Tag Archives: Mercedarians

My Life for Your Freedom—The Mercedarians Practice What They Preach: One of Them is St. Serapion of Algiers

St. Serapion of Algiers—en.wikimedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Several years ago a newly ordained Mercedarian priest was assigned to our parish. Father Scott Brentwood was 31 years old and showed up wearing the traditional habit of his order. The habit was all white and, as Father walked toward his new parish, watching him approach was like taking a peek into the middle ages. It was an awesome sight to behold!

Father Scott has since moved on, and we had another newly ordained Mercedarian replace him, Father Daniel Bowen. Before continuing, I will just say this; as a cradle Catholic who grew up in the 50s and 60s if these two priests are representative of the future of our Church, that future is as brilliant as an ascending morning sun.

The Mercedarians were founded by St. Peter Nolasco in the year 1218. Moved by direct inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, his purpose in founding the new order was to free or redeem Christian captives from Muslim captors. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, Mercedarians take a fourth vow; they promise to  give themselves up for someone in danger of losing their faith, up to and including sacrificing their own lives. One of these courageous priests was St. Serapion of Algiers.

Serapion was born in 1179 in either England or Ireland. When he was a boy, his father took him along on the Crusades led by King Richard the Lion-Heart. When he was 12 years old, he participated in the Battle of Acre in 1191.   Then he met Peter Nolasco, who preached the mercy of God and did so by freeing Christian slaves from their Moorish captors. Serapion realized that his life was meant to save lives, not to take them.

In 1222, Serapion became a full member of the Mercedarian order. He made several missions of mercy in northern Africa before being sent to England to recruit new members. During the journey, his ship was attacked by pirates, and he was left for dead. However, he survived and eventually made it to England. He began preaching against the theft of church property and was ordered to leave the country.

In 1240, Serapion had gone to Algiers to secure the release of 87 Christian captives. The ransom he had brought with him suddenly was not enough. The captors demanded more than Serapion had. When some of the prisoners heard this, they began to consider rejecting their Christian faith to save themselves. Serapion would not allow this to happen. He offered himself to the Moors in exchange for the prisoner’s freedom. This was agreed upon, and Serapion watched as the prisoners were freed. He then knew it was time for him to begin preaching the love of God to his new captors.

Serapion had turned his very life over to his captors. Undaunted by his natural fear he preached the love of God and the gospel message to the Muslims. Many began to respond to his message. However, as his brother Mercedarians hurried throughout Europe in the hope of gathering the extra ransom demanded, Serapion, was making some hard-hearted enemies. The Muslim leaders who realized this Catholic/Christian man was starting to convert his listeners, turned against him.

Since the ransom had yet to arrive Serapion was ordered put to death. The man who simply wanted to preach the message of the God of Love was crucified on an X shaped cross. While still alive he was dismembered. The pain he endured must have been beyond description. Serapion died the proto-martyr of Algiers. Like his brother Mercedarians, St. Raymond Nonnatus and St. Peter Armengol, Serapion gave all he had, including his life, for the love of God.

Serapion was beatified in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII and canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1728.  We ask St. Serapion of Algiers and all his brother Mercedarian saints, to pray for us all.

Today, the Mercedarians aka Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, are a worldwide organization and they still are rescuing people from attacks on their faith. They are located in 17 countries, and their student house is in Philadelphia. They can be found working in deprived neighborhoods, in hospitals among drug addicts and with families through parish work. The Mercedarians are a shining example to all Catholic/Christians the world over.

This link  Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy aka Mercedarians will direct you to the Mercedarian website. Please take a look.

St. Serapion of Algiers, please pray for us ALL.

St. Mary of Cervellon: with Hurricane Irma fast approaching we should ask St. Mary of Cervellon for her Help and Protection

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

 

By Larry Peterson

 

She was born sometime in 1230, some think around December 1, and was baptized on December 8* in Santa Maria del Mar parish in Barcelona. Her name was Mary de Cervellon, and she was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, William de Cervellon.

 

As a young woman, Mary, began working in Saint Eulalia Hospital tending to the sick, the poor and also those who were prisoners. One day she heard a sermon given by Bernard de Corbarie, who was the superior of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Ransom, also known as Mercedarians. 

 

She was so moved by what she heard she vowed right then and there to do all she could to help alleviate the suffering and misery experienced by those who were prisoners of the Muslim Turks. Working at the hospital, Mary was able to come in contact with the great leaders of the Mercedarian order, including the order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco. Inspired by these pious people Mary, in the year, 1265,  joined a small group of women who lived near the monastery. These ladies spent their lives in constant prayer and doing good works for those in need.

 

In due time the women asked for and received permission to form the Third Order of Our Lady of Ransom. In addition to the normal three vows of poverty,  chastity, and obedience they also vowed to pray for all Christian slaves. They were all given permission to wear the white habit of the Mercedarians and Sister Mary de Cervellon was elected their first Mother Superior.

 

Sister Mary had such an empathy and devotion to the poor and needy that soon she began to be called Maria de Socros  (Mary of Help).  Mary de Cervellon passed away on Septemeber 19, 1290. During Mary’s life and after her death, there were people who swore that they saw Mary literally on the “wings of the wind”,  reaching down and saving floundering ships from rough seas so they might stay their course and continue on their journey to free Christian prisoners from the Muslims.

 

A great devotion grew in her honor and it was given approval by Pope Innocent XII in 1692. Paintings of Mary show her with a ship cradled in her arms as she saves it from the roaring seas around it.  Mary de Cervellon’s body lies incorrupt to this very day in the Mercedarian Basilica in Barcelona, Spain.

 

At this very moment in time, a massive hurricane named, Irma, is talking dead aim at our homes in Florida and the Caribbean. The seas beneath Irma have turned into monstrous, walls of pounding destruction. Since St. Mary de Cervellon,  is the patroness of sailors and invoked especially against shipwreck, she is generally represented with a ship in her hand. We might invoke her name and ask her to help quell the pounding seas or maybe help divert Hurricane Irma in a diiferent direction. We could really use her help.

 

St. Mary de Cervellon, please pray for us all.

 

*the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not proclaimed until  Pope Pius IX did so in 1854.