St. Elizabeth of Hungary
1207 – 1231
In the year 1207, Queen Gertrude and King Andrew II of Hungary had a daughter. They named her Elizabeth. When she was four years old, an agreement was made for Elizabeth to marry the son of the Landgrave of Thurginia in southern Germany. Elizabeth was sent to live there.
Elizabeth, prayerful beyond her years, was charitable, almost to a fault. She was so moved by the plight of the poor that she often laid siege to the Landgraves purse and ransacked the castle kitchen in order to provide for those in need.
When the landgrave died, Ludwig, his eldest son, became the Duke of Thurginia. The young duke, at the age of 21, made Princess Elizabeth his wife and the first duchess of the realm. Elizabeth and Ludwig were very much in love and Elizabeth was deeply aware that God was truly the source of all love.
During this time, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Order of the Poor Clares swept the country. Elizabeth welcomed the spirit of St. Francis and eagerly became enrolled in the army of mortification and mercy. Her devotion to the poor deepened.
In March 1222, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Herman, and during the next three years, two daughters were born, Sophia and Gertrude.
Elizabeth’s piety and charity flamed brighter than ever. Because her husband’s resources were proving insufficient to meet the needs of the poor, she gave away her own personal gems and jewels.
No longer content with just almsgiving, she sought out the sick and the infirmed. No object of Elizabeth’s charity received more compassion than those afflicted with leprosy. The duchess was delighted to go on errands of mercy in secret.
It is told that one day, while carrying a quantity of bread for the poor under her cloak, she came face-to-face with her husband who was on his way home from the hunt. Surprised to see his wife toiling and heavily burdened along an unfrequented mountain path, he said to her, “Let us see what you carry.” Drawing aside her cloak, he was astonished to see, in the folds of her dress, a mass of beautiful, red roses instead of the bread she was carrying.
Another time, Elizabeth placed a leper in her own bed to care for him. Her mother-in-law was enraged and informed Ludwig about the situation. Annoyed, Ludwig removed the bedclothes and instantly the "Almighty God opened the eyes of his soul, and instead of a leper he saw the figure of Christ crucified stretched upon the bed."
When Ludwig died at the age of 27, Elizabeth was forced to leave the castle by his younger brother, Henry. She refused the offer of a second marriage to the Emperor Frederick II. She promised her widowhood to God.
The remainder of her very short life was spent in devotion and works of charity. Elizabeth died at the age of 24.
(Article adapted from St. Elizabeth Parish directory 2015.)