Saint Raymond was born in 1175 AD in a small town near Barcelona (then the Principality of Catalonia) named Vilafranca del Penedes. Saint Raymond was educated in Barcelona first, then at the University of Bologna receiving dual doctorates in civil and canon law. He moved to Bologna in 1210, spending some time there occupying the chair of canon law at the university and becoming friends with the newly founded Dominican Order. He became so attracted to the order that he took received the habit in 1222 at the Dominican Convent of Barcelona.
Not too many years later, Peter Nolasco approached him in seeking help to found the Mercedarian order - Saint Raymond was happy to help and assisted in obtaining the consent of King James I of Aragon for the foundation of the order. Saint Raymond established the first school of the Studia Linguarum in Tunis to help Dominican friars liberate Christian captives in the Islamic lands. Saint Raymond is also credited for writing the Summa de casibus poenitentiae, a list of pertinent doctrines and laws of the Church that pertained to a problem or case brought to the confessor. This aided confessors greatly when cases came to them as they now had an exhaustive work to reference.
In 1230, Pope Gregory IX summoned Saint Raymond to Rome and appointed him chaplain and grand penitentiary. In an effort to unite the Canon laws that were scattered across many different publications, Pope Gregory IX assigned Saint Raymond the task of codifying them into one collection. His collection of canon law was named the Deacretais of Gregory IX and was the standard for Canon law until 1917, a time period of nearly 700 years.
Once Saint Raymond turned 60 years old, he returned to Barcelona and hoped to live a quiet retired life. This was interrupted however, when he was elected the Master of the Order of Preachers by the General Chapter of 1238. Saint Raymond took this role extremely seriously and immediately began to visit all of the houses of friars and nuns and drafted a new set of Constitutions of the Order. James I of Aragon frequently consulted with Saint Raymond during this time regarding questions of canon law and practices of the Inquisition. He wrote a new resignation clause into the Constitution and once it was approved in 1240, he resigned from his post. Now free from his responsibilities, Saint Raymond began working to convert the Moors. He was so fully engaged with this ministry that he encouraged Thomas Aquinas to write Against the Gentiles and instituted the teaching of Arabic and Hebrew in the houses of Friars.
In 1263, Saint Raymond convinced King James of Aragon to hold a public debate between Judaism and Christianity. The debate would be between Moshe ben Nahman (a Rabbi) and Paulus Christiani (a baptized Jew of Monpellier and member of the Dominicans). Saint Raymond would die in 1275 in the town of Barcelona and was buried in the Cathedral of Sana Eulalia in Barcelona. Pope Clement VIII canonized him formally in 1601. His feast day first appeared in the General Roman Calendar in 1671 with the date listed as January 23rd - it was moved during the 1969 revision to January 7th. Among other patronages, Saint Raymond is the patron saint of Canon lawyers and lawyers in general.