By Larry Peterson
This remarkable man was born on April 25, 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.
Imagine this—every day king Louis IX would have three special guests called in from among the poor to have dinner with him…EVERY DAY! 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 May 27, 1234. Queen Margaret was filled with religious fervor 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 dealings with, especially the poor and downtrodden.
King Louis built churches, libraries, hospitals, and orphanages. He treated both princes and commoners equally. His wishes were to be treated the same by the real King of Kings, to whom he pledged to give his life, his family, and his country.
To sneak a peek into the heart of whom this saintly king was, one might just read the quote from a letter he gave to his oldest son:
“If God send thee adversity, receive it in patience and give thanks to our Saviour and bethink thee that thou hast deserved it, and that He will make it turn to thine advantage. If He send thee prosperity, then thank Him humbly, so that thou becomest not worse from pride or any other cause when thou oughtest to be better. For we should not fight against God with his own gifts.”
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 the dead of 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 never conquered; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem..
Pope Boniface VIII, proclaimed Louis a saint in 1297. He is the only king of France named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. This man was a true gentleman as he tried to treat everyone with courtesy and respect while remaining strong and compassionate at the same time. His feast day is August 25th and he is the patron of the Third Order of St. Francis, the nation of France, and hairdressers.
St. Louis IX, please pray for us.