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St. Elizabeth of Hungary patron of the Sisters of Providence

St. Elizabeth, born in 1207, was the daughter of Andrew the Second, King of Hungary. She lived a joyful childhood and received a pious education in this country during four years until the death of her mother. They then engaged her with a German prince, Louis of Thuringia; at the castle to which she was sent to be educated. From an early age, she demonstrated her piety and dedication to the poor. The wedding took place a few years later, in 1221. Elizabeth was 14 years old.

Their union was profoundly happy: Elizabeth helped her husband raise his human qualities to a supernatural level, and Louis of Thuringia, who was by then Louis IV, protected his wife’s religious practices and her generosity towards the poor. Indeed, she brought them food and clothing and visited them. However, some people complained of her lack of royal behaviour towards her husband. One day he surprised her with her apron filled with provisions.  He asked her what she was carrying in her apron. She opened it and, instead of food, there were beautiful roses. This is why roses are an attribute often associated with St. Elizabeth, with the crown and the food basket (or bread).

During her reign, Elizabeth was introduced to the Franciscan spirit. She had a hospital built near the castle, for the poor and the lepers; she would go visit them and herself provide care to the unfortunate. Then she was faced with a difficult trial. Louis went on Crusade in 1227 to liberate the Holy Land. Unfortunately, he fell ill and died on the way. Elizabeth was left widowed with three children. This was the beginning of her life of incredible trials. Driven from the castle and reduced to poverty, she left her children with Louis’ friends.  She had to sew and spin to earn a living.

Once back into the good graces of her in-laws, she officially renounced her properties and occupied the remaining years of her life attending to the poor in the hospital she founded. Pope Benedict XVI has said of her that she became what we might call today a consecrated woman in the world. She formed, with other friends, a religious community of women dressed in gray, who cared for the needy. She died in 1231 at the age of 24.

God gave in St. Elizabeth an accomplished model and a patroness for the nurses, the homeless, the exiles and several others. She is officially recognized as a patron saint by the Sisters of Providence, who celebrate her feast every year on November 17.