The Feast Day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
“I want to adorn myself, not out of worldly pride, but for love of God alone – in a fitting manner, however, so as to give my husband no cause to sin, if something about me were to displease him. Only let him love me in the Lord, with a chaste, marital affection, so that we, in the same way, might hope for the reward of eternal life from him who has sanctified the law of marriage.”
-St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)
Today, November 17, is the Feast Day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231). As the child of Hungarian immigrants, my upbringing included many tales and legends of relevant people throughout Hungary’s storied history, one of whom was St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
In her infancy, Elizabeth, the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, was betrothed to Louis IV, son of Hermann I, a German nobleman. At the age of four, she was sent to live in his family’s court in Germany. Separation from her family at a young age was only the beginning of many sorrows in her youth. Her mother, Gertrude, was murdered in 1213 due to a conflict between the German people with whom she lived and the Hungarian nobles. This was a turning point in Elizabeth’s life. She took to and found consolation in prayer.
She was happily married in 1221 at the age of fourteen (customs were different during medieval times) to Ludwig, with whom she had three children while still a teenager. He supported her efforts to live out the lessons and messages of the Gospel and even learned from friars of the Franciscan order. Upon Ludwig’s death during a Crusade in 1227, Elizabeth, true to a vow made with her husband, did not remarry and instead lived out the rest of her life in service to the poor and hospitalized, even taking her own small castle and turning it into a hospital.
Elizabeth joined the Third Order of St. Francis and lived out her life tending to the sick. She became sick herself and died on November 17, 1231, at the age of 24. In addition to the miraculous healings that would occur at the grave near the hospital which she built there were legends surrounding her life which led to her canonization only four years after her death.
One of the greatest legends was the story of Elizabeth on an errand delivering loaves of bread to the poor and hungry being met on the road by her husband. The loaves miraculously turned into roses, a symbol of the presence of God.
“In St. Elizabeth of Hungary, we see how faith and friendship with Christ create a sense of justice, of the equality of all, of the rights of others and how they create love, charity. And from this charity is born hope too, the certainty that we are loved by Christ and that the love of Christ awaits us thereby rendering us capable of imitating Christ and of seeing Christ in others.”
-Pope Benedict XVI
And we pray:
O God, by whose gift Saint Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and revered Christ in the poos, grant, through her intercession, that we may serve with unfailing charity the needy and those afflicted. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen