St. Raymond Nonnatus is perhaps best-known not for something he did, but for the manner of his birth. He was born in Spain in 1204 via C-section after his mother died trying to deliver him. His name “nonnatus” means “not born,” and as a result he is the patron saint of midwives and obstetricians, expectant mothers, childbirth, babies, and children.
Raymond grew up in a family that was noble yet poor. From a young age, he was drawn to spiritual matters, yet also did well at school. His father, however, hoped that Raymond would have a career in the royal court, where they had family connections. Raymond obediently went to work on one of the family farms, though he used the solitude he found there to spend time in prayer and meditation.
Eventually, Raymond’s father acknowledged his desire for religious life and granted him permission to join the new Order of Our Lady of Mercy. Raymond advanced quickly in his studies there and was soon made the Ransomer—the man in charge of going to North Africa with large sums of money to ransom Christian slaves. When he ran out of money, he gave himself up as ransom for more slaves. Then he began sharing the Gospel with slaves and captors alike, converting many and earning the wrath of the Muslim leaders.
Raymond was tortured and thrown in prison, but he kept praying and preaching. Finally, he was ransomed by his own Order and returned to Spain. There, he was nominated a cardinal by Pope Gregory IX, but he continued to live in a tiny cell on very little. When the pope called him to Rome, he traveled there as a poor religious man but was taken sick on the way. He died of a fever on August 31, 1240.
Raymond’s life speaks to me as a mom in several ways. First, he faced pressure from his family and friends to do “more” with his life, studies and connections. I’ve also felt that pressure to do “more” than “just” be a mom. Yet as a I embrace my calling to be a mom, I’ve found happiness, just as Raymond found happiness in his calling to be the religious life.
Second, Raymond loved those around him and gave everything he had. As a mom, it can be hard to keep giving and giving and giving to the little people in our lives. We love them and we chose to give our lives to them, but sometimes, they demand a lot. Raymond kept giving, even to the point of being willing to die in a strange land for people he didn’t know.
Third, Raymond was content with very little. Even at the end of his life, when he was offered a palace and carriages and other luxuries in keeping with his position as cardinal, he continued to live simply. I’ve often wished for a new car or a nice house or a faraway vacation. Instead, like Raymond, I should be happy with what I have and see that God has provided everything I need.