Saturday, November 17, 2007

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth was born in Hungary in 1207, the daughter of Alexander II, King of Hungary. At the age of four she was sent for education to the court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, to whose infant son she was betrothed. As she grew in age, her piety also increased by leaps and bounds. In 1221, she married Louis of Thuringia and in spite of her position at court began to lead an austerely simple life, practiced penance, and devoted herself to works of charity.

Her husband was himself much inclined to religion and highly esteemed her virtue, encouraging her in her exemplary life. They had three children when tragedy struck - Louis was killed while fighting with the Crusaders. After his death, Elizabeth left the court, made arrangements for the care of her children, and in 1228, renounced the world, becoming a Tertiary of St. Francis. She built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and devoted herself to the care of the sick until her death at the age of 24 in 1231.

St. Elizabeth is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, death of children, falsely accused, the homeless, nursing services, tertiaries, widows, and young brides. Her symbols are alms, flowers, bread, the poor, and a pitcher.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary - Catholic Online

This simple account of Elizabeth's life skips over the political complexities surrounding her life and marriage, and the often contradictory accounts of her life under the spiritual direction of the harsh, but seemingly at times paradoxically kind, Master Conrad of Marburg. It may be we shall never know all the ins and outs of the life of a saintly noblewoman in a dark and tangled period in European history; perhaps it doesn't matter all that much. What we do know is that here was a young girl, only 14 at the time of her marriage to Louis of Thuringia, whose life was given over to serving her Saviour, and his people, in the midst of all inducements to the contrary.

It is not recorded whether Elizabeth had a particular conscious devotion to our Lady, but her life seems to have been a model of Mary's own unflinching faithfulness and obedience, even when that seemed only to be about to bring about her own destruction. Surely St Elizabeth, one of the first Franciscan Tertiaries in Northern Europe, still shows us clearly how to follow closely after Christ, even in the darkest times.

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