Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Elizabeth is one of those saints who found herself the victim of a certain amount of abuse or mistreatment at the hands of over-zealous and insensitive churchmen.  Her confessor, the Franciscan Konrad of Marburg was especially severe and brutal in his spiritual direction of the young saint, who died at the tender age of 24 in 1231.
"Following her husband's death, Elisabeth made solemn vows to Konrad similar to those of a nun. These vows included celibacy, as well as complete obedience to Konrad as her confessor and spiritual adviser. Konrad's treatment of Elisabeth was extremely harsh, and he held her to standards of behavior which were almost impossible to meet. Among the punishments he is alleged to have ordered were physical beatings; he also ordered her to send away her three children. Her pledge to celibacy proved a hindrance to her family's political ambitions. In fact, Elisabeth was more or less held hostage at Pottenstein, Bavaria, the castle of her uncle, Bishop Ekbert of Bamberg, in an effort to force her to remarry. Elisabeth, however, held fast to her vow, even threatening to cut off her own nose so that no man would find her attractive enough to marry." - Source
Alas, "If indeed there had been anything better and more beneficial to man's salvation than suffering, Christ certainly would have shown it by word and example." - Imitation, Bk II: Chp. 12, 15
Art:  Calderon Philip Hermogenes: St Elizabeth of Hungary's Great Act of Renunciation.  Such an odd painting - the severe looking friar in the scene has to be Konrad.  Creepy.


  1. "Such an odd painting.."
    Yes. St. Elisabeth is my sister's patron saint. I was going to find a nice picture to e-mail her for her nameday. But I don't quite think this is the one! Maybe one of the Pre-Raphaelites painted one.

  2. +JMJ+

    There's something about that painting . . . It made me think of Jack Chick first and of Chris West next.

  3. That is creepy, especially with the dour monk standing behind her.
    At first I thought it was St Francis (with moobs) until I read your post.
    Is that painting based on reality? Did she really strip off like that?
    I hope not,

  4. @ Melody K.
    Google images has several lovely pictures of Saint Elizabeth. (Be sure to add 'of Hungary' in your search box)

  5. Clare - I'm not sure if something like this took place - I hope not as well.

  6. " ...It made me think of Jack Chick first and of Chris West next...." to which I will add, "safe environment" ...

    Why in the world would a priest order a mother to send her three children away? Odd.

  7. Anonymous10:50 AM

    pml, I know! St Francis deSales did the same, essentially, to St Jane de Chantal. When St Jane left her family behind to enter the cloister after her husband's death, she had to step over her small child who was crying on the floor at her feet!

    But who the heck am I to criticize Saints!? I just don't understand. Which shows I am far from being one myself.

  8. I think we should all bemoan the lack of penitence out there today, but I sometimes look at the severe penitence of some of the saints - to the point where they shortened their lives - and wonder. And this included great saints like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, and even St. Ignatius of Loyola (who corrected himself from his severe practices, but they had a lasting effect on him).

    I mean, how many other souls adopted or were urged to adopt such practices and lost their minds, their lives, and had their souls led astray with despair and spiritual pride? Could you imagine any spiritual director today telling St. Catherine it's a good spiritual practice to beat oneself with a chain for an hour and a half and to almost never eat?

    But yet, she is the Saint, not me. I just wonder how many others didn't benefit spiritually or otherwise from stuff like that.

  9. I've been privy to a big discussion over at Mary Victrix (Fr. Angelo) and the topic arrived at celibacy within marriage, for example. Fr. Angelo said he believed that some very spiritually advanced people may in fact be called to this state, which makes sense, given the nature of heaven.

    But he said that almost ten times out of ten couple who try this will ruin their marriages and do serious damage to their spiritual lives. This is because most of them are not truly called by God to do it, and most of them are motivated by an unhealthy attitude towards marital love, and not by the desire to embrace something higher. A few people talked of grandparents and family members who tried it and just ended with a ruined marriage and estranged kids.

    But I can only imagine "St. Jerome, spiritual director" counseling a couple on this. In fact, this seems to have been common advice in the early Church. But how many actually benefited and how many were led to ruin and bitterness?

  10. PML - I just wrote about safe environment - although I don't know how well.

    Mercury - this may occur naturally after a man gets older and has high blood pressure and the Mrs. just has a natural loss of interest in sex anyway. Provided they don't take Viagra and other stimulants that is. LOL!

  11. +JMJ+

    To pml, Georgette, Mercury, and of course Terry:

    Who was it who said (and I paraphrase) that it is perfectly easy to go to hell following the imperfections of the saints? Now St. Francis de Sales is reminding me of Rousseau, who put his own children in an orphanage. (Yes, it's not a perfect analogy. And so?)

    A few years ago, the actress Monica Potter said in an interview that she wanted to be a nun. She had approached the superior of a convent and said, "I'm divorced." The nun answered, "We'll take you, anyway." Then Potter said, "I have two children." And the nun replied, "We'll take you when they're eighteen."

    Anyway, I'm not sure whether she still wants to be a nun. That story just came to mind right now.

  12. Georgette - actually St. Jane did that on her own - St. Francis didn't make her do it. Her son was grown up too.

    Margaret of Cortona didn't treat her son very well either - today she'd be in jail for neglect and abuse.

    Never imitate the saints - just Christ.

  13. +JMJ+

    My apologies to St. Francis de Sales!

    And now I feel bad for snorting at Nicolette Sheridan's Desperate Housewives character for leaving her son, without a fight, to his more financially stable father and then saying, "I love him enough to let him hate me." Maybe Edie was Catholic, too--even if she didn't enter a convent as her excuse?

    (Not that I watch the show or anything . . .)

    And then there's that other story from the life of St. Ignatius de Loyola. The reason women are banned from being Jesuits is that the first women followers St. Ignatius had refused to recognise that a married woman is obligated to see to her husband's needs first and the poor's needs second. (Or something like that.)

  14. +JMJ+

    Dude, what am I doing back at this blog??? Shoo me away now!

  15. Terry - it wasn't about the natural development where both partners lose interest, it was about the pressure of "you can only be holy if you do it this way, so you had better give up sex if you want to get to heaven" kinds of attitudes.

    It's funny - every old priest I've talked to about my life and my problems, especially scrupulosity, every one of them have told me do NOT make any drastic changes in my life, and only fast and do penance on the days and seasons prescribed for that.

    I think lots of people have the same problem, and feel like they have to "do something" to be more holy - but it's a trap.

  16. Anonymous4:09 PM

    Calderon's father was actually a lapsed Catholic priest, so his take on Catholicism is unlikely to have been particularly sympathetic. The inspiration for the painting was not historical but a play by the notorious anti-Catholic writer (and public opponent of Bl John Henry Newman) Charles Kingsley.

  17. michael r.4:39 PM

    A favorite saint. I had never seen this painting before. It is beautiful, though strange. Thanks for the backgound info, Catholic Boy.

  18. Thanks Mrs. Rudd, I did find a beautiful picture; "The Charity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary", by Edmund Blair Leighton, which I'm sure my sister will like.

  19. Speaking of the extreme penances; I think they became saints in spite of them rather that because of them. St. Francis said toward the end of his life that he regretted not being kinder to "Brother Ass", meaning his body.
    (and that's "ass" as in "donkey"!)
    I know there are many saints who seemed to abandon their children to pursue a "higher calling". I think this points to an under-valuing of the vocation of parenthood by their spiritual advisors. It seems like they thought as long as the kids had food and shelter, it didn't matter if they were off at boarding school or farmed out to whichever relatives would take them. Come to think of it, we're still selling the vocation of parenthood short.

  20. Enbrethiliel - I can say the same thing - what am I doing back at this blog?

  21. elisabeta7:04 PM

    There is a beautiful painting of St. Elisabeth on under the versicle and response for the fourth lesson of Matins. Does anyone know the painter and title? I can't find it anywhere. Thanks, and God bless.

  22. At the very best, this picture depicts sin against modesty. I'd pull this picture down pronto - just a suggestion.


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