Dominican Saints 101: St. Raymond of Penafort
January 7, 2012
Inspired by the preaching and example of Holy Father Dominic and Bl. Reginald of Orleans, St. Raymond of Peñafort (1175-1275, feast day – Jan. 7), entered the Order of Preachers at the age of 47. Talk about a late vocation. Furthermore, he spent the next 53 years as a Dominican. Thus, he lived as a Dominican longer than than St. Dominic (51 years), St. Thomas Aquinas (49 years), St. Peter Martyr (46 years), St. Catherine of Siena (33 years), or St. Rose of Lima (31 years) lived, with regard to their ages at their deaths. St. Raymond grew up in Barcelona and later moved to Bologna to study law. It was there that he met the Dominicans. After being recalled to Barcelona by his bishop, he sought entrance into the Order of Preachers, and was admitted in 1222. After his vestition, he asked for a penance to atone for the sins of his youth. The Spanish Provincial accepted this request and asked that Raymond compile a list of cases of conscience for confessors. This became the beginning of his great Summa casuum. This work caught the attention of many in the Church, and Pope Gregory IX later called Raymond to Rome in 1229 to serve as the Grand Penitentiary, the chief canonist, in Rome. At the request of the Holy Father and by 1234, Raymond had compiled the Church’s laws issued since Gratian’s Decretals about 100 years before. Raymond’s compilation is known as the Liber Extra or Decretals of Gregory IX. Because of this, Raymond is the patron saint of canon lawyers. St. Raymond is also well known for his miracle of sailing across the sea on his cappa. When King James of Aragon traveled on an expedition to Majorca, Raymond accompanied him, as he was the king’s confessor at the time. Raymond remonstrated James for a public scandal and sought to leave the island. The king tried to keep him by force. Yet, Raymond boldly threw his cappa on the sea, tied his walking stick to it as a mast, and sailed back to Spain. After traveling about a hundred miles in around six hours, Raymond stepped foot on the land, took up his cappa, and found it completely dry. This incredible miracle led to the king’s swift repentance. He died on the Feast of the Epiphany, and his remains are now found in the Cathedral in Barcelona. O God, you chose the blessed Raymond to be an outstanding minister of the sacrament of Penance, and you guided him wonderfully across the waves of the sea; grant that, through his intercession, we may produce fruit worthy of penance, and may at length reach the port of eternal salvation. Through Christ our Lord.