Novena to St Peter Nolasco begins April 27th

The Mercedarian Friars are preparing to celebrate the Solemnity of their founder, St Peter Nolasco, on May 6th.

St Peter Nolasco was born around 1180 of middle class parents.As a young man, he worked as a merchant buying and selling in Muslim occupied lands of Spain. The course of Peter’s young life changed radically when he came in contact with Christian Captives. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that, “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Peter felt this same intense compassion for the Christians deprived of liberty in Muslim lands. The greatest danger that he saw with the situation was that these Christians were losing their faith and apostatizing in large numbers.  This is what struck Peter so intensely. He knew that the Catholic faith was “the pearl of great price (Mt 13:46)”. To abandon one’s faith meant to reject the salvation that Jesus won for us by His passion, death, and resurrection. Peter saw this as the worst injustice of his time period. Something had to be done!!  Using the qualities he learned in business, Peter went about ransoming the Christian Captives. Others followed him in his mission of collecting alms and buying back Christians from Captivity.

In early August 1218, Peter had an amazing occurrence. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and instructed him to found an Order dedicated to the great work of ransoming Christian Captives in danger of losing their faith. Peter was given the “white habit of Mary”. After getting the approval of the King of Spain, Peter formally founded the Order of the BVM of Mercy on August 10, 1218. In his great humility, he pointed to Mary as foundress and the inspiration of this great work.

These men called Mercedarians take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and redemption. The 4th vow of redemption characterizes their whole life: to be willing if it is necessary to offer their lives in exchange for Christians in danger of losing their faith. It is because of this vow that the white habit of Mary has so often been stained red with the blood of those making the ultimate sacrifice.

Mercedarians hold in great veneration, St Peter Nolasco, as the co-founder of the Order. He responded to the inspiration of Jesus given through Our Lady of Mercy. Because of his radical response, the Order lives on today throughout the world continuing Christ’s redeeming work at all costs. Let us join together in praying to our founder that we all will be faithful to Christ’s call to radical love of neighbor.

O God,

you clothed our Father, Saint Peter Nolasco,

with the love of Christ;

and through the Blessed Virgin Mary

you made him a messenger of love and liberty

for Christians held in captivity.

Help us to imitate him

by working for the redemption of all the oppressed

and for the building up of your Church.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

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