What we can learn from the patron of canon law
A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Raymond of Peñafort
Find today’s readings here.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into. (Lk 12:39)
Before looking into today’s readings, I was not familiar with the patron saint of canon lawyers, and I struggled to find what connection there might be between St. Raymond of Peñafort and today’s Scripture, which I was far more familiar with.
The Gospel from Luke today is a reminder from Jesus about the need to be ready for his return. That readiness does not come in the form of predictions—Jesus uses the analogy of him coming like a thief in the night, at which hour no one can be certain—but in terms of preparing the return whenever it comes.
A Catalan centenarian and Dominican friar, St. Raymond is most well known for his writings and contributions to canon law.
Growing up with this reading in some form or another, I had always understood the literal takeaway for this: Do not waste your life trying to predict the exact time and date of the return of Jesus; that is not your job as a faithful Christian. Rather do your best to be ready as soon as the time does arrive.
Today’s Gospel passage coincides with the memorial of St. Raymond of Peñafort. A Catalan centenarian and Dominican friar, St. Raymond is most well known for his writings and contributions to canon law.
Not law in general—there are plenty of other contenders for that patronage—just canon law. As a lay person who does not interact with or read canon law on a daily basis, I cannot be the only one who feels a bit out of my depth when it comes to understanding his importance to the church in everyday life.
Then again, while I might not consciously interact with or read about secular law on a daily basis, those laws still guide my life by shaping the basic structures of society, protecting my safety and allowing for a functional existence. The same goes for canon law as it guides my life as a Catholic, lay or not.
It may be helpful for me as a Catholic to understand canon law and try to read it, through all its complexities. But what is more important to my religious life is that I respect canon law, just as St. Raymond did. That respect goes not only for the work put into it by the canon lawyers that have come after St. Raymond but for the church such laws ultimately serve.
In both his memorial and today’s readings, we are reminded of St. Raymond’s reverence for the structures that guide our lives. Let us spend more time building a church that respects such laws.