Sainte Élisabeth de Hongrie
Veuve, Tertiaire de Saint-François
Sainte Élisabeth, fille d'André II, roi de Hongrie, connut toutes les joies et toutes les grandeurs, mais aussi toutes les épreuves de la vie, et Dieu a donné en elle un modèle accompli aux enfants, aux jeunes filles, aux épouses, aux mères, aux veuves et aux religieuses, aux riches et aux pauvres. Après une enfance tout angélique, elle fut fiancée au jeune prince Louis de Thuringe; toutefois le mariage n'eut lieu que quelques années plus tard. Dès lors Élisabeth donnait tout ce qu'elle avait; elle allait sans cesse dans les cuisines du château pour recueillir les restes et les porter aux pauvres. Sa piété, son amour de Dieu la poussait au sacrifice et elle s'élevait vers Dieu à toute occasion avec une facilité extraordinaire.
Les deux jeunes époux, unis par la foi encore plus que par la tendresse, eurent toujours Dieu comme lien de leur affection; peu d'alliances furent mieux assorties et plus saintes que la leur. Louis était un prince éminent par ses vertus et sa sagesse; mais Élisabeth ne lui cédait en rien. Sous ses riches vêtements, elle portait toujours un cilice; tous les vendredis et chaque jour, en Carême, elle se faisait donner la discipline. La dévotion d'Élisabeth n'était ni triste, ni exagérée; au contraire, on ne la voyait jamais qu'avec un visage doux et aimable.
Elle aimait à porter aux pauvres de l'argent et des provisions. Un jour qu'elle descendait par un petit sentier très rude, portant dans son manteau du pain, de la viande, des oeufs et autres mets destinés aux malheureux, elle se trouva tout à coup en face de son mari: "Voyons ce que vous portez" dit-il; et en même temps il ouvre le manteau; mais il n'y avait plus que des roses blanches et rouges, bien qu'on ne fût pas à la saison des fleurs. Parmi les malheureux, elle affectionnait surtout les lépreux; elle lavait leurs plaies et les baisait à genoux. Un jour, elle soigna et plaça dans son propre lit un enfant souillé de la lèpre; son mari, prévenu contre elle, allait se livrer à l'impatience, quand, à la place de l'enfant, il aperçut Jésus crucifié.
Quelle douleur pour Élisabeth, quand son royal mari partit pour la croisade! Elle souffrit avec un grand courage cette séparation, qui devait être définitive, car on apprit bientôt la nouvelle de la mort du prince Louis. Élisabeth restait veuve avec quatre enfants. Alors commença sa vie d'incroyables épreuves. Chassée du château, réduite à la pauvreté la plus entière, méprisée, foulée aux pieds, elle sut se complaire en ses souffrances, et mourut à l'âge de vingt-quatre ans, sous l'habit du Tiers Ordre de Saint-François.
Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950
Bartholomäus Bruyn l'Ancien (Allemand, v.1493-1555). Sainte Élisabeth de Hongrie donnant l'aumône,
v. 1530, huile et tempéra sur panneau, 39,4 x 18,4
Mercredi 20 octobre 2010
Elisabeth de Hongrie
Chers frères et sœurs,
Aujourd’hui, je voudrais vous parler de l’une des femmes du Moyen Age ayant suscité le plus d’admiration; il s’agit de sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie, appelée également Elisabeth de Thuringe.
Elle naquit en 1207; les historiens débattent sur son lieu de naissance. Son père était André II, riche et puissant roi de Hongrie qui, pour renforcer les liens politiques, avait épousé la comtesse allemande Gertrude d’Andechs-Merania, sœur de sainte Edwige, elle-même épouse du duc de Silésie. Elisabeth vécut à la cour de Hongrie les quatre premières années de son enfance uniquement, avec sa sœur et ses trois frères. Elle aimait le jeu, la musique et la danse; elle récitait fidèlement ses prières, et manifestait déjà une attention particulière pour les pauvres, qu’elle aidait au moyen d’une bonne parole ou d’un geste affectueux.
Son enfance heureuse fut brusquement interrompue lorsque, de la lointaine Thuringe, arrivèrent des chevaliers pour la conduire à son nouveau domicile, en Allemagne centrale. Selon la coutume de l’époque, en effet, son père avait établi qu’Elisabeth devienne princesse de Thuringe. Le Landgrave ou comte de cette région était l’un des souverains les plus riches et influents d’Europe au début du XIIIe siècle, et son château était un centre de splendeur et de culture. Mais derrière les fêtes et la gloire apparente se cachaient les ambitions des princes féodaux, souvent en guerre entre eux, et en conflit avec les autorités royales et impériales. Dans ce contexte, le Landgrave Herman accueillit bien volontiers les fiançailles entre son fils Ludovic et la princesse hongroise. Elisabeth quitta sa patrie pourvue d’une riche dot et d’une importante suite, composée notamment de ses demoiselles de compagnie personnelles, dont deux demeureront ses amies fidèles jusqu’à la fin. Ce sont elles qui nous ont laissé de précieuses informations sur l’enfance et la vie de la sainte.
Après un long voyage, ils arrivèrent à Eisenach, pour monter ensuite vers la forteresse de Wartburg, l’imposant château dominant la ville. C’est là que furent célébrées les fiançailles de Ludovic et Elisabeth. Au cours des années qui suivirent, tandis que Ludovic apprenait le métier de chevalier, Elisabeth et ses compagnes étudiaient l’allemand, le français, le latin, la musique, la littérature et la broderie. Bien que les fiançailles aient été décidées pour des raisons politiques, entre les deux jeunes gens naquit un amour sincère, animé par la foi et le désir d’accomplir la volonté de Dieu. A l’âge de 18 ans, Ludovic, après la mort de son père, commença à régner sur la Thuringe. Mais Elisabeth devint l’objet de critiques voilées, car sa façon de se comporter ne correspondait pas à la vie de la cour. Ainsi, la célébration du mariage se déroula elle aussi sans faste, et les dépenses pour le banquet furent en partie dévolues aux pauvres. Dans sa profonde sensibilité, Elisabeth voyait les contradictions entre la foi professée et la pratique chrétienne. Elle ne supportait pas les compromis. Un jour, en entrant dans l’église en la fête de l’Assomption, elle enleva sa couronne, la déposa devant la croix et demeura prostrée au sol, le visage couvert. Lorsque sa belle-mère lui reprocha son geste, elle répondit: «Comment moi, misérable créature, puis-je continuer de porter une couronne de dignité terrestre, lorsque je vois mon Roi Jésus Christ couronné d’épines?». Elle se comportait devant Dieu comme envers ses sujets. Dans les Dépositions des quatre demoiselles de compagnie, nous trouvons ce témoignage: «Elle ne consommait aucune nourriture sans s’assurer auparavant qu’elle provenait des propriétés et des biens légitimes de son époux. Tout en s’abstenant des biens procurés de façon illicite, elle se prodiguait pour dédommager ceux qui avaient subi une violence» (nn. 25 et 37). Un véritable exemple pour tous ceux qui occupent des rôles de guide: l’exercice de l’autorité, à tous les niveaux, doit être vécu comme un service à la justice et à la charité, dans la recherche constante du bien commun.
Elisabeth pratiquait assidûment les œuvres de miséricorde: elle donnait à boire et à manger à ceux qui frappaient à sa porte, elle procurait des vêtements, elle payait les dettes, elle prenait soin des malades et enterrait les morts. En descendant de son château, elle se rendait souvent avec ses servantes dans les maisons des pauvres, apportant du pain, de la viande, de la farine et d’autres aliments. Elle remettait la nourriture personnellement et contrôlait avec attention les vêtements et les lits des pauvres. Ce comportement fut rapporté à son mari, qui non seulement n’en fut pas ennuyé, mais qui répondit aux accusateurs: «Tant qu’elle ne vend pas le château, j’en suis content!». C’est dans ce contexte que se situe le miracle du pain transformé en roses: alors qu’Elisabeth marchait sur la route avec son tablier rempli de pain pour les pauvres, elle rencontra son mari qui lui demanda ce qu’elle portait. Elle ouvrit son tablier et, au lieu du pain, apparurent des roses magnifiques. Ce symbole de charité est présent de nombreuses fois dans les représentations de sainte Elisabeth.
Son mariage fut profondément heureux: Elisabeth aidait son mari à élever ses qualités humaines à un niveau surnaturel, et lui, en échange, protégeait sa femme dans sa générosité envers les pauvres et dans ses pratiques religieuses. Toujours plus admiratif en raison de la foi profonde de son épouse, Ludovic, se référant à son attention envers les pauvres, lui dit: «Chère Elisabeth, c’est le Christ que tu as lavé, nourri et dont tu as pris soin». Un témoignage clair de la façon dont la foi et l’amour envers Dieu et envers le prochain renforcent la vie familiale et rendent l’union matrimoniale encore plus profonde.
Le jeune couple trouva un soutien spirituel chez les frères mineurs, qui, à partir de 1222, se diffusèrent en Thuringe. Parmi eux, Elisabeth choisit le frère Roger (Rüdiger) comme directeur spirituel. Lorsqu’il lui raconta l’épisode de la conversion du jeune et riche marchand François d’Assise, Elisabeth s’enthousiasma encore plus sur son chemin de vie chrétienne. A partir de ce moment-là, elle fut encore davantage décidée à suivre le Christ pauvre et crucifié, présent chez les pauvres. Même lorsque son premier fils naquit, suivi de deux autres, notre sainte ne négligea jamais ses œuvres de charité. En outre, elle aida les frères mineurs à construire à Halberstadt un couvent, dont frère Roger devint le supérieur. La direction spirituelle d’Elisabeth passa, ainsi, à Conrad de Marbourg.
Une dure épreuve fut l’adieu à son mari, à la fin de juin 1227, lorsque Ludovic iv s’associa à la croisade de l’empereur Frédéric II, rappelant à sa femme qu’il s’agissait d’une tradition pour les souverains de Thuringe. Elisabeth répondit: «Je ne te retiendrai pas. Je me suis entièrement donnée à Dieu et à présent je dois aussi te donner». Mais la fièvre décima les troupes et Ludovic tomba malade et mourut à Otrante, avant même d’embarquer, en septembre 1227, à l’âge de vingt-sept ans. Elisabeth, ayant appris la nouvelle, ressentit une telle souffrance qu’elle se retira dans la solitude, mais ensuite, fortifiée par la prière et réconfortée par l’espérance de le revoir au Ciel, elle recommença à s’intéresser aux affaires du royaume. Mais une autre épreuve l’attendait: son beau-frère usurpa le gouvernement de la Thuringe, se déclarant le véritable héritier de Ludovic et accusant Elisabeth d’être une femme pieuse incompétente pour gouverner. La jeune veuve, avec ses trois enfants, fut chassée du château de Wartburg et se mit à la recherche d'un lieu où trouver refuge. Seules deux de ses servantes demeurèrent à ses côtés, l'accompagnèrent et confièrent les trois enfants aux soins des amis de Ludovic. En voyageant de village en village, Elisabeth travaillait là où elle était accueillie, elle assistait les malades, elle filait et elle cousait. Au cours de ce calvaire supporté avec beaucoup de foi, avec patience et dévouement à Dieu, certains parents qui lui étaient restés fidèles et considéraient comme illégitimes le gouvernement de son beau-frère, réhabilitèrent son nom. Ainsi Elisabeth, au début de l'année 1228, put recevoir un revenu approprié pour se retirer dans le château de famille à Marbourg, où habitait aussi son directeur spirituel Conrad. C'est lui qui rapporta au Pape Grégoire IX le fait suivant: «Le Vendredi saint de 1228, les mains posées sur l'autel dans la chapelle de sa ville de Eisenach, où elle avait accueilli les frères mineurs, en présence de plusieurs frères et de parents, Elisabeth renonça à sa propre volonté et à toutes les vanités du monde. Elle voulait renoncer aussi à toutes ses possessions, mais je l'en dissuadais par amour des pauvres. Peu après, elle construisit un hôpital, elle recueillit les malades et les invalides et elle servit à sa table les plus misérables et les plus abandonnés. L’ayant moi-même réprimandée à ce propos, Elisabeth répondit qu'elle recevait des pauvres une grâce spéciale et l’humilité» (Epistula magistri Conradi, 14-17).
Nous pouvons percevoir dans cette affirmation une certaine expérience mystique semblable à celle vécue par saint François: le Poverello d'Assise déclara en effet dans son testament, qu'en servant les lépreux, ce qui auparavant lui était amer fut transmué en douceur de l'âme et du corps (Testamentum, 1-3). Elisabeth passa les trois dernières années de sa vie dans l'hôpital qu'elle avait fondé, servant les malades, veillant avec les mourants. Elle essayait toujours d'accomplir les services les plus humbles et les travaux répugnants. Elle devint ce que nous pourrions appeler aujourd'hui une femme consacrée dans le monde (soror in saeculo) et forma, avec d'autres amies, vêtues de gris, une communauté religieuse. Ce n'est pas par hasard qu'elle est la patronne du Tiers Ordre régulier de saint François et de l'Ordre franciscain séculier.
En novembre 1231, elle fut frappée par de fortes fièvres. Lorsque la nouvelle de sa maladie se propagea, une foule de gens accourut lui rendre visite. Après une dizaine de jours, elle demanda que les portes fussent fermées, pour demeurer seule avec Dieu. Dans la nuit du 17 novembre, elle s'endormit doucement dans le Seigneur. Les témoignages sur sa sainteté furent si nombreux qu’à peine quatre ans plus tard, le Pape Grégoire IX la proclama sainte et, la même année, fut consacrée la belle église construite en son honneur à Marbourg.
Chers frères et sœurs, dans la figure de sainte Elisabeth, nous voyons que la foi et l'amitié avec le Christ créent le sens de la justice, de l'égalité entre tous, des droits des autres et créent l'amour, la charité. Et de cette charité naît aussi l'espérance, la certitude que nous sommes aimés par le Christ et que l'amour du Christ nous attend et ainsi nous rend capables d'imiter le Christ et de voir le Christ dans les autres. Sainte Elisabeth nous invite à redécouvrir le Christ, à l'aimer, à avoir la foi et trouver ainsi la vraie justice et l'amour, ainsi que la joie d'être un jour plongés dans l'amour divin, dans la joie de l'éternité avec Dieu, Merci.
* * *
Je salue les pèlerins francophones, en particulier, les jeunes, les collégiens et les étudiants présents venus d’Alsace, de Bretagne, du Languedoc et de Paris. Je salue cordialement les pèlerins venus de loin, de l’Île de la Réunion et du Canada qui vient de célébrer la canonisation de l’admirable Frère André, plein de foi et de simplicité. Je n’oublie pas les confirmés de Fribourg en Suisse. Que Dieu vous bénisse et bon pèlerinage à tous!
* * *
ANNONCE D'UN CONSISTOIRE POUR LA CRÉATION DE NOUVEAUX CARDINAUX
J'annonce maintenant avec joie que, le 20 novembre prochain, se tiendra un Consistoire au cours duquel je nommerai de nouveaux membres du Collège cardinalice. Les cardinaux ont la tâche d’aider le Successeur de l'Apôtre Pierre dans l'accomplissement de sa mission de principe et de fondement perpétuel et visible de l'unité de la foi et de la communion dans l'Eglise (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 18).
Voici les noms des nouveaux cardinaux:
1. Mgr Angelo Amato, S.D.B., préfet de la Congrégation pour les causes des saints;
2. S.B. Antonios Naguib, patriarche d'Alexandrie des Coptes (Egypte);
3. Mgr Robert Sarah, président du Conseil pontifical «Cor Unum»;
4. Mgr Francesco Monterisi, archiprêtre de la Basilique pontificale Saint-Paul-hors-les-Murs;
5. Mgr Fortunato Baldelli, pénitentier majeur;
6. Mgr Raymond Leo Burke, préfet du Tribunal suprême de la signature apostolique;
7. Mgr Kurt Koch, président du Conseil pontifical pour la promotion de l'unité des chrétiens;
8. Mgr Paolo Sardi, vice camerlingue de la Sainte Eglise romaine;
9. Mgr Mauro Piacenza, préfet de la Congrégation pour le clergé;
10. Mgr Velasio De Paolis, C.S., président de la Préfecture des affaires économiques du Saint-Siège;
11. Mgr Gianfranco Ravasi, président du Conseil pontifical de la culture;
12. Mgr Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, archevêque émérite de Lusaka (Zambie);
13. Mgr Raúl Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, archevêque émérite de Quito (Equateur);
14. Mgr Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archevêque de Kinshasa (Rép. démocratique du Congo);
15. Mgr Paolo Romeo, archevêque de Palerme (Italie);
16. Mgr Donald William Wuerl, archevêque de Washington (Etats-Unis d'Amérique);
17. Mgr Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archevêque d’Aparecida (Brésil);
18. Mgr Kazimierz Nycz, archevêque de Varsovie (Pologne);
19. Mgr Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, archevêque de Colombo (Sri Lanka);
20. Mgr Reinhard Marx, archevêque de Munich et Freising (Allemagne).
J’ai en outre décidé d'élever à la dignité cardinalice deux prélats et deux ecclésiastiques, qui se sont distingués par leur générosité et leur dévouement au service de l'Eglise.
Il s’agit de:
1. Mgr José Manuel Estepa Llaurens, archevêque émérite aux armées (Espagne);
2. Mgr Elio Sgreccia, ancien président de l'Académie pontificale pour la vie (Italie);
3. Mgr Walter Brandmüller, ancien président du Comité pontifical des sciences historiques (Allemagne);
4. Mgr Domenico Bartolucci, ancien maître directeur de la Chapelle musicale pontificale (Italie).
Dans la liste des nouveaux cardinaux se reflète l'universalité de l'Eglise; en effet, ils proviennent de diverses régions du monde et ils accomplissent diverses tâches et services pour le Saint-Siège ou au contact direct avec le Peuple de Dieu en tant que pères et pasteurs d'Eglises particulières.
Je vous invite à prier pour les nouveaux cardinaux, en demandant l'intercession particulière de la Très Sainte Mère de Dieu, afin qu'ils accomplissent de manière féconde leur ministère dans l'Eglise.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20101020_fr.html
Veuve à 20 ans du Roi Louis IV de Thuringe, elle mourut tertiaire franciscaine à 24 ans le 16 novembre 1231. Canonisée par Grégoire IX en 1235. On trouve sa fête dans le Missel de la Curie Romaine de 1474 mais saint Pie V la supprima en 1568.
Elle fut rétablie comme semidouble ad libitum en 1670, puis l’année suivante comme double par Clément X qui introduisit alors dans le missel romain la collecte composée dès sa canonisation.
Quatrième leçon. Élisabeth, fille d’André, roi de Hongrie, commença dès son enfance à craindre Dieu ; croissant en âge, elle croissait aussi en piété. Ayant été mariée à Louis, Landgrave de Hesse et de Thuringe, elle ne mit pas moins de zèle à remplir ses devoirs envers Dieu, que ses devoirs envers son mari. Se levant la nuit, elle vaquait longuement à l’oraison ; elle s’appliquait à diverses œuvres de charité, se dépensant au service des veuves, des orphelins, des malades, des indigents ; on la vit, durant une famine cruelle, distribuer libéralement le blé de sa maison. Elle donnait asile aux lépreux, leur baisait les mains et les pieds, et fit construire un grand hôpital, destiné à soigner et à nourrir les pauvres.
Cinquième leçon. A la mort de son époux, voulant servir Dieu avec plus de liberté, Élisabeth déposa toutes les parures du siècle, se revêtit d’une robe grossière et entra dans l’Ordre des Pénitents de saint François, où elle se fit particulièrement remarquer par les vertus de patience et d’humilité. Car, dépouillée de tous ses biens, chassée de son propre palais, délaissée de tout le monde, elle supporta avec un courage invincible, les injures, les sarcasmes et les médisances, ressentant même une très grande joie de souffrir ainsi pour Dieu, s’abaissant jusqu’aux plus vils offices auprès des pauvres et des malades, leur procurant les soulagements nécessaires, et se contentant d’herbes et de légumes pour sa nourriture.
Sixième leçon. Après avoir passé très religieusement sa vie dans l’accomplissement de ces œuvres de piété et de beaucoup d’autres non moins saintes, le terme de son pèlerinage arriva enfin ; elle l’avait déjà prédit à ceux qui l’entouraient. Ce fut pendant qu’elle se livrait à la contemplation divine, les yeux fixés au ciel, qu’elle s’endormit dans le Seigneur, après avoir été merveilleusement assistée de Dieu et fortifiée par la réception des sacrements. Il se fit aussitôt plusieurs miracles à son tombeau ; en ayant eu connaissance et les ayant constatés, Grégoire IX l’inscrivit au nombre des Saints.
Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique
Bien que tous les élus resplendissent au ciel d’un éclat propre à chacun d’eux, Dieu se complaît à les grouper par familles, comme il le fait dans la nature pour les astres du firmament. C’est la grâce qui préside à ce groupement des constellations dans le ciel des Saints ; mais parfois Dieu semble vouloir nous rappeler ici que nature et grâce l’ont pour commun auteur ; et les conviant malgré la chute à l’honorer ensemble dans ses élus, il fait de la sainteté comme un patrimoine auguste que se transmettent de générations en générations les membres d’une même famille de la terre . Parmi ces races bénies ne le cède à aucune la royale lignée qui, de l’antique Pannonie, étendit sur le monde aux meilleurs temps de la chrétienté l’ombre de ses rameaux ; riche en vertu, éprise du beau, comme parle l’Écriture, portant la paix dans ces maisons couronnées de la vieille Europe que tant d’alliances avaient rendues siennes , les noms qu’elle inscrivit au livre d’or des bienheureux perpétuent sa gloire.
Mais, de ces noms illustres, entouré d’eux comme un diamant serti d’une couronne de perles, le plus grand pour l’Église et les peuples est celui de l’aimable Sainte, mûre pour le ciel à vingt-quatre ans, qui rejoint aujourd’hui les Etienne, les Emeric et les Ladislas. Élisabeth ne demeura pas au-dessous de leurs mâles vertus ; mais la simplicité de son âme aimante imprégna l’héroïsme de sa race comme d’une huile parfumée dont la senteur, se répandant sous tous les cieux, entraîne dans la voie des Bienheureux et des Saints, avec sa fille Gertrude de Thuringe, sa tante Hedwige de Silésie, et ses cousines ou nièces et petites-nièces Agnès de Bohême, Marguerite de Hongrie, Cunégonde de Pologne, Élisabeth de Portugal.
Le Dieu des humbles sembla vouloir rivaliser avec toute la poésie de ces temps chevaleresques, pour idéaliser dans la mémoire des hommes la douce enfant qui, transplantée, fleur à peine éclose, de la cour de Hongrie à celle de Thuringe, ne sut qu’aimer et se dévouer pour lui. Quelle fraîcheur d’idylle, mais d’une idylle du ciel, en ces pages des contemporains où nous est racontée la vie de la chère Sainte avec l’époux si tendrement aimé qui fut le digne témoin des extases de sa piété sublime et naïve, le défenseur envers et contre tous de ses héroïques et candides vertus ! Aux intendants qui se plaignent que, dans une absence du duc Louis, elle a malgré eux épuisé le trésor pour les pauvres : « J’entends, dit-il, qu’on laisse mon Élisabeth agir à sa guise ; qu’elle donne tout ce qu’elle voudra, pourvu qu’elle me laisse la Wartbourg et Naumbourg. »
Aussi le Seigneur, ouvrant les yeux du landgrave, lui montrait sous la forme de roses, dignes déjà des parterres du ciel, les provisions qu’Élisabeth portait aux malheureux dans son manteau.
Jésus lui-même apparaissait en croix dans le lépreux qu’elle recueillait en ses appartements pour le soigner plus à l’aise. S’il arrivait que d’illustres hôtes survenant à l’improviste, la duchesse dont les bijoux passaient comme le reste en aumônes se trouvât dépourvue de la parure qui eût convenu pour leur faire honneur, les Anges y suppléaient si bien qu’aux yeux émerveillés des visiteurs, selon le dire des chroniqueurs allemands de l’époque, la reine de France n’eût pas été plus admirablement belle, plus richement parée.
C’est qu’en effet Élisabeth entendait ne se dérober à aucune des obligations ni convenances de sa situation de princesse souveraine ou d’épouse. Aussi gracieusement simple en ses vertus qu’affable pour tous, elle s’étonnait de l’attitude sombre et morose que plusieurs affectaient dans leurs prières ou leurs austérités : « Ils ont l’air de vouloir épouvanter le Bon Dieu , disait-elle, tandis qu’il aime celui qui donne joyeusement . »
Le temps, hélas ! vint vite pour elle de donner sans compter. Ce fut d’abord le départ en croisade du duc Louis, son époux, dont il sembla qu’elle ne se pourrait jamais séparer ; puis la scène déchirante où lui fut annoncée sa mort, au moment où pour la quatrième fois elle venait d’être mère ; enfin l’acte d’odieuse félonie par lequel Henri Raspon, l’indigne frère du landgrave, trouvant l’occasion bonne pour s’emparer des états du défunt, chassa ses enfants et sa veuve, avec défense à qui que ce fût de les recevoir. Dans ce pays où toute misère avait éprouvé ses bontés, Élisabeth dut mendier, en butte à mille rebuts, le pain des pauvres enfants, réduits comme elle à se contenter pour gîte d’une étable à pourceaux.
L’heure des réparations devait sonner avec le retour des chevaliers partis en la compagnie du duc Louis. Mais Élisabeth, devenue l’amante passionnée de la sainte pauvreté, resta parmi les pauvres. Première professe du Tiers-Ordre séraphique, le manteau que saint François lui avait envoyé comme à sa très chère fille demeura son unique trésor. Bientôt les sentiers du renoncement absolu l’eurent conduite au terme. Celle que, vingt ans auparavant, on apportait dans un berceau d’argent à son fiancé vêtue de soie et d’or, s’envolait à Dieu d’une masure de terre glaise, n’ayant pour vêtement qu’une robe rapiécetée ; les ménestrels dont les assauts de gai savoir avaient rendu fameuse l’année de sa naissance n’étaient plus là, mais on entendit les Anges qui chantaient, montant vers les cieux : Regnum mundi contempsi, propter amorem Domini mei Jesu Christi, quem vidi, quem amavi, in quem credidi,quem dilexi .
Quatre ans après, Élisabeth, déclarée Sainte par le Vicaire de Jésus-Christ, voyait tous les peuples du Saint-Empire, empereur en tête, affluer à Marbourg où elle reposait au milieu de ces pauvres dont elle avait ambitionné la vie. Son corps sacré fut remis à la garde des chevaliers Teutoniques, qui reconnurent l’honneur en faisant de Marbourg un chef-lieu de l’Ordre, et en élevant à la Sainte la première église ogivale que l’Allemagne ait possédée. De nombreux miracles y attirèrent longtemps l’univers chrétien.
Et maintenant, bien que toujours debout, toujours belle en son deuil, Sainte-Élisabeth de Marbourg ne connaît plus que de nom celle qui fut sa gloire. A la Wartbourg embaumée des grâces de la chère Sainte, où s’écoula au milieu des plus suaves épisodes sa vie d’enfant et d’épouse, le grand souvenir qu’on montre au voyageur est la chaire d’un moine en rupture de ban, et la tache d’encre dont, en un jour de démence ou d’ivresse, il salit les murs, comme il devait de sa plume tenter de tout profaner et souiller dans l’Église de Dieu.
L’Allemagne chantait au XIVe siècle l’Hymne qui suit en l’honneur de sainte Élisabeth.
L’Église en accents mélodieux offre à Dieu la louange ; Sion est dans la joie ; la mère fait fête à son illustre fille s’élevant du fond de la vallée de misère.
De royale descendance, enfant encore elle est fiancée ; les plus beaux dons l’ornent pour l’époux auquel elle est unie : union dont la pureté répond à ses vœux.
Fidélité, fécondité, grâce du sacrement consacrent ce mariage ; qu’il la conduise au ciel où sont ses pères, la preuve en est dans sa sainteté croissante.
Bien donc que soumise à la loi de la chair, l’esprit en elle ne s’y éteignit pas ; fidèle à des engagements sacrés, elle ne négligea pas les inspirations qu’elle recevait de Dieu dans son cœur.
Des pauvres elle se fit la bienheureuse et noble nourricière , n’ayant aux pompes du monde nul égard, non plus qu’à la gloire des aïeux, crucifiant les vices en sa chair mortifiée.
Comme à Jahel Sisara , l’ennemi de l’innocence lui demande un peu d’eau ; mais trompé par le lait qu’elle lui donne en breuvage, elle le transperce avec le clou de la pénitence, sauvant ainsi son renoncement et sa vertu.
Son époux mort, elle dépouille sans jamais en avoir été souillée la mondanité : celle qui depuis longtemps a revêtu le Christ en son âme, donne un sac à son corps pour vêtement ; comme une lampe ardente elle resplendit au milieu de ce siècle.
Elle se procure au prix de la pauvreté les véritables richesses ; elle répand du trésor de sa piété des flots d’or : de combien de malheureux n’a-t-elle pas secouru l’indigence !
Pour elle, elle gagne son pain en travaillant et en filant ; vile à ses propres yeux, elle dédaigne de se voir abaissée, n’ignorant pas qu’à vous seul, Christ, est due légitimement la gloire.
Gloire soit à vous, ô bon Jésus, maintenant et toujours vous qui fidèlement aidez les combattants du bon combat, et donnez en récompense au vainqueur vaillant la couronne.
Quelle leçon vous laissez à la terre en montant au ciel, ô bienheureuse Elisabeth ! Nous le demandons avec l’Église pour nous et tous nos frères dans la foi : puissent vos prières glorieuses obtenir de Dieu miséricordieux que nos cœurs s’ouvrent à la lumière des enseignements de votre vie, et méprisent le bonheur du monde pour n’estimer que les consolations célestes . L’Évangile nous le dit aujourd’hui même à votre honneur : Le royaume des cieux est semblable à un trésor caché, à une perle sans prix ; l’homme sage et entendu en affaires vend tout ce qu’il a pour s’assurer le trésor ou la perle . Bon négoce dont vous eûtes l’intelligence, atteste l’Épître , et qui fit autour de vous la fortune de tous : de vos heureux sujets, dont il secourut les corps et releva les âmes ; de votre noble époux siégeant, grâce à vous, en bon lieu parmi les princes qui surent échanger un diadème périssable pour la couronne éternelle ; de tous les vôtres enfin, dont vous êtes la plus douce gloire, dont plusieurs vous suivirent de si près sur le chemin du renoncement qui conduit aux cieux. Pourquoi faut-il que d’autres, en un siècle de ruine, aient abdiqué leur titre de fils des Saints, entraînant après eux les peuples à faire litière des plus suaves souvenirs comme des plus nobles traditions ? Daigne le Seigneur rendre à son Église et à vous-même le pays qui fut pour vous celui de son amour ; puissent vos supplications se joindre aux nôtres en ce jour, et ramener l’antique foi dans ces rameaux de votre descendance que ne parcourt plus la sève du salut ; puisse la glorieuse tige, en ses branches fidèles, nous donner toujours des Saints.
 Eccli. XLIV.
 Ibid. 6.
 Montalembert. Histoire de sainte Élisabeth de Hongrie, Ch. VII.
 II Cor. IX, 7.
 J’ai méprisé les trônes du monde en considération du Seigneur Jésus-Christ, l’attrait de mes yeux et de mon cœur, qui eut ma foi et mon amour.
 Judic. IV.
 Collecte de la fête.
 Évangile, ex Matth. XII.
 Épître, ex Prov. XXXI.
Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum
Cette douce et angélique créature, fille du roi de Hongrie et épouse du landgrave de Thuringe, a des points de contact avec le pape Pontien. Élisabeth elle aussi, du sommet de son trône, fut traînée dans la poussière après la mort de son mari ; mais la vertu de la Sainte, membre du Tiers Ordre séraphique, fut supérieure à l’adversité. Ses miracles, après sa mort, propagèrent son culte de toutes parts, aussi fut-elle canonisée en 1235.
La messe Cognóvi est du commun, mais la première collecte est propre.
II y avait à Rome plusieurs églises dédiées à cette illustre fille spirituelle de l’Ordre des Mineurs : Sainte-Élisabeth des boulangers allemands, sur la voie papale ; Sainte-Élisabeth alle Muratte ; Sainte-Élisabeth a Pozzo bianco ; Sainte-Élisabeth in Banchi ; Sainte-Élisabeth au -Transtévère. Comme on le voit, les tertiaires franciscains avaient largement répandu le culte de leur insigne patronne.
Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique
« Le rossignol de Dieu »
Sainte Élisabeth. — Jour de mort : 17 novembre 1231, à l’âge de 24 ans. Tombeau : Ses reliques, qui subirent divers destins, reposent dans l’église Sainte Élisabeth à Marbourg ; son chef est à Vienne (église Sainte Élisabeth) Image : On la représente en princesse, distribuant des aumônes. Vie : Sainte Élisabeth, un bijou parmi les saints allemands, patronne des œuvres de charité chrétienne à l’égard du prochain, se distingue par son courage joyeux dans la souffrance. Elle était fille (née en 1207) du roi de Hongrie, André. Dès l’âge de quatre ans, elle vint à la cour de son futur époux, et fut mariée (1221) à Louis, landgrave de Thuringe. Elle remplit avec une fidélité consciencieuse aussi bien ses devoirs d’épouse que ceux de servante de Dieu. Elle quittait son lit durant la nuit et demeurait longtemps en prière ; elle exerçait avec zèle les œuvres de charité chrétienne ; elle se faisait la servante des veuves, des orphelins, des malades et des indigents ; au cours d’une grande famine, elle distribua généreusement tout le blé de ses greniers ; elle recueillait les lépreux dans un hôpital fondé par elle et leur baisait les mains et les pieds. Elle fit construire aussi un vaste hospice pour recevoir et soigner les nécessiteux. Après la mort prématurée de son époux (en 1227, à Otrante, en Basse-Italie, au cours de la croisade que l’empereur Frédéric II fit traîner en longueur), elle quitta tous ses ornements princiers pour pouvoir servir Dieu plus facilement, revêtit un costume simple, devint tertiaire de Saint François et se signala par sa patience et son humilité. Son domaine fut saisi, et on l’obligea à quitter le château de la Wartbourg. Cependant, à Eisenach, personne n’osait lui offrir un abri par crainte du souverain. Ce n’est qu’après bien des prières qu’un aubergiste compatissant lui céda une écurie abandonnée. Mais la cour lui renvoya ses enfants qu’elle avait d’abord laissés au château et interdit à tous les habitants d’héberger la veuve du landgrave, de sorte qu’elle dut errer en plein froid de l’hiver avec ses trois enfants dont le plus jeune avait à peine quelques mois. En 1228, elle prit le voile des sœurs du tiers-ordre de Saint François et se rendit à Marbourg où elle fit construire un hôpital avec son pécule de veuve, ne se réservant qu’une pauvre maisonnette de torchis. Toutes ses forces et tous ses soins étaient pour les pauvres et les malades ; quant à elle, elle gagnait sa vie en filant. Encore jeune par l’âge, mais riche en bonnes œuvres de noble charité, elle mourut là le 17 novembre 1231 ; elle n’avait que 24 ans. — La Messe est du commun des saintes femmes (Cognóvi).
St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Also called St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, born in Hungary, probably at Pressburg, 1207; died at Marburg, Hesse, 17 November (not 19 November), 1231.
She was a daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary (1205-35) and his wife Gertrude, a member of the family of the Counts of Andechs-Meran; Elizabeth's brother succeeded his father on the throne of Hungary as Bela IV; the sister of her mother, Gertrude, was St. Hedwig, wife of Duke Heinrich I, the Bearded, of Silesia, while anothersaint, St. Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal (d. 1336), the wife of the tyrannical King Diniz of that country, was hergreat-niece.
In 1211 a formal embassy was sent by Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia to Hungary to arrange, as was customary in that age, a marriage between his eldest son Hermann and Elizabeth, who was then four years old. This plan of a marriage was the result of political considerations and was intended to be the ratification of a great alliance which in the political schemes of the time it was sought to form against the German Emperor Otto IV, a member of the house of Guelph, who had quarrelled with the Church. Not long after this the little girl was taken to the Thuringian court to be brought up with her future husband and, in the course of time, to be betrothed to him.
The court of Thuringia was at this period famous for its magnificence. Its centre was the stately castle of the Wartburg, splendidly placed on a hill in the Thuringian Forest near Eisenach, where the Landgrave Hermann lived surrounded by poets and minnesingers, to whom he was a generous patron. Notwithstanding the turbulence and purely secular life of the court and the pomp of her surroundings, the little girl grew up a very religious child with an evident inclination to prayer and pious observances and small acts of self-mortification. These religiousimpulses were undoubtedly strengthened by the sorrowful experiences of her life.
In 1213 Elizabeth's mother, Gertrude, was murdered by Hungarian nobles, probably out of hatred of theGermans. On 31 December, 1216, the oldest son of the landgrave, Hermann, who Elizabeth was to marry, died; after this she was betrothed to Ludwig, the second son. It was probably in these years that Elizabeth had to suffer the hostility of the more frivolous members of the Thuringian court, to whom the contemplative and piouschild was a constant rebuke. Ludwig, however, must have soon come to her protection against any ill-treatment. The legend that arose later is incorrect in making Elizabeth's mother-in-law, the Landgravine Sophia, a member of the reigning family of Bavaria, the leader of this court party. On the contrary, Sophia was a very religious andcharitable woman and a kindly mother to the little Elizabeth.
The political plans of the old Landgrave Hermann involved him in great difficulties and reverses; he wasexcommunicated, lost his mind towards the end of his life, and died, 25 April, 1217, unreconciled with theChurch. He was succeeded by his son Ludwig IV, who, in 1221, was also made regent of Meissen and the East Mark. The same year (1221) Ludwig and Elizabeth were married, the groom being twenty-one years old and the bride fourteen. The marriage was in every regard a happy and exemplary one, and the couple were devotedly attached to each other. Ludwig proved himself worthy of his wife. He gave his protection to her acts of charity,penance, and her vigils, and often held Elizabeth's hands as she knelt praying at night beside his bed. He was also a capable ruler and brave soldier. The Germans call him St. Ludwig, an appellation given to him as one of the best men of his age and the pious husband of St. Elizabeth.
They had three children: Hermann II (1222-41), who died young; Sophia (1224-84), who married Henry II, Duke of Brabant, and was the ancestress of the Landgraves of Hesse, as in the war of the Thuringian succession she won Hesse for her son Heinrich I, called the Child; Gertrude (1227-97), Elizabeth's third child, was born several weeks after the death of her father; in after-life she became abbess of the convent of Altenberg near Wetzlar.
Shortly after their marriage, Elizabeth and Ludwig made a journey to Hungary; Ludwig was often after this employed by the Emperor Frederick II, to whom he was much attached, in the affairs of the empire. In the spring of 1226, when floods, famine, and the pest wrought havoc in Thuringia, Ludwig was in Italy attending the Diet atCremona on behalf of the emperor and the empire. Under these circumstances Elizabeth assumed control of affairs, distributed alms in all parts of the territory of her husband, giving even state robes and ornaments to thepoor. In order to care personally for the unfortunate she built below the Wartburg a hospital with twenty-eight beds and visited the inmates daily to attend to their wants; at the same time she aided nine hundred poor daily. It is this period of her life that has preserved Elizabeth's fame to posterity as the gentle and charitable chételaine of the Wartburg. Ludwig on his return confirmed all she had done. The next year (1227) he started with theEmperor Frederick II on a crusade to Palestine but died, 11 September of the same year at Otranto, from the pest. The news did not reach Elizabeth until October, just after she had given birth to her third child. On hearing the tidings Elizabeth, who was only twenty years old, cried out: "The world with all its joys is now dead to me."
The fact that in 1221 the followers of St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) made their first permanent settlement inGermany was one of great importance in the later career of Elizabeth. Brother Rodeger, one of the first Germanswhom the provincial for Germany, Caesarius of Speier, received into the order, was for a time the spiritual instructor of Elizabeth at the Wartburg; in his teachings he unfolded to her the ideals of St. Francis, and these strongly appealed to her. With the aid of Elizabeth the Franciscans in 1225 founded a monastery in Eisenach; Brother Rodeger, as his fellow-companion in the order, Jordanus, reports, instructed Elizabeth, to observe, according to her state of life, chastity, humility, patience, the exercise of prayer, and charity. Her position prevented the attainment of the other ideal of St. Francis, voluntary and complete poverty. Various remarks of Elizabeth to her female attendants make it clear how ardently she desired the life of poverty.
After a while the post Brother Rodeger had filled was assumed by Master Conrad of Marburg, who belonged to no order, but was a very ascetic and, it must be acknowledged, a somewhat rough and very severe man. He was well known as a preacher of the crusade and also as an inquisitor or judge in cases of heresy. On account of the latter activity he has been more severely judged than is just; at the present day, however, the estimate of him is a fairer one. Pope Gregory IX, who wrote at times to Elizabeth, recommended her himself to the God-fearing preacher. Conrad treated Elizabeth with inexorable severity, even using corporal means of correction; nevertheless, he brought her with a firm hand by the road of self-mortification to sanctity, and after her death was very active in her canonization. Although he forbade her to follow St. Francis in complete poverty as a beggar, yet, on the other hand, by the command to keep her dower she was enabled to perform works of charityand tenderness.
Up to 1888 it was believed, on account of the testimony of one of Elizabeth's servants in the process ofcanonization, that Elizabeth was driven from the Wartburg in the winter of 1227 by her brother-in-law, Heinrich Raspe, who acted as regent for her son, then only five years old. About 1888 various investigators (Börner, Mielke, Wenck, E. Michael, etc.) asserted that Elizabeth left the Wartburg voluntarily, the only compulsion being amoral one. She was not able at the castle to follow Conrad's command to eat only food obtained in a way that was certainly right and proper. Lately, however, Huyskens (1907) tried to prove that Elizabeth was driven from the castle at Marburg in Hesse, which was hers by dower right. Consequently, the Te Deum that she directed theFranciscans to sing on the night of her expulsion would have been sung in the Franciscan monastery at Marburg. Accompanied by two female attendants, Elizabeth left the castle that stands on a height commanding Marburg. The next day her children were brought to her, but they were soon taken elsewhere to be cared for.
Elizabeth's aunt, Matilda, Abbess of the Benedictine nunnery of Kitzingen near Würzburg, took charge of the unfortunate landgravine and sent her to her uncle Eckbert, Bishop of Bamberg. The bishop, however, was intent on arranging another marriage for her, although during the lifetime of her husband Elizabeth had made a vow ofcontinence in case of his death; the same vow had also been taken by her attendants.
While Elizabeth was maintaining her position against her uncle the remains of her husband were brought toBamberg by his faithful followers who had carried them from Italy. Weeping bitterly, she buried the body in thefamily vault of the landgraves of Thuringia in the monastery of Reinhardsbrunn. With the aid of Conrad she now received the value of her dower in money, namely two thousand marks; of this sum she divided five hundred marks in one day among the poor. On Good Friday, 1228, in the Franciscan house at Eisenach Elizabeth formally renounced the world; then going to Master Conrad at Marburg, she and her maids received from him the dress of the Third Order of St. Francis, thus being among the first tertiaries of Germany. In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and on its completion devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick, especially to those afflicted with the most loathsome diseases. Conrad of Marburg still imposed many self-mortifications and spiritual renunciations, while at the same time he even took from Elizabeth her devoted domestics. Constant in her devotion to God, Elizabeth's strength was consumed by her charitable labours, and she passed away at the age of twenty-four, a time when life to most human beings is just opening.
Very soon after the death of Elizabeth miracles began to be worked at her grave in the church of the hospital, especially miracles of healing. Master Conrad showed great zeal in advancing the process of canonization. Bypapal command three examinations were held of those who had been healed: namely, in August, 1232, January, 1233, and January, 1235. Before the process reached its end, however, Conrad was murdered, 30 July, 1233. But the Teutonic Knights in 1233 founded a house at Marburg, and in November, 1234, Conrad, Landgrave ofThuringia, the brother-in-law of Elizabeth, entered the order. At Pentecost (28 May) of the year 1235, the solemnceremony of canonization of the "greatest woman of the German Middle Ages" was celebrated by Gregory IX atPerugia, Landgrave Conrad being present. In August of the same year (1235) the corner-stone of the beautifulGothic church of St. Elizabeth was laid at Marburg; on 1 May, 1236, Emperor Frederick II attended the taking-up of the body of the saint; in 1249 the remains were placed in the choir of the church of St. Elizabeth, which was not consecrated until 1283.
Pilgrimages to the grave soon increased to such importance that at times they could be compared to those to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. In 1539 Philip the Magnanimous, Landgrave of Hesse, who had become aProtestant, put an end to the pilgrimages by unjustifiable interference with the church that belonged to theTeutonic Order and by forcibly removing the relics and all that was sacred to Elizabeth. Nevertheless, the entireGerman people still honour the "dear St. Elizabeth" as she is called; in 1907 a new impulse was given to her veneration in Germany and Austria by the celebration of the seven hundredth anniversary of her birth.
St. Elizabeth is generally represented as a princess graciously giving alms to the wretched poor or as holding roses in her lap; in the latter case she is portrayed either alone or as surprised by her husband, who, according to a legend, which is, however, related of other saints as well, met her unexpectedly as she went secretly on an errand of mercy, and, so the story runs, the bread she was trying to conceal was suddenly turned into roses.
The original materials for the life of St. Elizabeth are to be found in the letters sent by CONRAD OF MARBURG to Pope Gregory IX (1232) and in the testimony of her four female attendants (Libellus de dictis quatuor ancillarum) taken by the third papal commission (January, 1235). The best edition of the testimony is to be found in HUYSKENS, Quellenstudien zur Geschichte der hl. Elisabeth, Landgräfin von Thüringen (Marburg, 1908),110-40. For the Acts of the process of canonization see HUYSKENS, Quellenstudien, 110-268; Vita S. Elisabethae des Caesarius von Heisterbach O. Cist. (1236), ed. HUYSKENS, in Annalen des historischen Vereins für den Niederrhein (Cologne, 1908), Pt. LXXXV; the hagiography of St. Elizabeth was greatly influenced by DIETRICH OF APOLDA, Vita S. Elisabeth (written 1289-97), published in CANISIUS, Antiquae lectionis (Ingolstadt, 1605), V, Pt. II, 147-217, and in BASNAGE, Thesaurus Monumentorum Ecclesiasticorum (Amsterdam, 1723). IV. 115-152.
"St. Elizabeth of Hungary." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 17 Nov. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05389a.htm>.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Widow
Her life compiled by Cæsarius, monk of Heisterbach, is lost. Theodoric of Thuringia, a Dominican, (who seems to be the famous Theodoric of Apoldo, in 1289, author of the life of St. Dominic,) wrote that of St. Elizabeth in eight books, extant in Canisius. (Lect. Antiq. t. 5.) Lambecius (t. 2, Bibl. Vind.) published an additional fragment, with several pieces relative to her canonization. Her life by James Montanus of Spire, published by Sedulius, abridged by D’Andilly, &c., is taken from the work of Theodoric. The letter of the holy priest, Conrad of Marpurg, the saint’s confessor, to Pope Gregory IX. soon after her death, bears authentic testimony to her heroic virtues. Conrad’s letter is published in an Appendix to the supplement of the Byzantine Historians, printed at Venice in 1723. It is accompanied with the authentic relation of miracles examined before Sifrid, archbishop of Mentz, Reymund, the Cistercian abbot of Eberbac, and master, or doctor Conrad, preacher of the word of God, by commission of the holy see, who jointly sent the relation to the pope. See also St. Bonaventure, Serm. de S. Elizabethâ, t. 5.
ELIZABETH, daughter of Alexander II., the valiant and religious king of Hungary, and his queen, Gertrude, daughter to the duke of Carinthia, was born in Hungary in 1207. Herman, landgrave of Thuringia and Hesse, had a son born about the same time, and named Lewis. This prince obtained, by ambassadors, a promise from the king of Hungary that his daughter should be given in marriage to his new-born son; and, to secure the effect of this engagement, at the landgrave’s request, the princess, at four years of age, was sent to his court, and there brought up under the care of a virtuous lady. Five years after, Herman died, and Lewis became landgrave. Elizabeth, from her cradle, was so happily preserved by the love of God, that no room for creatures could be found in her heart; and though surrounded, and, as it were, besieged by worldly pleasures in their most engaging shapes, she had no relish for them, prayed with an astonishing recollection, and seemed scarcely to know any other use of money than to give it to the poor; for her father allowed her, till her marriage was solemnized, a competent yearly revenue for maintaining a court suitable to her rank. This child of heaven, in her very recreations studied to practise frequent humiliations and self-denials; and stole often to the chapel, and there knelt down and said a short prayer before every altar, bowing her body reverently, or, if nobody was there, prostrating herself upon the ground. If she found the doors of the chapel in the palace shut, not to lose her labour, she knelt down at the threshold, and always put up her petition to the throne of God. Her devotion she indulged with more liberty in her private closet. She was very devout to her angel guardian and the saints, particularly St. John the Evangelist. She was educated with Agnes, sister to the young landgrave, and upon their first appearing together at church, they were dressed alike, and wore coronets set with jewels. At their entering the house of God, Sophia, the landgrave’s mother, observing our saint take off her coronet, asked why she did so: to which the princess replied, that she could not bear to appear with jewels on her head, where she saw that of Jesus Christ crowned with thorns. Agnes and her mother, who were strangers to such kind of sentiments, and fond of what Elizabeth trampled upon, conceived an aversion for the young princess, and said, that since she seemed to have so little relish for a court, a convent would be the properest place for her. The courtiers carried their reflections much further, and did all in their power to bring the saint into contempt, saying, that neither her fortune nor her person were such as the landgrave had a right to expect, that he had no inclination for her, and that she would either be sent back to Hungary, or married to some nobleman in the country. These taunts and trials were more severe and continual, as the landgrave, Herman, dying when Elizabeth was only nine years old, the government fell into the hands of his widow in the name of her son till he should be of age. These persecutions and injuries were, to the saint, occasions of the greatest spiritual advantages; for by them she daily learned a more perfect contempt of all earthly things, to which the heavenly lover exhorts his spouse, saying: “Hearken, daughter, forget thy people.” She learned also the evangelical hatred of herself, and crucifixion of self-love; by which she was enabled to say with the apostles: Behold we have left all things. In this entire disengagement of her heart, she learned to take up her cross and follow Christ by the exercise of meekness, humility, patience, and charity, towards unjust persecutors; and to cleave to God by the closest union of her soul to him, by resignation, love, and prayer, contemning herself, and esteeming the vanity of the world as filth and dung. She desired to please God only, and in this spirit she was wont to pray: “O sovereign spouse of my soul, never suffer me to love any thing but in Thee, or for Thee. May every thing which tends not to Thee, be bitter and painful, and Thy will alone sweet. May Thy will be always mine: as in heaven Thy will is punctually performed, so may it be done on earth by all creatures, particularly in me and by me. And as love requires a union, and entire resignation of all things into the hands of the beloved, I give up my whole self to Thee without reserve. In my heart I renounce all riches and pomp: if I had many worlds I would leave them all to adhere to Thee alone in poverty and nakedness of spirit, as Thou madest Thyself poor for me. O spouse of my heart, so great is the love I bear Thee, and holy poverty for Thy sake, that with joy I leave all that I am, that I may be transformed into Thee, and that abandoned state so amiable to Thee.”
The saint was in her fourteenth year when Lewis, the young landgrave, returned home, after a long absence, on account of his education. Address in martial exercises and other great accomplishments introduced the young prince into the world with a mighty reputation: but nothing was so remarkable in him as a sincere love of piety. The eminent virtue of Elizabeth gave Him the highest esteem for her person. However, he seldom saw or spoke to her, even in public, and never in private, till the question was one day put to him, what his thoughts were with regard to marrying her? and he was told what rumours were spread in the court to her disadvantage. Hereat he expressed much displeasure, and said, that he prized her virtue above all the mountains of gold and rubies that the world could afford. Forthwith he sent her by a nobleman a glass garnished with precious stones of inestimable value, with two crystals opening on each side, in the one of which was a looking-glass; on the other a figure of Christ crucified was most curiously wrought. And not long after he solemnized his marriage with her, and the ceremony was performed with the utmost pomp, and with extraordinary public rejoicings. The stream of public applause followed the favour of the prince: the whole court expressed the most profound veneration for the saint, and all the clouds, which had so long hung over her head were at once dispersed. Conrad of Marpurg, a most holy and learned priest, and an eloquent pathetic preacher, whose disinterestedness, and love of holy poverty, mortified life, and extraordinary devotion and spirit of prayer, rendered him a model to the clergy of that age, was the person whom she chose for her spiritual director, and to his advice she submitted herself in all things relating to her spiritual concerns. This holy and experienced guide, observing how deep root the seeds of virtue had taken in her soul, applied himself by cultivating them to conduct her to the summit of Christian perfection, and encouraged her in the path of mortification and penance, but was obliged often to moderate her corporal austerities by the precept of obedience. The landgrave also reposed an entire confidence in Conrad, and gave this holy man the privilege of disposing of all ecclesiastical benefices in the prince’s gift. Elizabeth, with her pious husband’s consent, often rose in the night to pray, and consecrated great part of her time to her devotions, insomuch that on Sundays and holidays she never allowed herself much leisure to dress herself. The rest of her time which was not spent in prayer or reading, she devoted to works of charity, and to spinning or carding wool, in which she would only work very coarse wool for the use of the poor, or of the Franciscan friars. The mysteries of the life and sufferings of our Saviour were the subject of her most tender and daily meditation. Weighing of what importance prayer and mortification, or penance are in a spiritual life, she studied to make her prayer virtually continual, by breaking forth into fervent acts of compunction and divine love amidst all her employments. The austerity of her life surpassed that of recluses. When she sat at table, next to the landgrave, to dissemble her abstinence from flesh and savoury dishes, she used to deceive the attention of others by discoursing with the guests, or with the prince, carving for others, sending her maids upon errands, often changing her plates, and a thousand other artifices. Her meal frequently consisted only of bread and honey, or a dry crust, with a cup of the smallest wine, or the like: especially when she dined privately in her chamber, with two maids, who voluntarily followed her rules as to diet. She never ate but what came out of her own kitchen, that she might be sure nothing was mixed contrary to the severe rules she had laid down; and this kitchen she kept out of her own private purse, not to be the least charge to her husband. She was a great enemy to rich apparel, though in compliance to the landgrave, she on certain public occasions conformed in some degree to the fashions of the court. When ambassadors came from her father, the king of Hungary, her husband desired her not to appear in that homely apparel which she usually wore; but she prevailed upon him to suffer it; and God was pleased to give so extraordinary a gracefulness to her person, that the ambassadors were exceedingly struck at the comeliness and majesty of the appearance she made. In the absence of her husband she commonly wore only coarse cloth, not dyed, but in the natural colour of the wool, such as the poor people used. She so strongly recommended to her maids of honour simplicity of dress, penance, and assiduous prayer, that several of them were warmed into an imitation of her virtues; but they could only follow her at a distance, for she seemed inimitable in her heroic practices, especially in her profound humility, with which she courted the most mortifying humiliations. In attending the poor and the sick, she cheerfully washed and cleansed the most filthy sores, and waited on those that were infected with the most loathsome diseases.
Her alms seemed at all times to have no bounds; in which the good landgrave rejoiced exceedingly, and gave her full liberty. In 1225 Germany being severely visited by a famine, she exhausted the treasury and distributed her whole crop of corn amongst those who felt the weight of that calamity the heaviest. The landgrave was then in Apulia with the emperor; and at his return the officers of his household complained loudly to him of her profusion in favour of the poor. But the prince was so well assured of her piety and prudence, that without examining into the matter, he asked if she had alienated his dominions? They answered: “No.” “As for her charities,” said he, “they will entail upon us the divine blessings: and we shall not want so long as we suffer her to relieve the poor as she does.” The castle of Marpurg, the residence of the landgrave, was built on a steep rock, which the infirm and weak were not able to climb. The holy margravine therefore built an hospital at the foot of the rock for their reception and entertainment; where she often fed them with her own hands, made their beds, and attended them even in the heat of summer, when that place seemed insupportable to all those who were strangers to the sentiments of her generous and indefatigable charity. The helpless children, especially all orphans, were provided for at her expense. Elizabeth was the foundress of another hospital, in which twenty-eight persons were constantly relieved; she fed nine hundred daily at her own gate, besides an incredible number in the different parts of the dominions, so that the revenue in her hands was truly the patrimony of the distressed. But the saint’s charity was tempered with discretion; and instead of encouraging in idleness such as were able to work, she employed them in a way suitable to their strength and capacity. Her husband, edified and charmed with her extraordinary piety, not only approved of all she did, but was himself an imitator of her charity, devotion, and other virtues: insomuch that he is deservedly styled by historians, the Pious Landgrave. He had by her three children, Herman, Sophia, who was afterwards married to the duke of Brabant, and Gertrude, who became a nun, and died abbess of Aldenburg. Purely upon motives of religion the landgrave took the cross to accompany the emperor Frederic Barbarossa, in the holy war, to Palestine. The separation of this pious and loving couple was a great trial; though moderated by the heroic spirit of religion with which both were animated. The landgrave joined the emperor in the kingdom of Naples; but as he was going to embark, fell ill of a malignant fever at Otranto, and having received the last sacraments at the hands of the patriarch of Jerusalem, expired in great sentiments of piety, on the 11th of September, 1227. Many miracles are related to have been wrought by him, in the history of Thuringia, and in that of the crusades. 1 Elizabeth, who at his departure had put on the dress of a widow, upon hearing this melancholy news, wept bitterly, and said: “If my husband be dead, I promise to die henceforth to myself, and to the world with all its vanities.” God himself was pleased to complete this her sacrifice by a train of other afflictions into which she fell, being a sensible instance of the instability of human things, in which nothing is more constant than an unsteadiness of fortune: the life of man being a perpetual scene of interludes, and virtue being his only support, a check to pride in prosperity, and a solid comfort in adversity.
Envy, jealousy, and rancour, all broke loose at once against the virtuous landgravine, which, during her husband’s life, for the great love and respect which he bore her, had been raked up and covered over as fire under the ashes. As pretences are never wanting to cloak ambition, envy, and other passions which never dare show themselves barefaced, it was alleged, that the saint had squandered away the public revenue upon the poor; that the infant Herman, being unfit for the government of the state, it ought to be given to one who was able to defend and even extend the dominions of the landgraviate; and that therefore Henry, younger brother to the late landgrave, ought to be advanced to the principality. The mob being soothed by the fine speeches of certain powerful factious men, Henry got possession, and turned Elizabeth out of the castle without furniture, provision, or necessaries for the support of nature, and all persons in the town were forbid to let her any lodgings. The princess bore this unjust treatment with a patience far transcending the power of nature, showing nothing in her gestures which was not as composed as if she had been in the greatest tranquillity possible. And rejoicing in her heart to see herself so ill treated, she went down the castle-hill to the town, placing her whole confidence in God, and with her damsels and maids went into a common inn, or, as others say, a poor woman’s cottage, where she remained till midnight, when the bell ringing to matins at the church of the Franciscan friars, she went thither, and desired the good fathers to sing a Te Deum with solemnity, to give God thanks for his mercies to her in visiting her with afflictions. Though she sent about the next day, and used all her endeavours to procure some kind of lodging in the town, no one durst afford her any for fear of the usurper and his associates. She staid the whole day in the church of the friars, and at evening had the additional affliction to see her three children, whom their barbarous uncle had sent out of the castle, coming down the hill. She received them in the church porch, with undaunted fortitude, but could not refrain from tenderly weeping to see the innocent babes so insensible of their condition as to smile upon her, rejoicing that they had recovered their mother. Reduced to the lowest ebb she applied to a priest for relief, who received her into his little house, where she had but one straight poor chamber for herself, her maids, and children. Her enemies soon forced her from thence, so that with thanks to those who had given her and hers some kind of shelter from the severities of a very sharp winter season, she returned to the inn or cottage. Thus she, who had entertained thousands of poor, could find no entertainment or harbour; and she who had been a mother to so many infants and orphans of others, was glad to beg an alms for her own, and to receive it from her enemies. God failed not to comfort her in her distress, and she addressed herself to him in raptures of love, praying that she might be wholly converted into his love, and that his pure love might reign in her. Melting in the sweetness of divine love she poured forth her soul in inflamed ejaculations, saying, for example: “Ah, my Lord and my God, may Thou be all mine, and I all Thine. What is this, my God and my love? Thou all mine, and I all Thine. Let me love Thee, my God, above all things, and let me not love myself but for Thee, and all other things in Thee. Let me love Thee, with all my soul, with all my memory,” &c. In these fervent aspirations, overflowing with interior joy, she sometimes fell into wonderful raptures, which astonished Hentrude, a lady of honour, particularly beloved by her, and her companion in her devotions and mortifications.
The abbess of Kitzingen, in the diocess of Wurtzburg, our saint’s aunt, sister to her mother, hearing of her misfortunes, invited her to her monastery, and being extremely moved at the sight of her desolate condition and poverty, advised her to repair to her uncle, the bishop of Bamberg, a man of great power, charity, and prudence. The bishop received her with many tears, which compassion drew from his eyes, and from those of all the clergy that were with him; and provided for her a commodious house near his palace. His first views were, as she was young and beautiful, to endeavour to look out for a suitable party, that, marrying some powerful prince, she might strengthen her interest, and that of her family, by a new alliance, which might enable her to recover her right: but such projects she entirely put a stop to, declaring it was her fixed resolution to devote herself to the divine service in a state of perpetual chastity. In the mean time the body of her late husband, which had been buried at Otranto, was taken up, and, the flesh being entirely consumed, the bones were put into a rich chest, and carried into Germany. The hearse was attended by a great many princes and dukes, and by counts, barons, and knights without number, marching in martial order, with ensigns folded up, the mournful sound of drums, all covered with black, and other warlike instruments in like manner. Where some of these princes left the corpse to return home, the nobility of each country through which it passed took their place; and every night it was lodged in some church or monastery where masses and dirges were said, and gifts offered. When the funeral pomp approached Bamberg, the bishop went out with the clergy and monks in procession to meet it, having left the nobility and knights with the disconsolate pious margravine. At the sight of the hearse her grief was inexpressible; yet, whilst there was not a dry eye in the church, she showed by restraining her sorrow how great command she had of her passions. Yet, when the chest was opened, her tears burst forth against her will. But, recollecting herself in God, she gave thanks to his Divine Majesty for having so disposed of her honoured husband, as to take him into his eternal tabernacles, so seasonably for himself, though to her severe trial. The corpse remained several days at Bamberg, during which the funeral rites were continued with the utmost solemnity, and it was then conducted with great state into Thuringia. The princess entreated the barons and knights that attended it to use their interest with her brother-in-law to do her justice, not blaming him for the treatment she had received, but imputing it to evil counsellors. Fired with indignation at the indignities she had received, they engaged to neglect no means of restoring her to her right: so that it was necessary for her to moderate their resentment, and to beg they would only use humble remonstrances. This they did, reproaching Henry for having brought so foul a blot and dishonour upon his house, and having violated all laws divine, civil, and natural, and broken the strongest ties of humanity. They conjured him by God, who beholds all things, and asked him in what point a weak woman, full of peace and piety, could offend him: and what innocent princely babes, who were his own blood, could have done, the tenderness of whose years made them very unfit to suffer such injuries. Ambition strangely steels a heart to all sentiments of justice, charity or humanity. Yet these remonstrances, made by the chief barons of the principality, softened the heart of Henry, and he promised them to restore to Elizabeth her dower and all the rights of her widowhood, and even to put the government of the dominions into her hands. This last she voluntarily chose to renounce, provided it was reserved for her son. Hereupon she was conducted back to the castle out of which she had been expelled, and from that time Henry began to treat her as a princess, and obsequiously executed whatever she intimated to be her pleasure. Yet her persecutions were often renewed till her death.
The devout priest Conrad had attended her in great part of her travels, and returned to Marpurg, which was his usual residence. Elizabeth, loathing the grandeur and dreading the distractions of the world, with his advice, bound herself by a vow which she made in his presence, in the church of the Franciscans, to observe the third rule of St. Francis, and secretly put on a little habit under her clothes. Her confessor relates that, laying her hands on the altar in the church of the friars minors, she by vow renounced the pomps of the world; she was going to add the vow of poverty, but he stopped her, saying she was obliged, in order to discharge many obligations of her late husband, and what she owed to the poor, to keep in her own hands the disposal of her revenues. Her dower she converted to the use of the poor; and as her director Conrad, in whom she reposed an entire confidence, was obliged to live in the town of Marpurg, when she quitted her palace she made that which was on the boundary of her husband’s dominions, her place of residence, living first in a little cottage near the town, whilst a house was building for her, in which she spent the last three years of her life in the most fervent practices of devotion, charity, and penance. In her speech she was so reserved and modest that if she affirmed or denied anything, her words seemed to imply a fear of some mistake. She spoke little, always with gravity, and most commonly of God; and never let drop any thing that tended to her own praise. Out of a love of religious silence she shunned tatlers: in all things she praised God, and being intent on spiritual things was never puffed up with prosperity, or troubled at adversity. She tied herself by vow to obey her confessor Conrad, and received at his hands a habit made of coarse cloth of the natural colour of the wool without being dyed. Whence Pope Gregory IX., who had corresponded with her, says she took the religious habit, and subjected herself to the yoke of obedience. Thus she imitated the state of nuns, though, by the advice of her confessor, she remained a secular, that she might better dispose of her alms for the relief of the poor. Conrad, having observed that her attachment to her two principal maids, Isentrude and Guta, seemed too strong, and an impediment to her spiritual progress, proposed to her to dismiss them: and, without making any reply, she instantly obeyed him, though the sacrifice cost mutual tears. The saint, by spinning coarse wool, earned her own maintenance, and, with her maids, dressed her own victuals, which were chiefly herbs, bread, and water. Whilst her hands were busy, in her heart she conversed with God. The king of Hungary, her father, earnestly invited her to his court; but she preferred a state of humiliation and suffering. She chose by preference to do every kind of service in attending the most loathsome lepers among the poor. Spiritual and corporal works of mercy occupied her even to her last moments, and by her moving exhortations many obstinate sinners were converted to God. It seemed, indeed, impossible for anything to resist the eminent spirit of prayer with which she was endowed. In prayer she found her comfort and her strength in her mortal pilgrimage, and was favoured in it with frequent raptures, and heavenly communications. Her confessor, Conrad, assures us, that when she returned from secret prayer, her countenance often seemed to dart forth rays of light from the divine conversation. Being forewarned by God of her approaching passage to eternity, which she mentioned to her confessor four days before she fell ill, as he assures us, she redoubled her fervour by her last will, made Christ her heir in his poor, made a general confession of her whole life on the twelfth day, survived yet four days, received the last sacraments, and, to her last breath, ceased not to pray, or to discourse in the most pathetic manner on the mysteries of the sacred life and sufferings of our Redeemer, and on his coming to judge us. The day of her happy death was the 19th of November, in 1231, in the twenty-fourth year of her age. Her venerable body was deposited in a chapel near the hospital which she founded. Many sick persons were restored to health at her tomb; an account of which miracles Siffrid, archbishop of Mentz, sent to Rome, having first caused them to be authenticated by a juridical examination, before himself and others. Pope Gregory IX., after a long and mature discussion, performed the ceremony of her canonization on Whit-Sunday, in 1235, four years after her death. Siffrid, upon news hereof, appointed a day for the translation of her relics, which he performed at Marpurg in 1236. The Emperor Frederic II. would be present, took up the first stone of the saint’s grave, and gave and placed on the shrine with his own hands a rich crown of gold. St. Elizabeth’s son, Herman, then landgrave, and his two sisters, Sophia and Gertrude, assisted at this august ceremony; also the archbishops of Cologne and Bremen, and an incredible number of other princes, prelates, and people, so that the number is said to have amounted to above two hundred thousand persons. The relics were enshrined in a rich vermilion case, and placed upon the altar in the church of the hospital. A Cistercian monk affirmed upon oath that, a little before this translation, praying at the tomb of the saint, he was cured of a palpitation of the heart and grievous melancholy, with which he had been painfully troubled for forty years, and had in vain sought remedies from physicians and every other means. Many instances are mentioned by Montanus, and by the archbishop of Mentz, and the confessor Conrad, of persons afflicted with palsies, and other inveterate diseases, who recovered their health at her tomb, or by invoking her intercession; as of a boy blind from his birth, by the mother’s invocation of St. Elizabeth at her sepulchre, applying some of the dust to his eyes, upon which a skin, which covered each eye, burst, and he saw, as several witnesses declared upon oath, and Master Conrad saw the eyes thus healed; of a boy, three years old, dead, cold, and stiff a whole night, raised to life the next morning by a pious grandmother praying to God through the intercession of St. Elizabeth, with a vow of an alms to her hospital, and of dedicating the child to the divine service; attested in every circumstance by the depositions of the mother, father, grandmother, uncle, and others, recorded by Conrad; of a boy dead and stiff for many hours, just going to be carried to burial, raised by the invocation of St. Elizabeth; of a youth drowned, restored to life by the like prayer; of a boy drawn out of a well, dead, black, &c.; and a child still-born, brought to life; others cured of palsies, falling-sickness, fevers, madness, lameness, blindness, the bloody flux, &c., in the authentic relation. A portion of her relics is kept in the church of the Carmelites at Brussels; another in the magnificent chapel of La Roche-Guyon, upon the Seine, and a considerable part in a precious shrine is in the electoral treasury of Hanover. 2 Some persons of the third Order of St. Francis having raised that institute into a religious Order long after the death of our saint (without prejudice to the secular state of this Order, which is still embraced by many who live in the world), the religious women of this Order chose her for their patroness, and are sometimes called the nuns of St. Elizabeth.
Perfection consists not essentially in mortification, but in charity; and he is most perfect who is most united to God by love. But humility and self-denial remove the impediments to this love, by retrenching the inordinate appetites and evil inclinations which wed the heart to creatures. The affections must be untied by mortification, and the heart set at liberty by an entire disengagement from the slavery of the senses, and all irregular affections. Then will a soul, by the assistance of grace, easily raise her affections to God, and adhere purely to him; and his holy love will take possession of them. A stone cannot fall down to its centre so long as the lets which hold it up are not taken away. So neither can a soul attain to the pure love of God whilst the strings of earthly attachments hold her down. Hence the maxims of the gospel and the example of the saints strongly inculcate the necessity of dying to ourselves by humility, meekness, patience, self-denial, and obedience. Nor does anything so much advance this interior crucifixion of the old man as the patient suffering of afflictions.
Note 1. Hist. des Croisades, l. 10, p. 310, t. 2. [back]
Note 2. See Thesaurus Reliquiarum Electoris Brunswico Luneburgensis. Hanoviæ. 1713. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/11/191.html
Elizabeth of Hungary, Queen, OFM Tert. (RM)
Born in Pressburg (Bratislava) or Saros-Patak, Hungary, 1207; died in Marburg, Hesse, Germany, November 17, 1231; canonized by Gregory IX in 1235; feast day formerly on November 19.
SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/1117.shtml
Atelier de Hans Leinberger . Statue en bois polychrome et doré de Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie, vers 1520,
Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame, Strasbourg. Bavière
Elizabeth of Hungary, Queen, OFM Tert. (RM)
Born in Pressburg (Bratislava) or Saros-Patak, Hungary, 1207; died in Marburg, Hesse, Germany, November 17, 1231; canonized by Gregory IX in 1235; feast day formerly on November 19.
I love Saint Elizabeth of Hungary because she refused to defend herself against the unjust accusations of others. She felt that to defend herself would mean breaking the law of love as written in her heart. She was barely more than a child when she died before her 24th birthday, a pure soul who nobly endured all the sufferings of this earth, an innocent spirit against whom neither evil nor misfortune could prevail. The princess (Landgräffin) who became a beggar for the less fortunate could still say, "heaven opened, and that sweet Jesus, my Lord, stooping down to me and consoling me. . . ." She is said to have experienced a real conversion as she walked from Wartburg to Eisenach and met a beggar who looked like Jesus. Her husband Count Ludwig IV of Thuringia is also popularly esteemed a saint but died at age 27. One of her three children, Gertrude was beatified.
In the Life of Saint Elizabeth, Dietrich von Apolda relates that one evening in 1207 the minnesinger Klingsohr from Transylvania announced to the Landgraf Hermann I of Thuringia that a daughter had been born to the king of Hungary that night, who should be exalted in holiness and become the wife of Hermann's son.
Indeed Saint Elizabeth was born that night, the daughter of Queen Gertrude of Andechs-Meran and Andrew II, two years after he was crowned king of Hungary. Her lineage also included Saint Hedwig, another married saint, who was her aunt.
At her baptism she was carried to the church under a canopy of the richest cloth to be found in the country. From her earliest days she was the delight of her parents. It is said that her first word was a prayer, and almost the first thing she did was an act of kindness to the poor. Even when she was only four, her sweetness of character was such that people in other countries had heard about her.
At the age of four she was sent 350 miles from home to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach, Germany, as the betrothed of the 11-year-old Count Ludwig IV of Thuringia and Hesse. His father, the haughty and powerful Duke Hermann I of Thuringia, cousin to the German emperor, dispatched an embassy to the Hungarian court where, with full protocol, the child-fiancee was handed over to be educated by Hermann's wife Sophie as Ludwig's future bride.
Elizabeth and Ludwig had a wonderful relationship built upon their childhood friendship full of shared sorrows and fired by passionate devotion to each other. When Elizabeth was six, her mother was assassinated and Ludwig comforted her. Soon afterwards Ludwig's elder brother died and, about 1216, the insane Duke Hermann died violently while under the ban of the Church. Suffering and sympathy in their youth bound Elizabeth and Ludwig as a couple. And Elizabeth had further suffering to come.
She loved to visit the sick and the poor. No road was too rough or day too stormy to keep her from going on some errand of mercy to a wretched cabin. Because Wartburg Castle was located on a steep rock, which the ill were unable to climb, Elizabeth even built a hospital at its foot and often fed and cared for the patients herself.
In church one day she saw a large crucifix. So full of love for Christ was she that she took off her crown, thinking it inappropriate for his servant to wear a crown of gold and jewels while He wore a crown of thorns.
She provided for helpless children, especially orphans, founded another hospital with 28 beds, and fed hundreds of persons daily, in addition to making provisions for others throughout the kingdom. Ludwig's family and their peers began to criticize the young princess for associating with the common folk, but she bore their insults patiently without ever replying in anger, probably because Ludwig supported her in this work.
When Ludwig returned from his knightly training, his family tried to dissuade him from marrying her. They urged him to send her back to Hungary. To his credit Landgraf Ludwig would not listen to his mother's and household's slanders against Elizabeth. He defended her and married Elizabeth in 1221.
When they married Elizabeth was only 14 and Ludwig, 21. Everyone remarked what a handsome couple they made. He was tall, good looking, and manly. Elizabeth was young, beautiful, and sweet in every way. They understood each other well, and were very happy together.
What was intended to be a marriage of convenience, a uniting of two powerful families, was actually a marriage of tender love and mutual affection, in which both found tremendous joy and peace. (It is said that Ludwig never forgot to bring Elizabeth a present after one of his journeys--not necessarily identifying married bliss with gifts .)
The year after their wedding (1222) their son Hermann was born; in 1224 Sophie, and in 1227 another daughter Gertrude. (Hermann died as Landgraf at age 19. Sophie married the Duke of Brabant, Henry II and lived to age 60. Blessed Gertrude became Abbess of Altenburg.)
Saint Francis died six years after they had married; Elizabeth was influenced by one of his friars--Brother Roger, who shortly after her wedding told her about Francis and Christ's message to him. He urged her to seek release from her marriage vows, so as to be free to serve Christ. Elizabeth desired to surrender herself utterly, in an all-absorbing love. That she did not do this was probably the restraining influence of her confessor--Master Conrad of Marburg, who had been appointed to this post by Pope Gregory IX.
Conrad, a learned, able and insensitive man, whose harsh methods of guiding her spiritual life have been sharply criticized, may be forgiven his ruthlessness because he was an irreproachable ascetic himself and scrupulous in the performance of his duties. He moderated her ambition to be a mendicant and lessened her generosity to the poor. She took a vow of obedience in all things, but those related to spousal rights, to Conrad in front of her mother-in-law and her children in 1225.
As a child she was unequalled in her devotion: devotion to the Church, obedience and complete dedication to virtue. As a woman she was pious and almost obsessed with the spirit and letter of the law of love and its precepts. With her there were no half measures, no restraint, no compromises, no appeasement. It was all or nothing. That Christ must come first was impressed upon her when, during Mass one day, she was admiring her husband and looked up at the bells of the Consecration to see Blood pouring from the elevated host. So, she devoted herself to meditation on the things of God, and acts of charity with the blessing of Ludwig.
Her servant Irmingard, during the canonization process said that Conrad had forbidden her to eat or use anything which she did not certainly know had been produced without injustice. For this reason Ludwig had allowed her to observe a particular rule of diet. She disciplined her body by fasting and scourging and made her servants chastise her on Fridays and fast days.
Though she arrayed herself in purple and gold to please her husband and his court, underneath these costly robes she wore a horsehair shirt. When her husband was away she put on humble garments and sat with her maids to spin wool. She continued to refuse to wear her jewelled coronet when she entered a church. She longed to suffer as Christ did; hence her self-denial, poverty, sacrifice, and penance. Nevertheless she was spontaneous and mischievous. Often before a party she would do penance. Yet she appeared cheerful and happy, when it was time for gaiety.
When she was home she ate little. One day Ludwig returned to find she had taken nothing but bread and water at her meals. He asked her to take better care of her health. She told him to taste the water left in a glass from which she had been drinking. To his great astonishment he found that it tasted like the very best wine.
Elizabeth was not satisfied with giving money and food to the poor. She knew that God wants us to sacrifice ourselves as well as our treasure. So she herself waited beside sickbeds, cooked the meals, cleaned houses, milked cows, and even dressed the sores of her patients. One day she carried into the castle a small child suffering from leprosy, and laid him on a couch. In horror at the sight, the ladies called Ludwig to show him what his wife had done. Ludwig looked at the poor leper, but saw instead the Christ Child Himself!
One day, while returning from the woods in the middle of winter, Ludwig met Elizabeth carrying food in her mantle. She opened it to show him that she bore, not bread, but the most beautiful red and white roses. At the same time he noticed a beautiful cross in the air over her head. He took one of the roses, and went on his way. It is said that he kept the rose for the rest of his life.
It's seems unfortunate that Ludwig kept the rose for so short a time. Their idyllic marriage lasted only six years. In 1227, Ludwig was called with the knights of Christian Europe to fight the Turks in the Holy Land. Before leaving he promised to send back his signet ring if anything should befall him.
He left for the Fifth Crusade but died of the plague in the seaport town of Otranto near Brindisi, Italy, before leaving Europe and just 18 days before the birth of his daughter Gertrude. Shortly after her birth, messengers came with Ludwig's ring to Elizabeth, who grieved piteously. When she heard the news, Elizabeth is said to have run crazily throughout the castle shrieking, "O Lord my God, the whole world and all that was joyful in the world is now dead to me! But Thy will be done!" But there was worse to come (some of the details are uncertain).
Ludwig's relatives, who had never liked her ways, accused her of mismanaging the estate because of her great charity. She was forced to leave Wartburg, probably by her brother-in-law Heinrich, regent for her young son, who may have wanted Ludwig's estate. She was put out of the castle in the depths of winter on a wet night with the baby at her breast. The people of Eisenach were forbidden to shelter her or her children, so for a time she slept in a pigsty. Poverty didn't seem to really bother Elizabeth, rather she embraced it as God's gift.
An old woman she met, while crossing a stream on some stepping stones, pushed her into the water and said: "There! That's where you belong. When you were a princess you wouldn't act like one. I wouldn't stoop to help you either!" That was the thanks she received, she who had done so much for the poor--why should we expect gratitude?
In any case, she suffered much until she was taken away from Eisenach by her aunt Matilda, abbess of Kitzingen, who gave shelter to Elizabeth and her children. She next visited her uncle Eckembert, bishop of Bamberg, who put his castle of Pottenstein at her disposal. She travelled there with her son Hermann and the baby Gertrude, leaving her daughter Sophie with the nuns at Kitzingen.
Eckembert had plans for her remarriage, but she refused to consider them. She and Ludwig had pledged never to remarry. When Emperor Frederick II proposed marriage to her, she refused saying that she had promised to serve God and Him alone for the rest of her life. Eckembert locked her up in a keep, where she continued to pray confidently and humbly. (Nothing is said of how or when she was released.)
Early in 1228, Ludwig's body was returned to Elizabeth according to most accounts and buried in the abbey church at Reinhardsbrunn. On Good Friday that same year, in the church of the Franciscan friars of Eisenach, she became a member of the third order of Saint Francis. With her hand on the altar of a chapel, she renounced, "her family, her children, her own will, and all the pomps of the world." Her confessor, Conrad, had intervened to prevent her from also renouncing her dowry and the property that remained to her. Some say that that the returning Crusaders reproached her brother- in-law and wanted to wrest his property from the hands of Heinrich, but Elizabeth refused to allow it.
Heinrich finally did return Elizabeth's dowry with which she later founded a hospital with her life-long friends Guda and Ysentrude. Others say that she was restored to Wartburg, but insisted that all revenues be turned over to the poor.
Elizabeth had developed a love of poverty from the Friars Minor but had been unable to act upon it while she was Landgraeffin. Once her children had been provided for by relatives, and she was free to live in Marburg, she lived for a time in a tiny house at Wehrda. Returning to Marburg, she built a small house just outside, and devoted herself to caring for the sick, the aged, and the poor at a hospice she founded there.
Christian charity for her was not simply philanthropy; it bore the wounds of the love of Christ and conformed itself to the special conditions of life with Him. The love of Christ for her implied the love of His Cross and the bearing of it after him. She adopted a little orphan who was chronically sick. Day and night she tended him, washing him, and changing his clothes. Filth, suppuration, and mucus soiled her noble hands, but it never bother her for in tending the littlest, she cared for Jesus.
She begged door to door for food for herself and others, until Conrad of Marburg, still her confessor, stopped her from begging, divesting herself of all her goods, giving more than a certain amount in alms, and exposing herself to diseases such as leprosy. Nevertheless, he was a hard director.
He overshadowed the closing years of her young life, treating her ruthlessly and, at times, brutally. She admitted how much she feared him. But his methods did not break her spirit: with remarkable humility she submitted to his harsh discipline and obeyed.
Conrad forbade her the joy of seeing her children. When she thought she had given up everything, he forced her to part from the two friends she had known and loved since she came to Germany from Hungary at age four, replacing them with a lay brother, a pious unattractive young woman, and a harsh irritable noble widow--cruel women who reported all she did to him. The loss of all she held dear--her family and friends--was compensated by Our Lord and his Blessed Mother who appeared to her frequently bringing her the sweetest consolations.
Conrad would slap Elizabeth's face for disobeying his smallest command and sometimes beat her with a rod that left its mark for weeks. After each chastisement Elizabeth arose strong and unhurt, in her words, like grass bent by heavy rain.
Until her health failed Saint Elizabeth was tireless in serving the wants of those in need: the princess who made garments for the poor went fishing to get them food and cleaned the homes of the sick. One day a Magyar noble arrived at Marburg, and at the hospice he found Elizabeth at her spinning wheel in her plain gray habit of the Order of Penitence. He asked her to return with him to the court of Hungary and leave her life of hardships, but Elizabeth would not go.
She led a life of exceptional poverty and humility, though some say that the usurper allowed her to come back to the castle four years before her death, and that Heinrich also recognized her son's succession to the title of landgraf.
She died at Marburg on November 17, not yet 24. She is certain to have heard the angelic choirs ineffably singing the resurrection at her death and seen the hands of light stretched out eternally towards those who willingly suffer expiation. To be poor is generally a sign of honesty. To know how to be poor is a sign of modesty. To want to be poor is a sign of virtue. To sacrifice everything, including oneself, to the poverty of others is a sign of holiness.
More beggarly than the beggar, this king's daughter chose to follow the painful road the underprivileged toil along. More initiated than the initiated, this innocent girl knew what many of us still refuse to know--the promise, the gift of God: for in hearing the pleas of those suffering from fever, she knew who it was that was asking her for a drink.
Her relics were translated to the Church of Saint Elizabeth in Marburg, where they remained as an object of popular pilgrimage until 1539, when the relics were removed to an unknown place by the Lutheran Philip of Hesse.
Soon after her death, miracles were reported at her tomb. So numerous and wonderful were they that she was canonized just years after her death. Her father, mother, three children, and many relatives were present at the canonization to hear the Voice of God, through His Church, declare her a saint. She has ever since been one of the most beloved saints of the German people (including this Austro-German American woman who took her name--but vacillates between Elizabeth of Hungary and the mother of John the Baptist) (Ancelet-Hustache, Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Condenhove, J. Delaney, S. Delaney, Encyclopedia, Martindale, Melady, White)
In art, Saint Elizabeth is depicted as a queen with a double crown surrounded by beggars, to whom she gives food and clothing, or combs their hair. Sometimes she is shown (1) carrying a pitcher and loaf; (2) carrying bread which turns to roses in her lap; (3) with three crowns at her feet, beggar under her mantle; (4) crowned, pitcher in one hand, bird on the other, beggars and cripples in the background; (5) with angels bringing garments to her to give to the poor; (6) crowned among her women spinning for the poor; (7) with a loaf and fishes; (8) in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary; (9) crowned, kneeling before the bishop (her confessor Conrad), who hands her a palm branch, behind him Saint Francis holding shears; (10) girt with the Franciscan cord, she kneels before Saint Francis of Assisi (Roeder).
Among the images of Saint Elizabeth on the Internet are:
An anonymous, 14th- century Sienese medallion
Death of St. Elizabeth (14th-century French illumination)
James Collinson's St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Simone Martini's St. Clare and St. Elizabeth of Hungary
She is sometimes confused with Saint Dorothy (but she does not lead the Christ-child by the hand). Also with Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, who was also a royal tertiary, who was said to carry bread which turned to roses. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary is, however, the more famous of the two (Roeder) Elizabeth of Hungary is the patroness of bakers, beggars, confraternities engaged in good works, countesses, the falsely accused, the homeless, nursing services, Sisters of Mercy, charitable organizations, lacemakers, widows, and young brides. She is invoked against toothache (Roeder).
SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/1117.shtml