Saint Henry

Feast day July 13

Saints Stories for All Ages

You know that the president of the United States is elected by the people. If he doesn’t do a good job or doesn’t take care of the needs of the people, they will elect someone else the next time. In the 10th century, leaders were not elected, and so they did not have to worry about pleasing their subjects in order to stay in power. Because of this, many emperors and kings took advantage of the power, luxury, and honor of their position without responsibly working for the good of their people. Kings often chose to ignore or to squelch conflict rather than to resolve it justly. In the midst of these circumstances, Henry, the son of the Duke of Bavaria, set the example of a Christlike leader. Jesus said that a leader is one who serves. And that is what Henry did.

Henry was married to Cunegunda of Luxembourg, but they had no children. When he was 34 years old, Henry became king of Germany. As a ruler, Henry concentrated on the good of his people. He built monasteries, helped the poor, fought against unjust seizure of power, and relieved all kinds of oppression.

Once his brother-in-law and some other relatives complained that Henry was wasting the family fortune on the poor. They actually got an army together to challenge Henry’s rule. Henry met them on the battlefield and put down the uprising, then pardoned them out of Christian charity.

In 1014 Henry was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. That title made him ruler of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, and northern Italy, as we know these countries today. Henry was well known for his missionary spirit and for his protection of the pope in times of trouble. Henry ruled with a spirit of great humility and always sought to give the glory to God. He used his position to promote the work of the Church and the peace and happiness of the people. Henry is buried in the Cathedral of Bamberg beside his wife Cunegunda; he was canonized in 1146, and she was canonized in 1200.

from Saints and Feast Days, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio

Image credit: Sacramentary of King Henry II by unknown artist, 1014. Public Domain via Wikimedia.