Cellitinnen Augustinian Sisters

November 19, Feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary,

Patroness of the congregation for works of charity

Foundation day of the congregation

St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231)-a young saint to be sure, as she died at the age of twenty-four. Elizabeth was born to the king of Hungary in 1207. She was betrothed to the son of the duke of Thuringia at the tender age of four and sent off to the Thuringian castle to be raised alongside Louis, her future husband (who is a saint himself). Despite being raised in the worldly court, Elizabeth was very prayerful as a child and grew deeply in love of God and her neighbor. Louis and Elizabeth were married when she was fourteen and he was twenty-one. Although their marriage was arranged, they were best friends and loved each other deeply. Louis himself told a friend: “Let them think or say of her what they please; I say this-that I love her, and love nothing better in this world: I will have my Elizabeth; she is dearer to me for her virtue and piety than all the kingdoms and riches of this earth.”
Although many saints were married, it seems that we mostly know about the ones that were in religious life or single. However, Louis and Elizabeth are a great example of a marriage with God at the center. Certainly they helped each other toward Heaven and sainthood. One time, Elizabeth found a leper who had come to the castle gate. Seeing behind the ugliness, she knew that he represented Jesus, and so she lifted him in her arms and carried him to the only available

Elizabeth’s greatest virtue was her charity; she was far from being a stuck up queen who thought herself above the people. She built a hospital below the palace with twenty-eight beds and visited the patients daily. She gave help to nine hundred poor people daily, giving them food and clothes, even the palace robes. She held nothing back from them and used her wealth and position to make the world a better place for the poor.

However, tragedy soon struck; Louis died of the plague while on his way to the Crusades. Elizabeth had just given birth to their third child, Gertrude, and upon hearing of his death, she wept, “The world with all its joys is now dead to me.” At the tender age of twenty, Elizabeth was left a widow with three young children. Instead of being supported by Louis’ family in this time of grief, Louis’ brother Heinrich cast her out of the palace and she was separated from her children. Elizabeth joined the Third Order of St. Francis (a sort of “middle state” between religious life and life in the world founded by St. Francis) and devoted herself to building a hospital and caring for the sick. She never stopped loving the poor and constantly gave of herself, going so far as to forgive her brother-in-law for all the pain he caused her. Eventually, her young body could not take the strain of her charitable endeavors any longer, and she passed away at the age of twenty-four.

At the canonization Mass for Elizabeth of Hungary, Pope Gregory IX called her “the greatest woman of the German Middle Ages.” She did not win this title by political achievements or by wearing the latest fashions, but by loving the poorest of the poor and serving her Lord in them. On this feast day of St. Elizabeth, may we all strive to be a little more charitable, especially towards those who have hurt us and those who seem most unlovable.