OUR LADY OF MERCY
Patroness of the Mercedarian Order
On the night of the first to the second of August in the year 1218, the Blessed Mother appeared to Peter Nolasco. She asked him to found an Order to redeem Christian captives from the Moors. The Moors dominated Spain for seven centuries, taking Christians captive to the African coast, unless they renounced their religion.
The Order of Mercy (also known as Mercedarian) was officially founded on August 10, 1218 and continues serving the Church responding to on-going, modern-day enslavements in our world today.
In the Catholic Church the Blessed Mother is invoked under a host of titles. On September 24 it is as Our Lady of Mercy. Her significance in the founding of the Mercedarian Order is honored by all Mercedarians worldwide on this- day—The Solemnity of Our Lady of Mercy. This day was extended to the entire church in 1696.
Truly, Marian Spirituality is one of the glories of our faith. That is because the Mother of Jesus is a wonderful role model. She gives life to our spirituality because devotion to her embodies a set of beliefs and practices intended to make us more closely connected to Jesus Christ. Mary shows us how to be a Christian simply because she was the first Christian, who was always present from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion. No one had a deeper more intimate relationship with Our Lord than His mother. In her words and in her actions, we see a whole life centered in Christ. If we cultivate this imitation of Mary we become more like her and grow in our discipleship of Christ. What does she teach us in the miracle at Cana when water was turned into wine? She says “Do whatever He tells you.”
Our Blessed Mother for Mother Margarita
Mother Margarita had this wonderful devotion to Mary in her search to become more Christocentric. Her three glances were to Christ, Our Blessed Mother and the Church. Though her whole philosophy was bound up with her love for Christ, the Redeemer, she relied fully on the guidance of Mary. As Mother Margarita herself said, Mary always took her to God swiftly and gently. She depended on Our Blessed Mother in her simple daily tasks. As she said in a letter to her sister Leonor; “I am convinced that I have to live in her (Mary) in order to be all for God.”
Mother Margarita could soar; there were no obstacles, distances or frontiers. All the problems of the world were left in the arms of Jesus through Mary. She felt that with Mary’s protection, “one has courage for even the most difficult things.” She believed with absolute certainty that Mary would guide her interior life because, she saw in Mary, a simple and total dependence on God. Mother Margarita saw that Mary’s life was one of adoration, always looking for the glory of God in a total self-forgetfulness, as if she did not exist.
With this ideal for her own life, Mother Margarita made it a habit to visit Mary daily. In her heart, she appointed Mary as her Directress, writing that she informed Our Blessed Mother of everything, “so she can tell me what to do and help me to do what I cannot do.” She saw nothing extraordinary in her visits to Mary, but consulted her in both small and large decisions alike, feeling profound gratitude for the knowledge of Jesus she found through Mary. She said: “I know I owe this way of feeling about Jesus to Mary. She has been the door to Jesus to me….”
We see how the transformation from a cloistered to a missionary order reflected her spiritual journey. After Rome granted this transformation, she wrote about a new spirit of renewal through Mary.
“…The emotion that I feel does not have words. It seemed to me that in those moments a new era started, not only for this community but for the entire Order. Who knows! All the hunches I have had for several years are now becoming realities. Now I have a desire and a very confident hope that Our Blessed Mother will renew in the order today the heroic zeal for souls which she instilled in the hearts of our ancestors and through the sanctity of so many great souls she will choose us to work and suffer very much for Our Mother, the Church. May God grant it!”
On April 17, 1927, Mother Margarita was elected Superior of the Convent. It was then that she passed on the great zeal for Mary’s intercession to the community of sisters. She told them that from now on, Mary would be in charge of the Order and would look over the Community with tender, maternal care. Since May was approaching she instructed the Sisters to begin this new era by honoring Mary. She told them: “In the name of Our Blessed Mother, I invite you to prepare to celebrate this month with a thorough Mercedarian spirit—a spirit proper of us as daughters of the Blessed Virgin.”
In September of the same year, as they began the novena to honor Our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Mercy, she asked the Sisters to look at their beloved Order; to reflect on the ancient fathers of the Mercedarian Order, who dedicated their lives to mercy; a mercy for the salvation of souls. And as Our Lady of Mercy guided the ancient fathers, she asked her sisters to seek the same guidance. As she told them: “We are a community within the Mercedarian family, a community that has received countless mercies from our Blessed Mother. She wants us to follow the footsteps of our predecessors and vehemently desire the redemption of souls.”
Mother Margarita’s dedication to Mary was more than a pious devotion. It was an imitation of virtue that increased her life of sanctity in Christ. As she told the sisters of her order one May: “It is better for us to imitate her beautiful virtues than to offer her other different practices of devotion. Let us look at her very often during this month as though she were right next to us. Let us try to see how She would do the work we have to do and when we have finished, let us look at her again and find her immersed in God, filled with Him and not allowing human pressures to take away her peace. Let us ask her to really be our Mother and to teach us as mothers teach their little children. To teach us to live as she did and in such a way that each one of us becomes another Mary who steals God’s heart and obliges Him to pour out His graces over the world.”
Through the years God has certainly blessed the Mercedarians, who under the guidance of Our Lady of Mercy have missions all over the world. As Mother Margarita gratefully said: “We are daughters of the Blessed Virgin and we take pride in wearing the distinctive Mercedarian signs as a perpetual reminder of Her.” September 24th is the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. We should all honor her by thanking God for the lives of the Mercedarian Sisters, who have served our islands with great love and mercy over these many years.
[All quotes are taken from Mother Margarita’s diary and writings.]