On Aug. 25, we celebrate the feast of our city’s namesake, St. Louis IX. He served as king of France in the mid-13th century; as a devout Catholic, he was known as a living embodiment of the Christianity of the time. He was canonized in 1297 — just 27 years after his death.
He risked his life to provide a good and safe government for his people. He also protected the poor, oftentimes inviting them to have lunch with him. He built hospitals and homes for those who needed them.
King Louis certainly understood the meaning of servant leadership. His example is embodied today in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in many ways, including providing health care for the poor and uninsured of Washington County through the Rural Parish Clinic, featured in this week’s issue. The new mobile medical clinic, operated by employees of Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Queen of Peace Center — one of eight Catholic Charities agencies — in collaboration with the Rural Parish Workers of Christ the King, provides preventative care such as annual physicals, treatment for chronic illnesses, acute care for minor illnesses, injuries and infections, as well as gynecological and psychiatric services.
The Rural Parish Workers of Christ the King have been providing similar care in Washington County for more than 70 years. The group of vowed laywomen serves about 2,500 people a year, providing food, clothing, shelter and utility assistance.
Brandy Hawkins, a patient of the Rural Parish Clinic, said that one of the best gifts she could have received from the Rural Parish Workers was their time. They “come to the house and sit with me at my kitchen table for about two hours,” she said. “They were in no hurry and they just listened to me. It was like I got 10 years of troubles in my head out in two hours. They were amazing. Being in their presence was enough.”
It’s not hard to imagine St. Louis giving his time to the poor in a similar way. Stories have been shared about how he daily fed more than 100 people. He also fed beggars from his table, eating from their scraps after they were filled. He was known for washing their feet. But most importantly, he gave them his time. When we can give someone our time, it demonstrates that we care, and shows that person is valued and important.
There are many more examples of how Catholics give of their time and resources to the poorest and most vulnerable in our local community. Let us look toward St. Louis as a constant example of how we can minister to this in need, and to reveal to them their inherent dignity as children of God.