07 January 2010
Saint Raymond of Peñafort, priest
Born into a noble family in Spain, at the castle of Pennafort, in A.D. 1175, Saint Raymond of Peñafort received his education in Barcelona and at the University of Bologna. From 1195 to 1210, Saint Raymond taught canon law. After some time, the Bishop of Barcelona persuaded Saint Raymond to return to Spain, and named him as one of the canons in his cathedral. However, Saint Raymond thirsted for a deeper relationship with God. So, on Good Friday, A.D. 1222, Saint Raymond begged to be admitted to the Dominican Order. Tradition tells that, in part, Saint Raymond was motivated to join the Dominican Order out of remorse for previously talking a young man out of joining a religious order.
From this point onward, Saint Raymond increased the holiness of his life, and by his piety drew many to the Dominican Order. Saint Raymond became a confessor to King James of Aragon, and was known for his wise counsel. Because of this, Saint Raymond was directed by his superiors to write a book on settling cases of conscience, which he did—titled Raimundina.
At this time, the Moors were exacting great cruelties on their Christian captives. On the night of 1 August 1223, the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Raymond, King James of Aragon, and Saint Peter Nolasco, a penitent of Saint Raymond, telling them that she desired a religious order to be founded for the relief of the poor Christian captives. On the directions of Our Holy Mother, Saint Raymond, himself, wrote the statutes of the new order—the Order of Our Lady of Mercy—for redemption of the Christian captives. To lead the order, Saint Raymond choose Saint Peter Nolasco. Saint Raymond gave the habit to Saint Peter, which was identical to the Dominican habit, except that the mantle was white and the scapular was emblazoned with the royal arms of Aragon.
At about this time too, in A.D. 1230, Saint Raymond was summoned to Rome and became the confessor of Pope Gregory IX. At the direction of the Holy Father, Saint Raymond collected and wrote commentaries on all the decretal letters that had been issued and had been changing canon law since the publication of the Decretum of Gratian. In just over three years Saint Raymond accomplished this tremendous task and, being pleased with the work of Saint Raymond, the Holy Father published a bull making Saint Raymond’s work alone authoritative. This collection of canon law, known as Liber extra was the standard of canon law for almost the next 700 years.
Twice the Holy Father appointed Saint Raymond to an archbishopric, but each time Saint Raymond was successful in getting released from the honor which, tradition tells, would have been painful to his humility.
After the death of Blessed Jordan, the beloved successor of Saint Dominic, Saint Raymond was elected the third Master-General of the Order in A.D. 1238. During his two years as Master-General, Saint Raymond made his mark on the Order, revising the Dominican constitution into two parts, the first relating to the religious life of the friars and the second to their external life, duties and offices. In A.D. 1240 Saint Raymond resigned as Master-General.
Saint Raymond retired to the convent of Barcelona where he lived for 35 more years, working and praying incessantly for the conversion of the Moors, Jews, and heretics. It was at Saint Raymond’s request that Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa contra Gentiles.
Saint Raymond accompanied the King of Aragon on an expedition to Majorca and boldly rebuked him there for giving public scandal. However, finding that his rebuke had no effect on the King, Saint Raymond prepared to return to Barcelona. The King attempted to keep Saint Raymond on the island by force, but Saint Raymond flung his mantle into the sea fastened to the end of his staff, serving as a mast, and sailed on his mantle, like a boat, the nearly 100 miles back to the mainland. On reaching Barcelona, Saint Raymond took up his mantle, which was perfectly dry, and was transported through the locked doors of the convent and beyond the acclamations of the crowd that witnessed his landing. Touched by the miracle, the King of Aragon thereafter renounced his evil ways and led a good life.
Widely regarded as the greatest ecclesiastic of his time, Saint Raymond died on the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January 1275 in his hundredth year. Many miracles occurred at Saint Raymond’s tomb, including the issuance of a dust that restored health to many ill persons. Saint Raymond was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in A.D. 1601.
You endowed your priest Saint Raymond,
with the gift of showing mercy to sinners
Help us by his intercession to be freed
from slavery to sin and
with clear consciences to practice those things
that are pleasing to you.