St. Peter Nolasco
Name: St. Peter Nolasco
Date: 28 January
In the early thirteenth century the Moors still held much of Spain, and in sudden raids from the seathey carried off thousands of Christians, holding them as slaves in Granada and in their citadelsalong the African coast. A hero of these unfortunates was Saint Peter Nolasco, born about theyear 1189 near Carcassonne in France. When he went to Barcelona to escape the heresy thenrampant in southern France, he consecrated the fortune he had inherited to the redemption of thecaptives taken on the seas by the Saracens. He was obsessed with the thought of their suffering,and desired to sell his own person to deliver his brethren and take their chains upon himself. Godmade it known to him how agreeable that desire was to Him.
Because of these large sums of money he expended, Peter became penniless. He was withoutresources and powerless, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and said to him: “Find for Meother men like yourself, an army of brave, generous, unselfish men, and send them into the landswhere the children of the Faith are suffering.” Peter went at once to Saint Raymond of Pennafort,his confessor, who had had a similar revelation and used his influence with King James I ofAragon and with Berengarius, Archbishop of Barcelona, to obtain approbation and support forthe new community. On August 10, 1218, Peter and two companions were received as the firstmembers of the Order of Our Lady of Ransom, dedicated to the recovery of Christian captives.To the three traditional vows of religion, its members joined a fourth, that of delivering their ownpersons to the overlords, if necessary, to ransom Christians.
The Order spread rapidly. Peter and his comrades traveled throughout Christian Spain, recruitingnew members and collecting funds to purchase the captives. Then they began negotiations withthe slave-owners. They penetrated Andalusia, crossed the sea to Tunis and Morocco, and broughthome cargo after cargo of Christians. Although Peter, as General of the Order, was occupied withits organization and administration, he made two trips to Africa where, besides liberating captives,he converted many Moors. He died after a long illness on Christmas night of 1256; he wascanonized by Pope Urban VIII in 1628. His Order continues its religious services, now devoted topreaching and hospital service.