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Ordinary Time: September 24th

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Other Commemorations: Our Lady of Ransom ; Other Titles: Our Lady of Mercy


September 24, 2014 (Readings on USCCB website)


O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law upon love of you and of our neighbor, grant that, by keeping your precepts, we may merit to attain eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.


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This is my prayer to you, my prayer for your favor. In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails: rescue me from sinking in the mud; save me from my foes.

The Blessed Virgin appeared in 1218 in separate visions to St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort and James, king of Aragon, asking them to found a religious order dedicated to freeing Christian captives from the barbarous Saracens or Moors, who at the time held a great part of Spain. On August 10, 1218, King James established the royal, military and religious Order of our Lady of Ransom (first known as the Order of St. Eulalia, now known as the Mercedarian Order), with the members granted the privilege of wearing his own arms on their breast. Most of the members were knights, and while the clerics recited the divine office in the commanderies, they guarded the coasts and delivered prisoners. This pious work spread everywhere and produced heroes of charity who collected alms for the ransom of Christians, and often gave themselves up in exchange for Christian prisoners. This feast, kept only by the Order, was extended to the whole Church by Innocent XII in the 17th century.

Our Lady of Walsingham

In the year 1061 during the reign of Edward the Confessor, Our Lady appeared three times in a vision to a devout young widow, Richeldis de Faverches, Lady of the Manor of Walsingham in North Norfolk, England. Each time Our Lady showed the house in Nazareth where the Holy Family had lived, and requested that Richeldis build a replica to become a place of pilgrimage. Our Lady said: "Do all this unto my special praise and honor. And all who are in any way distressed or in need, let them seek me here in that little house you have made at Walsingham. To all that seek me, there shall be given succor. And there at Walsingham in this little house shall be held in remembrance the great joy of my salutation when Saint Gabriel told me I should through humility become the Mother of God's Son." Richeldis immediately did, constructing a house 23’6″ by 12’10” according to the plan given her. Its fame slowly spread, and in 1150 a group of Augustinian Canons built a priory beside it.

In the Middle Ages, Walsingham became one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in all of Europe. People from all walks of life: peasant, king, rich and poor, from Britain, Ireland and Europe. Even in the early 1500s, Henry VIII visited the Holy House of Walsingham more than once as a pilgrim. But Henry broke away from the Holy See and in 1538, confiscated and burned the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham. The magnificent priory church adjacent to it fell into ruin so that only a portion of the massive east wall is visible today. Of the Holy House itself, archeologists have found remnants of its foundation beneath a thin layer of ash on a rectangular knoll near the ruins of the priory church.

In 1896 a wealthy Anglican woman, Charlotte Boyd, commenced the restoration of the shrine, just as another wealthy woman had initially endowed it in the eleventh century. For pilgrims traveling from London to Walsingham, the last stopping place had been a chapel about a mile away known as the "Slipper Chapel," because they left their shoes there before walking barefoot the last mile to the shrine. The small fourteenth-century building was used as a barn to house animals prior to Charlotte Boyd's desire to restore it. Before her plan materialized, she became a Catholic, and in the 1890s bought the chapel and donated it to Downside Abbey. The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom took care of the restorations, and carved the statue of a standing Virgin and Child was given the place of honor. That statue is now in King's Lynn.

In 1897 Pope Leo XIII re-founded the ancient shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and pilgrimages are permitted to resume. On August 20, 1897, a procession of pilgrims from King's Lynn to the Slipper Chapel marked the renewal of public devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham. In 1922, the parish priest at the church of St. Mary the Virgin in Walsingham, Fr. Hope Patten, caused to have made a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. He had discovered in the British Museum a medieval seal of the old monastery, and at its center was an image of our Lady -- presumably a representation of the image that had been destroyed at the Reformation. The statue of Our Lady was re-enshrined in 1922, beginning an era of cooperation at the shrine between Catholics and Anglicans.

By 1931 the numbers had become too many for the parish church to cope with and a new shrine church was built, with the Holy House at its center and the image above its altar. So the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham was reborn, and in our own time, it continues to draw thousands each year who, like the medieval predecessors come to discover the reality of “God with us,” and the effects of God’s loving and healing Grace and Love.

In August 1934 Cardinal Bourne led the Catholic bishops of England and Wales and ten thousand pilgrims to the Slipper Chapel, and from this date, it became the official Roman Catholic National Shrine. The four-hundredth anniversary of the shrine's destruction was commemorated in 1938 by a Pilgrimage of Catholic Youth, and in 1948 fourteen oak crosses were set up in the garden. There is a tradition for pilgrims to walk the last mile here barefoot. Many thousands of people have visited the Shrine--some come out of a spiritual need for the atmosphere of peace that seems to emanate from the Chapels, some for aesthetic reasons, whilst others merely stumble across us, nestled away in this secluded Norfolk Valley.

In 1981 construction began on the Chapel of Reconciliation, a cooperative effort between the two confessions, and located near the shrine. The feast of Our Lady of Walsingham was reinstated in 2000.

"When the Word was made Flesh, the universality of God came into the particularity of a little house in the village of Nazareth. The Incarnation means that God meets us not in an abstracted existence, but directly, within the particular places and circumstances of our lives. As Our Lady guided Richeldis to make a Nazareth in England, every chapel and shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham is a particular, local Nazareth, an encounter with the joy of the Incarnation in that special place." —Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.

—Excerpted from Mary-Pages and Catholic Saints Info

Patrons: East Anglia, England, diocese of England, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter

Things to Do:

Our Lady of Ransom
Would you risk your life to free someone from a concentration camp? Would you take the place of a prisoner? Would you sacrifice comforts and even necessities to save a slave? Would you pray and do penance for the freedom of Christian captives?

These things were done by the followers of Christ from the earliest days, but especially during the Middle ages. At that time the enemies of Christ's Church had conquered a great part of Christian territory and had carried off into slavery many thousands of Christians. Hit and miss, though heroic, efforts to free these unfortunates had been made here and there.

The Church decided to organize the work of ransoming slaves. In 1198 St. John of Matha and St. Felix of Valois founded the Trinitarians. From then until 1787 they redeemed 900,000 captives. The Order of Our Lady of Ransom, called the Mercedarians, and founded by St. Peter Nolasco, ransomed 490,736 slaves between the years 1218 and 1632. St. Vincent de Paul, a slave himself, led his priests to save 1200 Christian captives in the short period between 1642 and 1660 at the staggering cost of 1,200,000 pounds of silver. An even greater achievement was the conversion of thousands in captivity, and steeling them against the sufferings of a cruel martyrdom for the faith.

All this has been admitted by a modern, competent Protestant historian, Bonet-Maury. He records that no expedition sent into the Barbary States by the powers of Europe or America equalled "the moral effect produced by the ministry of consolation, peace and abnegation, going even to the sacrifice of liberty and life, which was exercised by the humble sons of St. John of Matha, St. Peter Nolasco, and St. Vincent de Paul."

Our Blessed Mother herself appeared in a vision to St. Peter Nolasco, and requested him to found a religious order devoted to the rescue of captives. This was in 1218. Previous to that, since 1192, certain noblemen of Barcelona, Spain, had organized to care for the sick in hospitals and to rescue Christians from the Moors. St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Pennafort, and King James formed the new Order of Our Lady of Mercy. The group included religious priests who prayed and gathered the means, while the lay monks or knights went into the very camps of the Moors to buy back Christians, and, if necessary, take their very places. We have mentioned the magnitude of their success, a success that was won through the heavenly assistance of the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Ransom.

—Excerpted from the Feasts of Our Lady by Fr. Arthur Tonne

Patrons: Barcelona, Spain; people named Clemency, Mercedes, Mercedez, Merced or Mercy.

Things to Do:

  • Learn more about the spirituality, saints and history of the Order of Mercedarians who take a vow to risk their lives to save Christians who find themselves in extreme danger of losing their faith in the new types of captivity.

  • We cannot take the places of those enslaved in their own land. We cannot buy freedom for those doing slave labor in the world. But we can and must beseech Our Lady of Ransom to show her powerful concern toward these suffering millions. We can beg her to help them find their way home. We can pray for her powerful intercession that slavery of all kinds may disappear from the earth. There is also a slavery of sin, from which she is eager to deliver us and our loved ones and all the world. Put yourself in the position of these displaced unfortunates. Imagine yourself exiled to a strange land, with strange customs, a strange language, and a merciless master. Picture yourself without a home, without friends, and often without your family. Above all let your heavenly representative and advocate, Our Lady of Ransom, know that you are interested, you are concerned, you are begging her help for these unfortunates. Best of all, attend Mass and receive Holy Communion and pray with the Church on this ever-timely feast.