13 April 2010

Blessed Margaret of Castello

13 APRIL 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Margaret of Città di Castello, a lay Dominican and virgin.

Born in A.D. 1287 near Florence, Italy, Margaret was born a hunchback, a midget, blind, and lame. Ashamed of their daughter, Margret's family kept her hidden for many years (until the age of 6 or 7, although some accounts say the age of 9), when they took Margaret to seek healing at the tomb of a holy Franciscan lay brother named Jacopo. When Blessed Margaret was not healed of her infirmities, her family abandoned her under the portico of the church.

Now blind, lame, and abandoned, the child was found by a kindly family who took her in and cared for her, then passed her to another family who for a time cared for her. Feeling abandoned by her only family in life, Blessed Margaret placed all her trust in God. All those that came into contact with the saintly little girl came to know of the interior life of virtue which she led. And, when the nuns of a local convent offered a place of refuge for Blessed Margaret she was overjoyed at the opportunity to live a religious life. However, that joy was short-lived.

The convent that gave shelter to Blessed Margaret was a place that was caught up in living a worldly life, for whom the virtuous life of Blessed Margaret was more than a gentle reproach. At the convent, Blessed Margaret endured ill treatment and was often subject to verbal abuse.

Then, an honest and pious couple who was familiar with the plight of Blessed Margaret pitied her situation in the convent and took her into their home. There she resided in a loving atmosphere for the rest of her natural life. While living with these adoptive parents, Blessed Margaret became a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. Although blind, Blessed Margaret knew nearly the entire Psalter by heart and daily recited the Office of the Blessed Virgin and the Cross, which was her habitual prayer.

The Psalms came alive with Blessed Margaret who regularly explained the mysteries of the psalms and developed the hidden sense of their inspired words. Though never formally schooled, Blessed Margaret was fluent in Latin and, desiring to offer her gratitude to the family who had taken her in, she undertook to watch their children while the parents worked, often instructing the children in their Latin lessons. She also instructed the children in little tasks, which she helped them perform, and she instilled in them a great devotion to sacred childhood.

Blessed Margaret devoted several hours to prayer each day and often spent many hours in prayer each night. Tradition tells that often while at prayer she was suspended a foot or more off the ground and remained suspend for a long time during her prayer.

To her family and loved ones, Blessed Margaret was known to have great charity towards all who needed it, but also great austerity towards her own innocent flesh. This was only discovered after her death when her body was found to be torn and mangled with instruments of penance.

Blessed Margaret, known to few other than her family and loved ones, died at the age of 33 on 13 April 1320, and she was buried with great honor in the local Dominican church. After death, her tomb has been attributed with many miracles.

Margaret was declared blessed by the Church (cultus confirmed) on 19 October 1609 under the pontificate of Paul V. Blessed Margaret is an inspiration to those who feel abandoned and who would be tempted to self-pity. Today, her remains lie beneath the main altar at the Saint Dominic Church in Castello and many visit the church to venerate her incorrupt body and pray for Blessed Margaret's intercession.


O God, who wast pleased that Thy Holy Virgin,
the Blessed Margaret, should be born blind,
so that the eye of the heart being enlightened,
she might continually contemplate Thee alone,
be Thou the light of our eyes, 
that we may have no part in the darkness of this world,
but be enabled to reach the land of eternal brightness.
Through Christ our Lord,


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