It’s no secret that a large portion of the canonized saints in the Catholic Church were priests or religious. While their journeys to holiness are inspiring, it can leave those of called to married life with a small number of saints we can look to as intercessors and examples for the married vocation.
In recent years, the Catholic Church canonized Saint Therese of Lisieux’s parents, Louis and Zelie. But there’s also another Saint Louis we can turn to for a holy example of married life. King Louis IX of France is a great example of living out virtue and holiness as a layman.
A husband and father, he lived in the world as a temporal ruler. But rather than allowing his worldly power to corrupt him, he lived out his duties with such holiness that he led his country to a golden age—and became a saint, too!
If you’re looking for a holy example to follow as you strive for Christ and discern your vocation to marriage, here are a few things about Louis’ life that you need to know.
Louis’ holy early life
Louis was born in Poissy, France in 1214. His father, King Louis VIII, was known as Louis the Lion. His mother, Queen Blanche of Castille, was a holy woman.
During Louis’ childhood, his mother personally selected tutors to instruct him in government, military arts, public speaking, Latin, and writing. Their instruction later helped him rule well as king. Louis’ mother also ensured that he received a strong education in the Catholic faith. This holy instruction helped set him on the path to being a virtuous man and a holy ruler.
Louis’ father became king when Louis was nine years old. Then, just three years later, Louis’ father died and Louis became king himself at the young age of twelve. Because he was so young, Louis’ mother ruled in place of him as regent.
During this time, she continued working to ensure he was well prepared to be a good and holy king. She once told him that she would rather see him dead at her feet than have a mortal sin on his soul.
The golden age of Louis’ rule
We don’t know for certain what year Louis began to rule himself, but many historians say that it was 1234. When Louis began to rule, he continued to rely on his holy and wise mother for advice.
As king of France, Louis navigated the country through many wars and political conflicts. He also worked to bring the country to new heights in economics and politics.
The rulers of other countries at that time recognized Louis’ holiness and fairness. They held him in high esteem, and some even requested his assistance in arbitrating their disputes.
Louis worked to reform the justice system in France. He created provosts and bailiffs, and he began the concept of presumption of innocence. He also banned a practice called trial by ordeal, in which the accused were tortured in order to determine if they were guilty or innocent.
Louis was also a patron of the arts during his reign. He arranged for a beautiful chapel known as the Sainte-Chappelle to be built in the royal palace. Under his guidance, France made many advances in Gothic art and architecture.
A holy husband and father
Louis married a virtuous noblewoman named Margaret in 1234. Holy and devoted to the Catholic faith, she made a good match for Louis.
The two of them enjoyed one another’s company. Despite the pressures and demands of ruling France, they found time to do such activities as reading, riding, and listening to music together.
Louis and Margaret had eleven children, though two of them died as infants. As a father, Louis strongly desired to ensure that his children were given a holy upbringing in Catholicism, and he made certain that they were taught about the love of God.
Louis also worked to ensure that his children learned how to be virtuous. He taught them to be compassionate to the poor and to help those in need whenever possible.
What Catholic singles can learn from Louis’ holiness
Despite the many duties and pressures of Louis’ life as king, he devoted himself to the practice of his Catholic faith at every opportunity.
He attended Mass daily and voluntarily practiced many difficult penances. Rather than viewing his worldly power as something at odds with virtue or devotion, Louis saw his role as king as being a lieutenant of God on earth. This view helped him to rule with true care and concern for his people, out of love for God.
He established hospitals, as well as houses for blind men and reformed prostitutes. He also cared for lepers, fed beggars from his own table, and washed their feet.
Louis was an example of humility, charity, and devotion throughout his time as king. He strove for holiness in an extraordinary way in both his life as a ruler and in his family life with his wife and children.
As we struggle to remain holy and virtuous in our worldly professions and in our lay vocations, let us turn to St. Louis for intercession and inspiration.
St. Louis, holy king of France, pray for us!