Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse

detail of a painting of Saint Louis of Anjou; oil on wood by Vincente Carducci, date unknown; Musée d'Histoire, Marseille, France; photographed on 28 June 2013 by Rvalette; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Louis was the son of Charles II, king of Naples and Sicily, and of Mary, the daughter of Stephen V, of Hungary. In his childhood, he gave great promise of future holiness. He never showed any inclination for those sports which are generally the pastime of young princes. Prayer, the reading of devout books, and pious discourses were his only pleasures. At the early age of seven years, he mortified his body in order to preserve his purity, was very modest in his habits, and cultivated the most tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He never allowed a woman to enter his room, never spoke to one alone, except to his mother and sister, looked none in the face and generally kept his eyes down. When the Queen of France, his nearest relative, wished to salute him with a kiss, according to the custom of the country, he would not permit it; he even refused it to his own mother; and when she said: “But my son, I am thy mother,” he replied: “I know well that you art my mother, but I know also that you art a woman; and it is not proper that a woman should kiss a servant of the Most High.” This virginal modesty acquired for him such veneration, ‘that, at Court, he was called nothing else but the angel. God also designed him to practise patience early in life. His father, unfortunate in war, was captured at Barcelona. Although by a treaty he was set free, his three sons, among whom was Louis, and fifty noblemen were retained as hostages by the king of Aragon, until the stipulations were fulfilled. Thus Louis became a prisoner. But he never complained; he was always cheerful and contented, and frequently said to his companions: “Believe me, adversity is more wholesome to those who desire to serve God, than continual prosperity; for the latter blinds and seduces men.” During the time of his imprisonment, he increased his exercises of devotion as much as possible. He was also very assiduous in studying theology under the direction of the priests of the order of Saint Francis, for whom he entertained a most sincere friendship. He was permitted to go about within the walls of the city, but he went nowhere so frequently as to the churches and hospitals. In the former, he always appeared with such devotion, that he was a model to all; in the latter, he did all possible deeds of kindness to the sick. During an illness which befell him while he was in captivity, he vowed to take the habit of the Franciscans, if God restored his health. No sooner was he convalescent, than he requested admission to the order, which however, was refused him, through fear of his father’s wrath. After he had been released, a marriage with the sister of the king of Aragon was proposed to him, and his father promised that he should succeed him on the throne of Naples; but the prince remained firm in his resolution to leave the world, disregarding the crown and all temporal goods in order to serve God and work out his salvation. After long pleading, he received permission from his father to enter the priesthood. Soon after his ordination, the Bishop of Toulouse died, and Pope Boniface VIII, immediately appointed Louis to the vacant see. The saint employed every means in his power to evade this dignity; but at last, seeing resistance useless, he consented, on condition that he would first be allowed to fulfill his vow and take the habit of the Franciscans. Having received permission, he entered the monastery, was instructed in the rules of the religious life, pronounced the three vows, and was then consecrated bishop by the Pope himself. In his new dignity, he led the life of a poor religious, but fulfilled his office with the zeal and wisdom of a true bishop. He travelled through his whole diocese and founded benevolent institutions in many places. To visit, comfort and assist the sick was his greatest delight. Out of his income he retained only sufficient to support him as a poor religious, and gave all the rest to the needy, of whom he had twenty-five daily at his table, serving them himself. He was full of compassion for the poor lepers, tenderly embracing them, washing their feet, seating them at his own table, and waiting on them, as if he had been their servant. He once had the happiness of entertaining Christ Himself in the form of a leper. By his fervent preaching he converted many sinners and incited the faithful to zeal in serving the Almighty. Although he did a great deal of good in this manner, he still desired to enter a convent and live solely for his own salvation. He, therefore, went to Rome to seek the Pope’s permission. Having reached Brignolles, the castle in ¦which he had been born, in Provence, he was taken dangerously sick. On the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, he made his confession, received Holy Communion and Extreme Unction; after which he remained absorbed in fervent prayer. He frequently repeated the Hail Mary, and when asked why he did so, replied: “I have always placed my trust, next to God, in the Blessed Virgin; she will assist me in my last moments.” At last, he gave his pure soul to his Creator, while impressing a kiss upon the crucifix. At the same hour, a holy Franciscan brother, during his prayers, saw the soul of Saint Louis ascend to Heaven, accompanied by a great many angels, and heard distinctly the words. “This is the reward of those who serve the Almighty with a pure heart.” Many miracles wrought through the intercession of this saint gave his name high renown in the Christian world, after his departure.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Louis cultivated a special modesty in his demeanor, kept his eyes perfectly controlled and would not allow a kiss even where there was no danger of sin. He did all this to preserve his angelic purity. The same was practised by all those whose lives were chaste and pure. Those who are free and unrestrained in their manners, who do not guard their eyes, who regard kissing and other immodest frivolities as harmless, who even laugh at their confessor when he represents the danger to them, may well be said to have no purity of heart. “An audacious eye is the sign of an impure heart,” says Saint Augustine. The same may be said of bold manners. If you desire to lead a chaste life, imitate Saint Louis, and strive to be modest in your deportment. Control your eyes. Do not allow them to wander too freely about, as by so doing you give yourself opportunities to sin. Allow no wanton liberties. David and many others would not have committed such great sins, if they had not permitted their eyes such liberties. “Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up, and gaze not about upon another’s beauty; for many have perished by the beauty of a woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as a fire.” (Eccl. ix.)

• The soul of the chaste Louis was carried by the angels to heaven, with the words: “This is the reward of those. that serve God with a pure heart.” Whither and by whom is the soul of the unchaste carried? Certainly not to heaven; for, nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of God. Neither is it carried by the angels; for, they are pure spirits and detest everything unclean. There remain none but the unclean spirits the devils, whose greatest pleasure consists in impurity. These carry the souls of the unchaste into hell. But what awaits them there? Ah! dearly have they to pay for those short-lived pleasures in which they indulged against the laws of the Almighty. The impure must suffer the most terrible pains without ceasing, without end. Is it possible that a human being should believe this, and then commit a sin, the punishment of which is so sure to follow? Is it possible? Unhappily not only possible, but only too common. Why is this? Because we do not seriously consider what we confess with our lips. If you will instill into your heart a real horror for the sin of impurity, think often of the sufferings of hell, into which this sin casts all who are addicted to it. “Call to mind the terrible pains of hell. The heat of hell-fire will extinguish in you the heat of your lust,” says Saint Bernard.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 April 2018. Web. 21 September 2018. <>