Saint Raymund Nonnatus, Confessor
Catalonia was the native country of St. Raymund who, to the astonishment of the Physicians, was born after his mother’s death. As soon as he was old enough to comprehend how early he had become an orphan, he chose the Queen of Heaven as his mother, and to his last day, called her by no other name. When he had studied for some time with great success, his father, fearing the youth would enter a Religious Order, sent him into the country to take care of a farm. Raymund obeyed, and found there also opportunity to serve God. He became very fond of solitude and therefore chose for his occupation the care of the sheep, in order to gain more time for prayer and meditation.
At the foot of the mountain to which he generally led his flock, was a small, deserted hermitage, with a chapel, in which an extremely lovely picture of the Blessed Virgin was kept, which was a source of great joy to him. He there spent several hours daily, in devout exercises. Other shepherds, who observed this, and to whom the piety of Raymund was a reproach of their own negligence, reported to his father that he was doing nothing but praying, and thereby neglected his flock. The father came to convince himself of the fact, but although he found his son praying in the chapel, he saw that the flock was meanwhile attended to by a youth of uncommon beauty of form and features. Asking his son who this young shepherd was, and why he had engaged him, Raymund, to whom it was unknown that Providence had worked a miracle in his behalf, fell on his knees before his father, and begging forgiveness, earnestly promised not to commit the fault again.
The Divine Mother, of whom he begged the grace of knowing his vocation, appeared to him, saying that she desired him to take the habit of the newly established Order for the redemption of captives. He did so, and was sent to Algiers where he found a great many Christians in slavery, and as the money he had brought for their ransom was not sufficient, he offered himself as a hostage to redeem the others. He was induced to this by the danger in which the prisoners were of losing their faith and with it eternal life. This great and heroic charity gave him occasion to suffer much for the sake of Christ. At first, he was treated very harshly by his masters, but when they began to fear that he would die before the ransom was paid, they allowed him more liberty, which the holy man used only for the salvation of the captive Christians. He strengthened them in their faith, and, at the same time, endeavored to convert the infidels.
Accused of this before the Judge, he was condemned to be impaled alive, and nothing but the hope of a large ransom prevented the execution of this barbarous sentence, and caused it to be changed into a cruel bastinado. Raymund, who desired nothing more fervently than to die for Christ’s sake, was not intimidated by what he had undergone, but wherever an opportunity offered itself, he explained to the infidels the word of God. The Judge, informed of it, ordered him to be whipped through all the streets of the city, and then to be brought to the market-place, where the executioner, with a red hot iron, pierced his lips, through which a small chain was drawn and closed with a padlock, in order that the holy man might no more use his tongue to instruct others. Every three days the lock was opened, and he received just enough food to keep him from starvation. Besides this, he was loaded with chains, and cast into a dungeon, where he lay for eight months, until his ransom arrived. Although it was the desire of the Saint to remain among the infidels, as he would there have an opportunity to gain the crown of martyrdom, obedience recalled him to his monastery.
When the Pope was informed of all that Raymund had suffered during his captivity, he nominated him Cardinal; but the humble Saint returned to his convent and lived like all the other brothers of the Order, without making the least change in his dress, food, or dwelling, nor accepting any honor due to him as so high a dignitary of the Church. Gregory IX, desired to have so holy a man near him, and called him to Rome. The Saint obeyed and set out on his journey. He had, however, scarcely reached Cardona, six miles from Barcelona, when he was seized with a malignant fever, which soon became fatal. He desired most fervently to receive the holy Sacraments, but as the priest called to administer them to him, delayed to come, God sent an angel, who brought him the divine food. After receiving it, he returned thanks to God for all the graces he had received from Him during his life, and peacefully gave up his soul, in the 37th year of his age.
After his death, the inhabitants of Cardona, the clergy of Barcelona and the religious of his order, contended as to where the holy body should be buried. Each party thought they had the greatest claim to possess his tomb. At last they resolved to leave the decision to Providence. They placed the coffin, in which the holy body reposed, upon a blind mule, determined that the treasure should be deposited in the place to which this animal should carry it. The mule, accompanied by a large concourse of people, went on until it had reached the hermitage and chapel where the holy cardinal, as a shepherd boy, had spent so many hours in prayer, and had received so many graces from God. There the Saint was buried, and St. Peter Nolasco, in the course of time, founded there a Convent, with a Church in which the holy remains are still preserved and greatly honored by the people of Catalonia.
I. St. Raymund instructed the faithful and the infidels; and to prevent him from this, his enemies most barbarously closed his mouth with a lock. Oh ! how much more just it would be, if such a lock were suspended from your mouth, which you open so frequently to lie, to curse, to blaspheme, to quarrel, to calumniate, to make impure speeches, to sing impure songs, and to talk frivolously in Churches. But believe me, if your mouth is not punished in this world, it will most surely suffer in the next, and as the mouth of St. Raymund, which he used so nobly, and in which he suffered so cruelly, will be specially rewarded in the abode of the angels, so will your wicked mouth be specially punished in the dwelling of the evil spirits. St. Gregory believes that the rich man suffers special pains in his tongue, because he used it at table for indecent speeches, as is yet today the habit of many. The same punishment awaits your tongue, your sinful mouth; and if you wish to escape it, be careful how you use them. Place the fear of God as a guard over them, that they may not utter a word offensive to the Most High. ” Hedge in thine ears with thorns, hear not a wicked tongue, and make doors and bars to thy mouth.” (Eccles. xxviii.)
II. St. Raymund, at the close of his days, gave fervent thanks to the Almighty for all favors bestowed upon him, and thus ended his life full of heavenly comfort. To give thanks to God is a duty which we ought to perform every morning and evening; for, no day, no night passes in which we, do not partake of the bounty of the Lord. You thank men who bestow kindness upon you; why then do you not thank God Who has overwhelmed you with favors, and still grants them to you daily. Do not forget your duty, but attend to it every day. Give thanks to Him also at the end of each month, in consideration of so many benefits which you have received from Him and for which you did not even ask. Whom have you to thank that you did not die during the past four weeks; that you have not been condemned to eternal flames, as so many that have been called away? Whence comes it that you were preserved from the dangers and misfortunes that befell so many others? that time and opportunity are left you to work out your salvation, whilst thousands no longer possess them?
Most assuredly, these are all benefits of the Almighty which you deserve much less than a great many others. Is it not just that you should give fervent thanks to God at the end of each month? But is your soul in such a condition that you can end this month or close your life, as peacefully as St. Raymund? Ah! if you had lived as he did, if you had constantly practiced good works, and had borne adversity with his patience, you might be comforted now, as well as at the end of your days. As, however, this is unhappily not the case, repent of your wickedness and indolence with your whole heart, and pray humbly for grace to make better use of the next month. Endeavor to atone, during the same, for your past negligence, that, one day you may not sigh uselessly: “I have had empty months.” (Job. viii.) “Who will grant me that I might be according to the months past.” (Job xxix.)
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.