Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Lady of Ransom

Today's feast day on the Church calendar commemorates Mary under the title "Our Lady of Ransom." It's notable because this is one of four feast days of Our Lady which has some direct tie to Islam and the Islamic incursion into traditionally Christian areas of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Today's Marian feast dates back to 1218 when much of Spain remained under Islamic control. It commemorates Mary's appearance to three men in which she asked them to found a new religious order dedicated to freeing Christian captives of the Muslim caliphate. The order, called the Mercedarians, was founded at her request and many Christian prisoners were freed in Islamic Spain and North Africa, either by ransom raised by the order or even by prisoner exchange, where members of the order would voluntarily give themselves up in exchange for other Christian prisoners. Our Lady reminds us to exercise mercy, even to heroic lengths. As you start your weekend, pause for a moment to think about how you can extend Christ's mercy to others in the coming days.

The habit of the Mercedarians is pretty swank. It includes
the coat-of-arms of King James I of Aragon (d. 1276),
one of the founders of the order.