During the Middle Ages, Christians were at war with the Muslims, and many found themselves in captivity. Subjected to terrible conditions, some Christians were forced to deny their faith. But a merchant by the name of St. Peter Nolasco travelled throughout Spain and used his inheritance to free these Christians from captivity.
On August 1, 1218, Our Lady of Mercy appeared before Nolasco in a vision. Dressed in white, she held two bags of coins to be used for ransoming Christians in captivity. She appeared before St. Raymond of Pennafort and King James of Aragon as well and asked all three to start a religious order that would free Christians who had been seized during the wars.
Shortly after, they founded the order of Our Lady of Mercy, or the Mercedarians. As the order grew, they raised money and freed Christians from captivity. In addition to vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Mercedarians took a fourth vow: to die for another who is in danger of losing their faith. The Mercedarians even trades places with those in captivity.
The Mercedarians still do incredible work to this day helping Christians in difficult situations to maintain their faith. The founding of the Mercedarians is such a beautiful story, and really demonstrates the love and compassion that Our Lady of Mercy has for us.