Today, February 26, the Church honors Saint Isabelle of France, (1225-1270, also known as Isabel and Isabella), the daughter of King Louis VIII of France and sister to the illustrious king of France, St. Louis IX.
Saint Isabel Of France is the sister to St. Louis and the daughter of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. She was born in March, 1225; St. Louis IX, King of France (1226- 70) was her brother. Isabelle was gifted in many ways: she was beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous. She was well-known for her charity to others. Daily, she invited poor people to her dinner table, waiting on them herself. She spent her evenings visiting the poor and the sick. When still a child at court, Isabel, or Elizabeth, showed an extraordinary devotion to exercises of piety modesty, and other virtues. she refused offers of marriage from several noble suitors to continue her life of virginity consecrated to God. By 26 May, 1254 Innocent IV allowed her to retain some Franciscan fathers as her special confessors. She was even more devoted to the Franciscan Order than her royal brother. She not only broke off her engagement with a count, but moreover refused the hand of Conrad, son of the German Emperor Fredrick II, although pressed to accept him by everyone, even by Pope Innocent IV who however did not hesitate subsequently (1254) to praise her fixed determination to remain a virgin. As Isabel wished to found a convent of the Order of St. Clare, Louis IX began in 1255 to acquire the necessary land in the Forest of Rouvray, not far from the Seine and in the neighborhood of Paris. On 10 June, 1256, the first stone of the convent church was laid.
The building appears to have been completed about the beginning of 1259, because Alexander IV gave his sanction on 2 February, 1259, to the new rule which Isabel had had compiled by the Franciscan Mansuetus on the basis of the Rule of the Order of St. Clare. These rules were drawn up solely for this convent, which was named the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin (Monasterium Humilitatis B. Mariæ Virginis). The sisters were called in the rule the “Sorores Ordinis humilium ancillarum Beatissimæ Mariæ Virginis”.
Isabel ministered to the sick and the poor, and after the death of her mother, founded the Franciscan Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Longchamp’s in Paris. She lived there in austerity but never became a nun and refused to become abbess. Her life of prayer was marked by ecstasies at several points of her life, including a period of time near the end of her life when she stayed awake through several nights in rapt contemplation. Isabelle died at Longchamp in February 23 1270 and was buried in the monastery church. Many miracles have since occurred at her burial site. Her cult was approved in 1521. She is the patroness of sick people.