This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13 -- Feast of Blessed Margaret of Citta-di- Castello

Born blind, with one leg shorter than the other and a hunched back, Margaret didn't seem very blessed.   Certainly her parents couldn't see the blessings for all the deformities, which is why they locked her up until she was fifteen or so.  That church, a semi-private chapel in the foot of their castle, was tended by a priest who taught little Margaret all that he could. 

Sometime in her teens, Margaret's parents heard about miraculous cures performed at the tomb of St. Francis.  I imagine it is asking a lot, even of Saint Francis, to mend a blind, lame, hunchbacked dwarf. He probably could have, but it would have cheated all the kind, deserving folks who later found her to be a blessing in their lives.  Then again, maybe he was just stalling to put the parents to a test of faith.  If so, they failed because -- and here, you've got to picture it -- they just crept away quietly while she knelt in prayer.  Since she was blind, she couldn't even have followed them once she discovered she had been abandoned.  Harsh, right?  That's why she's the patron of the disabled and of unwanted persons.

Margaret's body is still laid out in Italy
She was taken in by kind local families, earning her room and board by tending and teaching their children.  Those lessons (psalms, prayers, chores) from the parish priest paid off.  After a while, she joined a convent.  As the most conscientious of the sisters, she quickly became the least popular.  It is not that she actually remonstrated the other nuns for their lax attitude and skipped observances -- hell, she probably didn't even notice much of what they skipped, being blind and all.  They just resented the way she kept all the observances, like some crippled reminder of their own lapses.  Is it tasteless to say they showed her the door? 

Those same nice families welcomed her back.  She was accepted by the Dominicans as a tertiary (someone affiliated to an order, but without the formal vows), performing some miraculous feats. 
  • A wrongly accused prisoner named Alonzo was tortured by prosecutors until he was permanently crippled. His family suffered dire deprivation while he was in prison.  When Alonzo learned that his son died, he began to bitterly curse God.  Margaret heard about this, and while she prayed in response, she levitated two feet in the air and stayed there, her face glowing with divine light.  Then she asked Alonzo not to blaspheme anymore.  He tried to curse her and her God, but stammered, and then to his own surprise, said "Little Margaret, please pray for me."  
  • When a fire broke out in the house where she was staying, the folks downstairs shouted for her to hurry down before she was trapped and killed.  Instead, she calmly came to the stairs, threw down her cloak, and instructed that folks place it over the fire.  They extinguished the fire with the cloak.  That's a little less miraculous than levitating, but it's still pretty boss. 
  • There are about 200 post-mortem miracles attributed to her, but none more unusual than the story of her heart.  She commented once to a Dominican friar, "If you only knew what is in my heart."  It's a little cryptic, which explains his curiosity.  But even if he was curious, I can't fathom why he and his brothers chose to open her chest and dissect her heart after she had died.  Good thing though.  In it, they found three pearls, each with a holy image engraved on it -- one of Jesus, another of the BVM, and a third of Saint Joseph. 
That last one makes me wonder a little.  If her passion for the Holy Family -- perhaps because of her abandonment by her own family -- formed pearls in her heart, what would form in the hearts of others?  If there were three pearls in my heart, what images would they bear?  

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