January 7, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penafort, patron of canonists
I almost completely missed this guy. He’s on the calendar as a memorial and yet I just don’t seem to care that much. That’s a pretty pathetic attitude to have, now, isn’t it? OK, I’ll do my best.
Raymond (more likely Reymundo) was born in 1175 in Catalonia of a noble family. One of my sources says:
At the age of twenty he taught philosophy at Barcelona. Requiring no remuneration for his services, he endeavored to form the heart as well as the intellect of his students.
There’s a word you don’t hear every day… remuneration. It means cash payment in exchange for services rendered. Although I suppose remuneration has a nicer, if not snootier, ring to it. After a while of doing this he went on to study canon and civil law and received a doctorate. Doctorates in the twelfth century meant a whole lot more than it does today. For those not in the know, canon law is the collection of laws written by the Church, for the Church. Not long after this he entered the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) just a few months after the death of that order’s founder, St. Dominic. The next few years brought about major posts for Raymond. He was called to Rome to become confessor to the pope himself. He wrote instructing other confessors in their task.
Finally, he returned to his native Espana where he was elected to head the Dominican order as the third Superior General. If this guy were involved in civil politics we’d say he was a career politician and could liken him to someone who “rose through the ranks” of elected office. Alas, it’s the Church. Alas? Wait a minute, that makes it a hundred times more interesting! At least to me… Anyway, he was not to be a “lifer” in this post and he resigned in order to retire to seclusion (by the accounts I’ve read) and life a life of prayer and penance. He died in 1275.
Gee, I’m kind of glad I decided not to skip him. You know, there really is a saint for everyone. Apparently this guy is the saint for the canon lawyers; but in our day when leaders (both civil and ecclesiastic) are often uninspiring, Raymond offers proof that sometimes capable, intelligent, selfless men do rise to the top. Good job, Ray. Go fire that canon. You’ve earned it.