He was the King of France. He was the founder of the Sorbonne (one of Europe’s most prestigious universities). He was friends with St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure.
Let’s just say St. Louis IX had plenty of prestigious people to dine with.
Yet the ones he invited to join him for his nightly meal were not nobles, or scholars, or aristocrats. They were the poor of his kingdom.
For St. Louis, this nightly meal was not an obligation or a show, but an opportunity to serve his people with Christ-like love, a love that he experienced firsthand. As the King of France, St. Louis grew up in a home influenced by the faith of his mother, a loving and devoted woman. His father was Louis VIII, who died when Louis was just 12 years old. Inspired by his mother and the Catholic history of his kingdom, St. Louis developed a sincere and ardent love for the Christian faith. This love grew as he led his country with deep charity and profound humility.
His faith also led him to immense bravery.
Disheartened by the Islamic control of the Holy Land and the persecution of the Christian people there, King Louis led his army in a Crusade. His Crusade was successful in seizing Damietta in Egypt, but they were soon weakened by disease, cut off from outside support, and captured. St. Louis was taken captive by Muslim forces and remained in Syria for four years.
Upon his return to France, Louis only grew in devotion to his people. He founded hospitals, visited the sick, and cared personally for people with leprosy. Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness.
For many years the nation was at peace and flourishing. With his emphasis on true beauty and belief in the importance of education, Paris grew into a powerful cosmopolitan city and the world’s hub for arts and education.
Rather than continue to live comfortably, enjoying his successful reign, St. Louis was again moved by the growing advances of Islam throughout the world. At the age of 56, Louis led a Crusade into Northern Africa, where he tragically contracted a disease and passed away.
He was canonized just 27 years later.
St. Louis of France defended Christianity, both at home in France and abroad in his Crusades against Islamic influence and persecution. Inspired by his example, we can all learn to embrace our Faith, kindling it in our own hearts and defending it publicly when necessary. The beautiful Jerusalem Cross pendant, also known as the Crusaders’ Cross, is a cross surrounded by four smaller crosslets and is the perfect reminder to live out your faith bravely as St. Louis and the other saints of the Crusades did. Get yours today at The Catholic Company!