Princesses were a big part of my and my sisters' lives growing up. I have always found something fascinating about the idea of being a princess or part of royalty.
Whether it is their fancy clothes, elaborate balls, or the recognition their lives received, I was attracted to these characters, both fictional and historical. Now that I have a daughter of my own, we enjoy reading fairy tales and watching movies that have princesses.
Most princesses are portrayed as beautiful, kind, generous, and brave. Our Catholic faith has given us real-life princesses who have achieved the ultimate title of becoming Saints. One such princess saint is Elizabeth of Hungary whose Feast day is celebrated on November 17th.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was born into a royal family but found herself being more dedicated to the poor. She was devoted to prayer and service, especially to those in need, which made her very popular among commoners in Europe.
She was married at the young age of fourteen to Louis of Thuringia and together in their short but happy marriage they had three children. Unfortunately, Louis was killed during the Crusades. Louis’ family thought Elizabeth’s generosity was squandering the royal fortune and she was removed from the palace until her husband’s fellow crusaders returned.
When they returned from battle and Elizabeth’s son was deemed the rightful heir to the throne, she and her family were reinstated. Saint Elizabeth then spent the remaining years of her life in service. She was known for daily distributing loaves of bread to hundreds of the poor, which is how she has become the patron saint of bakers.
She also opened and served at a hospital dedicated to Saint Francis. Sadly, Saint Elizabeth’s life was also cut short as she died before her twenty-fourth birthday in 1231.
The Catholic church can use the birth date, death date, or canonization date as a means of choosing what day on which a saint is celebrated. I think it is no accident that Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, also the patron saint of Catholic charities, was chosen to be celebrated in November.
In American culture, with Thanksgiving at the end of November, many people use this month as an opportunity to do some kind of charitable work. This year Saint Elizabeth’s feast day is the week before Thanksgiving, giving us a perfect way to commemorate her by serving others in our community.
A Great Opportunity to Serve Others
A great opportunity to serve others is by utilizing food. Feeding the hungry is one of seven service-centered actions called the Corporal Works of Mercy. Jesus gave us the Corporal Works of Mercy as a model of how we should treat others. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”.
The works of mercy are ways we can show our compassion to those less fortunate than ourselves. The six other Works of Mercy are: Give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor. Each Work of Mercy can be lived out in numerous ways. No matter how you choose to serve others, know that there is always a need and that you are pleasing God since he asks us to care for the poor.
For dinner on Saint Elizabeth’s Feast day, we will be preparing Hungarian Goulash. This traditional beef dish is flavorful and hearty, the perfect stew as the temperatures start to get cooler.
The classic ingredients include cubed beef or pork and lots of paprika. Paprika really is the key ingredient, so when shopping for Hungarian paprika, try and find the best one available to you. We follow Serious Eats’ Recipe, except for leaving out the potatoes.
We like to serve the goulash over egg noodles, not only because it tastes delicious, but also because it helps when our kids are being non-adventurous eaters.
Dessert to honor Saint Elizabeth has a couple of options. We have made crown shaped sugar cookies and let the kids decorate them. Another choice would be to make Kalacs, or Hungarian Cinnamon Bread. This simple, sweet bread is great for dessert, breakfast, or both.
The recipe we found makes two loaves which works out perfectly to remember Saint Elizabeth’s generosity by sharing the second loaf with someone else. Then you too can feed the hungry and demonstrate this Corporal Work of Mercy to your family. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us and by your example teach us that our true "happily ever after" is to become a Saint someday.