St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the Princess Who Served the Poor
Today is the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the medieval princess whose greatness lay not in her powerful royal position, but in her love for all men, especially the poor people her fellow nobles most despised.
Elizabeth of Hungary has always been one of my favorite saints. When I was a child, I believe it was her status as a princess that charmed me, but as I grew older and realized how hard it is to be always kind and forgiving—not to mention how very, very few royals in history are even moderately decent people—it was her holiness that inspired me. Vibrant, joyous, pious, passionate, humble, loving, generous, Elizabeth’s character leaps out of the history books, as alive as she was in the 13th century. Through wealth and then poverty, through marriage and then a life of penance, from Hungary to Germany, through prosperity and sorrow, Elizabeth always put God and family at the center of her life.
Below is a brief summary of her life from Catholicsaints.info:
“Princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary. Great-aunt of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. She married [Landgrave] Louis of Thuring[i]a, [Germany] at age 13. Built a hospital at the foot of the mountain on which her castle stood; tended to the sick herself. Her family and courtiers opposed this, but she insisted she could only follow Christ’s teachings, not theirs. Once when she was taking food to the poor and sick…Louis stopped her and looked under her mantle to see what she was carrying; the food had been miraculously changed to roses. Upon the death of Louis, Elizabeth sold all that she had, and worked to support her [three] children. Her gifts of bread to the poor, and of a large gift of grain to a famine stricken Germany, led to her patronage of bakers and related fields.”
Contrary to what the above episode might indicate, Louis was in general an extraordinarily good man, and is in fact also considered a saint by the Church. Louis and Elizabeth were very much in love and she was devastated when he died while on crusade, just before the birth of their third child, who grew up to be St. Gertrude of Aldenberg.
Elizabeth herself died at the young age of 24, but she left behind her a legacy in her children and in her sanctity. She showed that youth and suffering are no barrier to greatness when one does everything for the glory of our true King, Jesus Christ.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us!
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