25 August 2007

A Saint's Mother

Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile in 1223, Miniature from Les Grandes Chroniques de France

Today is the feast day of King Louis IX of France, who embodied all that a king ought to be: he ruled with justice, integrity, generosity, and holiness. He and Queen Margaret of Provence bore eleven children, their line reigning over France until the French Revolution put an end to it. (As the guillotine fell onto the neck of King Louis XVI, Abbé Edgeworth cried, Le fils de St-Louis, montez au paradis!)

It was St. Louis' mother who left the deepest impression on his faith. She told him often as a child, Je t'aime, mon cher fils, autant qu'une mère peut aimer son enfant; mais j'aime mieux que tu soit mort à mes pieds que tu commettes un péché mortel. ("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 commit a mortal sin.")

Many years later, St. Louis would write in a letter to his eldest son, Phillip III, "You should, with all your strength, shun everything which you believe to be displeasing to Him. And you ought especially to be resolved not to commit mortal sin, no matter what may happen and should permit all your limbs to be hewn off, and suffer every manner of torment , rather than fall knowingly into mortal sin."

Quel saint! Quelle mère!