St. Raymond was born into a wealthy noble family of Peñafort, Catalonia. He studied philosophy and rhetoric in Barcelona, then moved to Bologna where he graduated in law and became a professor of Canon Law. A few years later, the Count of Barcelona, Berenguer IV, traveling to Italy, proposed that Raymond become professor at the seminary he wanted to establish in his diocese. So, Raymond returned to Catalonia.
In 1222, Raymond became a Dominican. A year later, with the help of the future St. Peter Nolasco, he founded the Order of Mercedarians, with the aim of redeeming Christian slaves, and wrote a guidebook for confessional priests.
Pope Gregory IX’s appreciation for Raymond’s legal acumen was so great that he entrusted the task of collecting all the acts issued by the popes in disciplinary and dogmatic matters, answering questions or intervening on specific questions. Understandably there was an enormous mass of texts to put in order, a centuries-old set of important decisions. Raymond succeeded in the enterprise, so much so that Gregory IX, as a reward, offered him to become archbishop of Tarragona. Raymond refused, however, for he was a Dominican friar and wished to remain a simple friar. Affected by an illness, he returned to his first monastery and to a retired life.
In 1238, the Dominican wanted him to be the master general of the order and Raymond was obliged to accept. He was the third general of the Dominicans, after Dominic of Guzman and Jordan of Saxony. In his new role he set off on a journey on foot, traveling all over Europe, visiting one Dominican house after another. The activity exhausted him, and, at seventy years of age, he left office and returned to what most attracted him: prayer and study.
He became particularly concerned with the formation of the new preachers of the order, which was spreading in Europe. Raymond was convinced that as missionaries, his confreres must be able to approach, interest and convince the people to whom they wanted to proclaim Christ. The order had to therefore equip itself with all the indispensable cultural tools: for example, texts suitable for discussion with learned persons of other faiths were needed, and he undertook to prepare them. It was then necessary to know closely the culture of those to whom they were to bring the Gospel: so, Raymond established a school of Hebrew in Murcia, in Spain, and one of Arabic in Tunis.
Death came upon him, when he was 100 years old, on 6 Jan. 1275 in Barcelona. It is said that during his funeral many miracles took place. He was made a saint in 1601 by Pope Clement VIII. Today his mortal remains are kept in the cathedral of the capital of Catalonia.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: St. Raymond of Penyafort – Information on the – Vatican News. (n.d.). Vatican News. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/01/07/st–raymond-of–penyafort–dominican–co-founder-of-the-mercedar.html