Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Commemorating St Louis


                         St Louis
           King of France 1226-1270
A depiction of him from the Bible of St Louis and dated to 1226 -1234
                   Image: Wikipedia 

The distinguished liturgical commentator Peter Kwasniewski has a blog post about the commemoration of St Louis, whose feast day was yesterday, and which is on Life Site News today. As he points out this is the 750th anniversary of the death of King Louis IX, who was to be canonised in 1297.

I have copied Dr Kwasniewski’s post as follows, and will than add some reflections of my own:

Today, August 25, is the feast  and the 750th anniversary of the death  of one of the best and holiest rulers the human race has ever seen: Louis IX, King of France (April 25, 1214–August 25, 1270).

Br. Andre Marie writes:

“As the formerly Christian West is sliding further into the tyranny of liberalism, it is balm to the soul to consider that the people in Louis’ France were freer than we are today. They were free from big government meddling in their lives and their wallets. And they were free in the most important way, for Saint Louis believed in a Christian order wherein the State was neither inimical nor neutral to the Church, but was the Church’s helper in securing the happiness, temporal and eternal, of her subjects. Our modern “freedom,” by contrast, is servitude.”

Sadly, it seems that the rulers of the Catholic Church were embarrassed by the example of this great king. In her article “Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal (1970)” in The Thomist 67 (2003), the great liturgical scholar Lauren Pristas wrote, inter alia, about modifications that were made in the liturgical reform to the centuries-old Collect or Opening Prayer of his Mass.

The old prayer read (and, where the traditional Latin Mass is celebrated, still reads):

Deus, qui beatum Ludovicum confessorem tuum de terreno regno ad caelestis regni gloriam transtulisti: eius, quaesumus, meritis et intercessione, Regis regum Iesu Christi Filii tui facias nos esse consortes. Qui tecum vivit et regnat ...

O God, who didst remove blessed Louis, Thy confessor, from an earthly kingdom to the glory of the heavenly kingdom, grant, we beseech Thee, through his merits and intercession, that we may be consorts of Jesus Christ, thy Son, the King of kings, who with Thee liveth and reigneth ...

The new prayer, drafted in the late sixties, reads:

Deus, qui beatum Ludovicum, e terreni regiminis cura ad caelestis regni gloriam transtulisti, eius, quaesumus, intercessione concede, ut, per munera temporalia quae gerimus, regnum tuum quaeramus aeternum.

O God, who brought Saint Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom.

The changes here are important. Pristas comments (also mentioning the Emperor Henry, whose collects were similarly edited):

The original collect for Louis does not explicitly mention his rule as king. This is supplied in the revision — but, again, in terms more reflective of our historical circumstances than his own. The revision may have been designed to accommodate a modern mentality. Its effect, however, is to obscure the truth that holiness is found in persons of every age and social rank. Henry and Louis were not simply entrusted with the care of earthly government; they were Christian rulers who became holy as they ruled because of the Christian way in which they ruled.

She continues:

The change in the petition of the revised collect for Louis is striking and shares common features with the new oration for Henry. The 1962 prayer for Louis begs that we may have partnership with Christ who is the King of kings — here, particularly, the King of King Louis — whereas the revised text asks that we may seek, but does not specify that we also find, “your eternal kingdom.” The petition of the revised text, therefore, is stunningly effete in comparison to that of the original collect which seeks nothing less than full incorporation into Christ. Similarly, the old collect for Henry begs that God make us attain unto, or reach (pervenire), himself, whereas the new version asks only that we hasten (festinimus) unto him. The verb pervenire stipulates arrival, festinare does not. A second feature common to both revised collects [i.e., Louis’s and Henry’s] is a new emphasis on the things of this world which, in addition, are presented in a wholly positive light.

Pristas lastly notes that the original Collect begs that we may reach the King of kings in heaven by the merits  and intercession of St. Louis; in the new Collect, merits have gone strangely missing.

The Secret and Postcommunion of the traditional Mass for St. Louis are equally eloquent. The Secret reads:

Praesta, quæsumus, omnípotens Deus: ut, sicut beátus Ludovícus Conféssor tuus, spretis mundi oblectaméntis, soli Regi Christo placére stúduit; ita ejus orátio nos tibi reddat accéptos. Per eúmdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui vivit et regnat ...

Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that as blessed Louis, Thy Confessor, spurning the delights of the world, strove only to please Christ, his King, so his prayer may render us acceptable to Thee. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth ...

“Spurning the delights of the world” was the kind of “negative” language that (as Pristas demonstrates in the same article) was systematically removed from the Novus Ordo missal. “Striving only to please Christ the King” is no less awkward for a mentalitythat no longer sees the Incarnation as the center of Church life, human history, and the entire cosmos. Inevitably, this prayer had to go; it will not be found — even in bowdlerized form — in the new missal. The Postcommunion strikes a militant note:

Deus, qui beátum Confessórem tuum Ludovícum mirificásti in terris, et gloriósum in cœlis fecísti: eúmdem, quæsumus, Ecclésiæ tuæ constítue defensórem. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui vivit et regnat ...

O God, Who didst make Thy blessed Confessor, Louis, wonderful on earth and glorious in Heaven, constitute him, we beseech Thee, the defender of Thy Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth ...

God exalted on Earth a Christian king who used his authority to promote the Faith, our greatest good here below, and to care for His people, including the poor and the imprisoned. In this way Louis is absolutely opposed to the modern democratic perspective that privatizes and relativizes religion, while fostering a humanistic “care” for the disadvantaged that does not respect their dignity or their supernatural destiny. The prayer also asks God to make Louis a heavenly defender of the Church. Defense is only for those who have belligerent enemies. Not surprisingly, this prayer, too, was cut from the new missal.

It’s also worth pointing out, in passing, that the custom had developed of honoring the Blessed Trinity at the end of all three orations (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion) with a full doxology. With typical reductive antiquarianism, the liturgical reformers chopped off the doxologies from the Prayer over the Offerings and the Prayer after Communion. In this way was obscured not only the acknowledgment of the Trinitarian nature of all Christian prayer, but the lordship of Christ: “who lives and reigns.” The full doxology, which is multiplied in the Tridentine liturgy (it appears in the prayers at the foot of the altar, the orations, the Offertory prayers, the prayers before Communion — all of these abolished in the new rite of Mass), thus serves as a continual reminder that Christ, as God and man, is King of kings and Lord of lords — a lesson we need to hear today more than ever.

A 35-year-old priest, Fr. Dylan Schrader, is not embarrassed about the kingly glory of St. Louis or the kingship of Christ. Fr. Schrader has collaborated frequently with Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB in the writing of hymns that can be sung to traditional chant melodies. Here are lyrics composed by Fr. Schrader for today’s feast (via email communication from Fr. Samuel):

Most Christian king and man of God,
Saint Louis, lover of the poor,
You served Christ’s lowly ones on earth
And reign with him forevermore.

Rise up, O prince and champion,
Campaign for Christ the Lord again,
Whose cross and nails and thorny crown
Defeat the tyranny of sin.

Defend this Church, which bears your name,
Her shepherd, and your city, too;
Bid love of Christ our hearts impel,
Our thirst for righteousness renew.

Be faith our shield and hope our helm,
Be charity our breastplate, Lord,
Your truth a Iight unto our feet
And sharper than a two-edged sword.

O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
One only God whom we adore;
By grace guide pilgrims home to you
To dwell in glory evermore.


King St. Louis IX, pray for us.”                          

The Clever Boy would begin by pointing to the online biography of St Louis which can be read at Louis IX of France for those who want some background to the life and reign of this saint king, and exemplar of kingly duty.

Bible of St. Louis - Morgan fragment, the authorship miniature
              The Bible of St. Louis 
The Morgan fragment in New York.
King Louis listens to his mother Queen Blanche, who apparently commissioned the work, as below a religious dictates to the scribe of the Bible moralisee
                   Image: Wikipedia

I would concur with the comments of both Peter Kwasniewski and Lauren Pristas - both of whom I have heard speak in Oxford - about the differences in emphasis and phrasing between the 1962 and the 1970 Missals. I would add the thought that whether the liturgy is in Latin or the vernacular, recited ad orientum or ad populism, silently or amplified, many in any congregation do not pay much attention to what is said. That is not to say they ought not to, but that they don’t. Liturgists like Kwasniewski and Pristas pay attention to these things, but they are the specialists. What is worrying, as they point out, is that official pronouncements - prayers and invocations - are changed and diluted without the faithful realising that not merely the words but the meaning, and by extension, the belief, of the Church is being adjusted or even compromised.

My other point or points would be as a historian. Capetian France was a topic I studied as an undergraduate and it remains one I find interesting and important. Because King Louis IX became St Louis, the exemplar of good kingship, his reign has acquired a halo of its own. He is thus often compared to his brother-in-law King Henry III to the latter’s disadvantage. I do wonder if that is fair, and if St Louis, as my old tutor thought a reasonable hypothesis, had not a range of abilities and attributes that made him King Henry more alike than is often thought. Did St Louis “ put one over” on his brother-in-law, fellow monarch and liegeman with the Treaty of Paris in 1259?Going on Crusade is fine and noble but could one accuse King Louis of putting idealism ahead of the call of duty as King of France? Being captured the first time and dying of dysentery on the second attempt may not have been the most useful thing to do.

Br André Marie’s comments at the beginning of the post also make me wonder if they are not conditioned by contemporary US concerns. If you desire to see a public polity inspired by the likes of St Louis then that probably involves maintaining the institutions St Louis personified or lived by - what was to become known later as Throne and Altar. The King supported the Church in its mission, but the Church supported the King in his. The limits of that relationship were to be laid bare just over thirty years after St Louis’s death by Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip IV - and it was just before that relationship fractured that those two combatants secured the canonisation of the saint king.

Given its resources and abilities the government of Capetian France reached deep into the lives and concerns of the King’s immediate subjects and of his great feudatories. As King St Louis showed true Capetian perspicacity in maintaining and extending the rights of the Crown - he was not the grandson of Kinng Philip II or the grandfather of King Philip IV for nothing. He was one of the Kings who made France.

That is not to in any way doubt that he had an attractive personality, had charm and wit alongside being shrewd and devout. The St Louis of the historian is commendable, but he is truly incarnational, a man of flesh and blood, and not an aetherial ideal. True man, true King, true Saint.

File:Head of statue of the king Saint-Louis (Louis IX) (exhibition Saint-Louis 2014-2015).jpg

Polychrome statue of St Louis from Normandy and made at the beginning of the fourteenth century

                   Image: Wikimedia 

St Louis, Pray for us