Who, upon being held against his will on the island of Majorca by King James of Aragon, said, "Oh yeah?" then bowed his head in prayer and calmly spread his cloak upon the water. Tying one corner to his staff, he fearlessly stepped upon the cloak, and sailed upon it across the Baltic Sea to Barcelona, a distance of 132 miles. It's recorded that it took him six hours to make the trip. Imagine. If you were to charter a boat today from Majorca to Barcelona, Google sources estimate approximately an eight hour journey. That would be in a boat -- with a motor.
But, do you want to know what is really amazing about St. Raymond?
Born to a rich and noble Spanish family in 1175, St. Raymond was a brilliant student, receiving doctorates in both civil and canon law at the Universities of Barcelona and Bologna. He began teaching law at the University of Barcelona when he was only twenty years old, then continued teaching law in Bologna -- until... He ran into some young men belonging to the newly formed Order of Preachers -- the Dominicans. It didn't take our saint long to realize his calling. He was 41 years old when he gave away everything he had in the world -- wealth, station, and honor -- to gain everything else that heaven could offer -- and become a Dominican friar. And boy, oh boy, did God have plans for him!
|The Blessed Virgin appeared in separate visions to St. Peter Nolasco, St Raymond of Penafort and King James I of Aragon, asking them to establish an order for ransoming enslaved Christians from the Moors.|
Together with St. Peter Nolasco and King James of Aragon (yes, the same King James from the sailing cloak story... Who wouldn't reform with St. Raymond around, right?) he founded the Order of Our Lady of Ransom for the Redemption of Captives. With the direct patronage of the Blessed Mother, the Mercedarian Order grew swiftly and was blessed with great success. Every chance he got through the rest of his life St. Raymond dedicated himself to bringing home Christian captives of the Crusades -- and to the conversion of both Muslims and Jews. It is said that at his death, he was responsible for the conversion of over 10,000 Moors.
But... as if that weren't enough, St. Raymond also found time to write the definitive book of advice and information for confessors at that time, Summa de Casibus Poenitentiae, which so impressed Pope Gregory IX, that he had St. Raymond called up to be his own personal confessor at the Vatican.
So impressed was the pope with St. Raymond's learning, that he was assigned the task of updating and organizing the previous 80 years of canon law decrees, which effort resulted in the Decretals (published in 1234). Having then reached the age of 60, St. Raymond was permitted to retired from the job at the Vatican. He tried to sneak away to a quiet life in Barcelona, but it was not meant to be; he was almost immediately called up to serve as Archbishop of Barcelona (much against his will!) -- but (not surprisingly) became ill and had to resign within two years.
But, still, there was to be no rest for St. Raymond. In 1238 he was elected Master of the Dominicans -- then set out on foot to visit every single house of friars and nuns in the Order! (Remember, he was well into his sixties.) During this time, he also managed to set out a new Constitution of the Order, in which he added a resignation clause for the Master. As soon as the new Constitution was adopted in 1240, our St. Raymond took advantage of the clause and begged out. (Clever fellow!)
But, St. Raymond was still not finished. Or, rather, God was not finished working through St. Raymond. Having made the acquaintance of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Raymond encouraged him in his writing of the work, Against the Gentiles. He also continued in his work to convert the Muslims and the Jews, and was responsible for the teaching of Arabic and Hebrew in several Dominican friaries toward this end. He founded Dominican Houses in Murcia (at that time still ruled by Muslims), as well as in Tunis and Mallorca.
And he never did get a chance to rest -- at least not until he reached the venerable age of 100 years, dying in Barcelona in 1275. He was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1601; his relics can still be found in the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia in Barcelona.
His feast day is January 23rd. He is the patron saint of all lawyers, but especially of canon lawyers.
St. Raymond of Pennafort, help us to remember that we are never finished until we are in heaven!
*Repost from 2013