Posted by: fvbcdm | January 8, 2013

Feast of Saint Raymond of Penafort (7 Jan 2013)

Just about the time that our founder, Saint Dominic, was born in that part of Spain called Castille, another child was born in what is now northeastern Spain: an area called Catalonia. His name: Raymond; we call him. Saint Raymond of Penafort. He was a brilliant student. He studied at the cathedral school in Catalonia’s capital city of Barcelona. Then he went to the University of Bologna in Italy to study law, and he majored in the law of the church since there is always the need for people expert in that field. On returning to Barcelona, he met Saint Dominic who had just founded the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans as we are usually called. Raymond was immensely impressed by this priest from Castille, and the year after Dominic died, Raymond joined the new Order. He was forty-seven at the time—old for a novice in a religious order and seminarian in those days.

One of the spiritual directees of Raymond was a man named Peter Nolasco who wanted to found a religious order for the ransom of captives in the hands of the Muslims. In those days, the Iberian peninsula had been first totally, and then partially under the control of Muslim invaders. The Muslims had first invaded in the year 711. Little by little, they were pushed farther and farther south by the Spanish and Portuguese inhabitants of the peninsula, who were Catholic. Finally, in 1492, nearly 800 years after their invasion, the last of the occupying Muslims surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of a uniting Spain, and crossed the strait of Gibraltar to return to the Muslim world.

The Muslims, or “Moors” as they were called, we seen by most of Catholic Europe as their arch-enemies. There was conflict in the Iberian peninsula; there was conflict in the Holy Land by the nine crusades; there was a great sea battle at Lepanto; there were land battles in what is now Austria, at the gates of Vienna. Finally the wars between Christians and Moors ended and things remained relatively quiet until after World War II when the State of Israel was created by the United Nations. Then the sleeping giant of Islam reawakened, passionately angry at the creation of a Jewish state in what had previously been Muslim Palestine. That was in 1947; there has been no peace in that part of the world since then.

We Americans could observe the Jewish-Muslim conflict with a certain disinterest until September 11, 2001, when Muslim radicals flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and were trying to fly another one into the White House. In this dreadful act of hostility, some three thousand Americans were killed. Since then, there has been Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran.

We as American Catholics can leave the wars and the diplomacy to the men and women in those fields. We, too, wish to destroy Islam, but not by arms and death. Rather, it is our duty to try to bring those who do not yet know and love Our Lord Jesus Christ to a knowledge and love of him. And this is possible only by prayer, example, and peaceful dialogue.

Saint Raymond of Penafort knew this. He read the Koran, the holy book of Islam. He asked his colleague Saint Thomas Aquinas, to write a catechism for use in evangelizing and catechising the Muslims. He is now one of our advocates in Heaven; let us ask him to help us in this great crusade of prayer, love, and peace in bringing the crescent to the cross—in introducing the children of Mohammed to Our Divine Lord Jesus. Please pray for that intention regularly, my dear friends. This tremendous goal can be achieved only with God’s help. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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