Marge Fenelon is an award-winning Catholic author and journalist, blogger, and speaker. She’s a long-time correspondent for National Catholic Register, and the author of several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life. She’s also a weekly contributor to Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show” and a popular guest on several other Catholic radio and television shows. Marge is an instructor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Deacon Wives Program.
The Ghostbusters theme keeps going round and round in my head.
If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
If it's somethin' weird and it don't look good
Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
The 1984 films starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis about three parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business in New York City had a catchy theme song that is still a classic.
But, I'm not thinking of it because I liked the film (it was kinda fun). Or because I liked the theme song (it got on my nerves after a while. A short while.)
No, I’m thinking of it because the feast of Our Lady of Ransom is upon us. The Catholic Church celebrates this memorial annually on September 24.
Before I continue, let me make it clear that I am not in any possible way equating our Blessed Mother with the paranormal. Nor am I suggesting that she resembles a character in a comedy flick.
It’s the idea that someone – in this case, Our Lady – has the ability to protect us from danger.
Our Lady of Ransom has the ability to protect us from the dangers that hold our souls captive and prohibit us from growing closer to her Son.
So, how did Mary gain the title, “Our Lady of Ransom?
In 1218, she appeared in separate visions to St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Peñafort, and James, King of Aragon. She asked them to found a religious order dedicated to freeing Christian captives from the Saracens and Moors. At the time, these barbarians occupied a large part of Spain.
In keeping with our Blessed Mother’s desire, King James established the royal, military, and religious order of Our Lady of Ransom (also known as the Mercedarian Order). Members were given the privilege of wearing the King’s own arms on their breast.
The majority of members were knights who guarded the coasts and delivered prisoners. Cleric members of the order were committed to praying – particularly the divine office – for the knights’ mission.
The order and its mission spread, producing heroes who collected alms for the ransom of Christians. Often, they surrendered themselves to captivity in exchange for the Christian prisoners’ release. In the seventeenth century, Pope Innocent XII extended the feast from the Mercedarian Order to the universal Church.
Sadly, right now in our world there are Christians being held captive, and they need ransoming. But, that’s fodder for another blog post.
At this moment, in light of Our Lady’s feast, I’m thinking about the gazillion ways we – you and I – are held captive by our own sinfulness and failings.
We need to be ransomed.
In a nutshell, sin and laxity make us prisoners to the evil one and stop us from freely, joyfully, following Christ. Calling upon Our Lady for her motherly care and intercession will loosen the bindings that hold us back.
Pope Saint John Paul II once said: “From Mary we learn to surrender to God's Will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God!”
This was Our Lady’s message to St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Peñafort, and King James of Aragon. She asked that they trust in her, accept her help, and work diligently to free the Christian captives. She wanted to ransom them.
She wants to ransom us as well.
Even when all hope seems gone, Mary has the intercessory “power” to free us – from selfishness, spiritual laziness and apathy, addiction, greed, lust… you name it. Whatever it is that threatens to separate us from her Son, Jesus, Mary wants to release us from it.
She was Our Lady of Ransom in the thirteenth century. She is Our Lady of Ransom in the twenty-first century. She’ll be Our Lady of Ransom in the umpteenth century.
So, tell me.
When you find yourself held captive, who ya gonna call?