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A dad of 11, a true gentleman, and also a king: Louis IX is France’s only canonized king

Public Domain

He learned the faith from his mother, and endeavored to pass it on to his children.

Born April 25, 1214, near Paris, France, little Louis IX lost his grandfather (Philip II) at age 9 and his father (Louis VIII) three years later.

That meant that not yet an adolescent, Louis IX was crowned king.

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 Castile, took her Catholic faith very seriously. She was 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 was ready to take 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 an 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! Since there were always crowds of poor and hungry outside the palace, he would try to have as many of them fed as 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 enjoyed each other’s company and liked riding together, listening to music and reading. King Louis and Queen Margaret had 11 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.

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 this saintly king, 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 Savior 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 took his army on the 7th Crusade in 1248. This proved to be a disaster and the king was captured. 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 25 and he is the patron of the Third Order of St. Francis and the nation of France.

St. Louis IX, please pray for us.

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