Here are some pictures of Focus 11 (vocation awareness day for 6th graders) in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The Friars and the 3rd Order had a Mercedarian vocation table. To draw attention to the Order and promote a love of Our Lady of Mercy, the children signed up to win one of 3 three 12″ statues of Our Lady of Mercy for their classroom. Thanks to Fr Tony and Sue for spreading the good news of the redemption to the youth in St Petersburg, Florida!
For many of us, the 1st week of August means the “dog days of summer”. This is the time when the summer heat can be oppressive. It is in this time of year that many of us take vacations spending time at a local pool or at the shore. In Spain things are not much different. August can be painfully hot in Spain so most people head to the beaches or other spots to “beat the heat”.
As August approached in the summer of 1218, Peter Nolasco, a young Spanish merchant, was enduring the summer heat in a much different way. For several years now, he had been working with friends to redeem captives who were in danger of losing their faith in Moorish Lands. Many of these Christians were in real danger of apostatizing in order to obtain their freedom and even preserve their lives. For Peter and his companions something had to be done. For several years, they dedicated themselves daily to collecting alms from the pious faithful throughout the Province of Catalonia and the kingdom of Aragon. Many were ransomed and their faith was preserved, but many more were left to suffer at the hands of their captors. It became clear to Peter that the problem of captivity was too great for such a small band. He wondered what could be done to preserve the faith so many.
In his fervent prayer, Peter sought divine inspiration to be able to continue God’s work which he had started. At that point and in these circumstances, during the night of August 1, 1218, a special intervention of Blessed Mary occurred in Peter Nolasco’s life: an amazing Marian experience which illumined his mind and stirred up his will to transform his group of lay redeemers into a Redemptive Religious Order. The experience was so profound that it touched the very fabric of Peter’s being. He now knew what must be done.
The next day, Peter Nolasco went to the royal palace to explain his project to young King James I and his advisers, the first of whom was the Bishop of Barcelona, don Berenguer de Palou. Peter’s plan, inspired by God through Mary, was to establish a well-structured and stable Redemptive Religious Order under the patronage of Blessed Mary. The King was very pleased with the project and gave his approval and support to the endeavor. He would even give his “coat of arms” to be worn as a sign of the kingdom’s support and protection.
On August 10, 1218, the new Religious Order for the Redemption of Captives was officially and solemnly constituted at the main altar erected over Saint Eulalia’s tomb in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Barcelona. Bishop Berenguer de Palou gave Peter Nolasco and his companions the white habit that they would wear as characteristic of the Order; he gave them the Rule of Saint Augustine as a norm for their life in common and he gave his authorization for the sign of his cathedral, the Holy Cross, to be on the habit of the Order. After that, Peter Nolasco and the first Mercedarians made their religious profession right there before the bishop.
That was the beginning of an Order that was destined to endure for nearly 800 years. Countless captive Christians have been aided by this Institute. Several women’s communities, lay confraternities, and other groups have been inspired by the same spirit given to Peter Nolasco on that night of August 1st. Truly that first week of August 1218 was a week that would change the history of the world and influence millions for centuries.
So as we endure the heat of early August, let us thank God for sending his mother, Our Lady of Mercy, to inspire this great work of redemption. She is the one who first inspired it and continues to do so today. What started in Spain has now spread to four continents. May this mission of redemption continue to grow throughout the world in order that all may be free to practice the Catholic faith.
On Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 the Provincial Council approved Br. James Chia and Br Scott Brentwood for Solemn Vows. It has been a long journey for these two men from vastly different worlds.
Br James grew up in Malaysia, an independent country in Southeast Asia. This country, still close to Br James’ heart, is very diverse. Besides the native Malays there are many other ethnic groups including Chinese and even some Europeans. The religious beliefs are even more diverse. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4% of the population practiced Islam of which only the Sunni branch is allowed; 19.2% Buddhism; 9.1% Christianity; 6.3% Hinduism; and 2.6% practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. The remainder was accounted for by other faiths, including animism, folk religion, and Sikhism while 0.8% either reported having no religion or did not provide any information. Despite all these differences of belief, Br James grew up in a devote Catholic family that emphasized hard work, honesty, and especially devotion to their Catholic faith. Br James will often be seen at work or helping others.
Br Scott, on the other hand, grew up in the United States. He and his family are from Southwest Virginia. He attended Carroll County High School in rural Hillsville, VA. Much of that area of the state is Protestant, yet Br Scott found the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith. After graduating High School in 2000, Br Scott went on to obtain bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Philosophy from Old Dominion University. Br. Scott is known for his intelligence and wit. He is always interested in having a good conversation about political science or religion or any number of topics. Br Scott is, also, always open to using his knowledge and talents to aide those in need.
As providence would have it, these two vastly different men were inspired to join the Order as postulants in August 2004. Living at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, they learned the basic tenants of our Catholic faith and how to live in community. Now after 7 years of formation, Br James and Br Scott are preparing to make their definitive consecration to God in the Order. Sometime this summer, they will together prostrate before the altar as a sign of their total submission to God. Then, they will kneel before the Major Superior and make vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and the fourth vow of redemption.
We congratulate Br James and Br Scott on being approved for Solemn vows. May the Lord who has begun this good work in you bring it to completion.
UNITED STATES — Today the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy (or Ransom) celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mercy. The title “Mercy” for our Lady had its origin from the Order of Mercy which was so called for its ministry—the redemption of slaves. During the Middle Ages this ministry was known as the work of mercy. The Order has always attributed to Mary a special participation in its foundation. For this reason the Order has always honored her with particular devotion since its beginning and in accordance with its Founder, Saint Peter Nolasco, who in 1249, dedicated a church to her. In 1600, permission was granted to celebrate on the feast of the Nativity of Mary a special liturgy dedicated to Mary under the title of “Mercy.” In 1696, the feast was extended to the whole Church.
A happy and holy feast day to all!