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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Today, July 24th - Feast day of Bl. Louise of Savoy, Poor Clare nun 1461-1503

On the feast of the Holy Innocents in the year 1461, a daughter was born to Blessed Amadeus, duke of Savoy. She was to become more distinguished in the world for her innocence and sanctity than for the nobility of her birth. This daughter was Blessed Louise.

From childhood she showed a marked love for prayer and retirement. On the vigils of the feasts of our Lady she fasted on bread and water. In compliance with the wish of her mother, a sister of King Louis IX of France, Louise wore costly garments and jewelry as was becoming her princely rank; but underneath them she wore a garment of haircloth, and she always looked upon her external finery as a reminder to adorn her soul with virtues.

Louise possessed such innocent simplicity that pride and vanity were wholly foreign to her. Still with the simplicity of a dove she also combined great prudence in evading the dangers of a life at court, to which she was exposed.
She had already decided to consecrate herself to God in the state of virginity, when her uncle and guardian, the king of France, desired her to marry the prince of Chalon. Louise believed that God was thus manifesting His will in her regard; and so she gave her hand to the virtuous young prince.

He was pleased to note how her example and authority checked the excessive luxury and the frivolous customs prevailing at court. Not only did she reform the habits of the ladies of the court, but even the men were won over to a Christian life. If anyone of them was caught cursing or using unbecoming language, she required him to do penance by giving alms for the poor. She and her husband attended the dances and plays that were given, but never took part in them themselves. They went there only to prevent anything disorderly. She is reported to have said what St. Frances de Sales said at a later date: "Dances and plays are like mushrooms, of which the best are not worth much." 
When she was but 27 years old, Louise lost her devoted husband. She declined all offers of a second marriage, even those coming from the most honorable suitors. She wished now to live in retirement and very simply, and to devote herself to works of penance, piety, and Christian charity. She used her great wealth in carrying out an extensive program of charity.

There were no children to claim her maternal care; and since she desired to live in close union with God, she entered the convent of the Poor Clares at Orbe after overcoming great obstacles. Here the princess was a model to all in humility, poverty, and self-abnegation. She observed all the precepts of the rule and of obedience most conscientiously, and was always very grateful for any reprimands she received. She fostered a tender devotion to the sufferings of Christ and to our Blessed Lady, from whom she sometimes received special favors.

A serious illness seized Louise when she was 42 years old. After she had received the last sacraments with great devotion, her death agony began, but she was still able to pronounce the words from the Office of Our Lady:
O Fount of Mercy, Mother mine,
Through whom God sends us grace divine,
Free me from sin, and lend thy aid
When death's dark hour makes me afraid.
Then she surrendered her pure soul into the hands of her Creator on July 24, 1503. God glorified her by many miracles, and so Pope Gregory XVI confirmed her veneration in 1839. 

1. In every station in life, as daughter, wife, widow, and religious, Blessed Louise distinguished herself as a model of virtue. That is why she merits such great praise. In the sight of God the true worth of a man depends on the fidelity he manifests in fulfilling the duties of his state of life, and God's judgement will also be in accordance with that standard. It is related of a confessor of Emperor Charles V that, after the latter had confessed his personal sins, the confessor said to him: "That was the confession of Charles; not let the emperor confess." The Eternal Judge will surely require an accounting of you also in accordance with your vocation; and when He says, "Give an account of your stewardship" (Luke 16:3), it will, without doubt, mean an account of your vocation, your work, the office you help while here on earth. May you then stand the test as Blessed Louise did. -- Examine yourself now in these matters.

2. Consider that each station in life has its peculiar dangers, and that many a vocation involves greater hardships than the one you have embraced. 

Innocence and simplicity alone are not always sufficient, but we must add to these virtues prudence, foresight, and constancy. But no matter how great the hardships, a Christian may never despair. Where human strength seems insufficient, God will come to the assistance of him who does what he is able to do. "He is faithful who has called you, who also will do it" (1 Thes 5:24). In His wisdom God lets storms come upon us in order to test our fidelity, but He never tries us beyond measure. He "will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor 10:13). -- Was perhaps lack of trust in God the reason why you have become weak and unfaithful in the past?

3. Consider the means that must be employed in every state of life for the faithful fulfillment of our duties. To know our duties well and to have the necessary strength to fulfill them, we must apply the religious means at our disposal: daily prayer, listening to the Word of God, and the frequent reception of the sacraments. To overcome our own personal indolence and the opposition of fallen nature, we must deny ourselves, according to the words of our Lord: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily" (Luke 9:23). Finally, it is necessary that we keep before our eyes the first and greatest commandment: To love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. This will help you to be faithful to your duty in every station in life, like Blessed Louise, so that you, too, may one day hear the words of the Lord: "Because you have been faithful over a few things, I will place you over many things; enter you into the joy of your Lord" (Matt 25:23).


O God, who didst raise up in Blessed Louise a remarkable model of virtue in every position of life, grant us, that in every state to which Thou dost call us, we may follow her example and may deserve to attain to Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press