When he was crowned king of France in 1226, St. Louis—whose feast day we celebrated last month—took an oath to act as God’s anointed, as father of his people. He was crowned king at age 12 following his father’s death. When Louis was 19, he married Margaret of Provence. Despite Margaret’s restless nature, they had a loving marriage and produced 11 children.
He was so devoted to his Catholic faith that he built Sainte-Chappelle, or the “Holy Chapel,” within the royal palace.
Louis “took the cross” for a crusade when he was 30. Though admired as a crusader, he deserves greater credit for extending justice during his reign. Louis was always devoted to his people—founding hospitals, visiting the sick, and, like his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, caring for people with leprosy.
St. Louis was a founder of the Secular Franciscan Order. He also united France, as well as lords and townsfolk, by force of his personality and holiness. For many years, the nation was at peace.
Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, St. Louis led another Crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. However, the army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.
Although Louis could be a strong-willed man, his word was trusted completely, and his courage was remarkable. What was more awesome was his respect for everyone with whom he dealt, especially the “humble folks of the Lord.”
To care for his people, Louis built cathedrals, churches, libraries, hospitals, and orphanages. He dealt with princes honestly and equitably. He hoped to be treated the same way by the “King of Kings,” to whom he gave his life, his family, and his country.
To add a final note, Louis welcomed 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him every day, and large numbers were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, many hungry people received free meals, and Louis often served them in person.
May we all show the same care and concern for the poor as this great saint did!
Image by El Greco/Wikimedia Commons