Saints of the Day – Blessed Ilona of Hungary

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(also known as Helen)

Died c.1270. Ilona was the novice mistress of the Dominican convent of Vesprim, where she trained the future Saint Margaret of Hungary in the ways of holiness. She was one of the first sisters in the community founded by Paul of Hungary in 1222. Ilona was known for her gift of contemplative prayer that often led to ecstasy.

Sometimes God gave visible signs of her sanctity, which were not always understood by her community. Once she was watched by another sister as she prayed alone. The corpus on the crucifix came to life, reached down, and took her hand in His. It took a full day for the sisters to pry her hand from that of the corpus. Another time the large crucifix from the altar suspended itself over her until she finished her prayer, at which time she replaced it.

Ilona is reputed to have been the first Dominican marked with the stigmata. Before 1237, she received a mark in her right hand on the Feast of Saint Francis about 10 years after his death as she prayed for some of the saint’s intense love for heavenly things. As she went into a state of ecstasy, her hand sparkled and gave off rays of light. In the center of her palm a circle of gold appeared and from this a dazzlingly bright lily grew. When she returned to a normal state of consciousness, she prayed that the wound would be invisible. Later a similar wound appeared in her left hand. God did not answer that prayer until near the time of her death. The lilies of light that appeared during her prayer is unique in the annals of the Church.

Ilona was dearly loved within her community, which she served as novice mistress and then as prioress. Her great desire was that her sisters might remain faithful to the rule and the offering of penance. She also had a “green thumb” with houseplants – her touch could restore withered plants. Other miracles are recorded of her: she levitated; candles lit themselves on the altar at her passing; and she revived a dead, pet goat. Saint Ilona lived for 30 years after Saint Margaret was removed to the more protected monastery at Budapest.

When Ilona was at the point of death, she was rapt in ecstasy. Her body glowed with a radiance that made it impossible for her sisters to determine the exact moment of her passing. At some point she also received wounds in her side and feet, which healed; however, when her tomb was opened 17 years after her death, the wound in her side reopened of its own volition and rays of light poured forth from it.

Ilona is venerated in Hungary and within the Dominican Order although she has never been formally beatified (Benedictines, Dorcy, Harrison).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 August 2020. Web. 24 November 2020. <>