Archbishop Robert Carlson delivered the following homily on Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis during Mass to celebrate the external solemnity of the feast of King St. Louis IX (August 25th).
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Saint Louis the King, the patron of our Archdiocese and the only French ruler to ever become a saint. He succeeded to the throne of France at the age of 12 and married at the age of 19. He and his wife brought 11 children into the world.
He was known as a man of extraordinary virtue especially in the just way he ruled France, and was often asked by other rulers to help settle disputes between them.
He lives St. Paul’s words from Ephesians: “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
He is often pictured with the crown of thorns as a sign of his commitment to the Holy Land and the Holy Places so important in the life of Jesus Christ – we gain a sense of his commitment to the Lord as we see the statue of Saint Louis at the highest point in Forest Park since the World’s fair in 1904 – seated on his horse he carries his sword, but upside down so the handle and sheath of the sword resemble a cross.
Before he died he left a spiritual testament to his son which teaches us a great deal about him:
“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.” In other words “cling to Christ and obey him.”
This is great advice for anyone to pass on to their children. And the same is true for each of us as we prepare our children for a life of faith and point out to them what is really important in life and in faith – I remember clearly the importance my parents placed on weekly attendance at Mass and preparing myself spiritually to receive Holy Communion.
Faith and life in Jesus is a gift beyond human expectation and understanding. The saints of every age witness to the reality that faith is participation in the joy, the prayer, and the gratitude for Christ as we live life now.
St. Paul outlines that beautifully in today’s second reading from Colossians 3:12-17: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another forgiving each other.” Not a bad message for each of us with all the tension and hate that fills our community – family violence, racial tension, and lack of respect for human life.
FOR PEOPLE OF FAITH:
What Paul is talking about involves a transfiguration involving the whole person – soul and body, mind and will. This interior change begins to operate when one makes affirm resolution to lead a fully Christian life; but it calls for an ongoing effort – are we up to it? God gives us the tools.
As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief and the mysterious action which different Christians call by different names – Holy Communion, the Mass, and the Lord’s Supper.” Belief is spiritual, but baptism and Holy Communion are physical events – sacraments where we encounter Christ.
Remember: conversion is something momentary; sanctification is the work of a lifetime and Saint Louis models that for us.
It is said that Saint Louis was in touch with his people – being available to them, judging there disputes and he had a special place in his heart for the poor. He would frequently serve the poor at meals, and it is reported that he would invite three poor or street people to have lunch with him when he was at home – yes, in the castle! Not only to feed them but to listen and dialogue with them. It is this kind of witness along with prayers for peace and justice and willingness to dialogue that we need today.
It is one way we fulfill the command in today’s Gospel – to love God with all our heart and soul; and to love our neighbor as another self.
Coming to a better understanding of one another, seeking forgiveness where ever needed, helping the poor, welcoming the immigrant and so much more is not only a moral command, but as we read today’s gospel we find it comes from the lips of Christ himself.
Truly, may we turn to Saint Louis our patron all across this Archdiocese asking him to intercede for us as we take on the issues of our day.
Listen to a radiocast of Cardinal Glennon from 1940 as he discusses the “Spirit of St. Louis, King of France”