SAINT RAYMOND of PEÑAFORT (1175-1275), priest – Patron saint of attorneys and canonists
Today, the Church honors Saint Raymond of Peñafort, a Dominican friar who embraced the responsibilities of serving the Body of Christ, giving himself both to prayer and faithful service throughout his long life.
Raymond was born in 1175 at Peñafort in Catalonia, a region in Northern Spain, to a family of Spanish nobility related to the kings of Aragon. As a result, he had the resources and the education to better his life. After receiving his schooling in Barcelona, he taught philosophy at the age of twenty, and later traveled to Bologna, Italy, where, in his early thirties, he received doctorates in civil and canon law, and returned to Spain three years later.
On Good Friday in the year 1222, at the age of forty-seven, Raymond entered the Dominican Order in Barcelona. As a novice he exhibited the same humility and spirit of mortification that in later life won him the respect and love of both the king and pope. Raymond became one of the Order’s finest preachers and writers.
Summoned to Rome by Pope Gregory IX in 1230, Father Raymond compiled a “Summa” (a synopsis) of moral cases for study purposes, and also was assigned to rearranging and codifying the Canons of the Church, which became the standard for almost 700 years.
He rejected becoming the Archbishop of Tarragona, the capital of Aragon, in 1235 and only reluctantly agreed to accept the post of Master-General of the Dominicans in 1238, becoming successor to Saint Dominic. As such, he carried out a visitation of the Order’s houses and revised their Constitutions, and remained at this position for two years before resigning.
Although he was now an elderly man, Father Raymond had no intention of retiring from religious life. He was still vitally concerned with evangelizing the Moors (Muslims) in Northern Africa and Spain, and was instrumental in persuading a young fellow Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, to write one of his major theological works, the Summa Contra Gentiles as a catechism for evangelization.
During the last 30 years of his almost one hundred years of life, he lived in prayerful obscurity, giving to others the fruits of his contemplation and labor. On his deathbed he was visited by Alphonsus, the king of Castile, and James I of Aragon, one of his penitents.
Saint Raymond is best remembered in the Church as a wise and holy confessor. Throughout his long life, he was appointed at different times as confessor to the pope and king, and, as a papal penitentiary [presider over Church tribunals], he pronounced findings on difficult cases of conscience. He died on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, in 1275, at the age of ninety-nine years.
Father Raymond of Peñafort was canonized a saint on April 29, 1601, by Pope Clement VIII.
We commemorate his feastday on January 7.
(From the catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Raymond of Peñafort)
“Lord, You gave Saint Raymond the gift of compassion in his ministry to sinners. May his prayers free us from the slavery of sin and help us to love and serve You in liberty.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”