25 November 2009

Blessed Margaret of Savoy, widow

25 NOVEMBER 2009. Today is the feast day of Blessed Margaret of Savoy, a widow of nobility who left the world and the royal court for the love of Christ.

Born in Fossano, Italy on 21 June 1390, Margaret was the eldest of four children born to Amadeo of Savoy, (Lord of Piedmont and titular Prince of Achea) and his wife Catherine of Geneva. Blessed Margaret was the Marchioness of Montfrerrat from 17 January 1403, until the death of her husband, Theodore II, on 16 April 1418.

Known for her beauty and piety, Margaret's marriage of more than 15 years, however, never produced children. And, when her husband died, Blessed Margaret left the affairs of state to the son of her late husband from his first marriage, John-Jacques, and retired to Alba where she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic, taking a voluntary vow of chastity. However, because of her beauty, she was pursued by many men for marriage.

Receiving a vision of Saint Vincent Ferrer, her departed spiritual advisor, he counseled her to take the habit of the Third Order to assume a character that would protect her from further solicitations. However, after joining the Order, the Duke of Milan asked for Blessed Margaret's hand in marriage, even obtaining the permission of Pope Martin I for Margaret to be released from her voluntary vows. But, Blessed Margaret did not retreat from her vows.

Margaret was soon attacked, though. by a painful malady, where she was visited and encouraged on her sick bed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then, Our Lord, Himself, visited Blessed Margaret, accompanied by a a multitude of angels, holding in his hands three arrows labeled: calumny, sickness, and persecutions. Our Lord asked Blessed Margaret to choose from among the three, and abandoning herself entirely to the Divine Will, Our Lord left Blessed Margaret with all three arrows, which she lovingly embraced. The calumny came principally from the Duke of Milan who, having been denied Margaret's hand in marriage, complained to the Pope that Margaret was feeding heresy.

Instead of bowing to the Duke of Milan's pressure and retreating from her vows, Blessed Margaret redoubled her spiritual mortifications and joined with several younger women of rank and founded a convent, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen, placing it under the Dominican Order.

During her life, Blessed Margaret was known to work many miracles, including curing the sick, multiplying the provisions of the convent, and calming a tempest with her prayers before it threatened the City of Alba. It was said that as the storm ceased, the voices of demons could be heard in the air cursing the name of Blessed Margaret for frustrating their evil designs.

Two days before her death, Margaret asked her sisters to lift her out of bed and lay her prostrate at the feet of Our Lord. Although the sisters could not see anything, they complied with her wishes. Then, Blessed Margaret's cell became radiant with light and a sweet harmony announced the presence of angelic choirs and Our Lord, Himself. The same sweet harmony was heard the next day, the feast day of Saint Cecelia. And, as Blessed Margaret was administered the last sacraments, she was seen to be attended by an unknown religious, who was believed to be Saint Catherine of Siena.

Blessed Margaret died in Alba on 23 November 1464 at the age of 74. When Blessed Margaret died the town bell tolled of its own accord, waking to the residents who reported seeing a procession of saints, bearing lighted torches in their hands, processing towards the convent.

Although originally buried in a simple tomb, in 1481 Blessed Margaret's remains were transfered to a more beautiful spelechre in her convent. Many miracles were attributed to her after her death. Blessed Margaret was beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1669.


O God,
who didst teach Blessed Margaret
to forsake with all her heart
the pomps of this world
for the humble following of Thy Cross,
grant that, by her merits and example,
we may learn to tread under foot
the perishable delights of the world,
and in the embraces of Thy Cross
to overcome all adversities.
Who livest and reginest world without end.

IMAGE: Arms of the Principality of Achea, from Wikimedia Commons

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