HAD SIGNED UP for a “saint peg doll” swap (1) (an impetuous decision on my part) and was in search of who to paint. The swap was Marian themed, thus I perused the web in pursuit of the perfect Marian apparition to contribute to the group. The others in the group had already signed up to paint most of the common apparitions (Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima, etc.), so I had to dig deep. It was then that I came across a Lady whom I had never heard of before: Our Lady of Ransom.
She instantly drew me in, although it took me a while to realize just how much. So, I painted the peg doll and went on with life.
Mariae Virginis de Mercede Redemptionis Captivorum
The history of this title for our Lady is fascinating! Between the 8th and 15th centuries, fighting between the Moors and Christians plagued the Iberian Peninsula and many Christians lived with the constant fear of being captured, tortured, made to renounce their Faith and/or sold as slaves. Now, in the early 13th century, a young man named Peter Nolasco was living in Spain, joined in the war against the Albigensians, helped defeat them, and eventually became tutor to King James I of Aragon. During this time, Peter became concerned with rescuing the Christian captives from the Moors and was determined to ransom them. It is said he sold his possessions to offer money to the captors, offered to sell himself as a slave to free others, and offered to be held captive in their place.
Soon after, Peter had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who told him it would be a great consolation to her and her Son if he would found a religious order that focused on rescuing Christian captives. The next day, Peter went to his confessor, Raymond Pennafort, and told him of this vision. To his surprise, Raymond had also received the vision. Both immediately went to speak with King James I, who admitted that he too had been visited by the Queen of heaven and earth. What followed was the foundation of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Ransom of Captives.
Members of the Order wore white habits which symbolized innocence, along with a long scapular which included King James’ coat of arms. Members took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in addition to a unique fourth vow “to devote their whole substance and very liberty to the ransoming of slaves, even to the point of acting as hostages in order to free others.” (2). The Order, also known as the Mercedarians, still continues its work in 17 countries and primarily focuses on ransoming those who suffer from ‘modern’ captivities, such as sin, poverty, and illness.
A few months later, while reading an article about our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world and feeling quite useless to help them, she burst into my mind. I felt a tug at my heart, but like a child who hears her mother’s words yet pays no heed to them, I quickly became wrapped up with domestic duties and continued on my way.
Again, in 2018, when the Vatican-China Agreement was signed, she entered my mind. Once more, when reading an article about retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen’s comments in regards to this agreement, his lamentations for the faithful Catholics now subject to it, and the increase in hostility towards our Chinese brothers and sisters, she came.
Just three weeks ago, I came across a news report that suggests the Chinese government may have cremated people who were still alive since ‘nothing else could be done for them.’ My heart sank and I felt our gentle Mother tugging at me, yet again.
Our Lady of Ransom has appeared on my heart a multitude of times throughout these past four years and each time I was determined to call upon her aid, pray more fervently, and make her a permanent intercessor for my family and those suffering persecution. But, dear reader, I failed at this resolution over and over. How weak and fickle I am, yet our Lord and Lady remain constant.
Our Very Own Plague
The current state of our world is surreal and can leave us feeling despondent. All those times I read about our persecuted brethren who have lost their lives, gone without the Sacraments for years, and who retreat to the catacombs for spiritual food, I, of course, felt sympathy and sorrow for their situations, offered a prayer or rosary at the time, but never fully understood their pain because I had never experienced it.
And now, as I am living through this pandemic and the Sacraments have been ‘taken away’ from me (albeit temporarily), I understand. I understand their yearning for our Lord. I understand their staunch belief in the Eucharist to the point of risking their life for Him.
I understand how desperate or alone one may feel without access to his/her Christian community.
My current hardships are a drop in the ocean compared to theirs, but I can unite my sufferings with theirs, and in turn, our Lord’s on the cross. I can learn from their zealous fidelity to Mother Church in the midst of trials and turmoil. Most importantly, I can call upon Our Lady of Ransom to intercede on our behalf and rescue us from our physical and spiritual bondage.
Dear reader, I have a firm resolve to develop a deeper devotion to Our Lady of Ransom, who gave her only Son as a ransom for us, and ask you to consider joining me as we navigate through this, our very own plague.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
(1) A “saint peg doll” swap is a group of people, primarily mothers, who first paint wooden peg dolls and then exchange them in a “mail swap”. In my case, I chose Our Lady of Ransom and then painted a dozen of them. Once that epic task was complete, I carefully packed them and shipped all of them to our swap coordinator. The coordinator received all the different peg dolls from everyone and sorted them out. A few weeks later, I received my collection: one peg doll from each group member.
(2) From Wikipedia on Peter Nolasco.