St. Raymond of Penafort faithfully promoted the mystery of the sacrament of reconciliation – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — The glorious choir of martyrs, that stands round our Emmanuel, till the day of His Presentation in the temple, opens its ranks, from time to time, to give admission to the confessors, whom divine providence has willed should grace the cycle during this sacred season. The martyrs surpass all the other saints in number; but, still, the confessors are well represented. After Hilary, Paul, Maurus, and Anthony, comes Raymond of Penafort, one of the glories of the Order of St. Dominic and of the Church in the 13th century.

According to the saying of the prophets, the Messias is come to be our lawgiver; nay, He is Himself our Law. His words are to be the rule of mankind; He will leave with His Church the power of legislation, to the end that she may guide men in holiness and justice, in all ages. As it is His Truth that presides over the teaching of the faith, so is it His Wisdom that regulates canonical discipline. But the Church, in the compilation and arrangement of her laws, engages the services of men, whom she judges to be the most competent for the work, by their knowledge of Canon Law and the holiness of their lives.

St. Raymond has the honor of having been entrusted to draw up the Church’s Code of Canon Law. It was he who, in the year 1234, compiled, by order of Pope Gregory IX, the five Books of the Decretals; and his name will ever be associated with this great work, which forms the basis of the actual discipline of the Church.

Raymond was a faithful disciple of that God who came down from heaven to save sinners by calling them to receive pardon. He has merited the beautiful title, conferred on him by the Church, of “excellent Minister of the Sacrament of Penance.” He was the first who collected together, into one body of doctrine, the maxims of Christian morality, which regulate the duties of the confessor with regard to the faithful, who confess their sins to him. The Sum of Penitential Cases opened the series of those important treatises, in which learned and holy men have carefully considered the claims of law and the obligations of man, in order to instruct the priest how to pass judgment, as the Scripture says, between leprosy and leprosy. (Deuteronomy 17:8)

In fine, when the glorious Mother of God, who is also the mother of men, raised up, for the redemption of captives, the generous Peter Nolasco – whom we shall meet, a few days hence, at the crib of our Redeemer – Raymond was an important instrument in this great work of mercy; and it is with good reason that the Order of Mercy looks upon him as one of its founders, and that so many thousand captives, who were ransomed by the religious of that order from the captivity of the Moors, have honored him as one of the principal authors of their liberty.

Let us now read the account of the actions of this holy man, whose life was indeed a full one, and rich in merit. The Lessons of his Feast thus abridge his history.

The blessed Raymond was born at Barcelona, of the noble family of Penafort. Having been imbued with the rudiments of the Christian faith, the admirable gifts he had received, both of mind and body, were such that even when quite a boy, he seemed to promise great things in his afterlife. While still young, he taught humanities in Barcelona. Later on, he went to Bologna, where he applied himself with much diligence to the exercises of a virtuous life, and to the study of canon and civil law. He there received the doctor’s cap, and interpreted the sacred canons so ably that he was the admiration of his hearers.

The holiness of his life becoming known far and wide, Berengarius, the Bishop of Barcelona, when returning to his diocese from Rome, took Bologna in his way, in order to see him; and, after most earnest entreaties, induced Raymond to accompany him to Barcelona. He was, shortly after, made canon and provost of that church, and became a model, to the clergy and people, by his uprightness, modesty, learning, and meekness. His tender devotion to the Holy Mother of God was extraordinary, and he never neglected an opportunity of zealously promoting the devotion and honor which are due to her.

When he was about forty five years of age, he made his solemn profession in the Order of the Friars Preachers. He then, as a soldier but just entered into service, devoted himself to the exercise of every virtue, but, above all, to charity to the poor, and this mainly to the captives, who had been taken by the infidels. It was by his exhortation, that St. Peter Nolasco (who was his penitent) was induced to devote all his riches to this work of most meritorious charity. The Blessed Virgin appeared to Peter, as also to blessed Raymond and to James I, King of Aragon, telling them, that it would be exceedingly pleasing to herself and her divine Child if an order of religious men were instituted, whose mission it should be to deliver captives from the tyranny of infidels. Whereupon, after deliberating together, they founded the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Captives; and blessed Raymond drew up certain rules of life, which were admirably adapted to the spirit and vocation of the said order. Some years after, he obtained their approbation from Gregory IX, and made St. Peter Nolasco, to whom he gave the habit with his own hands, first General of the Order.

Raymond was called to Rome by the same pope, who appointed him to be his chaplain, penitentiary, and confessor. It was by Gregory’s order that he collected together, in the volume called the Decretals, the Decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, which were to be found separately in the various councils and letters. He was most resolute in refusing the Archbishopric of Tarragon, which the same pontiff offered to him, and, of his own accord, resigned the Generalship of the Dominican Order, which office he had discharged, in a most holy manner, for the space of two years.

He persuaded James, the King of Aragon, to establish in his dominions the Holy Office of the Inquisition. He worked many miracles; among which is that most celebrated one of his having, when returning to Barcelona from the island of Majorca, spread his cloak upon the sea, and sailed upon it, in the space of six hours, the distance of a hundred and sixty miles, and having reached his convent, he entered it through the closed doors. At length, when he had almost reached the hundredth year of his age, and was full of virtue and merit, he slept in the Lord, in the year of the Incarnation 1275. He was canonized by Pope Clement VIII.

We take the following Hymn from the Dominican Breviary.


Prelates, Kings, and people of the earth! celebrate the glorious name of Raymond, to whom the salvation of all mankind was an object of loving care.

His pure and spotless life reflected all the marvels of the mystic life; and the light of every virtue shines brightly forth in him.

With admirable study and research, he collects together the scattered Decrees of the Sovereign Pontiffs, and all the sacred maxims of the ancient Canons, so worthy to be handed down to all ages.

He bids the treacherous sea be firm, and on her open waters carry him to land; he spreads his mantle, and his staff the mast, he rides upon the waves.

Grant us, Lord, to traverse through the sea of life with innocence and safety, and reach at length the port of life eternal. Amen.

Faithful dispenser of the mystery of reconciliation! It was from the heart of an Incarnate God that thou didst draw the sweet charity which made thee the friend of the sinner. Thou didst love thy fellowmen, and didst labor to supply all their wants, whether of soul or body. Enlightened by the rays of the Sun of Justice, thou hast taught us how to discern between good and evil, by giving us those rules whereby our wounds are judged and healed. Borne was the admirer of thy knowledge of her laws, and it is one of her glories that she received from thy hand the sacred Code whereby she governs the Churches of the world.

Excite in our hearts, Raymond! that sincere compunction, which is the condition required of us when we seek our pardon in the Sacrament of Penance. Make us understand both the grievousness of mortal sin, which separates us from our God for all eternity, and the dangers of venial sin, which disposes the tepid soul to fall into mortal sin. Pray, that there may abound in the Church men filled with charity and learning, who may exercise that sublime ministry of healing souls. Preserve them from the two extremes of rigorism which drives to despair, and of laxity which natters into sloth. Revive amongst them the study of the holy Canons, which can alone keep disorder and anarchy from the fold of Christ.

Oh! thou that hadst such tender love for captives, console all that are pining now in exile or in prison; pray for their deliverance; and pray that we all may be set loose from the ties of sin, which but too often make them, who boast of their outward liberty, be slaves in their souls.

Thou wast the confidant of the Heart of Mary, the Queen of Mercy, and she made thee share with her in the work of the redemption of captives. Thou hast great power with this heart, which, after the Heart of Jesus, is our hope. Pray for us to this incomparable Mother of God, that we may have the grace to love the Divine Child she holds in her arms. May she be induced, by thy prayers, to be our Star on the Sea of this world, more stormy far than that which thou didst pass, when sailing on thy miraculous bark.

Remember, too, thy dear Spain, where thou didst pass thy saintly life. Her Church is in mourning, because she has lost the religious orders which made her so grand and so strong: pray that they may be speedily restored to her, and assist her as of old. Protect the Dominican Order, of whose habit and rule thou wast so bright an ornament. Thou didst govern it with great prudence, whilst on earth; now that thou art in heaven, be a father to it by thy love.

May it repair its losses. May it once more flourish in the universal Church, and produce, as in former days, those fruits of holiness and learning, which made it one of the chief glories of the Church of God.


Three days have scarcely passed since the martyrdom of St. Agnes, when the liturgy, so jealous of every tradition, invites us to visit the martyr’s tomb. There we shall find a young virgin, named Emerentiana; she was the friend and foster-sister of our dear little heroine, and has come to pray and weep at the spot, where lies her loved one, so soon and so cruelly taken from her. Emerentiana has not yet been regenerated in the waters of baptism; she is going through the exercises of a catechumen; but her heart already belongs, by faith and desire, to Jesus.

Whilst the young girl is pouring forth her grief over the tomb of her much-loved Agnes, she is surprised by the approach of some pagans; they ridicule her tears, and bid her pay no more of this sort of honor to one who was their victim. Upon this, the child, longing as she was to be with Christ, and to be clasped in the embraces of her sweet Agnes, was fired with holy courage – as well she might near such a martyr’s tomb – and turning to the barbarians, she confesses Christ Jesus, and curses the idols, and upbraids them for their vile cruelty to the innocent saint who lay there.

This was more than enough to rouse the savage nature of men, who were slaves to the worship of Satan; and scarcely had the child spoken, when she falls on the tomb, covered with the heavy stones thrown on her by her murderers. Baptized in her own blood, Emerentiana leaves her bleeding corpse upon the earth, and her soul flies to the bosom of her God, where she is to enjoy, for ever, union with him, in the dear company of Agnes.

Let us unite with the Church, which so devoutly honors these touching incidents of her own history. Let us ask Emerentiana to pray that we may have the grace to be united with Jesus and Agnes in heaven; and congratulate her on her own triumph, by addressing her in the words of the holy liturgy.

ANT. Come, O Spouse of Christ, receive the crown, which the Lord hath prepared for thee forever.

℣. Grace is poured abroad in thy lips.

℟. Therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.


Let blessed Emerentiana, thy virgin and martyr, O Lord, sue for our pardon: who by the purity of her life, and profession of thy virtue, was always pleasing to thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Guéranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.

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