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Saint Louis

Saint Louis
  • Century: 13th Century
  • Patronage: France, French Monarchy, barbers, Secular Franciscan Order
  • Feast Day: August 25th

Born in 1214, St. Louis IX, popularly known as King St. Louis of France, was born to King Louis VIII and Queen Blanche.  At the age of eight he saw his father, Louis VIII ascend to the throne of France.  By the age of twelve, he had inherited the crown.  Not yet of age to rule, his mother carefully governed in his stead—not only securing his future throne from ambitious nobles, but also securing France’s future by personally educating and nurturing her son, raising him up into a just, wise and God-fearing man.  

The rule of St. Louis IX was marked by an exhaustive history ranging from peace with England, unification of France, legal reform, social justice, and two crusades.  St. Louis IX was a quintessential “man of the Church.”  Butler remarks that “never had any man a greater love for the Church, or a greater veneration for its ministers” (iv, 394).  Yet, King St. Louis IX knew his station, too.  He ruled with a mind and heart dedicated to Christ and His Church, but still quick to assert his temporal authority during moments of ecclesial injustice.  He and his mother were both well-acquainted with influential clerics and thinkers, often having dinners and audiences with folks like St. Thomas Aquinas!  

King St. Louis IX’s religiosity and virtuous character overflowed in all his affairs.  He was married at nineteen to Queen Margaret, with whom he had a faithful loving, and fruitful marriage—eleven children.  Further, he conducted a systematic overhaul of the French legal system, introducing full hearings for complaints, recognizing equality under the law, and his dedication to treaties and agreements earned him renowned respect as not only being honest, but he was called upon to judge and arbitrate other rulers’ treaty disputes.  In 1230 he forbade usury in France!  He even made blasphemy a crime punishable by branding.  His justice was not only well-liked by his subjects, but fondly remembered for generations whose complaints harkened back to King St. Louis IX’s good judgments.

St. Louis IX also led knights in two crusades (1238 and 1267) that were both ultimately unsuccessful.  Toward the end of the first crusade he and his men were taken prisoner.  During his imprisonment he remained faithful to prayer and endured all insults and persecutions patiently and majestically.  Upon his release he returned to France and undertook major social projects for the poor and needy.  But within a decade he declared he would undertake another crusade.  In ill health, he embarked on was became his final journey.  On August 24, 1270, battling typhus, he received last rites.  Before his death on August 25, however, King St. Louis IX undertook two actions: he counseled his children by writing them a letter and he called for the Greek ambassador whom he tried to persuade back into communion with the Roman Pontiff.  Thus, even his final actions were dictated by his Man-of-the-Church mentality—concern for family & Rome.

Practical Take-Away: St. Louis IX’s Tongue & Queen Blanche’s Motherly Advice

St. Louis may have lived in the 13th Century, but nonetheless offers a stellar example of virtuous living, even to the modern world.  There are two snippets about this saints life which are worth particular attention for each of us as young people— 

It was said of St. Louis, a man who was undoubtedly tormented by strife and hardship at times throughout his reign, that he never cursed, used profanity, or swore.  Virtue being habit, habit being formed by strict control of one’s own self, St. Louis’ example of controlling one’s tongue is a major testimony to the world.  Consider how often we forget out own speech, how little we disregard what we say—I do.  I can do better.  I need to do better.  From revering God by not taking his name in vain, from being more hopeful and charitable in the words I use, I encourage you to examine how you can better control your tongue.

Second, for all you mothers or mothers-to-be (or fathers or fathers-to-be, for that matter), I think a line from St. Louis’ mother, Queen Blanche, is worth examining.  Queen Blanche is credited for having educated her virtuous and noble son, who she often warned: “I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.”  Wow!  Intense?  Yes.  Over the top?  Well, her son is a saint, now isn’t he?  After all, nothing is too intense so long as it gets you to Heaven!