Constantine, Charlemagne, St. Louis King of France and Trump?

God’s Way? Trump’s Way?

Now that Donald Trump has become the 45th president of the United States, the question remains: will he govern with loving wisdom or hasty self-indulgence? To search for answers, please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to St. John Lateran in Rome, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, as we explore the legacy of three great Christian leaders: Constantine, Charlemagne and St. Louis King of France.

“There is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1918).

In last weeks blog post, entitled, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s”, we visited St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome and found, within its very design and contents, a perfect balance or peaceful harmony existing between the Church and State. Above the entrance of the Basilica’s large bronze doors were the inscribed words, “Christ the Savior”. Guarding the entrance was a statue of Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome and protector of the Pope. Within the interior was a larger than life statue of St. Peter, the rock upon whom Christ established His Church. Therefore, at the center of secular and spiritual authority, we find the Lord, who alone is worthy of our praise, honor and unwavering obedience.

Centered above is St. John Lateran in Rome. On either side is the exterior statue of Constantine the Great (left) and interior statue of St. Peter, the first Pope of the Catholic Church (right).

On Wednesday, November 9th, the day following the presidential election, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast Day of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. Mere coincidence, you may ask. I think not, for with God, there are no coincidences, but simply moments of divine enlightenment or suggestion.

Excerpt from the Second Reading on November 9, 2016: Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. (1Corinthians 3:9-11).

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The eastern facade of St. John Lateran topped with 15 large travertine statues, including the central figure of Jesus standing atop the famous “sign of Constantine” or Chi-Rho.

 

How then, should the public authority, belonging to an order established by God, govern and build upon the foundation of Christ? Again, we can find some answers within the very design of St. John Lateran, for at the center of the eastern facade, we find Jesus standing atop the famous “Chi-Rho” or miraculous sign of Constantine. Formed by superimposing the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, this symbol invokes the authority of Jesus and His status as the Jewish Messiah. Only in placing our trust in God, can victory be ensured. According to historical chroniclers, Constantine and his soldiers saw a vision of the Chi-Rho in the sky prior to their unexpected victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge outside of Rome. Knowing this sign came from God, Constantine knew that they were guarantee victory. Therefore, he and his soldiers faithfully painted the Chi-Rho on their shields and subsequently won the important battle. As a result, Charlemagne became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Here, we learn that when a secular ruler places his trust in God, good results abound!

So, the question remains, will Donald Trump keep his eyes on Christ, govern with love and wisdom, and ensure good things for the people of God?  Ultimately, only time will tell. However, a brief exploration of our final two pilgrimage locations, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, may help to shed some light on what a divinely ordained governance looks like.

Pictured above is Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and its adjacent statue of Charlemagne, the 8th century Frankish King. 

Notre-Dame, the seat of the Catholic bishop of Paris, is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. Originally completed in 1345, it was restored in 1845 following the radical desecrations of the French Revolution (1789-1799). In front of the cathedral, we find a large statue of Charlemagne, the Frankish King from 768 until 814. He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Eve in 800 AD. As the Pope’s protector, Charlemagne repelled Islamic invaders from northern Spain and removed the warring Lombards from northern Italy. As a devout Catholic, he desired to root out paganism within his realm and deepen the piety and morals of his subjects. Deepening of the spiritual life, therefore, played a central role in his public policy and royal governance. In addition, Charlemagne supported and advocated for education, literature, art, architecture, monetary stability, and Church reform. These combined efforts ultimately produced abundant fruit and resulted in the great time period in European history known as the Caroligian Renaissance.

Above: St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans and its interior statue of St. Louis IX of France.

St. Louis Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic bishop of New Orleans and considered to be the oldest cathedral in the United States. A small wooden church, first built on this site in 1689, was later replaced by a larger church of brick and timber in 1727. Today, little remains of this brick structure due to damaging effects of the great 1788 New Orleans flood. Reflecting a harmony between Church and State, St. Louis Cathedral is one of the few Catholic churches in the United States which fronts a major public square (Jackson Square).

Its name sake, St. Louis, King of France (1226-1270), is often considered the model for Christian leadership and is, to date, the only French monarch to be declared a saint. His compassion was well known, as he personally welcomed, served and fed over a hundred impoverished subjects daily. Although he commanded a large army, he sought peaceful negotiation when settling disputes. His reputation for fairness was renown. Subsequently, he often served as arbiter for the other European monarchs. As King, his Christian values and strong Catholic devotion greatly impacted his governance. As such, he punished blasphemy, gambling, prostitution, and the imposition of interest-bearing loans on the needy. Legally, King Louis reformed the French system of appeal and allowed for the amendment of unjust judgments rendered. Under his reign, France experienced a “golden century” filled with political, cultural and economic success. Tragically, fighting to ensure the safety of Christians in the Holy Land, St. Louis lost his life during the last of his two failed crusades.

Closing Prayer: Let us pray that our new president, like Constantine the Great, places God at the center of his decisions. That, like the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, he protects religious liberty and deepens the piety and morals of the people of this great nation. Finally, like St. Louis King of France, he shows compassion for the impoverished, seeks peaceful dialogue when settling disputes, and fights for justice for all, so that America may experience a “golden century” filled with political, cultural, and economic success. A century filled with love of God and country. Amen

3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

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