Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Feast Day 17 November
Patron of Bankers & Nursing Services

by C.F., a high school student in Northern Virginia

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Elizabeth of Hungary was born in Bratislava in 1207 in present day Hungary.  She was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, and being Hungarian royalty, her marriage was prearranged by her parents when she was only four years old.  Elizabeth was betrothed to Ludwig the Landgrave of Thuringia.  While she was still young she was sent to Thuringia to grow up with her future husband who was six years older.  The marriage of Elizabeth and Ludwig was one of great love and friendship.  Theirs was based on a very deep and intimate friendship which grew into a strong, happy and faithful marriage.  They had three children who reflected the love of their parents. 


Ludwig and Elizabeth were very aware of the needs of the poor.  When the area suffered a famine, Elizabeth freely supplied the needy with money, food and clothing, and the able were given meaningful ways to earn a living.  She even built several hospitals on their land to care for the sick.  While the needy were grateful and appreciated her love, the envious nobles in the royal court complained about  her.  Even members of Ludwig's family said that her pious behavior, and the cloths she wore did not fit their idea of a princess.  Ludwig was required to frequently explain that because of her good works, the kingdom would receive many blessings.  


But once, it seemed that her charity had gone too far.  The story is told how, when she found a homeless leper, she was so moved with pity that she placed him in her own bed.  Upon hearing this, Ludwig angrily rushed into the room and took off the bedclothes.  But the eyes his soul were opened, so that instead of seeing a sick leper, he gazed upon the crucified form of Christ. 


News arrived of a new crusade being formed to free Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Saracens.  Ludwig was anxious to join and started off on the journey to the great sorrow of Elizabeth who even accompanied him on the first day's journey.  But he did not reach his destination for he died from the plague while in route to the Holy Land.  Elizabeth was grief stricken.  She had lost her husband, her closest friend and protector.  At the age of twenty, Elizabeth became a widow.


Immediately, the power hungry younger brother of Ludwig seized the throne and forced Elizabeth and her children to move out of their home to find shelter as best they could in barns and animal shelters.  When friends heard of her plight they gave her a simple cottage.


Many people suggested that Elizabeth remarry, but she refused saying she could never love another as she had loved Ludwig.  She joined the Third Order of Franciscans to follow the daily activities suggested by Saints Clare and Francis of Assisi.  She placed her life under the guidance of a certain spiritual director named Father Conrad of Marburg.  He was very harsh, and his demands were intended to test her humility.  Through it all she did not complain and surprisingly kept her humor and strong faith.  These trials however, exhausted her, and she died at the age of twenty four in 1231.  


Despite his harshness Conrad worked tirelessly after her death to have Elizabeth named a saint in heaven.  Because of her good works, it was easy to document her great patience, generosity and deeds.  She was canonized just four years after her death.  Her body was venerated by the faithful for many years after her death until the religious wars when it was moved to an unknown location.


The virtues of generosity and trust in God's goodness were qualities practiced by Elizabeth.  We also have the opportunity to practice them since we should see God in all whom we meet.


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