St. Raymond of Penyafort, Dominican, Co-founder of the Mercedarians
Saint Raymond was born in 1175 in Peñafort, Catalonia. His was a wealthy noble family. He studied philosophy and rhetoric in Barcelona, then moved to Bologna where he graduated in law and became a professor of Canon Law. A few years later, the Count of Barcelona, Berenguer IV, traveling to Italy, proposed that Raymond become professor at the seminary he wanted to establish in his diocese. So Raymond returns to Catalonia and, four years later, in 1222, he became a Dominican. A year later, with the help of the future saint Peter Nolasco, he founded the Order of Mercedarians, with the aim of redeeming Christian slaves, and wrote a guide book for confessional priests.
Pope Gregory IX entrusts Raymond with a burdensome task
Perhaps he would have done without it, but one cannot refuse the Pope. Gregory IX's appreciation for Raymond’s legal acumen was so great that he decided to entrust a huge task to him, that of collecting all the acts issued by the Popes in disciplinary and dogmatic matters, answering questions or intervening on specific questions. The task was to put an enormous mass of texts in order, a centuries-old set of more or less important decisions, but Raymond succeeds in the enterprise, so much so that Gregory IX, as a reward, offers him to become archbishop of Tarragona. Raymond refused, however, for he was a Dominican friar and wished to remain a simple friar. Affected by an illness, he returned to his first monastery and to a retired life.
For Raymond it is not yet time to rest
In 1238 his Dominican confreres insist: they want him to be the Master General of the Order and Raymond must accept. He is the third General of the Dominicans, after Dominic of Guzman and Jordan of Saxony. In his new role he sets off on a journey and, still on foot, travels all over Europe visiting one Dominican house after another. The activity exhausted him, and, at seventy years of age, he left office and returned to what most attracted him: prayer and study. He was then particularly concerned with the formation of the new preachers of the Order, which is spreading in Europe. Raymond was convinced that, as missionaries, his confreres must be able to approach, interest and convince the people to whom they want to proclaim Christ. The Order must therefore equip itself with all the indispensable cultural tools: for example, texts suitable for discussion with learned persons of other faiths were needed, and he undertook to prepare them. It was then necessary to know closely the culture of those to whom we are to bring the Gospel: So, Raymond established a school of Hebrew in Murcia, in Spain, and one of Arabic in Tunis.
Death reached him, when he was 100 years old, on 6 January 1275 in Barcelona. It is said that during his funeral many miracles took place. He was made a saint in 1601 by Pope Clement VIII. Today his mortal remains are kept in the cathedral of the capital of Catalonia.