In the "Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary" for Wednesday, the first Antiphon prays: 'Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, thou alone hast destroyed all heresies in all the world.'
And the Opening Prayer (Collect) for this Feast Day of Our Lady of Ransom prays:
O God, through the glorious Mother of Your Son You enriched the Church with a new religious congregation dedicated to freeing Christians from slavery among the heathens. We venerate Mary as the foundress of this institution and pray that she may also deliver us from our sins and the slavery of the devil through her own merits and intercession. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .
The questions comes to mind: Would I risk my life to free someone from a concentration camp? Would I take the place of a prisoner? Would I sacrifice my comforts to save a slave? Would I do penance and pray for the freedom of Christian captives?
These Works of Mercy have been done by the followers of Christ since the beginning of Christianity. Christians have always been persecuted, arrested, taken as slaves and/or imprisoned. But in the Middle Ages things got really bad. The enemies of our Faith had conquered a great part of Christian territory and had carried off into slavery thousands of Christians.
But God raised up some great Saints, who ransomed hundreds of thousands of these captives; St. John of Matha and St. Felix of Valois founded the Trinitarians who redeemed over 900,000 captives. The Order of Our Lady of Ransom, called the Mercedarians, founded by St. Peter Nolasco and St. Raymond of Pennafort, with the assistance of King James of Arragon, 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 between 1642 and 1660 at the cost of 1,200,000 pounds of silver. Plus, even greater was their work in converting and baptizing thousands in captivity, and giving them strength to endure their cruel sufferings for the Faith!
Even in our own Century, how many Christians, Catholics for the most part, have suffered and died in Nazi and Red Communist concentration camps. Millions! Who could count all the displaced persons, driven from their homes and lands, roaming about without food, shelter, clothing. God knows who is responsible for this mass slavery of the 20th Century!
I think that is why this Feast of Our Lady of ransom is so important. Our Blessed Mother herself appeared to St. Peter Nolasco. She requested that he start a religious order to rescue captives. That was in 1218 A.D. This was what gave these monks and Knights to go to the very camps of the Moors to buy back Christians and even to offer themselves to take their place as slaves. That reminds me of St.Maximilian Kolbe , who gave his live in exchange for a family man in a Nazi concentration camp! And it was Our Lady who gave them the graces and strengths to offer themselves!
So back to my original question, What can I do? I know I cannot offer myself in ransom for another soul right now because of my obligations to take care of my wife, who is ill with Renal failure, but I and we can pray for the conversion of those who hate us and want us annihilated ; we can pray for those who are enslaved or in prison for their Christian beliefs; we can pray for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Era of Peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima, especially through the Rosary.
Blessed be thou, O Mary, the honor and the joy of thy people! On
the day of thy glorious Assumption, thou didst take possession of thy queenly dignity for our sake; and the annals of the human race are a record of thy merciful interventions. The captives whose chains thou hast broken, and whom thou hast set free from the degrading yoke of the Saracens, may be reckoned by millions. We are still rejoicing in the recollection of thy dear birthday; and thy smile is sufficient to dry our tears and chase away the clouds of grief. And yet, what sorrows there are still upon the earth, where thou thyself didst drink such long draughts from the cup of suffering! Sorrows are sanctifying and beneficial to some but there are other and unprofitable grief, springing from social injustice: the drudgery of the factory, or the tyranny of the strong over the weak, may be worse than slavery in Algiers or Tunis. Thou alone, O Mary, canst break the inextricable chains, in which the cunning prince of darkness entangles the dupes he has deceived by the high- sounding names of equality and liberty. Show thyself a Queen, by coming to the rescue. The whole earth, the entire human race, cries out to thee, in the words of Mordechai: 'Speak to the King for us, and deliver us from death!'Amen.
Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us!