Thursday, November 26, 2015
November 27 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Devotion to and wearing of the Miraculous Medal is second to the Rosary in popularity among traditional Catholic devotions.
In 1830, the Blessed Virgin Mary revealed the design of the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Laboure in an apparition.
In Paris, on June 6, 1830, the Lord appeared to the young (age 24) Daughter of Charity novice Catherine at Mass, and again on the nights of July 18-19 when she was summoned to the chapel by a beautiful "child clothed in white" to converse with the Virgin Mary. Catherine was told prophecies and charged with "a mission" that manifested itself on November 27 in an early morning (5:30 am) appearance of the Blessed Virgin who was "clothed in white" standing on a globe and "a serpent." Rays of light issued forth from rings on her fingers and Catherine was told to commission a medal of what she was seeing. Then, turning the letter "M surmounted by a bar and a cross" underneath which were the hearts of Jesus and Mary all surrounded by the words "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."
Catherine heard the voice tell her, "Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear this medal will receive great favors. They should wear it around the neck . Favors will abound if worn with devotion." Catherine's mission was to ensure that the medal was made and to spread Mary's message of love and compassion.
Many healings, conversions and other miracles have been documented by those who have faithfully worn the 'Medal of the Immaculate Conception' as the Miraculous Medal was originally called.
There are numerous Miraculous Medal Associations throughout the world. They are united under the care of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians or Lazarists), the religious order founded by St. Vincent de Paul. Membership contributions go to spread devotion to the Virgin Mary and to support the work of the Vincentians. Each Association maintains a shrine and usually has some type of publication for members.
The Design and Meaning of the Medal
The medal is striking because Our Lady herself designed it.
The front of the medal depicts Mary standing on a globe, with the head of a serpent beneath her feet. Circling the oval-shaped medal is the signature, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." On the reverse, twelve stars surround a large "M," from which a cross arises. Below the "M," the medal depicts two flaming hearts. The left heart, circled with thorns, represents Jesus. The right heart, pierced by a sword, symbolizes Mary.
The Front Side
• Mary stands on a globe, crushing a serpent beneath her feet. Describing the original vision, Catherine said the Blessed Mother appeared radiant as a sunrise, "in all her perfect beauty."
• Rays shoot out from Mary's hands, which she told Catherine, "... symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them."
• Words from the vision form an oval frame around Mary: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."
Seen as a matrix, the elements of the front design encapsulate major Marian tenets:
Quality of Our Lady As Illustrated by the Medal
• Mother Her open arms, the "recourse" we have in her
• Immaculate The words, "conceived without sin"
• Assumed into Heaven She stands on the globe
• Mediatrix Rays from her hands symbolizing "graces"
• Our Protection Crushes the serpent (Gn. 3:15)
The Reverse Side
• A cross-and-bar surmounts a large, bold "M"
• 12 stars disperse around the perimeter
• Two hearts are depicted underneath the "M," the left lapped with a crown of thorns, the right skewed by a sword. From each, a flame emanates from the top. Again, employing a grid analysis, we can see how the reverse-side design contains great symbolism reflecting major tenets of the Catholic faith.
Design Element and its Catholic Meaning
• The large letter "M" — Mary as Mother, Mediatrix.
• Cross and bar — Jesus' cross of Redemption.
• 12 stars — 12 Apostles, who formed the first Church.
• Left Heart — The Sacred Heart, who died for our sins.
• Right Heart — The Immaculate Heart, who intercedes for us.
• Flames — The burning love Jesus and Mary have for us.
The Association of the Miraculous Medal, in Perryville, Mo., notes that there is no superstition or magic connected with the Miraculous Medal, nor is it "a good luck charm." Rather, it is "a testimony to faith and the power of trusting prayer. Its greatest miracles are those of patience, forgiveness, repentance, and faith."
To obtain a free Miraculous Medal, write to the Association of the Miraculous Medal, 1811 W. St. Joseph St., Perryville, MO, 63775.
Wearing the Medal
The Miraculous Medal is an approved sacramental and allows the the wearer to take advantage of Mary's promise:
"Those who wear it will receive great graces; abundant graces will be given to those who have confidence."
Enrollment in an Association Anyone, living or deceased, Catholic or not, may be enrolled as a member and obtain these graces and the spiritual benefit of Masses offered for members (for example, the Central Association in the U.S. offers 2,500 Masses a year).
Invested membership involves these obligations:
1. Formally enroll in an approved Association and renew the membership yearly
2. Wear the Medal (around the neck is highly recommended)
3. Have the intention to sanctify oneself and others by means of the Medal
4. Investiture which may be done publicly or privately
1. Receive the graces promised by the Blessed Virgin Mary
2. Receive the spiritual benefits of numerous Masses offered for members by the Vincentians
3. Promoters who sign up others receive spiritual benefit from additional Masses
4. Invested members receive an indulgences on the following days:~ Day of joining the Association~ August 22 (Feast of the Queenship of Mary) ~ September 27 (Feast of St. Vincent de Paul)~ November 27 (Feast of the Miraculous Medal)~ November 28 (Feast of St. Catherine Laboure)~ Anniversary date of the founding of the Association in which one is enrolled*
The indulgence is plenary under the normal conditions: confession, communion, prayer for the Pope's intentions and freedom from attachment to all sin.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for being alive. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life!
Thank you for creating me in your image and likeness, Lord.
Thank you for my body, which allows me to serve you daily through the tasks I perform for my family, my parish, and my community.
Thank you for the opportunity to exercise every weekday (and occasionally on weekends) at my gym.
Thank you, Lord, for my health.
Thank you for the amazing food choices I have each day and the delicious and nutritious meals that I am able to prepare.
Thank you, Lord, for blessing me not only with the ability to cook, but also with the enjoyment it brings to others, especially those I love.
I am thankful for my mind, which despite my age (ha!), remains active and interested in many things.
I am thankful that I am able to focus, to reason, to retain information, and am still learning new things every day.
Thank you, Lord, that I know who you are and that each new day provides an opportunity for knowing you better.
Thank you for the gift of my soul, which enables me to draw closer to you.
Thank you, Lord, for awakening the deep desires of my soul to know and understand myself as a spiritual being.
Thank you for the gift of prayer and the opportunity to converse with you daily.
Thank you for the gift of free will and for enlightening me to do your holy will.
Thank you for igniting the fire of your love within me that enables me to express myself through the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Lord, for the insatiable desire that you have given me to grow in my love for you.
Thank you for my heart, my emotions, and the gift to express myself as a human being.
I am grateful, Lord, that you created me to be a woman and that I have no desire to be anything or anyone else.
Thank you for blessing me with the gifts of empathy and compassion.
Thank you for helping me to be tender and kind and to nurture others both spiritually and physically.
Thank you, Lord, for my beautiful Catholic faith.
Thank you for the Scriptures, Church traditions, the Magisterium of the Church, the sacraments, the Communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, your death on the cross and your resurrection.
Thank you for the gift of life everlasting.
Thank you for the gift of Mother Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, Queen of angels and saints.
Thank you for the angels, and especially for my guardian angel.
Thank you for the saints, who are wonderful models of holiness and intercede for us in special ways.
Thank you especially for my patron saints.
Thank you, Lord, for our new bishop, Bishop Kemme, and his spirit-filled leadership.
Thank you for our new pastor, Fr. Jarrod, who brings his strong enthusiasm for the faith, amazing teaching and preaching skills, and inspiring homilies to our parish.
Thank you for our new assistant pastor, Fr. Josh, for his diligence, congeniality, and generosity.
Thank you for our part-time assistant pastor, Fr. Ben, who is so sincere, sweet, and humble, who really does remind me of a Jewish rabbi in "Fiddler on the Roof" or one of the early Church Fathers.
Thank you for all my loved ones -- family and friends -- both near and far. They are all precious to me.
Happy Thanksgiving, Lord!
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann, November 2015
This is my litany. What is yours?
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria (292 - 310), virgin and martyr.
Catherine was beautiful, brilliant, and extremely wealthy at the age of eighteen when she debated the Emperor Maximin (311-313) and harshly criticized him for his persecution of Christians who refused to worship pagan gods. Astounded by her wisdom, Maximin ordered her to be kept confined, and summoned fifty of his most learned philosophers, promising them great rewards if they could get Catherine to abandon her Christian faith. However, her arguments were so convincing that all fifty of the philosophers were converted to Christianity. Outraged by this, Maximin ordered all of them to be burned alive.
Then the Emperor attempted to win Catherine by flattery and by promises, but his efforts proved equally fruitless. Next, he had her thrown into a dungeon, without food and water. He ordered her whipped with rods, scourged with leaden nodules, and then left to languish eleven days without food in prison.
In the Emperor's absence, his wife and Porphyrius, general of the army, visited Catherine in prison and both were converted to Christianity. Porphyrius then converted 200 soldiers. When the Emperor returned, he had them all executed, including his wife, and offered to make Catherine his new wife.When she refused, he designed a new means of torture.
Catherine's next torture consisted of being placed upon a wheel with sharp and pointed knives, which was designed to tear her body into pieces, but when she was bound to it, a heavenly fire destroyed it. Finally, on November 25, Catherine was beheaded. By the hands of angels her body was carried to Mt. Sinai, where it was interred in the convent which bears her name.
Ranked with St. Margaret and St. Barbara as one of the fourteen most helpful saints in heaven, (that group of saints notable for answering prayers especially for cures from disease and at the hour of death) she was unceasingly praised by preachers and sung by poets. In several dioceses in France, her feast day was observed as a Holy Day of obligation up to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Saint Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students. Looked upon as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ, it was but natural that she, of all others, should be worthy to watch over the virgins of the cloister and the young women of the world.
Her feast on November 25 falls immediately before the beginning of Advent during which no weddings could take place during the Middle Ages and for years afterward. So it was a custom for unmarried women of that time to pray to St. Catherine saying,
“A husband, Saint Catherine,
A good one, Saint Catherine,
A handsome one, Saint Catherine,
A rich one, Saint Catherine –
And soon, Saint Catherine!
St. Catherine is the patron of: apologists, attorneys, dying people, librarians, mechanics, nurses, philosophers, secretaries, single women, students, teachers, and theologians.
A Prayer to Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Glorious Saint Catherine, virgin and martyr, help me to imitate your love of purity. Give me strength and courage in fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires.
Help me to love God with my whole heart and serve Him faithfully.
O Saint Catherine, through your glorious martyrdom for the love of Christ, help me to be loyal to my faith and my God as long as I live.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr, and companions. This group of 117 Vietnamese martyrs were canonized on June 19, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
St. Andrew Dung-Lac, whose name was originally Dung An Trân,was born about 1795 in a poor and pagan family in Bac-Ninh in North Vietnam. When he was twelve the family moved to Hà-Nôi (Hanoi). There he met the faith through a Catholic lay catechist. He was baptized in Vinh-Tri with the Christian name Andrew (Andrew Dung). After learning Chinese and Latin he became a catechist, and thereafter taught catechism in the country. On March 15, 1823 he was ordained a priest.
As a parish priest in Ke-Dâm he was fervent in his preaching. He was also very prayerful, fasted frequently, and lived a simple and moral life. He was a good example for the people and converted many. In 1835 he was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured under emperor Minh-Mang's persecutions (he was called Vietnam's emperor Nero), but his freedom was purchased by donations from members of the congregation he served. To avoid persecutions he changed his name to Lac (Andrew Lac) and moved to another area to continue his work. But on November 10, 1839 he was again arrested, this time with Peter Thi, another Vietnamese priest whom he was visiting so that he might go to confession.
Once again Andrew was liberated, along with Peter Thi, in exchange for money. Their freedom was brief. They were soon re-arrested and taken to Hanoi, where both suffered dreadful torture. Finally they both were beheaded on December 21, 1839.
Monday, November 23, 2015
The Church remains faithful if she keeps her eyes fixed on Jesus, but she becomes lukewarm and mediocre if she seeks comfort in worldly things. That was Pope Francis’ message on Monday as he reflected on the Gospel reading at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta…
Pope Francis noted that the reading from St Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the widow who puts her two coins in the temple treasury box, while other wealthy worshipers make a great show of the money they're putting in. Jesus says that “this poor widow put in more than all the rest” because the others were giving away money from their surplus wealth, while she, in her poverty, “has offered her whole livelihood”. In the Bible, Pope Francis said, the widow is the woman who is alone, who has no husband to look after her, who has to manage on her own, who survives on charity. The widow in this Gospel passage, he said, was “a widow who had placed her trust only in the Lord”. I like to look at the widows in the Gospel, he said, as an image of the “widowed” Church who is waiting for Jesus to return.
The Church is the bride of Christ, Pope Francis said, but her Lord has gone and her only treasure is in her Lord. If the Church remains faithful, then she leaves everything while waiting for her Lord to return. If she does not have so much faith in the love of her Lord, then she tries to get by in other ways, seeking security in things that are more of this world than of God.
The widows of the Gospels, the Pope continued, speak beautifully to us about Jesus and His Church. There is the widow of Nain who was crying as she accompanied her son to be buried outside the city gates. There is the widow who goes to the unjust judge in order to defend her sons, knocking on his door every day and bothering him continuously until he delivers a just sentence for her. This is the widowed Church who prays and intercedes for her children, Pope Francis explained. But the heart of the Church is always with Jesus, the Bridegroom in heaven.
According to the desert fathers, the Pope said, our souls also resemble the Church, and the closer our souls, our lives, are to Jesus, the more we are able to avoid worldly, useless things that lead us away from Christ. While the ‘widowed’ Church waits for Jesus, he said, she can be faithful, trusting that her husband will return, or she can be unfaithful to her widowhood, a lukewarm, mediocre, worldly Church seeking comfort in other things.
In these last days of the liturgical year, Pope Francis concluded, we would do well to ask ourselves if our souls are searching for the Lord, or if they’re looking for comfort in things which do not please the Lord. Let our souls say “Come Lord Jesus! Come!” And may we leave behind all those useless things which stop us staying faithful.
~ Via Vatican Radio, 11-23-15 (based on Luke 21:1-4).
By Jean M. Heimann
Today is the feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro, a celebrated Christian hero of the twentieth century. This courageous young Jesuit priest was martyred by the Mexican government in 1927 for performing his priestly responsibilities.
Miguel Agustin Pro was born January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe Mexico. He was the eldest son of eleven children born to Miguel Pro, an affluent mining engineer, and Josefa Juarez, a holy and loving mother. Miguel had an extraordinary empathy for the poor and the working classes. He was known for both his playfulness and his piety. He had a wonderful wit and a great sense of humor. At the same time, he had a strong prayer life and was zealous in living out his faith.
In 1909, at the age of twenty, Miguel Augustin Pro joined the Jesuits as a novice in Mexico. One year later, a revolution broke out and by 1914 the Jesuits were forced to flee. Miguel received his seminary training en route to Belgium, where he was ordained in 1925. Father Pro suffered from a severe stomach disorder. When his health did not improve after several surgeries, his superiors sent him to Mexico City in 1926, hoping this return home would alleviate this ailment. However, just a few weeks after he arrived, the government banned all forms of public worship. All the churches were closed and the entire state was cleared of priests. Many were killed, while a few served secretly, risking their lives.
Since he was not well-known as a priest, Father Pro went about clandestinely—often in disguise—celebrating Mass and the sacraments, providing for his flock's spiritual needs. He also assisted the poor and needy with their corporal needs. They, in turn, helped hide him from the authorities.
In 1927, someone tossed a bomb at the Mexican president’s car from an automobile previously owned by one of Miguel’s brothers. All three brothers were arrested on false charges. The youngest was exonerated, but Father Pro and his brother Humberto were sentenced to death (without the benefit of a trial) via a firing squad.
On November 23, the day of his death, Father Pro prayed and forgave his executioners. He bravely refused the blindfold, but faced the firing squad with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, extending his arms in the form of a cross, crying out, "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long Live Christ the King!)
Although the Mexican president had outlawed public demonstration, thousands of Mexicans defiantly lined the streets, honoring Father Pro, the martyr, as he was carried in procession to his grave.
Father Miguel Pro was beatified on September 25, 1988 by Pope John Paul II as a martyr, killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith).
Friday, November 20, 2015
1. November can be a beautiful month, with the colors of the leaves continuing to change around us. Here are a few nature photos I took recently. When God uses His paint brush, the earth is transformed. Above is the bell tower in front of my parish church just before 5:30pm Mass. Below is a photo of the trees in my back yard. The oak is a brillant reddish brown, while the crabapple is bare, and the mulberry still green.
2. November is a great month for saints. Just in the past couple weeks we have celebrated the feasts of some of my favorite women saints: St. Francis Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini), St. Gertrude the Great and St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne,
3. November is the month we pray for the holy souls in purgatory, but have you ever wondered how to avoid purgatory? Here are Ten Ways to Avoid Purgatory.
4. Want to win a great book? I have just read and reviewed True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life by Lisa Mladinich. I am giving away TWO copies. Enter HERE.
5. November is almost over and it's time to break out the gloves, the scarves, and the winter coats. Here is our forecast for Wichita:
6. On Saturday, November 21, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. November 27 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Happy Feast Days! :)
For more Quick Takes, please visit Kelly at This Aint the Lyceum.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
(Recite this prayer for nine consecutive days.)
O Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Mother of Our Lord Jesus and our Mother,
penetrated with the most lively confidence in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal,
we your loving and trustful children implore you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this novena,
if they be beneficial to our immortal souls,
and the souls for whom we pray.
(Here mention your petition)
You know, O Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of your Son who hates iniquity.
Obtain for us then a deep hatred of sin and that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone so that our every thought, word and deed may tend to His greater glory.
Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where you are the Queen of angels and of men.
Even before opening this book, I had high expectations. After reading it, all my expectations were not only met, but they were exceeded. True Radiance is a beautiful book written for women in the second half of their lives, which is intended to: guide them to gratitude, help them appreciate their inner beauty, and renew their spirit by developing a deep faith in God. The chapters focus on: authentic feminine beauty, the sacramentality of our changing bodies, understanding and caring for our aging brain (which includes practical advice on Alzheimer’s prevention), ways of blessing others through the witness of our spiritual lives, making lasting friendships, nurturing our vocations, avoiding vices and replacing them with virtues, finding peace in our chaotic culture, and moving forward to the next phase of our lives in radiance.
All the personal anecdotes in this book captured my interest and I was truly amazed by all the inspiring stories about women that Lisa had to share. I was also surprised and satisfied to hear the testimonies of so many women sharing intimate stories of their spiritual life. I felt as if I were a cherished member of this extraordinary group of women who were striving, as I am, to grow in my faith and to make the most of all that God has blessed me with at this point in my life.
True Radiance is an uplifting book that spoke to me on both practical and spiritual levels. On a spiritual level, it reminded me of the many gifts God has blessed me with as a woman and the purpose of these gifts. On a practical level, it provided useful tips in many areas: diet, health, and relationships. What Lisa has to say about friendships is both sensible and spiritual. She emphasizes how it is important to focus on what is best in others, stating that “St. Therese of Lisieux believed that the best parts of a person are the most true parts, since they are of God.” She highlights the intrinsic worth of our friends: “Each of my friends has a purpose, a dignity that is a gift – not just to me but to the Divine plan of salvation for the Church and the world. Each is a glimpse of the Divine Friend, each relationship a foretaste of the heavens to come. Through the various qualities, lessons, and graces that these relationships bring into my life, I experience subtle opportunities to enter into conversation with God.”
This is just a sampling of what you can expect to find in this insightful book. True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life is a treasure chest of wisdom and guidance for all mature women who are increasing in authentic feminine beauty as they bloom and grow closer to God, reflecting the radiance of His grace-filled glory in their lives.
Lisa Mladinich is a Catholic wife and mom, the founder of AmazingCatechists.com, and an author and speaker whose dynamic presentations on faith, catechetics, and women’s issues can be heard at events around the country.
True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life can be purchased HERE.
~ copyright November 2015 Jean M. Heimann
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015
November 18th is the optional memorial of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a French Religious Sister and educator. She is the foundress of the American branch of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Saint Rose was born on August 29, 1769 at Grenoble, France to a family of wealth and political connections. When she was eight years old, she heard a Jesuit missionary speak of his missionary work in America, which sparked a strong desire within her to evangelize. She was educated at home until she was twelve years old, when she was sent to the convent of the Visitation nuns in Grenoble to continue her studies. She joined them when she was nineteen without the permission or knowledge of her family.
Her convent closed quite abruptly during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. She spent the next ten years living as a laywoman, but continued to live as if she were still with her Order. She established a school for poor children, cared for the sick and hid priests from the Revolutionaries. When the Reign of Terror ended, she reclaimed her convent and attempted to reestablish it with a small group of sisters. However, most were long gone, and in 1804, the group merged with the Society of the Sacred Heart under Saint Madeline Sophie Barat. They then reopened their convent as the second house of Sacred Heart nuns. Rose became a postulant in December 1804, and made her final vows in 1805.
In 1815, Mother Duchesne was assigned to found a Sacred Heart convent in Paris. At age forty-nine, she and four sisters were sent as missionaries to the Louisiana Territory to establish the Society's presence in America. Diseases contracted during the trip to America nearly killed her, and after she recovered in New Orleans, the trip up the Mississippi nearly killed her again. She established her first mission at Saint Charles, Missouri, a log cabin that was the first free school west of the Mississippi River. She eventually opened six other houses in America, which included schools and orphanages. She experienced some opposition as her teaching methods were based on French models, and her English was terrible; her students, however, received a good education. She was constantly concerned about the plight of Native Americans, and much of her work was devoted to educating them, caring for their sick, and working against alcohol abuse.
In 1841, the Jesuits asked the Sisters to join them in a new mission with the Potawatomi tribe in eastern Kansas, along Sugar Creek. At age seventy-one, she was not among those initially selected for the trip. However, Father Verhaegen insisted, "She may not be able to do much work, but she will assure success to the mission by praying for us." Unable to master their language, she was not able to teach, so she spent long periods in prayer. The children named her Quahkahkanumad, which translates as "Woman-Who-Prays-Always". She spent her last ten years in retirement in a tiny shack at the convent in Saint Charles, Missouri where she lived a life of poverty and penance, in constant prayer. She died in 1852 at the age of eighty-two and was canonized in 1988.
She is the patron saint of opposition of Church authorities and the diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
"We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self."
"You may dazzle the mind with a thousand brilliant discoveries of natural science; you may open new worlds of knowledge which were never dreamed of before; yet, if you have not developed in the soul of the pupil strong habits of virtue which will sustain her in the struggle of life, you have not educated her, but only put in her hand a powerful instrument of self-destruction."
~St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
Gracious God, you filled the heart of Philippine Duchesne with charity and missionary zeal, and gave her the desire to make you known among all peoples. Fill us who honor her memory today, with that same love and zeal to extend your kingdom to the ends of the earth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Today many of us are entertained and fascinated by the lifestyles of royalty and their romantic adventures in movies. However, St. Elizabeth was a genuine princess, who served as an exemplary model of the heroic virtues of charity and humility. Her life is true love story.
Born in Bratislava, Hungary in 1207, Princess Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary and his wife Gertrude. Her aunt was St. Hedwig and her great niece was St. Elizabeth of Portugal.
Elizabeth was betrothed at the age of four to Prince Herman of Thuringia (in central Germany) and grew up in his father's court. In 1216, Hermann, who Elizabeth was to marry, died. After this, she then became engaged to Ludwig, the second son. The couple married when she was fourteen and he was twenty-one. She loved him and bore him three children. They were very happy together and deeply devoted to one another. Ludwig was protective of his wife and the couple often prayed together, holding hands while kneeling in prayer.
In the real world, unlike the fairy tale world, this princess was not content with living a life of luxury, but dedicated herself to caring for the poor, the sick, and the elderly. She was so moved by the plight of the poor that she sought to become one with them. Instead of wearing luxurious gowns, she dressed in simple clothing to display her solidarity with them.
In 1226, when floods, famine, and disease created chaos in Germany, and Princess Ludwig was attending to business in Italy, Elizabeth came to the rescue. Not only did she distribute food (bread) and clothing to hundreds of the needy, but she built a hospital with twenty-eight beds and personally cared for the patients. When Prince Ludwig returned from his business trip to Italy, he assured Elizabeth that she had done the right thing and was pleased with all that she had done.
A strong and courageous man, Ludwig joined the Crusades, but died within the year. Elizabeth, who received the news just after giving birth to her third child, cried out: “The world with all its joys is now dead to me.” She was twenty years old.
Elizabeth chose to leave the castle which had been her home for sixteen years. Her royal uncle made a castle available to her and began making plans for a second marriage for her. However, she had taken a vow never to remarry, but to become the bride of Christ.
On Good Friday 1228, Elizabeth became a Third Order Franciscan, sold all that she had, and worked to support her children. She settled into a small house and spent the few remaining years of her life serving the sick, the poor, and the elderly. Elizabeth’s strength was expended by her charitable work, and in 1231, she passed away at the tender age of twenty-four. She was canonized in 1235 by Pope Gregory IX and is known as the “greatest woman of the German Middle Ages.”
St. Elizabeth is the patron saint of bakers, the homeless, nursing services, Catholic charities, widows, and young brides. She is also the patroness of secular Franciscans.
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann November 2015