The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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St. Raymond of Pennafort

Canisius | 23 January, 2006 16:28

At last we reach the feast of St. Raymond of Pennafort on Gueranger's calendar. For reasons uknown to me, the feast occurs a little earlier in the year on the current Church calendar.

My horribly weak knowledge of history tends to be like a man peering into the darkness with a flashlight: I have some dim understanding of certain periods or certain outstanding figures in history, and any other shadowy impressions I may have of history tend to be organized in my mind around the handful of clear spots. With regard to the middle ages, the luminous figure in my memory is St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Raymond was of the generation of Dominicans just before St. Thomas, and knew him personally. Like many of the early Dominicans, he is reputed to have been a powerful preacher. Folks in Thomas' day thought the world of Raymond, and considered him a saint long before he died. In addition to the various charitable and scholarly concerns Dom Gueranger records, Raymond is also said to have asked St. Thomas to write his famous Summa Contra Gentes as an aid to missionaries in muslim territory.

As Islam makes new encroachments on the West, and once again threatens to become a major enemy of what once was Christendom, once again we find the age of the crusades a fascinating history. But the intellectual terrain was a bit different in those days: Thomas faced an intellectually sophisticated Islamic world whose Aristotelian philosophy had caused havoc and heresy in the Christian universities. The nuanced philosophy one finds in the Summa Contra Gentes would have been much more helpful for the Dominicans of Raymond's day than for whomever we have in Iraq today.

I once had the chance to read through a bit of Raymond's Summa Casuum. It is basically an organized compilation of "cases", i.e., various situations or problems that might be posed to a confessor, and answers to them. At the special request of the pope, the Dominicans had taken on hearing confessions as part of their particular charism, and Raymond essayed to organize the task for his brother priests. The part I was reading had to do with the validity of marriages and how marriages can or can't be contracted, etc. It was pretty dry stuff, both because of the subject matter and because of the genre of the book. It's nice to get a more rounded view of Raymond and see how well-rounded a saint he was!


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