September 29 – In battle or in prison, he never missed Mass

September 26, 2013

Blessed Charles of Blois

(1320- September 29, 1364)

Bl. Charles of Blois

Bl. Charles of Blois

Charles is the son of Guy I of Blois-Châtillon, count of Blois, by Margaret of Valois, a sister of king Philip VI of France. Early in life, he felt a call to be a Franciscan friar, but political duty kept him in secular life. Following his marriage to Joan of Brittany in 1337, he found it necessary to defend his accession to the dukedom of Brittany by force of arms against a rival claimant. Thus started a lifetime of battle, in which Charles manifested both virtue and bravery. As a conscientious military man, Charles sought to avert the bloody horrors of war, going so far as to offer to engage his enemy in single combat to spare the men under his command.

He founded monasteries to pray for the souls of those slain in battle and provided for the poor in war-raved cities. On one occasion he delayed a battle to allow his soldiers to attend Mass first. When an officer of his objected that this would jeopardize their military campaign, Charles answered, “My lord, we can always have towns and castles. If they are taken away from us, God will help us to get them back again. But we cannot afford to miss Mass.”

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Charles was a devout man, who took piety to the extreme of mortifying his own flesh. It is said that he placed pebbles in his shoes, wore ropes tight with knots near his flesh and confessed every night in fear of sleeping in a state of sin. He was nevertheless an accomplished military leader, who inspired loyalty by his religious fervour. Along the way he founded several religious houses, and was known for his Christian treatment of prisoners.

Combat des Trente

In 1346 he was defeated by John de Montfort, who sent him to England to languish in the Tower of London prison until ransom and release nine years later in 1355. Throughout his captivity, his jailers were edified with his deep piety.

After being ransomed, he returned to France and resumed the Breton War of Succession. Charles was killed in the Battle of Auray, September 29, 1364, which determined the end of the war and the victory of the Montforts.

Battle of Auray

One of his five children, Marie de Bretagne, had married Duke Louis of Anjou in 1360, and she lost no opportunity to remind people of her father’s moral qualities. Beginning in 1366, groups of children began arriving, as if on pilgrimage, to pray at the tomb of Charles de Blois, at the monastery of the Cordeliers in Guingamp. They came from the regions of Blois and France held by Louis of Anjou. A few miraculous cures were attributed to Charles’ intercession, and the first one was declared official in 1367. That same year, another miracle occurred at another Cordelier monastery, in the town of Dinan.

He was canonized as saint for his devotion to religion, but the process was made null by Pope Gregory XI by request of Duke John V of Brittany. Subsequently, in 1904, he was beatified by Pope Pius X.

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