Uncle Eddy's E-mails -- July 4
Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, Widow (entered heaven 1336)
Are you buying into those mistaken puritanical ideas again, feeling guilty about your high “social and economic status”? Do come to your senses, my dear niece. I have always counted it a happy prov-incidence (that’s kind of like a coincidence, but arranged by divine Providence) that our own Independence Day, which marks the definitive American separation from the European aristocratic tradition (at least in theory), is also the feast day for Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, one of the most noble and exemplary aristocrats Europe has ever known. It is almost as if our Lord is reminding us that what really matters (sanctity, holiness, being like Christ) goes deeper than politics, economics, and the like.
Elizabeth was the daughter of a Spanish King, and as a child lapped up the lessons of self-discipline, modesty, and elegance that were taught her in her father’s court. She learned to be a model Catholic Princess, but she learned it through simple, ordinary means. She was taught to conscientiously care of her appearance, since she was the daughter of a king, but never to flaunt her beauty, lest she become proud or lead young men into sin. She was taught self-control and self-discipline by abstaining from spontaneous snacks and by following a daily schedule. She was taught love for God and for her neighbor by participating in works of charity and in the sacred liturgy from a very young age… When she was twelve she was married off to the King of Portugal (Denis was his name), who admired her beauty and nobility of birth much more than her virtue. Denis was a cruel and unfaithful husband, though an effective ruler, whom Elizabeth loved and served with undying devotion, hoping and praying constantly for him to return to a life a grace, and bathing him in cheerful and sincere attention. She ran the royal household with such generosity and good sense that Denis was free to dedicate himself entirely to putting his realm in order, and she still found time to defuse political powder kegs. Twice, in fact, she rode right out into the middle of a battlefield to reconcile opposing forces. When Denis died (she nursed him unwearyingly throughout his long, final illness), she longed to retire into a convent of Poor Clares that she had built, but was convinced to remain engaged in court life, much to the benefit of her children and other relations – not to mention the people of her country.
I could go on praising this remarkable woman, but I think that’s enough for you to get the idea. You need not scorn the privileges and opportunities that Providence has seen to grant you in order to serve God and advance the cause of Christ. Perhaps he will ask you to give up the world and consecrate your life to him, but perhaps not. In either case, remember always that what interests him most, and what will do the most good for your neighbor, is a pure and selfless heart, inflamed with Christian love.
Happy Independence Day! Uncle Eddy
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