In some versions of the story it was her husband, in others her brother-in-law, the man in charge of the castle after her husband’s death. With her apron full of bread, she was heading out to visit the poor, a mission that had been discouraged if not outright prohibited. The man, whether husband or his brother, came upon her and demanded she declare what she was hiding in her apron. “Roses,” she said. And when she opened her apron, it was indeed full of roses.
This miracle is told of Elizabeth of Hungary, a 13th-century princess who is now the patroness of the third order of Franciscans. Her life overlapped that of St. Francis. Under his inspiration she was throughout her life a woman of great deeds done for the poor. In icons, she is sometimes shown holding loaves of bread. In other icons, she is shown holding roses.
My wife, Susan, loved this story; she also adored an icon of this saint. Susan believed Elizabeth had been told not to give food to the poor, making her act one of explicit disobedience. When she said “roses,” it was not the truth. And et immediately it became the truth. God would rather change reality than have his handmaid lie.
This interpretation impressed me at the time—and still does. God would change reality rather than suffer his saint to be speaking a falsehood. And not incidentally, that miracle brought bread to the poor.
I wondered in last week’s column whether God could change the past. It is undeniable that he can change the present, and do so even before we ask.
Out & About. This Sunday, March 5, I am to be at Holy Trinity Church in Bonham, Tex., to celebrate the Eucharist, preach, and talk about grief and loss (with Losing Susan in the background). This lovely church lies between Dallas and Paris. The Eucharist is at 10:30 a.m.
The next Good Books & Good Talk seminar is set for Sunday, March 19, on James Matthew Wilson’s The Strangeness of the Good, his most recent collection of poems that includes his quarantine diary (from the initial Covid period). The seminar meets at Incarnation in Dallas at 5 o’clock, and anyone who has read the book is welcome to join. (Others may come and listen.)