This is the day that … Ramon Lull was stoned to death by a Muslim mob in North Africa, in1316.
He was born on the isle of Majorca, off the coast of Spain, in 1232. In teenage days he served as a courtier to the king of Aragon, and was educated as a knight. After a life of ‘utter immorality’ (to quote his own words), at the age of 30 he experienced a vision of “the Saviour hanging on the cross” and dedicated his life to God.
The composition of the “vain song” he was composing was now neglected as he gazed at that figure “in great agony and sorrow”. He penned a quaint verse:
Pardon I sought at break of day;
contrite and sad, I went straightway
my sins before the priest to lay.
(Bear in mind that this was 200 years before the Protestant Reformation).
Ramon Lull felt the call to missionary service almost immediately. But it was almost another 30 years before he boarded a ship bound for North Africa. By this time he had written a number of books – “the most voluminous author on record” (Man, Myth and Magic, volume 59)! There are volumes on grammar, politics, medicine, law, Antichrist, geometry, astrology, homiletics, theology – you name it, Ramon Lull seemed to have written on the subject. “Two hundred and forty of his books still survive”, although we know he wrote many, many more (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 608).
And he had equipped himself for his missionary expedition by learning Arabic from a Moorish slave.
“Since Thou, O Lord, art ever ready to aid … how can any Christian fear to preach our holy faith to the infidels,” he wrote.
His biographer, E.A. Peers, states that the conversion of unbelievers “was the ruling passion of his life” (Fool of Love, page 28).
There were three missionary journeys: the first at about 60 years of age, when he was imprisoned and then expelled from the country; the second when he was 75, and again he faced imprisonment and then banishment; and the third when about 83! He even commenced writing a new book during the voyage (page 102)! This time he was stoned to death. Marcus Loane, in By Faith we Stand, gives the date as 30 June, 1315 (page 71). However, most books say 1316.
With all his curious beliefs (the Pope refused to canonise him because it was believed he practised alchemy), he can claim the title of “first missionary to the Moslems”. He was utterly devoted to the service of Christ.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.