Friday, February 26, 2016

St. Isabelle of France, Princess: Woman of Charity and Humility



Today, February 26, the Church honors Saint Isabelle of France, (1225-1270, also known as Isabel and Isabella), the daughter of King Louis VIII of France and sister to the illustrious king of France, St. Louis IX.

Isabelle was gifted in many ways: she was beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous. She was well-known for her charity to others. Daily, she invited poor people to her dinner table, waiting on them herself. She spent her evenings visiting the poor and the sick.

As a child, she requested spiritual direction and became even more devoted to the Lord, under the guidance of the Franciscans. She sought holiness above all else and refused to marry, but consecrated her virginity and her entire life to God alone.

In 1252, Isabelle founded a cloister for Franciscan nuns, which she built just four miles from Paris, at Longchamp. She had a great love for the virtue of humility and named the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The rules, which were written by St. Bonaventure, were unique to this group of women, who prayed, fasted, and provided assistance to the poor. Isabelle never joined the community herself, but after her mother died, did live in the monastery in a room apart from the nuns’ cells. She maintained a discipline of silence for most of her day. She suffered from many illnesses during her life, which prevented her from following the rule of life for the nuns which was one reason she refused to be named abbess of the monastery. This also allowed her to retain her wealth and possessions, in order to fund the monastery and to support the poor.

Her life of prayer was marked by ecstasies at several points of her life, including a period of time near the end of her life when she stayed awake through several nights in rapt contemplation. Isabelle died at Longchamp in 1270 and was buried in the monastery church. Many miracles have since occurred at her burial site. Her cult was approved in 1521. She is the patroness of sick people.

Litany of Humility 

Written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may increase and I may decrease, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, grant me the grace to desire it.

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