Hungarian "Doctor of the Poor" to Be Beatified

Laszlo Batthyany-Strattmann, a Father of 13

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2003 ( Among the five people John Paul II will beatify this weekend is Hungarian Laszlo Batthyany-Strattmann, a doctor and a tireless apostle of the sick.

Batthyany-Strattmann (1870-1931) was born on Oct. 28, 1870, in Dunakiliti, into an ancient noble family. He was the sixth of 10 brothers. In 1876 the family moved to Austria. When Laszlo was 12 years old his mother died.

He was already convinced at an early age about his vocation. He often said: “When I grow up, I will be a doctor and give free treatment to the sick and the poor.”

However, his father wanted him to receive the education he would need to look after the family property. So Laszlo enrolled in the School of Agriculture at the University of Vienna, where he also studied chemistry, physics, philosophy, literature and music. It was not until 1896 that he began to study medicine in which he obtained a degree in 1900.

On Nov. 10, 1898, he married Countess Maria Teresa Coreth, a deeply religious woman. Their marriage was a happy one and they had 13 children. The whole family attended Mass every day.

After Mass, Laszlo would give the children a catechism lesson and assign to each one a specific act of charity for that day. Every evening after they prayed the rosary they would review the day and the assigned act of charity.

In 1902, Laszlo opened a private hospital in Kittsee with beds for 25 patients. Here he began working as a general practitioner, later specializing as a surgeon and oculist. During World War I, the hospital was enlarged to admit 120 wounded soldiers for treatment.

On the death of his uncle, Ödön Batthyány-Strattmann, in 1915, Laszlo inherited the Castle of Körmend, in Hungary. He also inherited the title “Prince” and the name “Strattmann.”

In 1920 his family moved from Kittsee to Körmend. They turned one wing of the castle into a hospital that specialized in ophthalmology. Laszlo became a well-known specialist in this field, both in Hungary and abroad. He was also known as a “doctor of the poor,” and the poor flocked to him for assistance and advice.

As the “fee” for their medical treatment and hospital stay, he would ask them to pray an Our Father for him. The prescriptions for medicines were also free of charge, and he often gave his patients financial assistance.

Laszlo was also concerned with their spiritual health. Before his patients were discharged from the hospital, he would present to them an image of Our Lord and a spiritual book entitled “Open Your Eyes and See.” This was a way to give them guidance in their spiritual life. He was considered a saint by his patients and by his own family.

When Laszlo was 60, he was diagnosed with a tumor of the bladder. He was admitted to the Löw Sanatorium in Vienna.

From the sanatorium he wrote to his daughter, Lilli: “I do not know how long the good Lord will make me suffer. He has given me so much joy in my life and now, at the age of 60, I must also accept the difficult moments with gratitude.” To his sister he said: “I am happy. I am suffering atrociously, but I love my sufferings and am consoled in knowing that I support them for Christ.”

He died in Vienna on Jan. 22, 1931, after 14 months of intense suffering. He was buried in the family tomb in Güssing. His lifelong motto had been: “In fidelity and charity.”

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