Thoughts about St. Elizabeth

Today is the Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. I have to admit all sorts of nostalgia regarding this saint. Since I was 7 we have dressed as saints for Halloween. The challenge for us was to find a unique saint that no one could guess, or, being a girl, find a saint that we could have an absolutely beautiful or fantastic costume (read: no nun costume).

So enticed by images such as this:

And this:

What girl wouldn’t want to dress up like a queen, wear a crown, and carry roses? This saint was a repeating portrayal for many years — all my sisters, my female cousins. As I now have my children involved in our local groups with All Saints Day saints, I see St. Elizabeth repeated again and again. The little girl who wants to be (and dress like) a princess and love God — here’s the perfect saint!

It was only until I was much, much older that I met that I straightened out some facts:

1) St. Elizabeth of Portugal and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, although seemingly the same in images and stories, are two different saints. St. Elizabeth of Hungary happens to be the great-aunt of St. Elizabeth of Portugal.

2) St. Elizabeth of Hungary became a Franciscan tertiary, the secular Third Order of St. Francis. She and St. Louis of France are the patron saints of the Secular Franciscan Order. My mother is a tertiary, so this saint is dear to her heart. (To confuse facts even more, it happens that St. Elizabeth of Portugal became a tertiary, also).

3) A more accurate portrayal of St. Elizabeth would be in plain clothes, modeling a nun more than a queen. I know images have to give the symbols to provide clues for identification, but for realistic depictions in dressing-up, something closer to Francis and Clare, but a little more feminine, would probably be the correct garb. The art below by Paolo di Giovanni Sts Clare and Elizabeth of Hungary c. 1445, is a little more accurate:

But don’t tell those little girls who pine to be the saint-queen. They can find out in good time. All in good time.