Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Saintly Aspects of Louis IX's Rule

When looking at the rule of King Louis IX, as presented by Joinville in The Life of Saint Louis, it is made perfectly clear that Louis IX is to be venerated to the position of saint. This blog entry will address the role of Louis IX as King, and the aspects of his rule that encourage his future veneration. It is obvious, based on the title of the book, The Life of Saint Louis, that King Louis IX will reach sainthood, but his actions inform this progression as well. To justify his actions while ruling as “saintly” there must be a discussion on “what saintly actions are” and then, a discussion evaluating whether the actions of Louis IX in his rule, fall into the categorization of “saintly”.

First, we have to define “saintly” and what actions a saint is likely to perform. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “saint” as, One of those persons who are formally recognized by the Church as having by their exceptional holiness of life attained an exalted station in heaven, and as being entitled in an eminent degree to the veneration of the faithful; a canonized person. In Pre-Reformation use, the term implies that the persons so designated may be lawfully addressed in prayer for their intercession with God, and that miracles have been wrought through their aid after death.” (OED, “saint”) The question then becomes: did Louis IX, in his rule, live a life of exceptional holiness? Again, we must establish a definition of “holiness”, which the OED succinctly provides: “The quality of being holy; spiritual perfection or purity; sanctity, saintliness; sacredness.” (OED, “holiness”) One may consider adding the term “virtuous” or “morally upright” to the definition of holiness. Based on the definitions provided on saintly, and holiness, we can make the assessment of Louis IX rule, and whether or not it falls into the category of “saintly”. This blog entry, enthusiastically says: yes, the rule of Louis IX is indicative of his veneration to sainthood.

Not only was the rule of Louis IX saintly in nature, it also showcased an enthusiasm in both his actions in battle, and actions regarding charity and religion. Consider the instance whereby Louis IX out of eagerness to engage in battle (and support his noble religious cause) leapt off of his ship, while in full armor, into the sea. Luckily, the water was only up to his armpits and he did not drown. (Joinville, 185) While some could argue that this is an unnecessarily risky act and boarders on stupidity, one cannot deny the religious zeal that this act relied upon. To expand upon his religious zeal consider the instance where a noble action on the behalf of a clerk had denied him the possibility of a priestly life, and King Louis IX forgiving response. Louis IX says, “your bravery has lost you the chance of priesthood, but because of it, I will retain you in my pay and you will come with me overseas. I would have you know that this is because I strongly desire my people to see that I will not uphold them in any of their wrongdoings.” (Joinville, 175) This is a very humbling gesture, because the King acknowledges himself as not the highest form of judgment (after all, and above all, is God), and it also conveys a pragmatic sense of reality that maybe would not be present in the church alone. Consider the religious limitations of killing three men who wronged this clerk; the retaliation is an act of “bravery” that is, in the eyes of Louis IX, morally justifiable but in the eyes of the church: wrong.

Also, King Louis IX speaks often of chivalry, charity and the foundation of new religious centers. This could be talked about extensively, but I am not going to. The sections read over the week showcase individual instances of charity, from feeding the poor personally, and even kissing the feet of poor lepers. Also mentioned are the financial supports given to religious centers. These actions combined, I believe constitute a saintly life in the rule of Louis IX, and arguably the church agrees because he is a saint now. However, one never expects a life of such saintly endeavors to end with the terrible affliction that is “diarrhea”. This isn’t the death of poetic dignity that one would expect from a saint – but he did die on a “bed of ashes” and “called on the saints to help and comfort him”, so I guess there is that.

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