St. Raymond - The Lord's Lawyer for a Century
Saint Raymond of Penyafort was born in Vilafranca del Penedes, a small town near Barcelona, Catalina in 1175. He was educated in Barcelona and at the University of Bologna where he received doctorates in both civil and canon law. Prior to achieving this impressive feat, he excelled in his study of philosophy which he taught at the University Level at the ripe old age of 20. By incorporating the notion of reason with such Catholic ideals as mercy, compassion and service for the poor and suffering, Raymond offered a unique perspective on a philosophically sound, well-lived existence.
He taught canon law for nearly 15 years until the year 1210, until moving to Bologna where he remained until 1222. He served as Chaplain to Pope Alexander IV as well as confessor of King James I of Aragon, the latter role befitting a man who possessed the ties to Spanish nobility that Raymond did. In the year 1222, he joined the Franciscan Order and it was from this point forward that Raymond began to string together the long list of diverse and poignant accomplishments that continue to mold and shape the Church to this day.
His first order of business was to establish the Order of Our Lady of Mercy, specifically founded for the ransom of Christian captives in the Muslim Territory during the Crusades. Pope Gregory IX then called Raymond to Rome in 1230, asking him to compile the Church’s various decisions and decrees into one systematic legal code and system for lack of a better term. The five resulting books, which came to be known as the Decretals, served for centuries as the basis of the Church’s internal legal system and in fact were generally considered far and away the best organized collection of Church law until the 1917 codification of canon law.
Prior to that, Raymond had written a book of cases to aid confessors. It was called Summa de Casibus Poenitentiae, which discussed doctrines and laws of the Church that pertained to the problem or case brought to the confessor so that he would have a consistent point of reference.
After a brief stint as the Archbishop of Tarranoga, an assignment he disliked by his own admission, he was elected by his fellow Dominicans to champion the entire order. Upon thoroughly revamping the hierarchy of the order's entire organizational structure, Raymond resigned at the age of 65, seemingly in the twilight of his life. But as fate and God's will would have it, Raymond lived an additional 35 extraordinary years, years spent in the vehement opposition of heresy and diligently working on behalf of the Moors' conversion.
Like many greats, he inspired future difference-makers such as St Thomas Aquinas to write the “Summa Contra Gentiles”, written specifically for the conversion of non-Catholics. Legend has it that over 10,000 Muslims converted to Catholicism as a result of St. Raymond’s tireless evangelistic witness.
In his later years, Raymond established language schools to aid in the conversion of non-Christians who spoke in different tongues. Raymond passed away on Jan. 6, 1275, wrapping up an even century of service to his beloved Church in a diverse array of disciplines ranging from canon law to evangelism.
Pope Clement VIII canonized Saint Raymond in 1601. He is the patron saint of lawyers.