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St Louis IX, King of France
Confessor (entered heaven in 1270)
Your determination to serve your neighbor by going into politics has always inspired me. I can even remember your award-winning discourse back in the eighth-grade speech contest, when you exhorted everyone to substitute “statesman” for “politician” as a way to acknowledge the nobility of civil service. That you sense a call from God to bring the light of Catholic values into the growing darkness of international politics I also find reassuring. You have understood that “career” should be synonymous with “service” and not with “success.” I trust that you will continue to take full advantage of the opportunities college affords you to prepare yourself for this worthy mission. You may even want to make today’s saint (who also happens to be your namesake) a personal patron. Never before or since has the Church produced such a statesman, such a truly noble civil servant as St Louis IX, King of France.
For as long as the French monarchy lasted, in times of injustice and treachery the people of France always took their leaders to task by demanding a return to the equity of St Louis’s days. He reformed the courts – so much so that even kings and nobles from the rest of Europe consistently brought their disputes to be tried in France. He founded institutions of learning, religious houses, churches, hospitals, orphanages, and even served the poor himself whenever they came to his door. He loved and defended the Church and the clergy whenever he could, but refused to give them unfair privileges or concessions. He undertook two crusades in order to try and free his Christian brethren in Palestine from Saracen oppression. What’s perhaps most impressive of all, he brought decency and moral health into his royal court; intrigues were effectively banished during his reign. Faithful to his wife and eleven children, faithful to the nation under his care, faithful to the God who graced him with power and virtue, St Louis is an icon of the ideal Christian ruler. How was he able to do it? He achieved holiness through the normal channels – prayer, the sacraments, the good example of his mother, and a firm, lasting decision to live for God’s glory and not his own. By learning to govern himself, he learned to govern others. It’s not complicated, but it’s not easy.
I would recommend that you read a good, detailed biography of this remarkable work of grace. It will help balance out the sterile theories you have to wade through in classes, and it will immunize you to the subtle (and not so subtle) temptations that political life necessarily poses. If God grants you success, and you stay close to St Louis, he’ll help prove false that cynical maxim: “power corrupts.”