Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26 - Louis of Toulouse, Hostage, Crown Rejector

Louis of Toulouse was born in Brignoles, France, to Charles the Lame and Maria Arpad of Hungary. He was their second son and, as such, had no claim to the throne that his father was appointed to (King of Naples) by Pope Clement IV. Clement had been the secretary of Louis' uncle--Louis IX of France (better known as Saint Louis). Louis' older brother Charles Martel d'Anjou was in line to take the crown and a position of power in the world as he grew older. Louis would be well taken care of but would not need to engage in the political game to the same degree as his older brother.

In 1288, Charles lost a naval battle off the coast of Naples to some Sicilians and Aragonians. His fleet was defeated and he was taken prisoner. In exchange for the life and liberty of king Charles, his three sons (Charles Martel, Louis, and their youngest brother--Robert) were made to be hostages to the Aragonian rulers. The boys were taken captive and forced to live in Barcelona among their captors. There, they were cared for by Franciscan friars and given a competent education. Though all three were competent in their academic studies, Louis seemed to "get" the deeply Christian spirituality of the Franciscans in ways that his brothers seemed to miss. In a time of great personal crisis, he vowed to become a Franciscan friar when he was released--a vow that included poverty, chastity, and obedience. Further, he was appointed Archbishop of Lyon by his own people even while he was still a captive and unable to perform the duties of the office. In many ways, there was a life of promise awaiting him after his release and, yet, he still asserted his vow to be obedient to God's calling upon his life.

Shortly before they were released, the eldest brother--Charles Martel--died. With his death, Louis became the heir to the throne and crown of their father Charles the Lame. They were released and Louis was expected to come and accept the crown but he rejected it in favor of his vow to become a Franciscan. He gave up his right to his father's inheritance and passed these honors and titles on to his younger brother Robert. Louis, instead, took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and became a Franciscan friar like he had vowed. He was, also, consecrated as the Bishop of Toulouse in a region much sought after by warring powers and players. In this tenuous position, Louis devoted his life to taking care of the poor and needy. He rarely took a moment to himself and spent most of the hours of his day providing aid and care to the neediest of the needy. Doing so took its toll on him and he died young--at the age of 23--from a fever.

In so many ways, Louis' life would have been easier if he had taken up the secular titles of his father. He could have experienced a life of leisure and political influence but, instead, he lived into a calling on his life to care for the poor and oppressed. He rejected the easy life of appointment and privilege for the hard but fulfilling life of the Christian called to service.

2 comments:

Margaret Marcuson said...

Another fascinating story, Joshua. I vaguely remember Charles Martel but don't think I've ever heard of Louis. Very inspiring.

Joshua Hearne said...

Thanks for the encouraging words. This is one story that I found almost shocking when I started researching it. Rejecting the crown is quite a decision! But it shows a different hierarchy of values that we would all do well to remember.