About St. Raymond of Peñafort

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St. Raymond of Peñafort was a Spanish Dominican priest in the 13th century.  He was born in Villafranca de Penedés, a small town near Barcelona, Catalonia, Crown of Aragón in 1175.  He descended from a noble family with ties to the royal house of Aragón, was educated in Barcelona and received doctorates in both civil and canon law at the University of Bologna.
At the age of 100 passed away on January 6, 1275, in Barcelona, Crown of Aragón and was buried in the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia in Barcelona.

His Life

1195 - 1210

Taught Canon Law.

1210 - 1222

Taught Canon Law at the University of Bologna, including three years of occupying the Chair of Canon Law at the University.


Instrumental in the founding of the Mercedarian friars.  Assisted Peter Nolasco in obtaining the consent of King James I of Aragón for the foundation of the Mercedarian Order.


At the age of 47, received the habit of the Dominican Order at the Dominican Convent of Barcelona.


Appointed as theologian and penitentiary to the Cardinal Archbishop of Sabina, John of Abbeville.


Pope Gregory IX summoned him to Rome and was appointed chaplain and grand penitentiary.


His collection of Canon Law became known as the Decretals of Gregory IX, became a standard for almost 700 years.  Pope Gregory IX commanded that the work of Raymond alone should be considered authoritative and should alone be used in the schools.  Canon Law was finally fully codified by 1917.


Established the first school of the Studia Linguarum in Tunis, where it was known as the Studium arabicum.  Its objective was to help the Dominicans liberate Christian captives in Islamic lands.


Elected Master of the Order of Preachers by the General Chapter of 1238.  He drafted a new set of Constitutions of the Order, in which he included a resignation clause for the Master.


Resigned as Master, two years after having been elected as the Master of the Order of Preachers and continued to work with fresh vigor to the Christian ministry, especially working for the conversion of the Moors.

He is recognized as the priest that brought together in one volume, for the first time, the various laws and decrees of the Popes and the Church Councils.  He compiled the Decretals of Gregory IX, a collection of canon laws that still remain a major part of the Church until the 20th century.  For this work, St. Raymond of Peñafort is known as the Father of Cannon Law.  He is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church and is the patron saint of lawyers, especially canon lawyers.  He also promoted the study of Hebrew and Arabic so that the Dominicans of Spain could preach the gospel to Jews and Muslims.  He encouraged St. Thomas Aquinas to write an explanation of the faith that would help missionaries in their work.                                                                                        

He placed emphasis on the need of being a missionary in your daily life by making use of the language that will be most convincing to the people to whom you are teaching the importance of following a life full of faith and love.  St. Raymond has some words to help us persevere in the difficulties of life, as follows:

“Look, then on Jesus, the author and preserver of faith.  In complete sinlessness he suffered and at the hands of those who were his own and was numbered among the wicked.  As you drink the cup of the Lord, Jesus, give thanks to the Lord, the giver of all blessings."

His Most Famous Miracle

Raymond of Peñafort served as the confessor for King James I of Aragon, who was a loyal son of the Church but allowed his lustful desires to shackle him.  While on the island of Majorca to initiate a campaign to help convert the Moors living there, the king brought his mistress with him.  Raymond reproved the king and asked him repeatedly to dismiss his concubine.  This, the king refused to do so.  Finally, the saint told the king that he could remain with him no longer and made plans to leave for Barcelona; however, the king forbade Raymond to leave the island and threatened punishment to any ship captain who dared to take him.  Saint Raymond then said to his Dominican companion, “Soon you will see how the King of Heaven will confound the wicked deeds of this early king and provide me with a ship!”  They then went down to the seashore where Raymond took off his cappa (the long black cloak the Dominicans wear over the white tunic and scapular) and spread one end of it on the water while rigging the other end to his walking staff.  Having thus formed a miniature mast, Raymond bid the other Dominican to hop on, but his companion, lacking the saint’s faith, refused to do so.  Then Raymond bid him farewell, and with the sign of the cross he pushed away from the shore and miraculously sailed away on his cloak.  Skirting around the very boats that had forbidden him passage, the saint was seen by scores of sailors who shouted in astonishment and urged him on.  Raymond sailed the 160 miles to Barcelona in the space of six (6) hours, where his landing was witnessed by a crowd of amazed spectators.  Touched by this miracle, King James I renounced his evil ways and thereafter led a good life.

His feast day used to be celebrated on January 23rd; according to the General Roman Calendar in 1671; however, in 1969 it was moved to January 7th, the day after that of his death.  Pope Clement VIII, canonized him in Rome on April 29, 1601.