St. Peter Nolasco
Born at Mas-des-Saintes-Puelles, near Castelnaudary, France, in 1189 (or 1182); died at Barcelona, on Christmas Day, 1256 (or 1259). He was of a noble family and from his youth was noted for his piety, almsgiving, and charity. Having given all his possessions to the poor, he took a vow of virginity and, to avoid communication with the Albigenses, went to Barcelona.
At that time the Moors were masters of a great part of the Iberian peninsula, and many Christians were detained there and cruelly persecuted on account of the Faith. Peter ransomed many of these and in doing so consumed all his patrimony. After mature deliberation, moved also by a heavenly vision, he resolved to found a religious order (1218), similar to that established a few years before by St. John de Matha and St. Felix de Valois, whose chief object would be the redemption of Christian slaves.
In this he was encouraged by St. Raymond Penafort and James I, King of Aragon, who, it seems, had been favoured with the same inspiration. The institute was called Mercedarians and was solemnly approved by Gregory IX, in 1230. Its members were bound by a special vow to employ all their substance for the redemption of captive Christians, and if necessary, to remain in captivity in their stead. At first most of these religious were laymen as was Peter himself. But Clement V decreed that the master general of the order should always be a priest.