One of my favorite categories in the original “Trivial Pursuit” game was the blue wedge: geography. To this day I enjoy facts about countries, cities, and interesting factoids about the derivations of place names.
Let’s start with the city of St. Louis—known for its baseball Cardinals, the Gateway Arch, the 1904 World’s Fair where many products we know today were introduced to the world: the waffle cone, Dr. Pepper, and puffed wheat.
The city was founded in 1764 by two French fur traders who named the settlement after the French king Louis IX who lived in the 13th century. Louis was no ordinary monarch. He is also a Catholic saint, hence St. Louis. Louis IX ruled in France from 1226–1270. Some of his achievements, besides being married to Margaret of Provence for 36 years (until his death) and having 11 children with her, is that he was a reformer, he abolished trial by ordeal (not a good way to have your innocence proved), and he introduced the presumption of innocence relating to criminal procedures. We call that “innocent until proven guilty”. That was very radical for the 13th century. You have to say that his governance, as well as his personal life, was motivated by his Christian commitment and Catholic doctrine. He took action against blasphemy, gambling, interest bearing loans, and prostitution, and you could say that the penalties were quite severe by 21st century standards.
He was known for his acts of charity, feeding beggars from his table after he had washed their feet, he cared for lepers and daily fed over 100 poor people. He died in Tunisia, North Africa, where he was participating in his second Crusade. He was canonized as a saint in 1297, just 27 years after his death, the only French monarch to be named a saint. His feast day is today, August 25.
In the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, we find words that he wrote to his son:
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 allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.
Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders. (emphasis mine)
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.
So that we all may live in justice and peace, St. Louis, pray for us!