Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of Saint Louis Bertrand, confessor of the Order of Preachers. His feast is III Class, so the ordinary office is prayed according to the rubrics. A commemoration of Ss. Denis, Bishop, and companions is made at Lauds only.
The Breviary contains a full set of propers for his feast. The hymn at Lauds is quite beautiful, and recounts many of the miracles attributed to him during his life:
In praise of Louis, see, on high,
The purple dawn bedecks the sky;
Dark night its mantle puts away,
For now has dawned his festal day.
Thus Louis in the Indies dwelled,
And darkness of their night dispelled;
He broke the idols made of clay,
And with the cross held beasts at bay.
Then, Twice, that faith be lifted up,
He drank from deadly poison-cup;
His word the sea's wild waves made tame,
And set a limit for the flame.
A pattern to his Order, he,
By noble virtues, high and free;
And as he breathes his soul on high,
Lights wondrous from his lips then fly.
Let praise and endless glory be
To all the Holy Trinity,
Who shows his majesty and light
As Louis triumphs in the fight. Amen.
From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
Saint Louis Bertrand was one of the many great Saints which Catholic Spain gave to the Church in the sixteenth century. He was born at Valencia of holy parents, who were in a good position in life and near akin to the family of Saint Vincent Ferrer. On the very day of his birth, January 1, A.D. 1526, he received the Sacrament of regeneration at the same font in which Saint Vincent had been baptized a century and a half previously. Before he was eight years old he began daily to recite the Office of Our Lady, and at an early age he obtained permission to visit and nurse the sick in the hospitals. To conceal his frequent Communions from the knowledge of others, he was accustomed to receive in different churches. When still quite a boy, he fled secretly from his home, intending to spend his life as a poor pilgrim, but he was overtaken and brought back.
Lewis now conceived an ardent desire to enter the Order of Saint Dominic, but his father, who could not bear to part with him, raised many obstacles in the way of his following out his vocation: and it was not until he was nearly nineteen that he was clothed in the white habit he had so long coveted. He made his solemn vows on the 27th of August, A.D. 1545, and two years later was raised to the priesthood, before he had attained the age of twenty-two. The fervor which he felt in singing his first Mass never relaxed during his whole life; he was always distinguished for his intense devotion to the Adorable Sacrament, and he became one of the many Saints who were instrumental in God's hands in restoring the ancient practice of frequent communion.
Four years after his ordination he was appointed Master of Novices. In accepting this post, the rule he made for himself and faithfully carried out was to be the first in every duty and a living example to those under his charge of all the virtues which he desired to form in them. His discipline was indeed somewhat severe, but his novices were well aware that their holy master chastised his own body with penances tenfold harder than any which he imposed upon them. He was full of sympathy for them in all their trials and temptations, and trained so great a number in the religious life, that his holy Franciscan friend, Blessed Nicholas Factor, used to compare him to Blessed Jordan of Saxony, who is said to have clothed more than a thousand novices with his own hand.
Saint Lewis had the consolation of assisting his father in his last hours. During the eight years which followed, he prayed and suffered incessantly for the release of that beloved soul from Purgatory, and at length was comforted by beholding it in glory.
The Community of Valencia having been compelled to disperse for a time on account of the ravages of the plague, Saint Lewis became Superior of the small Convent of Saint Anne at Albayda, where he distinguished himself by his great charity to the poor and his bold denunciation of public scandals from the pulpit. This apostolic liberty of speech nearly cost him his life, for a gentleman of high rank was so incensed by one of his sermons, which he believed to be pointed at his own flagrant wickedness, as to attempt to shoot him; but the Saint quietly made the sign of the Cross, and the gun levelled against him was miraculously changed into a crucifix.
In the year 1562, Saint Lewis, whose daily prayer at the elevation in the Mass was: "Grant, O Lord, that I may die for Thee, who didst deign to die for me," set sail for South America, where he labored as a missionary amongst the Indians for seven years, gathering many thousands into the fold of Christ, and earning for himself the title of the Apostle of New Granada. He preached on the Isthmus of Panama and in the north-western part of South America, even penetrating alone among the savage tribes of the Caribs, who inhabited some of the West Indian Islands, and who had hitherto been regarded as irreclaimable. They listened, however, to the voice of the Saint, and great numbers were converted. One of the idolatrous priests, enraged at Saint Lewis's success, administered to him virulent poison, which nearly caused his death, and from the effects of which he continued to suffer to the end of his life. God favored him with the gift of tongues in a double way. Sometimes, speaking in his native Castilian, he was understood by his hearers as if he had been using their language; at other times he employed languages of which he himself was naturally ignorant. His preaching was also confirmed by many miracles.
In the year 1569, Saint Lewis, distressed by the cruelties practiced on the Indians by their Spanish conquerors, returned to Spain, where, after governing for three years the Convent of Saint Onuphrius and discharging for a time his old office of novice-master, he was elected Prior of his own Convent in Valencia. As Superior, he gave his Community a wonderful example of every religious virtue, always doing more himself than he required of others.
Saint Lewis Bertrand united to a tender love for his Divine Master an eminent degree of the gift of holy fear ; not that servile fear which springs from self-love, but a reverential fear lest his own sinfulness should render him unworthy of the eternal possession of God. He was also distinguished for his great love of the Rosary, and he often made use of his Rosary and the intercession of Our Lady to veil the miraculous powers with which God had endowed him. Thus it was by the application of his Rosary that he raised a girl to life in South America.
His last illness was long and painful At length, on October 9, A.D. 1581, his blessed soul was released from the prison of the body, his passage out of this world being marked by many prodigies. He was beatified by Paul V., A.D. 1608, and canonized by Clement X., A.D. 1671. At the beginning of the present century his holy body was still incorrupt.
O God, through mortifications of the body and preaching of the faith, you raised the blessed Louis, your confessor, to the glory of the saints; grant that what we profess by faith we may ever fulfill by works of piety. Through our Lord...