A man of unusual purity of life and manners, Louis the Ninth of France was sincerely committed to his faith and to the demands of the Christian life. Courageous and fearless in battle, patient and uncomplaining in adversity, he was an impartial, just, and compassionate monarch. The one word that best summarizes his character is integrity.
Louis was born at Poissy, April 25, 1214, and was crowned King at Rheims on November 29, 1226, succeeding his father, Louis the Eighth. His early religious exercises of devotion and asceticism were inspired by his mother, Blanche of Castille. Louis died, August 25, 1270, while on crusade at Tunis and was buried with his royal peers in the basilica of Saint Denis near Paris.
Louis’ crusading adventures in the Middle East and in North Africa were of little historical consequence. Such ventures were part of the piety of his time. Throughout his life he was diligent in attending divine worship and constant in his charities, both open and secret. Louis had an intelligent and active interest in the theological issues of his day. But his primary concern was to put Christian ethics into practice in both his personal and his public life.
After his canonization in 1297, Louis’ relics were transferred to the Sainte Chapelle, the Gothic chapel in Paris which he built as a shrine for relics of our Lord’s Passion. The building itself is a fitting monument to his genuine piety and beautiful character.
Because of his determined effort to live a personal life of Franciscan poverty and self-denial in the midst of worldly power and splendor (he wore a hair shirt under his royal garments), Louis is honored as a patron saint of the Third Order of Saint Francis. In North America, Louis is honored in New Orleans as the titular saint of that city’s cathedral church. The city of French Louisiana that bears his name, Saint Louis, is home to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, as well as the Basilica of Saint Louis (“the Old Cathedral”).
prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
O God, you called your servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave him zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The image of Saint Louis is by Master Theorodic of Prague (fl. c. 1360-1380).