Mary’s Name in the Title of the Order

Blessed Mary of Mercy
Blessed Mary of Mercy

As we have already said, at the beginning, one of the titles used to refer to the Institute founded by Saint Peter Nolasco was Order of Mercy or of the ‘misericordia’ of captives. Mary’s name was added very early to this title.

The first time that Mary’s name is found in a document in the title of the Order is in the bull Prout Scriptura testatur of Pope Alexander IV, issued on May 3, 1258, in Perugia. Writing to archbishops, bishops, abbots, etc., to inform them of the spiritual graces and the faculties granted to the Mercedarians because of their beneficent work for the sake of captives, the pope states: “Considering that the Master and the friars of Blessed Mary of Mercy, also called of Saint Eulalia… work with all their power…” As the pope joins the name of Mary to the term mercy, we have the denomination Blessed Mary of Mercy as part of the Order’s title. From the context of the bull, it can be inferred that the name of Mary of Mercy was already known. One should not assume that the pope would have used the name of Mary without any motive or that he imposed it by his authority. Furthermore, the pope did not send the bull directly to the friars of the Order. The logical explanation must be sought in the interdependence between the Blessed Virgin and the Order dedicated to the redemption of captives. Mercedarians were convinced that the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, intervened directly in the Order’s foundation. Consequently, the legislators of the 1272 Constitutions made Mary’s name official in the title by calling the Order: Order of the Virgin Mary of Mercy of the Redemption of Captives of Saint Eulalia.

Because of this belief, the name of the first Master, Peter Nolasco, never appears in the Order’s title in thirteenth century documents so that the glory and honor of the foundation would be attributed to the celestial lady, the messenger of the Trinity, whom the Mercedarian Order considers as its Foundress and Mother. Since the Mercedarian historian, Nadal Gaver (1445), this presence of Mary has been concretized in the account of the Virgin Mary’s apparition to Saint Peter Nolasco, ordering him because it was God’s will, to establish in her honor an Order committed to the redemption of captives.

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