In April my son and I were privileged to be able to travel with the Manchester Oratory on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. One of the day visits during our stay was to Coimbra, 50 miles north, a city that dates back to the time of Roman occupation. Between 1131 and 1255 it served as the capital of Portugal, and its venerable university dates from 1290. All of which adds to its status, since 2013, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the Monastery of Santa-Clara-a-Nova lies the body of Elizabeth of Aragon, Queen Consort of Portugal from 1282 to 1325. After the death of her husband, King Dennis, Elizabeth retired to Coimbra, and to the Monastery of Santa-Clara-a-Velha, which she had earlier founded, and here she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. After her death in 1336 she was buried at Santa-Clara-a-Velha but following her canonisation in 1625 her body was later translated to Santa-Clara-a-Nova, where it remains to this day. Though the monastery no longer functions as such (Portugal has a complicated relationship with the Catholic Church, and with Religious in particular), Saint Elizabeth (or Isabel, as the Portuguese refer to her) lies - incorrupt - in an impressive precious silver-covered tomb above the high altar, still attracting the love and devotion of her people 682 years after her death.
‘A saint on the nation’s throne! Born in 1271, Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, was a model mother both for her own family and for her people. Her particular charism was that of peacemaker... The Divine Office notes the following events in her life. Already at her birth it appeared how in the future she would be a successful peacemaker among kings and kingdoms; for at that happy event her father and grandfather were reconciled, although previously they had been at odds. She gave her hand in marriage to King Dionysius of Portugal (1279-1325). Her married life was marked by zeal for virtue. She constantly strove to educate her children in the fear of God, to please her husband, and most of all, to please God. During practically half of the year she fasted on bread and water. Certain monies she wished to distribute to the poor changed into blooming roses in the middle of winter, so that her act would remain unknown to the king. After the death of her husband she became for widows a model of every virtue, even as previously she had been a model maid for maidens, and a model wife for wives. In patience and resignation she attended the funeral wearing the garb of the Poor Clares’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, the author of peace and lover of charity, who didst adorn Saint Elizabeth of Portugal with a marvellous grace for reconciling those in conflict: grant, through her intercession; that we may become peacemakers, and so be called children of God; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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