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Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Feast Day: November 17

The following story appeared in the November 4 Idaho Catholic Register.


During the canonization process for St. Elizabeth of Hungary, childhood friends recalled that she was a playful, joyful child. She seemed to have an inexplicable draw to Jesus in the Eucharist and loved visiting the castle chapel during the day. However, she was not merely contemplative. She was full of energy, and she enjoyed helping others,

especially the poor. Her love for Jesus, her generous heart, and playful joy would stay with her throughout her life, even during her many sufferings of betrayal and abuse.


Elizabeth’s mother was German and the sister of St. Hedwig of Silesia. Elizabeth was sent to Germany at the age of 4, so that she could be raised in the royal court of her

betrothed, Ludwig IV, who was 11.


When Elizabeth was 6, her mother was murdered by political enemies. Elizabeth found comfort in her faith and increased her devotions to prayer and sacrifices. The integrity of her faith tended to irritate most of the nobility at court, who were often Christian in name only.


As Elizabeth grew older, she and Ludwig became good friends and fell in love, which was not typical for arranged marriages. They married in 1221, when he was 21 and she was 14. Ludwig was often teased by other men because he was so devoted to Elizabeth and refused to engage in adultery.



They had two children within three years of their wedding. She believed her roles as wife and mother helped bring her closer to God’s love, and she also continued her charity work. She had hospitals built and visited them frequently to help care for patients. Unlike other nobility, she would pray with the poor and join them in their processions for Rogation days (fasting and prayer for crops) and feast days. She was known for her beautiful smile and for never showing any disgust, even when people were severely disfigured from leprosy.


Franciscans came to Thuringia sometime in 1224. Elizabeth and Ludwig welcomed the friars, and she had a house built for them. With the help of a friar who became her spiritual director, she tried to emulate the Franciscan way of life as closely as she could, even though she was also a wife and mother.


In about 1225, Cardinal Ugolino, who would later become Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241), asked St. Francis for his cloak to give to Elizabeth because she was so genuinely faithful in living a Christian life. Francis eagerly gave his cloak to her, just as the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, gave his cloak to Elisha. Elizabeth kept his cloak with her for the rest of her life to wear when she prayed for most urgent needs.


At the end of 1225, a travelling priest and preacher, Master Conrad of Mar-burg, came to Wartburg. Because Elizabeth’s director could not hear her confessions, it was decided that Master Conrad should be her director and confessor. Ludwig agreed to allow Elizabeth to make a vow of obedience to Conrad, and soon after the troubles began.


Conrad was scrupulous and even abusive, hitting her when he felt she de-served it. The Church condemned abuse, so it is not known why she felt she had to keep her vow of obedience to him.


To Elizabeth’s relief, Conrad’s travels kept him away from the castle for ex-tended periods of time. The Franciscans encouraged her to focus on God’s love for her and others. They taught her that her works of penance and charity should be done out of love and for love, instead of fear. They also encouraged her to remain joyful and not to become stern.


In 1227, when Elizabeth was pregnant with their third child, Ludwig left for a crusade in the Holy Land. Within weeks after giving birth, news came that Ludwig became sick while traveling and died in Italy. Her brother-in-law and other nobles rose up against her and her children. No one knows for sure what transpired, but she left the castle in the middle of the night with her children. She could not find any shelter except in a farmer’s pig pen. She decided to follow St. Francis’ advice and rejoice in her sufferings. She even asked the nearby Franciscans to sing the Te Deum laudamus (a song of praise) at their Matins in thanksgiving for her trials.



For months, she had to beg for shelter and food. She eventually had to give her children, the oldest of whom was only 5, to relatives for their safety.


A Franciscan went to Rome and used his connections to get word to the pope about Elizabeth’s plight. Although no one seems to know where Conrad was during her persecutions, the pope assigned Elizabeth to Conrad’s care and demanded that she be given her dowry and be given her rights.


She used her dowry to build another hospital in Marburg, where she worked tirelessly. Although Conrad was not Franciscan and the Secular Order of Franciscans was not officially established yet, she lived by a Franciscan rule and continued her friendships with the friars.


When she was 24, she became more frequently sick. Just after midnight, on November 17, 1231, she died. People testified that her body gave a perfumed aroma and miracles were reported at her grave. The stories of the miracles reached the ears of Pope Gregory IX. He assigned his confessor, St. Raymond of Penafort, to begin the investigation for her canonization.


Within months, Elizabeth’s grave became the most popular pilgrimage site in Europe. The verified miracles were so numerous that she was canonized in 1235, just four years after her death.


St. Elizabeth of Hungary is the patron saint of Catholic Charities, the Secular Franciscan Order, bakers, beggars, those who have lost children, brides and those with toothaches.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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