Today is the feast of my favorite saint–Elizabeth of Hungary, special to me since my childhood. Having been baptized “Elizabeth,” I came to know her while doing grade school assignments to learn more about one’s patron saint. It was a happy encounter.
Born in the 13th century, she was married at age 14, widowed at 20 and died at 24. What I’ve always admired about her is her outreach to the poor. It is said that she gave away her own clothing, carried food to the hungry, built a hospital and bathed wounds. A contemporary of Francis of Assisi, she is believed to have personally communicated with him. There is a beautiful wood-carving of Elizabeth in a door of a major Basilica in Assisi. Our own St. Angela Merici revered Elizabeth, depicted in frescoes of the oratory where Angela gathered with her first followers.
Last year, while in Slovakia for a workshop with our sisters, I was taken to see a very beautiful castle. It was a surprise to learn it’s the site of Elizabeth’s birth and childhood. As we stood beneath her statue, I was filled with thoughts of our call to live in these times her devotion to the needy. Today, aware of the horrors in Paris this past weekend and looking ahead to our Church’s Year of Mercy, I ask Elizabeth to help us all be ministers of mercy, healing and hope for the poor of our day.
Whatever you did for one of these least of mine, you did for me.