Editor’s Note: Francis de Sales loved the saints and referred to their lives frequently in his writings. Today, Fr. Michael Murray, OSFS, director of the De Sales Spirituality Center, reminds us of the high esteem Francis had for St. Elizabeth, whose feast we celebrate today. This reflection is a good reminder to all of us that we all have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in need.
On Tuesday, November 17, we remember the life and legacy of St.Elizabeth of Hungary: princess, wife, mother and widow who died in 1231. She is considered the patroness of the Franciscan Third Order and of Catholic Charities.
In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales observed: “St.Elizabeth, daughter of the king of Hungary, often visited the poor. For recreation among her entourage she would sometimes clothe herself like a poor woman, saying to them, ‘If I were poor I would dress in this manner.’ O God, dear Philothea, how poor was this princess in the midst of all her riches and how rich was her poverty…There is no one who at some time or other has not felt the lack and want of some convenience.It sometimes happens that we are visited by a guest whom we would and should entertain very well but at the time lack means to do so. At other times our best clothes are in one place and we need them to be in another place where we must appear publicly. Again, sometimes the wines in our cellar ferment and turn sour so that only bad or green wines remain. At another time we are out in the country and have to stay in some hovel where everything is lacking and we have neither bed, room, table nor service. In fine, it is often very easy to lack something, no matter how rich we are. This is to be poor in effect with regard to the things we lack. Rejoice on such occasions, Philothea, accept them with a good heart and put up with them cheerfully.” (IDL, Part 3: 15)
We remember and admire St. Elizabeth of Hungary because her wealth was only surpassed by her generosity, making her truly rich in the eyes ofGod. Her example calls us to consider that our personal wealth and success is gained best by seizing the opportunities we have each day to share what we have and who we are with others. Leave it to Francis deSales to remind us, however, that true poverty of spirit (being poor inthe midst of riches and rich in the midst of poverty) is a two-edgedsword: it is not only a function of how well we share what we have, but very frequently is practiced by how well we accept what we lack.