samedi 30 mai 2015

Saint FERDINAND III de CASTILLE et de LEON, roi et confesseur


30 mai : fête de saint Ferdinand III de Castille (1)

Publié le 1 Juin 2010

La récente exposition de la fête de la Très Sainte Trinité nous a conduits à négliger de rappeler la fête d'un très grand personnage du monde chrétien, honoré le 30 mai.  Pour rattraper cette lacune, nous reprenons ici quatre articles publiés en son honneur il y a de cela déjà deux ans.
 
Le 30 mai célèbre en effet, pour les catholiques, une double libération. C’est d’abord, pour nous Français, la fête de sainte Jeanne d’Arc, morte sur le bûcher en 1431, réhabilitée en 1456, canonisée en 1920. Sainte Jeanne d’Arc, on le sait, est l’une des saintes Patronnes de la France. 

Bien moins connu chez nous est saint Ferdinand III, que nous fêtons également en ce jour.Il fit reculer l’islam en Espagne, et conquit Cordoue, Murcie, Grenade et Séville.
 
Ce saint nous intéresse particulièrement parce qu’il fut roi, et un très grand roi. Roi, il fut un politicien par excellence, réunissant en lui et dans son action au service de son pays toutes les vertus que peut réunir un prince chrétien, de prudence et de justice.
 
Sa vie est une précieuse leçon de choses, à un double titre.
 
D’abord, elle vient nous montrer qu’un gouvernement sage, intelligent, courageux, vertueux,  peut réellement exister. Ce n’est pas une abstraction marsienne, un être de raison, un impossible qui va de soi dans son impossibilité et dans cette seule impossibilité. La preuve en est apportée, fût-elle rare. Qu’un païen n’y croit pas, qu’un libéral ou un socialiste gangrenés par leurs idéologies respectives n’y croient pas, soit. Mais qu’un chrétien ne le croit pas, non, ce n’est pas admissible. Alors c’est un stimulant à la prière, à la prière de conversion pour notre pays, pour nos gouvernants. Comme on dit dans l’Ecriture, « le bras de Dieu n’est pas raccourci ». Faisons prier nos enfants pour cette cause.
 
La seconde leçon est plus anecdotique. La cité moderne déchristianisée, “libérée” de Dieu, se présente comme un paradigme de civilisation, de progrès humain, d’intelligence, d’épanouissement social, dans un cadre institutionnel indépassable. Méditons un peu ces choses. Certes le Moyen-Age n’a pas produit que des Ferdinand III [dont la seconde épouse, Béatrice de Souabe, tertiaire de l'Ordre de la Merci, a été elle-même béatifiée] et des Louis XI, son cousin germain, tous deux tertiaires de saint François, contemporains de saint Dominique et de saint Thomas d’Aquin, loin s’en faut ! Mais notre Âge, que produit-il donc ? En quels modèles humains se reconnaît-il depuis la Révolution française qui a mis fin à la « superstition »  ? Ce serait très cruel de faire sur ce point des rapprochements.
 
Nous empruntons le récit qui suit, que nous traduisons, à l'étude de José M. Sánchez de Muniáin, San Fernando III de Castilla y León, Año cristiano, tome II, Ed. BAC 1959, Madrid, pp. 523-531. En raison de la longueur du texte, nous le publierons en plusieurs articles. N’oublions pas nos frères espagnols, dans la communion : c’est l’occasion aussi de prier pour eux. Ils en ont bien besoin !
Saint Ferdinand (≈ 1198 - 1252) est, sans exagération, l’espagnol le plus illustre de l’un des plus grands siècles de l'histoire humaine, le treizième, et l'une des figures les plus hautes de l’Espagne ; il est peut-être, avec Isabelle la Catholique, le personnage le plus complet de toute notre histoire politique. Il est l’un de ces modèles humains qui conjuguent au plus haut degré la piété, la prudence et l’héroïsme ; l’un des greffons les plus heureux, en quelque sorte, des dons et des vertus surnaturels sur les dons et les vertus humains.

A la différence de son cousin germain saint Louis IX de France (1), Ferdinand III n'a pas connu la défaite, ni même l’échec. Il a triomphé dans toutes ses entreprises intérieures et extérieures. Dieu a porté ces deux cousins à la sainteté par des voies humaines opposées : l'un sous le signe du triomphe terrestre, l’autre sous celui du malheur et de l'échec.

Ferdinand III a uni définitivement les couronnes de Castille et de León. Il a reconquit la quasi-totalité de l’Andalousie et de Murcia. Les sièges de Cordoue, de Jaén, de Séville, et la conquête de bien d’autres places de moindre importance ont revêtu une grandeur épique. Le roi maure de Grenade est devenu son vassal. Une première expédition castillane a pris pied en Afrique, et notre roi est mort alors qu’il planifiait le passage définitif du détroit. Il a entrepris la construction des plus belles de nos cathédrales (Burgos et Tolède certainement, peut-être León, qui a commencé sous son règne). Il a pacifié ses Etats et les a administrés avec une justice exemplaire. Il fut tolérant envers les Juifs et rigoureux à l’égard des apostats et des faux convertis. Il promut la science et consolida les universités naissantes. Il créa la marine de guerre castillane. Il protégea les récents Ordres mendiants, franciscains et dominicains, et prit garde à l’honnêteté et à la piété des soldats. Il prépara la codification de notre droit, instaura le castillan comme langue officielle des lois et des documents publics, à la place du latin. Il est de plus en plus certain, historiquement, que le fleurissement juridique, littéraire et même musical de la cour d’Alphonse X le Sage [son fils] (2) fut le fruit de l’œuvre de son père. Il a peuplé et colonisé consciencieusement les territoires conquis. Il a institué ce qui allait devenir les Conseils du Royaume, en désignant un collège de douze hommes savants et prudents pour l’assister. Il a observé rigoureusement les pactes et les engagements pris à l’égard de ses adversaires, les chefs maures, même lorsque des raisons de convenance politique nationale se sont ultérieurement présentées. En un sens, il était l’antithèse chevaleresque du “prince” de Machiavel.

Il fut, comme nous le verrons, un habile diplomate et, en même temps, le promoteur infatigable de la Reconquête. Il n’a voulu la guerre qu’en tant que croisade chrétienne et de légitime reconquête nationale, et il a respecté son engagement de ne jamais prendre les armes contre d’autres princes chrétiens, épuisant pour cela toutes les ressources de la patience, de la négociation et du compromis. Au sommet de l’autorité et du prestige, il s’est constamment attaché, avec une tendresse filiale, exprimée à maintes reprises dans des documents officiels, à suivre les sages conseils de la mère exceptionnelle qui était la sienne, Bérengère. Il a dominé les seigneurs turbulents, pardonné magnanimement aux nobles vaincus qui se sont soumis, et il a honoré de ses largesses les chefs fidèles de ses campagnes. Il a favorisé le culte et la vie monastique, tout en exigeant la coopération économique des mains-mortes ecclésiastiques et féodales qui était due. Il a renforcé la vie des municipalités, et réduit au minimum les contributions économiques nécessitées par ses entreprises guerrières. En une époque aux mœurs licencieuses, il a donné l’exemple d’une très haute pureté de vie et de ses sacrifices personnels, en gagnant ainsi auprès de ses fils, des prélats, des nobles et du peuple la réputation unanime d’être un saint.

Comme gouvernant, il fut à la fois sévère et bienveillant, énergique et humble, audacieux et patient, courtois et pur. Il a incarné ainsi, avec son cousin saint Louis IX de France, l’idéal chevaleresque de son époque.

A sa mort, selon les témoignages contemporains, hommes et femmes éclatèrent en sanglots dans les rues, y compris les hommes de guerre.

Bien plus. Nous savons qu’il a conquis même le cœur de ses ennemis, à ce point a priori inconcevable que certains princes ou rois maures ont embrassé la foi chrétienne à cause de son exemple.  « Nous n’avons rien lu de tel au sujet de rois antérieurs », dit la chronique contemporaine du Tudense (3), en parlant de l’honnêteté de ses mœurs. « C’était un homme doux, avec un grand sens politique », témoigne l’historien Al Himyari, son adversaire musulman. Le roi maure de Grenade fut présent à ses obsèques, avec une centaine de nobles portant des flambeaux. Son petit-fils, Jean-Manuel, l’appelait déjà, dans l’Exemplo XLI, « le saint et bienheureux roi Don Fernando ».
(à suivre)

Traduction Hermas.info ©

 (1) En effet, la mère de Ferdinand III, Bérengère Ière de Castille (1180-1246)  [fille d'Alphonse VIII et d'Aliénor d'Aquitaine], était la soeur aînée de Blanche de Castille (1188-1252), qui eut notamment pour enfant Louis IX, autrement dit "notre" saint Louis (1214-1270), roi de France. Note du traducteur.

(2) Alphonse X le Sage (1221-1284), sans avoir la grandeur de son père, fut néanmoins l'une des plus grandes figures de la monarchie médiévale d'Espagne. Erudit, poète, musicien, il est l'auteur des célèbres 426  "Cantigas de Santa María", ces poèmes chantés en l'honneur de Notre-Dame. « L'art du troubadour - écrivait-il pour les présenter - exige de l'entendement et de la raison, et bien que je ne possède pas ces facultés au degré que je voudrais, j'espère que Dieu me permettra de dire un peu ce que je désire. Et ce que je désire, c'est que la Vierge fasse de moi son troubadour ». On consultera sur ce sujet le site qui leur est consacré, ICI. Note du traducteur.

(3) Les médiévaux étaient familiés de ces surnoms donnés à des auteurs, des professeurs, en fonction de leur origine.  Le "Tudense" désigne Lucas de Tuy († 1249), chanoine de Saint-Isidore de León et évêque de Tuy, qui fut notamment un historien très connu en son temps, et à qui la reine Bérengère confia la rédaction d'un ouvrage qu'il intitula le Chronicon mundi (l'histoire du monde). Note du traducteur.

Rédigé par José M. Sánchez de MUNIAIN - Traduction de l'espagnol par Pierre GABARRA

Pour honorer saint Ferdinand III de Castille (2)

Plutôt que d’être à la fois un roi et un saint, Ferdinand III fut un saint roi, c'est-à-dire un séculier, un homme de son siècle, qui a atteint la sainteté dans l’exercice de sa charge.

Ce fut un homme de mortification, un pénitent, à l’instar de tous les saints, mais le meilleur témoignage de sa sainteté, en dehors de tout projet panégyrique, c’est la critique historique la plus froide, les documents, les chroniques, les faits contenus dans les actes juridiques, qui attestent d’une vie toute entière consacrée au service de son peuple pour l’amour de Dieu, avec un tel soin, une telle constance et un tel sacrifice que l’on en est stupéfié. Saint Ferdinand, pour cette raison, conquiert le cœur de tous les historiens, de ses contemporains immédiats aux nôtres. Physiquement, il est mort à la suite des longs labeurs qu’il a dû s’imposer pour mener, sur tous les fronts de son royaume, une tâche qui, à la considérer dans son ensemble, paraît impossible. Peut-être est-ce là une des formes du martyre les plus agréables à Dieu.

Nous voyons ainsi atteindre la sainteté un homme qui fut marié deux fois, eut treize enfants, fut un conquérant, un gouvernant, un homme de justice, un sportif, un homme de cour, un troubadour, un musicien. Plus encore, par les mystérieuses voies de la providence divine, nous honorons en lui, sur les autels, un homme qui était le fils illégitime d’un mariage royal incestueux, annulé par le grand pape Innocent III, celui d’Alphonse IX de León avec sa nièce Bérengère, fille d’Alphonse VIII, héros de la bataille de Las Navas (1).

Ferdinand III eut sept fils et une fille de son premier mariage avec Béatrice de Souabe, la princesse allemande que les chroniqueurs décrivent comme « très bonne, belle, savante et pudique » (optima, pulchra, sapiens et pudica), petite-fille du grand empereur croisé Frédéric Barberousse, puis, sans difficulté politique de succession familiale, il épousa la française Jeanne de Ponthieu, dont il eut encore cinq enfants. Au milieu d’une société courtisane très relâchée, sa mère Bérengère lui conseilla de se marier sans attendre, à l’âge de vingt ans, et plus tard elle lui conseilla de se remarier. Le choix de cette seconde épouse revint à Blanche de Castille, mère de saint Louis.

Ce serait pure conjecture que de se demander s’il aurait embrassé l’état ecclésiastique à défaut d’être roi (étant rappelé que les Cortes de León lui avaient déjà prêté serment alors qu’il n’avait que dix ans, peu après la séparation de ses parents). La vocation vient de Dieu et Il l’a voulu ce qu’il fut. Il l’a voulu saint roi. Saint Ferdinand est un très grand exemple, l’un des plus exemplaires de l’histoire, d’une sainteté séculière.
(à suivre)
Traduction hermas.info ©
_______________
(1) La bataille de Las Navas de Tolosa, qui eut le 16 juillet 1212, est l'une des plus prestigieuses victoires des armées chrétiennes lors de la Reconquista. Note du traducteur.

Rédigé par José M. Sánchez de MUNIAIN - Traduction de l'espagnol par Pierre GABARRA

SOURCE : http://www.hermas.info/article-20023519.html



Saint Ferdinand III le Saint

Roi de Castille et de Léon ( 1252)

Roi de Castille et de Léon, cousin du roi saint Louis. Il libéra Cordoue et Séville occupées par les Maures depuis cinq siècles et y planta la Croix du Christ.

Ferdinand III (1198-1252)  -  Roi de Castille et de Léon, il reconquiert l'Espagne de Cordoue jusqu'à Séville, fonde l'université de Salamanque et construit la cathédrale de Burgos. Canonisé en 1671. (diocèse de Poitiers- quelques saints du Poitou et d'ailleurs)

À Séville en Espagne, l’an 1252, saint Ferdinand III, roi de Castille et de León, prudent dans l’administration de son royaume, protecteur des arts et des sciences, attentif à diffuser la foi.

Martyrologe romain

SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/1246/Saint-Ferdinand-III-le-Saint.html


Saint Ferdinand, roi de Castille et de Léon (1198 - 1252)

Ferdinand naît vers 1198 d'Alphonse IX, roi de Léon et de Bérengère, fille du roi de Castille et sœur de Blanche de Castille. Ainsi, de par sa mère, il est cousin germain de Louis IX, roi de France, connu sous le nom de Saint Louis. 

Il reçoit de son père une sérieuse éducation chrétienne et chevaleresque.

A la mort du jeune roi Henri, héritier du trône de Castille, en 1217, sa mère le fait proclamer roi de Castille et couronner à Valladolid le 31 août 1217.

A 21 ans, en 1219, il épouse Béatrix de Souabe qui lui donnera 10 enfants.

Durant son règne, Ferdinand se soucie de lutter contre les hérésies et de faire perdre du terrain à l'Islam qui, depuis plusieurs siècles, asservit l'Espagne.

A la mort de son père et après bien des péripéties, il devient également roi de Léon, en septembre 1230. Peu à peu, il repousse vers l'extrême sud de l'Espagne les limites de l'occupation islamique par les prises successives de Cordoue, Murcie, Grenade et Séville.

Ferdinand meurt à Séville le 30 mai 1252.

Le Pape Clément X le canonise le 4 février 1671.

La fête de Saint Ferdinand est le 30 mai.



SAINT FERDINAND III, ROI DE CASTILLE ET CONFESSEUR.

Dans les jours consacrés à honorer la naissance de notre Emmanuel, nous vîmes près de son berceau l'imposante figure du bienheureux empereur Charlemagne. Ceint du diadème impérial, tenant en main son puissant glaive, il semblait veiller sur l'enfant que des bergers avaient adoré les premiers Aujourd'hui, près du glorieux sépulcre visite d'abord par Madeleine et ses compagnes, nous apercevons un roi, Ferdinand le Victorieux, ceint de la couronne et faisant la garde avec sa vaillante épée si redoutée du Sarrasin. La France et l'Espagne sont ainsi représentées sur le Cycle par leurs plus nobles souverains : l'un vénérant le mystère du Dieu incarné, l'autre rendant son hommage au mystère du Dieu vainqueur de la mort.

La catholique Espagne est personnifiée dans son Ferdinand, et la France très chrétienne reconnaît dans ce prince héroïque le sang de son saint Louis. Bérengère, mère de Ferdinand, et Blanche, mère de Louis, étaient sœurs. Pour former le royaume catholique, il fallut un des Apôtres du Christ, saint Jacques le Majeur; il fallut une épreuve formidable, l'invasion du Sarrasin qui déborda sur la Péninsule comme un déluge ; il fallut un exploit chevaleresque qui dura huit siècles, et par lequel l'Espagne recouvra son sol et sa liberté. Saint Ferdinand résume en lui cette armée de héros qui ont repoussé le Maure et créé la patrie ; mais au courage du soldat il a réuni les vertus du saint.

Quels exploits dans cette vie qui compte autant de victoires que de combats ! Cordoue, la ville des Califes, tombe au pouvoir d'un si fier chrétien, et les portiques de son alhambra n'abriteront plus le luxe et la mollesse féroce des sectateurs de l'Islam. Sa splendide mosquée est purifiée par l'eau sainte, et devient l'église cathédrale de Cordoue redevenue chrétienne. Les sectateurs de Mahomet avaient enlevé les cloches de l'Eglise de Saint-Jacques à Compostelle, ils les gardaient en trophée à Cordoue ; par ordre du saint roi, ces cloches sont reportées à dos de Sarrasin, à travers l'Espagne, jusqu'à l'auguste sanctuaire auquel elles avaient été ravies.

Séville, à son tour, après un siège de seize mois, tomba au pouvoir de Ferdinand, malgré sa double enceinte de murailles flanquées Je cent soixante-six tours. L'armée chrétienne était faible en nombre; la défense des Sarrasins servis par tous les avantages du site et l'habileté de la conduite, fut de la dernière énergie ; mais le croissant dut s'éclipser devant la croix triomphante. Ferdinand accorda un mois aux Sarrasins pour se retirer de la ville et du territoire. Trois cent mille se replièrent sur Xérès, et cent mille passèrent en Afrique. Le vaillant chef de ce peuple abattu, jetant un dernier regard sur la ville rentrée au pouvoir des chrétiens, dit à ses officiers, les larmes aux yeux : « Il n'y a qu'un saint qui ait pu avec de si faibles troupes se rendre maître d'une place si forte et peuplée de tant de défenseurs. »

Nous n'énumérerons pas ici les villes et les provinces reconquises par le héros chrétien. Sa carrière toute de succès dut faire pressentir aux Maures que la Péninsule leur échapperait un jour tout entière ; au reste, Ferdinand avait formé le projet de faire une descente sur la côte africaine, et d'aller ainsi éteindre l'islamisme jusque dans son foyer le plus ardent. La mort arrêta ce noble dessein, et parvenu à l'âge de cinquante-trois ans, le saint roi échangea la couronne de la terre pour celle du ciel.

Sa piété l'avait rendu le ministre docile de la volonté de Dieu, dont il se regarda toujours comme l'humble instrument. Austère comme un anachorète, Ferdinand fut compatissant comme un père pour ses peuples : « Je crains plus, dit-il un jour, les malédictions d'une pauvre femme que toute l'armée des Sarrasins. » Il dota richement les églises qu'il élevait dans l'Espagne reconquise, et, fidèle chevalier de la Reine des deux, il l'honora toujours comme sa dame et maîtresse. En retour d'un culte si fervent, Marie daigna bénir constamment les armes de son illustre champion. On doit voir aussi un gage de sa maternelle tendresse pour le saint roi dans un fait mentionné par les chroniqueurs contemporains, et qui dans ces siècles atteste l'intervention divine. Durant tout le règne de Ferdinand, ni la peste ni la famine ne vinrent affliger ses Etats. A la différence de notre saint Louis, dont la vie fut remplie d'épreuves, Ferdinand fut toujours heureux ; comme si Dieu eût voulu donner à la fois aux hommes, dans ces deux admirables princes, le modèle du courage dans l'adversité et l'exemple de la modération dans les prospérités. A eux deux ils forment le plus complet tableau de la vie humaine régénérée dans le Christ, en qui nous adorons les humiliations de la croix et les splendeurs de la résurrection. Heureux siècles où Dieu choisissait les rois pour donner aux chrétiens de telles leçons !

On se demandera comment un homme, un prince, tel que saint Ferdinand, accueillit la mort, lorsqu'elle vint tout à coup arrêter le cours de sa glorieuse carrière. Il était encore dans la force de l'âge. A l'approche du prêtre qui lui apportait le Corps du Seigneur, le pieux héros descend de son lit, et ce n'est qu'après avoir adoré son Sauveur, la face contre terre et la corde au cou, qu'il reçoit l'hostie sacrée. Ayant accompli ce grand acte, se sentant arrivé aux portes de l'éternité, il ordonne qu'on le dépouille des marques de la royauté, et appelle ses fils autour de son lit de mort. S'adressant à l'aîné qui fut Alphonse le Sage, il lui recommanda le soin de ses frères et les égards qu'il devrait à ceux qui sont les vassaux du prince et ses compagnons d'armes ; puis il ajouta : « Mon fils, tu vois de quelles forces, de quelles possessions, de quel nombre de sujets tu es entouré, plus qu'aucun autre roi chrétien ; fais en sorte d'user dignement de ces avantages ; sois bon, avant tant de moyens de faire le bien. Te voilà maître de cette terre que les Maures enlevèrent jadis au roi Rodrigue. Si tu conserves le royaume dans l'état où je te le laisse, tu seras un bon roi, comme je l'ai été ; il en serait autrement, si tu en laissais perdre quelque chose. »

La dernière heure approchait ; une apparition céleste vint conforter le royal mourant. Il remercia Dieu de cette faveur, et demanda le cierge béni ; mais avant de le prendre dans ses mains, levant les veux au ciel, il dit : « Seigneur, vous m'avez donné le royaume que je n'avais pas, vous m'avez donné plus d'honneur et de puissance que je ne méritais : recevez-en mes actions de grâces. Je remets entre vos mains ce royaume que j'ai accru autant qu'il m'a été possible : je vous présente en même temps mon âme. » Il demanda ensuite pardon à ceux qui l'entouraient, les priant de lui faire grâce, s'il leur avait donné lieu quelquefois de se plaindre de lui. Toute la cour était présente ; et l'on n'entendit que des voix entrecoupées de sanglots, qui à leur tour imploraient le pardon.

Le saint roi prit alors le cierge en ses mains, et relevant vers le ciel, il dit : « Seigneur Jésus-Christ, mon rédempteur, je suis sorti nu du sein de ma mère, et je vais rentrer nu dans la terre. Seigneur, recevez mon âme, et par les mérites de votre très sainte Passion, qu'il vous plaise la placer parmi celles de vos serviteurs. » Après ces paroles, il rendit le cierge, et demanda aux évêques et aux prêtres qui étaient autour de lui, de réciter les Litanies, après lesquelles il leur fit chanter le Te Deum. Tout étant achevé, il inclina la tête, ferma les yeux et expira doucement.

Ainsi mouraient ces hommes dont la foi avait inspiré toutes les œuvres, et qui sentaient qu'ils n'étaient en ce monde que pour servir Jésus-Christ et le faire régner. Ces rois avaient fait l'Europe ; ils lui avaient donné pour première loi l'Evangile, et pour droit public les canons de l'Eglise. L'Europe, après des siècles d'unité dans le lien catholique, a cherché une autre loi et un autre droit; elle se dissout aujourd'hui, et semble même avoir oublié l'élément qui la forma et la maintint durant tant de siècles à la tête de l'humanité. Puisse-t-elle un jour ouvrir les yeux, et, s'il en est temps encore, arrêter la décadence qui l'entraîne fatalement, et conjurer la ruine qui la menace !

Nous empruntons les Leçons de l'Office du saint roi au Propre de la ville de Rome.

Ferdinand III, roi de Castille et de Léon, à qui depuis quatre siècles l'accord des ecclésiastiques et des séculiers a attribué le nom de Saint, donna, dès son adolescence, de si grandes preuves de sagesse, que Bérengère, reine de Castille, sa mère, qui l'avait élevé très saintement, abdiqua la royauté pour la lui remettre entre les mains. A peine Ferdinand fut-il entré dans les soins du gouvernement, que l'on vit briller en lui les vertus d'un roi : la magnanimité, la clémence, la justice, et par-dessus tout le zèle de la foi catholique, dont il sut défendre et propager la pratique religieuse avec ardeur. Il montra ce zèle principalement en poursuivant les hérétiques, auxquels il ne permit jamais d'habiter dans ses royaumes. Il le fit voir encore en érigeant, dotant et consacrant au culte chrétien les églises de Cordoue, Jaén, Séville, et autres villes arrachées par lui au joug des Maures. Il rétablit avec une pieuse et royale munificence les cathédrales de Tolède, de Burgos, et plusieurs autres.

En même temps, dans le royaume de Castille et de Léon, où il avait succédé à Alphonse son père, il réunit de fortes armées, et entreprit chaque année des expéditions contre les Sarrasins, ennemis du nom chrétien. Le plus puissant moyen de ce pieux roi pour s’assurer constamment la victoire fut dans les prières qu'il adressait à Dieu, dont il s'assurait le secours en flagellant sévèrement son corps avant la bataille, et se couvrant d'un rude cilice. Ce fut ainsi qu'il remporta d'insignes victoires contre les puissantes armées des Maures, et qu'il restitua au culte chrétien et à l'Espagne des villes nombreuses, ayant conquis les royaumes de Jaën, Cordoue et Murcie, en même temps qu'il rendit tributaire celui de Grenade. Il amena ses étendards victorieux devant Séville, capitale de la Bétique, après une vision dans laquelle on rapporte que saint Isidore, autrefois évêque de cette ville, lui en avait donné le conseil. Les historiens racontent aussi qu'il fut assisté du secours divin dans ce siège, en la manière suivante. Les Mahométans avaient tendu sur le Guadalquivir une chaîne de fer qui barrait le passage. Un vent violent s'éleva tout à coup, et l'un des navires royaux lancé par l'ordre du prince alla briser cette chaîne avec une telle violence qu'il fut entraîné plus loin, et alla rompre un Sont de bateaux dont la ruine enleva l'espoir aux laures, et amena la reddition de la place.

Ferdinand a attribué toutes ces victoires au patronage de la bienheureuse Vierge Marie, dont il avait toujours dans son camp l'image qu'il honorait d'un culte spécial. Ayant pris Se ville, son premier soin fut de songer au culte divin. Il fit purifier tout aussitôt la mosquée des Sarrasins, et la dédia au service religieux des chrétiens, l'ayant pourvue avec une royale et pieuse libéralité d'un siège archiépiscopal richement doté et d'un collège de chanoines et de dignités convenablement établis. Il érigea encore d'autres églises et plusieurs monastères dans cette ville. Au milieu de ces actes de piété, il se préparait à passer en Afrique pour y anéantir la puissance musulmane , lorsqu'il se vit appelé au royaume du ciel. Etant arrivé à ses derniers moments, il adora la corde au cou, prosterné par terre, avec d'abondantes larmes, la sainte Eucharistie qu'on lui apportait pour viatique.

Ayant reçu le divin sacrement avec la plus humble révérence accompagnée des plus vifs témoignages de son attachement à la foi catholique, il s'endormit dans le Seigneur. Son corps, demeuré sans corruption depuis six siècles, repose dans la cathédrale de Séville, où il est renfermé dans un tombeau de la plus rare magnificence.

Vous avez délivré votre peuple du joug de l'infidèle, ô Ferdinand, imitant le divin ressuscité qui nous a affranchis de la mort du péché et rendus à la vie que nous avions perdue. Vos conquêtes n'ont point ressemblé à celles des conquérants profanes, qui n'ont d'autre but que de satisfaire leur orgueil et celui de leurs peuples. Vous veniez délivrer vos frères opprimés et courbés depuis des siècles sous un joug odieux. Vous veniez, les arracher aux périls de séduction qu'ils couraient dans un esclavage séculaire. Champion du Christ, c'est pour lui d'abord que vous forciez les remparts des cités sarrasines. Son étendard était le vôtre, et vous cherchiez avant tout à étendre son royaume. En retour, il daigna vous bénir en tous vos combats, et votre épée sortit toujours victorieuse.

Votre mission, ô Ferdinand, fut de préparer au Seigneur un peuple que la sainte Eglise a honoré entre tous les autres, en lui décernant le beau nom de Catholique. Heureuse Espagne, qui à force de persévérance et de courage a su briser le joug musulman, que les peuples qui l'ont subi gardent toujours ! Heureuse Espagne, qui a repoussé avec succès l'invasion de la prétendue Réforme au XVI° siècle, ayant ainsi conservé l'antique foi qui sauve les âmes, et est en même temps le plus fort lien de la patrie ! Priez pour votre peuple, ô Ferdinand ! Des doctrines perverses circulent dans son sein, des influences perfides cherchent à l'égarer, et beaucoup d'âmes sont séduites. Ne souffrez pas qu'il sacrifie jamais par d'imprudentes et lâches concessions ce dépôt de foi qu'il a su maintenir intact durant tant de siècles. Combattez les machinations ténébreuses par lesquelles les méchants cherchent à le lui enlever. Maintenez en lui l'horreur qu'il a si longtemps ressentie pour l'hérésie, et que rien ne le fasse déchoir du rang qu'il a conquis entre les peuples fidèles. L'unité de croyance et de culte peut le sauver encore, le retenir sur le bord de l'abîme où tant de nations ont sombré; saint roi, sauvez encore une fois le royaume que Dieu vous avait confié, et que vous remettiez entre ses mains avec une si humble reconnaissance, au moment où vous alliez échanger la couronne de la terre contre celle du ciel. Vous êtes resté son protecteur aimé; hâtez-vous de le secourir.

Dom Guéranger. L’Année liturgique

SOURCE : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/gueranger/anneliturgique/paques/paques03/propresaints/034.htm



St. Ferdinand III

King of Leon and Castile, member of the Third Order of St. Francis, born in 1198 near Salamanca; died at Seville, 30 May, 1252. He was the son of Alfonso IX, King of Leon, and of Berengeria, the daughter of Alfonso III, King of Castile, and sister of Blanche, the mother of St. Louis IX.

In 1217 Ferdinand became King of Castile, which crown his mother renounced in his favour, and in 1230 he succeeded to the crown of Leon, though not without civil strife, since many were opposed to the union of the two kingdoms. He took as his counsellors the wisest men in the State, saw to the strict administration of justice, and took the greatest care not to overburden his subjects with taxation, fearing, as he said, the curse of one poor woman more than a whole army of Saracens. Following his mother's advice, Ferdinand, in 1219, married Beatrice, the daughter of Philip of Swabia, King of Germany, one of the most virtuous princesses of her time. God blessed this union with seven children: six princes and one princess. The highest aims of Ferdinand's life were the propagation of the Faith and the liberation of Spain from the Saracen yoke. Hence his continual wars against the Saracens. He took from them vast territories, Granada and Alicante alone remaining in their power at the time of his death. In the most important towns he founded bishoprics, reestablished Catholic worship everywhere, built churches, founded monasteries, and endowed hospitals. The greatest joys of his life were the conquests of Cordova (1236) and Seville (1248). He turned the great mosques of these places into cathedrals, dedicating them to the Blessed Virgin. He watched over the conduct of his soldiers, confiding more in their virtue than in their valour, fasted strictly himself, wore a rough hairshirt, and often spent his nights in prayer, especially before battles. Amid the tumult of the camp he lived like a religious in the cloister. The glory of the Church and the happiness of his people were the two guiding motives of his life. He founded the University of Salamanca, the Athens of Spain. Ferdinand was buried in the great cathedral of Seville before the image of the Blessed Virgin, clothed, at his own request, in the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis. His body, it is said, remains incorrupt. Many miracles took place at his tomb, and Clement X canonized him in 1671. His feast is kept by the Minorites on the 30th of May.

Heckmann, Ferdinand. "St. Ferdinand III." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 30 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06042a.htm>.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06042a.htm




St. Ferdinand III., King of Castile and Leon, Confessor

HE was eldest son to Alphonsus, king of Leon, and of Berangera of Castile, elder sister 1 of Blanche, mother of St. Lewis of France, and was born about the end of the year 1198 or some time in 1199. Beranga had been obliged by Pope Innocent III. to a separation from Alphonsus of Leon after having borne to him two sons, Ferdinand and Alphonsus, and two daughters, because, though in the third degree of consanguinity, they had been married without a dispensation, which was at that time very difficult to be obtained. But because this marriage had been contracted bona fide by the decrees of the pope, and the states of the two kingdoms, their children were declared their lawful heirs. Berangera returned to her father Alphonsus IX. of Castile, one of the most valiant and virtuous kings that ever reigned in Spain, and who was to her the most tender and best of fathers. He dying in 1214, his son Henry, eleven years of age, succeeded him under the tutorship and regency of his mother, Eleonor of England. But she followed her husband to the grave within twenty-five days; grief for having lost him being the cause of her death. Berangera was charged with the guardianship of her brother and the regency of the kingdom; but out of love of retirement suffered herself to be persuaded to resign both to a nobleman called Don Alvarez, who proved a perfidious, turbulent man, and for several years embroiled all Castile and the neighbouring kingdoms. Berangera was a princess of accomplished prudence and piety, and exercises of devotion were her chief delight. King Henry, by the contrivance of Alvarez, at twelve years of age was married to Mafalda, sister to Alphonsus, king of Portugal, but upon an impediment of consanguinity which was proved before commissaries, Pope Innocent III. declared the marriage null, and Mafalda returning to Portugal, founded a Cistercian nunnery at Arouca, took herself the veil, and lived in such great sanctity as to be honoured among the saints on the 1st of May. The young King Henry died of a wound he received by a tile falling upon his head at Palencia on the 6th of June, 1217, and Berangera put in her claim to the crown; but transferring her right upon her son Ferdinand, surnamed the Saint, caused him, who was in the eighteenth year of his age, to be proclaimed king at Palencia, Valladolid, and Burgos, having first lodged in the archives of the church of this last city, the solemn act of her own resignation. Don Alvarez and other factious spirits filled the kingdom with disturbances and civil wars for several years; but these the young king by his clemency, prudence, and valour, assisted by his mother’s counsels, stifled and overcame. Alvarez was taken and pardoned; and perfidiously renewed his treasonable cabals and broils, both at home and abroad. Though Ferdinand was so great a king, no child ever obeyed a mother with a more ready and perfect submission than he did Berangera to the time of her death, as his ancient historian assures us. 2 By her advice he took to wife, in 1219, Beatrix, daughter of Philip of Suabia, emperor of Germany, a most virtuous and accomplished princess. The happy union of their hearts was never disturbed by the least cloud during the fifteen years of their cohabitation; and their marriage was blessed with a numerous family of seven sons and three daughters. St. Ferdinand was severe in the administration and the execution of the laws, but readily pardoned all personal injuries; and no sooner were rebellions crushed, but he granted general amnesties. His prudence and his constant attention to the care of his people appeared most conspicuous in the happy choice he always made of governors, magistrates, and generals. Rodriguez, archbishop of Toledo and chancellor of Castile, was during thirty years at the head of all his councils, and so perfectly united with Berangera and St. Ferdinand in all their deliberations as to seem to have but one soul with them. To set a curb to inferior tribunals he established the court, since called the Royal Council of Castile, which consists of ten auditors, and to which there lies an appeal from all other courts. A code of laws which he caused to be compiled by the most able lawyers 3 is still used in that kingdom.

Nothing ever so much troubled our saint, as when his own father Alphonsus, king of Leon, stirred up by Alvarez, laid claim to and invaded his dominions. St. Ferdinand endeavoured by the most dutiful and endearing letters to give him all possible satisfaction, and lent him his own forces to fight against the Moors. With this succour his father conquered Caures, Merida, and Badajoz, and extended his dominions to the frontiers of Andalusia. Being resolved as much as possible never to draw his sword but against the infidels, he restored several places the claims to which seemed doubtful, and waved all occasions of quarrels with the kings of Portugal and Arragon, and with Eleonor of England in Gascony. He founded several bishoprics, and contributed munificently to the building or repairing of many stately cathedrals, and other churches, monasteries and hospitals. No necessity could ever make him impose any heavy tax upon his subjects. In his wars with the Moors, when one suggested to him a method of raising an extraordinary subsidy, he rejected the proposal with indignation; saying, “God would not fail to supply him other ways, and that he feared more the curse of one poor old woman than the whole army of the Moors.” He first marched against them into the kingdom of Baëza in 1225; and in the second year, Aben Mahomet, a prince of the race of the Miramolins of Africa, king of that country, yielded himself up vassal to King Ferdinand, and surrendered to him his strongest holds. In 1230 he took nearly twenty strong places in Andalusia, and in the kingdoms of Cordova and Jaën. Aben Mahomet having been murdered by a general conspiracy of his subjects, because he had made himself vassal to a Christian king who was the sworn enemy of their religion, St. Ferdinand took occasion to conquer the whole kingdom of Baëza, and to erect a bishopric in its capital. His whole conduct bore testimony to the truth of his solemn protestation, in which he appealed to heaven, saying: 4 “Thou, O Lord, who searchest the secrets of hearts, knowest that I desire thy glory, not mine; and the increase of thy faith, and holy religion, not of transitory kingdoms.” The Archbiship Rodriguez performed the solemn office, and all pastoral functions in the army, and the bishop of Palencia in his room one year that he happened to be sick. St. Ferdinand set his soldiers the most perfect example of devotion. He fasted rigorously, prayed much, wore a rough hair-shirt made in the shape of a cross, spent often whole nights in tears and prayers, especially before battles, and gave to God the whole glory of all his victories. In his army he caused an image of the Blessed Virgin to be carried, and wore another small one on his breast, or sometimes when on horseback placed it on the pummel of his saddle before him. From the spoils taken in war he contributed in a truly royal manner to the rebuilding of the most stately cathedral of Toledo, of which he laid the first stone. Several towns which were conquered from the Moors, he gave to the Order of Calatrava or others, and to the archbishopric of Toledo, upon condition they should defend them against the infidels. This is the origin of the great riches of that archbishopric, and of the military religious Orders in Spain.

St. Ferdinand was marching to lay siege to Jaën in 1230, when he received news of the death of his father, Alphonsus of Leon, and was called by his mother to take possession of that kingdom, which from that time has remained united with Castile. It cost him three years to settle the affairs of his new kingdom; but in 1234 he recommenced his wars against the Moors by the siege of Ubeda, which he took after having spent the whole campaign before it. In the meantime the infant Alphonsus, with fifteen hundred men, defeated at Xeres the formidable army of Abenhut, king of Seville, divided into seven bodies of troops, each of which was more numerous than the whole Christian army. From the deposition of several prisoners and others, the Christians concluded that the apostle St. James had appeared at the head of their troops in the armour of a knight, mounted on a white horse; and this victory cost the Christians only the lives of one knight, who had refused to forgive an injury, and ten soldiers. The joy of these victories was allayed by the death of the virtuous Queen Beatrix, St. Ferdinand’s consort, who departed this life at Toro, about the beginning of the year 1236. The grief for this loss did not long suspend his warlike preparations, and whilst James, king of Arragon, wrested from the Moors the kingdom of Majorca and that of Valentia, he completed the conquest of the two Moorish kingdoms of Baëza and Cordova. This last city had been in the hands of those infidels five hundred and twenty-four years, and had been long the capital of their empire in Spain, when St. Ferdinand, after a long siege, entered it by capitulation, on SS. Peter and Paul’s day in 1236. The great mosque was purified by John, bishop of Osma, and converted into a church under the invocation of the Mother of God, and St. Ferdinand refounded there a bishopric. The great bells of Compostella, which Almansor had caused to be brought hither on the backs of Christians, St. Ferdinand commanded to be carried back on the backs of Moors.

In 1237, by the counsels of his mother, he married a second wife, chiefly at the recommendation of his aunt Blanche, dowager queen of France. This was Jane of Ponthieu, who bore him two sons and a daughter, 5 and lived in the most happy constant harmony with the queen mother and the king till their death, and joined them in all their exercises of piety and devotion. The winter they usually spent together; in spring, when the king put himself at the head of his army to march to new conquests, she usually assisted Berangera in superintending the domestic administration of the affairs of state. St. Ferdinand in the campaigns which followed the taking of Cordova made himself master of twenty-four other towns, of which Ecija was the first and Moron the last. Abenhudiel, king of Murcia, voluntarily surrendered his kingdom to king Ferdinand, reserving some open places to himself and certain lords of his country, which they were to hold in vassalage. St. Ferdinand sent his son Alphonsus to take possession of the city of Murcia, to purify the mosques, and establish there a bishopric. The strong cities of Lorca, Mula, and Carthagena, which refused to yield themselves up to him, he took three years after. Arjona and Jaën maintained obstinate sieges; but at length fell into the hands of Ferdinand, with Alcala, Real, Ivora, and some other places dependent on Jaën. The loss of this capital so terrified Benalhamar, king of Granada, that he repaired to the camp of Ferdinand, cast himself at the feet of the conqueror, and offered to hold his kingdom of him in vassalage, and to pay him an annual tribute of one hundred and fifty thousand maravedis. These conditions were accepted, and by remaining always faithful to king Ferdinand, he transmitted his kingdom to his posterity. The rich and strong city of Seville, after the death of its king Abenhut, had formed itself into a republic, when king Ferdinand resolved to turn his forces against that place, far the most important which the Moors at that time possessed in Spain. The death of archbishop Rodriguez, his most faithful minister, followed by that of Berangera, his mother, interrupted his preparations for a short time; but motives of religion moderating his grief for the loss of the best of mothers, he had no sooner settled the administration by the orders which he despatched into Castile, but he resumed his expedition with greater vigour than ever. The siege held sixteen months, Seville being then the largest and strongest city in Spain. Its double walls were very broad and high, and defended by one hundred and sixty-six towers; the western side of the city was secured by the great river Guadalquivir, besides a deep broad moat at the foot of the innermost wall round the city. All provisions were abundantly supplied from the famous garden of Hercules, esteemed by the ancients the most delightful spot of ground in the world, called by the Moors Axarafa. This territory is about thirty miles in length, and twelve in breadth, and contained one hundred thousand farms besides castles and towns. It lay on the right side of the river, where its communication with the city was secured by the castle of Triana on that bank, which was joined by a great iron chain, and a bridge of boats with the golden tower on the opposite bank at the bottom of the city. St. Ferdinand’s fleet defeated that of the Moors, and mounted the river within sight of the castle of Triana; his land forces vanquished the succours sent from Africa, and in daily combats gained continual advantages. Yet the siege was not advanced till in the tenth month, on the feast of the Invention of the Cross in May, Ferdinand’s admiral, by launching two great ships upon the chain and bridge of boats broke both. Triana was then besieged, and after having been long battered with rams and other engines, and stood many assaults, was at length reduced. The city itself surrendered on the 23d of November, 1249; the Moors were allowed a month to sell or dispose of their goods; three hundred thousand removed to Xeres, one hundred thousand passed into Africa. Axataf, governor-general of the Moors at Seville, being arrived at a hill called Belvidere, from which he had a prospect of the sea before him, and of the city behind him, turning towards Seville to take his last leave of that city, said with tears, that only a saint who by his justice and piety had heaven in his interest in all his undertakings could ever have taken so rich, so populous, and so strong a city with so small an army; but that God by his eternal decrees had taken it from the Moors. St. Ferdinand, after the most solemn thanksgivings to God, implored the intercession of the Virgin Mother before her famous image which is still preserved, and refounded the cathedral with such magnificence and splendour, that it yielded to no church in Christendom but that of Toledo. The three years which he survived he resided at Seville to settle the tribunals and regulate the affairs of this important conquest; but added at the same time to his dominions Xeres, Medina, Sidonia, Alcala de los Gazules, Bejar, Port St. Mary’s, Cadiz, St. Lucar, Arcos, Lebrixa, Rota, Trebuxena, and a great number of other towns and castles. He showed by his example that devotion is consistent with the duties of a king and Christian soldier; he was in all things severe to himself, but compassionate and mild to all others, always master of himself and his passions. He was preparing an expedition against the Moors in Africa, when he was taken with his last sickness. He prepared himself for death by the most edifying sentiments of compunction and a general confession; then called for the viaticum; and whilst the bishop of Segovia, attended by all the clergy of Seville and the court, brought the holy sacrament, the king rose from his bed, fell on his knees on the floor, put a cord about his neck, and taking a crucifix in his hands kissed and saluted the wounds of his Saviour, watering each of them with his tears. He then made his confession aloud, though he had nothing to accuse himself of which others could think to have been criminal, how much soever he was himself penetrated with confusion and regret for the least appearance of a fault. He made an act of faith in presence of the holy sacrament, which he received pouring forth a flood of tears of tender love and devotion. Before his death he called for all his children, gave them excellent instructions with his blessing, and asked pardon of all the world if ever he had given offence to any. In his agony, holding a blessed taper in his hands, he recommended his soul to God through the merits of his crucified Redeemer in the most pathetic aspirations; then caused the clergy to recite near him the Litanies, and afterwards the Te Deum. This was scarcely finished when he yielded up his soul into the hands of his Creator on the 30th of May, 6 in the year 1252, the fifty-third of his age, the thirty-fifth of his reign in Castile, and the twenty-second in Leon. According to his desire he was buried before the image of our Lady in the great church at Seville, and his body is still preserved in that church in a rich shrine without the least blemish of corruption, and has been honoured with miracles. St. Ferdinand was canonized by Clement X., in 1671. See the Chronicle of Rodriguez Ximenes, archbishop of Toledo, high chancellor of Castile, and minister to St. Ferdinand. This work ends in the year 1243, the twenty-sixth of St. Ferdinand’s reign. Also Luke, bishop of Tuy in Gallicia, another contemporary writer, whose Chronicle ends in 1237, the twentieth of St. Ferdinand. Likewise the general Chronicle of Spain, and the particular Chronicle of St. Ferdinand, compiled in the reign of his son and successor Alphonsus X. Add the notes of Papebroke, t. 7, Maij. Mariana de Rebus Hispaniæ, l. 12, c. 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, l. 13, c. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, and F. Orleans, Hist. des Révolutionis d’Espagne, t. 1, l. 3, p. 488, &c.

Note 1. Roderiguez, at that time first dean, then archbishop of Toledo, assures us that Berengera was the eldest of all the children of this king, and next heir to the kingdom after her brother’s death. It is therefore a notorious mistake of those who call Blanche the elder sister. [back]

Note 2. Luc Tudens. [back]

Note 3. This code is called by the Spaniards Las Partidas. [back]

Note 4. Sancius, Episc. Palent. Hist. Hisp. par. 3, c. 39. [back]

Note 5. This daughter named Eleonor, after the death of her father, was carried by her mother into France, became heiress of the counties of Ponthieu and Montreuil, and by marrying Edward I. of England, united them to the dominions of that crown. See Triveti Chron. &c. [back]

Note 6. Mariana and others place the death of St. Ferdinand on the 30th of May; but Flores shows that the Spaniards at that time called it the 31st. For May had thirty-one days where the Julian alteration of the months was not adopted, and the Dionysian epoch, in which the years were counted from Christ, was not introduced in Spain till very late, and after this time. The Spanish era preceded it thirty-eight years, commencing from the first year of Augustus’s reign in Spain. Hence St. Ferdinand died in the year of Christ 1252, of the Spanish era 1290. See Flores, the learned Austin friar, rector of the Royal College at Alcala, in his Espana Sagrada, upon Chronologia de la Historia de Espana, part 1, c. 6, p. 112, ib. c. 2, n. 52, 53, p. 35. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.




Ferdinand III, King of Castile (RM)

Born near Salamanca, Spain, c. 1199; died in Seville, Spain, on May 30, 1252; canonized in 1671 at the request of Philip IV.



Ferdinand was the son of Alphonso IX, king of León, and Berengaria, the oldest daughter of Alphonso III, king of Castile. His maternal grandmother was the daughter of Henry II of England, and her sister Blanche became the mother of Saint Louis of France.

The death of Berengaria's brother, Henry, left her heiress to the throne of Castile in 1217, but she ceded her rights to the 18-year- old Ferdinand. He was a stern, but forgiving, ruler who ignored personal slights, and an excellent administrator. The archbishop of Toledo, Rodrigo Ximenes, was chancellor of Castile and his principal adviser for many years. Ferdinand married Beatrice, daughter of King Philip of Swabia in 1219.

Upon the death of his father in 1230, Ferdinand became king of León. There was opposition to this, for there were supporters of the claim of his two half sisters, but his union of the two kingdoms made a recovery from the Moors possible. He campaigned against the Moors without respite for 27 years, and his success won the great devotion of his people. He recaptured the greater part of Andalusia, including Ubeda, Cordova (1236), Murcia, Jaen, Cadiz, and Seville (1249).

It was in the battle of Xeres, when only 10 or 12 Spanish lives were lost, that Saint James (Santiago) was said to have been seen leading the host on a white horse. Saint James's chronicle is a principal source for Ferdinand's achievements. Ferdinand's military efforts were not so much imperialistic in motivation as driven by a wish to save Christians from the dominance of infidels.

Although he was a warrior, it was said of him that "he feared the curse of one old woman more than a whole army of Moors." In thanksgiving for his victories, Ferdinand rebuilt the cathedral in Burgos and converted the great mosque of Seville into a church. He restored to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella the bells that had been removed by the Moors.

Once the Moors and Jews submitted, he pursued a course of tolerance, while encouraging the friars to convert them. He was the founder of the famed University of Salamanca in 1243. He married Joan of Ponthieu on the death of Beatrice. By his second wife he was the father of Eleanor, wife of King Edward I of England. It is interesting to note that upon his death he was buried in the habit of a Franciscan friar in the cathedral of Seville. At his death he was popularly acclaimed a saint but canonical recognition took another 400 years (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, White).

King Saint Ferdinand is depicted in art as a crowned knight with a greyhound. He is dressed royal regalia, cross on his breast, and the dog at his feet (Roeder). He is the patron saint of persons in authority (rulers, governors, magistrates, etc.)--a result of his wise appointments; the poor and prisoners (over whom such persons rule); engineers (a result of his technical military skills), and the Spanish army (White).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0530.shtml


Saint Fernando III

King Saint Fernando III was born in the monastery of Valparaiso in Spain in the year 1199 – exactly 100 years to the month after the death of his illustrious ancestor, Rodrigo Diaz, who was known by the honorary title of El Cid He was a true son of the Cid, of noble heart and bearing. In him would be combined the soul of a knight dedicated entirely to God, the irresistible power of the Cid and, due to his royal heritage, the authority to marshal the might of an entire nation against the enemies of Christ.
Saint Fernando’s father was King Alfonso IX of Leon, and his mother the saintly Lady Bereguera. As his parent’s marriage was annulled by Pope Innocent III, St Fernando was actually raised by his grandfather, King Alfonso VIII of Castile, and his mother. King Alfonso VIII was a great warrior and knight, to whom Christian chivalry was more than just a code of conduct or a set of rules to which he adhered; it was a pursuit of virtue meant to guide him in all of his thoughts and actions. In striving for the ideal of knighthood, he attained a true nobility of character. Living a life of honor, King Alfonso was a magnificent warrior who courageously defended the Church and his kingdom of Castile. He was also an excellent role model for young Fernando, who wanted nothing more than to be a knight of Christ.

St Fernando was still a young man when he became king of Castile. His kingdom was in tatters, as there had been numerous raids by both Christian and Moor into Castile, as well as internal rebellions. Saint Fernando worked tirelessly to restore his realm to prosperity and administer justice throughout his land, though he continued always to train as a warrior.

On the day Saint Fernando became a knight, he prayed:

“Christ, my Lord, I am in Thy hands, the same way this sword is in mine. Show me, my King, what Thou wantest of this Thy knight.”

In the silence and stillness of the night, St Fernando heard Christ answer him:

“I want to make your whole life like a representation and marvelous parable so that the coming centuries may contemplate the war that I, Eternal King and Universal Lord, wage against the powers of darkness, to conquer the entire earth for my Father. Fernando, you will be the noble and considerate king who leads his vassals in this great enterprise, the courageous and mortified King who, above all others, charges ahead in the midst of danger and endures the strain of hard work and the fatigue of battle. You will be the generous and magnanimous King who in victory does not worry about his treasures, but distributes the spoils among his faithful knights.”

God granted to Saint Fernando to see the stark outline of the life that was to be his, a life full of struggles and hardships and warfare. Yet his soul did not quake at the prospect, for he knew that he would be doing God’s will, and that God would be with him as long as he remained true. He was prepared to do whatever was required of him now, and all the days of his life.

King Saint Fernando became one of history’s most gifted and formidable warriors, while being at the same time one of the greatest monarchs who ever ruled. He, like so many men of his time, did not seek to enjoy a long life so much as he sought to live a good life. Thus, he spent his entire life in the service of God, rather than wasting his time in service to himself.

King St Fernando was a man of clear and deep faith, who realized that everything depends on God and that it is He Who grants the victory. He knew, nonetheless, that the Lord never wants to help those who are lazy but to assist with grace those who do everything that is in their power. This effort becomes a prayer of action, when combined with trust in Him.

As a consequence of his holy intentions, all of Saint Fernando’s ventures met with success. He was absolutely invincible, personally as well as while directing his armies, conquering hearts and minds as completely as he did cities and strongholds. He knew that there is no holier enterprise than to do one’s duty before God, and that his first obligation was to rescue his own country.

This great Catholic monarch truly lived his faith, and by his chivalry, loyalty, and generosity of character was worthy of the high regard and friendship of those who had once fought against him. By the kindness and gratitude he showed toward those who rendered service to him, and by his great generosity, he captured the affection and won the willing obedience of his nobility. He always and everywhere applied himself whole heartedly to his duties as king, zealously seeking after justice and prosperity for his people. He was a model of righteousness and proper conduct for his sons, and by his example earned the respect and love of all his children. He was to them the most tender and caring of fathers, leaving them an incomparable heritage the like of which few Christian monarchs could boast.


The legacy of King Saint Fernando III is far-reaching and eternal. It was he who had permanently combined the Kingdoms of Leon and Castile, and with that might he conquered more Islamic territory than any other Christian, expelled the Muslims from most of Andalusia and turned their remaining kings into his obedient vassals. King Fernando’s achievements clearly outstrip those of King Sancho II and King Jaime I, not to mention those of king’s Saint Louis IX, Frederick II and Edward I. At a time when the crusading efforts of all the rest of Christendom hardly sufficed to maintain a foothold on the coast of the Holy Land, Fernando inflicted on medieval Islam its greatest defeat up until that time.

King Saint Fernando had been known as “the Saint” during his lifetime, so it should come as no surprise that immediately after his death his subjects unanimously awarded him a place in celestial glory. St Fernando soon became the object of public veneration, and that same year Pope Innocent IV declared that King Saint Fernando of Castile enjoyed the reputation of “having always followed the path of obedience to the Divine precepts, and that he greatly contributed to the spreading of the worship of the Holy Name of Jesus.”

The body of St Fernando is incorrupt, and he can still be seen in the Cathedral of Seville, for he rests now enclosed in a marvelous gold and crystal casket worthy of the Castilian king. King Saint Fernando is the only king whose earthly crown has never been taken away, for his golden crown still encircles his head as he reclines beneath the statue of the Virgin of the Kings, awaiting the day of resurrection.

Reviews of 

"St. Fernando III
A Kingdom for Christ"


"Very little has been written about St. Fernando III. Very few Catholics even know he existed, let alone his origins and the noble Catholic blood that flowed through his veins. From Charlemagne to El Cie to Alfonso VIII, and beyond himself to the beloved Queen Isabella of Spain, some of the greatest Catholic figures in history have shared ni this lineage of warrior-saints. And yet, all throughout the last four centuries, the honor and due reverence to this man among men has lain hidden among the shadows of time, awaiting the day when modern man would take notice of this King among kings; this Warrior among warriors; this Saint among saints.


Now, that day has come! Mr. Fitzhenry has put down on paper the life of a true Catholic hero; one that we can happily place in the hands of our Catholic youth and say, "Read this. This is what is expected of a Catholic man."

St. Fernando III breaks through the apathy, so prevalent in today's society of egotism, diversity and political correctness, and rekindles within the Catholic heart the fight for our one, true Faith...and ultimately, Christ as King. Viva Christo Rey!

Scott Jones

Director, Our Lady of Victory School


Gloria Romanorum Review

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 this detailed yet approachable biography of this fascinating and inspiring example of Catholic manhood. St. Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ 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 nearly 40, 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.

Amazon Book Reviews

Mr. Fitzhenry, after success with his great work, El Cid: God's Own Champion, in 2007, outdid himself with the story of St. Fernando, or San Fernando Rey. This new book reads like a novel full of suspense, but based on the life of one of the most amazing saints, yet before this great book, little was known about him. This book tells of his strength in battle. He also consulted the Blessed Virgin, to whom he was very devoted, even carrying a statue of her (Virgin of Battles) on the horn of his saddle.
Fernando was brave, fearless because of his strong faith, and always "knew" he was under the direction of God and accomplishing His will.

I received this book as a Christmas present and looked at it as, "Ho hum". That changed quickly, due to Mr. Fitzhenry's captivating writing style, in-depth research utilizing 31 reference books and therefore, what may have seemed to be legend has come to life as accurately as an author could accomplish covering the Thirteenth Century.

It is always so trite to review a book by saying, "This was so exciting, full of surprises and breathless close-calls, that I couldn't put it down." Albeit true with Fernando, I HAD TO SLOW DOWN MY READING! This was because I dreaded completing this great epic--I then paced myself as one might do with a fine wine. After reading a section, there was always much to contemplate, including visions from the Blessed Virgin, and how in Fernando's early life, Fernando's mother the queen, offered great penances and petitions to the Virgin to save her son who had become desperately ill. He was miraculously cured.

In reading this adventure, you will travel through all of the areas of Spain, as Fernando pushes the Moors to the sea, sterilizing virtually all of Spain for Christianity. You will enjoy stories of the miracle of enemy arrows turning around wiping out the enemy who shot them, the appearance St. James several times with a compliment of soldiers from heaven. St Isidore appeared often and even heavenly angels appeared in the middle of battle to bolster Fernando's army. You will treasure stories of faith and more faith, yet Fernando was God's man willing to do anything with the Blessed Mother's prodding, direction and approval and always to please God.

I would suggest this book to adults, but children who are able to read on an adult level will love this book, however a parent could read it to a younger child a bit at a time. In closing, it should be mandatory for high school students and all adults who love their faith. What's next Mr. Fitzhenry? Please hurry!

Del Latham, M.S.

I highly recomend reading this beautiful book and adding it to your libraries - El Cid is a heartwarming and inspiring story giving glorious tribute to the triumph of human faith-and its well detailed events will forever dwell in your mind! El Cid, a book for all ages, will make you forget where you are and take you far into its story. This wonderful little book will strengthen the faith of its readers, no matter how weak or strong it may be. Mr. James Fitzhenry is a very creative and brilliant author. El Cid: God's Own Champion was rated super-high by my husband and two young adult children, and voted the best story book Fitzhenry has put together yet!

Adriana Attar
California
I greatly enjoyed reading this book to my children. They were captivated by the fascinating details of this heroes life. The author brought the characters to life with lively energy and beautifully drawn illustrations. This amazing true story is written from a Catholic perspective. El Cid epitomizes the moral virtues that are all but lost in today's society. This is a perfect addition to any home schooling program. I highly recommend this book to anyone with children.

A.H. Schermer
Amsterdam, NL
I bought this book for my future children as I want them to read about the heroes of old who once fought to save and defend our culture and our faith. I am myself descendant of Spaniards and have seen with disgust how the science of history these past decades has fallen hostage to ideology, an ideology which loves to hate the Western world and relativitize everything. Spain during the Middle Ages was a society and a nation which fought desperately for its own survival against Islamic aggression. Since Europe in those days was one Christian unity Spain - just like Charles Martel, the Byzantine empire and the sieges of Vienna - fought for the entire Christendom. Latter-day historians driven by progressive ideology have done their best to try to depict Rodrigo Diáz de Bivar as a simple free-booter, however, the sources and general knowledge about medieval Spain reveals a whole different picture. El Cid was and is a true once living example of a man who fought for freedom, faith and family, and as such he presents a true role-model for all Westerners, American and European and christians of all denominations. In this post 9/11 world to read about medieval Spain is sobering reading. Islam was and is the same ever since the days of its violent founder - pure and simple aggression bent on world-domination. Anyone who disputes this should study REAL history.

Pablo "Pablo"
Brazil

SOURCE : http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/saintfernando.html

Saint Ferdinand III of Castille

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Son of Alfonso IX, King of Leon, and Berengaria, daughter of King Alfonso III of Castile; cousin of Saint Louis IX. King of Castile in 1217 at age 18. King of Leon in 1230. King of Palencia, Valladolid, and Burgos. Married to Princess Beatrice, daughter of Philip of Swabia, King of Germany. The couple had seven sons and three daughters. In his later years, Ferdinand’s father desired to return to his throne, and he turned against Ferdinand; he eventually gave up the idea, however, and the two reconciled. Following the death of Beatrice in 1236, Ferdinand married Joan of Ponthiers, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

A stern judge when it came to the law, he was gentle and forgiving in his personal life. Founded the University of Salamanca. Rebuilt the Cathedral of Burgos. Crusaded for 27 years against the Muslims in Spain. Successfully held back Islamic invasions in 1225, and took Cordoba and Seville from them in 1234-36. Founded the Cathedral of Burgos and the University of Salamanca. Converted the Great Mosque in Seville to a cathedral.

A man of great faith and devotion, especially to Our Lady, Ferdinand founded and funded hospitals, bishoprics, monasteries, and churches. He reformed Spanish law, and compiled it into a form used for centuries after. An excellent administrator and just ruler, often pardoning those who worked against the crown. Strove always to use his power to better his people and his nation.

Born

Died
  • greyhound

SOURCE : http://catholicsaints.info/saint-ferdinand-iii-of-castille/

The death of Saint Ferdinand III, the very noble King of Castile and Leon

May 28, 2012

The preparations for the conquest of Moslem Africa were in advanced stages. The good King Don Ferdinand, close to embarking, spoke to the two Alfonsos, his son and his brother, during one warm evening while walking through the gardens, trying to convince one of the two to remain in Spain to govern it. However neither would yield in their insistent desire to go to Africa with him….


The month of May was ending and the weather was very hot in Seville. That morning the King had gone to see the various projects on the docks, and was returning tired, but happy, when suddenly an attack of his old sickness assaulted him. It was so terrible and accompanied by such a sharp pain that he clearly realized that this time he would not escape. He was taken to bed, and as soon as he recovered somewhat and was able to talk, he said to Alfonso and all there present:

“Time is running out and the hour for me to die has come.”

Thus, with simple naturality and with no sign of sorrow, he renounced his glorious dreams. For him the will of God was everything….

Ferdinand, in the meantime, requested the Viaticum to be brought to him. While a procession was being organized in Santa Maria, the humble King was preparing himself to receive his Lord and his God in the palace. He asked to be dressed in the beautiful white and gold rich silk shirt he wore on feast days, and, in reverence to Christ’s royal dignity and power, he ordered every reminder of human majesty to be removed from his chamber. He no longer wanted to see his crown or his scepter, or to think about government or honors of this world. Facing the bed where he was lying his men erected a beautiful altar with purple damasks and fine linens whiter than snow. On it they placed a sacred crucifix and six great silver candlesticks with lighted candles. One after another, the sons and brothers of the King arrived. The Queen was shedding tears of great affliction, and Teresa, Aldonza and Urraca shared her grief. With them were their husbands and the other noblemen of the King’s house and wise men of his council. Don Ferdinand’s eyes were closed, and, absorbed in prayer, he was oblivious to the things of this world. The only sounds in the large room were the difficult breathing of the patient, the crackling of a sputtering candle and unrestrained sobbing.

Suddenly the silvery sound of a distant bell was heard approaching. King Ferdinand opened his eyes and looked at the door. Clergymen, friars and knights entered, all bearing lighted candles whose small golden flames wavered with mysterious restlessness in the darkness of the large room. And, after them, carried in a gold ciborium wrapped in silk cloths by a devout and recollected priest of a military order, was the Most Holy Body of Christ. Seeing Him, a powerful surge of love revived Ferdinand, who lifted himself from the bed, knelt on the hard marble tiles, and placed a rope he had prepared around his neck as a sinful penitent. Thus, contrite and humiliated, King Ferdinand laid down his royalty before the divine royalty of Jesus Christ. Near the altar Don Remondo waited dressed in the pontifical vestments; before the ceremony began, the voice of the King rose: “Give me first the Holy Cross so that I may repent for my sins before It.”

They placed It in his hands, and, fixing his eyes on It, he began to shed bitter tears while he said:’

“Look at me here, my Lord Jesus Christ, in Thy presence as a wicked sinner, for I know well the many sins with which I have offended Thee. But great as they may be, I trust in Thy mercy that, through the merits of Thy holy Passion and Thy most precious death, Thou wilt forgive me of them. Remember, Lord, the many outrages and torments Thou suffered for my sake and by which Thou hast the name of Savior, and deliver Thy servant of his sins, which were the cause of Thy sufferings.”

At this point the King’s voice faltered, breaking in a sob. Recovering, he continued:

“I regret these offenses very much, Lord, and I grieve also for the death Thou suffered for me; and since Thy Holy Church forgives these sins, I want to confess them, to erase the bad example I have given to these my vassals here present, knowing that I detest these sins most heartily and would that I had never committed them…”

And humbly, painfully, he manifested in a loud voice all the sins of his life, from his childish actions as a boy to his last faults of yesterday. The noble countenance was covered with shame, because, although his sins were the inevitable weaknesses of which only the Mother of Christ was free, they seemed to him like great sins and, as such, he felt great sorrow. But because he understood the infinite holiness of God and because of the ardent love he had for Him, he performed this work of justice to satisfy the divine majesty he had offended. In his contrition, he continued:

“I well deserve every humiliation for my sins, yet Thou, Lord, wanted to suffer the humiliation of making them Thine and of appearing in the presence of the Father covered with them, and because of the great shame Thou didst shed blood.… And then Thou wast betrayed by one of your men, and imprisoned by the executioners and tied with rough ropes… And Thou suffered this so that I would be free! And Thou wert taken, Lord, to be judged by Annas and Caiphas and Pilate, and there Thou didst stand like a criminal… And I, who have performed so much evil, have judged Castile and León! So many outrages and so many blows Thou didst receive, and they spit on Thy Face so that I, a sinful man, would be honored by all… And Pilate’s soldiers seized Thee and scourged Thee fiercely; and while Thou were suffering it, I was in the midst of pleasures!… And they placed on Thee a crown of thorns and gave Thee a reed scepter and an infamous mantle, and while Thou wast thus mocked, I have been obeyed by all! And Thou, my Lord, wast condemned to death on the cross that I would live, and Thou carried the cross up the hill of Calvary, and on it Thou didst let Thyself be nailed and Thou didst die so that I would have Paradise with Thee!”

At this point, tears choked Ferdinand’s voice again, and the lofty head, always erect in battle, fell defeated on his chest, vanquished by love and grief, the tears sliding like a string of pearls onto the silk of his shirt down to the floor. And striking his breast with great blows, he ended his confession:

“And because by Thy death Thou earned life for me, I request, O Lord of Thy Holy Church, and you, my Father Archbishop, that you would absolve me of my sins.”

Don Remondo absolved him, and then asked him if he believed in God One, and Triune.

“I believe in Him Who is God, true and eternal, and Who gave to us of His glory; I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. And I believe that the Son made Himself man in the womb of the Glorious Blessed Virgin Mary; and I believe in and consent to all the doctrines of our Holy Mother the Church.”

Don Remondo took the Host in his hands and approached the King who lifted his head and gazed at the Host with an indescribable expression of faith and desire. He received the Body of Christ and remained absorbed in a true union with his King: it was the supreme communion between the Lord of Lords and His lieutenant in Castile.

As if he were a third person and witnessing from a distance, Ferdinand saw the devout procession leave his room. Then he ordered to have the precious tunic he had worn to be taken off him and went back to his bed. He remained motionless for sometime, his head inclined on the pillows that kept him half-raised in calm and quiet prayer. The Queen cried at his side, and his sons surrounded his bed, awaiting the moment of the last blessing.

Finally Don Ferdinand opened his eyes and called his eldest: “My son, Alfonso, come here!”

The Infante knelt at his father’s side. Ferdinand lifted his right hand, and, very slowly because his strength was already seeping away, made the Sign of the Cross on him as a blessing. Then, taking his right hand between his, the King said:

“Son, you well see how my life is ending, and I am leaving to give my soul to Him Who created it and redeemed it. Tomorrow you will be King of all these realms of Castile and León. Fear, love and obey God and join your will and deeds with Him and you will have a good end. Do not fail to do good while you can, as these good works will save your soul, and everything will pass before you like a dream. Rule the people justly and follow my instruction to continue the task of compiling the laws so we can govern all the people with the same consistent code. Take care of your brothers and strive to improve their situations and treat them in such a way that they do not regret having been born second. Consider the Queen like a mother and give her all the honor appropriate for a queen. I also recommend to you Don Alfonso my brother, and all my other brothers and sisters. Honor all the noblemen of your kingdoms and always favor the knights, and faithfully follow their laws and their exceptions and freedoms and those of all your people.”

The King paused briefly to regain his strength because life was leaving him; he looked in Alfonso’s eyes again and added with an effort that made him tremble convulsively: “If all this that I entrust to you, plead with you, and order you to fulfill is accomplished you will have my full blessing, and if not, my curse.”

“Amen,” answered Alfonso, his voice also somewhat choked from the emotion of that supreme moment.

Then the other children who were in Seville began to approach: Fadrique, Henry, Felipe, Manuel, Ferdinand, Doña Eleanor and Luis; each one the king blessed, making the Sign of the Cross on them with his own hand. Manuel, in his turn, approached with his tutor Don Peter López de Avala who said to Ferdinand when the Infante knelt: “Lord, if I have served you well, I beg of you as a favor not to leave Manuel without an inheritance.”

Don Ferdinand was nearing his end, exhausted by the effort of being on his knees for such a long time, the emotional confession and the farewell to his sons. Such was his condition that he could only speak with great effort. He lifted his hand, purple as a lily, and placing it with a gesture of a caress on the head of the distressed young man, said: “Son, you are the last son I had of Queen Doña Beatrice, who was a very good and holy woman, and I know she loved you very much. However, I cannot give you any inheritance, but I give you my sword Lobera, which has religious significance and with which God did much good for me.”

He then wished to be alone. Watching them leave, he again called Don Alfonso, his firstborn, whom he had loved and honored so much and whom he so greatly trusted.

“Son, you will be rich in land and in many good vassals, more than any other king in Christendom. Try hard to do good and be good; I leave you lord of all the land this side of the sea that the Moors won from the Visgoth King Roderick. All of it remains under your lordship, either conquered or tributary. If you maintain the boundaries of the state as I am leaving them to you, you are as good a king as I; if you conquer more, you are better, and if the boundaries decrease, then you are not as good as I.”

The Queen was supported by her ladies. After his sons had left, Alfonso de Molina, Rodrigo Alfonso and his other brothers, the noblemen, his companions in toil and glory, all passed before him, kissing as farewell the rigid hand that had fallen on the sheet. The dying King looked at them, saying his goodbye with his eyes because the fatigue of his heart, which no longer wanted to beat, was choking him like a halter. The Mayor Chamberlain dared to ask him: “Do you want us, Lord, to make a statue of your sepulcher?”

The King, sincere and contemptuous of all human vanities, gave him this reply: “Let my life and my works be my sepulcher and statue!”

Don Remondo, the other priests of Santa María and the friars of the monasteries of Seville remained in the royal chamber. After having bid final farewell to all those whom he loved and associated with in this life, now these religious were the only companions that he wanted in this supreme hour. On a small table at his bedside was the Virgin of the Battles, helping him to win this last one. Suddenly Ferdinand looked fixedly on high, his face transformed by an ineffable happiness that swept away the pain of his final agony. He was like this for some time, and the churchmen surrounding him even believed he had died. Coming back from his ecstasy, he smiled joyously and said to them: “The hour has come…give me the candle!”

Lifting his eyes, he continued speaking to God: “Lord, Thou gavest to me a kingdom I did not have and more honor and power than I deserved. Thou gavest me life as long as it was Thy pleasure. Lord, I give Thee thanks; and I surrender to Thee and deliver to Thee the kingdom Thou gavest me, with the improvements that I was able to achieve, and I offer Thee my soul.” Then he looked at those present. “If, through my fault, you have any complaint, please forgive me for it.”

Shedding many tears they answered: “We pray to God to forgive you and know that you depart forgiven by us.”

Then he took the candle with both hands, and somehow found strength in his moral energy to lift it on high while he said: “Lord, naked I came out of my mother’s womb which was the earth, and naked I offer myself to her; and, Lord, receive my soul in the company of Thy servants.” He lowered the candle and adored it as representative of the Holy Ghost.

The sounds of his final agony began. Perspiration made his hair adhere to the livid forehead, and large drops fell and soaked the pillows. Their voices dulled by tears, the choir intoned the Litany of the Saints. Toward the end, Ferdinand fixed his sight on that point where heaven opened for him.

“Sing the Te Deum!” he ordered in a rapture of joy.

What was he seeing? Was it the angels and saints whom God was sending to receive him? Was it his Lady Holy Mary? Or the Eternal King Jesus Christ coming to receive his knight? Don Ferdinand very simply and gently lowered his eyes, wishing to lock forever in its pupils that last and sweetest vision of his life. The purple face became white, the fine whiteness of ivory; the lips remained half-open with an expression of both supreme desire and ineffable enjoyment…. The holy King Don Ferdinand was entering the last and noblest of all of his conquests, the Kingdom of Heaven. “Te Dominum confitemur,” the choir continued singing near his body.

And there above the white roofs of Seville, in the star-filled sky of that May night, they say the angels were heard singing a song that human ears had never before heard.

Sr. Maria del Carmen Fernández de Castro Cabeza, A.C.J., The Life of the Very Noble King of Castile and León, Saint Ferdinand III (Mount Kisco, N.Y.: The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, Inc., 1987), pp. 272-278.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 181

Nobility.org Editorial Comment: —

Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira sustained that the full expression of nobility is only found within the Catholic faith.

This post on St. Ferdinand helps understand why this is so.

A noble lives a life of sacrifice in the furtherance of the common good of his people. What can possibly inspire him to this supreme self-abnegation better than the example of Our Divine Savior, who suffered everything for our redemption, to open for us the gates of Heaven?

Our Lord was St. Ferdinand’s supreme inspiration and reference point in life. May his example help us and our leaders today, “to try hard to do good and be good,” as St. Ferdinand instructed his eldest son and heir, the future Alphonsus X, the Wise.