Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a Queen Serving the Needy

Saint Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary and Duchess of Thuringia, belonged to a family distinguished by its many members who were elevated to the honour of the altars. She always lavished her most careful attention on those in greatest need.

Newsdesk (27/11/2022 07:00 PM, Gaudium Press) Holy Church, Mother and Teacher of men, has always strived for a perfect balance in the care of her children. Some she seeks to lead to holiness through the good use of an abundance of spiritual and material gifts. Others she calls to the highest degrees of virtue through the perfect and resigned acceptance of their deficiencies, which are often very painful.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) passed voluntarily from one state to another and was undoubtedly the “strong woman” of whom Sacred Scripture speaks (Pr 31:10-29). Daughter of Andrew II, King of Hungary, she married the Duke of Thuringia. Widowed at the age of twenty, she renounced the advantage of a second marriage, wishing to serve God by practicing poverty. Not satisfied with the sacrifices she imposed on herself in this life, she decided to go one step further in the school of perfection and began to care for lepers.

In his book History of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Charles de Montalembert, a famous French writer of the 19th century, drew a poignant picture of the supremely maternal and compassionate attitude of the Catholic Church towards the most dreaded and repulsive disease, which was leprosy.

Lepers were continually the object of St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s predilection, and in some ways even of her envy, for leprosy was, among all human miseries, the one that could best lead its victims to be detached from this world. Friar Gerard, Provincial of the Franciscans in Germany, came to visit her one day. She spoke at length about holy poverty, and at the end of the conversation exclaimed: “Ah, my Father, what I would like above all, and from the bottom of my heart, is to be treated like any other leper in all things. I wish that a small hut of straw and hay were made for me, as is done for these poor people, and that a cloth was hung before the door to warn passers-by, and a box, so that some alms could be placed in it.”

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Leper welcomed into the castle

On one occasion she saw a leper passing in the street and invited him into her castle, laid him on her bed, and began to treat him as if he were Christ himself in view of that teaching of Our Lord that all those who sufferer represent Him.

St. Elizabeth’s mother-in-law heard of this and sought out Louis, her son, and said to him, “See what your wife is doing! She has put a leper on her bed, so that afterwards you will be infected! Go there and see that I am speaking the truth!”

He went and found the leper lying on the bed, and said:

– What is this? What does this man lying on this bed mean?

She answered:

– My spouse, this man is our Lord Jesus Christ.

The moment she said this, a miracle took place and the Duke actually saw in the leper the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Further, he smelt a beautiful scent of roses, which emanated from the person of the leper.

Thus it was that St. Elizabeth was granted the close companionship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, even yet in this world, and all because of the intense longing of her heart for the God whom she always saw in the person of the poor.

Compiled by Roberta MacEwan


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