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King Saint Louis IX of France

The 25th of August is dedicated to one of the greatest and holiest rulers in history.  He is a Saint who has inspired many generations of saints after him and who is still dearly beloved even 800 years after his death.  The Father of the Little Flower, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, who is now Saint Louis Martin was named after this Saintly King, and it is so fitting a name since his “little queen” always called him “my king”.  And Saint Louis, Missouri was also named after today’s saint and this is not surprising considering that it was originally a French settlement and a deeply Catholic land for many years.

 

Louis was King of France, a Crusader, and a great Saint, and he derived his great sanctity from his holy mother Blanche of Castile.  And this was nothing unusual in this holy family because Blanche’s sister Berengaria of Castile raised King Saint Ferdinand III of Castile.  What wonderful intercessors these are and who we ought to employ often for the conversion of our own leaders today.  And how appropriate is his wise advice for our leaders today, which he gave to his son Philip all those centuries ago.


You can read several biographies on King Louis on archive: Saint Louis: The Most Christian King  and  Saint Louis – King of France, but here is the great Dom Gueranger’s take on Saint Louis…

 

The Liturgical Year

 

Dom Prosper Gueranger

 

August 25

 

King Saint Louis IX of France

 

Confessor

 

It was his Christian faith that made Louis IX so great a prince. You that are the judges of the earth, think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in simplicity of heart. (Wisdom 1:1) Eternal Wisdom, in giving this precept to kings, rejoiced with divine foreknowledge, among the lilies of France, where this great Saint was to shine with so bright a lustre.

 

Subject and Prince are bound to God by a common law, for all men have one entrance into life, and the like going out. (Ibid 7:6) Far from being less responsible to the divine authority than his subjects, the prince is answerable for every one of them as well as for himself. The aim and object of creation is that God be glorified by the return of all creatures to their Author, in the manner and measure that he wills. Therefore since God has called man to a participation in his own divine life, and has made the earth to be to him but a place of passage, mere natural justice and the present order of things are not sufficient for him. Kings must recognize that the object of their civil sovereignty, not being the last end of all things, is, like themselves, under the direction and absolute rule of that higher end, before which they are but as subjects. Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty. (Ibid 6:2, 9) Thus did the divine goodness give merciful warnings under the ancient Covenant.

 

But not satisfied with giving repeated admonitions, Wisdom came down from her heavenly throne. Henceforth the world belongs to her by a twofold title. By the right of her divine origin, she held the principality in the brightness of the Saints, before the rising of the day star; she now reigns by right of conquest over the redeemed world. Before her coming in the flesh, it was already from her that kings received their power, and that equity which directs its exercise. Jesus, the Son of Man, whose Blood paid the ransom of the world, is now, by the contract of the sacred nuptials which united him to our nature, the only source of power and of all true justice. And now, once more, O ye kings, understand: says the Psalmist; receive instruction, you that judge the earth. (Psalm 2:10)

 

“It is Christ who speaks:” says St. Augustine: “Now that I am king in the name of God my Father, be not sad, as though you were thereby derived of some good you possessed; but rather acknowledging that it is good for you to be subject to him who gives you security in the light, serve this Lord of all with fear, and rejoice unto him.” (S. Aug. Ennarrat. in Ps. ii.)

 

It is the Church that continues, in the name of our ascended Lord, to give to kings this security which comes from the light: the Church who, without trespassing upon the authority of princes, is nevertheless their superior, as Mother of nations, as judge of consciences, as the only guide of the human race journeying towards its last end. Let us listen to the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII., speaking with the precision and power which characterize his infallible teaching: “As there are on earth two great societies: the one civil, whose immediate end is to procure the temporal and earthly well-being of the human race; the other religious, whose aim is to lead men to the eternal happiness for which they were created: so also God has divided the government of the world between two powers. Each of these is supreme in its kind; each is bounded by definite limits drawn in conformity with its nature and its peculiar end. Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church, willed that they should be distinct from one another, and that both should be free from trammels in the accomplishment of their respective missions; yet with this provision, that in those matters which appertain to the jurisdiction and judgment of both, though on different grounds, the power which is concerned with temporal interests, must depend, as is fitting, on that power which watches over eternal interests. Finally, both being subject to the Eternal and to the Natural Law, they must in such a manner mutually agree in what concerns the order and government of each, as to form a relationship comparable to the union of soul and body in man.”

 

In the sphere of eternal interests, to which no one may be indifferent, princes are bound to hold, not only themselves but their people also, in subjection to God and to His Church. For “since men united by the bonds of a common society depend on God no less than individuals, associations, whether political or private, cannot, without crime, behave as if God did not exist, nor put away religion as something foreign to them, nor dispense themselves from observing, in that religion, the rules according to which God has declared that he wills to be honoured. Consequently, the heads of the State are bound, as such, to keep holy the name of God, make it one of their principal duties to protect religion by the authority of the laws, and not command or ordain anything contrary to its integrity.” (cf. Epist. Encycl. ad Episcopos Galliae, Nobilissima Gallorum gens, 8 Febr. 1884,—Encycl. Immortale Dei, de civitatum constitutions Christiana, 1 Nov. 1885,—Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, de matrimonio Christiano, 10 Feb. 1880.)

 

Let us now return to St. Augustine’s explanation of the text of the Psalm: “How do kings serve the Lord with fear, except by forbidding and punishing with a religious severity all acts contrary to the commands of the Lord! In his twofold character as man and as prince, the king must serve God: as man, he serves Him by the fidelity of his life; as king, by framing or maintaining laws which command good and forbid evil. He must act like Ezechias and Josias, destroying the temples of the false gods and the high places that had been constructed contrary to the command of the Lord; like the king of Ninive obliging his city to appease the Lord; like Darius, giving up the idol to Daniel to be broken, and casting Daniel’s enemies to the lions; like Nabuchodonosor forbidding blasphemy throughout his kingdom by a terrible law. It is thus that kings serve the Lord as kings, viz: when they do in His service those things which only kings can do.” (Aug. ad Bonifac. Ep. 185.)

 

In all this teaching we are not losing sight of to-day’s feast; for we may say of Louis IX. as an epitome of his life: He made a covenant before the Lord to walk after him and keep his commandments; and cause them to be kept by all. (II Paralip. xxxiv. 31-33) God was his end, faith was his guide: herein lies the whole secret of his government as well as of his sanctity. As a Christian he was a servant of Christ, as a prince he was Christ’s lieutenant; the aspirations of the Christian and those of the prince did not divide his soul; this unity was his strength, as it is now his glory. He now reigns in heaven with Christ, who alone reigned in him and by him on earth. If then your delight be in thrones and scepters, O ye kings of the people, love wisdom, that you may reign for ever. (Wisd. vi. 22.)

 

Louis was anointed king at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent 1246 ; and he laid to heart for his whole life the words of that day’s Introit: To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in thee, O my God, I put my trust! He was only twelve years old; but our Lord had given him the surest safeguard of his youth, in the person of his mother, that noble daughter of Spain, whose coming into France, says William de Nangis, was the arrival of all good things. (Gesta S. Ludovici.) The premature death of her husband Louis VIII left Blanche of Castille to cope with a most formidable conspiracy. The great vassals, whose power had been reduced during the preceding reigns, promised themselves to profit of the minority of the new prince, to regain the rights they had enjoyed under the ancient feudal system, to the detriment of the unity of government. In order to remove this mother, who stood up single-handed between the weakness of the heir to the throne and their ambition, the barons, everywhere in revolt, joined hands with the Albigensian heretics; and made an alliance with the son of John Lackland, Henry Ill., who was endeavouring to recover the possessions in France lost by his father in punishment for the murder of Prince Arthur. Strong in her son’s right and in the protection of Pope Gregory IX., Blanche held out; and she, whom the traitors to their country called the foreigner in order to palliate their crime, saved France by her prudence and her brave firmness. After nine years of regency, she handed over the nation to its king, more united and more powerful than ever since the days of Charlemagne.

 

We cannot here give the history of an entire reign; but, honour to whom honour is due: Louis, in order to become the glory of heaven and earth on this day, had but to walk in the footsteps of Blanche, the son had but to remember the precepts of his mother.

 

There was a graceful simplicity in our Saint’s life, which enhanced its greatness and heroism. One would have said he did not experience the difficulty that others feel, though far removed from the throne, in fulfilling those words of our Lord: Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:3) Yet who was greater than this humble king, making more account of his Baptism at Poissy than of his anointing at Rheims, saying his hours, fasting, scourging himself like his friends the Friars Preachers and Minors, ever treating with respect those whom he regarded as God’s privileged ones, priests, religious, the suffering and the poor? The great men of our days may smile at him for being more grieved at losing his breviary than at being taken captive by the Saracens. But how have they behaved in the like extremity? Never was the enemy heard to say of any of them: “You are our captive, and one would say we were rather your prisoners.” They did not check the fierce greed and bloodthirstiness of their gaolers, nor dictate terms of peace as proudly as if they had been the conquerors. The country, brought into peril by them, has not come out of the trial more glorious. It is peculiar to the admirable reign of St. Louis, that disasters made him not only a hero but a saint; and that France gained for centuries in the East, where her king had been captive, a greater renown than any victory could have won for her.

 

The humility of holy kings is not forgetfulness of the great office they fulfill in God’s name; their abnegation could not consist in giving up rights which are also duties, any more than charity could cast out justice, or love of peace could oppose the virtues of the warrior. St. Louis, without an army, felt himself superior as a Christian, to the victorious infidel, and treated him accordingly; moreover the West discovered very early, and more and more as his sanctity increased with his years, that this king, who spent his nights in prayer and his days in serving the poor, was not the man to yield to anyone the prerogatives of the crown. “There is but one king in France,” said the judge of Vincennes rescinding a sentence of Charles of Anjou; and the barons at the castle of Belleme, and the English at Taillebourg, were already aware of it; so was Frederick II. who, threatening to crush the Church and seeking aid from the French, received this answer: “The kingdom of France is not so weak as to suffer itself to be driven by your spurs.”

 

Louis’s death was like his life, simple and great. God called him to himself in the midst of sorrowful and critical circumstances, far from his own country, in that African land where he had before suffered so much; these trials were sanctifying thorns, reminding the prince of his most cherished jewel, the sacred crown of thorns, which he had added to the treasures of France. Moved by the hope of converting the king of Tunis to the Christian faith, it was rather as an apostle than a soldier that he had landed on that shore where his last struggle awaited him. I challenge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his lieutenant Louis king of France: such was the sublime provocation hurled against the infidel city, and it was worthy of the close of such a life. Six centuries later, Tunis was to see the sons of those same Franks unwittingly following up the challenge of the saintly king, at the invitation of all the holy ones resting in the now Christian land of ancient Carthage.

 

The Christian army, victorious in every battle, was decimated by a terrible plague. Surrounded by the dead and dying, and himself attacked with the contagion, Louis called to him his eldest son, who was to succeed him as Philip III,, and gave him his last instructions:

 

“Dear son, the first thing I admonish thee is, that thou set thy heart to love God, for without that nothing else is of any worth. Beware of doing what displeases God, that is to say mortal sin; yea rather oughtest thou to suffer all manner of torment. If God send thee adversity, receive it in patience, and give thanks for it to our Lord, and think that thou hast done him ill service. If he give thee prosperity, thank him humbly for the same and be not the worse, either by pride or in any other manner, for that very thing that ought to make thee better; for we must not use God’s gifts against himself. Have a kind and pitiful heart to the poor and the unfortunate, and comfort and assist them as much as thou canst. Keep up the good customs of thy kingdom, and put down all bad ones. Love all that is good, and hate all that is evil of any sort. Suffer no ill word about God or our Lady or the Saints to be spoken in thy presence, that thou dost not straightway punish. In the administering of justice be loyal to thy subjects, without turning aside to the right hand or to the left; but help the right, and take the part of the poor until the whole truth be cleared up. Honour and love all ecclesiastical persons, and take care that they be not deprived of the gifts and alms that thy predecessors may have given them. Dear son, I admonish thee that thou be ever devoted to the Church of Rome, and to the sovereign Bishop our father, that is the Pope, and that thou bear him reverence and honour as thou oughtest to do to thy spiritual father. Exert thyself that every vile sin be abolished from thy land; especially to the best of thy power put down all wicked oaths and heresy. Fair son, I give thee all the blessings that a good father can give to a son; may the blessed Trinity and all the Saints guard thee and protect thee from all evils; may God give thee grace to do his will always, and may he be honoured by thee, and may thou and I after this mortal life be together in his company and praise him without end.” (GEOFFREY DE BEAULIEU; QUEEN MARGARET’S CONFESSOR; WILLIAM DE NANGIS; JOINVILLE.)

 

“When the good king,” continues Joinville, “had instructed his son my lord Philip, his illness began to increase greatly ; he asked for the Sacraments of Holy Church, and received them in a sound mind and right understanding, as was quite evident; for when they were anointing him and saying the seven Psalms, he took his own part in reciting. I have heard my lord the Count d’Alencon his son relate, that when he drew nigh to death, he called the Saints to aid and succour him, and in particular my lord St. James, saying his prayer which begins: Esto Domine; that is to say: O God, be the sanctifier and guardian of thy people. Then he called to his aid my lord St. Denis of France, saying his prayer, which is as much as to say: Sire God, grant that we may despise the prosperity of this world, and may fear no adversity! And I heard from my lord d’Alencon (whom God absolve), that his father next invoked Madame St. Genevieve. After this the holy king had himself laid on a bed strewn with ashes, and placing his hands upon his breast and looking towards heaven, he gave up his soul to his Creator, at the same hour wherein the Son of God died on the Cross for the salvation of the world”.

 

Let us read the short notice consecrated by the Church to her valiant eldest son.

 

Louis IX, king of France having lost his father when he was only twelve years old, was educated in a most holy manner by his mother Blanche. When he had reigned for twenty years, he fell ill and it was then he conceived the idea of regaining possession of Jerusalem. On his recovery therefore he received the great standard from the bishop of Paris and crossed the sea with a large army. In a first engagement he repulsed the Saracens; but a great number of his men being struck down by pestilence, he was conquered and made prisoner.

 

A treaty was then made with the Saracens, and the king and his army were set at liberty. Louis spent five years in the East. He delivered many Christian captives, converted many of tho infidels to the faith of Christ, and also rebuilt several Christian towns out of his own resources. Meanwhile his mother died and on this account he was obliged to return home, where he devoted himself entirely to good works.

 

He built many monasteries and hospitals for the poor; he assisted those in need and frequently visited the sick, supplying all their necessities at his own expense and even serving them with his own hands. He dressed in a simple manner and subdued his body by continual fasting and wearing a hair-cloth. He crossed over to Africa a second time to fight with the Saracens, and had pitched his camp in sight of them when he was struck down by a pestilence and died while saying this prayer: “I will come into thy house; I will worship towards thy holy temple and I will confess to thy name.” His body was afterwards translated to Paris and is honourably preserved in the celebrated church of St. Denis; but the head is in the Sainte-Chapelle. He was celebrated for miracles, and Pope Boniface VIII. enrolled his name among the saints.

 

Jerusalem the true Sion, at length opens her gates to thee, O Louis, who for her sake didst give up thy treasures and thy life. From the eternal throne whereon the Son of God gives thee to share his own honours and power, ever promote the kingdom of God on earth; be zealous for the faith; be a strong arm to our Mother the Church. Thanks to thee, the infidel East, though it adores not Christ, at least respects his adorers, having but one name for Christian and Frank. For this reason our present rulers would remain protectors of Christianity in those lands, while they persecute it at home; a contradiction no less fatal to the country than opposed to its traditions of liberty, and its reputation for honour and honesty. How can they be said to know our traditions and our history, or to understand the national interests, who misunderstand the God of Clovis, of Charlemagne and of St. Louis? In that Egypt, the scene of thy labours, what has now become of the patrimony of glorious influence which had been held by thy nation for centuries?

 

Thy descendants are no longer here to defend us against these men who use the country for their own purposes and exile those who have been the makers of it. But how terrible are the judgments of the Lord! Thou thyself hast said: “I would rather a stranger than my own son should rule my people and kingdom, if my son is to rule amiss.” (1 Joinville, part 1.) Thirty years after the Crusade of Tunis, an unworthy prince, Philip IV thy second successor, outraged the Vicar of Christ. Straightway he was rejected by heaven, and his direct male line became extinct. The withered bough was replaced by another branch, though still from the same root. But the nation had to suffer for its kings, and to expiate the crime of Anagni: the judgment of God allowed a terrible war to be brought about through the political indiscretion of the same Philip the Fair, (By marrying his daughter Isabella to Edward II. of England; which marriage after the death of Philip’s three sons Louis X. Philip V and Charles IX, without male issue, furnished the plea for Isabella’s son Edward III to pretend to the crown of France.) a prince as discreditable to the State as to the Church and to his own family. Then for a hundred years the country seemed to be on the brink of destruction; until by a wonderful protection of God over the land, the Maid of Orleans, Joan the Venerable, rescued the lily of France from the clutches of the English leopard.

 

Other faults alas! were to compromise still further, and then, twice over, to wither up or break the branches of the royal tree. Long did thy personal merits outweigh before God the scandalous immorality, which our princes had made their family mark, their odious privilege: a shame, which was transmitted by the expiring Valois to the Bourbons; which had to be expiated, but not effaced, by the blood of the just Louis XVI; and which so many illustrious exiles are still expiating in lowliness and sorrow in a foreign land. Would that thou couldst at least recognize these thy remaining sons by their imitation of thy virtues! For it is only by striving to win back this spiritual inheritance, that they can hope that God will one day restore them the other.

 

For God, who commands us to obey at all times the power actually established, is ever the master of nations and the unchangeable disposer of their changeable destinies. Then every one of thy descendants, taught by a sad experience, will be bound to remember, O Louis, thy last recommendation: Exert thyself that every vile sin be abolished from thy land; especially, to the best of thy power, put down all wicked oaths and heresy.

 *****

 

Finally, here is the advice Saint Louis gave in full to his son, the future King Philip (III) the Bold, which in many points we too ought to take to heart…

1. To his dear first-born son, Philip, greeting, and his father’s love.

 

2. Dear son, since I desire with all my heart that you be well “instructed in all things, it is in my thought to give you some advice this writing. For I have heard you say, several times, that you remember my words better than those of any one else.

 

3. Therefore, dear son, the first thing I advise is that you fix your whole heart upon God, and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved or be of any worth.

 

4- 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.

 

 

5. If our Lord send you any adversity, whether illness or other in good patience, and thank Him for it, thing, you should receive it in good patience and be thankful for it, for you ought to believe that He will cause everthing to turn out for your good; and likewise you should think that you have well merited it, and more also, should He will it, because you have loved Him but little, and served Him but little, and have done many things contrary to His will.

 

6. If our Lord send you any prosperity, either health of body or other thing you ought to thank Him humbly for it, and you ought to be careful that you are not the worse for it, either through pride or anything else, for it is a very great sin to fight against our Lord with His gifts.

 

7. Dear son, I advise you that you accustom yourself to frequent confession, and that you choose always, as your confessors, men who are upright and sufficiently learned, and who can teach you what you should do and what you should avoid. You should so carry yourself that your confessors and other friends may dare confidently to reprove you and show you your faults.

 

8. Dear son, I advise you that you listen willingly and devoutly the services of Holy Church, and, when you are in church, avoid to frivolity and trifling, and do not look here and there; but pray to God with lips and heart alike, while entertaining sweet thoughts about Him, and especially at the mass, when the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are consecrated, and for a little time before.

 

9. Dear son, have a tender pitiful heart for the poor, and for all those whom you believe to be in misery of heart or body, and, according to your ability, comfort and aid them with some alms.

 

10. Maintain the good customs of your realm, and put down the bad ones. Do not oppress your people and do not burden them with tolls or tailles, except under very great necessity.

 

11. If you have any unrest of heart, of such a nature that it may be told, tell it to your confessor, or to some upright man who can keep your secret; you will be able to carry more easily the thought of your heart.

 

12. See to it that those of your household are upright and loyal, and remember the Scripture, which says: “Elige viros timentes Deum in quibus sit justicia et qui oderint avariciam”; that is to say, “Love those who serve God and who render strict justice and hate covetousness”; and you will profit, and will govern your kingdom well.

 

13. Dear son, see to it that all your associates are upright, whether clerics or laymen, and have frequent good converse with them; and flee the society of the bad. And listen willingly to the word of God, both in open and in secret; and purchase freely prayers and pardons.

 

14. Love all good, and hate all evil, in whomsoever it may be.

 

15. Let no one be so bold as to say, in your presence, words which attract and lead to sin, and do not permit words of detraction to be spoken of another behind his back.

 

 

16. Suffer it not that any ill be spoken of God or His saints in your presence, without taking prompt vengeance. But if the offender be a clerk or so great a person that you ought not to try him, report the matter to him who is entitled to judge it.

 

17. Dear son, give thanks to God often for all the good things He has done for you, so that you may be worthy to receive more, in such a manner that if it please the Lord that you come to the burden and honor of governing the kingdom, you may be worthy to receive the sacred unction wherewith the kings of France are consecrated.

 

18. Dear son, if you come to the throne, strive to have that which befits a king, that is to say, that in justice and rectitude you hold yourself steadfast and loyal toward your subjects and your vassals, without turning either to the right or to the left, but always straight, whatever may happen. And if a poor man have a quarrel with a rich man, sustain the poor rather than the rich, until the truth is made clear, and when you know the truth, do justice to them.

 

19. If any one have entered into a suit against you (for any injury or wrong which he may believe that you have done to him), be always for him and against yourself in the presence of your council, without showing that you think much of your case (until the truth be made known concerning it); for those of your council might be backward in speaking against you, and this you should not wish; and command your judges that you be not in any way upheld more than any others, for thus will your councillors judge more boldly according to right and truth.

 

20. If you have anything belonging to another, either of yourself or through your predecessors, if the matter is certain, give it up without delay, however great it may be, either in land or money or otherwise. If the matter is doubtful, have it inquired into by wise men, promptly and diligently. And if the affair is so obscure that you cannot know the truth, make such a settlement, by the counsel of s of upright men, that your soul, and the soul your predecessors, may be wholly freed from the affair. And even if you hear some one say that your predecessors made restitution, make diligent inquiry to learn if anything remains to be restored; and if you find that such is the case, cause it to be delivered over at once, for the liberation of your soul and the souls of your predecessors.

 

21. You should seek earnestly how your vassals and your subjects may live in peace and rectitude beneath your sway; likewise, the good towns and the good cities of your kingdom. And preserve them in the estate and the liberty in which your predecessors kept them, redress it, and if there be anything to amend, amend and preserve their favor and their love. For it is by the strength and the riches of your good cities and your good towns that the native and the foreigner, especially your peers and your barons, are deterred from doing ill to you. I will remember that Paris and the good towns of my kingdom aided me against the barons, when I was newly crowned.

 

22. Honor and love all the people of Holy Church, and be careful that no violence be done to them, and that their gifts and alms, which your predecessors have bestowed upon them, be not taken away or diminished. And I wish here to tell you what is related concerning King Philip, my ancestor, as one of his council, who said he heard it, told it to me. The king, one day, was with his privy council, and he was there who told me these words. And one of the king’s councillors said to him how much wrong and loss he suffered from those of Holy Church, in that they took away his rights and lessened the jurisdiction of his court; and they marveled greatly how he endured it. And the good king answered: “I am quite certain that they do me much wrong, but when I consider the goodnesses and kindnesses which God has done me, I had rather that my rights should go, than have a contention or awaken a quarrel with Holy Church.” And this I tell to you that you may not lightly believe anything against the people of Holy Church; so love them and honor them and watch over them that they may in peace do the service of our Lord.

 

23. Moreover, I advise you to love dearly the clergy, and, so far as you are able, do good to them in their necessities, and likewise love those by whom God is most honored and served, and by whom the Faith is preached and exalted.

 

24. Dear son, I advise that you love and reverence your father and your mother, willingly remember and keep their commandments, and be inclined to believe their good counsels.

 

 

25. Love your brothers, and always wish their well-being and their good advancement, and also be to them in the place of a father, to instruct them in all good. But be watchful lest, for the love which you bear to one, you turn aside from right doing, and do to the others that which is not meet.

 

26. Dear son, I advise you to bestow the benefices of Holy Church which you have to give, upon good persons, of good and clean life, and that you bestow them with the high counsel of upright men. And I am of the opinion that it is preferable to give them to those who hold nothing of Holy Church, rather than to others. For, if you inquire diligently, you will find enough of those who have nothing who will use wisely that entrusted to them.

 

27. Dear son, I advise you that you try with all your strength to avoid warring against any Christian man, unless he have done you too much ill. And if wrong be done you, try several ways to see if you can find how you can secure your rights, before you make war; and act thus in order to avoid the sins which are committed in warfare.

 

28. And if it fall out that it is needful that you should make war (either because some one of your vassals has failed to plead his case in your court, or because he has done wrong to some church or to some poor person, or to any other person whatsoever, and is unwilling to make amends out of regard for you, or for any other reasonable cause), whatever the reason for which it is necessary for you to make war, give diligent command that the poor folk who have done no wrong or crime be protected from damage to their vines, either through fire or otherwise, for it were more fitting that you should constrain the wrongdoer by taking his own property (either towns or castles, by force of siege), than that you should devastate the property of poor people. And be careful not to start the war before you have good counsel that the cause is most reasonable, and before you have summoned the offender to make amends, and have waited as long as you should. And if he ask mercy, you ought to pardon him, and accept his amende, so that God may be pleased with you.

 

29. Dear son, I advise you to appease wars and contentions, whether they be yours or those of your subjects, just as quickly as may be, for it is a thing most pleasing to our Lord. And Monsignore Martin gave us a very great example of this. For, one time, when our Lord made it known to him that he was about to die, he set out to make peace between certain clerks of his archbishopric, and he was of the opinion that in so doing he was giving a good end to life.

 

30. Seek diligently, most sweet son, to have good baillis and good prevots in your land, and inquire frequently concerning their doings, and how they conduct themselves, and if they administer justice well, and do no wrong to any one, nor anything which they ought not do. Inquire more often concerning those of your household if they be too covetous or too arrogant; for it is natural that the members should seek to imitate their chief; that is, when the master is wise and well-behaved, all those of his household follow his example and prefer it. For however much you ought to hate evil in others, you shoud have more hatred for the evil which comes from those who derive their power from you, than you bear to the evil of others; and the more ought you to be on your guard and prevent this from happening.

 

31. Dear son, I advise you always to be devoted to the Church of Rome, and to the sovereign pontiff, our father, and to bear him the the reverence and honor which you owe to your spiritual father.

 

32. Dear son, freely give power to persons of good character, who know how to use it well, and strive to have wickednesses expelled from your land, that is to say, nasty oaths, and everything said or done against God or our Lady or the saints. In a wise and proper manner put a stop, in your land, to bodily sins, dicing, taverns, and other sins. Put down heresy so far as you can, and hold in especial abhorrence Jews, and all sorts of people who are hostile to the Faith, so that your land may be well purged of them, in such manner as, by the sage counsel of good people, may appear to you advisable.

 

33. Further the right with all your strength. Moreover I admonish you you that you strive most earnestly to show your gratitude for the benefits which our Lord has bestowed upon you, and that you may know how to give Him thanks therefore

 

34. Dear son, take care that the expenses of your household are reasonable and moderate, and that its moneys are justly obtained. And there is one opinion that I deeply wish you to entertain, that is to say, that you keep yourself free from foolish expenses and evil exactions, and that your money should be well expended and well acquired. And this opinion, together with other opinions which are suitable and profitable, I pray that our Lord may teach you.

 

35. Finally, most sweet son, I conjure and require you that, if it please our Lord that I should die before you, you have my soul succored with masses and orisons, and that you send through the congregations of the kingdom of France, and demand their prayers for my soul, and that you grant me a special and full part in all the good deeds which you perform.

 

36. In conclusion, dear son, I give you all the blessings which a good and tender father can give to a son, and I pray our Lord Jesus Christ, by His mercy, by the prayers and merits of His blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and of angels and archangels and of all the saints, to guard and protect you from doing anything contrary to His will, and to give you grace to do it always, so that He may be honored and served by you. And this may He do to me as to you, by His great bounty, so that after this mortal life we may be able to be together with Him in the eternal life, and see Him, love Him, and praise Him without end. Amen. And glory, honor, and praise be to Him who is one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit; without beginning and without end. Amen.

 

From Saint Louis’ Advice to His Son, in Medieval Civilization, trans. and eds. Dana Munro and George Clarke Sellery (New York: The Century Company, 1910), pp. 366 -75. (Source)

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