The story of Our Lady of Ransom begins with St. Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. At the age of 25 he took a vow of chastity and made over his vast estates to the Church. After making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Montserrat, he went to Barcelona where he began to practice various works of charity.
He conceived the idea of establishing an Order for the redemption of captives seized by the Moors on the seas and in Spain itself; they were being cruelly tormented in their African prisons to make them deny their faith.
He spoke of it to the king of Aragon, James I, who knew him well and already respected him as a saint; for the king had already asked for his prayers when he sent out his armies to combat the Moors, and he attributed his victories to those prayers.
In effect all the Christians of Europe, and above all of Spain, were praying intensely to obtain from God the remedy for the great evil that had befallen them. The divine Will was soon manifested. On one night — August 1, 1218 — the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Peter, to his confessor, Raymund of Penafort, and to the king, and through these three servants of God established a work of the most perfect charity, the redemption of captives.
On that night, while the Church was celebrating the feast of St. Peter in Chains, the Virgin Mary appeared first to St. Peter, saying that she indeed desired the establishment of a religious Order, later known as the Mercedarians, bearing the name of her mercy. Its members would undertake to deliver Christian captives and offer themselves, if necessary, as a ransom pledge.
The Order, thus solemnly established in Spain, was approved by Pope Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy. By the grace of God and under the protection of His Virgin Mother, the Order spread rapidly. Its growth was increased as the charity and piety of its members was observed; they very often followed Our Lady’s directive to give themselves up to voluntary slavery when necessary, to aid the good work. It was to return thanks to God and the Blessed Virgin that a feast day was instituted and observed on September 24, first in the Order, then everywhere in Spain and France. It was finally extended to the entire Church by Pope Innocent XII. Pope Leo XIII encouraged the devotion by making this feast proper to all the dioceses of England, with a focus on how Our Lady ransoms us from the slavery of our sins, and brings us the grace of conversion.
Prayer to Our Lady of Ransom
O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son
was pleased to give new children to Thy Church
for the deliverance of Christ’s faithful
from the power of the heathen; grant, we beseech Thee,
that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work may,
by her merits and intercession,
be ourselves delivered from all sin
and from the bondage of the evil one.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
A Jew was traveling on foot to Rome, and being suddenly overtaken at nightfall by a great storm took refuge in the ruins of a pagan temple. Wearied by his day’s journey, he soon fell fast asleep.
At dead of night he was suddenly awakened by horrible noises and a suffocating odor. His horrified glance fell on a number of devils, whose hideous forms filled him with terror. Remembering that the Christians whom he knew used the holy Sign in all dangers, he too, as best he could, made the Sign of the Cross, which at once drove the devils in headlong flight from the temple. On reaching Rome he recounted this fact, and the Holy Father ordered a rigorous examination of his statements to be made. These were shown to be perfectly true.
~Source:”How To Be Happy,How To Be Holy”
St. Padre Pio was an Italian priest who was known for his piety and charity, as well as the gift of the stigmata, which has never been explained.
St. Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione, on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy. His parents were peasant farmers. He had an older brother and three younger sisters, as well as two other siblings who died in infancy. As a child, he was very religious and by the age of five he reportedly made the decision to dedicate his life to God.
Fortunately, his parents were also very religious and they supported his Catholic development. His family attended daily Mass. Francisco served as an altar boy at his local parish. Francisco was known for taking on penances and his mother once scolded him for sleeping on a stone floor.
Francisco’s community was also supportive. Saint’s days were popular celebrations and commonly celebrated in his town.
From his tender age, Francisco had a peculiar ability. He could see guardian angels, spoke with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. This was not something taught to him, but occurred so naturally that he assumed other people could see them too.
Although Francisco and his family was very religious, they were also very poor, which required that he work. He spent many years as a child tending to a small flock of sheep owned by his family. Unfortunately, the work meant he was unable to attend school regularly, so he quickly fell behind other kids his age.
Francisco was sickly as a child. He suffered an attack of gastroenteritis at age six and when he was ten, he had typhoid fever.
In 1897, after three years of schooling, Francisco expressed to his parents that he wanted to become a friar. His parents traveled to a nearby community of monks and asked if Francesco could join them. He was evaluated, despite his young age, and was told that he needed more education before he could join.
To prepare Francesco, his parents decided to hire a private tutor. To pay the cost of the tutor, Francesco’s father traveled to America to find work, and sent the money home.
At the age of 15, Francisco was finally ready and he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone. He took the name of “Pio” in honor of Pope Pius I, whose relic he often saw at his local chapel.
At the age of 17, Brother Pio became extremely ill and could only digest milk and cheese. He was sent to the mountain for better air, and when this did not work, he was sent home to his family. Amid all this, he continued to study for the priesthood.
On one occasion during prayer, a fellow monk astonishingly reported he saw Pio levitate during an episode of ecstasy.
Brother Pio became a priest in 1910, but was permitted to remain at home because of his poor health.
In 1915, with World War I afflicting the world, Padre Pio was summoned for military service. He was compelled to leave a tiny community of monks, with whom he was then housed, and drafted into medical service. However, he was so sickly that he was often sent home, only to then be recalled for service. In March 1916, he was finally dismissed because of his poor health.
On September 20, Padre Pio was hearing confessions when he felt pain in his hands and feet. He noticed the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, appearing on his hands and feet. The experience was painful. Bleeding occurred. The wounds smelled of roses, and although they continued to weep, they never became infected. Doctors who later examined the stigmata were amazed at their perfectly round shape.
By 1919, word began to spread about Padre Pio’s stigmata and people came from far away to examine him.
Padre Pio became popular with the people he encountered and soon began to attribute supernatural occurrences to him. For example, he was said to levitate, and able to perform miracles.
His popularity became a source of concern for the Church and the Vatican began to restrict his activities to minimize public interaction. Padre Pio himself was uncomfortable with his newfound popularity and the attention he received because of his stigmata. A Church investigation into his stigmata concluded that his condition was not faked.
By 1934, the Vatican began to change its attitude towards Padre Pio and he was again allowed to perform public duties. He could preach, despite never being officially licensed by the Church to do so. Pope Pius XI encouraged people to visit him.
In 1947, Fr. Karol Wojtyla visited Padre Pio who prophetically told him he would rise to the highest post in the Church.” Fr. Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978.
Padre Pio used his newfound popularity to open a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. The facility opened in 1956.
Pope Paul VI reviewed the controversies surrounding Padre Pio and dismissed any concerns over his conduct and the authenticity of his stigmata.
Padre Pio became internationally famous. He was known for his piety, charity and the quality of his preaching. He famously advised, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
He had other illnesses, as well, including cancer which was miraculously healed after just two treatments. Other problems, such as arthritis, which plagued him in his later years, never went away.
Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968. His funeral was attended by over 100,000 people.
Pope John Paul II recognized Padre Pio as a saint on June 16, 2002. His feast day is September 23. He is the patron of civil defense volunteers, adolescents, and the village of Pietrelcina.
On April 15, 1980, the sacristan, Bernardo Martinez (age 50), witnessed the statue of Mary in the chapel light up on its own. Recently, the sacristy lights had mysteriously illuminated on two other occasions. Thinking that Mary might be mad at him for arguing with others, he set out to seek forgiveness from those people. But they laughed at his story and ridiculed him. He begged Mary to not request anything more of him because it was causing him troubles. He even avoided going near the statue.
Visionary Bernardo Martinez of Cuapa, Nicaragua
Bernardo was close to his breaking point both physically and emotionally due to illness, being out of work, and not being able to care for his family well. To cheer himself up, he went to the river to fish. When it began to rain around 1:00 p.m., he decided to sit under a tree and wait. He dozed for a short time but woke with a start and an unexplained fear. He decided to pray the Rosary. By 3:00 p.m., he decided to gather his fish and head home. Returning from this fishing trip on May 8, 1980, Bernardo saw two lightning flashes. On the second flash the Virgin Mary appeared to him. He felt immobilized and could not run or yell. But he was surprised that he felt no fear. He thought that he might just be envisioning the same statue in his mind – and perhaps was dreaming, but when he passed his hand over his eyes and looked again, he saw that she had human skin and eyes that moved and blinked. “She is alive!” he thought to himself – because his tongue would not move to speak. He felt numb – his lower jaw and tongue were stiff as if asleep. His whole body was immobilized – only his thoughts in his mind could be active.
She was so beautiful – wearing a long white dress with bare feet resting upon an extremely white cloud. She had a celestial cord around her waist, long sleeves, and a veil of a pale cream color with gold embroidery covering her. She extended her arms and rays of light, “stronger than the sun,” emanated from her hands. The rays touched his chest – and he was able to speak again, so he asked her name.
“She answered me with the sweetest voice I have ever heard from any woman – sweeter than the softest voice.” He saw her move her lips and say that her name was Mary. He knew she was alive and real because she actually responded to him!
B: “Where do you come from?”
M: “I come from Heaven. I am the Mother of Jesus.”
B: “What is it that you want?”
M: “I want the Rosary to be prayed every day.”
B: “Yes, we are praying it – The priest brought us the intentions of the San Francisco parish so that we would unite ourselves with them.”
M: “I don’t want it (Rosary) prayed only in the month of May. I want it to be prayed permanently, within the family, including the children old enough to understand – to be prayed at a set hour when there are no problems with the work in the home.
Love each other. Fulfill your obligations. Make peace. Don’t ask our Lord for peace, because if you do not make it, there will be no peace. Renew the Five First Saturdays. You received many graces when all of you did this.”
Mary added that prayers should not be rushed or said in a mechanical fashion. She told him to read the Bible passages that go along with the mysteries of the Rosary.
M: “Nicaragua has suffered much since the earthquake. She is threatened with even more suffering. She will continue to suffer if you don’t change. Pray! Pray, my son, the Rosary for all the world. Tell believers and non-believers that the world is threatened by grave dangers. I ask the Lord to appease His Justice, but if you don’t change, you will hasten the arrival of a Third World War.”
B: “Lady, I don’t want problems. I have many in the church. Tell this to another person.”
M: “No, because Our Lord has selected you to give this message.”
Bernardo was frightened to spread Mary’s message because of the persecution he had endured earlier. He kept the vision to himself for eight days until Mary appeared again.
M: “Why have you not told what I sent you to tell?”
B: “Lady, it is that I am afraid. I am afraid of being the ridicule of the people, afraid that they will laugh at me, that they will not believe me. Those who will not believe this will laugh at me. They will say that I am crazy.”
M: “Do not be afraid. I am going to help you. And tell the priest.”
Bernardo described Mary looking upward toward Heaven, and the cloud that held her slowly elevated her. She was in a ray of light, and when she reached a certain height, she disappeared.
So Bernardo began telling people and his priest – who encouraged him to keep sharing with others what he had witnessed. On June 8, 1980, Mary appeared again, giving him four visions – “which were like movies in the sky.” The first vision was of the first Christians, singing and marching towards Heaven. They were dressed in white – their bodies glowing with light. The second vision was of another group of people also dressed in white. They held illuminated rosaries in their hands. The leader read from a book, and after meditating on the reading, they prayed an Our Father and ten Hail Marys. Mary explained that they were the first ones to whom she had given the Rosary. She wanted everyone to pray the Rosary like they were doing it. In the third vision, Bernardo saw a group of men dressed in brown robes. Mary explained that these were the Franciscans. “They received the Rosary from the hands of the first ones.” In the fourth vision, he saw a large group, as big as an army, of people in normal dress, all holding rosaries. Light radiated from their bodies, and they were beautiful. He wanted to join them and go with them even though he was not illuminated, himself.
M: “No! You are still lacking. You have to tell the people what you have seen and heard. I have shown you the glory of Our Lord, and you people will acquire this if you are obedient to Our Lord, to the Lord’s Word – if you persevere in praying the Holy Rosary and put into practice the Lord’s Word.”
Bernardo only shared these visions with the priest, knowing that the church must approve them first. The priest gave Bernardo approval and permission to spread the visions.
On July 8, 1980, an angel presented him with a vision of a prophecy. The angel told Bernardo to tell a certain woman how and when her brother would get released from jail because he was innocent. He had a message for another woman regarding her alcoholic father and brother and her own problems teaching in a communist school. Finally, the angel foretold that his own cousin would be assaulted and later killed. All of these prophecies came to pass exactly as the angel had described.
On October 13, 1980, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, a large glowing circle appeared above the ground in front of fifty people that had gathered to say the Holy Rosary. Everyone saw the light that came from the sky – a single ray – like a powerful spotlight that illuminated the circle in front of them. Then the people noticed that a circle had also formed in the sky. “It was like a ring around the sun – but it’s not the sun!” The circle began to radiate all the colors of the rainbow (at exactly 3:00 p.m.) – which danced about the sky.
“It was 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. One could feel a small breeze that moved softly. Pleasant – like a fresh shower – but which did not wet us. While we observed this, we were silent and continued seeing that circle of light which gave off colored lights from the exact center, where the sun is at twelve noon. All of a sudden, a lightning flash – the same as the other times – then, a second flash. I lowered my eyes, and I saw the Lady.”
She appeared on her little cloud which rested above a pile of flowers that the group had brought. She extended her hands, and rays of light reached out to everyone, causing some to cry with joy. Bernardo begged her to appear to all of those present as they did not all believe in his vision. Mary’s face became pale and her clothes turned gray, appearing as Our Lady of Sorrows.
“It saddens me to see the hardness of those persons’ hearts. But you will have to pray for them so that they will change. Pray the Rosary. Meditate on the mysteries. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them. Love one another. Love each other. Forgive each other. Make peace. Don’t ask for peace without making peace, because if you don’t make it, it does no good to ask for it. Fulfill your obligations. Put into practice the Word of God. Seek ways to please God. Serve your neighbor — as that way you will please Him. They ask of me things that are unimportant. Ask for Faith in order to have strength so that each can carry his own cross. The suffering of this world cannot be removed. That is the way life is. There are problems with the husband, with the wife, with the children, with the brothers. Talk, converse, so that the problems will be resolved in peace. Do not turn to violence. Never turn to violence. Pray for faith in order that you will have patience. You will no longer see me in this place.”
B: “Don’t leave us, my Mother! Don’t leave us, my Mother! Don’t leave us, my Mother!”
M: “Do not be grieved. I am with all of you even though you do not see me. I am the Mother of All you sinners. Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace … Pray, pray, my son, for all the world. Grave dangers threaten the world. The Mother never forgets Her children, and I have not forgotten what you suffer. Invoke me with these words, Holy Virgin, You are my Mother, the Mother to all of us sinners.”
As she departed, the little cloud seemed to be pushing her back up to Heaven. At this, the messages from Mary were completed. These six apparitions were officially approved by the church in 1982, and, shortly after that, Bernardo Martinez was ordained a priest. The local bishop, Monsignor Vega published his approval of these apparitions on November 13, 1983.
Most of the 202,000 Nicaraguans who reside in the United States fled to this country in the 1980’s when the brutal war in Nicaragua broke out between the Sandinistas and the Contras.