Today, July 4, we celebrate the feast day of *Saint Elizabeth of Portugal* (1271-1336), the “Peacemaker” and Queen of Portugal.
Born into royalty in Saragossa, Spain in 1271, the early life of Elizabeth was marked by privilege, but also by grace and piety. From an early age she was a delightful, obedient, and pious child, well-instructed in the ways of the Christian faith by her mother. At age 12, Elizabeth was betrothed and married to King Denis of Portugal, eight years her senior.
Elizabeth moved to the royal court of Portugal, and found her husband to be a kind, yet immoral man. His court was home to debauchery and immorality, but as a husband, he encouraged her kind works and charity and did nothing to impede her acts of faith.
Despite her rigorous political duties, Elizabeth attended Mass on a daily basis, and enacted severe penances such as daily fasting. The couple had two children, a daughter named Constanza and the eventual crown prince, Alonzo.
Elizabeth’s days were filled and guided by her faith. She oversaw the building and institution of a number of charitable organizations throughout Portugal, including a convent to house the Poor Clare nuns, a hospice for the aged poor, hospitals, orphanages, and churches.
A time of great suffering followed for Elizabeth. She was deeply hurt by a rift between her son and husband and when she attempted to negotiate peace between them but was exiled from the royal court by her husband.
As Elizabeth suffered in exile, she learned of the two men’s opposing armies headed to battle. Astride a horse, she rode onto the battlefield, between the forces, imploring and negotiating temporary peace. For this, she earned the title, “Angel of Peace.”
Following the death of her husband, Elizabeth gave up the riches and luxury of royalty, clothing herself in the habit of the Poor Clares, and becoming a tertiary attached to the convent she had helped found in Coimbra. She founded a hospital near the convent, and named it after St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Saint Elizabeth died at age 65. Her body remains incorrupt, reposing in the Church of Saint Clare at Coimbra.
*St. Elizabeth of Portugal, pray for us.*