July 4

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Born into a life that offers possibly anything anybody could have everwanted, it’s such a surprise this Spanish Princess wanted more. Guesswhat she longed for? A quiet life of charity, holiness, and peace.Elizabeth of Aragon is an inspiration that wealth could be a means to anend and not an end itself.

Amid Royalty

4 January 1271, a beautiful princess was born into the royal house ofAragon, Spain, to father Peter 111, king of Aragon, and mother Constanceof Sicily. Elizabeth was named after her great aunt, the famousElizabeth of Hungary, Germany (saint).

Elizabeth was sister to three kings; Alfonso 11, James 11 of Aragon, andFrederick 111 of Sicily. She had a very pious education, the best therecould be. For a princess, Elizabeth took early to a strict devout life.

Elizabeth would say the entire divine office daily, attend mass twice aday, fast, and indulge in penances.

Becoming Elizabeth of Portugal

Royalty marries royalty; therefore, in 1281, at the age of 10, Elizabethwas arranged to be married to King Denis of Portugal. As part of herdowry, she received the towns of Obidos, Abrantes, and Porto de Mos.Since she was very young, the marriage was celebrated in 1288 whenElizabeth was 17 and Denis was 26. But it was not to be an easymarriage…

King Denis was regarded as Rei Lavrader ( a working king to hispeople). Still, he was an unfaithful and abusive husband to Elizabeth.His morals were low, and his court very corrupt. Elizabeth was loathedby some in the court. Her life of devotion and charity to the poor andsick was obviously different from many in the court.

Elizabeth’s marriage with Diniz was blessed with a son Alfonso anddaughter Constance. Despite Diniz’s sinful ways and false accusationstowards her, Elizabeth would always pray for him.

Between Her Husband and Son

Perhaps, Elizabeth’s greatest trial in her marriage was between herhusband and her son Alfonso.

Alfonso resented his father, King Diniz, for favoring his illegitimateson Afonso Sanches. He was to later rebel against his father, and in1322, war was declared between the father and son.

What mother and wife will watch her husband and son go to war with eachother and do nothing? Not Elizabeth of Portugal.

Elizabeth rode out by herself to the battlefront and was in between thetwo opposing armies. The war was averted. Peace returned later in 1324when the illegitimate son was exiled, and Alfonso swore loyalty to hisfather.

In his later years, King Diniz repented of his sins and apologized tohis wife, Elizabeth. He took ill and died in 1325.

Quiet Life of Charity and Penance

Elizabeth retired to a monastery after her husband’s death. She movedinto the sanctuary of Santa Clara a Velha Coimbra, which she hadfounded in 1314. She took on a life of poverty and joined the ThirdOrder of St.Francis of Assisi.

While in the monastery, she continued taking care of the poor and sick.She was a benefactor to many hospitals, paid dowries of poor girls,educated children of the poor, provided lodgings for pilgrims, and wasalways dressed modestly for a Queen.

Last Act of Mercy

Only one situation could drag Elizabeth out of the monastery. To sue forpeace. Now Alfonso IV of Portugal, her son was drawn to battle with hergrandson Alfonso X1 of Castille. This was in the era where intermarriagebetween cousins, especially among royals, was a family tradition.

King Alfonso IV had given his daughter Maria in marriage to his sister(Constance’s) son. The younger Alfonso of Castille had mistreated her.In 1336, Alfonso IV was ready to match to war with his nephew.

Not minding her poor health and old age, Elizabeth moved to thebattlefront to meditate for peace between her son and her grandson. Shesucceeded in brokering peace between the two.

Stressed from her journey, she came down with a fever. On 4 July 1336,Elizabeth of Portugal joined the Good Lord, the Eternal Peacemaker. Shewas buried at the convent of Santa Clara Coimbra.

5 Interesting Facts About St. Elizabeth of Portugal

  1. Elizabeth earned the title “Peacemaker” for her remarkable role in
    settling many royal disputes. To her credit, a peace treaty was
    signed between her husband and Fernanda IV of Castile, which fixed
    the two countries’ borders.
  2. Her persistent prayer and patience converted her husband from his
    sinful life, and he died a holy death.
  3. Her dedication to the poor and sick as a Queen was unheard of before
    in Portugal.
  4. She is honored as the co-patron of the diocese and cathedral of San
    Cristobal de La Laguna, Spain, since its inception in 1819.
  5. Renowned for the miracle of roses. In her troubled marriage, her
    husband once caught her on her way to feed the poor with bread.
    When he asked what she had hidden in her dress, she said roses
    and, immediately, the bread turned to roses.

Prayer to St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Father of gift and love,You gave St. Elizabeth the gift of reconciling enemies.With the help of her prayersGive us the courage to work for peace among men,That we may be called the sons of godThrough our Lord Jesus Christ, your sonWho lives and reigns with the holy spiritOne God forever, and everAmen