The love of her husband Louis, the true friendship of Ysentrud and Guda, and her own love for her three little children—all these the Hungarian princess Elizabeth gave up or was forced to give up in her search for perfection. Beside these bonds of human love, the wealth she renounced was as nothing. Most of the emphasis in this account of Saint Elizabeth is laid upon the worldly honors and splendor she renounced, and perhaps that is because in drawing a faithful picture of the luxurious age in which she lived, the author felt this background and description to be necessary.
The love story of Louis and Elizabeth is more detailed in treatment, and the reader is given a charming picture of Louis as a brave knight, whose love for God and striving for individual salvation warred with his love for the Emperor Frederick, and of Elizabeth as a loving wife and mother. Her love was so strong, “that all her love of other people and things was illumined more by her personal happiness than by the light of God,” the author says. But when Louis died, Elizabeth was free to give up all and follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi who had bequeathed her his cloak to wear. When the dour Magister Conrad comes into the story, and Elizabeth, Ysentrud and Guda, the three faithful friends, strive to obey his harsh precepts, the story becomes most interesting.
Saint Elizabeth's life has the charm of that of the Little Flower, and though differing in a great many ways, they yet are strangely alike. Both were gay and happy in their service, and childlike in their trust and faith. Both died at the age of twenty-four and were canonized shortly after death. Both worked miracles immediately after death.
The Little Flower left us her story with its intimate details as to the life of her soul. Elisabeth von Schmidt-Pauli’s book makes us anxious to read the letters sent by Saint Elizabeth’s stern advisor Conrad to Pope Gregory IX and the testimony of her female attendants taken by the papal commission.
[For more of Dorothy Day's writings from Commonweal, see our full collection.]