The National Catholic Register has a story on this week on the Mercedarians, those men who profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but profess a fourth vow as well: to offer their lives in place of those who are in danger of losing their Faith.
A few years ago, this would seem to be a symbolic offering, that is, they were men who offered their time and talent to help those who are struggling with modern forms of slavery such as pornography, addiction, imprisonment and greed. However, as the article points out, they are now collaborating with the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil to provide assistance to Iraqi Christians suffering persecution, slavery and death. The help includes prayer, fasting and sacrifice, as well as material support and public awareness.
“In the eighth centenary of the Order,” said Pope Francis in his address to the members of the General Chapter of the The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, “do not cease ‘to proclaim the Year of Favor of the Lord’ to all those to whom you are sent: to those held prisoner and persecuted because of their faith; to victims of trafficking; to the young people in your schools; to all those who are served by your works of mercy and to all the faithful you serve in the parishes and missions with which you have been entrusted by the Church.”
In 2018, the Mercedarians will celebrate the 800th anniversary of their founding in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco. He founded the community to redeem Christian prisoners from their Muslim captors. May Christ our Redeemer assist the Mercedarians in their work of freeing people from whatever prevents them from serving Our Lord.