St. Raymond of Penafort, Father of Canon Law
Today is the optional memorial of Saint Raymond of Penafort, the third Superior-General of the Dominican Order. Raymond was born in Spain in 1175 and died there on January 6, 1275 at the age of 99. He was the gifted son of the count of Penafort in Catalonia, Spain. Due to his status and wealth, he was well educated and at the age of 20, was already a professor of philosophy. He earned his doctorate in both cannon and civil law at the age 41. He taught cannon law in Bologna, Italy, and it was here that he first met the Dominicans. He was attracted to the Dominican Order by the preaching of Blessed Reginald of Bologna and received the Dominican habit at the age of 47. Raymond had a strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother, and it was this devotion that led him to forgo worldly fame and become a Dominican.
The Order made good use of his legal skills by assigning him the task of collecting and organizing all the laws and rules of the Church. At the order of Pope Gregory IX, St. Raymond produced a collection of cannon law. He also published several editions of the Summa Casuum – a guide for confessors and moralists on the rules of sins. As a result of his strong influence in academia and the university setting, his virtuous character, his great works, and his gift for preaching, many were drawn to the Dominican Order and there was an influx of vocations. He was famous for his preaching to Moors and Christians throughout Spain. and was convinced that Christians could only convert others if their own lives set an example of selflessness and holiness.
In 1235, Pope Gregory named him archbishop of Tarragona, but sickness and his pleadings to be relieved of such a duty encouraged the pope to replace him with another, and Raymond returned to his solitude and contemplation in Barcelona as he convalesced from a serious illness. Rejuvenated by the peaceful life of the priory in Barcelona, he resumed his work as a preacher and confessor, and was successful in making many conversions.
In 1238, Raymond was elected Master General of the Dominicans the general chapter in Bologna. He made the visitation of his order on foot without discontinuing any of his penances or religious exercises. As Spiritual Father, he instilled in his spiritual children a love of contemplation, solitude, studies, and apostolic works.
During the last 30 years of his 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. He was appointed at different times as confessor to the pope and king, and as a papal penitentiary he pronounced on difficult cases of conscience.
Symbols: Saint Raymond is often portrayed as a middle-aged Dominican crossing the sea on his cloak. He may be a Dominican holding a book and magister’s wand, or with the Virgin and Child appearing to him. He may be pictured holding a key, the symbol of confession.
Patronage: He is the patron saint of lawyers, including canon lawyers, and schools and faculties of law.