Monday, January 23, 2017

January 23: St. Raymond of Pennafort, C., O.P., II Class

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of St. Raymond of Pennafort, Confessor, of the Order of Preachers. At the time the 1962 Breviary was published, his feast was III Class and contained a near complete set of propers for the entire office. So the semi-festive office is prayed, according to the rubrics. Between then, and the printing of the 1967 English translation of the Breviary, the Order made his feast II Class. At Lauds, the Psalms of Sunday are prayed and a commemoration of St. Emerentiana, virgin and martyr is made.

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

This great Saint was born in Spain, at the castle of Pennafort, six leagues distant from Barcelona, A.D. 1175. He belonged to a noble family, allied to the former Counts of Barcelona and to the kings of Aragon.  Entering the ecclesiastical state, he left his native land to go and study at the celebrated University of Bologna.  Having taken his doctor's degree in civil and canon law, he began to teach with great applause in that city.  After some time, the Bishop of Barcelona persuaded him to return to Spain, and made him one of the canons of his cathedral.  But Raymond thirsted after a closer union with God, and on Good Friday, A.D. 1222, at the age of forty-seven, he begged to be admitted into the Order of Saint Dominic. It is said that he was moved to take this step partly by remorse for having once dissuaded a young man, who consulted him, from joining a religious Order.

From this time he increased in holiness of life, and was the means of leading very many to leave the world and take the Dominican habit. He became Confessor to King James of Aragon, and was greatly distinguished for his skill in settling cases of conscience.  At the command of his superiors, he drew up a book on this subject, which was the first ever written of the kind. It bears his name, "Raimundina."

The Moors were at this time exercising great cruelties upon their Christian captives in Spain. On the night of the 1st of August, A.D. 1223, as Raymond was praying for these unhappy prisoners, our Lady appeared to him and told him that it was her will that a religious Order should be founded for their relief.  On the same night, the Queen of Heaven made a similar revelation to King James of Aragon and to Saint Peter Nolasco, a penitent of Saint Raymond's, who for some years had devoted himself to this work of charity, and who was destined to be the founder of the new Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the redemption of captives.  Its statutes were drawn up by Saint Raymond, who with his own hands gave the habit to Saint Peter Nolasco. It resembled exactly that of the Order to which he himself belonged, save that the mantle was white and the scapular emblazoned with the royal arms of Aragon.

Saint Raymond was now summoned to Rome by Gregory IX., where he became Confessor to the Holy Father and Grand Penitentiary. In obedience to the Pope's command, he collected all the Decretals, i.e. the decrees and replies of the Sovereign Pontiffs to questions which had been submitted to the Holy See, and he added explanations to those the meaning of which seemed obscure. He accomplished this gigantic task in the short space of three years. The Pope twice named him to an Archbishopric, but the Saint each time succeeded in obtaining his release from an honor which would have been painful to his humility.

After the lamented death of Blessed Jordan, the first successor of Saint Dominic, Saint Raymond was elected Master-General of the Order by the Chapter of Bologna, A.D. 1238. During the two years of his government, the Saint made some admirable regulations, and divided the Constitutions into two parts, the first relating to the religious life of the Brethren and the second to their external life, their duties, and offices. At the General Chapter of A.D. 1240, he prevailed on the electors to accept his resignation on the plea of ill-health and infirmity ; but so great was the grief of the entire Order at losing their saintly superior, that a subsequent General Chapter inflicted severe penances and absolution from office on all those who had accepted this resignation.

The Saint lived thirty-five years after he had given up office, leading a most saintly existence in his convent at Barcelona. Almost every night his guardian angel awoke him before Matins and summoned him to prayer. He labored incessantly to procure the conversion of the Moors, as well as of Jews and heretics, and it was at his request that Saint Thomas Aquinas composed his Summa contra Gentiles. He accompanied King James of Aragon in his expedition to the island of Majorca and boldly rebuked him for giving public scandal. Finding his remonstrance’s of no effect, the Saint prepared to return to his Convent at Barcelona. The King endeavored to retain him on the island by force; but Saint Raymond, in presence of a multitude of spectators, threw his mantle on the sea, fastened the end of it to his staff, which served as a mast, and kneeling upon it, as if in a boat, he crossed in this way to the mainland, accomplishing the passage, a distance of about a hundred miles, in six hours.  On reaching Barcelona, he quietly took up his mantle, which was perfectly dry, and returned to his Convent. The doors were closed, as it was the hour of the mid-day siesta, but the Saint found himself miraculously transported within the walls and thus escaped from the acclamations of the admiring crowd who had witnessed his landing. The King was so touched by the miracle that he renounced his evil courses and thenceforth led a good life.

Saint Raymond was universally regarded as the greatest ecclesiastic of his time. At length, worn out by age, infirmities, and penances, he happily departed to our Lord on the Feast of the Epiphany, A.D. 1275, being in his hundredth year. Numerous prodigies were worked at his tomb, whence issued a miraculous dust which restored health to many persons. He was beatified by Pope Paul V., and canonized by Pope Clement VIII., A.D. 1601.


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 our Lord...