Feast Day: January 07
Born at Peńafort, near Barcelona, Spain, of a noble Spanish family, Raymond took his early studies at the cathedral school in Barcelona and then proceeded to Bologna, where he taught philosophy with marvelous success and earned a doctorate in both civil and canon law.
Father Peńafort worked assiduously for the formation of priests and the evangelization of Jews and Muslims. He encouraged missionaries to learn Arabic and to study the Koran in order to enter into dialogue with Islam. At one time, he was a diocesan priest, but after coming into contact with the newly founded Order of Preachers, he joined the Dominicans in 1218.
He composed a Summa of canon law with a pastoral orientation and was later called to Rome by Pope Gregory IX 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 that had been made in eight years since a similar collection by Gratian. Raymond compiled five books called the Decretals. They were looked upon as one of the best organized collections of Church law until the 1917 codification of canon law.
Raymond wrote a book of cases for confessors. It was called Summa de Casibus Poenitentiae. More than simply a list of sins and penances, it discussed pertinent doctrine and laws of the Church that pertained to the problem or case brought to the confessor.
Raymond was elected third Master General of the Dominican Order, succeeding Jordan of Saxony in that post. He resigned two years later and returned to Spain. For the rest of his life Raymond dedicated himself to the direction of souls as a confessor and to the promotion of evangelization among the Jews and Muslims of North Africa. He encouraged Thomas Aquinas to write the Summa contra Gentiles and at the request of Peter Nolasco he drafted the Rule for the Mercedarians, an order founded for the redemption of Christian captives held by the Muslims in North Africa.
Raymond preached crusades against the Muslims. In one of his travels and full of faith, Raymond spread his cloak upon the waters, and, tying one end to his staff as a sail, made the Sign of the Cross and fearlessly stepped upon it making his way across the body of water to Barcelona, where, gathering up his dry cloak, he retreated into his monastery. In his hundredth year the Lord let Raymond retire.
Butler, Fr. Alban. “Lives of the Saints For Every Day in the Year.” Charlotte, North Carolina: Tan Books, 2012.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.