“Contrariwise thou shouldst suffer every manner of torment rather than commit a mortal sin.” — St. Louis to his son, Philip
(Photo taken from archstl.org)
August 25th bears a special significance to those living in my fair city. It is the Feast Day of our patron, St. Louis IX – King of France! This year is extra special as well – since it is the 800th anniversary of St. Louis’ birth and the 250th anniversary of the founding of our city (whoever picked that year to found St. Louis did a good job with the timing)!
Although the 25th of August is such a special day, I have to admit I’ve hardly remembered it in my entire life here in STL. I guess since I’ve lived in St. Louis for my entire life, I’ve gotten into the habit of linking “St. Louis” only to the aspect of it being a place – my hometown. This is the first year I’ve actually realized St. Louis was… well… an actual person – and a Catholic saint – not just an abstract phrase we named our city after. So this year, I’m taking that overdue exploration into the life of this great saint, whose reference we are surrounded by – yet never actually remembered!
St. Louis IX’s life is such a unique example for us as Catholics. Firstly because he was a married lay Catholic, while a vast many of our beloved saints were religious or virgins. Sometimes we look at the saints make the excuse that they attained sainthood because they were religious Secondly because he was a king and there are few examples of royal saints (St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Ferdinand, and
St. Charles [edit: oops – he’s actually Anglican…] are generally the only others we hear much about). St. Louis left us with such a beautiful and much needed reminder that sanctity is completely attainable regardless of our circumstances, vocation, or place in society.
From a very early age, St. Louis’ mother rooted him and his other four siblings very carefully in the Catholic faith. She obviously did a pretty good job as his sister, Isabella, is a saint as well! Famously (well… here anyway), his mother 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.” Which he often repeated with utmost sincerity to his own children (all 11 of them) and many of his acquaintances as well. (Isn’t that beautiful? Such an attitude towards mortal sin is one that sincerely needs to be revived in our hearts today.)
Of course his Catholic faith radiated through all of his duties as king of France, as the blessings of royalty weren’t for his benefit – but for God’s own use. He commissioned hospitals to be built – and regularly visited them, tending to the sick himself. He often had poor beggars dining at his own table almost every night. He very carefully attended to the people of France, ensuring no injustice was encountered – and at the same time showed great mercy towards the souls of those who did commit crimes by never condemning a man to death. Instead he fined them heavily, giving the money to the Church or towards charitable works. It was often said by his acquaintances that he never spoke ill of another man – he even pardoned the death sentence for the son of a rebellious Count by saying that the son could not refuse his father’s orders. Of course, we probably know St. Louis the best for courageously leading the French army in the 7th and 8th Crusades, even though they were not successful. As each small city was taken they would enter singing Te Deum, and St. Louis forbade any executions of those taken prisoner – rather they were to be offered instruction in the Catholic faith and baptism if they wanted.
St. Louis IX is the patron saint of France, kings, large families, against the death of children, the city of St. Louis Missouri, and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is also the patron saint of barbers/hairdressers!! Although I haven’t quite figured out why…
Well, today let’s keep the life of our great St. Louis IX in mind and follow his example in hopes of achieving our own sanctity!
St. Louis IX, Confessor, King of France – ora pro nobis!
Have a Blessed Feast Day!