Saint of the Day – 30 May – St Ferdinand III of Castile (1199-1252) King of Castile and Toledo, Knight, a man of great virtue and goodness who sought sanctity in all things, a man of great justice who sought to elevate even those he conquered, a man who was a great father, bringing his children up in the fear and love of God alone, a diplomatic genius because of his great goodness, a unifier of all, he had a great devotion to Our Lady – born in 1198 near Salamanca, Spain and died on 30 May 1252 at Seville, Spain of natural causes. Patronages – authorities, governors, rulers, engineers, large families, magistrates, parenthood, paupers, poor people, prisoners, Spanish monarchy, tertiaries, Seville, Spain, Ilagan, Philippines, diocese of, Lucena, Philippines, diocese of, San Fernando, Philippines, diocese of, Aranjuez, Maspalomas, Pivijay, and of several other localities, Spanish Army’s Corps of Engineers. The body of St Ferdinand is incorrupt.
Saint Ferdinand’s father was King Alfonso IX of Leon and his mother the saintly Lady Bereguera. As his parent’s marriage was annulled by Pope Innocent III, St Fernando was actually raised by his grandfather, King Alfonso VIII of Castile and his mother. King Alfonso VIII was a great warrior and knight, to whom Christian chivalry was more than just a code of conduct or a set of rules to which he adhere, it was a pursuit of virtue meant to guide him in all of his thoughts and actions. In striving for the ideal of knighthood, he attained a true nobility of character. Living a life of honour, King Alfonso was a magnificent warrior who courageously defended the Church and his kingdom of Castile. He was also an excellent role model for young Fernando, who wanted nothing more than to be a knight of Christ.
Saint Ferdinand was still a young man when he became King of Castile. His kingdom was in tatters, as there had been numerous raids by both Christian and Moor into Castile, as well as internal rebellions. Saint Ferdinand worked tirelessly to restore his realm to prosperity and administer justice throughout his land, though he continued always to train as a warrior.
On the day Saint Ferdinand became a King and Knight, he prayed:
“Christ, my Lord, I am in Thy hands, the same way this sword is in mine. Show me, my King, what Thou wantest of this Thy knight.”
In the silence and stillness of the night, St Ferdinand heard Christ answer him:
“I want to make your whole life like a representation and marvellous parable so that the coming centuries may contemplate the war that I, Eternal King and Universal Lord, wage against the powers of darkness, to conquer the entire earth for my Father. Fernando, you will be the noble and considerate king who leads his vassals in this great enterprise, the courageous and mortified King who, above all others, charges ahead in the midst of danger and endures the strain of hard work and the fatigue of battle. You will be the generous and magnanimous King who in victory does not worry about his treasure, but distributes the spoils among his faithful knights.”
God granted to Saint Ferdinand to see the stark outline of the life that was to be his, a life full of struggles and hardships and warfare. Yet his soul did not quake at the prospect, for he knew that he would be doing God’s will and that God would be with him as long as he remained true. He was prepared to do whatever was required of him now and all the days of his life.
King Saint Ferdinand became one of history’s most gifted and formidable warriors, while being at the same time one of the greatest monarchs who ever ruled. He, like so many men of his time, did not seek to enjoy a long life so much as he sought to live a good life. Thus, he spent his entire life in the service of God, rather than wasting his time in service to himself.
King St Ferdinand was a man of clear and deep faith, who realised that everything depends on God and that it is He Who grants the victory. He knew, nonetheless, that the Lord never wants to help those who are lazy but to assist with grace those who do everything that is in their power. This effort becomes a prayer of action, when combined with trust in Him.
As a consequence of his holy intentions, all of Saint Ferdinand’s ventures met with success. He was absolutely invincible, personally as well as while directing his armies, conquering hearts and minds as completely as he did cities and strongholds. He knew that there is no holier enterprise than to do one’s duty before God and that his first obligation was to rescue his own country.
This great Catholic monarch truly lived his faith and by his chivalry, loyalty and generosity of character was worthy of the high regard and friendship of those who had once fought against him. By the kindness and gratitude he showed toward those who rendered service to him and by his great generosity, he captured the affection and won the willing obedience of his nobility. He always and everywhere applied himself whole heartedly to his duties as king, zealously seeking after justice and prosperity for his people. He was a model of righteousness and proper conduct for his sons and by his example earned the respect and love of all his children. He was to them the most tender and caring of fathers, leaving them an incomparable heritage the like of which few Christian monarchs could boast.
The legacy of King Saint Ferdinand III is far-reaching and eternal. It was he who had permanently combined the Kingdoms of Leon and Castile and with that might he conquered more Islamic territory than any other Christian, expelled the Muslims from most of Andalusia and turned their remaining kings into his obedient vassals. King Ferdinand ’s achievements clearly outstrip those of King Sancho II and King Jaime I, not to mention those of king’s Saint Louis IX, Frederick II and Edward I. At a time, when the crusading efforts of all the rest of Christendom, hardly sufficed to maintain a foothold on the coast of the Holy Land, Ferdinand inflicted on medieval Islam its greatest defeat up until that time.
King Saint Ferdinand had been known as “the Saint” during his lifetime, so it should come as no surprise, that immediately after his death, his subjects unanimously awarded him a place in celestial glory. St Ferdinand soon became the object of public veneration and many miracles were recorded and that same year Pope Innocent IV declared that King Saint Fernando of Castile enjoyed the reputation of “having always followed the path of obedience to the Divine precepts, and that he greatly contributed to the spreading of the worship of the Holy Name of Jesus.”
By the time of his death in 1252, Ferdinand III had delivered to his son and heir, Alfonso X, a massively expanded kingdom. The boundaries of the new Castilian state established by Ferdinand III would remain nearly unchanged until the late 15th century. His biographer, Sister María del Carmen Fernández de Castro Cabeza, A.C.J., asserts that, on his death bed, Ferdinand said to his son “you will be rich in land and in many good vassals, more than any other king in Christendom.” Ferdinand was buried in the Cathedral of Seville by his son, Alfonso X. His tomb is inscribed in four languages: Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and an early version of Castilian.
The body of St Ferdinand is incorrupt and he can still be seen in the Cathedral of Seville, for he rests now enclosed in a marvellous gold and crystal casket worthy of the Castilian king. King Saint Ferdinand is the only king whose earthly crown has never been taken away, for his golden crown still encircles his head as he reclines beneath the statue of the Virgin of the Kings, awaiting the day of resurrection.
St Ferdinand was Beatified on 31 May 1655 by Pope Alexander VII and Canonised in 1671 by Pope Clement X.