Often we think of politicians as corrupt people who lack virtue and while this can certainly be true, some politicians throughout the ages have displayed great virtue, character, and faith, and some of them have even become saints!
1. St. Thomas More
St. Thomas More was a noted lawyer and statesman and served as a councilor to King Henry VIII and as Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to May 1532. He was known as an honest and effective public servant and he rapidly grew in influence and office.
He opposed Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragorn and would not sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul their marriage; citing ill health, More petitioned the King to let him resign his position and the King granted it. St. Thomas More then refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn and also refused to take an oath of supremacy of the Crown, which named the King of England the successor of St. Peter instead of the Pope. Thomas was imprisoned and then beheaded for his steadfastness to the faith and refusal to give in to an evil political regime.
Pope St. John Paul II named him patron saint of politicians and statesmen.
2. St. Louis IX
St. Louis IX was King of France from 1226 until his death while on the Eighth Crusade in 1270 and is the only canonized king of France. He punished blasphemy, gambling, interest-bearing loans, and prostitution, and introduced the presumption of innocence in criminal procedures.
As king, Louis took very seriously his mission as “lieutenant of God on earth” and that is why he participated in two crusades, though they were unsuccessful; he did everything for the glory of God and the good of his people. He was said to have never spoken ill of anyone and showed mercy even to rebels! Louis also fed beggars directly from his table and helped the poor in many ways.
He is the patron saint of France and the French monarchy and of Third Order Franciscans.
3. St. Casimir
St. Casimir was the second son of the king of Poland and his father had planned to use Casimir as a way to further cement his power and authority, but Casimir had other plans. Casimir was extremely devout and saw the riches that surrounded him as temptations and so wore very plain clothes.
He was goaded into leading an army to overtake the Hungarian throne at the behest of his father, whom he felt much obedience to, but thought the whole plot was off. When men started deserting, Casimir took this as a sign and returned home, finding out that Pope Sixtus IV opposed the move. His father exiled him, hoping to turn him back to his cause, but Casimir’s resolve to follow only the good plan of the Lord was strengthened and he resolved to follow his father no more, even turning down a marriage alliance; he spent the rest of his days studying, praying, and helping the poor.
St. Casimir is a light of hope for politics, showing that we must remember to whom the glory actually belongs and whom we serve, placing the glory of God and the good of others before our own glory. Many of our present politicians would do well to remember this!
4. St. Margaret of Scotland
St. Margaret is a great example of a “woman behind the man” as she and her husband, Malcolm were close and she was able to influence his life and rule very much. Malcolm listened to Margaret’s advise, as she was very wise and she is credited with softening his temper.
The couple prayed together often, her piety influencing him, and they also often fed the poor themselves. She also made sure that there were good teachers for all the people and had many churches built; she would even embroider the priests’ vestments herself!
St. Margaret shows us that politics isn’t all just about policies and power, but also about influencing others to do good.
Isabella I of Castile (of Isabella and Ferdinand) bears the title Servant of God for her commitment to Christian values and her reputation of sanctity. She, along with her husband, navigated Spain through many rough years and reformed much of the government for the better.