Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Saint Fernando III ~ Spain's great Catholic king

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"Christ redeemed us on the hard arms of the Cross, and His knight will not serve Him in any other way." 
 ~Saint Fernando III, King of Castile and Leon

Few saints embody the three pillars of Lent as well as Saint Fernando III. In fact, it may be accurately said that he lived via prayer, fasting and almsgiving all year long, not just during the holy season.

Though little remembered today, Saint Fernando III (1198-1252) was perhaps the greatest king of Castile and Leon. Via his military prowess, he recovered large territories in Spain from Islam, while remaining personally pious and just toward the citizens of his kingdom. He made it an especial goal to keep taxes as low as possible and is credited by the Catholic Encyclopedia as saying that he had greater fear of the curses of one old woman than of a whole army of Saracens.

Saint Fernando was the father of seven children--six sons and a daughter--and was personally virtuous. He fasted regularly, did penance for his sins and spent nights in prayer before battle. He also insisted that his soldiers be virtuous, and had a deep personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

His incorrupt remains may be seen to this day on display in the Cathedral of Seville in Spain.

We are fortunate that an outstanding modern biography of this saint is available: Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ by James Fitzhenry. Here is a snippet of a review I wrote some years ago for this book:
"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?... in short, this book is a gem. St. Fernando III is a Catholic hero who deserves to be more widely known."
If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, you can get it at The Young Catholic's Bookshelf.

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