St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Queen (1271 -1336)
St Elizabeth was the daughter of King Peter III and Constance of Aragon, Spain. Named after her great-aunt St Elizabeth of Hungary, Elizabeth (in Spanish: Isabella) was brought up in a spirit of strict piety and self-denial. At 12 she was married to King Denis (Diniz) of Portugal, who came to be called the Re Laurador (the "Worker-King") because of his hard work in selfless service of his country. However, due to his immoral life, the court of Lisbon was thoroughly dissolute and corrupt.
The young queen, nevertheless, silently kept up her regular religious practices, fasted and did penance, recited the entire Divine Office daily, and showed herself in every way a model Christian mother and a virtuous Queen. By extraordinary kindness and forbearance she continually endeavoured to win the affections of her jealous and irascible consort, but it was not until the 40th year of their married life that her unfailing prayers won the king to repentance and a complete reform of his life.
Twelve years later (1335), King Denis went to his reward, and the Queen-widow retired to a convent of Poor Clares where she became a Franciscan tertiary and devoted herself to the care of the poor. Elizabeth's generous and indefatigable personal charity towards the unfortunate and the sick had been remarkable all through her life. The story of the bread loaves which she was taking to the poor and which became transformed into roses, relates to her being surprised on her charitable errand by her suspicious husband - an event which was later erroneously attributed to St Elizabeth of Hungary.
Above all, however, Elizabeth, whose name in Greek means "God has sworn", was a sworn "Peace-Maker". When in 1323 her son Alfonso rebelled and took up arms against his own father because he was outraged by the favours being bestowed on his illegitimate brothers, it was the Queen, then a woman of 52, who rode out between the two armies drawn up for battle, and succeeded in bringing about a reconciliation. At 65,13 years later, she had a similar opportunity - she left her convent to travel to Spain where the same son, now Alfonso IV was at war with his son -in-law, King Alfonso XI of Castile, for having neglected and maltreated his daughter Maria. Again St Elizabeth succeeded in stopping the fight and bringing about a peaceful settlement; but immediately afterwards she succumbed to a fever, brought on by overexertion and died at Estremoz on 4 July 1336. She was canonized in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII.
Reflection :"Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, defend us from the wicked enemy, and receive us at the hour of our death" (St Elizabeth of Portugal).