Saint Raymond, often referred to as Saint Raymond Nonnatus due to the unusual circumstances of his birth, holds a significant place in the annals of Catholic history. Born in Portella, Catalonia, Spain, he was named ‘Nonnatus’ (meaning ‘not born’) because he was delivered by caesarean section after his mother tragically died during childbirth.
Raymond’s early life was deeply spiritual, leading him to join the Mercedarians in Barcelona. This religious order, founded by St. Peter Nolasco, was dedicated to ransoming Christians enslaved by the Moors. Following Nolasco, Raymond became the primary ransomer, taking the dangerous journey to Algeria to free these captives.
However, during one of his missions, Raymond faced a predicament. His funds were exhausted, but many still remained in chains. Undeterred, he offered himself as a hostage to ensure the release of others. While in captivity, Raymond’s courage shone as he continued to evangelize, leading to the conversion of several Muslims. This act enraged the local governor, who ordered him to be executed by impalement.
Raymond’s life was spared due to his potential high ransom value, but he was brutally punished: he had to run the gauntlet and endured further tortures for his unwavering faith. After eight long months, Peter Nolasco, his mentor, ransomed him, bringing him back to Barcelona.
In 1239, in recognition of his selfless acts and deep spirituality, Pope Gregory IX appointed him a Cardinal. However, Raymond’s journey was cut short when he died the following year, while en route to Rome, at Cardona, not far from his birthplace.
After his death, a dispute arose over where Raymond’s body should be laid to rest. To resolve this, locals placed his body on a blind mule, trusting in divine intervention. Remarkably, the mule, without guidance, went straight to a chapel where Raymond had often prayed as a child. It was here that he was finally laid to rest.
Countless miracles have been attributed to Saint Raymond, both during his lifetime and posthumously. In 1657, the Catholic Church officially recognized these miracles and canonized him. Due to the miraculous circumstances of his own birth, he is venerated as the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives. His feast day is celebrated every year on August 31.