A good example from Saint Louis IX of France:
King Louis VIII died in 1226, leaving the throne of France to his 12-year-old son Louis IX. St. Louis IX of France married in 1234 at the age of 19. His marriage to Margaret lasted 36 years and resulted in 11 children, nine of whom reached adulthood. Louis and Margaret were very deliberate to provide a strong Catholic formation for their children.
On his deathbed, St. Louis IX of France wrote the following to his son Philip who would go on to inherit the throne and would be known as Philip the Bold:
“My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.
If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.
Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.
Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate, and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders.
Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies.
In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do His will so that He may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him, and praise him unceasingly.”
How will I apply this? (The Challenge):
Step 1: I will decide to write a similar letter of vision to my children.
Step 2: I will prayerfully consider the following outline based on St. Louis’ work:
Paragraph 1 – Instruction to love God above all else and to never commit a mortal sin.
Paragraph 2 – How to handle times of trial and times of prosperity.
Paragraph 3 – Advice on prayer.
Paragraph 4 – Encouragement to live a life of service.
Paragraph 5 – Be obedient and lead well.
Paragraph 6 – Final blessing and prayer.
Step 3: I will write a quick sentence to capture the essence of what I would like to impart in each paragraph.
Step 4: I will flesh out each paragraph until I have a final draft.
Step 5: I will read it to my children and then keep it for them.
Some possible results:
- I may experience greater clarity in what is most essential in the formation I am called to provide for my children – stripping away future distractions and forging a more perfect focus.
- I may gain a better understanding of the model I am called to hand on in the words and actions of my own life – further freeing me to be the virtuous man I was made to be.
- I may hand on to my children, to their children, and to future generations in my lineage a worthy vision for life – ensuring a point of future inspiration and accountability that could help to edify and sanctify others beyond what I could ever imagine.
Saint Louis IX of France, pray for us!