13 September 2014

The only fault of a king was his mercy...

Louis I the Pious, King of the Franks and the son of the Emperor Charlemagne, has not been raised to the dignity of the altars as a Blessed or as a Saint, but there is a remarkable line about in the Vita Hludowici imperatoris, an early chronicle of his life by an anonymous author known to us as the Astronomer.

Coronation of Louis the Pious by Jean Fouquet
 When speaking of the enemies of King Louis the Pious, the Astronomer writes that
the envious could find only one fault to which he had succumbed: he was too merciful.
As I read this line yesterday in Andrew J. Romig's article, "In Praise of the Too-Clement Emporer: The Problem of Forgiveness in the Astronomer's Vita Hludowici imperatoris (Speculum 89:2 [April 2014], 382-409), I could not help but wonder what the world would be like if that was the only fault any of our enemies could find in us.

At the same time, I was keenly aware that I certainly have more than one fault of which my enemies could accuse me, and that being too merciful is not always one of my faults. Likely enough, it is the same with you.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has stressed again and again and again the necessity of being merciful toward others because the Lord has been merciful to us. If a medieval king can be known for his mercy, why can't I? Why can't you?

Today the Psalmist asks, "How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me" (Psalm 116:12)? We can make a return to the Lord by being merciful toward others, with the knowledge and gratitude of God's mercy already given to us.

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