Today the church celebrates the brief life of Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia, Princess of Hungary and Friend of the Outcast.
You’ve never heard of Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia? That’s not surprising. Nestled in the middle days of November, she’s not widely known. But this 13th Century royal made a great impact to those she cared for in her short twenty four years of life.
She was the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary, and was betrothed at the age of one to the son of a local noble whose name was Ludwig. This sealed the political alliance between the king and the count.
She was known to be serious and generous, and even at an early age showed a devout faith. Ludwig was fond of her, despite the forced marriage.
They were married when Elizabeth was fourteen (Ludwig was twenty one) and had three children. Their marriage, by all accounts, was a happy one, and Ludwig supported St. Elizabeth in her increasing generosity. For instance, during a regional famine, Elizabeth gave away most of her own fortune and grain to the local poor. She was heavily criticized by other nobles for this, but Ludwig approved.
St. Elizabeth founded two hospitals during her time as Duchess. She regularly tended the sick and the lame herself, and gave money for the specific care of the ill children, particularly orphans. Ludwig followed Elizabeth’s lead, and tried his best to find jobs for those in the area who had trouble earning a living.
In 1221 Franciscan monks came to town, and Elizabeth was immediately drawn to these kind, poor preachers. She came under the tutelage of Brother Rodeger who taught her the way of St. Francis. She took the example so seriously that she ended up taking a leper into her own home to stay the night when he was wandering aimlessly. Ludwig found him in their bed and, though at first startled, understood that Elizabeth was fulfilling her calling.
On September 11th Ludwig died of the plague while on the crusade. Elizabeth left the castle and went to live in Eisenbach where she found a cold welcome from the townspeople. She was eventually taken under the wing of her uncle the Bishop of Bamberg, and on Good Friday in 1228 she officially took her monastic vows, devoting herself to the way of St. Francis. She secured the safety of her children, built a small house near Marburg, and set up a hospice center for the sick, the aged, and the poor.
St. Elizabeth’s life ended in isolation and austerity. Her confessor, Conrad of Marburg, was not a kindly monk, and seemed to take pleasure in forcing Elizabeth to live in harsh conditions. Her health began to fail, and she died not having yet seen her twenty fifth birthday.
So many hospitals around the world are named for this saint.
The Wartburg castle, in which Elizabeth lived for most of her life, would later have a new resident. our own Blessed Martin Luther, who would pen his German translation of the New Testament there.
St. Elizabeth is a reminder for me, and should be for the church, that time is of the essence. We do not have to wait until tomorrow to make an impact, because we’re never confident how many tomorrows we will have.
So, make an impact.
-historical tidbits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-icon by Theophilia at deviantart.com