In the year 1206 there gathered in the castle of Wartburg in Thuringia six famous poets. Of their songs and poems the Duke was to decide which was best. So beautiful was their poetry that the Duke was unable to choose. He sent one of his officials to a neighboring kingdom to invite a celebrated wise man named Klingsohr to com~ and make the decision.
Klingsohr was famous in foretelling the future. The crowd greeted him with a request for some new prediction. The wise man surveyed the stars and exclaimed:
"I will tell you something both new and joyous. I see a beautiful star rising in Hungary, the rays of which extend to Marburg, and from Marburg over all the world. Know even that on this night there is born to my lord, the King of Hungary, a daughter who shall be named Elizabeth. She shall be given in marriage to the son of your prince, she shall become a saint, and her sanctity shall rejoice and console the entire world."This bright new star was St. Elizabeth of Hungary, famous Franciscan Tertiary, saintly queen, wife and mother. A bride at the age of thirteen; a mother at sixteen; a widow at twenty; dead at the age of twenty-four, she was declared a saint five years later. These are rapid highlights in the life of this holy wife and mother, in a life blended of sweet romance, virtuous courtship, married happiness and married tears.
As we scan the stars of sanctity on this feast of All Saints we see many who were married. What admirable ancestors in the faith. What sterling examples to mothers and fathers today. What heroes and heroines in putting into practice the plan for sainthood offered by Jesus in the Gospel for this day. What help they give, what inspiration, to you parents and parents to be. There is no marriage situation but finds its example in the history of the holy.
1. In one group both husband and wife were saints. On February 26th we keep the feast of St. Ethelbert and St. Bertha. There were St. Elzear and St. Delphina. There was St. Chrysanthus, a converted nobleman, who was tempted by the beautiful Daria. He converted her, married her, and helped her become a saint. St. Pinianus and St. Melania shared their immense wealth with the poor until they themselves became the poorest of the poor.
2. We find husbands who were saintly, but whose wives were not. St. Thomas More had a devoted but rather worldly wife. Blessed Sebastian of Mexico was another example.
3. In a third group, rather numerous, we find a saintly wife with a sinful husband. In still other groups we find saintly parents and saintly children.
Some of you may find your example in St. Fabiola. She was wealthy and well known, but her first husband was so wicked that she divorced him and married another. At that time she was far from sanctity, but on the death of her second husband she turned to God. She put aside her gorgeous wardrobe, dressed in garments of penance, and stood before the gates of Rome, trying to make amends for her scandal. What an example to those of you who might be tempted to enter an impossible or sinful marriage.
There was one thing common to all these married saints - they followed the formula laid down by the Son of God in the Gospel of today.
They were poor in spirit. They gave generously to the poor. We even see the saintly and wealthy Queen Isabella of Spain, who helped Columbus to discover America, patching the clothes of her husband and children.
They were meek and patient and forgiving like St. Monica.
They shed their tears. They experienced hunger and thirst. They were merciful. And, yes, they were pure of heart. Many of these married saints, by mutual agreement lead a life of virginity.
They were peacemakers. They suffered for the sake of justice. Always these heroes and heroines remembered that Christ said they were blessed, if they accepted all trials in His spirit.
There is your plan, dear parents. There is your formula for family sanctity. There you see how St. Elizabeth of Hungary arrived at sanctity. There you see how many mothers and fathers of your parish will some day become saints. Today you will decide anew to live according to Christ's program. Whether you are canonized or not, you will go on loving and serving God above everyone and above everything.
Follow Christ's formula. It will make yours a happier home, a happier marriage, a happier family. Try it. Your reward will be very great - in this world and in the next. Amen.
Adapted from Talks on the Sacraments
by Fr. Arthur Tonne,OFM (© 1947)