Saint Elizabeth of Portugal Statue at Her Church in Sacramento

The niche behind the side altar on the right holds a statue of the parish patroness, Saint Elizabeth (a.k.a. Isabel) of Portugal.

The beautiful statue is clothed in cream with an adorning medium blue robe with golden trim. The Saint wears a look of contemplation with her left hand over her heart, possibly in pity for the poor who she had a great fondness for. In her right hand are the concealed roses (turned from bread) spilling out of her cloak. Atop her head is a golden crown as she was married to King Denis of Portugal.

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (also known as Saint Isabel in Portugal) who lived from 1271 to 1336. She was very devout from a young age attending daily Mass, reciting the Divine Office, as well as doing fasting and penance. She was married to King Denis of Portugal at a very young age and she continued her pious ways during marriage; while also being a great peacemaker who reportedly helped settle many disputes, big and small – between Kings and countries. Saint Elizabeth was very fond of, and charitable to, the poor throughout her life. After the death of her husband the King, she immediately gave up the royal life and retired to a monastery of the Poor Clare nuns and joined the Third Order of St. Francis, devoting the rest of her life to the poor and sick in obscurity. Saint Elizabeth of Portugal was canonized in May 25, 1625 by Pope Urban VII – her feast day is celebrated on July 8th.

Both Saint Elizabeth of Portugal and her aunt Saint Elizabeth of Hungary are associated with the “miracle of the roses” in which roses demonstrate an activity of God. In the case of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, legend has it that she was delivering food to the poor against her King-husband’s wishes. One day, when she was caught by her husband carrying bread to the poor in her apron, the bread turned to roses. Since it was January and no roses could be found in nature, the shocked King let his wife continue in the practice of feeding the poor. Thus, Saint Elizabeth is typically illustrated with roses falling out of her cloak; and sometimes holding a loaf of bread.

Saint Elizabeth (Queen Santa Isabel) is said to have started the celebration of the Holy Ghost or Festa do Espirito Santo in the thirteenth century, and is commemorated each year in the parish on the feast of Pentecost. In the Azores, the most important festival for centuries has been the Festa do Espirito Santo. The original concept was to stimulate among the nobility the simple virtues of Christian humility and charity, with the nobility and the general populace together attending Mass and afterward sharing a common meal provided by the nobility. There is a different custom for each of the Azore Islands, but the main idea predominates – the rich help the poor, and all eat in the open at the same table.

An indispensable feature of the festa wherever it is celebrated is the sopas e carne do Divino Espirito Santo, or soup and meat of the divine Holy Spirit, commonly referred to as sopas. Basically, it consists of bread over which a beef gravy is poured and marinated beef. Farmers donate cattle to be prepared for the sopas. Another typical food of the festa is massa sovada, or pao doce, a sweet bread baked under a variety of recipes. One version is sold in supermarkets as “Hawaiian Bread” but few agree that it’s the same as the Azorean pao doce.
(description of Festa do Espirito Santo from stelizabethsac.org)

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