Next week, on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014, Blessed John Paul II will be canonized. All the world will be watching as this amazing figure will be formally recognized as a Saint. John Paul "the Great" was the longest reigning pope in modern history and brought the Church into the new millennium. It is estimated that more people saw him in person or via television than any other person in the history of the world. The message that he brought to the world was of great hope. As Mercedarians, we remember Pope John Paul II fondly as sharing with us an intense devotion to Mary. Here is an address given by the Pope to the entire Order:
Reverend Father Master General,
1) It is with the greatest joy that I granted your request for a meeting, dear representatives of the esteemed Order of Our Lady of Ransom, on the occasion of the General Chapter of your religious family.
I greet you all cordially, and through you I greet all your brothers and sisters of the Institute, scattered in their communities through eighteen different countries--mostly in Latin America--continuing the work of your founder, Saint Peter Nolasco, in accordance with the demands of the Church and of modern society.
As you know, last year I sent a letter to the Master General and through him to the entire order, on the occasion of two major anniversaries in the history of your family: the 800th anniversary of the birth of your founder, and the 750th anniversary of the approval of your Order by my predecessor, Pope Gregory IX.
In that letter, I reiterated the trust that the Apostolic See still places today in the charism of your religious family. For so many centuries, in its own special ways, your family has served the cause of human dignity, of freedom of faith and of Christian life, especially in areas where these values are most seriously violated.
2) On this happy occasion, it is a joy for me to encourage you in your commitment to the realization of the ideals and intentions of your founder within the contemporary socio-historical context. However different this context may be from that of his day, there is still need for guidance towards the same essential values of justice, compassion, liberation, reconciliation, and peace. In particular, I would like to appeal to you to maintain, increase and spread the intense devotion, that stems from your very origins, to the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who participated in such an exemplary manner in the redemptive task of her divine Son. Only thus will your Order be able to preserve whole and unaltered that evangelical spirit, that profound yearning for redemption and liberation of man, that has always been its essential quality—liberation of man from every misery, slavery and oppression, beginning with the fundamental one of sin.
Persevere in the Task
3) In the course of your long history, you too, as indeed other long-lived Orders, have been tested by historical events, some very difficult and painful. Your ancient tree has often felt the fury of storms: however, deeply rooted in faith and in communion with the Church and the See of Peter, it has victoriously resisted to this day. It is essential that your Order should persevere with renewed energy in its mission, for today the needs are immense, and there are many opportunities for intervention by your Order, so wisely instituted and providentially approved 750 years ago.
Persevere with tenacity in the task you have undertaken, totally aware that you are fulfilling a very useful role in the Church and in the world. However, this can only be true as long as you remain diligently faithful to the holy resolves of your profession, guaranteed and codified by the Church, and as long as you know how to fulfill these resolves in accordance with the legitimate demands of current realities, in harmony with the reforms now being introduced as a result of the Council.
On these conditions, a vast field of activity is open to your spiritual family: through evangelization and mission, the possibility of a large increase that would inspire and attract new and youthful enthusiasm for the cause of the Order and for the aim it serves—the liberation of man in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.
4) The richness of the inspiration of your founder is clearly manifested through the centuries, particularly in its capacity to express itself not only in the form of male religious life, priestly and lay, but also in female religious life, both active and contemplative, as well as in the lifestyle of the secular members. All these various modes and degrees of living the spirit of St Peter Nolasco find in this spirit their necessary unity and coordination, however different the various forms appropriate to each of them.
Therefore, I appeal to you all, priests and lay members, men and women religious always to be united among yourselves, as sons and daughters of one and the same father and patron, joining your forces more and more in a true spirit of fraternal love and cooperation, exchanging and sharing in a true spirit of communion those gifts that are proper to each, for a better realization of the common objectives of your diversified spiritual family.
May Our Lady of Ransom be for all the Mother and Model, in particular as you live your “fourth vow.” The very title of your Marian devotion that gives its name to your Order as well, is in itself a marvelous life programme: it speaks of compassion, redemption, conversion and forgiveness. These are the very same values for which the Son of God came to earth, became incarnate and gave up His life for us. May He therefore, through the intercession of Mary, be your light and your strength today and forever.
Dearest brothers, it is in this spirit that I express the hope that the work of your Chapter will contribute to the realization of the suggestions that I have offered, for the good of modern humanity and the coming of the Kingdom of God. With all my heart I give my special blessing to all the brothers and sisters in your spiritual family.