OUR LADY OF RANSOM also known as OUR LADY OF MERCY
OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM (England)
Our Lady of Ransom
The story of Our Lady of Ransom is, at its outset, that of Saint Peter Nolasco, born in Languedoc about 1189. He conceived the idea of establishing a religious 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. On August 1, 1218 the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Peter, to his confessor, Raymund of Peñafort, and to King James I, and through these three servants of God established a work of the most perfect charity, the redemption of captives. Its members would undertake to deliver Christian captives and offer themselves, if necessary, as payment.
Word of the apparition soon spread over the entire kingdom, and on August 10 the king went to the cathedral for a Mass celebrated by the bishop of Barcelona during which Saint Raymund narrated his vision with admirable eloquence and fervor. The king besought the blessing of the bishop for the heaven-sent plan, and the bishop bestowed the habit on Saint Peter, who emitted the solemn vow to give himself as a hostage if necessary.
The Order, thus solemnly established in Spain, was approved by Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy and spread rapidly. Eventually a feast day was instituted and observed on September 24, first in the religious order, then in Spain and France, and on February 22, 1696 Innocent XII extended it to the entire Church. To this day, the Mercedarians keep this day as a first class feast, with a vigil, privileged octave, and proper Office under the title: Solemnitas Descensionis B. Mariæ V. de Mercede.
Our Lady of Ransom is the principal patron of Barcelona; the proper Office was extended to Barcelona (1868) and to all Spain (second class, 1883). Sicily, which had suffered so much from the Saracens, took up the old date of the feast (Sunday nearest to August 1) by permission of the Congregation of Rites of August 31, 1805. In England the devotion to Our Lady of Ransom was revived in modern times to obtain the rescue of England as Our Lady’s Dowry.
Our Lady of Walsingham
The chapel was founded by Richeldis, the mother of Geoffrey of Favraches as confirmed by the earliest deeds showing ownership. According to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485), Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might perform special deed as a gift to honor Our Lady. The Virgin Mary answered her prayer and led her in spirit to Nazareth, showing her the location where the Annunciation had occurred. Our Lady requested that a a replica house be built in Walsingham to serve as a memory of the Annunciation for all time.
According to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485), Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might perform special deed as a gift to honor Our Lady. The Virgin Mary answered her prayer and led her in spirit to Nazareth, showing her the location where the Annunciation had occurred. Our Lady requested that a a replica house be built in Walsingham to serve as a memory of the Annunciation for all time.
This Holy House was built and a religious community took charge of the foundation. With papal approval, the Augustinian Canons built a Priory (c. 1150). In 1169, Geoffrey, the son of Richeldis, gifted “to God and St. Mary, and to Edwy his clerk, the chapel of Our Lady” with the intention that Edwy should found a priory. These gifts were, shortly afterwards, confirmed to the Austin Canons of Walsingham by Robert de Brucurt and Roger, Earl of Clare.
By the 1500’s (just before the Protestant Revolution), Our Lady of Walsingham had, not only become one of the great pilgrimage sites of England, along with Canterbury and Glastonbury, and but also in all of Europe, as it became third most popular site behind Rome and Compostella, Spain.
Then came the Protestant Revolution and in 1538, the suppression of the devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham began, as evidenced by the writing of the Protestant bishop Latimer, who wrote of the image of Mary, saying that “She hath been the Devil’s instrument, I fear, to bring many to eternal fire; now she herself with her older sister of Walsingham, her younger sister of Ipswich, and their two sisters of Doncaster and Penrhys will make a jolly muster in Smithfield. They would not be all day in burning.”
The Protestant Revolution caused the Priory property to be handed over to the King’s Commissioners and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burnt. The original shrine has no remnants, but its site features the marker noting “The Abbey Grounds” in the village.
King Henry VIII approved the burning of the image of Our Lady of Walsingham: “It was the month of July, the images of Our Lady of Walsingham and Ipswich were brought up to London with all the jewels that hung around them, at the King’s commandment, and divers other images, both in England and Wales, that were used for common pilgrimage…and they were burnt at Chelsea by my Lord Privy Seal”.
After the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham no longer was a place of public pilgrimage. All devotion was done in secret until after the Catholic Emancipation in 1829, when public expressions and manifestations of the Catholic faith were once again allowed in England.
IN 1896, Charlotte Pearson Boyd purchased the 14th century Slipper Chapel, the last of the wayside chapels en-route to Walsingham, and restored it for Catholic use.
In 1897, Pope Leo XIII, by rescript, re-established the Slipper Chapel as a Roman Catholic shrine, now known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Holy House had been rebuilt at the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation at King’s Lynn.
On August 20, 1897, the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, brought the first public pilgrimage to Walsingham. Visitors to the Slipper Chapel increased in number, and after some time, the devotion and the number of pilgrimages increased.
On August 19, 1934, Cardinal Bourne and Bishop Lawrence Youens led the Bishops of England and Wales, together with 10,000 pilgrims to the Slipper Chapel. At this pilgrimage, the Slipper Chapel was declared to be the National Shrine of Our Lady for Roman Catholics in England.
On May 17, 1945, American Forces organized the first Mass in the Priory grounds since the Reformation (Protestant Revolution). During the war, Walsingham was a restricted zone and closed to visitors, but many service men and women showed interest in the Shrine.
The First Cross Carrying Pilgrimage for Peace, Penance and Prayer in began a tradition that continue today. Pilgrims still walk to the Shrine during Holy Week
The Marist Fathers took over the care of the shrine and, together with the Marist Sisters, are organize the the ministry to the pilgrims.
During Pope John Paul II’s visit, the Slipper Chapel Statue was taken to London’s Wembley Stadium and was carried around the stadium prior to the Papal Mass preceded by The Director of the Roman Catholic Shrine and the Administrator of the Anglican Shrine. The Pope asked that the statue be placed on the altar for the Mass.
John Paul II decreed that the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, patroness of England, and in modern times patroness of all English-speaking peoples, would be celebrated on September 24th in England. It is a solemnity for all parishes in any part of the world named for Our Lady under this title.
Our Lady of Walsingham was formerly celebrated on March 25th, “Lady Day” (Feast of the Annunciation, which was the whole purpose of building the replica of the house at Nazareth in the first place!), but for ecumenical reasons was moved to September 24th. (September 24 in England had been the feast of Our Lady of Ransom.)
The feast of Our Lady of Walsingham was celebrated for the first time on the new date in 2001.