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Let's make the king proud as we celebrate the memorial of St. Louis

King Louis IX, namesake of our city, was known for his commitment to aid poor people and provide justice

A statue of St. Louis (King Louis IX) on the grounds of the Cardinal Rigali Center.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
The celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of our city in 2014 is a fitting time to commit ourselves to the Christian values and dedication to the poor of the man whose name is St. Louis.

Louis IX served as king of France in the mid-13th century and was known as a living embodiment of the Christianity of the time. He had a special place in his heart for religious orders -- as does our city, known as the home of many communities of men and women religious and the many ministries they established here.

His biographers note that St. Louis received indigent people each day and brought them food. In Lent and Advent, he cared for all who came, often waiting on them in person. He had a passion for justice, and changed the "King's court" of his ancestors into a popular court, where he listened to any of his subjects who came with grievances and gave what seemed to them wise and impartial judgments. He sought to replace the feudal method of settling disputes by combat with peaceful arbitration or the judicial process of a trial, complete with the presentation of testimony.

The man who is St. Louis also gave generous monetary gifts to poor people whether others considered them worthy or not. Monks and nuns, widows and prostitutes, gentlefolk fallen on hard times and minstrels too old or sick to perform, St. Louis gave happily to them all. He also built hospitals and homes for those who needed them.

Now that is something to emulate.

And in many ways, the people of St. Louis have found ways to do that same work, and we need to expand on those efforts. Take for instance, the work of the Guardian Angel Settlement Association profiled in this week's Living Our Faith section. The agency, now a nonprofit organization, was founded by the Daughters of Charity at the invitation of the archbishop.

Guardian Angel has an impressive child-care program but, like many agencies with Catholic backgrounds in St. Louis, has an extensive outreach to people in need, seeking to eradicate hunger, reduce homelessness, safeguard health, provide the basics and inspire independence. The goal is to help people move from crises to self-sufficiency. Similar efforts are being made at Midtown Catholic Charities Community Services, St. Patrick Center, Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Center, parish Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences and much more.

Sister Annalee Faherty, DC, of Guardian Angel Settlement observed that her work has brought her blessings and a realization of the importance of advocacy -- being the voice of the voiceless. We too can do that work through a connection with the advocacy department of Catholic Charities, the Missouri Catholic Conference and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Let's make proud that king of France whose name was honored in the founding of our city 250 years. ago.

St. Louis IX, King of France and the patron of St. Louis

Born in 1214, he ruled France in the middle of the 13th century and was canonized in 1297 — 27 years after his death. Not only did he risk his life to provide good and safe government for his people, but he also was just and very kind to his subjects. For example, he would daily invite a number of poor people to have lunch with him. He built hospitals and homes for those who needed them. He supported the founding of the Sorbonne, the theological division of the University of Paris.

The saint had a special place in his heart for members of religious orders and lent his support to them.

Bishop Robert J. Hermann has written that even though St. Louis was one of the most powerful world leaders at that time, he was a God-fearing, humble lover of the poor. Every day he would invite 12 poor people to come into his castle and sit at his table for lunch. St. Louis knew that when he was feeding the poor, he was entertaining Christ in them.

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, a series of mosaic panels depict the principal events in the life of Louis IX. They show the saint helping the needy, accepting the Cross of the Crusader, administering justice at the court, meeting with his mother, founding the Sorbonne, receiving Holy Communion and returning from the Holy Land with the Crown of Thorns. 

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