St. FernandoPatron Saint of Dignity San Fernando Valley

St. Ferdinand, the patron of the seventeenth California mission, was a product of the thirteenth century.

Ferdinand of Spain, the third king of that name, was the son of Alfonso II, King of Leon, and of Berengaria, daughter of Alfonso III, King of Castile and sister of Blanche, the mother of St. Louis IX, King of France. He was born at Salamanca about the end of 1198. King Alfonso III, of Castile, having died in 1214, and his successor King Henry having passed away in 1217, young Ferdinand’s mother, Queen Berengaria, the legal heir to the throne of Castile, resigned in favor of her son Ferdinand, who thus at the age of eighteen became King of Castile, while his father, Alfonso II reigned over the kingdom of Leon. On the advice of his mother, Ferdinand, in 1219, married Beatrix, Daughter of Philip of Suabia, Emperor of Germany, a most virtuous and accomplished princess. Their happy union was blessed with six sons and one daughter. Ferdinand proved himself both a brave and remarkably prudent ruler. His wisdom and constant solicitude for the welfare of his people appeared most conspicuous in the happy choice of governors, magistrates and generals. Archbishop Rodriguez of Toledo, his chancellor of Castile for thirty years, ably assisted the king in all his deliberations. In order to curb the excesses of lower tribunals, Ferdinand established the court since called the Royal Council of Castile. This consisted of ten auditors to whom, sitting as a court, appeal could be made from all other tribunals. A code of laws which he caused to be compiled by the ablest lawyers, was called Los Partidos.

The highest aim of Ferdinand’s life was the liberation of Spain from the Muslims and the propagation of the Christian Faith. No necessity, however, could make him impose any heavy tax in his subjects. In all his wars with the Moors, therefore, when it was suggested to him to levy a heavy contribution for the raising the means required, Ferdinand would reject the proposition with indignation, and declare: “God will supply the means in other ways.”

His whole conduct in private or public life, and specially as leader of military troops, bore testimony to the truth of his solemn protestation with which he appealed to Heaven: “Thou, O Lord, Who searches the secrets of hearts, knows that I desire Thy Glory, not mine, and the increase of Thy Faith and Holy Religion, not of transitory kingdoms.”

Thus Ferdinand would set his men the most perfect example of devotion to his religious duties. He fasted rigorously, prayed much, wore a hair-shirt , and specially before battles would spend whole nights in earnest prayer. When victory was won he would give the glory to God. In his army he caused an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be borne along publicly, and he himself wore another small image of her on his breast.

From 1225, when he began to draw his sword against the enemies of his country and his Faith, till 1234 Ferdinand succeeded in wresting one petty kingdom after another from intruders until Seville was reached. Here the Moors had concentrated their forces and divided into seven fighting bodies each of which was stronger than the Christian army, which could muster but 1500 warriors. Yet the Muslims were defeated with the loss of Christians of only one knight and ten soldiers. The victory proved so crushing and remarkable that the Christian officers instituted a close investigation. They questioned Moorish prisoners and all that might offer trustworthy explanation. They finally came to the conclusion that St. James, the Apostle, had appeared at the head of a little Christian army in the armor of a knight mounted on a white horse. There after the battle cry of the Spaniards was Sant Jago! Or Santiago! (St.James).

Ferdinand receiving the city keys from the Moors

While King James Of Aragon recovered the kingdoms of Majorca and Valencia from the Moors, Ferdinand captured the stronghold of Islam in Spain – Cordoba, which had been in the hands of the Moors for 524 years. The victorious king entered the city at the head of his army on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1236. The great mosque was duly rededicated by the Bishop of Osma, and converted into cathedral under the invocation of the Mother of God.

During the three last years of his life, Ferdinand, since the death of his father, King Alfonso II, in 1230, also King of Leon, and therefore called Alfonso III, King of Castile and Leon, resided at Seville in order to institute the tribunals and to regulate the affairs of the two kingdoms, though not without continuing in a measure to recover territory from the Muslims. He thus demonstrated by his example that genuine piety is consistent with the duties of a Christian ruler and a military leader. Though severe with himself, he was compassionate and mild toward everybody else, and always master of himself.

Ferdinand was making preparations to carry the war into Africa when he was overtaken by his last illness. He recognized the call from above, and prepared for death by general confession. He then received Viaticum. After receiving the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, Ferdinand, the noble, the brave and beloved, calmly surrendered his soul to his Creator on May 30, 1252, at the age of 53.

In accordance with his wishes, his body was shrouded in the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis. Like St. Louis of France, he had been a faithful Franciscan. He was then buried at the feet of the image of the Blessed Virgin in the great cathedral of Seville. Pope Clement X in 1671 placed Ferdinand in the Catalogue of the Saints. The Franciscans celebrate his feast on May 30th.