Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 5: Bl. Raymond of Capua, C., O.P., III Class

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of Blessed Raymond of Capua, confessor of the Order of Preachers.  The feast is III Class, so the ordinary office is prayed according to the rubrics.

From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):

Blessed Raymond was born at Capua about A.D. 1330, of the noble family of Delle Vigne.  Sent to study at the University of Bologna, he was miraculously called by Saint Dominic himself to take the habit of his Order, and soon became conspicuous amongst his Brethren for his learning, as well as for his humility, modesty, and exact observance of he Rule.  The extreme delicacy of his health, however, which continued to be a constant source of suffering during his whole life, prevented him from keeping the prescribed fasts, and at length he was obliged to yield to the unanimous advice of both his physicians and spiritual directors, and relinquish the attempt.  Nevertheless, Our Lady, to whom he ever bore the most tender devotion, obtained from him the grace of being able to fast on bread and water on the eves of her feasts.

While still comparatively young, he was entrusted with the spiritual direction of some monasteries of religious women, and in particular with that of Saint Agnes of Monte Pulciano.  During his residence there he wrote the Life of that Saint.  In the year 1367 he became Prior of the great Convent of the Minerva in Rome, and in 1374 was sent as Lector to the Convent of Saint Dominic at Siena, where he first became acquainted with her, whom, in spite of her youth, he soon learnt to call his Mother, and with whose name his own will ever be indissoluble linked.  As Saint Catherine of Siena was assisting at Fr. Raymond's Mass on the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, she heard a voice, saying:  "This is My beloved servant; this is he to whom I will give thee," and she understood that he was the Confessor whom our Blessed Lady had promised her several years previously, and who ws to give her more help than any she had yet consulted.  From that day she placed the direction of her conscience in his hands.

The plague was at this time raging at Siena, and Blessed Raymond devoted himself day and night to the service of the plague-stricken.  He caught the infection, but was miraculously cured by this saintly penitent.  The extraordinary graces granted to Saint Catherine at first caused considerable anxiety to her Confessor, who feared that she might be deluded by the devil.  He therefore sought to put her to the proof by some infallible test, and desired her to obtain for him such perfect contrition for his sins as he had never before experienced.  His petition was granted in a remarkable manner; and on another occasion his doubts were assuaged by seeing he face of his holy penitent suddenly transformed in that of our Lord.  He was present when the Saint received the stigmata at Pisa, accompanied her in her visit to the Pontifical Court at Avignon, and was one of the Confessors who went about with her on her missions of peace and reconciliation, and who were often employed from dawn till nightfall in hearing the confessions of those whom her burning words had moved to repentance.

In conjunction with Saint Catherine, Blessed Raymond took an active part in procuring the return of Gregory XI to Rome, whither he was soon called upon to follow him.  Whilst there, he was again elected Prior of the Minerva.  In the year 1378 the Pope died, and shortly after the election of his successor began that miserable Schism of the West, which was to be for full forty years the bane and scandal of Christendom.  The lawfully elected Pontiff, Urban VI, sent Blessed Raymond to France, in the hope of detaching King Charles V from the cause of the Schism.  Prevented from entering that country by the machinations of Queen Joanna of Naples, he began, in conformity with further instructions received from the Pope, to preach the crusade against the schismatics at Genoa; and it was there, on April 29, A.D. 1380, that he received a miraculous intimation of the death of his seraphic penitent, Saint Catherine, who expired in Rome on that day.

A few weeks later, at the General Chapter at Bologna, Blessed Raymond was elected General of that portion of the Order which was under the obedience of the lawful Pontiff.  Never was General called upon to take up the burden of superiority in darker days.  The great Schism had divided the Order as well as the Church, and the Friars of Spain, France, Scotland, and the two Sicilies, with their General, Elias of Toulouse, were, like the faithful in those countries, under the obedience of the Antipope.  In addition to this, the terrible pestilence called the Black Death, which desolated Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, had caused a great and universal relaxation of discipline, and the remainder of Blessed Raymond's life was devoted to the hard task of reform.  Assisted by the devoted disciples of Saint Catherine of Siena, Father Thomas Caffarini and Father Bartholomew Dominici, and a number of other saintly Friars, some of whom, like the Blessed John Dominici, have been raised to teh altars of the Church, he succeeded in founding a large number of Convents of strict observance, and earned for himself the title of "Second Founder" of the Order, which he governed with the utmost prudence, tact, and charity, for nineteen years.  Besides the arduous labors imposed on him by his office, he was constantly employed by the Popes in important and difficult negotiations.  He also found time to write the Life of his seraphic penitent, Saint Catherine of Siena.  His devotion to Our Lady showed itself by ordaining the more frequent use of the verse Maria Mater gratiae in the Divine Office.

Altar with remains of Bl. Raymond of Capua in the Church of St. Dominic in Naples.
Worn out by his labors for the Church and the Order, Blessed Raymond made a holy and happy end at Nuremberg, in Bavaria, on the 5th of October, A.D. 1399.  His holy remains were subsequently removed to the Church of Saint Dominic at Naples.  Held in the utmost veneration from the time of his death, he was beatified by Leo XIII, A.D. 1899.


O God, you willed that the blessed Raymond your confessor, should be a distinguished master of evangelical perfection and faithful upholder of apostolic authority; mercifully grant that, living after his example on earth, we may deserve to be crowned with him in heaven.  Through our Lord...