St Elizabeth of Hungary

Widow (entered heaven in 1231)

Dear Liza,

By all means, make as many plans as you can; make good plans, prudent plans, ambitious plans – but always be ready to change them if the Lord asks you to.  God doesn’t want us to shelve our spirit of initiative and creativity, but he does want us to remain docile to the nudging of his incomparable divine wisdom.  That’s how we reverse the original inflexibility of Adam and Eve, which did so much to disrupt the human condition.  They got so attached to their own plans that they deliberately ignored God plans – bad idea.

The story of St Elizabeth of Hungary is a prime example of the proper balance.  As an infant, she was betrothed to Count Ludwig of Thuringia, and she was sent to live in his castle when she was only four years old (he was ten at the time).  They grew up together and Ludwig became more enamored of her the better he got to know her.  When he turned 21 they were wed.  It was the perfect Christian marriage.  She, as eyewitnesses relate, was “perfect in body, handsome, of a dark complexion; serious in her ways, and modest, of kindly speech, fervent in prayer and most generous to the poor, always full of goodness and divine love,” and he was wise, well-tempered, handsome, patient and truthful, and loved both by his people and his fellow nobles.  After they were married Elizabeth began an energetic work of service to the poor and sick in the province, building a hospital at the foot of their castle-mountain, feeding nine hundred poor people daily at the castle gate (plus providing for many others throughout the region), and generally disposing of their royal patrimony with generous but prudent Christian charity.  Ludwig, unlike so many other husbands of saintly women, put no obstacles in Elizabeth’s path of prayer and mercy, confident that her virtue would bring God’s blessings upon his family and his realm, and they grew closer as their marriage matured.  The future was very bright.

But when Elizabeth was expecting their third child, Ludwig heeded the Pope’s call and joined the Emperor Frederick II on a new crusade.  He died some months later of the plague.  When the news reached Germany, Elizabeth was devastated.  She cried out, “The world is dead to me, and all that was joyous in the world,” and she ran maniacally around the castle shrieking with grief.  Soon afterwards, her in-laws forcibly removed her from the castle and she and her children spent some time bopping from relative to relative, until she decided to renounce the world, join the third order of Franciscans, and spend the remainder of her life in the full time service of Christ in his poor.  She parried multiple and attractive offers of marriage, took the Franciscan habit, continually shocked her fellow nobles by her austerities and selfless devotion to those in need, and wore herself out by her ceaseless prayer and charitable activity, such that her health broke and she passed away before reaching 24 years of age.

She hardly planned such a life, but neither did she insist on her own plans when God led her down a different road.  May her intercession and example inspire you to be equally trusting and flexible as you continue your own life’s journey.

Your affectionate uncle,


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