August 24, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Louis IX, King of France

Blanche of Castile and King Louis IX

August 25th, is the Optional Memorial of Saint Louis IX, (1214 – 1270) the French King known for his personal holiness and wise rule. As a monarch, he dedicated himself to the concerns of his kingdom and those of Christendom. Accounts of his life hold that Luis ministered to the poor and the sick, often personally tending to their needs. People from every walk of life sought his assistance. He was a tertiary of the Order of the Holy Trinity and Captives (the Trinitarians). King Luis was a great admirer of the mendicant orders, and aided several, especially the Franciscans.

Louis was born in Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis and Princess Blanche. He was tutored in Latin, literature, rhetoric, military arts and government. Louis' mother trained him to be a judicious leader and a Godly man. She instilled in him love and awe for the things of God, and would often say to him: "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."

When Louis was 9, his father became King Louis VIII. After reigning only two years, Louis VIII died. His wife, Queen Blanche, was made regent of the kingdom. To prevent an uprising of nobles, she hastened her son’s coronation. The ceremony took place at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent, 1226.

In May, 1234, Louis, then 19, married Margaret, the oldest daughter of Raymond Beranger, Count of Provence. They had five sons and six daughters. After taking control of the government, Louis’ first act was to build the monastery of Royaumont. He installed the Carthusians in the palace of Vauvert in Paris, and together with his mother, founded the convent of Maubuisson. Desirous to make France foremost in Christendom, Louis  purchased the Crown of Thorns and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor of Constantinople. He commissioned a shrine be built on the island in the Seine to house the relics. The result, the Sainte-Chapelle, is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Its contents were tragically plundered during the French Revolution.

King Louis participated in two crusades; the Seventh Crusade, in 1248, and the Eighth Crusade in 1270. On his feast day, the Breviary speaks of his courage and piety: "'He had already been king for twenty years when he fell victim to a severe illness. That afforded the occasion for making a vow to undertake a crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. Immediately upon recovery he received the crusader's cross from the hand of the bishop of Paris, and, followed by an immense army, he crossed the sea in 1248. On the field of battle Louis routed the Saracens; yet when the plague had taken large numbers of his soldiery, he was attacked and taken captive (1250). The king was forced to make peace with the Saracens; upon the payment of a huge ransom, he and his army were again set at liberty.' While on a second crusade he died of the plague, with these words from the psalm upon his lips: 'I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!'" (Ps. 5).

Saint Louis IX was brave in battle, devout in his veneration of God and steadfast in fasting and mortification. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII on July 11, 1297. He is the only French monarch to be declared a saint. Louis IX is often considered the model of the ideal Christian leader. O God, who brought Saint Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom and there spend forever with You.

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