Saint Elizabeth

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Saint Elizabeth

Queen of Portugal

Saint Elizabeth was born in 1271. She was the daughter of Pedro III of Aragon, and named for her aunt, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. As a child she was holy, and when she was given in marriage to Dennis, King of Portugal, she became a saintly wife. She heard Mass and recited the Divine Office daily, but her devotions were arranged with such prudence that they interfered with none of her duties of state. She prepared for her frequent Communions by works of charity, austerities and fasts, and by her Communions for these heroic works of charity. Elizabeth herself cared for the sick whom she visited, and never did a poor beggar leave her palace without having received what he needed.

Several times Saint Elizabeth was called on to make peace between her husband and her son Alphonso, who had taken up arms against him. Her royal spouse, by his infidelities and his unfounded jealousy, was an occasion for her to practice increasing patience and virtue. A famous incident resulting from his credulity in the face of calumny, illustrates once again the lesson that the sinner will fall into the traps created by his own aberrations. A slander affecting Elizabeth and one of her pages made the king determine to slay the youth. He told a worker who burnt lime to cast into his kiln the first page who would arrive with a royal message. On the appointed day the suspected page was sent; but the young man, who was in the habit of hearing Mass daily, stopped on his way to do so. The king, impatient for news of the affair, sent a second page, the very originator of the calumny; and he, arriving first at the kiln, was at once cast into the furnace and burned. Soon afterwards the first page arrived from church, and took back to the king the lime-burner’s reply that his orders had been fulfilled. This incident, by which the innocent life was saved and the guilty one paid for a grave sin, also caused the king to open his eyes to the queen’s innocence.

The patience of Saint Elizabeth and the wonderful sweetness with which she cherished the children even of her rivals, eventually won over the king, and he became a devoted husband and a Christian king. She founded many charitable institutions and religious houses, among others a convent of Poor Clares. After her husband’s death, she wished to enter their Order; but her people, who could not do without her, dissuaded her, and she took instead the habit of the Third Order of Saint Francis. She spent the rest of her days in redoubled austerities and almsgiving. She died in 1336 at the age of sixty-five, amid endeavors to make peace between her children. The Blessed Virgin appeared to her, accompanied by Saint Clare of Assisi and several other holy women.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

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