Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Feast Day: July 4

Born 1271 at Aragon, Spain
Died July 4, 1336 at Estremoz of fever
Buried at Coimbra, Portugal
Canonized June 24, 1625 by Pope Urban VIII

against jealousy; brides; charitable societies; charitable workers; charities; Coimbra, Portugal; difficult marriages; falsely accused people; invoked in time of war; peace; queens; tertiaries; victims of adultery; victims of jealousy; victims of unfaithfulness; widows

"I, Elizabeth, daughter of the Most Illustrious Don Pedro, by the grace of God ...
hereby bestow my body as the legitimate wife of Dom Dinis, king of Portugal...Ē

Imagine the courage of twelve-year-old Elizabeth, who wrote these words to a 20-year-old king she had never even met. But it was the custom in those days for the parents of a young girl like Elizabeth to give their daughter away to a man who could offer the most financial or political gain for their family. You canít help but wonder how much the young princess understood of the document she signed, to be delivered to a man she knew nothing about.

Imagine the fidelity of Elizabeth, whose husband King Dinis fathered seven illegitimate children while married to her, then asked Elizabeth to be mother to them as if they were her own. There is no record of her showing jealousy or condemning her husband's behavior. She never sought the pity of those around her. And despite the kingís lack of fidelity, Elizabeth remained with him to the end. During the sickness that would ultimately cause his death, Elizabeth never left his side, except for Mass.

Imagine the generosity of Elizabeth, who risked punishment by sneaking food out of her castle so that she could feed the poor in the surrounding villages.

Imagine the charity of Elizabeth, who, every Good Friday, would sneak lepers into her castle, where she treated their wounds, gave them new clothes, treated them to a banquet, then filled their pockets with money.

Imagine the love that Elizabeth showed to children who were poor, allowing them to wear her crown. "God made me queen so that I may serve others," she would say.

Imagine the faith of Elizabeth, who attended Mass every day and prayed daily for the conversion of her husband.

Imagine the patience of Elizabeth, who twice prevented civil war: once by mediating peace between her own son, Prince Affonso, who rebelled against the favors that the King gave to his illegitimate sons. Imagine the strength of Elizabeth, who rode onto the battlefield between them, and was able to reconcile father and son, and prevent bloodshed... and again when her son marched against his son-in-law, the King of Castile, to punish him for being a negligent and abusive husband. Despite her old age and ill health at that time, Elizabeth hurried onto the battlefield and again managed to make peace in her family, and thus maintain peace in her land.

Courage, fidelity, generosity, charity, love, faith, patience, strength. Whether you were a powerful ruler or the least of the least, Elizabeth would pass these blessings on to you. Itís no wonder that her witness and example finally changed the heart of her husband, who would write a poem in which he wrote these beautiful words about her:

Seeing as God made you without equal,
In goodness of heart and goodness of speech,
Nor is your equal anywhere to be found,
My love, my lady, I hereby tell you:
Had God desired to ordain it so,
You would have made a great king.

Queen Elizabeth makes a great saint instead, as God has ordained it. May her witness and example inspire us to holiness, and may she intercede for us, our parish, and our families.

Portrait by Francisco de Zurbaran, 1598-1664, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

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