Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About the Commemoration

Elizabeth’s charity is remembered in numerous hospitals that bear her name throughout the world. She was born in 1207 at Pressburg (now Bratislava), daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, and was married in 1221 to Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia, to whom she bore three children. At an early age she showed concern for the poor and the sick, and was thus attracted to the Franciscans who came to the Wartburg in 1223. From them she received spiritual direction. Her husband was sympathetic to her almsgiving and allowed her to use her dowry for this purpose. During a famine and epidemic in 1226, when her husband was in Italy, she sold her jewels and established a hospital where she cared for the sick and the poor. To supply their needs, she opened the royal granaries. After her husband’s death in 1227, the opposition of the court to her “extravagances” compelled her to leave the Wartburg with her children.

For some time Elizabeth lived in great distress. She then courageously took the habit of the Franciscans—the first of the Franciscan Tertiaries, or Third Order, in Germany. Finally, arrangements with her family gave her a subsistence, and she spent her remaining years in Marburg, living in self-denial, caring for the sick and needy. She died from exhaustion, November 16, 1231, and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX four years later. With Louis of France she shares the title of patron of the Third Order of St. Francis.

Collects

I. Almighty God, by whose grace thy servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II.Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm  109:20–25

Lessons

 Tobit 12:6b–9

2 Corinthians 8:7–15

Luke 6:35–38

 

Preface of a Saint (2)

8 Responses to Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    Readings.
    Psalm – Though the verses are about the poor, they are ‘middle verses’ of a Psalm, which in this case probably cannot be remedied by reading vreses before or after (too much cursing I guess).😦
    I think it is better to choose another Psalm where something other than the middle verses can be read.

    New Testament reading and Gospel: Both have poverty themes that seem to fit the commemoration.

  2. Nigel Renton says:

    Another case of “bumping” from the date she entered the Church Triumphant.

    The sub-title needs improvement. Princess and Philanthropist? Princess and Friend of the Poor? I don’t think it need mention “Hungary”, since the text makes that clear.

    Line 3, first paragraph: add after “Bratislava” “, now capital of Slovakia”

    Line 4, first paragraph: add “(feudal Count)” after “Landgrave”.

    Line 4, first paragraph: add “a province in central Germany,” after “Thuringia”.

    LIne 5, first paragraph: add after “children.”, “Their home was at Wartburg Castle, overlooking the town of Eisenach.”

    Line 7, first paragraph: delete “the”.

    Line 11, first paragraph: “cared for the sick and the poor” is a bit lame.. Did she look after poor folk who weren’t sick? I suggest: “cared for the sick, especially those who were poor”, or some such.

    I realize that “hospital” had a broader meaning, including educational work (“Christ’s Hospital” is a school) in past centuries, but since Elizabeth’s charitable foundation clearly involved care for the sick, I believe my suggested wording (or some such) would be appropriate here.

    Line 11, first paragraph: after “poor”, substitute “To feed them, she distributed grain from the royal stores” for “To supply their needs, she opened the royal granaries”. There are folk who don’t know a “granary” from a “greengage”. So “needs” is vague if one doesn’t understand “granaries”. “Opening” the granaries doesn’t help!

    Last line, first paragraph: substitute “Wartburg Castle” for “the Wartburg”.

    Line 5, second paragraph: after “Marburg,”, add “the principal city in Hesse, the province to the west of Thuringia,”

    Line :7, second paragraph: after “Louis”

  3. John LaVoe says:

    I strongly agree with Michael’s Psalm observation. To pull some “nice” verses out of an imprecatory psalm is a travesty. Please consider as alternatives, Pss. 112, or 26:1-8, or 16 (or 16:5-11), or 23.

    (I don’t object to selecting verses, so long as it doesn’t amount to “cherry picking” — i.e., disregarding the psalm’s integrity as a whole — doing injustice to the psalm’s overall content.)

  4. John LaVoe says:

    Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231
    .
    A remarkable Christian with a wonderful integration of her faith, position, and service. That picture, with its unusual neck and head proportions, begs for comment. Any clues on the rationale for that?
    .
    I like the write-up, and am surprised to go back and realize it’s only two paragraphs long! It seems substantative, while it is being read and considered. All in all, I think it is a good presentation and a worthy commemoration.
    .
    In the first paragraph I had some pause in two of the several mentions of her husband.” One mentions he “was sympathetic and allowed her” to use her dowry. Not disputing his being sympathetic, nor his agreement to the use of the dowry, I wonder if it could be said in a way that doesn’t make her sound like a benefactor of her husband’s initiatives , and gives her credit for her own initiative, care, and passion for the endeavor. (“Elizabeth, with the consent and cooperation of her husband, used her dowry for the care of — etc.”)
    .
    A second puzzle concerns terminology. If she were the “first of the Franciscan Tertiaries” I wonder how there could be such a thing called “Tertiaries” for her to be the first? Was she the first of “what was later to be known as Tertiaries,” — and is that the best way to describe what she in fact did (and was)? Did she really (literally) wear a habit – in the sense of a “religious uniform”?
    .
    A third matter concerns the statement, “she died from exhaustion.” Is this meant to be a good thing that Christians in general should emulate? I thought Franciscans combined a sense of radical holy poverty with a high regard for created life? Saying she died from exhaustion doesn’t strike me the same as if someone serving as a nurse in an epidemic contracted a deadly disease that proved fatal. Dying from exhaustion seems instead more a failure of self-care, of bodily stewardship, a work-a-holic addiction, or a form of obsessive compulsive suicide, and a serious indication of lack of balance in one’s spiritual life. Even if it were literally true (and I doubt it has ever appeared on a death certificate as the cause of anyone’s death) I’d rather it not be included in our commemoration any more than if she cut herself incessantly with razor blades. It just isn’t a legitimate component of Christian life, and it sounds as if it is being presented as a glorious example of outstandingly holy self-sacrifice and altruism. Just eliminate the two words, “from exhaustion.”
    .
    Rather than comment on this particular mention of a canonization date, I urge the SCLM to decide a global policy regarding references to that particular phenomenon of institutional hubris. (Not that I have opinions on the subject.)

    • John LaVoe says:

      Oops. Good thing I don’t work for an insurance company. I always get my benefactor and beneficiary words confused. In my comments, ” a benefactor of her husband’s initiatives” should say, “beneficiary of her husband’s initiatives.” Sorry.

  5. Suzanne Sauter says:

    Wanted to concur with what Nigel Renton and John LaVoe have written. The short biography in HWHM is not new. Still, it is short and confusing and needs to be rewritten. Maybe I am just slow, but I had to read the bio a couple of times before I realized that Elisabeth of Thuringia was married by age 14 year, had given birth to three or four children by age 20 years, was a widow at age 21 years and dead at aged 24 years. This is not a model for living that one would want to encourage, no matter how pious the woman.

    The term death by “exhaustion” was used in the 19th century medical literature for what we would now consider sepsis. I have no idea what the term means in the context of this biography.

  6. Charlotte Corneil says:

    I knew nothing of this woman before using the readings, etc. I do not have much to add but thank you to who ever worked to have her included. I couldn’t keep but thinking of the “eye of the needle” & “with God” sayings as I read about her.

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