St Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious – 17 Nov
Princess, the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary. Great-aunt of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. She married Prince Louis of Thuringa 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, Prince 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 four 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.
She was born in 1207 at Presburg, Hungary and died in 1231 at Marburg, Gemany of natural causes. Her relics, including her skull wearing a gold crown she had worn in life, are preserved at the convent of Saint Elizabeth in Vienna, Austria.
Elizabeth was a lifelong friend of the poor and gave herself entirely to relieving the hungry. She ordered that one of her castle should be converted into a hospital in which she gathered many of the weak and feeble. She generously gave alms to all who were in need, not only in that place but in all the territories of her husband’s empire. She spent all her own revenue from her husband’s four principalities, and finally she sold her luxurious possessions and rich clothes for the sake of the poor.
Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, Elizabeth went to visit the sick. She personally cared for those who were particularly repulsive; to some she gave good, to others clothing; some she carried on her own shoulders, and performed many other kindly services. Her husband, of happy memory, gladly approved of these charitable works. Finally, when her husband died, she sought the highest perfection; filled with tears, she implored me to let her beg for alms from door to door.
On Good Friday of that year, when the altars had been stripped, she laid her hands on the altar in a chapel in her own town, where she had established the Friars Minor, and before witnesses she voluntarily renounced all worldly display and everything that our Savior in the gospel advises us to abandon. Even then she saw that she could still be distracted by the cares and worldly glory which had surrounded her while her husband was alive. Against my will she followed me to Marburg. Here in the town she built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table.
Apart from those active good works, I declare before God that I have seldom seen a more contemplative woman.
Before her death I heard her confession. When I asked what should be done about her goods and possessions, she replied that anything which seemed to be hers belonged to the poor. She asked me to distribute everything except one worn-out dress in which she wished to be buried. When all this had been decided, she received the body of our Lord. Afterward, until vespers, she spoke often of the holiest things she had heard in sermons. Then, she devoutly commended to God all who were sitting near her, and as if falling into a gentle sleep, she died. – from a letter by Conrad of Marburg, spiritual director of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary