Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15 - Elisabeth of Hungary, Princess, Caretaker of the Poor, Victim of an Inquisitor

She had done it again. Ludwig loved his wife and admired the Christian practices she had learned from the Franciscans and engaged in openly within the kingdom. It was a good thing--most of the time--and inspired greater acts of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness within the kingdom. As king, this was clearly a good thing. Yet, sometimes Elisabeth went too far by Ludwig's standards. One of his trusted servants had come to him and said that Elisabeth had brought a leper into their home and taken the leper to rest and sleep in their shared bed. Ludwig couldn't help but think of the open sores and bodily fluids that were coming into contact with his sheets. He shuddered and cringed as he ran to the room. When he arrived, he saw the mass of flesh under the sheets and blankets and cried, "No no no no no!" He ripped back the covers and sheets to expose the leper and order him out of the bed Elisabeth had offered him. He fell back surprised. He didn't see a leper. He saw Jesus stretched out as if being crucified and bleeding on his sheets. He stared. He didn't know what to do. He covered over Jesus with the sheets and blankets again and backed out of the room.

Elisabeth had been betrothed to Ludwig at the age of four or five. It had been a political maneuver by the Hungarian royalty to promise the princess in marriage to the German prince. When Elisabeth turned fourteen, she was married to Ludwig and began a life as a member of the German people. While learning her way around the German world and learning who her new husband really was, she had the opportunity to meet some Franciscan monks.From them, she learned about love and sacrifice and the power of a committed and devoted life to impact the world. She would often relate to her personal confessor--Konrad--that this has been such an important moment in her life.
Ludwig died only seven years into his marriage with Elisabeth. He died while traveling to participate in war. His remains were returned to his widow and a funeral was held. Then, twenty-one-year-old Elisabeth was put into the care her confessor Konrad. This was not a good day in the life of Elisabeth. She was restrained from practicing her radical charity. She was punished severely for lapses in character no matter how small. Konrad ordered her to be physically beaten for some sins yet was also keen to stop her from going forth and practicing the faith she had learned from the Franciscans.Konrad--who would one day become an inquisitor--stopped her one day to look in the basket she was carrying.Elisabeth was frightened by the surprise inspection and knew that Konrad would be displeased by the loaves of bread she was secreting from the residence to the poor. When he opened the basket, however, miraculously he found only roses. Shaking his head in confusion, he allowed her to leave and when she arrived among the poor, the loaves were bread again and she distributed them to the people.

Konrad's treatment and abuse of Elisabeth shortened her life substantially. She died four years after her husband at the age of twenty-five. She likely had contracted disease from the people she ministered to and she was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted by Konrad's rigors and "disciplines." Her death was mourned by the people of Germany and by anyone anywhere who has suffered under a restrictive religious leader while wanting to serve and heal those close to Jesus' heart.

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