Saint Henry, King and Emperor

Today we remember Saint Henry, Emperor of the Romans and King of the Italians, the last of the ‘Ottonian’ line – deriving from the original Emperor, Otto I. Henry was from Bavaria – whence Josef Ratzinger would also hail a millennium on – who became Holy Roman Emperor in 1014 until his death on this day in 1024, 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.

Underneath his complex reign in a tumultuous time shines a soul of holiness, rare in politics, one might imagine, where the ‘art of the practical’ dominates, but not impossible. He married Cunegunde, who was also later canonized, but 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.