St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Elizabeth was the daughter of the Hungarian King Andrew II. At the age of four (b. 1207), she was brought to the court of her future husband, Ludwig, landgrave of Thuringia. After her marriage in 1221, she very conscientiously fulfilled her duties both toward her husband and as a servant of God. During the night she would rise from bed and spend long periods in prayer. Zealously she performed all types of charitable acts; she put herself at the service of widows, orphans, the sick, the needy. During a famine she generously distributed all the grain from her stocks, cared for lepers in one of the hospitals she established, kissed their hands and feet. For the benefit of the indigent she provided suitable lodging.
After the early death of her husband (in 1227 while on a crusade led by Emperor Frederick II), Elizabeth laid aside all royal dignities in order to serve God more freely. She put on simple clothing, became a tertiary of St. Francis, and showed great patience and humility. Nor was she spared intense suffering — the goods belonging to her as a widow were withheld, she was forced to leave Wartburg. In Eisenach no one dared receive her out of fear of her enemies. Upon much pleading a shepherd of the landgrave permitted her to use an abandoned pig sty. No one was allowed to visit or aid her; with her three children, of whom the youngest was not more than a few months old, she was forced to wander about in the winter’s cold.
In 1228 she took the veil of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis at Marburg and there built a hospital with some property still belonging to her. She retained for herself only a small mud house. All her strength and care were now devoted to the poor and the sick, while she obtained the few things she needed by spinning. Young in years but rich in good works, she slept in the Lord in 1231, only twenty-four years old.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
Patron: Bakers; beggars; brides; Catholic charities; charitable societies; charitable workers; charities; countesses; death of children; exiles; falsely accused people; Franciscan Third Order; hoboes; homeless people; hospitals; in-law problems; lacemakers; lace workers; nursing homes; nursing services; people in exile; people ridiculed for their piety; Sisters of Mercy; tertiaries; Teutonic Knights; toothache; tramps; widows.
Symbols: Three crowns (virgin, wife, widow); triple crown; roses; basket of bread and flask of wine; roses in a robe; infant in a cradle; model of a hospital or of Warburg castle; distaff.
Often Portrayed As: Queen distributing alms; Woman wearing a crown and tending to beggars; Woman wearing a crown, carrying a load of roses in her apron or mantle.