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 Hungary, Wife, Mother and Religious, 1207-1231
Elizabeth, the daughter of royal parents, became betrothed to Ludwig of Thuringia at the age of four. She was sent to the court at Thuringia where the two children were raised together and became dear friends. In 1221, Ludwig turned twenty-one and became the Landgrave (ruler) of Thuringia. The couple then married and had three children.
Elizabeth became known for her great charity. Despite her high station, she led a life of prayer and penance and service to the poor. She built hospitals to care for the common people and daily took food to the poor who came to her gate. Rather than encourage idleness, however, Elizabeth assigned tasks suitable to the strength and abilities of those whom she fed.
One time, when Ludwig had returned from a journey, his counselors complained to him about Elizabeth’s charities to the poor and sick. Ludwig asked if she had lost any of his lands. When they said that she had not, he told them not to worry. “Her charities will bring upon us divine blessings.”
Ludwig died of the plague in 1227 while en route to the Crusades. Elizabeth was heartbroken. She was forced to leave her castle by her husband's family who thought that she was squandering her wealth. Yet Elizabeth continued her charitable work, caring for the sick, the aged, and the poor.
Upon the return of her husband's allies from the Crusades, she was reinstated, since her son was the legal heir to the throne. Elizabeth then made provision for the care of her children and, in 1228, became a tertiary of the Order of St. Francis. The last years of her short life were spent in caring for the sick and the poor in a hospital which she had built.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary is the patron saint of bakers, tertiaries, and of Catholic Charities. A memorial to this saint is celebrated on November 17.
Elizabeth's message today: Many times, married people who become saints do so in spite of their spouses. Elizabeth’s charitable works, however, were fully supported by her husband, who also became a saint, and is known as Blessed Ludwig (or Louis) of Thuringia. They give us an example of how married life should be a state of mutual love, respect, and support.