Nov 14, 2010 / 05:51 am
On Nov. 17, the Catholic Church will celebrate the life and example of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a medieval noblewoman who responded to personal tragedy by embracing St. Francis' ideals of poverty and service. A patron of secular Franciscans, she is especially beloved to Germans, as well as the faithful of her native Hungary.
As the daughter of the Hungarian King Andrew II, Elizabeth had the responsibilities of royalty thrust upon her almost as soon as her short life began in 1207. While she was still very young, Elizabeth's father arranged for her to be married to a German nobleman, Ludwig of Thuringia.
The plan forced Elizabeth to separate from her parents while still a child. Adding to this sorrow was the murder of Elizabeth's mother Gertrude in 1213, which history ascribes to a conflict between her own German people and the Hungarian nobles. Elizabeth took a solemn view of life and death from that point on, and found consolation in prayer. Both tendencies drew some ire from her royal peers.
For a time, beginning in 1221, she was happily married. Ludwig, who had advanced to become one of the rulers of Thuringia, supported Elizabeth's efforts to live out the principles of the Gospel even within the royal court. She met with friars of the nascent Franciscan order during its founder's own lifetime, resolving to use her position as queen to advance their mission of charity.