Raymond of Penyafort
Feast Day: January 7
Raymond was born near Barcelona, Spain, in 1175. He was such a gifted student that he was already teaching philosophy at the university by the time he was 20. He went on to earn degrees in both Church and civil law. After hearing the homilies of a Dominican preacher, he decided to join the Dominican order and made his vows in 1222.
Pope Gregory IX gave him an important assignment in Rome. The pope asked him to organize all the Church laws from the popes and bishops. This had not been done in more than 80 years. He compiled all these laws into five books called the Decretals. It was such an excellent collection that another organization of Church law did not have to be done for almost 800 years.
The next writing project Raymond took on was a collection of guidelines for confessors—priests who celebrated the Sacrament of Penance. The book did more than just list sins and penances; it helped priests understand the laws of the Church and how to deal with the problems people shared with them while celebrating this sacrament. He did such a good job that the pope named him an archbishop, but Raymond resigned the honor. He wanted to just be a Dominican priest.
Raymond was elected to be the head of his order. He took this responsibility seriously. He went on foot to every Dominican house to meet with each member of the order. He also reorganized the Dominican rule.
Although he was very interested in laws and how they work, he cared most about bringing Christ to people who had never heard his message of love and salvation. Raymond had always secretly dreamed of being a missionary, but was given other responsibilities in life. Still, he encouraged missionaries to learn the language of the people they were working to convert. He prayed daily for the conversion of the Turks, pagan warriors who were very powerful in Raymond’s time.
Raymond had a very full life and lived to be 100 years old. He died in 1275, and our Church has honored him as a saint since 1601. He is a patron saint of lawyers.