4th July – St Elizabeth of Portugal

st elizabeth portugalToday is the memorial of St Elizabeth of Portugal (*1271 +1336). She was the daughter of King Peter III of Aragón and was named after her great-aunt, St Elizabeth of Hungary. She was married to King Denis of Portugal, by whom she had two children. She set up hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions, patiently endured her husband’s infidelities and provided for the education of his other children, and acted as peacemaker in the quarrelsome and complicated politics of the time.

On her husband’s death in 1325 she retired from public affairs and devoted herself to prayer and the service of the poor. Throughout her life she was faithful in prayer and daily recited the Liturgy of the Hours.

In 1336 her son, by now King Alfonso IV of Portugal, went to war against King Alfonso XI of Castile. Elizabeth followed the Portuguese army on the field in an effort to bring about peace. She succeeded, but the effort killed her.

Being a peacemaker is a vital part of our Christian vocation. This is the topic of the Office of Readings which features a homily of St Peter Chrysologus.

Blessed are the peacemakers, the evangelist said dearest brethren, for they shall be called sons of God. Truly Christian virtues grow in a man who enjoys the unchangeable possession of Christian peace, nor does one come to the title of child of God except through that of peacemaker.

Peace, dearest brethren, rescues man from servitude, provides him with the name of a free man, changes his identity before God together with his condition, from a servant to a son, and from a slave to a free man. Peace among brethren is the will of God, the joy of Christ, the completion of holiness, the rule of justice, the teacher of truth, the guardian of morals and a praiseworthy discipline in every regard. Peace lends strength to our prayers; it is the way our petitions can reach God easily and be credited; it is the plenitude which fulfils our desires. Peace is the mother of love, the bond of concord and the manifest sign of a pure soul, one which seeks to please God, which seeks to be fulfilled and has its desire rewarded. Peace must be preserved according to the Lord’s precepts, as Christ said: I leave you peace, my peace I give you, that is, as I left you in peace, in peace shall I find you. As Christ left the world, he wished to leave the gift he wanted to find when he returned.

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