One priest years ago was known for his spunky style in helping new babies come into the world.
Some forty years ago, Fr. Demetrius Marciano, a priest of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, was known for walking up to women on the street or in grocery stores, telling them that they “needed to have more babies.” Then the intrepid friar would bless the women with a relic of St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron of infertile couples.
Sometimes the astonished woman would run in the opposite direction. But others would appreciate the offer of grace, and it has been reported that some actually had more babies after the encounter.
The adventurous priest, who died in 1990, was of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, an ancient order whose charism of releasing people from captivity includes those held captive by the burden of infertility.
“St. Raymond is the most popular Saint of our Order,” explains Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M., vocations director of the Order, which is based in this country in Philadelphia. “St. Raymond's mother died while in labor with him, and he survived only when his uncle made an incision in his mother's body and pulled him out. Because of his extraordinary birth, he is considered the special patron of childbirth, midwives, and pregnant women.”
Those not able to conceive and carry a child to term suffer anguish and disappoinment, as they have over the years. Today, many couples make use of fertility awareness, surgery or adoption. Or, unfortunately, they turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF), which the Church condemns because it replaces, rather than aids, the marital act.
And then there is prayer.
The name of St. Raymond Nonnatus, a 13th century Spanish Mercedarian friar, originates from the Latin “nonnatus,”
Since St. Raymond’s death in 1240, he has been invoked as the patron of expectant mothers. For over seven hundred years women have turned to him for help in conceiving and childbirth. So many miracles have occurred that it would be difficult to count. Here in the United States, the friars of the Order of Mercy have promoted devotion to St. Raymond since they came to the country in the 1920’s.
Since the 1950’s the popularity of the St. Raymond’s Guild has grown in America. The Order has shipped thousands of St. Raymond Nonnatus Kits throughout the United States. These kits consist of the Magnificat book (prayer book for expectant mothers and Christian families), St. Raymond holy card, blessed candle, and blessed St. Raymond water. The blessed candle, water, and prayer book are to be used by those desiring to have a child as well as expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy.
Biblical roots and answers
Scripture tells us the stories of women who struggled with infertility — a curse in the ancient world. Yet God's plan uses many of these women as part of salvation history, opening their wombs to children. The patriarchs Abraham and Sarah conceive in their old age, and their lineage continued with their son Isaac. Hannah's prayers for a son are heard by the temple priest Eli, who sends her away in peace. She conceives and gives birth to Samuel, the prophet who will anoint King David.
Zechariah's wife Elizabeth become pregnant despite her infertility and age, becoming the mother of John the Baptist. And we must not forget the miraculous birth of our Savior!
Amidst the pain and hopelessness felt by infertile women, we must remember the love and compassion of God, as well as the hope he provided for women of the Bible. Through the intercession of the saints, we can make a special appeal to God to bring more children into the world, who can then glorify him forever.
St. Raymond Kits are available for an offering, at MercySacramentals.org. For information on Mercedarian sacramentals, call 585-768-7426.