July 4 Saint Elizabeth of Portugal [Optional Memorial]
St. Elizabeth of Portugal (1271-1336) was the daughter of King Peter III of Aragon and was named after her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, whose virtues she also inherited. In her married life with King Denis of Portugal, she endured trials with heroism. On more than one occasion she went to considerable pains to bring about peace between her children and their father. After her husband’s death she became a Franciscan Tertiary and showed unfailing charity towards the poor.
HER DISTINGUISHING VIRTUES
“Charity to the poor was a distinguishing part of her character. She gave constant orders to have all pilgrims and poor strangers provided for with lodging and necessaries. She made it her business to seek out and secretly relieve persons of good condition who were reduced to necessity, yet out of shame durst not make known their wants. She was very liberal in furnishing fortunes to poor young women, that they might marry according to their condition, and not be exposed to the danger of losing their virtue. She visited the sick, served them, and dressed and kissed their most loathsome sores. She founded in different parts of the kingdom many pious establishments, particularly an hospital near her own palace at Coimbra, a house for penitent women who had been seduced into evil courses, at Torres-Novas and an hospital for foundlings, or those children who, for want of due provision, are exposed to the danger of perishing by poverty, or the neglect and cruelty of unnatural parents. She was utterly regardless of her own conveniences, and so attentive to the poor and afflicted persons of the whole kingdom, that she seemed almost wholly to belong to them; not that she neglected any other du ties which she owed to her neighbor, for she made it her principal study to pay to her husband the most dutiful respect, love, and obedience, and bore his injuries with invincible meekness and patience. Though king Dionysius was a friend of Justice, and a valiant, bountiful, and compassionate prince, yet he was, in his youth, a worldly man, and defiled the sanctity of the nuptial state with abominable lusts. The good queen used all her endeavors to reclaim him, grieving most sensibly for the offense of God, and the scandal given to the people; and she never ceased to weep herself, and to procure the prayers of others for his conversion. She strove to gain him only by courtesy, and with constant sweetness and cheerfulness cherished his natural children, and took great care of their education. By these means she softened the heart of the king, who, by the succor of a powerful grace, rose out of the filthy puddle in which he had wallowed for a long time, and kept ever after the fidelity that was due to his virtuous consort. He instituted the order of Christ in 1318; founded, with a truly royal magnificence, the university of Coimbra, and adorned his kingdom with public buildings. His extraordinary virtues, particularly his liberality, justice, and constancy, are highly extolled by the Portuguese, and after his entire conversion, he was the idol and glory of his people. A little time before his perfect conversion there happened an extraordinary accident. The queen had a very pious, faithful page, whom she employed in the distribution of her secret alms. A wicked fellow-page envying him on account of this favor, to which his virtue and services entitled him, treacherously suggested to his majesty that the queen showed a fondness for that page. The prince, who by his own sensual heart was easily inclined to judge ill of others, gave credit to the slander, and resolved to take away the life of the innocent youth. For this purpose he gave order to a lime-burner, that if on such a day he sent to him a page with this errand, to inquire “Whether he had fulfilled the king’s commands?” he should take him and cast him into the lime-kiln, there to be burnt; for that death he had justly incurred, and the execution was expedient for the king’s service. On the day appointed he dispatched the page with this message to the lime-kiln; but the devout youth on the road passing by a church, heard the bell ring at the elevation at mass, went in and prayed there devoutly; for it was his pious custom, if ever he heard the sign given by the bell for the elevation, always to go thither, and not depart until mass was ended. It happened, on that occasion, the’ as the first was not a whole mass, and it was with him a constant rule to hear mass every day, he stayed in the church, and heard successively two other masses. In the meantime, the king, who was impatient to know if his orders had been executed, sent the informer to the lime-kiln, to inquire whether his commands had been obeyed; but as soon as he was come to that kiln, and had asked the question, the man supposing him to be the messenger meant by the king’s order, seized him, and threw him into the burning lime where he was soon consumed. Thus was the innocent protected by his devotion, and the slanderer was overtaken by divine justice. The page who had heard the masses went afterward to the lime-kiln, and having asked whether his majesty’s commands had been yet executed, brought him word back that they were. The king was almost out of himself with surprise when he saw him come back with this message, and being soon informed of the particulars, he easily discovered the innocence of the pious youth adored the divine judgments, and ever after respected the great virtue and sanctity of his queen. …
She strongly exhorted her son to the love of peace and to a holy life; she confessed several times, received the holy viaticum on her knees at the foot of the altar, and shortly after, extreme unction; from which time she continued it fervent prayer, often invoking the Blessed Virgin, and repeating these words: “Mary mother of grace, mother of mercy, defend us from the wicked enemy, and receive us at the hour of our death.” She appeared overflowing with heavenly joy, and with those consolations of the Holy Ghost which make death so sweet to the saints; and in the presence of her son, the king, and of her daughter-in-law, she gave up her happy soul to God on the 4th of July, in the year 1336, of her age sixty-five. She was buried with royal pomp in the church of her monastery of poor Clares, at Coimbra, and honored by miracles. Leo X and Paul IV granted an office on her festival; and in 1612 her body was taken up and found entire. It is now richly enshrined in a magnificent chapel, built on purpose. She was canonized by Urban VIII, in 1625, and the 8th of July appointed for her festival.
The characteristical virtue of St. Elizabeth was a love of peace. Christ, the prince of peace, declares his spirit to be the spirit of humility and meekness; consequently the spirit of peace. Variance, wrath, and strife are the works of the flesh, of envy, and pride, which he condemns, and which exclude from the kingdom of hearer. Bitterness and contention shut out reason, make the soul deaf to the motives of religion, and open the understanding to nothing but what is sinful. To find the way of peace we must be meek and parent, even under the most violent provocations; we must never resent any wrong, nor return railing for railing, but good for evil; we must regard passion as the worst of monsters, and must Judge it as unreasonable to hearken to its suggestions as to choose a madman for our counselor in matters of concern and difficulty above all, we must abhor it not only as a sin, but as leading to a numberless variety of other grievous sins and spiritual sin . Blessed are the peacemakers, and all who lore and cultivate this virtue among men; they shall be called the children a God, whose badge and image they bear.” – EXCERPT FROM BUTLERS LIVES OF SAINTS.
O God, author of peace and lover of charity, who adorned Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvelous grace for reconciling those in conflict, grant, through her intercession, that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God. Through our Lord.
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