Six glorious years of marriage
We have to take a moment out here to talk about the death of Elizabeth’s husband, and its effect on her and her life. We can’t just leave it with a one-liner, a footnote in reference to their daughter. Elizabeth and Ludwig were extremely in love. In addition to their early years of courtship, as children really, and four years of betrothal, they shared six glorious years of marriage together. It was a fairy-tale romance, he being the prince and then ruler of their little country, and she being the benevolent, and very loving countess, or consort. They did everything together, wherever possible. Because he became more and more trusted by high ranking members of the nobility, he was called upon to take on responsibilities which took him away from their home. She understood this, but grieved all the time they were apart.
Her husband adored her. She could do no wrong as far as he was concerned. Very often, while he was out of the country, she had to take matters into her own hands. As we said, she cared more for others than herself. This was evidenced on many occasions, but one in particular took place when a great famine threatened that area of Germany. Ludwig was away, handling matters of state for Emperor Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire. Elizabeth depleted most of their own assets, including their entire stock of corn. She fed the poor, aided the sick, built a hospital, then another; she was just completely at the service of her people.
The members of his household and the court couldn’t wait for Landgrave Ludwig to return, so they could complain bitterly against her, saying she was frivolous, and caring more about the commoner than the nobility of the country. He never bothered to investigate the claims. After ascertaining that no one was left out of her generosity, he said “Her charities will bring us Divine blessings.” That was truly a prophecy which came true.
St. Elizabeth actually tickled her husband. While she was a perfect consort, she was such a free soul, such a beautiful child of God, he couldn’t help but enjoy everything she did. One of the most interesting tales about her took place on a day when she was out, doing all her errands for the poor, bringing them bread, and who knows what else. Now, apparently this did not fit in with the job description of countess, or princess, or whatever she was considered by the people of her country.
And who should she run into but her husband, returning from a hunt with other members of the court. Oh boy, was she in trouble. In addition to not doing what she was supposed to be doing, she was weighed down by whatever it was she was carrying in her apron. He was concerned, seeing her walking along the road, stooped over. He came to her aid and opened her apron to relieve her of some of the weight of whatever she was carrying. When it opened, it was chock full of the most beautiful, magnificent roses he had ever seen. And it was not the season for roses. Shades of St. Juan Diego! Also, what he did not see was a loaf of bread she held behind her back, to give to a hungry person. Whatever she did, she could do no wrong.
Another more serious event took place during their marriage, which is a telling testimony about the two of them, and their love for God. As Elizabeth was well-known for her charity, especially to beggars and lepers, one day a leper, seriously ill, and wreaking of the foul smell of his decayed flesh, crawled up to the castle at Marburg, seeking aid and comfort. Elizabeth looked at the man, and took pity on him. Her heart was deeply touched by the man, and she brought him into the castle. She put him on her husband’s bed.
When the mother-in-law caught sight of this filthy, foul-smelling peasant laying on the clean, perfumed sheets of her son’s bed, she immediately sent for him. He was quite a distance away from the castle, and didn’t return until late that night. Upon his mother’s insistence, he went into his bedroom, and pulled back the covers. Instead of seeing the leper, Landgravine Ludwig saw the bleeding body of Christ, arms outstretched, laying before him. Later biographers of St. Elizabeth have translated the miracle into being a bleeding crucifix, in the place where the leper had slept. Whatever the case, the two, Elizabeth and Ludwig, knelt by the side of the bed, and praised Our Lord Jesus for loving them so much, He would manifest Himself in this way. We’re not sure what the reaction of the mother-in-law was, after all, the daughter-in-law could do no right.
We tell you this about them and their life together just to bring a point across. You must know how much they meant to each other if you are to understand how devastated she became when she received news of his death. They were each other’s next sentence, next thought, next breath. They were each other’s life.
At first, she misunderstood the notice given her by her mother-in-law. The way it was explained to her, “the dispensation of God” and “what had befallen him”, she thought he had been captured by the enemy in the Holy Land. She was full of hope. “Since he is a prisoner,” she said, “with the help of God and our friends, he shall be set free.” When it was clarified, and she fully understood, she lost control completely for a time. She ran all over the castle, shrieking as if she had lost her mind. She cried out: “The world is dead to me, and all that was joyous in the world.”
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