St. Louis IX
King of France
Feast Day: August 25
St. Louis was the son of Louis VIII and was born at Poïssey, in the diocese of Chartres, on the 25th of April, 1215. His mother was Blanche, daughter of Alphonsus IX, king of Castile, the great conqueror, who in the battle of Murdal defeated Mahomet Emir, with an army of more than two hundred thousand Moors. Blanche was gifted with great beauty and prudence, was full of zeal for religion and virtue, and had great talents for government.
This pious mother took great care to instill into the soul of her son Louis, the highest esteem and awe for everything that regarded the divine worship, the strongest sentiments of religion and virtue, and a particular love of holy chastity. She would often say to him when he was a child, I love you, my dear son, with all the tenderness of which a mother is capable; but I would infinitely rather see you fall dead at my feet, than that you should ever commit a mortal sin. The impression made in his soul by these words was never effaced during his whole life.
King Louis VIII, father of our saint, died on the 7th of November, 1226, when Louis was only twelve years old, and on the first Sunday of Advent the young prince was crowned king of France. Blanche, however, reigned until her son had reached the proper age. In the year 1234 he married Margaret, the oldest daughter of the Count of Provence, who was as famous for her piety as for her beauty. Two years afterwards St. Louis took the reins of government into his own hands. His only aim now was to be a faithful servant of God, and a loving father to his people.
He heard daily several Masses, and it was his hearts delight to listen to the Word of God announced from the pulpit. Besides this he spent an hour in prayer and meditation each day. He often rose, even in the night, from his bed, to visit a chapel, which he had built in honor of the Blessed Virgin. In it were kept the crown, nails, spear and a large piece of the Cross of Our Lord. It was a glorious sight to see the king, surrounded by his people, assisting at the holy sacrifice of the Mass and receiving Holy Communion. Every Friday he confessed his sins. Once approached because he spent so much time in prayer, he remarked: Man is a strange being! They make a crime of it, because I pray long, and I am sure they would not utter a word of reproach were I to spend that same time in playing or hunting!
He practiced the mortification of his senses in a high degree; fasting not only on days commanded, but also on Fridays and on the Vigils of the festivals of the Blessed Virgin. The splendid churches and monasteries which he built, in honor of the Holy Virgin Mother of God, bear testimony of the great love and devotion he had for Her. He said daily the Office of the Blessed Virgin.
The holy king was also remarkable for his charity. Undoubtedly he inherited this great virtue from his pious mother. Every Saturday he washed the feet of three old men, dried them and kissed them; after which he always gave them a sum of money. On returning to his dominions from his first crusade in the Holy Land, he served daily with his own hands two hundred poor, giving to each two loaves of bread and twelve denier; besides this he gave, every day, general alms to all supplicants.
Having governed his people fifteen years, always proving himself a father and an example to all, he was brought to the brink of the grave by a dangerous fever. But his people solicited Heaven by their vows, tears and alms-deeds for the life of their good king. God heard their prayers and restored him to health. Grateful to the Lord, the king vowed to take the cross and with an army to go to the East to wrest the holy sepulcher from the hands of the Saracens. The mother of our saint died while he was in the Holy Land, and this misfortune obliged him to return home to reassume the government of his kingdom.
He made strict laws against gamblers, blasphemers and particularly against prostitutes. He never forgot in the midst of his untiring endeavors for the benefit of his people, the cross he had taken. He wore it constantly upon his breast, and when the condition of the Christians in the Holy Land became more oppressive our saint could no longer resist his desire to take the Holy Land from the hands of the persecutors. He, therefore, collected another army and, although weakened by age and sickness, placed himself at the head of it. Before he embarked he made a spiritual retreat in the abbey of Mabisson. On the 1st of July, 1270, he with his army sailed from Aigues-Mortes, and when the fleet had reached Cagliari in Sardinia, a council was held and the resolution taken to attack Tunis.
The French waited for the king of Sicily with his fleet, who delayed, and this delay was the cause of the greatest misfortunes. On account of the fearful heat, malignant fevers and other epidemics broke out among the soldiers of St. Louis. The kings son died, and on the very day of his death, in the beginning of August, the king himself was seized with the same disorder. Being well aware of his critical condition, he called his son and successor, Philip, to his death-bed, and gave him pious instructions. He then asked for the last Sacraments, which he received with great devotion. Soon afterwards, quoting the words of the Psalmist: Lord, I will enter into Thine house; I will adore in Thy holy temple, and will give glory to Thy Name, he gave his holy soul into the hands of his God on the 25th of August, 1270.
This article is from the book The Churchs Year Part II, by Fr. Leonard Goffine.
This book, along with others on great saints, is available from www.fatimashoppe.org.
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