07 January 2012

St. Raymond of Peñafort

O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant St. Raymond of Peñafort, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Raymond of Peñafort lived to be a hundred years old, and with such a long life, he had the opportunity to do lots of things, and he certainly took full advantage of all the time God gave him on this earth. St. Raymond was born into a Spanish family of noblemen, which meant that he had the resources and the education to get a very good start in life.

By the time he was 20, St. Raymond was teaching philosophy. In his early 30s he earned a doctorate in both canon law and civil law. When he was 41 he became a Dominican. Pope Gregory IX called him to Rome to work for him and to be his confessor. One of the things the pope asked him to do was to gather together all the decrees of popes and councils. St. Raymond compiled five books called the Decretals, and this was really the beginning of an organized system of canon law for the Church. In fact, since St. Raymond’s work, the first actual Code of Canon Law was put together in 1917.

St. Raymond wrote a book for confessors which was a collection of various situations and sins, and in this book he discussed the different doctrines and laws of the church which would be applied in the various cases – a work which was very helpful to confessors.

At the age of 60, St. Raymond was appointed archbishop of Tarragona, the capital of Aragon. He didn't like the honor at all and ended up getting sick and resigning in two years.

He didn't get to enjoy his peace for long, however, because when he was 63 he was elected by his fellow Dominicans to be the head of the whole Order, the successor of St. Dominic. St. Raymond worked hard, visited on foot all the Dominican houses, reorganized their constitutions and managed to put through a provision that a master general be allowed to resign. When the new constitutions were accepted, St. Raymond, then 65, resigned as the head of the Dominicans. He still had 35 years ahead of him, and he spent those years very productively, opposing heresies and working for the conversion of the Muslims who were occupying Spain.

St. Raymond was a lawyer, especially a canon lawyer, and we might think that’s kind of a boring and dry job, but it is the law which outlines matters of justice and provides for the protection of the rights of individuals. Imagine the chaos if we had no laws in society. The same is true in the Church. Laws state ideally those things that are for the best interests of everyone and make sure the rights of all are safeguarded. From St. Raymond, we can learn a respect for law as a means of serving the common good.

- from various sources.