Wednesday, August 25, 1999
Wednesday August 25:
Twenty-first Wednesday in Ordinary Time
Feast of Saint Louis of France, Husband, Father and King and
Feast of Saint Joseph Calasanz, Priest, Religious Founder and Educator
Green or white vestments
First Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2: 9-13
Psalms: Psalm Psalm 139: 1, 7-12
Gospel Reading: Matthew 23: 27-32
FEAST OF SAINT LOUIS OF FRANCE, HUSBAND, FATHER AND KING
Born into royalty on April 25, 1214 in Poissy, France, Saint Louis was crowned King of France in 1226 on the death of his father King Louis VIII. He had been raised in a staunch Catholic atmosphere by his mother Blanche of Castile, who became regent upon her husband's death until her son reached adulthood. The youthful Louis, one of the youngest rulers in French history, weaned on his faith by his mother exemplified his Catholicity throughout his life. It served him well in his long reign which was frought with great crisis including fending off those who would usurp his throne such as Thibault of Champagne. At the age of 20, Louis married the daughter of the Count of Provence, Margaret Berenger and they populated the royal court with eleven children. At the age of 28 Louis quelled rebellion in the south of France and followed that up by soundly defeating the English and King Henry III at the Battle of Taillebourg. With that accomplished, he turned his attention to bringing all the provinces in line with the king, securing this with victories over Guienne, Poitou and Toulouse. Satisfied that France was safe, Louis set his sights on his life-long goal to lead the Crusades in liberating the Holy Land in 1248. His ambitions, at first successful with victory over the Saracens at Damietta in 1249 met harsh reality at the Massacre of El Mansura when he was soundly defeated by the infidels. Historians have not been kind to Louis, claiming his crusade was ill-timed and poorly planned, but they overlook the fact Louis was a peacemaker evidence in Louis' ability to convince his Saracen captors to release him and his troops in order to reach the Holy Land. It was not a cheap gesture as he ransomed many treasures and emptied many a coffer to assure their safety. There in Jerusalem he stayed until 1254 when his beloved mother Blanche died, prompting him to return to France. Always opting for peaceful measures he brought calm to Flanders in 1256 and assured, through the Treaty of Paris with Henry III that the provinces of Anjou, Maine, Normandy, Poitou and Touraine would remain part of France in exchange for Cahors, Limoges and Perigueux as Brit territory. He followed that up with the Treaty of Corbeil in 1258 by giving up Roussillon and Barcelona in order to secure Provence and Languedox from Aragon. Once a crusader, always a crusader and in 1270 he set out once again on an expedition to the Holy Lands. However he would not reach his promised land this time, succumbing to typhus, as well as his dear son Philip, at Tunis on the North African coast where he died on August 25, 1270 at the age of 56 leaving a legacy of peace and fairness to posterity. His last words were "Into Thy hands I commend my soul." Throughout his life he forged numerous peace treaties for allies and foes alike. He was a close friend of the great Doctor of the Church Saint Thomas Aquinas and endowed and founded the Sorbonne University as well as building impressive cathedrals drawing on the Gothic theme which flourished during his reign. He was a friend to vassals whom he protected, forbidding fighting between feudal lords and assuring they would not mistreat their subjects. Louis was a master of streamlining government while remaining always true to his word no matter what he said. He built France's first Naval operations and, despite his defeats in the Holy Land, was considered a master military technician. But war was only a last resort for this saintly king who desired, above all, peace at home and with his neighbors. He was greatly loved by all who prospered during his glorious reign of 44 years of peaceful coexistence with the other countries of Europe as France gained in prestige and profit through peace. One of his other goals was to reunite the Eastern Church with Rome, calling on the Greek Ambassadors to work with him toward reunion. What might
have been never materialized for death deprived history of even greater accomplishments. History, however,
cannot deny the fact that Louis, a Franciscan Tertiary, lived his faith and preached through example. In fact, this
stately king lived the austerity of a monk, praying daily the Divine Office and attending Daily Mass. He received
from the Latin emperor in Constantinople the priceless gift of the authentic Crown of thorns that pressed
against Our Lord's skull. To honor this sacramental relic, Louis built the renowned Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
Thirty seven years after his death Pope Boniface VII canonized Louis, who was a champion of both the poor and privileged classes.
SAINT JOSEPH CALASANZ, PRIEST, RELIGIOUS FOUNDER AND EDUCATOR
Like Saint Louis, the holy priest Saint Joseph Calasanz was born into royalty. Joseph was the youngest son of the Count Pedro Calasanz from the Castle of Peralta de la Sal in Aragon, Spain. Having the wherewithal to persue his studies, Joseph studied in the finest universities and went on to teach civil and canon law at the University of Alcala before becoming a priest in 1584, despite his father's vocal desire that Joseph become a career soldier. His career was indeed as a soldier, but as a special soldier of Christ. He was appointed Vicar General of his diocese and was soon summoned to Rome where he became theologian for Cardinal Ascanio Colonna. It was in the eternal city that Joseph became renowned for his work with the poor and the sick during the plague of 1595, as well as educating the underprivileged children. In 1597, with the aid of two other priests, he opened a school with no tuition for poor students. Some competitive institutions, who charged great sums to educate, mounted a smear campaign to discredit Fr. Calasanz and his fellow priests as well as their curriculum. It became so vicious that Pope Clement VIII conducted a thorough investigation and found Joseph's school and all parties involved above reproach. So impressed was the Holy Father that he put the school under papal protection which created more schools throughout Italy as well as Bohemia, Germany, Moravia and Poland. This subsequently resulted in the recognition of the religious order of the Clerks Regular of Religious Schools where St. Calasanz served as the first superior general. However, as is so often the case with new religious communities, satan tries his darndest to divide and conquer. So also with Fr. Calasanz' organization
as some of his close associates within the order decided to follow their own agenda and the bickering and
backbiting provided a tremendous cross for this holy, dedicated priest. One of his great friends Fr. Mario Sozzi turned on Joseph which resulted in the latter being removed as superior general and Sozzi being appointed. Shortly after Sozzi died and his successor Fr. Cherubini followed Sozzi's policies, much to the detriment of the order which was placed under investigation by Pope Innocent X and dissolved in 1646. In its place the pontiff ordered all priests who wished to continue to form a new society of secular priests that they would be subject to their local bishop. He called upon Fr. Cherubini to draw up a new constitution, but a funny thing happened on the way to the forging of a new order; Fr. Cherubini was caught skimming funds from Nazarene College where he was rector. He was forced to resign and, after a period of repentance, reconciled with Joseph who he realized had been greatly maligned by Sozzi and his cohorts. Shortly thereafter Joseph (also known as Saint Joseph Calasanctius), still broken hearted but trusting in God, died on August 25, 1648 in Rome at the ripe age of 92. He would not live to see the fruits of his labors as eight years later his order was reformed and recognized in 1669 as a religious order known as the Piarists by Pope Clement IX. Ninety eight years later he was canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767 and proclaimed patron saint of popular Christian schools by Pope Pius XII in 1948.