Tuesday, August 25, 2009


“St. Louis IX of France”
by El Greco, 1587-97


Biographical Information about St. Louis of France [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Louis of France [2]

Readings and Commentary:

Isaiah 58:6-11

Thus says the LORD:
This is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
Commentary on
Is 58:6-11

This passage is from what is known as Deutero-Isaiah. It was written in the latter part of the Babylonian exile (700 BC). Isaiah laments and he chastises the people for missing the point of their fasts of atonement. They perform the rituals and follow the law but then violate the spirit of God’s Law by being uncaring and cruel to each other.

The prophet explains what that spirit is and how it is to impact their actions and closes with the reward for following the spirit of God’s Law – “Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you. Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here’.”
[3] He goes on to describe salvific effect of these actions of charity and compassion as being as a light in darkness as rain in parched land. He concludes with what can be seen as baptismal reference (well spring of holiness) that brings eternal life.

CCC: Is 58:6-7 2447
Psalm 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-7, 7-8, 9

R. (1) Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Wealth and riches shall be in his house;
his generosity shall endure forever.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

An evil report he shall not fear;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steadfast;
he shall not fear till he looks down upon his foes.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Lavishly he gives to the poor,
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who fears the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Commentary on
Ps 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-7, 7-8, 9

In this section of Psalm 112 the virtues of faithfully following God’s commandments are extolled. The one who follows the Lord will be upheld by God “in everlasting remembrance.”

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
Commentary on Mt 22:34-40

The story of Jesus delivering the Great Commandment is the fourth of the “Controversy Stories” in St. Matthew’s Gospel (stories in which Jesus argues with the Jewish leadership). Jesus has just refuted those Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection (v. 23-33) and now is challenged by the Pharisees. The question posed by the “scholar of the law” (probably a scribe; see also Luke 10:25-28) “…which commandment in the law is the greatest?” is asked in a rabbinical sense, meaning which of the 613 distinct statutes was considered greatest. Within this body of law, 248 of these precepts were positive and 365 were prohibitions. In addition these precepts were further divided into “Light” and “Heavy.” This was a fairly typical type of exchange for a rabbinical debate.
In answering, Jesus quotes two texts of the law that now form the foundation for a new morality in the Gospel. He first quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This text forms part of the Shema, the Jewish profession of faith. This first quote would not be surprising. What makes this exchange novel and important is that Jesus adds the quote from Leviticus 19:18b “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This juxtaposition of quotes makes them equally “Heavy” and there is no parallel In Jewish literature.

CCC: Mat 22:23-34 575; Mat 22:34-36 581; Mat 22:36 2055; Mat 22:37-40 2055; Mat 22:37 2083; Mat 22:40 1824

St. Louis (IX) of France was unique in his day. At a time when European Monarchs held nearly absolute power, St. Louis took to heart God’s word and Jesus’ example. He respected all those with whom he had contact and even took the unheard of step of dining with “the poor” of his kingdom; having special guests dine with him each day from among the poor. Who knows how this interaction affected him. What is certain is that he served the Lord as best he could, taking on the task of protecting the Holy Land from Islamic incursions. This particular zeal probably resulted in his death at 44.

As we read scripture it is easy for us to see how the Lord wants us to treat one another. St. Matthew’s Gospel gives us the great commandment to illustrate this important feature of living our faith. So why does St. Louis deserve our veneration when he was simply doing what he was called to do? Saints are recognized by the Church not just because the follow the Lord. Rather there is some heroic virtue about them that helps us recognize those especially blessed and called by God to stand as examples in perpetuity. St. Louis was remarkable among his peers of that age and would indeed be remarkable among world leaders today. While there is truth in the statement “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”; the one we memorialize today was able to resist that temptation and remain faithful to the Lord.

Even more, he sacrificed his own personal comfort for those less fortunate and advanced the cause of Christianity at a time when there was much wavering, even among Church leaders.

Today let us call out for the intercession of St. Louis. Let us ask him to pray for us, that our strength in the face the temptation of power, may be akin to his own and that we might act always for the greater glory of our Heavenly Father.

Reading attributed to St. Louis IX:

My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin. If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either though vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts. Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation oas you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a sons. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen. - from a spiritual testament by King Saint Louis IX to his son


[1] The picture is “St. Louis IX of France” by El Greco, 1587-97
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] Translation from the Jerusalem Bible

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