Today’s Saint

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July 13 | Not an Earthly Kingdom

Saint Henry II

A.D. 973–1024

“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) 

This is one of Jesus’ teachings that is so easy to forget in an overly politicized culture.

It would be relatively easy to follow if we could abandon the politics of this world altogether. We cannot. For the Gospel places demands upon us to participate in public life. It requires us to engage as citizens. 

We are not called to embrace heaven and reject earth; we are called to embrace both. That takes incredible courage and wisdom, especially if you’re a leader looking to make real-world change. 

Saint Henry II is one leader who had that courage and wisdom.

Henry II was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the royal leader of the Christian world. Unlike previous emperors, Henry showed his unwavering support of the papacy, recognizing the pope as the spiritual leader of Christianity. 

Also unlike his predecessors, Henry showed no special favor to the nobles of the empire—they had to abide by Church teachings just like everybody else. That caused a lot of problems. 

Duke after duke rebelled against Henry. It is actually difficult to list the number of nobles who rebelled against him, and the battles that ensued. But somehow Henry prevailed and remained emperor, probably due in large part to the loving support of his wife Saint Cunigunde.

Towards the end of his life, Henry seriously considered resigning from his office as emperor to become a monk. But he knew that Jesus called him not to forsake the world, but to do everything in his power to improve it. He fulfilled his earthly duties and reigned over a prospering kingdom until his death in 1024.

It is so easy and tempting to focus on worldly politics and neglect the non-political realities of eternity. It is so easy to get so caught up in political engagement that we neglect our spiritual needs and responsibilities. And if the reason we give ourselves for our political involvements and obsessions are themselves religious, it is easy to find ourselves justifying our neglect of the spiritual life, or indeed confusing political engagement with spiritual engagement. All the time Jesus keeps reminding us that His Kingdom is not of this world.

Don’t forget about heaven or earth. Embrace them both.


I will embrace both heaven and earth.

This reflection is brought to you from book title.

Feast Day: July 13

Feast Day Shared By: Saint Esdras

Patron Saint of: the Childless, Dukes, Handicapped, and Those Rejected by Religious Orders

Also Known As: Saint Henry the Exuberant

Symbols: A Scepter Topped with a Dove

Canonized: July 1147

Canonized By: Pope Eugenius III

Image of mountain and man reflecting in the water below.

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