Before concluding this historical synthesis of the life of the religious Institute founded by Saint Peter Nolasco during almost eight centuries of existence, it is fitting to see it in a future perspective. This history is not only a remembrance belonging to the past but it is also a catalyst to continue it in the future in order to offer the contribution of the Order in building up a more just and more human world.
Paul VI said to the participants in the 1968 General Chapter: “Your history, so filled with sanctity and heroism, has not stopped… it continues on its course: because its trajectory is one of charity and charity belongs to the essence of the Church, although the way it is applied changes with the signs of the times. In accordance with the teaching of the Council, you want to maintain and strengthen the spirit and the rich patrimony of your Order at the same time as you analyze the needs of the world and of the Church to help human beings more effectively as you are on fire with apostolic zeal. This mission—as you well know—will have no effect if it is not accompanied by fervent interior renewal, the practice of the virtues of humility and obedience, fortitude and chastity, poverty and charity, by which you participate in the kenosis of Christ from whom flows love of neighbor, a special aspect of your institutional physiognomy.”
These words of Paul VI are insightful in reference to the very soul of the Order and its spirituality as the source of interior life from which liberating action emerges with strength at the same time as they encourage our looking to the future where the Mercedarian charism always appears current.
Open to the breath of the Holy Spirit and with optimism, the Mercedarian Order has made room for appropriate renewal to fulfill its role in the Mystical Body of Christ. This is why when, on May 22, 1986, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, received the Order’s General Chapter’s participants in a private audience, his words were very encouraging. Among other things, the pope said: “On this happy occasion, I am pleased to encourage you in your determination to carry out your Founder’s ideals and purposes in today’s historical and social context which is, in many aspects, so different from the one of his time, even though just as much in need of being oriented to the same fundamental values of justice, mercy, liberation, reconciliation and peace. I would especially like to exhort you to maintain, to increase and to spread the great devotion, characteristic of your origins, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, who has participated in her divine Son’s redemptive work in such an exemplary way. Only this way will your Order be able to keep that evangelical spirit, that deep longing for human redemption and liberation which has always characterized it in an integral and unchanging way: the liberation of human beings from all forms of misery, slavery and oppression, starting with one that is fundamental, liberation from sin.”
With these words, the pope has undoubtedly been able to capture and to express clearly the present relevance of the Mercedarian charism in today’s world where captivity as it was known in Peter Nolasco’s time no longer exists and yet there are still people oppressed by other forms of slavery. At this time in history, the Order of Mercy continues to carry out Christ’s redemptive work and, imitating Mary in her admirable cooperation with her Son, in the redemption and integral liberation of human beings. Bringing the Gospel to everyone is the surest means for this work of redemption and liberation.
Now the Church is preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the year 2,000 and to enter the third millennium, determined to bring the new evangelization, that is to say, evangelical values to people who are still hoping to know Christ. As Pope John Paul II observed in Redemptoris missio, humankind agrees with some of the values which the Church proclaims. These values which form an integral part of the Mercedarian charism are: “the rejection of violence and war, respect for human beings and their rights, the longing for freedom, justice and fellowship, the tendency to overcome all forms of racism and nationalism, affirming the dignity and appreciation of women.”
All of this —the pope said— is a providential sign of God’s goodness and mercy and of sure hope: “As we are approaching the third millennium of the Redemption, God is preparing a great Christian spring of which we are seeing the beginning.”
Even though it is small, the Order of Mercy wants to contribute to bring the spring of the Spirit according to the liberating charism of liberation which it received from Saint Peter Nolasco and which it longs to preserve and to actualize in our contemporary world to build up the Reign of God.
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