SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL (1271-1336), holy woman – Patron saint of brides, widows, peacemakers, difficult marriages and victims of adultery
Today, the Church honors Saint Elizabeth (Isabella) of Portugal, a queen who served the poor and helped her country avoid war during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Elizabeth was born into royalty, the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon (a province in Eastern Spain) in the year 1271. She had a pious upbringing, being introduced to the practice of praying the daily Liturgy of the Hours (the Prayer of the Church), along with regular religious instruction and education.
While still at the tender age of twelve years, Elizabeth was married to Diniz (Denis), king of Portugal; and thus became queen of Portugal even before she reached her teenage years. During her marriage, she gave birth to two children, a son and a daughter. Elizabeth’s husband, the king, was known for his hard work and his poetic nature, but he was also known for his lack of morals, having fathered an additional seven children with other women. Elizabeth suffered through years of abuse and her husband’s adultery, praying all the while for his conversion. Yet, she kept her mind and her spirit active, never failing to work with the poor and the sick.
At one point, Elizabeth’s son, Prince Affonso, rebelled against the favors that King Diniz bestowed on his illegitimate sons, and, in 1323, forces of the king and prince clashed in an open civil war. Elizabeth rode onto the battlefield between them, and was able to reconcile father and son, and prevent bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one who is invoked in time of war and conflict.
Late in the king’s life, it is said that he reformed his amoral and unprincipled ways through the prayers which Elizabeth continually offered to God for his conversion of heart, along with her unfailing gentleness which she always showed toward her husband, not unlike the unassuming and quiet gentleness of Christ’s Love which He has for all His children, saint and sinner alike.
After the death of the king in 1325, Elizabeth distributed her property to the poor, and received the habit of the Third Order of Saint Francis, and retired to a monastery of Poor Clares she had established some years earlier at Coimbra, Portugal.
In 1336, her son, now King Affonso IV, marched against his son-in-law, the king of Castile, to punish him for being a negligent and abusive husband. Despite her age and ill health, Elizabeth hurried to the battlefield at Estremoz, Portugal, and again managed to make peace in her family, and thus maintain peace in her land.
In all that Elizabeth endured in her life, her heart was always firmly focused on Christ, living her life in imitation of His Love. While still in Estremoz, Elizabeth of Portugal, after suffering from a severe fever, finally realized her eternal joy on July 4, 1336.
The testimony of miracles accomplished through her intercession after her death contributed to her canonization as a saint by Pope Urban VIII in 1625.
We commemorate her feastday on July 4.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Elizabeth of Portugal)
“Father of Peace and Love, You gave Saint Elizabeth the gift of reconciling enemies. By the help of her prayers, give us the courage to work for peace among men, that we may be called the sons of God.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”