St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Pray For Us
Today is the Feast Day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
The letter from Conrad of Marburg, the spiritual director of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, provides a glimpse into Elizabeth of Hungary’s exemplary life of charity and piety. Elizabeth was born in 1207 to the King of Hungary and devoted herself to serving Christ through aiding the poor and sick. She converted one of her castles into a hospital and generously gave alms to all in need. Twice a day she visited and cared for the sick, including the most repulsive individuals. After her husband's death, Elizabeth sought an even more ascetic life, begging from door to door and renouncing all worldly possessions. She attended to the poorest of the poor at her own table and performed other works of mercy. Conrad declares that Elizabeth's face shone with a holy light when she emerged from prayer.
Before her death, Elizabeth made her confession to Conrad and distributed all her goods to the poor, save one worn dress in which she wished to be buried. Elizabeth exemplified Christian charity and humility in serving Christ through the needy.
As you reflect on the holy life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, draw your mind to Jesus' teachings in the Gospel of Matthew about caring for those in need:
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ -Matthew 25:35-40
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Pray for us!
From a letter of Conrad of Marburg, Saint Elizabeth's spiritual director
Elizabeth recognized and loved Christ in the poor
From this time onward Elizabeth’s goodness greatly increased. She was a lifelong friend of the poor and gave herself entirely to relieving the hungry. She ordered that one of her castles should be converted into a hospital in which she gathered many of the weak and feeble. She generously gave alms to all who were in need, not only in that place but in all the territories of her husband’s empire. She spent all her own revenue from her husband’s four principalities, and finally she sold her luxurious possessions and rich clothes for the sake of the poor.
Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, Elizabeth went to visit the sick. She personally cared for those who were particularly repulsive; to some she gave food, to others clothing; some she carried on her own shoulders, and performed many other kindly services. Her husband, of happy memory, gladly approved of these charitable works. Finally, when her husband died, she sought the highest perfection; filled with tears, she implored me to let her beg for alms from door to door.
On Good Friday of that year, when the altars had been stripped, she laid her hands on the altar in a chapel in her own town, where she had established the Friars Minor, and before witnesses she voluntarily renounced all worldly display and everything that our Savior in the gospel advises us to abandon. Even then she saw that she could still be distracted by the cares and worldly glory which had surrounded her while her husband was alive. Against my will she followed me to Marburg. Here in the town she built a hospice where she gathered together the weak and the feeble. There she attended the most wretched and contemptible at her own table.
Apart from those active good works, I declare before God that I have seldom seen a more contemplative woman. When she was coming from private prayer, some religious men and women often saw her face shining marvelously and light coming from her eyes like the rays of the sun.
Before her death I heard her confession. When I asked what should be done about her goods and possessions, she replied that anything which seemed to be hers belonged to the poor. She asked me to distribute everything except one worn-out dress, in which she wished to be buried. When all this had been decided, she received the body of our Lord. Afterwards, until vespers, she spoke often of the holiest things she had heard in sermons. Then, she devoutly commended to God all who were sitting near her, and as if falling into a gentle sleep, she died.
Today’s Mass Collect
O God, by whose gift Saint Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and revered Christ in the poor, grant, through her intercession, that we may serve with unfailing charity the needy and those afflicted.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.