Saint Louis IX of France: Co-Patron of Secular Franciscan Order

Saint Louis IX of France: Co-Patron of Secular Franciscan Order

On August 25, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Louis IX of France (1214-1270), co-patron of the Secular Franciscan Order and of Third Order Regular men and women.

Raised with great sense of responsibility to others

Louis succeeded his father, Philip II, on the throne of France when he was only 12. He was raised strictly by his devout mother, Blanche of Castile, who instilled in him a great sense of responsibility. She told him: "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 ever commit a mortal sin."

Quintessential Christian ruler

In his day, Louis was viewed as the quintessential Christian ruler. He fostered a uniform system of justice, attempting to quell private wars in his realm and being attentive to the rights of the poor (he outlawed usury, excessive rates of interest that were gouging many people). Very devout in his personal life, he was never heard to speak ill of anyone and had a large number of poor people fed daily, some at his own table. He was a great patron of the Franciscan and Dominican friars and their evangelizing efforts. Indeed, he was rebuked by some for being a "monk-king."

“God’s lieutenant”

Louis's sense of duty as "God's lieutenant" led him to respond to the pope's appeal to go on Crusade against Islamic rulers. He was in the Eastern Mediterranean waging the "Seventh Crusade" from 1248 to 1254 (during which he was captured). Then in 1270, he launched the "Eighth Crusade" but died of dysentery in Tunis not long after arriving in North Africa in 1270. 

St Louis of France El Greco painting 700pxlsThis painting of Saint Louis IX, King of France, by El Greco (1592-95), hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Committed to justice and peace

Louis's life reminds us that Franciscan spirituality always involves a commitment to establishing God's justice in society and the promotion of peace. Although his life certainly expressed the values of authentic Christian penance - seeking to turn from evil and live out Gospel values, there is actually no historical record that he formally entered the Order of Penance (the Franciscan "Third Order"). Louis's ideals are captured in a letter he wrote to his son, the future Philip III:

St Louis of France Sainte Chapelle Paris 700pxlsThe Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, one of the splendors of Gothic architecture, was built by Saint Louis to house his relic collection, especially what was thought to be the Crown of Thorns.

Sibling saint

Louis's younger sister, (Saint) Isabelle (1224-70), was a Franciscan penitent; she founded a monastery of Poor Clares at Longchamp outside Paris, where she lived in a house on the property but without becoming a nun.

San Luis Rey Mission

In the United States, not only the city of St. Louis, Missouri, but the California mission of San Luis Rey are named after him.

St Louis of France San Luis Rey 700pxlsMission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California, is named after Saint Louis IX of France.

 St Louis of France St Louis MO cathedral 700pxlsThe Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, Missouri, is also named after Saint Louis IX of France (photo, Botsojoy, English Wikipedia).