We need more leaders such as Saint Henry (+1024, ‘Emperor of the Romans’ and ‘King of the Italians’, the last of the ‘Ottonian’ line – descended from the Emperor of the recently re-founded Roman Empire, Otto I (+973). Henry was from Bavaria – whence Josef Ratzinger would also hail a millennium on – upon whom was bestowed the iron crown of Rome in 1014 until his death on this day in 1024, after a decade of pious ruling, wherein he consolidated Europe’s alliance with the Church, and was a remarkable almsgiver, to the poor, to parishes, to schools.
As the Emperor himself wrote of the nature and purpose of his reign:
“Henry, king by the preordained mercy of God, to all the sons of the Church, both future and present. By the most salutary instructions of sacred eloquence we are taught and advised to abandon temporal riches, to lay aside earthly goods, and to strive to reach the eternal and everlasting dwelling-places in heaven. For present glory is fleeting and meaningless, while it is possessed, unless in it we can glimpse something of heaven’s eternity. But God’s mercy towards the human race provided a useful remedy when he made the reward for earthly existence a share in our heavenly country.
Therefore, not unmindful of this clemency and aware that by the gratuitous consideration of divine mercy we were raised up to a position of regal dignity, we think it fitting not only to enlarge the churches constructed by our ancestors, but for the greater glory of God to build new ones and to raise them up as the most grateful gifts of our devotion.
(Ah, yes, churches – instead, in Canada and France, we’re burning them down).
Furthermore, not turning a deaf ear to the Lord’s commandments and obediently following divine urgings, we desire to take the treasures of divine generosity bestowed on us by his bounty and store them in heaven, where thieves cannot dig them up or steal them and rust or moth may not destroy them. Moreover, when we reflect upon all that we have now stored up, our heart will be often drawn with longing and love.”
Would that Trudeau and Biden, both Catholics whose authority in some mysterious way also comes from God (even if as a punishment for our sins) would write something that would evoke – however remotely – similar sentiments of humility and piety! Commandments, almsgiving…attaining heaven?
Underneath Henry’s complex reign in a tumultuous time shines a soul of holiness, rare in politics, one might imagine, where the art of the practical and utilitarian dominates, but not impossible. He married Cunegunde, whom we may presume was charming, and was definitely saintly; for, she, like her husband, was later canonized. Their marital union, alas, produced no children, but their example and intercession live on, in eternity. We should pray for those in high office; for those to whom much is given – even if they be not worthy of it, and who of us is? – much can be accomplished, but much will also be demanded.