Saint Isabel of France

Saint Isabel of France

Isabel was the sister of Saint Louis IX, the illustrious French monarch of the thirteenth century. Her father was King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. She was not only affluent and regal, but she was also a very intelligent and accomplished lady. All these perks of being a princess were abandoned, though, as she prioritized holiness over all else.

She was well-known for her intense fasting and prayer even as a young girl. She enjoyed studying and took Latin classes to enable her to read the Church Fathers and pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Even when she was courted by well-known men, Isabel refused to be married. She was once personally written to by the pope, who encouraged her to wed the Jerusalem king for the benefit of Christendom. However, her rejection to marry the king was so intelligent and modest that he accepted her desire to devote her life to God alone.

Isabel used to seat the needy at her table and serve them herself every day before she ate dinner. She would visit sick and impoverished people during the evening.

She founded the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a convent for Franciscan women, and asked St. Bonaventure to draft the community's code of conduct.

Isabel lived in a room apart from the nuns' cells in the monastery, but she never became a part of the community. She refused to be given the title of abbess of the convent because her ailments throughout her life prevented her from abiding by the nuns' rules. She was also able to maintain her riches and resources as a result, enabling her to help the community and the underprivileged. She spent the majority of her day abstaining from speaking.

Isabel recognized the relationship between the Eucharist and the call to service it contains. During the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples' feet, a reminder to us to humble ourselves in the service of others. Isabel usually went on her knees to the few maids she had and sought their pardon before taking communion herself.

Throughout her life, she experienced ecstasies related to her prayer practice, including a time close to the end when she spent several nights awake in deep meditation. In 1270, she passed away.

Many people venerate St. Isabel of France as the patroness of marriage, peace, and adultery victims. She is also revered as a guardian against the death of children and jealousy. In 1696, Pope Innocent XII canonized her as a saint. Her feast day is February 26.

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