Today we honour the memory of Blessed Raymond of Capua, considered by some to be the second founder of the Dominican Order. He was the spiritual director of Saint Catherine of Siena and after her death he was elected Master of the Order and introduced numerous reforms which demanded the strict following of the rules laid down by Saint Dominic. Blessed Raymond died in 1399 and was beatified in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII to mark the fifth centenary of his death. Today we ask Blessed Raymond’s intercession and protection for the Order and of our community in particular.
Disagreements. Arguments. Strained relationships. Hissy fits. Polarized camps. Priests and religious disobeying their superiors and doing their own thing. We may think these are mainly characteristic of the Church in our own day. And yet when we look at the life of Saint Paul, we quickly discover that he was almost always involved in disputes and controversies. He was frequently at odds with some of the people in the very churches that he had founded. He had strong disagreements, and even arguments with other apostles, like Peter and Barnabas. So much so that he operated outside the day to day control of Saint Peter and the church in Jerusalem.
And yet at the same time, Paul was one of the greatest missionaries and builders of churches in the history of Christianity. Despite serious problems in Paul’s personality and his relationships with others, God still used him to spread the Gospel.
So, how are we to understand these contradictions? One thing to note is that Paul didn’t give up when he experienced difficulties in relationships. He knew that developing loving relationships is a very important part of God’s plan for his Church, and Paul kept striving toward that goal, even though he often failed. He also knew that people could get into arguments because they misunderstood aspects of the Gospel, or the mission of the Church, and may need to be taught, or retaught, the truth. Paul also understood that we all bring our human weaknesses and sins with us into the Church, and that God has called us, despite this reality, to help spread the Gospel.
Blessed Raymond of Capua struggled to rein in individual members of the Order who thought they knew better than their superiors. Some of us may have disagreements with other people, perhaps in the community, or our family. We may not fully understand what the Church teaches, and may well need a refresher in some of the basics of the Christian life, or indeed the Religious Life. We should know, that as members of the Church, it’s not the norm to go it alone and do our own thing. We don’t enter a community to impose our will upon everyone else. We don’t join up to do our own thing. We all operate under authority, and we all have to obey. Blessed Raymond had to remind some of his friars just what the Vow of Obedience means in practice. The Order could have fractured, but Blessed Raymond succeeded in bringing everyone back together. Like Saint Paul, and Blessed Raymond, we should never give up in our desire to bring people to God and closer to each other. As Religious, we recognise that we do that in community where we all seek to work from the same page. When we do this, God blesses us and helps all of us despite our weaknesses.