Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Elizabeth of Portugal, Wife, Mother and Religious, 1271-1336
The daughter of Peter III, King of Aragon, Elizabeth was named for her great-aunt, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. She was destined for a throne from birth, but her early upbringing taught her humility and a strong sense of charity. At the age of twelve, Elizabeth was married to Denis, King of Portugal. Denis was a good ruler, but a less-than-ideal husband. While he allowed Elizabeth complete freedom to carry out her charitable work and her devotion, he didn’t feel obliged to emulate her.
Elizabeth rose early each morning to pray and had other regular devotions in the afternoon and evening. Like her namesake, Elizabeth felt called upon to take care of those less fortunate than herself. She built hospitals and founded orphanages, and also ordered that pilgrims and poor strangers be provided with lodging and other necessities. In all of this, Elizabeth never neglected her official duties or the care of her family.
When Denis became seriously ill in 1324, Elizabeth devoted all of her attention to caring for him. During his long illness, Denis repented the wanton life which he had led and died in 1325 in a state of grace.
After the death of her husband, Elizabeth wished to retire to a convent for the Poor Clares which she had built. She was dissuaded from this, however, and instead undertook a simple life in a house near the convent as a member of the third order of Saint Francis.
Elizabeth earned the title of “Peacemaker” because she frequently intervened between quarreling members of her family. In the royal milieu of the time, family quarrels often turned into wars. On two occasions, Elizabeth came between the forces of her husband and of her son. Two other times, she either averted war or intervened in disputes between rulers of Spanish kingdoms.
In 1336, Elizabeth went to reconcile a quarrel between her son, Aphonsus IV, now the king of Portugal, and her grandson, Alfonso XI, King of Castile. Upon reaching Estremoz on the border of Castile where her son and his forces were deployed, Elizabeth fell ill and died on July 4, 1336. An optional memorial honors her on that date.
Elizabeth's message today: In our times, maintaining peace in one’s family does not usually involve averting a war. But peace among family members is no less important—or no less difficult to achieve—than it was in Elizabeth’s time.