Did you know that one of the greatest kings in Spanish history, Fernando III, was also a saint? I didn't. But thanks to author James Fitzhenry, I do now. Fitzhenry, who also penned El Cid: God's Own Champion, has written a detailed yet approachable biography of this fascinating and inspiring example of Catholic manhood entitled St. Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ. Published by Lepanto Press, who have made a name for themselves by producing beautiful, high-quality Catholic books at a reasonable price, St. Fernando III is geared toward Catholic homeschooled kids, probably in the twelve and older age range. But the writing is exceptional and as a mature reader of eight-and-thirty years, the book easily held my attention.
Replete with family turmoil, civil strife, stunning miracles, romance, and dozens upon dozens of skirmishes, pitched battles, and sieges, the tremendous scope of St. Fernando's worldly accomplishments leave the reader dumbfounded. But the heart of this book is St. Fernando's total devotion to Christ and his Blessed Mother. Everything he did, he offered to God without reservation. In his willingness to suffer personal hardships, unfailing mercy toward his enemies, love for his wife and children, and care for the poor and afflicted, St. Fernando was a model of Christian virtue. In his everyday life, and especially when he faced a crisis, he turned to the Virgin and believed to the depths of his soul that she would intercede for him. And based on the magnificent achievements of his life, who can doubt that she did? For at the same time that the Christian states in the Holy Land were failing despite the best efforts of great crusading armies led by the most important crowned heads of Europe, St. Fernando was able to weld together the small kingdoms of Castile and Leon and use their combined might to reconquer almost all of Andalusia from its Muslim overlords.
So in short, this book is a gem. St. Fernando III is a Catholic hero who deserves to be more widely known. Now thanks to James Fitzhenry and his enjoyable book, he will be.