August 31, 2021: ST. RAYMOND NONNATUS
August 31, 2021: ST. RAYMOND NONNATUS, CONFESSOR
is the rich man that is found with out blemish: and that hath not gone after gold, nor put his trust in money nor in treasures. Who is he, and we will praise him? for he hath done wonderful things in his life. Who hath been tried thereby, and made perfect,
he shall have glory everlasting.”
(Ecclus, xxxi. 8-10)
O God, by Your grace You made Blessed Raymund, Your Confessor, work wonders in redeeming Your faithful from slavery among the infidels; grant, we beseech You, by his intercession, that, being free from the bondage of our sins, we may with free minds always perform such things as are pleasing in Your sight. 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.
August closes as it began, with a feast of deliverance; as though that were the divine seal set by eternal Wisdom upon this month—the mouth when holy Church makes the works and ways of divine Wisdom the special object of her contemplation.
Upon the fall of our first parents and their expulsion from paradise, the Word and Wisdom of God, that is, the second Person of the blessed Trinity, began the great work of our deliverance—that magnificent work of human redemption which, by an all-gracious, eternal decree of the three divine Persons, was to be wrought out by the Son of God in our flesh. And as that blessed Saviour, in His infinite wisdom, made spontaneous choice of sorrows, of sufferings, and of death on a cross, as the best means of our redemption, so has He always allotted to His best loved friends, the kind of life which He had deliberately chosen for Himself, that is, the way of the cross. And the nearest and dearest to Him were those who were predestined, like His blessed Mother, the Mater Dolorosa, to have the honour of being most like Himself, the Man of sorrows. Hence the toils and trials of the greatest saints; hence the great deliverances wrought by them, and their heroic victories over the world and over the spirits of wickedness in the high places.
On the feasts of St. Raymund of Pegnafort and St. Peter Nolasco, we saw something of the origin of the illustrious Order, to which Raymund Nonnatus added such glory. Soon the august foundress herself, our Lady of Mercy, will come in person to receive the expression of the world’s gratitude for so many benefits. The following legend recounts the peculiar merits of our saint of to-day.
Raymund, surnamed Nonnatus, on account of his having been brought into the world in an unusual manner after the death of his mother, was of a pious and noble family of Portelli in Catalonia. From his very infancy he showed signs of his future holiness; for, despising childish amusements and the attractions of the world, he applied himself to the practice of piety so that all wondered at his virtue, which far surpassed his age. As he grew older he began his studies; but after a short time he returned at his father’s command to live in the country. He frequently visited the chapel of St. Nicholas, near Portelli, in order to venerate in it a holy image of the Mother of God, which is still much honoured by the faithful. There he would pour out his prayers, begging God’s holy Mother to adopt him for her son and to deign to teach him the way of salvation and the science of the saints.
The most benign Virgin heard his prayer, and gave him to understand that it would greatly please her if he entered the religious Order lately founded by her inspiration, under the name of the Order of ‘Ransom, or of Mercy for the redemption of captives.’ Upon this Raymund at once set out for Barcelona, there to embrace that institute so full of brotherly charity. Thus enrolled in the army of holy religion, he persevered in perpetual virginity, which he had already consecrated to the blessed Virgin. He excelled also in every other virtue, most especially in charity towards those Christians who were living in misery, as slaves of the pagans. He was sent to Africa to redeem them, and freed many from slavery. But when he had exhausted his money, rather than abandon others who were in danger of losing their faith, he gave himself up to the barbarians as a pledge for their ransom. Burning with a most ardent desire for the salvation of souls, he converted several Mahometans to Christ by his preaching. On this account he was thrown into a close prison, and after many tortures his lips were pierced through and fastened together with an iron padlock, which cruel martyrdom he endured for a long time.
This and his other noble deeds spread the fame of his sanctity far and near, so that Gregory IX determined to enrol him in the august college of the cardinals of the holy Roman Church. When raised to that dignity the man of God shrank from all pomp and clung always to religious humility. On his way to Rome, as soon as he reached Cardona, he was attacked by his last illness, and earnestly begged to be strengthened by the Sacraments of the Church. As his illness grew worse and the priest delayed to come, angels appeared, clothed in the religious habit of his Order, and refreshed him with the saving Viaticum. Having received It he gave thanks to God, and passed to our Lord on the last Sunday of August in the year 1240. Contentions arose concerning the place where he should be buried; his coffin was therefore placed upon a blind mule and by the will of God it was taken to the chapel of St. Nicholas, that it might be buried in that place where he had first begun a more perfect life. A convent of his Order was built on the spot, and there famous for many signs and miracles he is honoured by the concourse of all the faithful of Catalonia, who come there to fulfil their vows.
Another account of St. Raymond Nonnatus.
St. Raymund Nonnatus was born at Portel, in the diocess of Urgel, in Catalonia, in the year 1204, and was descended of a gentleman's family of a small fortune. In his childhood he seemed to find no other pleasure than in his devotions and serious duties. Such was his application to his grammar studies, and so happy his genius, as to spare his preceptor much pains in his education. His father, resolving to cross his inclination to a religious or ecclesiastical state, which he began to perceive in him, took him from school, and sent him to take care of a farm which he had in the country. Raymund readily obeyed, and in order to enjoy the opportunity of holy solitude, by voluntary choice, kept the sheep himself, and in the mountains and forests spent his time in holy meditation and prayer, imitating the austerities of the ancient anchorets. Some time after he was pressed by his friends to go to the court of Arragon, where, by his prudence and abilities, he could not fail to make a fortune, being related to the illustrious houses of Foix and Cardona. These importunities obliged him to hasten the execution of his resolution of taking the religious habit in the new Order of our Lady of Mercy for the redemption of captives. In these dispositions he obtained of his unwilling father, through the mediation of the Count of Cardona, leave to embrace the above-mentioned Order: and was accordingly admitted to his profession at Barcelona, by the holy founder, St. Peter Nolasco.
The extraordinary fervour of the saint in this new state, his perfect disengagement from the world, his profound humility, sincere obedience, wonderful spirit of mortification and penance, seraphic devotion, and constant recollection, rendered him the model and the admiration of his brethren. So surprising was the progress that he made in the perfection of his holy institute, that, within two or three years after his profession, he was judged the best qualified to discharge the office of Ransomer, in which he succeeded St. Peter. Being sent into Barbary with a considerable sum of money, he purchased, at Algiers, the liberty of a great number of slaves. When all this treasure was laid out in that charitable way, he voluntarily gave himself up as a hostage for the ransom of certain others, whose situation was hardest, and whose faith seemed exposed to imminent danger. The magnanimous sacrifice which the saint had made of his own liberty served only to exasperate the Mahometans, who treated him with uncommon barbarity, till the infidels, fearing lest if he died in their hands they should lose the ransom which was stipulated to be paid for the slaves for whom he remained a hostage, upon a remonstrance made on that account by the cadi or magistrate of the city, gave orders that he should be treated with more humanity. Hereupon he was permitted to go abroad about the streets; which liberty he made use of to comfort and encourage the Christians in their chains, and he converted and baptized some Mahometans. Upon information hereof, the governor condemned him to be impaled, that is, to be put to death by thrusting a stick into the body through the hinder parts; this being a barbarous manner of executing criminals much in use among those infidels. However, the persons who were interested in the ransom of the captives, lest they should be losers, prevailed that his life should be spared; and, by a commutation of his punishment, he underwent a cruel bastinado. This torment did not daunt his courage. So long as he saw souls in danger of perishing eternally, he thought he had yet done nothing; nor could he let slip any opportunity of endeavouring to prevent their so frightful misfortune.
St. Raymund had on one side no more money to employ in releasing poor captives; and, on the other, to speak to a Mahometan upon the subject of religion was capital by the standing laws of the Mussulmans. He could, however, still exert his endeavours, with hopes of some success, or of dying a martyr of charity. He therefore resumed his former method of instructing and exhorting both the Christians and the infidels. The governor, who was immediately apprized of his behaviour, was strangely enraged, and commanded the zealous servant of Christ to be whipped at the corners of all the streets in the city, his lips to be bored with a red-hot iron in the market-place, and his mouth shut up with a padlock, the key of which he kept himself, and only gave to the keepers when the prisoner was to eat. In this condition he was loaded with iron bolts and chains, and cast into a dark dungeon, where he lay full eight months, till his ransom was brought by some religious men of his Order, who were sent with it by St. Peter. Raymund was unwilling to leave his dungeon, or at least the country of the infidels, where he desired to remain to assist the slaves; but he acquiesced in obedience to the orders of his general, begging God would accept his tears, seeing he was not worthy to shed his blood for the souls of his neigbours.
Upon his return to Spain he was nominated cardinal by Pope Gregory IX. But so little was he affected with the involuntary honour, that he neither changed his dress, nor his poor cell in the convent, nor his manner of living. Much less could he be prevailed upon by the nobility of the country to accept of a palace, to admit an equipage or train, or to suffer any rich furniture to be added to his little necessaries in his cell. The pope, being desirous to have so holy a man about his person, and to employ him in the public affairs of the church, called him to Rome. The saint obeyed, but could not be persuaded to travel otherwise than as a poor religious man. He went no further than Cardona, which is only six miles from Barcelona, when he was seized with a violent fever, which, by the symptoms which attended it, soon appeared to be mortal. St. Raymond prepared himself for his last passage. Some historians relate that he was favoured with a vision of angels, in which he received the holy viaticum. His death happened on the 31st of August, in the year 1240, the thirty-seventh of his age. He was buried in a chapel of St. Nicholas, near the farm in which he had formerly lived. St. Peter Nolasco founded a great convent in that place, in 1255, and St. Raymond's relics are still kept in that church. The history of many miracles wrought by his means is to be seen in the Bollandists. Pope Alexander VII inserted his name in the Martyrology in 1657.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Raymond Nonnatus, pray for us.