The Marian title, Our Lady of Mercy, has long been linked to our Mercedarian Order since our founding in early 13th century Spain.
Founded in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy was simply called the Order of Mercy. Soon though, St. Peter Nolasco added the name of Mary to the title. Early writings from Pope Alexander IV in 1258 confirm "Mary of Mercy" as the Order's patron.
In fact, the request for the founding of the Order came from Mary in a vision to St. Peter Nolasco. It is no wonder that the Mercedarian Order was dedicated to our Heavenly Queen!
Paintings of Mary under the title "Our Lady of Mercy" began to appear in the 13th century and onward. Similar in their depiction of Mary, the paintings show her with outstretched arms, and often angels hold up her mantle. Safely under the protection of her mantle are families, clergymen, or religious orders.
In the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul II writes further on Mary's unique role:
"Mary is Mother of Mercy because her Son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as the revelation of God's mercy (John 3:16-18). Christ came not to condemn, but to forgive, to show mercy (Matthew 9:13). And the greatest mercy of all is found in his being in our midst and calling us to meet him and to confess, with Peter, that he is 'the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16).
"Not having known sin, she is able to have compassion on every kind of weakness. She understands sinful man and loves him with a Mother's love. Precisely for this reason she is on the side of truth and shares the Church's burden in recalling always and to everyone the demands of morality. Nor does she permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her Son would thus be emptied of its power."
Mary has become our mother and advocate, the mother who intercedes for us to obtain Christ's Mercy. St. Louis de Montfort writes of her powerful intercession, "No heavenly gift is given to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. Such indeed is the will of God, who has decreed that we should have all things through Mary." Let us honor Mary as mother of Christ - who is Mercy incarnate - and turn to her for her maternal protection and intercession.
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Sr. Jeanette Marie, HMSS