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Catholic Heroes… St. Margaret Of Castello

November 23, 2021 saints No Comments

By DEB PIROCH

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matt. 13:44-45).
The other famous biblical reference to pearls is in The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Christ says: “Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turning upon you, they tear you” (Matt. 7:6). Both recall our saint this week, dear Margaret of Castello.
In Hebrew, the name “Margaret” happens to mean “pearl.” Indeed, this saint was just such a jewel as belonged in Heaven, but her own parents saw her as disposable, something to be ignored or abandoned. She is a lesson for our times, in that: 1) She rejected all bitterness; 2) She sought and achieved holiness; 3) She bore witness that every life is sacred in the eyes of God.
St. Margaret was born blind in Metola, Italy, in 1287. She also had a bad curvature of the spine. One leg was shorter than the other. And as she grew, it became clear she also suffered from dwarfism. Her parents, rather than cherishing their daughter, were shamed by her handicaps. For them, it was not enough to keep her inside their castle. Instead, they built a room connected to the parish. Their intent was to have her live there the rest of her life and they told people she had died.
The room had no door, only two windows. One was to allow food and such supplies as needed to be passed in and out, and another on the side of the parish church, so she could receive the sacraments. It’s rather remarkable that they cared enough for her to receive the sacraments when they could not love her, but it was literally her salvation. From there she heard the Mass and all the devotions that would have happened in medieval times.
Then suddenly when Margaret was a teen, her parents discovered there had been some healings at Città di Castello in Italy, and determined to take Margaret there. But, she was not healed. Instead of listening and accepting God’s will for their daughter, her parents abandoned her. She became a beggar in the city. But it is said that the poor took her to themselves, showed her how to exist, and passed her from their homes or refuges, one to the next, to help care for her.
Margaret did not crawl into a corner and die. She became a third order Dominican. She attempted to enter a convent, but there are varied accounts as to why this did work out. She visited prisoners in jail — knowing what it felt like to be walled up — and tried to comfort the sick and suffering. This poor woman? She became greatly loved in the town. She even opened a small school to help watch and likewise teach the children the Catholic faith and the Psalms, which she knew by heart.
Today St. Patrick’s Church in Columbus, Ohio, has a shrine dedicated to her, with a relic of her heart. The Dominicans there honor her in the Liturgy of the Hours every week. This is the “home address” of the St. Margaret of Castello Guild (see littlemargaret.org), with well over a thousand members. Prayer requests are given to the Dominican friars there, who pray for these intentions.
Incidentally, a book written about the saint, the classic biography of 1952 by Fr. William Bonniwell, OP, is also available in braille. The blind may read about the blind saint!
As I’ve worked for a long time with the pro-life movement, St. Margaret stuck me as an ideal example for those who suffer from the pain of being unwanted and aborted. Her parents today would almost unquestionably have aborted her. Not surprisingly, Dominican nuns in the 1970s suggested St. Margaret as a patron of the unwanted and the unborn. Now the Sisters for Life (New York City) also actively encourage people to pray to her as an intercessor.
This could be due to a scary in-utero diagnosis, pressure to abort, or for post-abortive mothers who have difficultly gaining peace and forgiving themselves. Margaret is an ideal saint for those who struggle daily with handicaps, for no life is so burdensome as not to be of immense value to our Lord.
St. Margaret died April 13, 1320, at 33 years of age. She was beatified in 1609 but not canonized until this year. In April 2021, Pope Francis bypassed the usual means of canonization, using a method called “Decree of Equipollent Canonization.” St. Thomas More and St. Hildegard von Bingen are similar examples of this means of canonization. By doing so, there is no need for the judicial process, review of miracles, and so on. (In any case, over a couple hundred miracles have been attributed to her.)
So, on April 24, 2021, 701 years after she died, St. Margaret had indeed won the pearl of great price in the eyes of the world; the Pope declared her a saint.
One of the most famous miracles attributed to her intercession involves that of a young girl who could not walk. When the saint was going to be buried, after the funeral Mass, there was a procession toward the graveyard. But many were unhappy, voicing their thoughts that Margaret was so holy, she should be buried inside the church. A good old fight broke out! Well, the girl who could not walk apparently lay down near our saint. Perhaps she did not realize our saint was “gone” from this world. In any case, as legend tells it, Margaret somehow moved her hand and the girl was healed. She could walk! And yes, after that Margaret was indeed buried in the church.
Christ healed the blind, He healed the lame. He did not heal Margaret but used her infirmity for His greater glory. And as a faithful servant of God, who loved our Lord, she must have offered up this suffering hundreds of times over in her lifetime. Her funeral Mass, it is said, attracted the whole village.
For a person to be named a saint the way St. Margaret was, she must have met certain criteria, according to Catholic World Report. Besides the obvious one of being virtuous, she must have been called on for intercession for a long time — centuries in this case — and have many miracles associated with his/her cause. St. Margaret met the criteria. The woman who was named “pearl” must have had a soul that glowed with luminescence of a true pearl when she came before God.
She was greatly loved not “just as a beggar” or a poor handicapped woman, but by those but saw her for who she was, a child made in the image of God. And she shared with them her knowledge that the pearl of great price was Heaven. St Margaret of Castello, intercede for us!

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