Photo courtesy of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy and Wikimedia.
In a time of crisis - of civil unrest - there are sometimes a few courageous souls fired with the love of God who go the extra mile to rescue those in dangerous situations.
Such was the fervor of the Mercedarian friars and sisters in 13th century Spain. The year 1265 saw the consecration of Mary of Cevellon to God in the seaport city of Barcelona. Mary had a burning desire to assist in some way the Mercedarians, also known as the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
In the year of Mary’s consecration to God, it had been almost a half a century since the founding of the Order by St. Peter Nolasco. The Order’s unique charism was to ransom those whose faith was in danger of being lost.
Redeeming Captives from Saracens
The Mercedarian friars in those days redeemed Christian captives from the hands of the Saracens, who would capture Christian men and use them as slaves. The atmosphere of battles and abduction throughout the countryside between Christian and Muslim forces could certainly be called civil unrest.
In Barcelona there was talk about the works of charity, the growing needs of the friars in financing these redemptions, and maintaining the Hospital of St. Eulalia, where the ransomed stayed and recovered in this seaside city.
Early on, Mary’s family had ambitious plans for her. They tried several times to marry her to prominent men so as to strengthen family alliances. However, Mary’s heart belonged to Another and she refused every offer.
She had become the bride of Christ the Redeemer and would spend her life in service to her Spouse, who was in the guise of the captive, the wounded, the sick, and the needy. She consecrated herself to God in the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on May 25, 1265, together with other women from Barcelona.
Contemplative Mercedarian Sisters
Mary was one of a succession of women who formed the women’s branch of the Order of Mercy. This saint founded the Second Order of Mercedarians, or the contemplatives, and convinced others to follow her path.
The Mercedarian Sisters were not originally formed as a contemplative family - that is, cloistered nuns, but their life was centered on prayer. They gathered in fellowship to live out the Lord's command: “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.”
Ever since she heard a stirring sermon preached by Fr. Bernardo de Corbera, who pleaded for help for the Christians held captive by Muslims, Mary’s heart was set on fire with charity toward the abandoned. From that point on she resolved to do all in her power for their alleviation.
The Mercedarian friars could be valiant and daring. But women of that day were expected to be submissive and obedient. However, human customs are no match for divine charity. A love of God and others urges us on, out of our selfishness.
Today the Mercedarian Sisters - both active and contemplative - continue to live amid the Church with a face of mercy, charity, goodness, of welcoming hands, and of redemptive enthusiasm.
St. Mary Is Invoked Against Shipwrecks
Mary died in 1290, and her feast is September 19. She was canonized in 1694. Today she is invoked against shipwrecks. Because of her charity she is called Maria de Socos, or Mary of Help. She is the patron of Mercedarian nuns and sisters, navigators, and of the abandoned.
Her incorrupt body rests in a side altar at the Mercedarian Motherchurch, the Basilica of Mercy, known simply as "La Mercè."
Let us pray
O wondrous Virgin and example of contemplation, Saint Mary of Cervellon, your watchful protection has never failed those at sea, and your miraculous assistance has overcome the most horrendous storms. Come to our aid in the dangers and the upheavals of life.
Obtain for us true Christian sensitivity for those who are victims of chains and sufferings, which weight down all in body and spirit. As you followed Saint Peter Nolasco in the spirit of redemption, intercede for our neediest brothers and sisters that they may remain steadfast in their Faith and not despair. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
St. Mary of Cervellon Video Premiere
The Order of Mercy has produced the first video about St. Mary of Cervellon in English. It has many classical paintings of St. Mary and other fascinating visual that are sure to inspire your fervor for the service of God. Click here to be reminded of its YouTube premiere on Aug. 21 at 10 am ET.
Men, are you hearing Our Lord’s call to rescue others from modern forms of captivity, such as social, political, and psychological forms?
Become a Mercedarian friar!
“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11
Contact Fr. Daniel Bowen, O. de M., at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Br. Dominic Whetzel, O. de M. at email@example.com. Learn more by going to the vocations page of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, or call 727-348-4060.