order of the Virgin Mary of Mercy of the Redemption of Captives of St Eulalia' (an early martyr venerated in Barcelona).

According to the Constitutions, Mercedarians were 'to visit and to free Christians who are in captivity and in power of the Saracens or of other enemies of our Law… By this work of mercy… all the brothers of this Order, as sons of true obedience, must always be gladly disposed to give up their lives, if it is necessary, as Jesus Christ gave up His for us' (this is known as the Fourth Vow of the Order, in addition to poverty, chastity and obedience).

Incidentally, my favourite Mercedarian saint must be St Mary of Cervellon (1230-90), who supported the work of ransoming Christian slaves by her prayers and penances. She is venerated in Spain as a patron of sailors and is often shown holding a ship (as in the picture below).On several occasions she even appeared in the sky helping the ships that were sent to redeem captives. Little wonder she is called Maria de Socos ('Mary of Help').


Christian captives in Muslim lands were a huge problem up until the seventeenth century. Barbary pirates even troubled English waters - 466 English ships were taken between 1609 and 1616 and a thousand people were taken captive after a raid on the West Country in 1625.

We ask Our Lady of Ransom to intercede for Christians who experience hardships in Muslim countries today.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Andrew said...

May I add we could ask Our Lady of Ransom to intercede for the Pontifical Council of Ecumenism - that they get back to spreading the true faith not only just to England but to the whole world?

1:57 pm  
Blogger Mary Jane said...

Ah, Fr. Nicholas! How curiously useful the blogosphere is. I'm the music director at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Florida, USA. One rehearsal day I thought it would be good to catechize the choir about Our Lady's title. However, when I researched Our Lady of Good Counsel, I got an entirely different image/history/etc. [As a former archives director myself, I was shocked, absolutely shocked.]

Then who was the virgin we had a painting and a large concrete statue of? I think it's Our Lady of Ransom. Of course, the plot thickens. Is the church really "Our Lady of Ransom"? Did someone buy the wrong statue? Further research awaits some leisure time. However, it's your posting that has provided the jumping-off point. Keep up the good work.

11:08 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Mary-Jane - what does the statue look like? Why not post a picture on your blog? Thanks for your comment!

11:43 am  
Anonymous Br. David said...

I"m glad to see you posting information about Our Lady of Ransom, or known as Our Lady of Mercy. I am a Mercedarian friar and was rather impressed by the post concerning our esteemed and beloved Blessed Mother.

god Bless,

1:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday day morning while sitting with my mother in the Intensive Care Unit, a priest from a neighboring parish came and gave my mother a blessing. He told me that my mother's name, "Mercedes" came from Our Lady of Mercy. I had no knowledge of the Mercederians or any biblical association to this name, which is also my daughter's middle name. I can't believe I never even made the association, when it was right there in her name all along! This morning I received great news that Mercedes is being moved from the ICU after many difficult days. I just wanted to say thank you Father Nicholas. I will surely pass this information along to her, and she will be just as thrilled as I was. Laurie, Pittsburgh PA, USA

5:27 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Thanks, Laurie. I will certainly say a prayer for your mother, Mercedes.

5:32 pm  
Blogger Judy said...

Interesting...found your blog as my homeschooled children asked me to tell them the story of Our Lady of Ransom. Thank you! Do you know of Raymond de Souza Catholic apologist now residing in the US who is promoting prayers and support for the Walshingham Anglicans who wish to convert to Catholicism? I'll give you his link if you care to find out more. Thank you for your beautiful art to support the feast day!

2:05 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, I am aware of Raymond de Souza's work, which I posted about several months ago.

God bless and happy feast.

2:31 pm  

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