Saint of the Day – 25 August – St Louis IX (1214-1270) King of France Confessor, King, Reformer, Apostle of Charity.
This remarkable man was born on 25 April 1214, near Paris, France. When his grandfather, King Philip II of France, passed away, his son, Prince Louis the Lion, became King Louis VIII. His wife became Queen Blanche. Their son, now Prince Louis, was only nine-years-old.
Three years later Louis’ father died and the boy was crowned King Louis IX. Because of his young age the Queen Mother, Blanche, took over the reins of government. A great woman in her own right, she made sure her son would be prepared for his life as King. Queen Blanche, also known as Blanche of Castille, took her Catholic faith very seriously. She was rigid and determined in teaching her son the faith and managed to instill genuine piety and a deep sense of devotion in him. She was quoted as having told her son, “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 commit a mortal sin.”
At the age of 21, Louis took charge of the government. His mother’s influence in his life was apparent because there was a force within Louis that made him strive to rule justly and to attain sanctity. King Louis had a pronounced affinity for the sick and poor of his kingdom. He treated the downtrodden with compassion, understanding and with a humility that was unheard of in a king.
Everyday King Louis IX would have three special guests called in from among the poor to have dinner with him…Since there were always crowds of poor and hungry outside the palace, he would try to have as many of them fed as was possible. During Lent and Advent anyone who presented themselves before him was given a meal and often, the King served them himself. He even had lists compiled of needy people in every Province under his rule.
Louis married his true love, Margaret of Provence on 27 May 1234. Queen Margaret was filled with religious fervour as was her husband and they truly made a beautiful couple while setting a fine example for all married couples. They both enjoyed each other’s company and liked riding together, listening to music and reading. King Louis and Queen Margaret had eleven children.
Louis was a strong-willed and strong-minded man with a powerful faith. His word was trusted throughout the Kingdom, and his courage, in taking action against wrongs was remarkable. Amazingly, this King had true respect for anyone with whom he had dealing, especially the poor and downtrodden. King Louis built Churches, libraries, hospitals and orphanages. He treated both Princes and commoners equally.
King Louis had taken his army on the 7th Crusade in 1248. This proved to be a disaster and the king was captured by the Muslims. After an absence of six years, he was successfully ransomed and returned home. In 1270 he sought redemption for his first failure and embarked on another crusade. It was summer in northern Africa and dysentery and typhoid swept through the dirty camps. King Louis IX, died while lying on a bed of ashes saying the name of the City he had not relieved; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”
Pope Boniface VIII, proclaimed Louis a Saint in 1297. He is the only King of France named a Saint by the Church. This man was a true gentleman as he tried to treat everyone with courtesy, love and respect, whilst remaining strong and just at the same time. He is most beloved both in France and across the Catholic world.
Saint of the Day – 4 October – St Francis of Assisi OFM Confessor, Religious, Deacon, Stigmatist and ounder, Apostle of the Holy Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin and of Charity, Preacher, Missionary, Mystic, Miracle-Worker, Co-patron of Italy, Founder of the Seraphic Order – the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land, as well as being the Founder of the Nativity Crib and Manger as we know it today.
Born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone ( informally called Francesco by his Mother) – (1181 at Assisi, Umbria, Italy – 4 October 1226 at Portiuncula, Italy of natural causes). His relics are enshrined in the Basilica built and named for him in Assisi, Italy. St Francis was Canonised on 16 July 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. Patronages – • against dying alone• against fire• animal welfare societies• animals• birds• ecologists, ecology• environment, environmentalism, environmentalists• families• lace makers, lace workers• merchants• needle workers• peace• tapestry workers• zoos• Italy• Colorado• Catholic Action• Franciscan Order• 10 dioceses• 10 cities. Attributes – • apparition of Jesus• Christ child• birds• deer• fish• lamb• skull• stigmata• wolf. In 1224 he received the stigmata during the apparition of Seraphic angels in a religious ecstasy making him the first recorded person in Christian history to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion. He died during the evening hours of 3 October 1226, while listening to a reading he had requested of Psalm 142 (141). Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.
Francis was born in Assisi in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Pietro Bernardone, and his wife, Pica. He was baptised Giovanni (John) but soon gained the nickname Francesco because of his father’s close trading links with France.
Francis’ early years were not especially religious. He was a leader among the young men of Assisi, enjoying a good social life, singing and partying. His first biographer, Thomas of Celano, describes him as quite short, with black eyes, hair and beard; he had a long face, with a straight nose and small, upright ears. His arms were short but his hands and fingers slender and long. He had a strong, clear, sweet voice. Francis didn’t want to follow his father into the cloth trade; he wanted to be a knight. So at the age of twenty he joined the forces of Assisi in a minor skirmish with the neighbouring city of Perugia. He was captured and spent a year in a Perugian jail, until his father ransomed him. This became the first of a series of experiences through which God called Francis to the life which he finally embraced.
One of these experiences, at San Damiano, led to a rift with his father. Francis, in response to a voice from the crucifix in this tiny ruined Church, began to rebuild churches; when he ran out of money he took cloth from his father’s shop and sold it. His father disowned him before the bishop of Assisi and Francis in his turn stripped off his clothes, returning to his father everything he had received from him and promising that in future he would call only God his Father.
And thus, Francis of Assisi, this poor little man began a journey to astound and inspire the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a mite of self-importance.
Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi’s youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolised his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: “Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”
From the Cross in the neglected Chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.” Francis became the totally poor and humble workman.
He must have suspected a deeper meaning to “build up my house.” But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor “nothing” man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up every material thing he had, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis’ “gifts” to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, “Our Father in heaven.”
He was, for a time, considered to be a religious “nut,” begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, bringing sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking.
But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realise that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: “Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (see Lk 9:1-3).
Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity.
He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decerned in favour of the latter but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.
During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44) he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.
On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.” He sang Psalm 141 and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.
On 13 March 2013, upon his election as Pope, Archbishop and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina chose Francis as his papal name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi, becoming Pope Francis I. At his first audience on 16 March 2013, Pope Francis told journalists that he had chosen the name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi and had done so because he was especially concerned for the well-being of the poor. He explained that, as it was becoming clear during the conclave voting that he would be elected the new bishop of Rome, the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes had embraced him and whispered, “Don’t forget the poor”, which had made Bergoglio think of the saint. Bergoglio had previously expressed his admiration for St Francis, explaining that “He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history.” Bergoglio’s selection of his papal name is the first time that a pope has been named Francis.
Saint of the Day – 25 August – St Louis IX, King of France (1214-1270) Confessor, King, Reformer, Apostle of Charity, a Third Order Franciscan. Born on 25 April 1214 at Poissy, France and died on 25 August 1270 at Tunis (in modern Tunisia) of natural causes). His relics in the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris, France but they were destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution. He was Canonised in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII. Attributes: crown, crown of thorns, king holding a cross, king holding a crown of thorns, nails, cross and Crucifix. Patronages – against the death of children, barbers, bridegrooms, builders, button makers, construction workers, Crusaders, difficult marriages, distillers, embroiderers, French monarchs, grooms, haberdashers, hairdressers, hair stylists, kings, masons, needle workers, parenthood, parents of large families, passementiers, prisoners, sculptors, sick people, soldiers, stone masons, stonecutters, trimming makers, Québec, Québec, archdiocese of, Saint Louis, Missouri, Archdiocese of, Versailles, France, Diocese of, many cities in France and other parts of the world, Franciscan Tertiaries and the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Louis.
Louis IX was a reformer and developed French royal justice, in which the king is the supreme judge to whom anyone is able to appeal to seek the amendment of a judgment. He banned trials by ordeal, tried to prevent the private wars that were plaguing the country and introduced the presumption of innocence in criminal procedure. To enforce the correct application of this new legal system, Louis IX created provosts and bailiffs.
According to his vow made after a serious illness, and confirmed after a miraculous cure, Louis IX took an active part in the Seventh and Eighth Crusade in which he died from dysentery. He was succeeded by his son Philip III.
Louis’s actions were inspired by Christian values and Catholic devotion. He decided to punish blasphemy, gambling, interest-bearing loans and prostitution and bought presumed relics of Christ for which he built the Sainte-Chapelle. He also expanded the scope of the Inquisition and ordered the burning of Talmuds. He is the only canonised king of France and there are consequently many places named after him.
Louis was born on 25 April 1214 at Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis the Lion and Princess Blanche, and baptised in La Collégiale Notre-Dame church. His grandfather on his father’s side was Philip II, king of France; while his grandfather on his mother’s side was Alfonso VIII, king of Castile. Tutors of Blanche’s choosing taught him most of what a king must know—Latin, public speaking, writing, military arts and government. He was 9 years old when his grandfather Philip II died and his father ascended as Louis VIII. A member of the House of Capet, Louis was twelve years old when his father died on 8 November 1226. He was crowned king within the month at Reims cathedral. Because of Louis’s youth, his mother ruled France as regent during his minority. The night before he was crowned, he fasted and prayed. He asked God to make him a good servant, to make him a good and holy king for his people.
Louis’ mother trained him to be a great leader and a good Christian. She used to say:
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.
No date is given for the beginning of Louis’s personal rule. His contemporaries viewed his reign as co-rule between the king and his mother, though historians generally view the year 1234 as the year in which Louis began ruling personally, with his mother assuming a more advisory role. She continued to have a strong influence on the king until her death in 1252. On 27 May 1234, Louis married Margaret of Provence (1221 – 21 December 1295), whose sister Eleanor later became the wife of Henry III of England. The new queen’s religious devotion made her a well suited partner for the king. He enjoyed her company and was pleased to show her the many public works he was making in Paris, both for its defense and for its health. They enjoyed riding together, reading, and listening to music. This attention raised a certain amount of jealousy in his mother, who tried to keep them apart as much as she could.
After the morning Mass, King Louis IX would ride his horse out into the country to see how he could work to make life better for his people. He would often stop in villages to listen to what the people had to say. He checked that wealthy, powerful nobles were not abusing people. When he heard that the nobles unjustly took from people who had less, he forced the nobles to give back what they had taken. He listened to people’s ideas for how to improve their country and he passed laws to protect those who were vulnerable. Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and like his patron Saint Francis, caring even for people with leprosy. He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order. Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace. Every day, Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal and Louis often served them in person. He kept lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion.
The king ordered churches and hospitals built throughout France. In his travels, the king himself would often visit and care for those who were sick. He listened to the needs of others. As a man given the power to guide his country, he could do great good for his people. He worked for peace in the world and when he did fight, he was merciful to those he captured.
In 1244, King Louis led a Crusade into the Holy Land. As king, Louis could have taken special privileges and comforts. Instead, he chose to share the hardships of his soldiers. Once, the king was captured. While in prison, he prayed the Liturgy of the Hours every day. Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonised 27 years later.
Louis’ patronage of the arts drove much innovation in Gothic art and architecture and the style of his court radiated throughout Europe by both the purchase of art objects from Parisian masters for export and by the marriage of the king’s daughters and female relatives to foreign husbands and their subsequent introduction of Parisian models elsewhere. Louis’ personal chapel, the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, was copied more than once by his descendants elsewhere. Louis ordered the production of the Morgan Bible, a masterpiece of medieval painting. In his private chapel, Saint Louis would genuflect during the Nicene Creed to show reverence to the incarnation of Christ at the words, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary; and was made man. During the crusades, the king’s practice became widespread and eventually was established as part of the rubrics of Holy Mass. The painting of St Louis and St John the Baptist below, is from the Flemish school and was a detail for an altar of the Parliament of Paris. In the background is the Louvre palace from the 13th century.
During the so-called “golden century of Saint Louis”, the kingdom of France was at its height in Europe, both politically and economically. Saint Louis was regarded as “primus inter pares”, first among equals, among the kings and rulers of the continent. He commanded the largest army and ruled the largest and wealthiest kingdom, the European centre of arts and intellectual thought at the time. The foundations for the famous college of theology later known as the Sorbonne were laid in Paris about the year 1257. The prestige and respect felt in Europe for King Louis IX were due more to the attraction that his benevolent personality created rather than to military domination. For his contemporaries, he was the quintessential example of the Christian prince and embodied the whole of Christendom in his person. His reputation for saintliness and fairness was already well established while he was alive and on many occasions he was chosen as an arbiter in quarrels among the rulers of Europe.
When Louis was dying, he prayed “Lord, I will enter into your house. I will worship in your holy temple and will give glory to your name.” Through his prayer, his support of the Church and his Christlike service to all, Louis made his whole life an act of worship.