Saint Raymond Nonnatus was born on an unknown date in 1204 A.D. in Portella, Spain. His mother died giving birth and he was saved only by a caesarean section. He was then dubbed “non natus”, which is Latin for “not born”.
During adolescence, Raymond worked on his family’s farm and had difficulty obtaining his father’s permission to enter religious life. Eventually, his father gave in and Raymond joined the Royal and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy of the Redemption of Captives, also known as the Mercedarian Order.
The Mercedarian Order was founded during the early 13th century by Saint Peter Nolasco (1189-1256). The order’s apostolate was to strengthen the faith and, possibly, obtain the release of men taken prisoner by the Moors. The order particularly ministered to men who had no money and no political connections that could be used as a ransom.
Raymond was ordained a priest in 1222. He eventually succeeded Peter Nolasco as the Mercedarian’s Master General and Chief Ransomer.
Raymond spent all his money, including all his inheritance, obtaining the release of prisoners. When his money ran out, he allowed himself to be held hostage in Algeria in exchange for the release of several other prisoners. Although he managed to escape a death sentence, he was constantly tortured. After he converted several of his guards, the Moors padlocked his mouth in an attempt to keep him from preaching. After eight months, Raymond was rescued by Peter Nolasco.
While returning to Barcelona in 1239, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Gregory IX (c. 1145-1241). Raymond Nonnatus died of a fever in Cardona, Spain sometime between August 26 and 31, 1240. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VII (1599-1667) in 1657.
San Ramon de la Nueva Oran in Argentina, Saint Raymond, Quebec, and the Diocese of Sao Raimundo Nonato in Brazil are all named after him.
Because of the circumstances surrounding his birth, Saint Raymond Nonnatus is the patron saint of childbirth, pregnant mothers, newborns, and obstetricians. He is also the patron saint of Baitoa in the Dominican Republic and of those falsely accused. His feast day is August 31.