Monday, August 31, 2009

St Raymond Nonnatus

I mixed up St Raymond Not-born with St Raymond of Peñafort, until I consulted his Matins lesson: the former (to-day's feasted saint), a Catalan, is one of the first and most celebrated Mercedarians, a bright shining light in his generation, and Master-general of his order, who even gave himself a hostage to ransom Christians held captive by the Moors - "greater love than this no man hath" (he was later rescued, but died a year later, on the last Sunday of August in 1240); while the latter, a Dominican, was an early Master of the Order who unexpectedly retired early (and lived on till his 99th year, dying in 1275), particularly noted for his great work in Canon Law (giving an instance of a lawyer who is a saint), in moral theology and in advising on the administration of the sacrament of Penance; a wonder-worker (he once sailed from Majorca to Barcelona on his cappa), who - this is why I mix up him up with Nonnatus - helped St Peter Nolasco found the Order of Our Lady of Ransom (the Mercedarians).

Here is my translation, made this morning, of the hagiographic reading given in the Breviary for St Raymond (Raymund) Nonnatus:

Raymond, called by the cognomen Not-born, for against the common law of nature he was brought forth into the light from the cut-open side of his dead mother, rejecting childish games and the enticements of the world, so gave himself to works of piety, that all marvelled in the adult virtues of a child. The Mother of God, whom he sedulously petitioned, he loved exceedingly. Entering religion under the title of ransom or of the merciful redemption of captives, his virginity, which he had previously consecrated to the blessed Virgin, he always cultivated, and shone with all other virtues, especially with charity for Christians who under the power of pagans lived a miserable life. Him Gregory IX amongst the Cardinal fathers enrolled*; but the man of God, in that dignity abhorring all pomps, always held most tenaciously to religious humility. At Cardona [near Barcelona], prest down by deadly disease but armed by the sacraments of the Church, he passed to the Lord on the last Sunday of August, in the year 1240. - But Thou, O Lord, have mercy on us! R/. Thanks be to God.

Te Deum laudamus...

[* Modern research shews that this pious tradition stems from an understandable confusion of St Raymond with Robert Somercote, Cardinal 1238-1241; sixteenth century writers mistakenly assumed that the Pope had elevated St Raymond to this dignity as a mark of respect for his great sufferings as a voluntary prisoner of the Moors.]

My St Andrew's Missal gives the further affecting detail that, St Raymond being cut alive from his dead mother, took the Blessed Virgin as his loving and only Mother in all things: and she did not disappoint him.

I have already blogged on his Collect, together with some thoughts on deliverance from the captivity of sin, when listing saints of the Trinitarian and Mercedarian orders, those two sterling societies whose holy rivalry it was to compete in delivering the greatest number of Christians from slavery under the Moors and Turks.

Gloria tibi Trinitas, et captivis libertas!

(Glory to Thee, O Trinity, and to captives, liberty!)

Domina nostra de mercede, ora pro nobis:
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

(Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us:
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.)

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