Raymond of Peñafort was born near Barcelona, Spain in 1175. He was from a noble family and was well educated. He was able to earn a doctorate in civil law and canon law from the University of Bologna. He became interested in the Dominican Order. He joined the order in 1222 at the age of 47.
In 1229 Raymond was appointed theologian and penitentiary to Cardinal Archbishop Sabins. A penitentiary is someone who administers the sacrament of penance. He was then called to Roman by Pope Gregory IX and was appointed chaplain and grand penitentiary. Pope Gregory IX asked him to help arrange and codify canon law. He was to find articles scattered in many different publications and organize them into one set of documents. Pope Gregory was impressed with Raymond’s work and issued a papal bull saying the work of Raymond alone should be the authority.
Raymond was the confessor for King James. When he was on Majorca, which is an island, he tried to help convert the Moors living there. King James brought his mistress with him. Raymond told the king this was wrong and repeatedly asked the king to not keep a mistress, and send her home. The king refused. Finally, Raymond told the king that he wouldn’t stay and made plans to leave for Barcelona. But the king forbid Raymond to leave the island and threatened punishment to any ship captain who dared to take him.
Raymond and his Dominican companion went to the seashore where Raymond took off his cloak and spread one end of it on the water while rigging the other end to his walking staff. He formed a miniature mast, Raymond told his friend to hop on, but the friend didn’t have the same faith, so he refused. Raymond told him goodbye, prayed the sign of the cross, and pushed off, sailing away on his cloak. Skirting around the very boats that had refused him, he was seen by many sailors who shouted in astonishment and urged him on. Raymond sailed the 160 miles to Barcelona in six hours, where his landing was witnessed by a crowd of amazed spectators. In awe of this miracle, King James I changed his ways.
When he was 60 Raymond retired and lived in seclusion. He returned to Barcelona in 1236. He was made Master of the Order of Preachers, Dominicans. He then set out to see all the friars and nuns of the Order. He set a new set of rules for the order, including a resignation clause for the Master of the Order. As soon as was approved he resigned.
After resigning he returned to ministry. He worked to convert the Moors. He encouraged Thomas Aquinas to write his book Against the Gentiles.
Raymond was 100 years old when he died in 1275 in Barcelona. He was canonized a saint in 1601.