The Royal, Celestial and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of the Captives (Latin: Ordo Beatae Mariae de Mercede Redemptionis Captivorum, abbreviated O. de M.), also known as the Mercedarians, is a Catholic mendicant order established in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco in the city of Barcelona, at that time in the Principality of Catalonia (Crown of Aragon), for the redemption of Christian captives. Its members are most commonly known as Mercedarian friars or nuns. One of the distinguishing marks of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy is that, since its foundation, its members are required to take a fourth vow: to die, if necessary, for another who is in danger of losing their faith. The Order exists today in 17 countries.
|Royal, Celestial and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of Captives|
Ordo Beatae Mariae de Mercede redemptionis captivorum
|Type||Catholic religious order|
|Fr. Juan Carlos Saavedra Lucho (2016 - )|
|Saint Peter Nolasco, founder|
|Website||Mercedarian Friars, 2|
Between the eighth and the fifteenth centuries, medieval Europe was in a state of intermittent warfare between the Christian kingdoms of southern Europe and the Muslim polities of North Africa, Southern France, Sicily and Moorish portions of Spain. According to James W. Brodman, the threat of capture, whether by pirates or coastal raiders, or during one of the region's intermittent wars, was a continuous threat to residents of Catalonia, Languedoc and the other coastal provinces of medieval Christian Europe. Raids by militias, bands and armies from both sides were an almost annual occurrence.
For over 600 years, these constant armed confrontations produced numerous war prisoners on both sides. Islam’s captives were reduced to the state of slaves since they were considered war booty. In the lands of Visigothic Spain, both Christian and Muslim societies had become accustomed to the buying and selling of captives. So much so that tenth-century Andalusian merchants formed caravans to purchase slaves in Eastern Europe. In the thirteenth century, in addition to spices, slaves constituted one of the goods of the flourishing trade between Christian and Muslim ports.
Starting before the First Crusade, many hospices and hospitals were organized by the chapters of cathedrals or by the monastic orders. Within the communal organizations of towns, local charitable institutions such as almshouses were established by confraternities or guilds, or by successful individual laymen concerned with the welfare of their souls.
Broader-based and aristocratically-funded charitable institutions were more prominent, and the episodes of aristocratic and even royal ransom and its conditions, were the subject of chronicle and romance. The knights of the original Order of St John—the Knights Hospitaller—and the Templars in their origins are well known, and the impact of their organized charity upon the religious values of the High Middle Ages.
Sources for the origins of the Mercedarians are scant and almost nothing is known of the founder, St. Peter Nolasco. A narrative developed between the 15th and early 17th centuries that culminated in Nolasco's canonization as a saint in 1628.
All the biographers agree that, at some point in his youth, Nolasco became concerned with the plight of Christians captured in Moorish raids and that he decided to establish a religious order to succor these unfortunates. Nolasco began ransoming Christian captives in 1203. After fifteen years of work, he and his friends saw that the number of captives was growing day by day. His plan was to establish a well-structured and stable redemptive religious order under the patronage of Blessed Mary.
The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy (or the Order of Merced, O.Merc., Mercedarians, the Order of Captives, or the Order of Our Lady of Ransom) was one of many dozens of associations that sprang up in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries as institutions of charitable works. The work of the Mercedarians was in ransoming impoverished captive Christians (slaves) held in Muslim hands, especially along the frontier that the Crown of Aragon shared with al-Andalus (Muslim Spain).
The Order of Mercy, an early 13th century popular movement of personal piety organized at first by Nolasco, was concerned with ransoming the ordinary men who had not the means to negotiate their own ransom, the "poor of Christ."
From the year 1192 certain noblemen of Barcelona had formed a confraternity for the purpose of caring for the sick in hospitals, and also for rescuing Christian captives from the Moors. Tradition has it that around 1218, Nolasco and King James I of Aragon experienced separately a vision of the Virgin Mary, who asked them to found a religious order dedicated to rescuing the many Christian captives held by the Muslims. Nolasco's confessor, Raymond of Penyafort, a Dominican friar and former canon of Barcelona, encouraged and assisted him in this project; and King James also extended his protection.
On August 10, 1218, the new religious order for the Redemption of Captives was officially constituted at the main altar erected over Saint Eulalia's tomb in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross (also known as the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia) in Barcelona. Bishop Berenguer de Palou gave Nolasco and his companions the white religious habit that they would wear as characteristic of the Order; he put them under 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, Nolasco and the first Mercedarians made their religious profession there before the bishop. Their headquarters was the Monastery of St. Eulalia of Barcelona, which served as the first Mercedarian convent and as a house of welcome for redeemed captives.
Reconstructing the Order's beginnings from the documentary record produces a far less detailed story. In this, the year 1218 plays no role. The founder first appears ca. 1226 as a collector of alms in Perpignan. By 1230 he was collecting alms for captives in Barcelona as the head of a small lay confraternity. On August 12, 1230, Maimó Gombal, a resident of Barcelona and a man of some property, directed in his will that 100 Papal States scudi be handed over to Nolasco for the ransoming of captives. The bequest was not unusual, either in amount or intent, for Catalans of this era frequently included this pious good work in their testaments. What sets this particular bequest apart is that it contains the first notice of the redeeming work of Nolasco. Nothing is known about him before his appearance in Maimó's will and only very little afterwards.
During the next six years, the confraternity slowly evolves into a religious order, as members obtain properties in Catalonia. While Nolasco, by all accounts, first established his movement at Barcelona and then on Mallorca, its first acquisitions of note were in the Kingdom of Valencia. Here special circumstances associated with the frontier —an abundance of new land awaiting Christian settlement and an arena for the practice of charitable ransoming— created an ideal environment for the new Order. Consequently, the preponderance of what Mercedarians came to possess here were lands donated by the king, successful crusaders and other patrons.
In 1236, Pope Gregory IX granted the Mercedarians formal recognition as a religious order under the old Rule of St. Augustine. The small order gained additional members, property and support in the 1250s and 1260s. While evidence is scant, one has to assume that this support came in recognition of the Order's work in ransoming captives in a war zone that remained quite active. The growing pains, however, also caused institutional turmoil, whose outlines can only be glimpsed. The visible result was a reorganization in 1272 by a new master, Pere d'Amer.
James I, whose descendants claimed him to be the Mercedarian founder, had in fact no documented contact with the Order until the late 1230s and early 1240s, at which time he granted formerly Muslim lands in Valencia, especially the Shrine of Santa Maria del Puig, patron saint of the kingdom. It was not until the 1250s that royal patronage becomes evident, when the king granted the Order his guidaticum (a form of diplomatic protection), economic privileges that promoted gifts to the Order, and, at least temporarily, the important shrine of St. Vincent in the City of Valencia. Claims by King James II and Peter IV of a royal foundation of the Order reflected not real history but their own designs upon the Order's financial resources and personnel.
In the preface of the first Constitutions of the Mercedarian Order of 1272, three key elements referring to the foundation stand out: the name, the founder and the purpose of the Order.
The name with which the Order founded by Nolasco is identified, is mentioned first. Prior to the 1272 Constitutions, the Order had several names among which: Order of Saint Eulalia, Order of the Mercy of Captives, Order of the Redemption of Captives, Order of Mercy. Those of 1272 established a dual patronage: The Order of the Virgin Mary of the Ransom of Captives of St. Eulalia of Barcelona. But the proper and definitive title is: Order of the Virgin Mary of Mercy of the Redemption of Captives. This name, however, does not come into general use until the 1290s and is not codified until the Albertine Constitutions of 1327.
The 1272 Constitutions, further, establish Nolasco as the Order's founder:he has been constituted "servant, messenger, founder and promoter" of the new Institute. Peter Nolasco is the real founder of the Order or the "Procurator of the alms of captives" as defined on March 28, 1219, by the first document referring to him.
Finally, it is clearly specified that the purpose of the Order is "to visit and to free Christians who are in captivity and in power of the Saracens or of other enemies of our Law… By this work of mercy… all the brothers of this Order, as sons of true obedience, must always be gladly disposed to give up their lives, if it is necessary, as Jesus Christ gave up his for us."
In the 15th century, a movement grew up among the monasteries of the Order seeking a stricter lifestyle, keeping more exactly the Rule of St. Augustine under which the friars live. This spread and gained approval by the Master General of the Order. As a result of the Counter-Reformation, spurred by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), this goal was revived and further developed by Friar John Baptist of the Blessed Sacrament (Spanish: Juan Bautista del Santísimo Sacramento).
A small community of friars were allowed to open their own monastery under the leadership of Friar John Baptist in 1603. Adopting a simpler form of life and of their religious habit and wearing only sandals, they became known as the Mercedarian Recollects, later as Discalced Mercedarians. They were approved as a semi-autonomous branch of Order by Pope Gregory XV in 1621. They eventually separated and became a fully independent Order.
Some Orders and Congregations add particular vows, besides the three vows of religion.
These additional vows are part of the nature of the profession of each Order and are permitted by the Church. They can be solemn or simple, perpetual or temporary. The Fourth Vow of the Order of Mercy is a Solemn Vow. In accordance with the general principle of a vow, it is an act of the will and an authentic promise, in which the reason for the vow is perfection. It also presupposes a sincere will of obligation in conscience and by virtue of the community.
Eventually a feast day was instituted and observed on September 24, first in the religious order, then in Spain and France, and on February 22, 1696 Pope Innocent XII extended it to the entire Church. The Mercedarians keep this day as a first class feast, with a vigil, privileged Octave and Proper Office under the title: Solemnitas Descensionis B. Mariæ V. de Mercede.
Our Lady of Ransom is the principal patron of Barcelona; the proper Office was extended to Barcelona (1868) and to all Spain (second class, 1883). Sicily, which had suffered so much from the Saracens, took up the old date of the feast (Sunday nearest to August 1) by permission of the Roman Congregation of Rites of August 31, 1805.
In England, the devotion to Our Lady of Ransom was revived in modern times to obtain the rescue of England as Our Lady's Dowry. In the Philippines, particularly Barangay Mercedes, Catbalogan City have strong devotion to Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes as their principal patroness who would often invoke for protection against the Moro raiders.
The Minor Basilica and Convent of Nuestra Señora de la Merced is a church, designed in the Baroque style known as Churrigueresque, located in Lima, Peru. The church was built under Friar Miguel de Orenes in 1535. The Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the patroness of the Peruvian Armed Forces, is venerated in the Basilica. The Mercedarians not only evangelized the region but helped develop Lima by building many of the churches preserved today.Basilica de la Merced
The Basilica de la Merced is a basilica located in Santiago, Chile. It was founded by the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy and constructed in 1795. It is a Chilean National Monument.
It is Neo-Renaissance in architecture and has a small museum with religious objects and art, including a collection of pieces from Easter Island. The collection includes a rongorongo tablet, one of 29 left in the world.García de Sahagún
García de Sahagún was a 16th century Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
He was the Titular Bishop of Berytus (The Roman Catholic Diocese in Beirut, Lebanon). and the Diocese of Cuenca.He was a member of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.Joan Gilabert Jofré
Joan Gilabert Jofré (1350–1417), also known as Padre Jofré or Pare Jofré, was a member of the Christian religious Order of Mercy and the founder of what is claimed to be the first psychiatric care institution in Europe, he will be influenced by the hospital sidi fredj of Fez in Morocco, in Valencia, Crown of Aragon (today in Spain).Pare Jofré was born in Valencia on 24 June 1350. He studied law in Lleida, before returning to Valencia where he joined the Order of Mercy in 1370 and entered the Monastery of El Puig. He was ordained priest in 1375 and became a preacher. He eventually became Superior of the Order in Valencia. A commitment to the poor led him to establish institutions to care for the mentally ill, abandoned children and indigent pilgrims. After his death he became a subject of religious veneration and he has been proposed for canonisation as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.Martín de Murúa
Martín de Murúa, O. de M., (c. 1525 in Gipuzkoa, Spain – c. 1618 in Spain) was a Basque Mercedarian friar and chronicler of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. He is primarily known for his work Historia general del Piru (written c.1580-1616), which is considered the earliest illustrated history of Peru.Mary de Cervellione
Saint Mary de Cervellione (de Cervello; Mary of Cervellon) (1230 at Barcelona – 19 September 1290) was a Catalan superior of a Third Order of Mercedarians. She is a Catholic saint; her following, which began immediately after her death, was approved by Pope Innocent XII in 1692.
She is invoked especially against shipwreck and is generally represented with a ship in her hand. Her feast is celebrated on 19 September. On account of her charity towards the needy she began to be called Maria de Socos (Mary of Help).Master general
Master general or Master-general can refer to:
the Superior general of certain orders and congregations, such as
the Dominicans (Master of the Order of Preachers)
the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy
the Order of Saint Lazarus
the Society of the Holy Cross
the Trinitarian Order
certain secular titles and offices, such as Master-General of the OrdnanceThe title was also sometimes used interchangeably with the other title of Grand Master, especially when referring to chivalric orders in the Middle Ages. In some chivalric orders, for example the Order of Saint Lazarus, this title was used by the Boigny Knights under the protection of the French monarchy so as to bypass a number of Papal Bulls which were intended to abolish the Order itself. Roman historians Ammianus and Zozimus record that the Master General Vietor led the center column of three columns of infantry to push the Roman march through the country and into battle.
Even today, the Order of Saint Lazarus, albeit fragmented into a number of varying factions and obediences, one of the Lazarite Groupings headquartered in London with Grand Priories and Commanderies in various countries, is led by a Master-general Fra John Baron von Hoff GCLJ GCMLJ who was unanimously appointed to the title by the Knights in Council of the United Grand Priories.Melchor de Talamantes
Melchor de Talamantes (in full, Melchor de Talamantes Salvador y Baeza) (January 10, 1765, Lima, Viceroyalty of Peru – May 9, 1809, Veracruz, Mexico), was a Mercedarian friar and priest, a political liberal, and a leader in Mexico's movement for independence from Spain.
At the age of 14, Talamantes entered the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. He obtained his doctorate of theology from the University of San Marcos. Afterwards he served as a high official in the Archdiocese of Lima, and for two years as an assistant to Viceroy of Peru, Francisco Gil de Taboada. During this time he came to know Hipólito Unanue, a fighter for the independence of America.
In 1796 Talamantes asked for his release from the Order, to become a secular priest. This was because his reading of forbidden books and his libertarian tendencies had led to difficulties with his religious superiors. He also asked to be transferred to Spain, by way of Mexico. The second request was granted on September 20, 1798 and he left from Guayaquil for Mexico, arriving at Acapulco on November 26, 1799.
Talamantes took up residence at the convent of his Order in Mexico City, where he dedicated himself to reading and meditation. On October 15, 1802 he delivered the lecture Panegyric of the glorious virgin and doctor, Saint Teresa of Jesús, which was printed, with permission, in the same year. On November 18 he delivered in the cathedral of the city the Funeral Oracion for the Spanish soldiers killed during the war.
In 1806 Viceroy José de Iturrigaray commissioned him to report on the boundaries between Texas (New Spain) and Louisiana.
Talamantes began attending parties and meetings. He made friends of radical Criollos, played cards, contracted debts, and neglected his religious offices. He was named censor of the Diario de México, and came to have great influence in official circles, particularly in the Ayuntamiento (city government of Mexico City). He was now the intellectual leader of the Criollo party.
In 1808, after the French invasion of Spain, the Criollos and some of the Spanish living in New Spain wanted to proclaim the independence of the colony and establish a governing junta, similar to the anti-French juntas in the mother country. On September 1, 1808, Talamantes delivered two tracts to the Ayuntamiento, in favor of separation from Spain and of the convoking of a Mexican congress. His premises were that all ties to Spain had now been broken; that regional laws had to be made, independently of the mother country; that the Audiencia could not speak on behalf of the king; and that the king having disappeared, sovereignty was now vested in the people.
His proposed congress was to represent all the provinces of New Spain. It was to be invested with the legislative authority of the new government. The courts already established were to exercise the judicial power, and Viceroy Iturrigaray was to be captain general (commander of the military) and, provisionally, chief executive. This was the government of a republic; there was no provision for a king.
Viceroy Iturrigaray was perceived to have some sympathy for this path. On the night of September 15, 1808 a group of rich Spaniards who had no such sympathy arrested the viceroy, Talamantes, and members of the Ayuntamiento. An investigation of the papers of Talamantes revealed him to be a leader in the movement. Many radical political tracts written by him were found in his house. Also many books were found, including some banned ones (for instance the works of Montesquieu and Adam Smith).
The detention of the viceroy and the others was followed by charges and cruelties. Talamantes was brought before a biased court. He was denied a lawyer. His enemies, among whom were members of his religious order, accused him of "disloyalty to the king and adhesion to the doctrines of independence". His trial lasted more than six months. He was convicted and sentenced to death, then ordered transferred to Spain for the execution of the sentence.
Fray Talamantes died of yellow fever in San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz as he was being transferred in chains and under guard to Spain. He was provided no medical assistance, and indeed his chains were not removed until the moment of his burial, in a common grave.
He is honored today in Mexico as one of the protomartyrs of independence.Pedro Armengol
Saint Pedro Armengol (c. 1238 - 27 April 1304), born Pedro Armengol Rocafort, was a Spanish Roman Catholic who was of noble stock and was a thief during his adolescence. He became a professed member of the Mercedarians after he experienced a sudden conversion and devoted himself from liberating persecuted Christians from the Moors.Armengol is best known for being hanged while a captive of the Moors but survived the attempted killing.He received canonization as a saint on 8 April 1687 after Pope Innocent XI approved his sainthood and his long-standing "cultus" - or devotion.Peter Nolasco
Saint Peter Nolasco (1189 – 6 May 1256), Pere Nolasc in Catalan, Pierre Nolasque in French and Pedro Nolasco in Spanish, is a Catholic saint, born at Mas-des-Saintes-Puelles, Languedoc, today's France, although some historians claim he was born in Barcelona (see Encyclopædia Britannica).
It is clear that Nolasco was in Barcelona when he was a teenager, became part of an army fighting the Moors in the Iberian peninsula, and was appointed tutor to the young king, James I of Aragon. In 1218 he formed a congregation of men that became the Royal and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy of the Redemption of the Captives (the Mercedarians) with approval by Pope Gregory IX in 1230.Raymond Nonnatus
Raymund Nonnatus, O. de M. (Catalan: Sant Ramon Nonat, Spanish: San Ramón Nonato, French: Saint Raymond Nonnat, Maltese: San Rajmondo Nonnato), (1204 – 31 August 1240) is a saint from Catalonia in Spain. His nickname (Latin: Nonnatus, "not born") refers to his birth by Caesarean section, his mother having died while giving birth to him.
Raymund is the patron saint of childbirth, midwives, children, pregnant women, and priests defending the confidentiality of confession.Saint Peter Nolasco's Vision of Saint Peter the Apostle
Saint Peter Nolasco's Vision of Saint Peter the Apostle is a 1629 painting by Francisco de Zurbarán, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. It is signed at the bottom FRANCISCUS Đ ZURBARAN/ FACIEBAT. 1629..
It shows Peter the Apostle crucified upside-down appearing to Peter Nolasco, founder of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, which redeemed Christian slaves from Muslim owners during the Reconquista period in Spanish history. When he was prevented from making a hoped-for trip to Rome to visit St Peter's tomb, he received a consolatory vision from St Peter instructing him to convert Spain. It forms a pair with the same artist's The Vision of Saint Peter Nolasco, in which the saint dreams of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Both works were produced the year after Nolasco's canonisation for the Convent of Mercy in Seville, which he had founded and which now houses the city's Museum of Fine Arts The two works formed part of a group of 22 paintings commissioned by the monastery from various artists to mark the canonisation - only eleven now survive. In 1808 the work was bought by Manuel López Cepero, dean of Seville Cathedral, who thirteen years later gave it to Ferdinand VII of Spain.Scapular of Our Lady of Ransom
The Scapular of Our Lady of Mercy is a Roman Catholic devotional scapular that traces its roots to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy also known as Our Lady of Ransom (Latin: Ordo Beatae Mariae de Mercede redemptionis captivorum) which was founded by St. Peter Nolasco in the city of Barcelona, at that time in the Kingdom of Aragon, for the redemption of Christian captives.Serapion of Algiers
Saint Serapion of Algiers (1179 – 14 November 1240) was an English Roman Catholic Mercedarian priest and martyr. Thomas O'Loughlin says Serapion was Scottish by birth. Serapion is acknowledged as a proto-martyr. He was the first of his Order to merit the palm of martyrdom by being crucified and cut to pieces.Severo Aparicio Quispe
Severo Aparicio Quispe, O. de M., (October 8, 1923 – May 6, 2013) was a Peruvian friar of the Mercedarian Order who was made a bishop of the Catholic Church. He wrote a number of works on the history of the Catholic Church and of his Order in Peru.Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria
The Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria also known as Our Lady of Fair Winds is a Marian title associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary as Star of the Sea and patron of sailboats. In addition, it is first associated with a Roman Catholic shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary located in Cagliari, Sardinia (Italy).
The Shrine is part of a complex of buildings which include the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria and the monastery which houses the friars of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. The Basilica and the other structures are under the administration of the Mercedarians, a religious order which has overseen the care of the shrine continuously since October 17, 1335.
Mary under this Marian title, is often portrayed carrying the Child Jesus, along with a golden sailboat and a candle in her right arm is invoked as the Patroness of Sardinia as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina, to which Pope Francis is also a known devotee.Teresa of Jesus, Child
Blessed Teresa of Jesus, Child (1622–1627) was a Spanish girl who has been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.
Teresa became a member of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy at the Convent of Our Lady of Bethlehem in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain when she was five. She received holy communion before her death.The Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria
The Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria is a Roman Catholic shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary located in Cagliari, Italy. The Basilica is part of a complex of buildings which make up the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. The Basilica and the other structures are under the administration of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, a Religious Order which has overseen the care of the shrine continuously since 1335.Tirso de Molina
Tirso de Molina (24 March 1579 – 12 March 1648) was a Spanish Baroque dramatist, poet and Roman Catholic monk. He is primarily known for writing The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest, the play from which the popular character of Don Juan originates. His work is also of particular significance due to the abundance of female protagonists, as well as the exploration of sexual issues.