Louis of France vs. Thomas Gallaudet

Will the people of St. Louis, Missouri, rise up to support their namesake or will the alumni of Gallaudet University emerge in force? Will the people of France cry "Mon Dieu!" and vote for Louis or will the Deaf community throughout the world come together in support of Thomas? These questions, and probably more, will be answered in today's edition of "As the Steeple Turns."

In yesterday's Battle of the Catherines, Catherine of Siena solidly defeated Catherine of Alexandria 61% to 39%. No word on how Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kate Middleton (aka the Duchess of Cambridge), Katy Perry, Katie Couric, or Katharine Jefferts Schori voted.

lm louisLouis of France

Though other monarchs have been named saints, Louis IX of France is the only French sovereign on the Roman Catholic Church’s divine rolls. Louis IX acceded to the throne when he was just twelve years old. Although he was known for his fiery youthful temper, he was widely viewed as an able commander and generous ruler. He endowed monasteries, abbeys, and cathedrals from the earliest years of his reign. Most spectacular is the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) in Paris, which housed numerous relics including the Crown of Thorns and relics of the True Cross.

Throughout his reign, Louis was well regarded for his impartiality, even-handedness, and willingness to negotiate rather than go to war. He worked tirelessly to find a fair peace with Henry III of England, though he could have insisted on punitive demands. Instead, he allowed the King of England to retain not only substantial claims to land but also his dignity. In return, the English monarch named himself a vassal of Louis, pledging mutual military support and protection. An able negotiator and trusted arbitrator, Louis was often asked to navigate difficult diplomatic situations between parties across Europe (and was even called upon to make peace between Henry III and his English barons). Louis became known as the ideal of Christian Princedom.

He changed laws to limit corruption and increase transparency. Trial by combat, judicial duels, usury, and more were done away with as Louis sought to create a more humane and responsible system of governance. Had popular voting in brackets been invented in the thirteenth century, we are pretty sure Louis would have supported this particular mode of governance and competition. Louis is not without flaws, though, and was not given to unleavened piety. He struggled with gluttony and always worked to maintain his temper. (He was often most exercised by the abuses of clergy, which he punished with some ferocity.)

Perhaps the most damaging parts of Louis’s legacy are his leadership of the failed crusade in Tunisia, which would prove to be his mortal end. In addition, at the urging of the Holy See, he burned thousands of copies of Jewish texts (this campaign against the Jews was overturned by the succeeding Pope).

At his death in 1270, Louis demonstrated his deep care for his people. He commanded his son to protect and assist the poor, who were the humblest of his subjects. Louis IX was popularly recognized as a saint long before the Vatican declared him as such in 1297.

Collect for Louis of France
O God, who called your servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave him zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Robert Hendrickson

TGallaudetThomas Gallaudet

Along with his father and brother, Thomas Gallaudet played a leading role in establishing deaf education and promoting the advancement of the Deaf in the United States throughout the nineteenth century. (The capitalized “Deaf ” is used when referring to Deaf culture, as opposed to “deaf ” to describe hearing loss). His father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, co-founded the first School for the Deaf in America. His brother, Edward Miner Gallaudet, became the principal of what is now Gallaudet University, the first to offer college degrees to the Deaf.

Both his mother and his wife were Deaf, and Thomas Gallaudet was fluent in sign language from childhood. At that time, no one recognized signing as a language. Most people considered sign merely crude gestures; it wasn’t formally recognized as a language until the 1960s.

Gallaudet first taught at his father’s school in Connecticut, then at the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes. While there, he began teaching Bible classes to the Deaf as he studied for the ministry. Shortly after his ordination as an Episcopal priest in 1851, he established St. Ann’s Church, the first congregation in any denomination for the Deaf. Services were both spoken and signed and were free to all in a time when pew rent was the norm. Beginning in 1859, he expanded this ministry to other cities.

Throughout the 1800s, a fierce battle raged over whether the Deaf should be allowed to sign or not. The 1880 Milan Conference of Deaf Educators declared oral instruction (teaching speech and lip-reading) superior to sign and voted to ban the use of all manual instruction in deaf education.

Gallaudet managed to maintain a generous spirit, working with people across the spectrum of the issue while continuing his advocacy. Although incorporating oral instruction in his work, he continued to offer signed services and interpreted at churches throughout the country. He promoted Deaf candidates for the priesthood. In fact, the first Deaf priest, Henry Syle, shares Gallaudet’s feast day. And he helped the Deaf establish their own institutions to care for their community. Gallaudet changed people’s minds about what the Deaf can do. Throughout his ministry, he gave his personal testimony, telling those with ears to hear “that signs can make up a real, living language as well as sounds. If this be so, the imparting of the sacramental life, according to our Lord’s appointment, cannot surely be limited to the latter.”

Collect for Thomas Gallaudet
O loving God, whose will it is that everyone should come to you and be saved: We bless your Holy Name for your servants Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle, whose labors with and for those who are deaf we commemorate today; and we pray that you will continually move your Church to respond in love to the needs of all people; through Jesus Christ, who opened the ears of the deaf, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Laura Darling


Louis of France vs. Thomas Gallaudet

  • Thomas Gallaudet (78%, 4,263 Votes)
  • Louis of France (22%, 1,234 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,496

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140 comments on “Louis of France vs. Thomas Gallaudet”

    1. Having visited Sainte Chapelle several times, I think that Louis' long term impact mandates my vote for him in spite of Mr. Gaudellet's contributions to assisting Deaf people.

      1. I also visited Sainte Chapelle and was impressed by its beauty, but I had to go with Thomas Gallaudet.

        1. Same here, William, Chris, and Jan. La Sainte Chappelle is exquisite and utterly unforgettable, but my nephew's struggle with deafness and his parents' enormous efforts to get him the help and education he deserved force my vote for Gallaudet. Also, Deaf applause is just delightful: raising hands and -- how to say this? -- "shimmering" them, like "jazz hands" only upright. Love it!

  1. Louis of France was a man of his times. He wasn't perfect when operating within his cultural context. But the multiple significant shifts had such an incredible impact on an entire sphere of the globe! He is the Francis Perkins of the 1200s, people!

      1. I agree. The crusade and the persecution of the Jews were too much for me--had to go with Gallaudet. Very impressed with a lot of what Louis did, though!

  2. It's a tough one, but Louis stood up for the right, for peace, for everyday people at a time when his model of Christian leadership was totally unexpected. And he directed his temper especially at those who abused their position of religious leadership. Christ-like Louis gets my vote!

  3. I teach the Boy Scout Religious Emblems program for my local Troop. One of my scouts, now an Eagle Scout, is deaf. He earned both his Catholic Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII emblem. We would start the program with a retreat. For his AAD program, his parents came along-dad is hearing but limited signing. Mom is deaf, signs and lip reads. Combine those two with flip boards, notebooks and bible and he fit easily into the class of 7. I have never met a more dedicated Scout than Jerrod. God Bless the Gallaudet's.

  4. Voting in honor of the Central MA Deaf Senior who have been meeting weekly at Saint Matthew's, Worcester, for over twenty years, and in honor of Richard Mahaffey, seminarian from our Diocese, who hopes to minister in the Deaf community.

  5. I agree that Louis was not perfect. But neither was David. or many other saints. They are all real people with real flaws. But I do think that Louis had the heart, not always the vision. And the changes he made were very far reaching and very visonary for his time.

  6. Wow, was going to go with Louis of France until I saw that he desecrated and burned Jewish texts. I know this was a product of his age when Christians were intolerant, but I couldn't vote for him for that reason. Thomas Gallaudet meanwhile tried to incorporate the Deaf into a so-called "normal" world. Sorry Louis.

    1. Mary Ann,
      I agree completely. I really admire Louis for his vision and diplomacy in a time when there really was none. Burning Jewish texts though, even if it were an order from the Pope and common for his time, kept me from voting from. On the other hand I have a niece who is severely hearing impaired. It seemed to be an easier choice today.

    2. I'm so glad Christians aren't intolerant any more! Fair point about Louis being a man of his time, but I can't bring myself to endorse someone who engaged in the crusades and in anti-Semitic acts. Louis was certainly a good example of a Christian ruler for his time, but I found Gallaudet's story inspiring so I'm voting for him.

  7. The politically correct choice is, obviously, Gallaudet, but Louis gets my vote because of his worldwide historical influence. You must be a good student of history to fully appreciate how important Louis was to peace in Europe during the 13th century. Remember, too, that his mother was Blanche de Castille and had a massive influence on Louis. The Roman Catholic Basilica of the
    Assumption in Baltimore, America's oldest RC cathedral, displays two massive paintings of St. Louis, gifts of Louis XVI of France on the occasion of the basilica's consecration. And, of course, it is no small thing that the French new world explorers named the city of St. Louis after their ancestral leader.

    1. And San Luigi di Francia in Rome has the most magnificent Carravagios: The Calling of Matthew, and the Conversion of St. Paul. St. Louis was flawed, certainly, but he formed a more cohesive political union in Europe.

  8. As one who managed a library based relay tty-telephone service for the Deaf community in central MD I must vote for Fr Gallaudet.

  9. Scott/Tim, you might as well close the voting now as it appears that the same thing that Louis did to those texts is happening to him! Talk about a fiery temper coming back to haunt you.

  10. Louis is also Patron Saint of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis, he having been a Third Order Franciscan himself.

  11. This was another hard choice, but I ended going with King Louis because he helped all the people under his influence (and I imagine this included some deaf ones). He was a much needed example for succeeding leaders.

  12. It's interesting that we capitalize Deaf when referring to the culture, but I do not recall seeing Blind capitalized in the same way. Much of the Deaf culture can be attributed to the Gallaudet influence. To overcome an inability to hear but then go beyond that to insist on a culture based on differences in interpretation of the world is quite a triumph. It's close, but I have to go with Thomas Gallaudet.

    1. The capitalization of big D vs. little D deaf is particular to the Deaf community. I learned a lot about this from one of my best friends who is considered little D deaf, even though she couldn't hear from the time she was a very young child until a few years ago when she was able to get a cochlear implant. There is quite the division in the Deaf community between Deaf vs. deaf, and those who sign and those who were mainstreamed to lip read. It's interesting, but also sad how a minority will create divisions within that minority.

  13. As a former sign language interpreter in both school and church, this was an EASY choice. I even "sign" notes and emails to my husband with a modified "I Love You" sign: ,,/_

    For those who didn't know - the football huddle originated at Gallaudet University so that opposing teams couldn't read their signs. Go Bison! I'm wearing the Blue & Buff today!!

  14. Having worked at Connecticut's "Diocesan House" for several years and having to explain why the address was Asylum Avenue, Thomas gets my vote. Plus, gotta love the quote, “that signs can make up a real, living language as well as sounds. If this be so, the imparting of the sacramental life, according to our Lord’s appointment, cannot surely be limited to the latter.”

    1. I found out that The Rev. Gallaudet was associate rector at my church, St. Philp's Episcopal in Durham, NC. Was going to vote for him anyway in honor of some deaf friends and his quote connecting sign language to liturgical signs. However, I will simply add my sighs to the others who loved Sainte-Chappelle. That was a highlight of my Paris trip (along with Rodin's Garden and Jardin de Luxembourg). On a sunny afternoon, it was like walking into a magical jewelry box.

  15. I think Louis will get my vote because of La Sainte Chapelle. As a child, I was lucky enough to visit with my family -- but I was young enough not to appreciate being marched through museums and churches. At Saint Chapelle, however, the sunlight flooded through the stained glass and left pools of vivid color on the floor, which my sister and I 'caught' in our hands. It was perhaps my first experience of the beauty of sacred space -- a taste, even, of holy playfulness.

  16. Louis may have been a man for his time but Thomas transcends specific eras as he demonstrates not only willingness but determination in insuring inclusion of those others might think of as not worthy of bother, much less inclusion. Makes me think of who it is I might think of as outside the fold. No one, right Thomas? Thank God for such a saint - for his day and even unto today.

  17. I am a champion of the handicapped. Who would have known about Helen Keller without Gallaudet?

  18. Really tough choice. I'm inclined to vote for Louis because he really did seem to try to get to world peace in a time when that was barely a concept without military domination, but then there's the whole crusades and burning of Jewish texts. If it were current times, that would be inexcusable. However, cultural evolution happens in baby steps, and you have to get to the point of taking care of your own people before you can branch out to the rest of the world. Given the state of that evolution in the 13th century, I'm going to give Louis credit for that baby step.

  19. Thomas Gallaudet modeled for the church that we are an organic being, needing to adjust to the ever changing needs of people in their walk of faith. We could use some Gallaudet-ness now! My vote is absolutely for him!!

  20. Wow. A really tough choice:
    A) A man who dedicated his life to helping people with disabilities or
    B) A man who dedicated his life to killing a lot of Muslims and persecuting a lot of Jews.

  21. This hardly seemed a fair match up. I know that no one is perfect, but the anti semitism, even if it was a product of the times, was too much for me. Thomas got my vote--he really opened up the world to those who are deaf, and promoted Deaf culture.

  22. Even thought Sainte-Chapelle is my favorite place in Paris, Gallaudet gets my vote.

  23. As a new Delta Zeta, many years ago, I learned of our partnership with Gallaudet University, and thus the amazing Gallaudet family. Seeing the fruits of their labor is truly inspiring. My vote is wholeheartedly for Thomas Gallaudet.

    1. I'm an older Delta Zeta but a native Washingtonian, the home of Gallaudet University. My mother, a DZ, took me to dance productions at the University when I was growing up. It's a very inspiring place. Thanks for posting.

  24. An unfortunate pairing of two worthy men, but I had to go with Louis. I'm drawn to intrinsically good people with flaws...just like many of us, and if Sainte-Chapelle isn't a sublime work of God through human hands, I don't know what is.

  25. As an actor who once played in a stageshow production of "Children of a Lesser God" during which time we not only learned a lot of Sign Language but also a tremendous amount about Deaf culture, I had to vote for Gallaudet.