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Pope to Leaders: Follow Example of St. Elizabeth of Hungary

October 21st, 2010
Asia News (www.asianews.it/)

During the general audience, Benedict XVI introduces the figure of St. Elizabeth of Hungary as an example of how "faith, friendship with Christ, creates a sense of justice, equality of all, the rights of others and create love, charity, and from this comes the hope and certainty that we are loved by Christ and Christ's love is waiting for us. "

VATICAN CITY (AsiaNews) - "For those in leadership, the exercise of authority must be lived at every level as a service to justice and charity, in the constant search for the common good". This is the warning that Benedict XVI took today from the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, of whom he spoke to the 40 thousand people in St. Peter's Square for the general audience.

Continuing the description of the great female figures of the Middle Ages, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this princess, one of the women "who has aroused greater admiration", who shows how a life of "faith, friendship with Christ, creates a sense of justice, equality of all, of the rights of others, which creates love, charity, and from this comes the hope and certainty that we are loved by Christ and the love of Christ awaits us, and so enables us to imitate Christ, to see Christ in others. Saint Elizabeth invites us to find Christ, love Christ, have faith and so find true justice, love and joy that one day we will be immersed in God's love. "

Born in 1207, daughter of Andrew II, a rich and powerful king of Hungary, as a child "she loved to play music and dance, recite her prayers and already showed her dedication to the poor." Her happy childhood was interrupted when she was 4, with the arrival of the knights from Thuringia who came to take her to the court of the Landgrave, Hermann I, as the future bride of his son Ludwig. She went "with a rich dowry and a large retinue, including her maids, two of whom remained faithful to the end. It is they who have left us the stories of her childhood and life of the saint.

"After the engagement, Elizabeth studied German, Latin, French, music and embroidery. Although it was an arranged marriage for political reasons, " a love was born between the two young people, sincere and animated by faith and the desire to do the will of God," even though Elizabeth found herself "in the centre of criticism because her behaviour did not correspond to the cannons of life at court". The marriage was not a lavish banquet and even the poor were thought of.

The Pope highlighted a few episodes from the life of Elizabeth, such as when "going to church on the feast of the Assumption she took off her crown and placed it before the cross and bowed to the ground in front of the crucifix with her face covered." And when her  mother-in-law scolded her for that gesture, she replied: "How can I, wretched creature, continue to wear a crown of earthly dignity, when I see my King, Jesus Christ, crowned with thorns." "She behaved towards her subjects exactly as she behaved before did he manage to God". She never ate until sure that they came from the legitimate properties and assets of her husband. While abstaining from goods acquired illegally, she also sought compensation for those who had suffered violence".

Elizabeth was active in carrying out works of mercy, she "gave to drink and eat," "procuring clothes, paying debts, taking care of the sick and burying the dead." When this was reported to her husband, she replied to her accusers: "I will not be happy, until I sell the castle". "In this context we find the miracle of the bread turned into roses: while Elizabeth went down the street with her apron full of bread for the poor, she met her husband asked her what she was wearing. She opened her apron and, instead of bread, magnificent roses appeared. This symbol of love is often represented in depictions of St. Elizabeth".

But Elizabeth's life was also one of hard trials. The first "was her farewell to her husband in late June of 1227 when Louis IV joined the crusade of Frederick II, reminding his bride that it was a tradition among the rulers of Thuringia. Elizabeth replied: 'I will not hold you back. I have given all of myself to God and now I have to give you too '. " Ludwig, however, fell ill and died at Otranto, before embarking in September 1227, at the age of twenty-seven.

Another trial came from her brother-in-law who usurped the rule of  Thuringia, declaring himself the true heir to Louis. Elizabeth and her three children were evicted from the castle of Wartburg. The children were handed over to friends of Louis, and Elizabeth, with two maids that were close, "worked where she was welcomed, assisting the sick, spinning and sewing. During this ordeal endured with great faith, patience and dedication to God, some relatives, who had remained loyal to the government and considered her brother-in-law illegitimate, rehabilitated her name. So Elizabeth, at the beginning of 1228, was able to receive a proper income and retire to the family castle in Marburg.

Here, "on Good Friday of 1228, with her hands placed on the altar in the chapel of her city Eisenach, where she had welcomed the Friars Minor, in the presence of some friars and family, Elizabeth gave up her own will and all the vanities of this world. She also wanted to give up all possessions, but was discouraged for the sake of the poor. Shortly afterwards she built a hospital, for the sick and disabled and in its kitchens personally served the poorest and most destitute. " "Elizabeth spent her last three years in the hospital she founded, serving the sick, keeping vigil with the dying. She always tried to perform the most humble services and repugnant work. She became what we might call a consecrated woman in the midst of the world and formed, with her other friends, dressed in gray, a religious community. Not by chance she is patron of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and the Franciscan Lay Order. "

She died in 1231 and only four years later, Gregory IX proclaimed her a saint.

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