The month of August brings us on the Church’s sanctoral calendar commemorations for saints of all stripes: Kings, Priests, Martyrs, Deacons, Apostles, and holy women who were married, widowed, and founded religions congregations.
Let’s look at just a few of these for personal inspiration. For starters, we have two holy kings who used their considerable wealth and power, not for their own glory and gain, but to serve their subjects, help the poor, build up the Catholic Church, and teach their children that nothing in life was more important than their Catholic faith. (How different than most of the secular leaders of this day and age!)
King St. Louis IX of France (August 25th) (namesake of the Missouri city) reigned from 1226 to 1270. This was the era of the rise of the great “mendicant” orders such as the Franciscans and Dominicans. (Mendicant is the Latin word for beggar). They lived in strict poverty, holding on to the Gospel rather than the material riches of the world and literally begging to survive. King St. Louis was an early supporter of these mendicants, as he knew they could help advance the mission of His beloved Church. He himself sought to live a simple life and was a great benefactor of the poor. He was certainly no stranger to adventure. In his zeal for the Catholic faith, he led two crusades as a younger and older man to recapture formerly Christian lands overtaken by the Muslims by force as well as to win new lands for Christ. He even sent emissaries to far-flung corners of the globe, such as Mongolia. If you visit the famous St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter of New Orleans, you will see a magnificent mural of King St. Louis announcing the seventh crusade. In the first of his two crusades, he was captured but later ransomed; in the latter he contracted dysentery in his travels which would prove to be fatal.
On the home front, he promoted the faith throughout his Kingdom, built leper colonies to treat the victims of this terrible disease, helped the Kingdom prosper economically, and enacted judicial reform so that his subjects would always be treated fairly. Despite his reputation for greatness, Louis never forgot that his first vocation was as husband and father. He had eleven children, all of whom he zealously sought to teach to know love and serve Christ. Here is an excerpt of the kind of spiritual guidance he gave his children, from a famous “spiritual testimony” to his son:
“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 … Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart…. Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate, and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. …. 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.”
St. Stephen of Hungary (Aug. 16th) was another saintly king. Crowned on Christmas Day 1001, he zealously united into one nation the Magyar people under their new Christian faith. His subjects were required to tithe (give 10% of their wealth) to support the poor and support the Church. For example, every 10th town was required to build a church and support a priest, so the holy sacraments would be available throughout the new Kingdom. His son Emeric was canonized a saint. Like father, like son!
The female saints of the month were no less brave and zealous than the men. St. Jeanne de Chantal (August 18th) was a 16th century Frenchwoman who lived multiple vocations. Mother of four, her husband died in her arms after a tragic hunting accident. As a widow, she knew the Lord still had big plans for her, so she was moved to seek out one of the greatest spiritual directors of all time, St. Francis de Sales. (He is a patron of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, by the way). Under his guidance, she founded almost 70 convents (the Visitation sisters) for women (often older or widowed) to devote their lives to prayer and the works of mercy.
Last but not least is St. John Eudes (Aug. 19th). From a farm family, he was drawn to the priesthood early, by the age of 14. And what a priest! He courageously ministered to plague victims and became a tireless preacher for parish missions, to reignite the faith through much of the nation. He knew that many parish priests were not good shepherds, so he established and improved seminaries to form better ones. He founded a congregation of religious sisters to help women come out of a life of prostitution and tirelessly promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Saints of August, pray for us!