Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why Elizabeth of Hungary?

Confession time: My name is not Elizabeth, and I'm not from Hungary. 

So, why am I blogging under this name?  Well, in recent years I've been learning more and more to "get along with" the saints, so to speak.  When I started looking for a name to blog with, it seemed natural to turn toward the saints.  I probably went about this sort of the wrong way, but basically I googled a whole ridiculously long list of saints, and scrolled through the list, picking out names I like the way you pick them out of a baby name book. 

I came across Elizabeth of Hungary.  I like the name Elizabeth.  I like the Biblical woman Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother.  I am continually inspired by this Elizabeth.  And I got to reading Elizabeth of Hungary's story.  To put it mildly, it's beautiful.  Absolutely breathtaking.  (Her untimely death, and that of her husband, notwithstanding.)

First of all, who wouldn't love to grow up in a castle?  (And I must admit, my little Protestant heart that still beats within adores that it was Wartbug Castle, where Martin Luther hid out to finish translating the Bible after the Diet of Worms.)
The court of Thuringia was at this period famous for its magnificence. Its centre was the stately castle of the Wartburg, splendidly placed on a hill in the Thuringian Forest near Eisenach, where the Landgrave Hermann lived surrounded by poets and minnesingers, to whom he was a generous patron. Notwithstanding the turbulence and purely secular life of the court and the pomp of her surroundings, the little girl grew up a very religious child with an evident inclination to prayer and pious observances and small acts of self-mortification. These religious impulses were undoubtedly strengthened by the sorrowful experiences of her life.
What a faithful young lady!
On 31 December, 1216, the oldest son of the landgrave, Hermann, who Elizabeth was to marry, died; after this she was betrothed to Ludwig, the second son. It was probably in these years that Elizabeth had to suffer the hostility of the more frivolous members of the Thuringian court, to whom the contemplative and pious child was a constant rebuke. Ludwig, however, must have soon come to her protection against any ill-treatment. The legend that arose later is incorrect in making Elizabeth's mother-in-law, the Landgravine Sophia, a member of the reigning family of Bavaria, the leader of this court party. On the contrary, Sophia was a very religious and charitable woman and a kindly mother to the little Elizabeth.
What Jesus-loving chica doesn't long for this?
The same year (1221) Ludwig and Elizabeth were married, the groom being twenty-one years old and the bride fourteen. The marriage was in every regard a happy and exemplary one, and the couple were devotedly attached to each other. Ludwig proved himself worthy of his wife. He gave his protection to her acts of charity, penance, and her vigils, and often held Elizabeth's hands as she knelt praying at night beside his bed. He was also a capable ruler and brave soldier. The Germans call him St. Ludwig, an appellation given to him as one of the best men of his age and the pious husband of St. Elizabeth.
After her husband's death,
With the aid of Elizabeth the Franciscans in 1225 founded a monastery in Eisenach; Brother Rodeger, as his fellow-companion in the order, Jordanus, reports, instructed Elizabeth, to observe, according to her state of life, chastity, humility, patience, the exercise of prayer, and charity.
And eventually,
In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and on its completion devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick, especially to those afflicted with the most loathsome diseases.
Praise be to God for her life, her faith, her love, and her devotion.  It is an honor to write under her name.

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