Saint Louis is unique among saints because he is not only a saint but also a king. His father was King Louis VIII, and his mother came from another royal family. She raised Louis to love God, and eventually he married a holy woman named Margaret. Louis and Margaret had eleven children, and they raised them all to love God. (It’s no wonder he is a patron of parents of large families!)
After Louis became king, he was dedicated to working for the glory of God and the good of his subjects. He gave money to religious orders so that they could build convents and monasteries. He brought relics like the Crown of Thorns to France and built beautiful cathedrals for them to be put in. He went to Mass every day and was friends with lots of priests. Louis led an army in a Crusade (a holy war), and was taken prisoner for a few years.
When he returned to France, Louis founded colleges and hospitals, and he would even serve the poor himself. In 1270, Louis went on another crusade, but he died before he could return to France. Because of all his good works and his service, the people of France loved him, and he was declared a saint only 27 years after he died.
Saint Louis was a devoted husband and father and he carefully instructed all his children in living a good, Christian life. He wrote a famous letter to his oldest son, who would become king himself someday. Read his instruction below and consider all the ways you can follow this wise advice.
The fleur-de-lis is a stylized lily and eventually became a symbol of the purity and chastity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints who especially practiced those virtues. The fleur-de-lis was a symbol of French kings for many, many years and during Saint Louis’ reign the three petals were said to represent three virtues he especially prized: faith, wisdom, and chivalry. Draw a fleur-de-lis, and choose three virtues that you feel God is especially calling you to practice. There is a list with some virtuous behaviors in the sidebar to help get you started.
My dearest son,
My first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.
If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.
Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.
Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather that with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders.
Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies.
In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen.
Louis, King of France