Among the beautiful September feasts of Our Lady is the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom (also known as Our Lady of Mercy or De Mercede), September 24th. The Feast recalls the inspired founding of a religious order dedicated to the defense of Christian coasts against pirate-raiding from North Africa and the ransoming of Christian captives.

Peter Nolasco, a French nobleman who had taken refuge in Spain in order to escape from the Albigensian heretics dominating his native home, received a vision in prayer of Our Lady. He was told that it would be most pleasing to her Son to found a new religious order for the purpose of freeing Christian captives who had been taken into Muslim territories. The next day he went to his Father Confessor, St. Raymond Penyafort, who had received the same vision. King James of Aragon next arrived with his account of a heavenly visitation by Our Lady. All three men had received the like vision. Thus, on August 10th, A.D. 1218, King James erected this new order. It was to be called the royal, military, and religious Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the ransom of captives, made up of clerics and knights. St. Peter Nolasco was the first Grand Master of this Mercedarian Order.

The Mercedarian religious took a “fourth vow” in addition to Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. That vow was to deliver themselves, when necessary, over to Muslim captivity as hostages until the ransom of released Christians was secured. The core of the mission then was the highest charity of laying down one’s life for one’s friends and neighbors. 

The Mercedarians were the second religious Order founded for the work of redeeming Christian captives. The first was the Order of the Holy Trinity founded twenty years earlier. The Mercedarians and the Trinitarians continued in their special work until the early 1800s when European military power was finally able to subdue the pirate havens along the North African coast.

This kind of slaving with a religious twist was lucrative business and great numbers of unfortunate people were caught up in the raiding. Today’s date of September 27th is the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul in the Novus Ordo Calendar. He died in 1660. When he was a young priest in his 20’s he was on a ship captured by Barbary pirates on the Mediterranean Sea, and sold off into slavery to a man who himself had been a Christian captive before embracing Islam as a way to get out of his slavery. In this case, it was St. Vincent who brought him back to the faith and then the two of them made their escape back to Europe.

The religious-influenced taking of captives has re-appeared in our present day in the form of Muslim jihadist groups taking Westerners captive and demanding high ransoms for their release. It is a means both of raising money for their jihadism and gaining desired prestige as people to be feared. Two years ago, one of Fr. Salako’s S.M.A. missionaries, Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, an Italian national, was kidnapped in Niger. As of this spring, he was still known to be alive. Fr. Salako has explained that there is a complicated overlap between criminal gangs and jihadist fanatics. We continue to pray for his safe-release and for all those individuals who are also being held in this kind of captivity. 

About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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"If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter."
- St. Therese of Lisieux (+1897)

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