September boasts a good number of Marian feasts and memorials: Our Lady's Nativity (Sept.8), the Holy Name of Mary (Sept.12), Our Lady of Sorrows (Sept.15), and Our Lady of La Salette (Sept.19).
But have you heard of Our Lady of Ransom (changed to Our Lady of Mercy after Vatican II)?
Not many Catholics in North America have, but in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, the feast is widely known, particularly in Barcelona as she is the city's patroness.
The feast of Our Lady of Ransom was officially added to the liturgical calendar in 1960 to be celebrated on Sept. 24.
So what is the story behind this title of Our Lady?
Saracens, or Moors, captured much of Spain in the 13th century. They forced Christians into slavery.
In 1218, Our Lady appeared to three men at the same time but in separate visions. These men were Saint Peter Nolasco, Saint Raymond of Penafort, and King James of Aragon.
Our Lady expressed to each that it would please her Son if an order was established to help ransom the Christians from their captivity.
Saint Peter Nolasco, his confessor Saint Raymond of Penafort, along with King James, established the royal, military, and religious Order of Our Lady of Ransom in Barcelona.
This order later became the Mercedarians, who collected monetary alms to buy back Christians.
In addition, the members were required to take a fourth vow promising to die, if necessary, to save those in danger of losing their faith. This vow is still required of the members today.
Many of the members during the 13th century gave themselves up to slavery in exchange for their fellow Christians (when alms were not available) until a debt could be paid.
Our Lady of Mercy wished to come to the aid of her children those many centuries ago, that they might be freed from physical and spiritual captivity.
Today, we are in no less dire need of being set free from captivity from ideologies that distance us from God and bind both our souls and bodies in demonic chains.
Our Lady continues to help set captives free.
Let us ask Our Lady of Ransom, or Our Lady of Mercy, to restore the enslaved areas in our lives to the freedom of the children of God.
In this way, may we help free others and serve Him who is the King of Mercy.
Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom (Our Lady of Mercy)
Merciful Father and God of all consolation,
you have shown yourself
to be wonderful in the glorious Virgin Mary,
Mother of Christ, and have given her to us
as the Mother of Mercy.
May all of us who venerate her with devotion,
always experience her powerful intercession,
and enjoy Your immense mercy.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Prayer Source: Catholic Fire