Let me tell you a story about a very special saint, a saint of the Franciscan Order. She was a princess and the cousin of my saint, St Anežka of Bohemia. She is St Elizabeth of Hungary, her feast day is the 17th November and an important day for us as one of our sisters is named after her and she is as humble as her name sake, but that is getting ahead of myself I will start at the beginning.
St Elizabeth was born in Hungary and when she was only four years old was sent to live in Thuringia, Germany, so that she could marry Prince Ludwig. When they grew up they were married and were very much in love, but Ludwig’s family did not like Elizabeth, they thought her odd and strange. You see, when the family went to Holy Mass they all got into their grandest clothes and put on their biggest and best crowns and would sit in the front pews, not bowing, not kneeling, but sitting very proudly to show how important they were.When Elizabeth went with them she put on a plain but beautiful dress and would take off her crown and kneel humbly before her Lord. “What are you doing?” Queen Sophia would ask her angrily, “You are a princess, don’t do that, put your crown back on her head.” “I’m very sorry” Elizabeth would say “but how can I sit and be grand and proud when Our Lord is here? How can I keep on my golden crown when He had only a crown of thorns? He is much more important than you or I. We are only people, even if we are princesses and queens.”
This made Queen Sophia very mad and she went red with embarrassment. Queen Sophia grew to dislike Elizabeth because Elizabeth made her feel ashamed.
Elizabeth tried to do good to the poor and be kind to the downhearted all for the sake of Jesus. She remembered where it is said in the Gospel ‘as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.’ One day Elizabeth was in the city making her way home to the castle after helping feed the poor in the market square when she saw an old man who was very sick lying under a bush. “what shall I do?” thought Elizabeth ‘if I take him home he could make my children sick, but I can’t possibly leave him here, he is ill, he should be in bed, and since he doesn’t have a bed of his own I will have to give him one. So she took him back to the castle secretly and put him in Prince Ludwig’s bed. ‘He will have to sleep here’ she thought ‘because the servants will not share their beds with him, they would be afraid of catching his illness.’
She had gone to get him some hot soup from the kitchen when Queen Sophia went into Prince Ludwig’s room and found the sick man in the Princes bed. “What are you doing in my son’s bed?” She yelled at the poor man. “Princess Elizabeth said I could sleep here in this bed because I have no bed of my own. Isn’t she so very kind?” the sick man replied. Queen Sophia was so angry she ran and got the prince. “Look, look at what Elizabeth had gone and done now” Queen Sophia cried out. “She doesn’t even care if you get sick, she gives your bed to this beggar.”Prince Ludwig looked down at the poor man “It’s our Lord Himself” he said quietly, and the sick man at once disappeared. Our Lord sometimes pretends to be someone else to the people who love Him lots, to see if they are really as kind to others as they say they are. If they knew it was the Lord, of course they would do anything for Him, but sometimes we can’t be bothered to do kind things for ordinary people even though Jesus said that doing things for them was the same as doing them for Him.
So Elizabeth had shown God her love by loving others. She was a very good princess, a loving wife and a kind mother.
Would you give your bed to someone in need? What about your lunch to someone who was hungry or money you were going to spend on ice cream to the poor? Remember St Elizabeth and her good example, in the face of all these people there is God.
May St Elizabeth guide us all to love Jesus more. Maybe you could remember our Sr Elizabeth in your prayers on this day. Sr Anežka