Prayer and Canon Law


St. Raymond of Penyafort (1175-1275) helped organize the Church’s legal code and aided Christian captives. He inspired St. Thomas Aquinas to write the Summa Contra Gentiles for the conversion of non-Catholics. At least 10,000 Muslims reportedly converted as a result of St. Raymond’s evangelistic efforts.

In honor of the feast of St. Ray­mond of Peñafort, patron saint of the School of Canon Law, Santa Croce’s students and professors were wel­comed at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where they were met by the Congregation’s Un­der-Secretary, Rev. Matteo Visioli, who gave a brief tour of the Congre­gation’s office and spoke about the important work of the dicastery for the good of the Church.

The feast day of each of the four faculties at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross is an important occasion. Classes are suspended for the day as students and professors mark the occasion with a special cel­ebration of the Holy Mass, a keynote lecture and, occasionally, another ac­tivity tied to the specific interests of students. In the past few years, the School of Canon Law has visited the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and the “Redemptoris Mater” chapel in the Apostolic Pal­ace, in honor of the occasion.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, originally founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III under the name of the “Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition” as a commission of six cardinals charged with addressing cas­es of heresy and schism, has evolved in its purpose over the years. Now, the CDF is the di­castery tasked with promoting and defending the doctrine of the faith and its traditions in all of the Catholic world. “This mission is very beautiful,” ex­plains Fr. Davide Cito, professor of penal canon law at Santa Croce. “Fun­damentally, it is the mission of pro­tecting the integrity and authenticity of the Faith that the Church has been given.”


Fr. Jesús Miñambres celebrating Holy Mass on the feast of St. Raymond of Penafort, patron saint of the School of Canon Law

The Congregation for the Doc­trine of the Faith also functions as an ecclesiastical tribunal for a select few, specific matters. Dean of the Faculty, Fr. Jesús Miñambres, found the opportunity for students to see first-hand some of the practical appli­cations of canon law to be extremely beneficial. “The visit went very well,” he explains. “Students were able to see, in a new and more concrete light, many of the ways in which canon law practically serves the good of the Church.”

For first-year American lay stu­dent Michael Mazza, the visit brought home the connection between prayer and the work of the Congregation. “The first thing that stood out for me was our visit to the chapel, a quiet place of prayer and beauty inside this building where decisions are made that affect the lives and souls of so many people around the world,” Mr. Mazza reflects. “The second thing that stood out was the prayerful spirit of Rev. Visioli, who spoke to us about the work that is being done there ev­ery day, often hidden from the world, but both important and necessary.”

Third-year student Fr. Ángel Rustrian Lara was also struck by the focus on faith and love for the Church within the Congregation. “It was a privilege to hear Fr. Visioli’s experi­ence and to see how much love he has for the Church. We heard how serving the Church, even as a canon lawyer, is a calling that must be car­ried out with complete and total will­ingness. He spoke of how the most important thing is love for Jesus, cul­tivating a profound interior life with Him, and love for Mary, praying the rosary every day.”

The visit highlighted the impor­tance of uniting the many aspects of living out one’s vocation to holiness by serving the Church in different ways, including through dedication to canon law.

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