Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Raymond of Penafort. Saint Raymond was a Dominican priest and a contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas. In the language of today, Saint Raymond might be said to have had a delayed vocation. He entered the Dominican Order at the age of 47. Prior to entering, Saint Raymond had gained fame as an expert and a professor of canon law in Bologna, Italy. It was in Bologna that Raymond heard the preaching of Blessed Reginald of Bologna and was attracted to the Dominican Order.
During Saint Raymond’s long life as a Dominican, he is remembered for many important contributions. As a result of his strong influence in academia and the university setting, his virtuous character, his great works, and his gift for preaching, many were drawn to the Dominican Order. His legal skills were put to use by Pope Gregory IX who assigned to Raymond the task of collecting and organizing all the laws and rules of the Church into one set of canon law. Saint Raymond also published several editions of the Summa Casumm, a guide for confessors. Saint Raymond is perhaps best remembered as a wise and holy confessor.
Saint Raymond is believed to have had great influence over King James of Aragon. Once he went with King James to the Island of Majorca to preach about Jesus. King James was involved in a sinful relationship with a woman on the island. Saint Raymond commanded him to send the woman away. The King said he would, but he did not keep his promise. As a result, Saint Raymond decided to leave the island. The King declared he would punish any ship captain who brought Raymond back to Barcelona.
According to tradition, Saint Raymond, putting all his trust in God, spread his cloak upon the water, tied up one corner of it to a stick for a sail, made the Sign of the Cross, stepped onto the cloak, and sailed along for six hours until he reached Barcelona. When word of this reached King James, he repented of what he had done and became a true follower of St. Raymond.
Saint Raymond is often portrayed as a middle-aged Dominican crossing the water on his cloak and holding a key, a symbol of confession. He is honored today as the patron saint of lawyers, especially canon lawyers. His feast day is celebrated one day after the day he is believed to have died at the age of 100, January 6, 1275. Saint Raymond was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. He is buried in the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia in Barcelona.