January 23, 2021: ST. RAYMUND OF PEÑAFORT
January 23, 2021: ST. RAYMUND OF PEÑAFORT, CONFESSOR
Prelates, Kings, and people of the earth! celebrate the glorious name of Raymund, to whom the salvation of all mankind was an object of loving care.
He bids the treacherous sea be firm, and on her open waters carry him to land; he spreads his mantle, and his staff the mast, he rides upon the waves.
O God, who didst make blessed Raymond an excellent minister of the sacrament of penance, and didst miraculously conduct him thro’ the waves of the sea; grant, by his intercession, that we may bring forth worthy fruits of penance, and be enabled to arrive at the port of eternal salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
With admirable study and research, he collects together the scattered Decrees of the Sovereign Pontiffs, and all the sacred maxims of the ancient Canons, so worthy to be handed down to all ages.
The glorious choir of Martyrs, that stands round our Emmanuel, till the day of his Presentation in the Temple, opens its ranks, from time to time, to give admission to the Confessors, whom divine Providence has willed should grace the Cycle, during this sacred season. The Martyrs surpass all the other Saints in number; but, still, the Confessors are well represented. After Hilary, Paul, Maurus, and Antony, comes Raymund of Pegnafort, one of the glories of the Order of St. Dominic and of the Church, in the 13th century.
According to the saying of the Prophets, the Messias is come to be our Lawgiver; nay, he is himself our Law. His words are to be the rule of mankind; he will leave with his Church the power of legislation, to the end that she may guide men in holiness and justice, in all ages. As it is his Truth that presides over the teaching of the Faith, so is it his Wisdom that regulates Canonical Discipline. But the Church, in the compilation and arrangement of her laws, engages the services of men, whom she judges to be the most competent for the work, by their knowledge of Canon Law and the holiness of their lives.
St. Raymund has the honour of having been intrusted to draw up the Church's Code of Canon Law. It was he who, in the year 1234, compiled, by order of Pope Gregory the Ninth, the five Books of the Decretals; and his name will ever be associated with this great work, which forms the basis of the actual discipline of the Church.
Raymund was a faithful disciple of that God, who came down from heaven to save sinners, by calling them to receive pardon. He has merited the beautiful title, conferred on him by the Church, of excellent Minister of the Sacrament of Penance. He was the first who collected together, into one body of doctrine, the maxims of christian morality, which regulate the duties of the confessor with regard to the Faithful, who confess their sins to him. The Sum of Penitential Cases opened the series of those important Treatises, in which learned and holy men have carefully considered the claims of law and the obligations of man, in order to instruct the Priest how to pass judgment, as the Scripture says, between leprosy and leprosy (Deut, xvii. 8).
In fine, when the glorious Mother of God, who is also the Mother of men, raised up, for the Redemption of Captives, the generous Peter Nolasco—whom we shall meet, a few days hence [Jan 28], at the Crib of our Redeemer—Raymund was an important instrument in this great work of mercy; and it is with good reason, that the Order of Mercy looks upon him as one of its Founders, and that so many thousand captives, who were ransomed by the Religious of that Order from the captivity of the Moors, have honoured him as one of the principal authors of their liberty.
Let us now read the account of the actions of this holy man, whose life was indeed a full one, and rich in merit. The Lessons of his Feast thus abridge his history.
The blessed Raymund was born at Barcelona, of the noble family of Pegnafort. Having been imbued with the rudiments of the christian faith, the admirable gifts he had received, both of mind and body, were such, that even when quite a boy, he seemed to promise great things in his after life. While still young, he taught humanities in Barcelona. Later on, he went to Bologna, where he applied himself with much diligence to the exercises of a virtuous life, and to the study of canon and civil law. He there received the Doctor's cap, and interpreted the sacred canons so ably, that he was the admiration of his hearers. The holiness of his life becoming known far and wide, Berengarius, the Bishop of Barcelona, when returning to his diocese from Rome, took Bologna in his way, in order to see him; and, after most earnest entreaties, induced Raymund to accompany him to Barcelona. He was, shortly after, made Canon and Provost of that Church, and became a model, to the clergy and people, by his uprightness, modesty, learning, and meekness. His tender devotion to the Holy Mother of God was extraordinary, and he never neglected an opportunity of zealously promoting the devotion and honour which are due to her.
When he was about forty-five years of age, he made his solemn profession in the Order of the Friars Preachers. He then, as a soldier but just entered into service, devoted himself to the exercise of every virtue, but, above all, to charity to the poor, and this mainly to the captives, who had been taken by the infidels. It was by his exhortation, that St. Peter Nolasco (who was his penitent) was induced to devote all his riches to this work of most meritorious charity. The Blessed Virgin appeared to Peter, as also to blessed Raymund and to James the First, King of Arragon, telling them, that it would be exceedingly pleasing to herself and her divine Child, if an Order of Religious men were instituted, whose mission it should be to deliver captives from the tyranny of infidels. Whereupon, after deliberating together, they founded the Order of our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Captives; and blessed Raymund drew up certain rules of life, which were admirably adapted to the spirit and vocation of the said Order. Some years after, he obtained their approbation from Gregory the Ninth, and made St. Peter Nolasco, to whom he gave the habit with his own hands, first General of the Order.
Raymund was called to Rome by the same Pope, who appointed him to be his Chaplain, Penitentiary, and Confessor. It was by Gregory's order, that he collected together, in the volume called the Decretals, the Decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, which were to be found separately in the various Councils and Letters. He was most resolute in refusing the Archbishopric of Tarragon, which the same Pontiff offered to him, and, of his own accord, resigned the Generalship of the Dominican Order, which office he had discharged, in a most holy manner, for the space of two years. He persuaded James, the King of Arragon, to establish in his dominions the Holy-Office of the Inquisition. He worked many miracles; among which is that most celebrated one of his having, when returning to Barcelona from the island of Majorca, spread his cloak upon the sea, and sailed upon it, in the space of six hours, the distance of a hundred and sixty miles, and having reached his convent, he entered it through the closed doors. At length, when he had almost reached the hundredth year of his age, and was full of virtue and merit, he slept in the Lord, in the year of the Incarnation 1275. He was canonised by Pope Clement the Eighth.
Another account of St. Raymund of Peñafort.
The house of Pegnafort, or, as it is pronounced, Pennafort, was descended from the counts of Barcelona, and nearly allied to the kings of Aragon. Raymund was born in 1175, at Pennafort, a castle in Catalonia, which in the fifteenth century was changed into a convent of the order of St. Dominick. Such was his rapid progress in his studies, that at the age of twenty he taught philosophy at Barcelona, which he did gratis, and with so great reputation, that he began then to be consulted by the ablest masters. His principal care was to instil into his scholars the most perfect maxims of a solid piety and devotion, to compose all differences among the citizens, and to relieve the distressed. He was about thirty years of age when he went to Bologna, in Italy, to perfect himself in the study of the canon and civil law, commenced Doctor in that faculty, and taught with the same disinterestedness and charity as he had done in his own country. In 1219 Berengarius, bishop of Barcelona, who had been at Rome, took Raymund home with him, to the great regret of the university and senate of Bologna; and, not content with giving him a canonry in his church, made him his archdeacon, grand vicar, and official. He was a perfect model to the clergy, by his innocence, zeal, devotion, and boundless liberalities to the poor, whom he called his creditors. In 1222 he took the religious habit of St. Dominick at Barcelona, eight months after the death of the holy founder, and in the forty-seventh year of his age. No person was ever seen among the young novices more humble, more obedient, or more fervent. To imitate the obedience of a Man-God, who reduced himself to a state of subjection to his own creatures, to teach us the dangers and deep wound of self-will, and to point out to us the remedy, the saint would depend absolutely on the lights of his director in all things. And it was upon the most perfect self-denial that he laid the foundation of that high sanctity which he made the object of his most earnest desires. The grace of prayer perfected the work which mortification had begun. In a spirit of compunction he begged of his superiors that they would enjoin him some severe penance, to expiate the vain satisfaction and complacency which he said he had sometimes taken in teaching. They indeed imposed on him a penance, but not such a one as he expected. It was to write a collection of cases of conscience for the instruction and conveniency of confessors and moralists. This produced his Sum, the first work of that kind. Had his method and decisions been better followed by some later authors of the like works, the holy maxims of Christian morality had been treated with more respect by some moderns than they have been, to our grief and confusion.
Raymund joined to the exercises of his solitude the functions of an apostolical life, by laboring without intermission in preaching, instructing, hearing confessions with wonderful fruit, and converting heretics, Jews, and Moors. Among his penitents were James, king of Aragon, and St. Peter Nolasco, with whom he concerted the foundation of the Order of the Blessed Virgin of mercy for the redemption of captives. James, the young king of Aragon, had married Eleonora of Castile within the prohibited degrees, without a dispensation. A legate was sent by pope Gregory IX to examine and judge the case. In a council of bishops of the two kingdoms, held at Tarragon, he declared the marriage null, but that their son Don Alphonso should be reputed lawfully born, and heir to his father's crown. The king had taken his confessor with him to the council, and the cardinal legate was so charmed with his talents and virtue, that he associated him in his legation, and gave him a commission to preach the holy war against the Moors. The servant of God acquitted himself of that function with so much prudence, zeal, and charity, that he sowed the seeds of the total overthrow of those infidels in Spain. His labors were no less successful in the reformation of the manners of the Christians detained in servitude under the Moors, which were extremely corrupted by their long slavery or commerce with these infidels. Raymund showed them, by words full of heavenly unction and fire, that, to triumph over their bodily, they must first conquer their spiritual enemies, and subdue sin in themselves, which made God their enemy. Inculcating these and the like spiritual lessons, he ran over Catalonia, Aragon, Castile, and other countries. So general a change was wrought hereby in the manners of the people, as seemed incredible to all but those who were witnesses of it. By their conversion the anger of God was appeased, and the arms of the faithful became terrible to their enemies. The kings of Castile and Leon freed many places from the Moorish yoke. Don James, king of Aragon, drove them out of the islands of Majorca and Minorca, and soon after, in 1237, out of the whole kingdom of Valentia. Pope Gregory IX having called St. Raymund to Rome in 1230, nominated him his chaplain, (which was the title of the Auditor of the causes of the apostolic palace,) as also grand penitentiary. He made him likewise his own confessarius, and in difficult affairs came to no decision but by his advice. The saint still reserved himself for the poor, and was so solicitous for them that his Holiness called him their father. He enjoined the pope, for a penance, to receive, hear, and expedite immediately all petitions presented by them. The pope, who was well versed in the canon law, ordered the saint to gather into one body all the scattered decrees of popes and councils, since the collection made by Gratian in 1150. Raymund compiled this work in three years, in five books, commonly called the Decretals, which the same pope Gregory confirmed in 1234. It is looked upon as the best finished part of the body of the canon law; on which account the canonists have usually chosen it for the texts of their comments. In 1235, the pope named St. Raymund to the archbishopric of Tarragon, the capital of Aragon: the humble religious man was not able to avert the storm, as he called it, by tears and entreaties; but at length fell sick through anxiety and fear. To restore him to his health, his Holiness was obliged to consent to excuse him, but required that he should recommend a proper person. The saint named a pious and learned canon of Gironne. He refused other dignities with the like constancy.
For the recovery of his health he returned to his native country, and was received with as much joy as if the safety of the whole kingdom, and of every particular person, had depended on his presence. Being restored again to his dear solitude at Barcelona, he continued his former exercises of contemplation, preaching, and administering the sacrament of penance. Except on Sundays, he never took more than one very small refection in the day. Amidst honors and applause he was ever little in his own eyes: he appeared in the schools like a scholar, and in his convent begged the superior to instruct him in the rules of religious perfection, with the humility and docility of a novice. Whether he sung the divine praises with his brethren, or prayed alone in his cell, or some corner of the church, he poured forth an abundance of tears; and often was not able to contain within himself the ardor of his soul. His mildness and sweetness were unalterable. The incredible number of conversions of which he was the instrument, is known only to Him who, by his grace, was the author of them. He was employed frequently in most important commissions, both by the holy see and by the king. But he was thunderstruck by the arrival of four deputies from the general chapter of his order at Bologna, in 1238, with the news that he was chosen third general, Jordan of Saxony being lately dead. He wept and entreated, but at length acquiesced in obedience. He made the visitation of his order on foot, without discontinuing any of his penitential austerities, or rather exercises. He instilled into his spiritual children a love of regularity, solitude, mortification, prayer, sacred studies, and the apostolical functions, especially preaching. He reduced the constitutions of his order into a clearer method, with notes on the doubtful passages. This his code of rules was approved in three general chapters. In one held at Paris in 1239, he procured the establishment of this regulation, that a voluntary demission of a superior, founded upon just reasons, should be accepted. This he contrived in his own favor; for, to the extreme regret of the order, he in the year following resigned the generalship, which he had held only two years. He alleged for his reason his age of sixty-five years. Rejoicing to see himself again a private religious man, he applied himself with fresh vigor to the exercises and functions of an apostolical life, especially the conversion of the Saracens. Having this end in view, he engaged St. Thomas [of Aquinas] to write his work ‘Against the Gentiles;’ procured the Arabic and Hebrew tongues to be taught in several convents of his order; and erected convents, one at Tunis, and another at Murcia, among the Moors. In 1256, he wrote to his general that ten thousand Saracens had received baptism. King James took him into the island of Majorca. The saint embraced that opportunity of cultivating that infant church. This prince was an accomplished soldier and statesman, and a sincere lover of religion, but his great qualities were sullied by a base passion for women. He received the admonitions of the saint with respect, and promised amendment of life, and a faithful compliance with the saint's injunctions in every particular; but without effect. St. Raymund, upon discovering that he entertained a lady at his court with whom he was suspected to have criminal conversation, made the strongest instances to have her dismissed, which the king promised should be done, but postponed the execution. The saint, dissatisfied with the delay, begged leave to retire to his convent at Barcelona. The king not only refused him leave, but threatened to punish with death any person that should undertake to convey him out of the island. The saint, full of confidence in God, said to his companion, “A king of the earth endeavors to deprive us of the means of retiring; but the King of heaven will supply them.” He then walked boldly to the waters, spread his cloak upon them, tied up one corner of it to a staff for a sail, and having made the sign of the cross, stepped upon it without fear, while his timorous companion stood trembling and wondering on the shore. On this new kind of vessel the saint was wafted with such rapidity, that in six hours he reached the harbor of Barcelona, sixty leagues distant from Majorca. Those who saw him arrive in this manner met him with acclamations. But he, gathering up his cloak dry, put it on, stole through the crowd, and entered his monastery. A chapel and a tower, built on the place where he landed, have transmitted the memory of this miracle to posterity. This relation is taken from the bull of his canonization, and the earliest historians of his life. The king became a sincere convert, and governed his conscience, and even his kingdoms, by the advice of St. Raymund from that time till the death of the saint. The holy man prepared himself for his passage to eternity, by employing days and nights in penance and prayer. During his last illness, Alphonsus, king of Castile, with his queen, sons, and brother; and James, king of Aragon, with his court, visited him, and received his last benediction. He armed himself with the last sacraments; and, in languishing sighs of divine love, gave up his soul to God, on the 6th of January, in the year 1275, and the hundredth of his age. The two kings, with all the princes and princesses of their royal families, honored his funeral with their presence: but his tomb was rendered far more illustrious by miracles. Several are recorded in the bull of his canonization, published by Clement VIII in 1601. Bollandus has filled fifteen pages in folio with an account of them. His office is fixed by Clement X to the 23d of January.
The saints first learned in solitude to die to the world and themselves, to put on the spirit of Christ, and ground themselves in a habit of recollection and a relish only for heavenly things, before they entered upon the exterior functions even of a spiritual ministry. Amidst these weighty employments, not content with reserving always the time and means of frequent retirement for conversing with God and themselves, in their exterior functions by raising their minds to heaven with holy sighs and desires, they made all their actions in some measure an uninterrupted prayer and exercise of divine love and praise. St. Bonaventure reckons it among the general exercises of every religious or spiritual man, “That he keep his mind always raised, at least virtually, to God: hence, whensoever a servant of God has been distracted from attending to him for ever so short a space, he grieves and is afflicted, as if he was fallen into some misfortune, by having been deprived of the presence of such a friend who never forgets us. Seeing that our supreme felicity and glory consists in the eternal vision of God, the constant remembrance of him is a kind of imitation of that happy state: this the reward, that the virtue which entitles us to it. Till we are admitted to his presence, let us in our exile always bear him in mind: every one will behold him in heaven with so much the greater joy, and so much the more perfectly, as he shall more assiduously and more devoutly have remembered him on earth. Nor is it only in our repose, but also in the midst of our employments, that we ought to have him present to our minds, in imitation of the holy angels, who, when they are sent to attend on us, so acquit themselves of the functions of this exterior ministry as never to be drawn from their interior attention to God. As much as the heavens exceed the earth, so much larger is the field of spiritual meditation than that of all terrestrial concerns.”
Remember, too, O St. Raymund, thy dear Spain, where thou didst pass thy saintly life. Her Church is in mourning, because she has lost the Religious Orders which made her so grand and so strong: pray that they may be speedily restored to her, and assist her as of old. Protect the Dominican Order, of whose Habit and Rule thou wast so bright an ornament. Thou didst govern it with great prudence, whilst on earth; now that thou art in heaven, be a father to it by thy love. May it repair its losses. May it once more flourish in the universal Church, and produce, as in former days, those fruits of holiness and learning, which made it one of the chief glories of the Church of God.
from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
St. Raymund of Peñafort, pray for us.