ST. LUDWIG (Louis IX of France)
Ludwig was the personal name , while Louis IX was the name as King of France. He was born in Poissy, near Paris, on 25 April 1214. His mother Blanche of Castile, gave him a complete, humanistic and religious education.
Ludwig became king at the death of Louis VIII, on 8 November 1226, and he was called Louis IX. Since he was a minor, his mother Blanche exerted the protection and always preserved the title of “queen”. There was a shared government.
On 27 May 1234 Ludwig married Margaret of Provence. From their marriage will be born eleven children.
During his kingdom Ludwig had to face considerable diplomatic and military difficulties. In the internal policy, he encouraged social progress, craft business, trade, and promoted people’s religiousness and morality.
During his kingdom, France and the western Christianity knew an extraordinary flowering of Art, literature, philosophy and scholastic theology. The University of Paris took hold. Big gothic churches arose with their famous glass walls. Also the Mendicant Orders, the Third Orders and the Evangelic Movement mightily appeared.
Ludwig kept good relations with Franciscans: he asked them advice, pray with them, once he offered the lunch at the provincial chapter and ate with the friars. At Ludwig’s times there were in France 200 Franciscan convents. In Vernon, where there was a «palais royal», Ludwig established a convent for the Regular Tertiaries, where he often went to pray and stay in meditation. There he built a hospital, entrusted to the «Penitent Brothers and Sisters», where he himself served the poor and the patients (cf. J-M. De Vernon, Annales, p. 70). One of the four Provinces of the Third Order Regular in France was entitled «Provincia S. Ludovici regis».
Louis IX organized two Crusades (1248-1254 and in 1270) in order to convert Muslims to Christ and protect the Holy land. Crusades were unsuccessful.
He built in Paris the «Sainte-Chapelle», masterpiece of art ad faith, to received the relics of Christ’s cross he had bought in 1239.
Ludwig was a man of great spirituality: prayer, confession every Friday, attendance at the daily mass, celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours like the monks, nocturnal vigil prayer, barefoot pilgrimages, fasts, abstinences and voluntary chagrin. On Lent Fridays he wore the hair shirt.
He refused comforts and luxuries, ate simple things and wore austere clothes. He loved the poor and served them at the table. Three poor (13 during Lent) always ate at his dining hall. Every day were fed at his own expense 120/200 poor. He built hospice, visited ills, he cleaned every Saturday poor’s feet staying on his knees. He personally took care of the lepers.
He incentivized in the people religiosity and moral sense, required from his kingdom rulers the most inflexible justice and everywhere promoted peace deals. He educated his children according to God’s word.
Ludwig shared the Franciscan spirituality, especially lived and did penitence and made works of mercy, typical binomial of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. In some circumstances he wore the gray habit tied with the Franciscan cord.
A long tradition properly venerates him as a Franciscan tertiary. Many sources guarantees this. The sigillum (stamps) of the Third Order Regular and of many Tertiaries Friaries brings the figure of St. Ludwig, the penitent king.
Ludwig died of typhus fever in Carthage, on 25 August 1270, during the Crusade. His mortal remains were carried to Palermo (where his brother, Charles of Anjou, reigns) and later to Paris. He was canonized by Boniface VIII on 11 August 1297. In his honour several churches were built.
According to a time-honored tradition Ludwig is venerated as the protector of the Franciscan Third Order Regular, together with St. Elizabeth of Hungary, both early fruits of sanctity of Franciscan Penitents. Their spiritual life, peculiar and intense, immediately appears as a bright example of inspiring and prophetic power.